Ignoring Black History Again
by BRUCE SEAMAN
A January 8, 2017 article in the Ocala Star Banner was noteworthy for recounting the history of agriculture in Marion County without a single mention of black people.
Unsurprisingly, it draws as a reference the jingoist 2011 Marion County Historical Commission publication “Marion County’s 150 Year Commemoration of the War Between the States 1861-1865,” an official county document paid for by taxpayers – click here to download and read p 4 “The Home Front.” It begins: Marion countians – both black and white – willingly suffered severe privation while working hard to support the Confederate cause during the War Between the States. And it gets worse.
In response to this article, the following Letter to the Editor from Bridges Project President Bruce Seaman was published in the Star Banner:
No “Breadbasket” without black people
It was stunning to read Sunday’s article about Marion County being the “Breadbasket of the Confederacy” and find not a single mention of black people anywhere.
As you should be aware, Marion County in 1860 had a population that was 60% black, and most of them were slaves working the very fields esteemed so highly in the article. Marion County maintained a majority black population until 1920, so clearly there were black men, women, and families who were contributing to the productivity cited in the article.
This is why black history deserves a month of special attention. It is white history month every month. However, black history gets ignored, as it was in this article, or else denied or dismissed. This is not a matter of “political correctness” as some would pejoratively characterize the inclusion of the black experience; it is a simple matter of fairness, justice, and accuracy.
Marion County’s legacy of race relations is not a pretty one. As the location of at least 27 lynchings, often huge public spectacles, and having embraced desegregation only at the threat of court order in the mid-1970s, it has been more customary to exercise prejudice in Marion County’s history than not.
I know the Star Banner will dedicate itself to promoting black history during February, Black History Month, but I would encourage editors and writers to recognize every month that white history isn’t the only history in Marion County.
You’ve shown the community why we need to have groups like NAACP and Bridges Project addressing concerns about race relations in the community. Letters like this one should not have to be written.
Bruce Seaman, President
Bridges Project of Ocala-Marion County