Travels in History

Flashback: Louie, navigating my kayak

Tuesday, February 02, 2021 (47 days until the first day of spring)

It’s interesting how pieces come together. Yesterday, I began reading Maya Angelo’s book, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. Didn’t know what made me pick this one from a stack of waiting books, but I began reading. For many years, “Caged Bird” has been well known, well read by a worldwide audience. Many years ago, I already should have opened it.

In the middle of last night, I awakened and crawled from bed to let the dogs outside. While waiting to bring them inside, I checked my email, recognizing yet again, that February is Black History Month. Evidently, my motivation for picking up Angelo’s book was from thoughts being processed at some deep level.

I don’t practice diving into black history, beyond my experience during our modern era’s early beginnings, and the ongoing work to desegregate American schools and our public places. Like most Americans, I followed protests, standoffs, abuses, and changing politics; and like most, was impressed by MLK’s impact. His dreams, words, and activism–driving social and institutional changes, way too long in happening.

I know the wonderful writings by classic black writers, have pursued works by James Baldwin, Eldridge Cleaver, and Zora Neal Thurston. In recent years, Zadie Smith has caught my attention, and so have other young black writers, producing interesting, creative work.

Recently, a black writer has got to me big time–Isabelle Wilkerson, whose two books are fascinating. Her first, The Warmth of Other Suns, tracks the history, rules, and very-slowly-shifting status of Southern American Slavery. Her most recent, Caste, addresses social positioning among people, worldwide, and explores attitudes supporting social class variances, as granted by birthright, financial accumulation, and political power.

Wilkerson reintroduces our American deep south and its Jim Crow rules. She reintroduces the Untouchables in India, Nazis in Germany. She increases our awareness of the economic and political history driving hundreds of years of American slavery. Basically, she forces readers to reconsider many of the attitudes we learned growing up, regardless of where we might have lived.

Finally, little mystery about my subconscious nod to Black History Month, and choosing Angelo’s book. Most of us know of Angelo’s life and work, and surely, her famous book offers learning and inspiration.

Dear Friends: If you’ve read “Caged Bird”, please share your reading experience. Diana

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