My Valentine for Ms. Modigliani

Velázquez. "Venus at her Mirror" 1649-51.

Elegy To His Mistress Going To Bed
by John Donne

Come, madam, come, all rest my powers defy ;
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe ofttimes, having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing, though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven’s zone glittering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breast-plate, which you wear,
That th’ eyes of busy fools may be stopp’d there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you that now it is bed-time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off such beauteous state reveals,
As when from flowery meads th’ hill’s shadow steals.
Off with your wiry coronet, and show
The hairy diadems which on you do grow.
Off with your hose and shoes ; then softly tread
In this love’s hallow’d temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes heaven’s angels used to be
Revealed to men ; thou, angel, bring’st with thee
A heaven-like Mahomet’s paradise ; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know
By this these angels from an evil sprite ;
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
Licence my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O, my America, my Newfoundland,
My kingdom, safest when with one man mann’d,
My mine of precious stones, my empery ;
How am I blest in thus discovering thee !
To enter in these bonds, is to be free ;
Then, where my hand is set, my soul shall be.
Full nakedness !  All joys are due to thee ;
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be
To taste whole joys.   Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta’s ball cast in men’s views ;
That, when a fool’s eye lighteth on a gem,
His earthly soul might court that, not them.
Like pictures, or like books’ gay coverings made
For laymen, are all women thus array’d.
Themselves are only mystic books, which we
—Whom their imputed grace will dignify—
Must see reveal’d.   Then, since that I may know,
As liberally as to thy midwife show
Thyself ; cast all, yea, this white linen hence ;
There is no penance due to innocence :
To teach thee, I am naked first ; why then,
What needst thou have more covering than a man?

Listen to the poem as read by Jasper Britton:

About the image: Velázquez. “Venus at her Mirror” 1649-51[Source: Web Gallery of Art]

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Café Mouffe: Zoë Keating

I heard an interview with cellist Zoë Keating on Studio 360, a frank discussion of her dispute with YouTube about the availability of her music on that platform. Read her blog post for a deeper explanation of the online music business viewed from a composer’s perspective. There you can also listen to a stream of her last album, Into the Trees, which is available for purchase on Bandcamp. You can sample her music here at Café Mouffe, but you better be quick about it. If she can’t negotiate a compromise, YouTube will pull the plug on her channel.

Lost | Optimist

Encore: Zoë Keating performs and discusses her creative processes on Chase Jarvis Live (uploaded 050712). She discusses the loop software she uses at 33:10 in the video.
Who is Chase Jarvis? See his blog.

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Georgina Kleege on Beauty and The Gaze

My friend Georgina Kleege was interviewed today on The Takeaway with John Hockenberry:

We’re talking this week about beauty: How we define it, how we perceive it, and what it means historically and socially—and to you, our listeners.

Today, we approach the topic beauty with someone who has a unique perspective: UC Berkeley English Professor Georgina Kleege.

Kleege is blind, and has written about how she sees the world in several books, including “Sight Unseen,” and the essay “Beauty and the Blind.”

And as Kleege explains, you don’t have to see beauty to understand its value. In her words: “I live in a visual culture, so I know what people say.”


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Humza Deas Scales New Heights For “F8 and Be There”

Move over, Margaret Bourke-White. There’s room on that girder for a new generation of daredevil photographers with smart phones who will take any risk to get the shot. Humza Deas started climbing bridges and skyscrapers in New York City for the adrenalin rush and street creds, documenting his feats with selfies of his shoes. Think of him as a kind of vertical flaneur, soaring rather than strolling, with a rarefied perspective on the street. Instead of LIFE Magazine, Instagram is his platform.  Now he’s beginning to parlay social media fame into a paying gig.

Humza Deas perches vertiginously above Time Square in New York, documenting the “be there” moment with a selfie of his shoes. His laconic comment on the shot: “power trip” [Source: WNYC Sideshow/Instagram]

Deas perched vertiginously above Time Square at night for this “be there” moment. His laconic comment on the shot: “power trip” [Source: WNYC Sideshow/Instagram].

