Virginia Festival of the Book: Slavery and Social Media

Virginia Book Festival 2012No, there was not a session that discussed slavery and social media together.  But these topics came in two separate sessions after Jackie Boor’s panel on The Presidents: Their Homes and Lives and a luncheon at which “Dr. Edward L. Ayers, historian and President of the University of Richmond, spoke about the 150th anniversaries of the Emancipation Proclamation and the commencement of the Civil War and their impact upon contemporary life.” His point was that we concentrate on the Civil War and its impact and barely mention the Emancipation Proclamation when we should see the war as the end of something and the proclamation as the beginning of something rich for our country.

But it was at the Faces of Slavery we were asked some questions.  One of the speakers said we should assume that we were all slave owners who truly wanted to free our slaves.  Could we afford to do it?  According to state laws freed slaves had to leave the state they were in within twelve months of being freed.  Since slaves had nothing, could the owner afford to pay the price it would take to transfer freedmen out of the state?  Since they had no money, could the master afford to give them the money it would take to set up a home elsewhere?  Many of the slaves were married to slaves on other plantations.  If I wanted to free my slaves and I was willing to pay for setting up housekeeping and transportation, could I afford to buy other family members that might live on other plantations?  Would it be fair to do it?  How about freeing old people who had given their life to service in my home or on my plantation?  Could they withstand the move?  Should they be asked to give up all they knew?  And, children whose parents were gone, should I send them out on their own?  (Bruce Carbeth)  Later, at Monticello, I learned that Thomas Jefferson only freed one slave of over six hundred.  He admitted that slavery was wrong, but he could not figure out how to do away with it.  Ah democracy develops slowly.

A second speaker, Kevin Lowther, discussed Charleston during the time of slavery.  Charleston, SC had 23,000 slaves and 5,000 whites.  Slaves were the master of much of Charleston’s life in many ways.  He talked about the Gullah language – folks rarely do.  I’m reading a book on South Carolina history.  The early white settlers were very aware they needed more whites to come to the colony because there were so many slaves.  They were afraid from the beginning.

These were academic discussions and a bit dry.  The flip side emotionally was the Social Media Panel.  They began with lots of laughter and then went off into a world of language I don’t understand: Pintrest, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Writeordie.com; Book Riot, Fridayreads.com, technorati, writerhouse.org, and blog tour among others.  There are thousands of groups blogging on books.  How do I get to be one of those books?  I asked one of them that.  Since I self-published, it’s going to be a battle.  I’ve got lots of homework to do.

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