“A popular filament in lightbulbs was created by a Black man. Jack Daniel’s whiskey was created by a slave named Nearest Green… Your refrigerator, the traffic light, the Super Soaker, the technology behind caller ID, potato chips– there’s a jillion and one things that we use everyday that Black people invented or advanced that people either don’t know or don’t care to know.”
This quote comes from Queen Esther, a Black country musician, writer, and speaker who teaches the origins of country music, and its African inspirations. The banjo, Queen Esther says, comes from the akonting, an instrument from West Africa. This is verifiably true, and the instrument only found its way into white culture because slave masters were taught the instrument by their slaves. Why is it, then, that the banjo, bluegrass, and American folk music are primarily associated with white people?
Ultimately, this is indicative of a larger problem with racial relations in America. History is written by the victors, and in America, that means that the history and accomplishments of people of color are often ignored and disregarded. Queen Esther’s quote is taken from “Tell Me Who You Are: Sharing Our Stories of Race, Culture, & Identity,” a book that details a possible solution to this problem. That solution is what authors Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo call “racial literacy.”
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