Who is Humza Deas? from Humza Deas on Vimeo.


  • Humza Deas (@humzadeas) • Instagram photos and videos
    As of 013015, @humzadeas has more than 105K followers on Instagram.
  • Who is Humza Deas? on Vimeo
    Humza Deas is a New York based photographer. This video is the start to a web series that showcases who Humza is & what he does. | Film & edit by Sean Colello. | Song: Nina Simone – Feeling Good | Instagram: @Humzadeas & @Sgtcolello | Tumblr: &
  • Sideshow Podcast: At 17, Humza Deas Puts Shame in Your Instagram Game – Studio 360 012715
    Humza Deas isn’t impressed by his nearly 100,000 Instagram followers, though he should be. He earned every one surfing subways, climbing bridges, and scaling New York City’s skyscrapers for the perfect photo. The ambitious 17-year-old taught himself everything he knows about trespassing and now, on the cusp of adulthood, he’s teaching himself how to be an even better photographer. | It’s not exactly surprising that a high school student in 2015 started taking photos on a smart phone. “I never owned my first camera until four or five months ago,” Deas says. At the age of 16, he bought a second-hand iPhone and began posting lifestyle photos to Instagram—skateboarding, streetscapes, and heavily filtered portraits of friends. | Soon enough, Deas wanted to up his game. After seeing a video of daredevils free-climbing a Beijing skyscraper on YouTube, he figured out a way. “This is what I can do—this is how I can be original,” he thought to himself. Though he had little to no experience climbing much of anything, he was confident that skateboarding and “being fascinated with edges of buildings to do tricks on” had prepared him plenty.

For the record, here is an historic shot of Margaret Bourke-White, age 27, perched on the scaffolding enclosing the Chrysler Building under construction in New York in 1931.  [Source: ‘Great Lady With a Camera': Margaret Bourke-White, American Original |]

Margaret Bourke-White, age 27, perches on the scaffolding enclosing the Chrysler Building under construction in New York in 1931. [Source: ‘Great Lady With a Camera': Margaret Bourke-White, American Original |]


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Oscar Nominees: “Timbuktu”

Every day brings more talk about movies I want to see. Add “Timbuktu” to the list. The French-Mauritanian film dramatizes the brutalities and absurdities of fanatical jihadists who seize control in the West African nation of Mali. It premiered at Cannes last May, and now it’s nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film.

“Abderrahmane Sissako’s passionate and visually beautiful film Timbuktu is a cry from the heart – with all the more moral authority for being expressed with such grace and such care,” Peter Bradshaw writes in The Guardian.  “There are some brilliant visual moments… young men carry on playing football after football has been banned by miming the game. They rush around the field with an invisible football, earnestly playing a match by imagining where the ball should be. It is a funny, sly, heartbreaking scene, reminiscent of anti-Soviet satire.”

That comparison sealed the deal for me.

