BREATHING HOLES: EXORCISING THE UNITED STATES’ BLACK SUFFERING FETISH


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Earlier this year, I sojourned with members from the Society for the Study of Black Religion (SSBR) to storied Savannah, GA for our annual meeting. Savannah is known for its romantic vistas, colonial architecture, and lush gardens. It rained for half our trip and so we caught glimpses of the scenery, while turning our attention toward African American’s negotiation of its turbulent civil rights past and present – evidence of which resurfaced not too long ago in the allegations of racial insensitivity against television personality and Savannah resident Paula Deen.

During our meeting, we did a research tour of historical sites in the town. On the tour, we visited the First African Baptist Church, which is an Underground Railroad site where enslaved Africans found harbor as they fled the South for freedom in the North. The architecture in the church was beautiful. The stained glass with black figures represented deep historical roots. There were pews in the balcony with African etchings in various languages. We looked up and saw that above our heads were the ornamented wooden grids that were carved into the ceiling to signify the church was an Underground Railroad safe haven.