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The first people to live in what we now call Iowa may have arrived some 8, years ago.

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His name was John, the first known antiblack racist in colonial America. Inthis black woman and white man—what they embody—arrived months apart in year-old Virginia, the first of the 13 British colonies that became the United States.

Angela was the original embodiment of enslavement, of survival, of the year African American struggle to survive, to be free of racism. John was the original embodiment of elite white male power, of the democracy of racists, of its year struggle to survive, to be free of anti-racism.

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Instead of David and Goliath, African America is the story of the petite Angela hopefully and hopelessly fighting off the giant John from to for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. She was, perhaps, the beginning of hope, the North Star essential to anti-racism.

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He was, definitely, the beginning of all that makes her hopeless, the eclipse essential to racism. African Americans have every reason to be hopeful and every reason to be hopeless on this th anniversary of our birth in this land. Ibram X. Kendi: There is no middle ground on reparations.

These 22 or 23 Africans, including Angela, who arrived this week years ago were not the first to land in North America. Some Africans probably came before Christopher Columbus. During the 16th century, some probably accompanied Spanish explorers on expeditions to the Southwest and Southeast of the present-day United States. Ina slave revolt stopped the Spanish from planting a slaveholding colony in present-day South Carolina.

The hopefulness and hopelessness of

According to the historian Thomas C. But no one knows when and how they arrived. African Americans, as a people, are like the enslaved Africans who never knew exactly when they were born. Some people were so young when kidnapped in West Africa, so young when sold down the river into Mississippi, that they never learned their birthday. So some folks chose a birthday, like African Americans choose a birthday—August 20, —based on the first documented recognition of our arrival in Virginia.

Today feels more like the anniversary of the day I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer than a birthday. I live in fear of a reoccurrence like I live in fear that metastatic racism will never go away, that the African American will die off before racism does. It is a hopelessness that has always existed here, even among white people watching the war of worlds between Angela and John. It is an original hopelessness I battle each day, as I suspect Angela did during those early days of African American history.

It is a battle against hopelessness that makes me not feel like celebrating today, although I should be celebrating.

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I feel lucky to be alive as an African American. The totalizing effect of John has been no life, has been shortened life. Black death matters to racist America. Black life matters to African America. Read: Slavery made America. In recapping African American history, someone like Angela is indispensable. She is not the famed slave-revolt leader, the daring runaway, the author of an antislavery screed, the maker of an enduring cultural product, the anointed black leader, the Phillis, Sojourner, Mary, Malcolm, or Maya.

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There is history in regular African Americans behind the scenes surviving the regularity of racist policies, ideas, abuse, and violence for years. Angela is the woman of today who works in a low-wage health-care gig, moving from crisis to crisis and joy to joy, all the while raising her hopes for a better day, or not.

She is still surviving John, brewing our hope. He is not the unforgettably brutal or mediagenic slave-ship captain, master, Confederate, lynch mob, Klansman, cop, mass shooter, or Andrew, Pitchfork, Bull, George, or Donald. There is history in regular policy makers behind the scenes regularly instituting racist policies that yield racist inequities or injustices, or regularly refusing to institute policies that prevent inequities and injustices.

John is the Mitch of today refusing to use his power as Senate majority leader to stop voter suppression, gerrymandering, and Russian hackers; to curtail white-supremacist domestic terrorism; to close the growing racial wealth gap; or to end mass incarceration and deportation.

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John is still harming Angela, brewing our hopelessness. Read: The persistence of slavery. John Pory arrived first in Virginia inin January. He was a longtime disciple of the recently deceased Richard Hakluyt, the grand English collector of racist overseas travel stories and the chief promoter of English colonization of Virginia.

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It is not coincidental that that all happened then. That that is all happening now. That that years. That that racism and anti-racism. That that America. Read: A house still divided. No one knows when Angela was born.

But she was probably young. First written inand popular as late as the 19th century, its racist ideas apparently had to be true since they were written by an African Moor, Leo Africanus who probably sought favor from the Italian court that had freed and converted him. John probably carried a copy of his book with him to Virginia in Angela was no wild beast, but she was enslaved like one.

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She was among the Angolans herded onto an overcrowded slave ship at the port of Luanda sometime in On the middle passage, it was attacked by death— Africans died—and then two pirate ships, the White Lion and the Treasurer. The pirates kidnapped from the kidnappers about 60 Angolans, probably among the healthiest and youngest of the enslaved people aboard, including Angela.

They divided the human bounty between the two ships and headed north. Did they leave the rest to die slowly? According to a recent discovery by James Horn, president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, the Treasurer arrived in Virginia four days later and left two or three Africans. One of them was Angela. John Pory did not use his legislative power to corral the burgesses to ban the importation of enslaved Africans or slavery.

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And it is not hard to figure out why. Read: How a museum captures African American history. The laborers were mostly white then. African Americans that year were returning from World War I to something worse. Imagine living in a hell for years that the gatekeepers keep calling heaven. Ministers such as Richard Baxter telling you about a voluntary slave laboring on plantations. Slaveholders such as Senator John C. Calhoun telling you slavery is a positive good. Judges such as Henry Brown telling you the South is separate but equal. Republicans such as Newt Gingrich telling you American policies are color-blind.

Black intellectuals such as John McWhorter telling you the nation is post-racial. White supremacists such as Donald Trump telling you they are going to make America great again. It is unbearably tough to be hopeful amid all this denial, while living in this so-called heaven that feels worse than hell. I feel connected to the hopelessness Angela must have felt stepping native that ship of terror into the terror of slavery. Then again, I know hope is essential to African Americans surviving racism another years. In order to bring about change, we have to believe change is possible.

Cynicism is the kryptonite of change. I also feel connected to the hopefulness Angela must have felt when she figured out ways to resist Atlantic survive. Connected to the Angela who heard about the successful Haitian Revolution. The Angela who survived the Underground Railroad and stepped off into freedom. The Angela who felt Ida B. Wells unflinchingly stare down the lynch mob.

I feel connected to the Angela who believes that she can be anti-racist, dating she can make America anti-racist. The Angela who believes racism will die off before the African American does. The hopeful Angela fighting off the hopelessness. Popular Latest. The Atlantic Crossword. In Subscribe.