  • Cannes 2014: Timbuktu review – searing fundamentalist drama | Film | The Guardian 051414
    Peter Bradshaw: “Abderrahmane Sissako’s passionate and visually beautiful film Timbuktu is a cry from the heart – with all the more moral authority for being expressed with such grace and such care. It is a portrait of the country of his childhood, the west African state of Mali, and in particular the city of Timbuktu, whose rich and humane traditions are being trampled, as Sissako sees it, by fanatical jihadis, often from outside the country. The story revolves around the death of a cow, affectionately named “GPS” – an appropriate symbol for a country that has lost its way. | These Islamist zealots are banning innocent pleasures such as music and football, and throwing themselves with cold relish into lashings and stonings for adultery. The new puritans appal the local imam, who has long upheld the existing traditions of a benevolent and tolerant Islam; they march into the mosque carrying arms. Besides being addicted to cruelty and bullying, these men are enslaved to their modern devices – mobile phones, cars, video-cameras (for uploading jihadi videos to the internet) and, of course, weapons. Timbuktu is no longer tombouctou la mysterieuse, the magical place of legend, but a harsh, grim, unforgiving place of bigotry and fear. | There are some brilliant visual moments: the panoramic vision of the river in which Kidane and the fisherman stagger apart, at different ends of the screen, is superb, composed with a panache that David Lean might have admired. When a jihadi comes close to admitting he is infatuated with Satima, Sissako shows us the undulating dunes with a strategically placed patch of scrub. It is a sudden, Freudian vision of a woman’s naked body, which is then made the subject of a bizarre, misogynist attack. | Elsewhere, young men carry on playing football after football has been banned by miming the game. They rush around the field with an invisible football, earnestly playing a match by imagining where the ball should be. It is a funny, sly, heartbreaking scene, reminiscent of anti-Soviet satire. In another scene, a young man is being coached on how to describe his religious conversion for a video (for an awful moment, it looks as if it might be a suicide-bomber “martyrdom” video). The boy talks about how he used to love rap music, but no longer. Yet in the face of the hectoring and maladroit direction, the boy lowers his head: he finds he cannot mouth these dogmatic platitudes.”
  • ‘Timbuktu’ Strikes a Nerve in France Post Charlie Hebdo Attack | Variety 012315
    Elsa Keslassy: “PARIS– Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu,” a foreign-language Oscar nominee, is turning out to be a significant world cinema hit in France in the wake of the terrorist attacks that hit Paris. | Sissako told Variety that he decided to embark into “Timbuktu” after hearing about the stoning of a woman. “It deeply revolted me, and I felt the urge to make this film,” said the helmer, who also emphasized that his movie is meant to show that “Islam has nothing to do with barbarism and jihadists: Islam itself has been held hostage.” | As it resonates with current events, “Timbuktu” has proven even more relevant in the aftermath of the Paris’ terrorist attacks orchestrated by Al Qaeda that killed 17 people at Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher supermarket. | The film has also sparked some controversy. “Timbuktu” was indeed banned from being shown in Villiers-sur-Marne, a Parisian suburb, because the major, Jacques-Alain Bénisti – who admitted he hadn’t watched the film — feared it would incite young people to become Jihadists. Benisti later back down and allowed it to be released.”
  • Timbuktu – Trailer – YouTube
    Academy Award Nominee, Best Foreign Language Film 2015 | Abderrahmane Sissako’s film is a beautiful, serene slice of life outside of Timbuktu. Mauritania’s first-ever submission of a film for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.
  • Timbuktu – Cohen Media Group
    Synopsis: Not far from Timbuktu, now ruled by the religious fundamentalists, Kidane lives peacefully in the dunes with his wife Satima, his daughter Toya, and Issan, their twelve-year-old shepherd. In town, the people suffer, powerless, from the regime of terror imposed by the Jihadists determined to control their faith. Music, laughter, cigarettes, even soccer have been banned. The women have become shadows but resist with dignity. Every day, the new improvised courts issue tragic and absurd sentences. Kidane and his family are being spared the chaos that prevails in Timbuktu. But their destiny changes when Kidane accidentally kills Amadou, the fisherman who slaughtered “GPS,” his beloved cow. He now has to face the new laws of the foreign occupants. Timbuktu is Mauritania’s first entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.
  • Controversy Swirls Around Oscar-Nominated Film – The Takeaway 012815
    Today, a highly acclaimed new film hits theaters across the U.S. It’s called “Timbuktu,” and it’s a French-Mauritanian drama directed by Abderrahmane Sissako. | Nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film, it’s also won awards on the festival circuit and has earned rave reviews from critics. |But while art-house film lovers will be seeing it across the U.S. in the coming days, in some parts of the world, including the suburbs of France, screenings have been pushed back or canceled. |In Villiers-sur-Marne, for example, the mayor canceled screenings, suggesting that Timbuktu “makes an apology for terrorism,” according to news outlet Le Figaro. |Hussein Rashid is professor of religion at Hofstra University. He joins us to share his thoughts on the film, and the controversy surrounding it.

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Documentary Films: “What Happened, Miss Simone?”

One of the films generating buzz at this week’s Sundance Festival is a documentary about Nina Simone, What Happened, Miss Simone? The title comes from a poem by Maya Angelou. I want to see this one.

