xxii Introduction The Trinidadian scholar C. L. R. James in his Black Jacobins (1938) linked revolutionary general Toussaint Louverture’s Haitian triumph to resistance in the United States. Herbert Aptheker’s 1936 doctoral thesis American Negro Slave Revolts was one of the earliest texts to state that the enslaved’s response to slavery was not “one of passivity and docility.” In fact, “discontent and rebelliousness were characteristic” (quoted in Zemon Davis 2000, 18). But stories about revolts and insurrections were not widely taught or portrayed in films, and in some places in America, these events are still omitted from curriculums. Critical Race Theory (CRT), a controversial topic, “states that U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race” (Ray and Gibbons 2021). The state of Texas has suggested the way to teach slavery is that it was the “involuntary relocation” of captured Africans. Haile Gerima says, “Slavery was a scientific adventure, an attempt by an industrialized society to create a robotic society of mindless human beings, pure labor” (Gerima, quoted in Woolford 1994, 98). The idea was for the enslaved to be happy, and although they were not happy in the real world, they were portrayed as happy in what he calls “the plantation school of literature and cinema” (Gerima, quoted in Woolford 1994, 99). Ulrich Bonnell Phillips (1877–1934) wrote an unfortunately foundational book about Southern slavery, suggesting that enslavers on plantations provided “schools” to “civilize” the enslaved (“Ulrich Phillips Historian,” n.d.). Gerima turns that portrayal topsy-turvy in Sankofa. How do African American storytellers and filmmakers depict the defiance of the oppressed? What do film representations reveal about the enslaved’s family, religious, and cultural values? How did Maroon community dwell- ers, runaways, freedom fighters, and abolitionist leaders manage to survive, sometimes thrive, and get written into history? To what effect does the supernatural element in Sankofa convey how slavery, as Toni Morrison said, “haunts us all”? The portrayal of the enslaved, in some ways, parallels and also contrasts with Holocaust film stories. A. O. Scott has described “the moral impera- tives imposed by the slaughter of European Jews” as “Never Again and Never Forget.” Monica White Ndounou noted that “most films about slav- ery are told from the point of the view of white owners, not the enslaved, while most Holocaust films privilege the perspective of victims and survi- vors, not the Nazi perpetrators” (2019, 73). The films discussed portray victims, but they also show the enslaved’s daily acts of resistance, defiant survivors, rebellious leaders, reconciliation, and redemption. Ruth Franklin claims that films about the Holocaust are relevant insofar as they reveal their “own kind of truth it illuminates the complexity of the victim’s expe- rience,” and the same is true about films about the enslaved. As the late
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