Angela da Silva, Professor of History and a slave re-enactor, has created history–by repeating it.
The organizer of the slave sale re-enactment held on the Old Courthouse steps Saturday has brought the first slave sale to St. Louis since the last official sale dated sometime around 1861. Although it was a staged performance, it was based entirely off historical events and portrayed the actual slaves that were sold according to court records.
The portrayal debuts as the opening act to more traditional Civil War re-enactments scheduled for Spring of this year as the city celebrates the sesquicentennial, 150th, of the start of the Civil War.
Da Silva, as seen portraying one of the slaves for auction in the photograph, believes that “reliving…this…provides…today’s generation with a whole new appreciation of what people went through.” She believes seeing the re-enactment will help people to understand, “…the horrors of what it was for families to be separated, never to be seen again.”
But it seems that everyone does not share da Silva’s perspective. Many blacks at the sale were not in support of da Silva’s efforts–they were there to protest the mock auction. They felt that this is an exploitation of Black History and that this, “Will show Black children where they came from and that they can never be better than this,” as stated by one man seen protesting.
It created quite a stir amongst viewers, black and white alike, as people began discussing the positive and negative aspects of the sale and the implications it will have on the community. While some blacks felt this was a disgrace, others felt that history can not be denied, and so long as it was organized and controlled by blacks, this was a benefit to young black children to see their history retold.
Regardless of personal opinions, da Silva’s mission was accomplished– to remember some of the forgotten figures in St. Louis’s history and to bring this painful piece of history to the foreground to “get people talking.”
Words & Photography by: Deanna Michelle