  • What Happened, Miss Simone? – Clip – Netflix [HD] – YouTube
    Classically trained pianist, black power icon and legendary recording artist, Nina Simone lived a life of brutal honesty, musical genius, and tortured melancholy. In the upcoming Netflix original documentary, Academy Award® nominated filmmaker Liz Garbus interweaves never-before-heard recordings and rare archival footage together with Nina?’s most memorable songs, creating an unforgettable portrait of one of the least understood, yet most beloved artists of our time.
  • 8 Nina Simone Facts We Learned from the New Netflix Doc – 012715
    Nina Simone wished she could downshift her singing career from artistic pursuit to mindless job, where it could be more about delivering sound than soul. She couldn’t do it. Simone gave everything to her melodies, each syncopated, rambunctious, fully-charged musical numbers drenched in emotion. Whether the songs were about love, loss, or fighting for equality, they had to emerge from her heart, a task that took its toll on her mental and physical health over the years. Nina Simone remains one of the greatest performers who ever lived and it came at a price. | In What Happened, Miss Simone?, documentarian Liz Garbus (Bobby Fischer Against the World and Love, Marilyn) strings together never-before-seen archival footage, long-lost recordings, and talking head interviews with some of the singer’s closest friends and family, to present an expansive look at Simone’s life. The film debuted at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival this week. | Fans of the recent docudrama Selma will recognize proud and horrifying moments from the Selma-to-Montgomery protest march that led to the Voting Rights Act’s passing. A ferocious activist, Simone descended upon the town to perform for the protesters. A particularly stirring clip from the film shows the singer belting “Mississippi Goddam,” a Civil Rights-themed song written in the wake of Birmingham, Alabama bombing that killed four girls. | Simone’s life hit major turbulence in the ’70s, when she fled America to Liberia and eventually Paris. At her lowest point, struggling for cash and looking “like a street urchin” (her friends’ words), the musician managed just a few hundred dollars per gig playing for small French crowds in surrounding cafes. According to Simone, few people turned out for the shows. No one believed it was actually her, so why go? Time, medication, and rehab eventually revived the Simone that fans once knew, though her daughter believes the singer lost certain octaves, notes she never sang again, during this down period.
  • ‘Stronger Than Ever’ Sundance Docs Tackle Scientology, Campus Rape : NPR 012715
    Over in Park City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival is in full swing. Critic Kenneth Turan tells NPR’s Renee Montagne about some of the festival’s must-see films, including documentaries about Scientology, rape on college campuses and Nina Simone, and a romantic drama based on a novel by Colm Tóibín. | KT: “The first one that played on opening night is called What Happened, Miss Simone? It’s about the singer Nina Simone. The title is from a poem by Maya Angelou, who wondered about the gap in Nina Simone’s performing career. And this looks at the entirety of her career — how she started, why she turned to singing in the first place. She had a major involvement in the civil rights movement, then she had a lot of personal difficulties, and this film really shows us what her life was like in a very intimate way.”
  • Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam – YouTube
    Holland 1965

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Rescuing Images From Entropy’s Oblivion

When people speak of losing everything after tragedy strikes – fire, flood, tornado, earthquake – they speak heroically of saving or failing to save the memories that cannot be replaced: the family photographs. “I grabbed the family album just before the roof blew off,” one says on the TV News, while others sift through the rubble searching for rain-soaked image scraps that can save their stories from oblivion.

Rescuing photographs is now a cultural trope. I told one of my own rescue narratives here on Christmas morning. The agent of destruction in that story was not some natural disaster, but a self-imposed need to clear away the clutter. Out of boxes of moldering paper, entropy-enhanced scrapbooks, and cheesy chachkas – all of it headed to my dump truck – I retrieved one startling hand-tinted print of my mother and sister made in 1944. It speaks to me, inviting me to imagine the stories it can tell about war and the Home Front.

The Rescued Film Project struck a similar chord this week with its video documenting the painstaking process of developing long-forgotten rolls of WWII-vintage film. No one knows the name of the American GI who took the pictures. Others will have to imagine the stories for him.

Undeveloped World War II Film Discovered from The Rescued Film Project on Vimeo.

