Learning Curve

Slavery Ancient and Modern: Classics 121

By Diane Manuel


Danielle Kayembe
FRESHMAN STUDENT

I was born in Africa and raised in the United States. My father wanted to raise me as a traditional African girl. My stepmother, a Texan, wanted to raise me as a good American girl.

Being a black “African American” was the part of my identity that was least emphasized when I was growing up. Most of our closest friends were just like us: first-generation immigrants from various parts of Africa.

In our circle, there is a different outlook on black Americans. Immigrants often feel that black Americans have many advantages: They were born in the States, they have citizenship, they don’t have to go back to school or take education equivalency tests, they have countless opportunities for housing and education.

Growing up, when we were still poor, I was one of the few black children my age. By the time I was in junior high, our family was considered middle class. Still, I was often the only black student in my grade and one of a handful in the private schools I attended.

Slavery was never really an issue for me. To me, Africa is where I am from, it’s my home, it’s my direct ancestry. But it is not the place where slavery began, as many Americans think. To me, slavery is not defined by race because it happened in many countries. Therefore, Africa can’t be equated with the “home” or “root” of slavery.

When I heard about the “Slavery Ancient and Modern” class, I was interested in studying slavery as a historical, as well as a qualitative and quantitative fact. Studying it as a historical fact to me meant removing it from the American cycle of guilt and entitlement. Slavery as a fact signified the economic and international impacts of the practice.

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