From salvaged food routes to joyful murals, the must-see black history tales of 2021


Too many history stories Black communities in the United States and across Europe remain hidden today. This year Dark atlas went in search of some of those overlooked stories of endurance, persistence, ingenuity, inspiration, glamor, joy, and home runs. Here are some of our favorites. There are countless more stories to tell and we’ll keep looking for them!

by Omnia Saed

In the Sankofa Heritage Garden in Colonial Williamsburg, wardens worked the land by moonlight – the only time of day the slaves, to whom the plot is a tribute, could tend the fruits and vegetables that ate them- themselves and their families. While there is little documentation of what black communities in the southern United States grew up in the 1600s and 1700s, food historian Michael Twitty and others are undertaking the archaeological, historical, and scientific research needed to bring it closer together. traditions, some of which continue to this day. . “’Every time you say’ okra ‘,” Twitty told author Omnia Saed. “You are using a word that was conveyed by someone who said, ‘I can’t forget that word. “”

by Benoît Morenne

Following a race riot in Alexandria, Louisiana, in 1942, the U.S. military reported 33 black servicemen were injured and none were killed in an altercation with primarily white military police. . But eyewitnesses to the event claimed that around 20 or more black men had died. Now the black community and local historians are relying on what could have been one of America’s bloodiest WWII race conflicts.

Fannie Lou Hamer (left) attending a congressional session on a Mississippi election that denied black voters their rights. Bettmann / Getty Images

by Mayukh Sen

Part of Gastro ObscuraJuneteenth’s excellent exploration of food and liberation in black history, this play by Mayukh Sen tells the story of Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil rights activist who, in the late 1960s, devoted her energies for the cause of food justice. She established the Freedom Farm Cooperative in Sunflower County, Mississippi. As Sen writes of his efforts, “Hamer viewed food as a tool to destroy white supremacy and the material injustices that resulted from it.”

In this episode of the Dark atlas podcast, co-founder and host Dylan Thuras chats with travel writer and educator Tracey Friley about the glamorous life of artist, French Resistance agent and civil rights activist Joséphine Baker, and the pilgrimages women still make in his castle in the Dordogne valley in France.

by Winnie Lee, visual editor

The necessary secrecy that surrounded the Underground Railroad means that the location of most of the shelters that served as crossing points on the path from slavery to freedom has been lost in history. But the collection of photos of Dawoud Bey The night comes tenderly, black is not as concerned with documenting the buildings that served as “stations” for slaves as with capturing the lonely, vast and utterly dark landscapes one would encounter while fleeing towards the Canadian border.

These Stolpersteines, or
These Stolpersteines, or “stumbling blocks”, were set in Berlin in 2021 to honor two Afro-Germans murdered by the Nazis. OTFW BERLIN / WIKIMEDIA COMMON

by Jennifer Neal

There are over 75,000 Stolperstein laid on trails across Europe, every square “stumbling block” installed in the last known residence or workplace of someone murdered by the Nazis. In Germany, four of these stones are dedicated to black victims, two of which were laid in Berlin in 2021 in memory of Martha Ndumbe and Ferdinand James Allen. Author Jennifer Neal is participating in the effort to commemorate the little-known history of Berlin’s black community.

by Jonathan Carey, Associate Editor, Places

In the years between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Era, black Americans, still deprived of full participation in American society by law, created their own spaces in which to thrive. Dark atlasJonathan Carey from Jonathan Carey takes us on a tour of some of these historic communities, from a farming town in California to Chicken Bone Beach in Atlantic City.

by Jonathan Goldman

Author Jonathan Goldman talks about the heyday of a famous black baseball field in upper Manhattan. Dyckman’s Oval, home to many Negro League teams, attracted families, entrepreneurs and celebrities until it was demolished in 1938.

A new mural in West Oakland, Calif., Teaches an often overlooked part of Black Panther Party history: the women who fueled the movement.
A new mural in West Oakland, Calif., Teaches an often overlooked part of Black Panther Party history: the women who fueled the movement. MediaNews Group / East Bay Times via Getty Images

In the days following the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, Jilchristina Vest watched murals bloom on the plywood fortifications of her West Oakland neighborhood. They were beautiful images of tragedy, each a tribute to a black person who died at the hands of the police. These monuments inspired Vest to commission a different kind of mural on the side of his house. This piece of art “was going to talk about black joy,” a 30-foot-tall celebration of the women of the Black Panther Party.

By Tunika Onnekikami

Marjorie Harrell knew her second English teacher in 1958 as an old woman, calm, tired, a little sick. It was only after the woman’s death a few years later that Harrell learned that her teacher was Zora Neale Hurston, the world-renowned author of Their eyes looked at God, a 1937 novel considered a Harlem and South American Renaissance classic. Now Harrell and other residents of Fort Pierce, Florida have created the Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks Heritage Trail, a guided tour of the author’s vibrant life in the then isolated town.


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