  • The Rescued Film Project Archive
    The Rescued Film Project is an online archive gallery of images that were captured on film between the 1930’s and late 1990’s.  Each image in our archive was rescued from found film from locations all over the world, and came to us in the form of undeveloped rolls of film.  We have the capability to process film from all era’s.  Even film that has been degraded by heat, moisture, and age.  Or is no longer manufactured.
  • Rescued Film Project | Facebook
    An archive of images that the photographer never saw. But now you have.
  • Undeveloped World War II Film Discovered on Vimeo
    The Rescued Film Project discovers and processes 31 rolls of film shot by an American WWII soldier over 70 years ago.
  • Long-lost WWII photographs are found | 012615
    Interview by Kai Ryssdal: In late 2014, Levi Bettwieser bought 31 undeveloped rolls of film at an auction in Ohio. They turned out to be photos from World War II. | “I knew that I potentially had something special just from the look of the rolls themselves and what was written on them,” says Bettwieser. “But you never know what you’re going to get because obviously you have no idea what the condition of the images might be that are still on the film.” | About two years ago, Bettwieser, a video producer and film photographer in Boise, Idaho, founded The Rescued Film Project to salvage undeveloped rolls of film from around the world. | The rolls had hand-written notes that hint at what they might contain, but most are labeled with various location names, like LaHavre Harbor, Lucky Strike Camp or Boston Harbor. “One was labeled ‘Roll of French Funeral,’ and so we were able to actually recover some funeral pictures of a French officer,” Bettwieser says.
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Sista Iria’s New Year’s Resolution on WNYC

Listening to the Studio 360 podcast this morning, I was surprised and thrilled to hear my friend Maria Thornton (Sista Iria) talking with WNYC’s Kurt Andersen. Maria is one of four artists whom Studio 360 will follow this year to encourage them to lean in and complete long-imagined creative projects. Maria plans to return to her reggae roots. Good luck, Maria – Yellow Springs will be a better place to live as a result!

via New Year’s Resolution: A DJ Gets Back on the Mic – Studio 360:

At the end of 2014, we asked for your creative New Year’s resolutions, and we’ll pick several people to follow throughout 2015. More than one hundred people got in touch, including Maria Thornton. She fell in love with reggae music in her youth, moved to St. Croix, and became a part of the music scene, DJing and performing with bands. All that feels very far away, now that she’s a mother of three living in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Recently, Thornton was listening to a reggae station on Pandora and was surprised to hear herself, singing backup on Ras Shaggai’s track “Work Together.” She decided that 2015 would be the year she’d get back in the game.

Thornton admits that she has some work to do on her skills. “People are doing all kinds of stuff these days,” she tells Kurt Andersen. “I feel like I’m a little bit of a dinosaur. When I was DJing in college, I was mixing with two CD decks and one turntable.” She hopes her work will culminate in a reggae New Year’s Eve street party.

In 2015, she says, “the world needs more positivity. Now more than ever.”

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Guided by Her Perfumed Scent, a Blind Photographer Shoots Ad Campaign with Bollywood Movie Star Katrina Kaif

Imagine the elevator pitch for this marketing campaign: “O.K., it’s a bar of soap, but it’s more than that, it’s perfume. A lusciously beautiful model uses the soap. You can’t smell her in the ads – not yet – so we get one of these blind photographers we’ve been hearing about to do the shoot. He gets the shots by following her luscious scent. Beauty is more than what meets the eye.  A picture might be worth a thousand words, but a good back story is worth a million. Whadaya think?”

When the beautiful model is Bollywood movie star Katrina Kaif, and the photographer is Bhavesh Patel, the audacious concept sounds like it could come straight out of a Salman Rushdie novel. To my mind, there is no higher praise. He used to be an ad man, you know.

The promised back story is delivered in three YouTube videos documenting the photo shoot, the photographer, and the video director. Until I get some kind soul to read the video subtitles to me, I’ll withhold comment about representations of beauty and blindness. What I like most about what I find here is the portrayal of skilled image professionals doing their work. It’s good to know that a talented blind photographer is getting the work.

