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Westchester Author Talks Black History Month

Author Linda Tarrant-Reid said learning about different cultures helps to find similarities.

If there is one thing Linda Tarrant-Reid would like people to remember about Black History Month is that the African-American experience isn't confined to one month.

"The history is celebrated every month in many communities across the United States," she said, citing Juneteenth, among others.

Tarrant-Reid said the celebration originated in Texas on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers announced that slaves had been freed.

"But slavery was abolished Jan. 1, 1863," she said, when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.

Tarrant-Reid, a New Rochelle resident who is active in numerous community events, is an editor, journalist and photographer who has written on the history and culture of African Americans in the New York metropolitan area for the New York Daily News.

She was the managing editor of The Million Man March, contributor and researcher of The Family of Black America, co-editor of Black Star Power: BET Celebrating 20 Years and the author of Discovering Black New York.

Her latest book is Discovering Black America: From the Age of Exploration to the Twenty-first Century (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012, $29.95).

Talking to students about the history of African Americans, Tarrant-Reid said she stresses to them that they should explore history on their own and not completely rely on their textbooks.

"History books and textbooks written by people other than what the story is about might not be complete," she said. "They leave important facts out."

In her book Discovering Black America, there are stories of young people who were faced with struggles during the early history of this country, Tarrant-Reid said.

She wrote about Olaudah Equiano, the British abolitionist, who wrote about his kidnapping from Africa in 1789, though it was later discovered he was born in South Carolina.

Tarrant-Reid said that his accounts of being a tranatlantic slave have not been discounted by historians because of his descriptions and the compelling nature of life in an African village. That they may have been stories told to him doesn't lessen the impact or importance.

There is also the story of Angelo, a young woman—there was a misspelling on the list of Africans on the vessel that brought her to Jamestown in the early 1600s.

Angelo was an indentured servant, not a slave, Tarrant-Reid said, because that was the system that was in place at the time.

There are distinctions that are not known, she said.

"These are stories that young people need to know," Tarrant-Reid said. "Slavery wasn't just about kidnapping adults; there were children involved and that makes the story more personal."

She said that history books can omit pertinent information about other cultures, as well, not just about African Americans.

"If your culture is one of those and you are not represented in it," Tarrant-Reid said, "that is an opportunity to research and bring that information forward."

 

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