Posted by Angie Luvara, VICKSBURG, MISSISSIPPI – One of the most memorable moments in my undergraduate education was when my African-American Studies professor asked our class if we felt that African-Americans today have any ties to the slavery their ancestors experienced.
“Have any of the problems African-Americans experienced during slavery lingered around today? Or do African-Americans have their own new set of problems to deal with today?”
A huge debate ensued among my classmates. I remained unusually quiet because I really wasn’t sure of my opinion on the matter—at least until my professor explained his viewpoint. After the entire class had ample time to share their opinions, he entered into an explanation on direct ties between slavery and African-American culture today—from the use of improvisation in music and storytelling, to the prevalence of call-and-response songs in churches, right down to family structure. He opened my mind to a direct link between slavery and African-American culture today.
What my professor taught me that day has stuck with me since, but I had never had a visual representation of the remnants of slavery until a recent trip to Mississippi. When I arrived in Vicksburg, one of the first things I did was venture to the historic downtown area to look for the beautiful antebellum homes I had heard about. Much to my surprise, the former slave quarters located behind the antebellum homes were still standing—and still occupied! I was shocked to see one street full of beautiful mansions, followed by a street full of shacks which were obviously former slave quarters. The streets of Vicksburg alternated back and forth like this throughout the entire historic downtown area.
I’m sure that the residents of Vicksburg would never look twice at this fascinating juxtaposition. However, as an outsider, it was quite eye-opening to see such poverty sandwiched side-by-side with such prosperity. Not only are there social and cultural remnants from slavery, but in some places there are geographic remnants as well.
Angie Luvara is a photographer and Managing Editor of Social Shutter. You can view more of her work at http://www.LuvIsMyAmmo.com.