Blind photographer Bhavesh Patel snapped this glamor shot of Bollywood movie star Katrina Kaif for the Lux Perfume Portraits ad campaign. [Image source: Daily Mail]

About the images: [Above] Blind photographer Bhavesh Patel snapped this glamor shot of Bollywood movie star Katrina Kaif for the Lux Perfume Portraits ad campaign. [Below] Katrina Kaif works with Bhavesh Patel in the studio. [Image source: Daily Mail]

Bollywood movie star Katrina Kaif works with blind photographer Bhavesh Patel for the Lux Perfume Portraits ad campaign. [Image source: Daily Mail]

The Back Story

Behind the Scenes at the Katrina Kaif Photo Shoot:

Behind the scenes with Photographer Bhavesh Patel:

Behind the scenes with Director Sunhil Sippy:

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Books: “Gateway to Freedom” by Eric Foner

Book cover for "Gateway to Freedom" by Eric Fonervia Interview: Eric Foner, Author Of ‘Gateway To Freedom’ : NPR Fresh Air 011915

“Until 2007, when it was unearthed by a Columbia University undergraduate, few scholars were aware of the record of fugitive slaves written by Sydney Howard Gay. Gay was a key Underground Railroad operative from the mid-1840s until the eve of the Civil War. He was also the editor of the weekly newspaper the National Anti-Slavery Standard.


When historian and Columbia University professor Eric Foner saw the document, he knew it was special: It listed the identities of escaped slaves, where they came from, who their owners were, how they escaped and who helped them on their way to the North.

“A lot of information we have of the Underground Railroad is really memoirs from a long time after the Civil War and you know … people’s memory is sometimes a little faulty, sometimes a little exaggerated,” Foner tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “So here we have documents right from the moment these things are happening — and it’s a very unusual and revealing picture of the world of these fugitive slaves and the people who assisted them.”

Foner’s new book, Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, focuses on New York. According to Foner, the city was a crucial way station in the railroad’s Northeast corridor, which brought fugitive slaves from the upper South through Philadelphia and on to upstate New York, New England and Canada.

“This was a great social movement of the mid-19th century — and these are the things that inspire me in American history,” Foner says, “The struggle of people to make this a better country. To me, that’s what genuine patriotism is.”

 On how the Underground Railroad was organized

“We think of [the Underground Railroad] as a highly organized operation with set routes and stations where people would just go from one to the other, maybe secret passwords. It wasn’t nearly as organized as that. I would say it’s better described as a series of local networks … in what I call the “metropolitan corridor of the East,” from places like Norfolk, Va., up to Washington, Baltimore, in places in Delaware, Philadelphia, New York and further north. There were local groups, local individuals, who helped fugitive slaves. They were in communication with each other. Their efforts rose and fell. Sometimes these operations were very efficient; sometimes they almost went out of existence. The Philadelphia one basically lapsed for about seven or eight years until coming back into existence in the 1850s.

“So one should not think of it as a highly organized system. … What amazed me is how few people can accomplish a great deal. In New York City, I don’t think more than a dozen people at any one time were actively engaged in assisting fugitive slaves, but nonetheless, they did it very effectively. … I developed a great deal of respect for what a small number of people can do in very difficult circumstances. After all, they are violating federal law and state law by helping fugitive slaves.

On the myth that white abolitionists were the heroes

“The No. 1 myth, which I don’t think is widely held today but certainly had a long history, is that the Underground Railroad, or indeed the entire abolitionist movement, was [the] activity of humanitarian whites on behalf of helpless blacks — that the heroes were the white abolitionists who assisted these fugitive slaves. Now, they were heroic — and I admire people like that who really put themselves on the line to do this — but the fact is that black people were deeply involved in every aspect of the escape of slaves. …

“In the South, [escapees] were helped by mostly black people, slave and free. When they got to Philadelphia or New York City, local free blacks assisted them all the way up. …

“The Underground Railroad was interracial. It’s actually something to bear in mind today when racial tensions can be rather strong: This was an example of black and white people working together in a common cause to promote the cause of liberty.”

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