Kerfuffle Over Slave Auction Reenactment

Charlottesville drummer Scottie Williams (well-known as “Scottie B.”) and and activist Anson Parker have raised a minor ruckus as a result of a beautifully-executed piece of street theater during the recent Jefferson Thanksgiving Festival in Court Square. In costume, Williams portrayed a slave by the name of “Bilal,” while Parker portrayed auctioneer “Cornelius A. Banker,” with Williams standing on a block with “Slave for Sale” painted on it. (Court Square was where slave auctions were held from the late 1700s through the mid 1800s.) Parker worked the crowd, encouraging people to bid on him, while across the street, a more whitewashed portrayal of Jefferson-era Thanksgiving festivities was offered as a part of the official festival. The NAACP has lodged a complaint with the City, and UVa Dean of African American Studies Rick Turner has accused Williams of allowing himself to be exploited; Williams says that he just wants to remind people of the true history of Charlottesville, rather than pretend that it never happened. Courteney Stuart has the story in today’s Hook, Anson Parker has a write-up on CvilleIndyMedia, and a video (180MB) of the goings-on is available.

17 thoughts on “Kerfuffle Over Slave Auction Reenactment”

  1. I personally dont get reenactments…. Whats the point of acting out something that happened 200 years ago? Civil war reenactments all of it are kinda strange to me… But I guess they did it for history….I kinda wish, well I do wish, we could stop dwelling on race so maybe can do something about it.

    Yes TJ did have slaves but the important thing is that he THOUGHT it was bad… come to think of it half of TJs slaves were probably his children

  2. The NAACP and Dean Turner ought to be thanking Scottie Williams and Anson Parker instead of giving them a hard time. I quit going to the phony phestival because it presents such an inaccurate disneyish portrayal of colonial history.

  3. In case it’s not already clear, I think that this was just a fantastic piece of street theater that made a great point that needed to be made.

    Whitewashing history is something that inevitably happens. I’m not sure that it would be a good idea to have a reenactment of a slave auction every year at the Jefferson Thanksgiving, as a part of the forma goings-on. (I’m not sure that it would be a bad idea, either. I’m just not sure.) But to get upset about a few people putting on a street performance like this is just silly.

    We acknowledge through a memorial on the spot that slave auctions were once held there. It’s not a secret. Let’s not make it a secret. I don’t care to dig up painful memories, but I also don’t care to lose perspective of from where we’ve come.

    I find it noteworthy that when I saw the picture of Scottie B. standing on that box in the Hook photo, I was reminded first not of a slave auction (which is a distant concept to me), but instead that iconic image from Abu Ghraib.

  4. he sold for 250, was that the going rate before or after inflation.

    Also did the city collect on its’ slave tax?

    plus where was the other cheaper slaves? You know the ones from south of the border? I heard they cost less.

  5. dean turner’s just pissed that he didn’t think of it first. he missed yet another opportunity to stick it to the man.

  6. From what I have heard from Turner recently he seems to think he is the only person who should be allowed to comment on various aspects of race based problems and further, he apparently believes his line of thought on these matters is the one to which we must all adhere – well, Dean, " tain`t necessarily so".

  7. People need to just Grow Up! And stop being so thin skinned!

    Since when did the NAACP turn into such an "Uncle Tom" group?

    I’d have thought this type of event.. obviously designed to deliver a political message.. benefitted their organization, by drawing attention to the true historic realities of the time.

    In a City that with the reputation of being "liberal" well this type of reaction proves that to be a lie. Let’s just call C’ville Liberals- "Pretend" or "Armchair" liberals… too scared to take a strong position on any subject.

  8. Remember that liberals brought us "politically-correct speech," so this certainly isn’t out of character.

    Though remember, too, that very few people have taken a position against this street theater just yet. The NAACP, Rick Turner, and that one guy running the Thanksgiving event. It’s not like City Council has passed a resolution. Yet. ;)

  9. to determine whether or not there’s just cause to issue a resolution denouncing racially-charged reenactive street theater on court square.

    then, pat lampkin will take out a full-page ad in the cav daily offering state-funded counseling for any student adversely affected by the racial undertones of the reenactment.

    next, local churches will start holding bake sales to pay the legal fees of the reenactors…even though nobody is suing them yet.

    eventually, the charlottesville police will start asking all black males in the city to volunteer DNA samples in case there is another outbreak of "serial reenacting" in the city.

    finally, everyone will concede that the little protest was harmless, and to help protect such displays of free speech in the future, the county will place giant concrete planters in front of any and every street performer reenacting a historical event in the area.

    meh, it could happen.

  10. you forgot to mention that the Patriot Act would harm any protester’s right since we know who they are.

  11. While I got a good healthy snortle out of this as well, I’m left with some concern. I’m curious if they made any effort to include a slave auction in the official event, or if they just showed up to "stick it to tha man." I watched the video and the text overlay was pretty harsh with regards to the organizer of the event, Mark Beliles.

    From what I can tell, Mark is a volunteer, not a rabid racists or revisionist. While the reenactment may be within their free speech rights, I can’t help but feel that Charlottesville may have lost a volunteer and asset to the community. Surely there must be a way to raise awareness, short of causing a scene like that. I’m curious if Anson or Scottie are reading this and would like to respond to my concern.

  12. The Jefferson Thanksgiving Festival directors had ample fair warning as to the appearance of counterpoint street theater. Standing on the street corner for weeks and misrepresenting the past, it goes without saying that in a free society someone will eventually call foul. It is the nature of honest and decent people to stand up for truth and to abolish fictitious or maligning efforts. Will there be more events celebrating the true history of African Americans relations on this continent? Will the awakening of the Caucasian mind over its historical indignities be celebrated? Will the progress of every Black American who has struggled through centuries of oppression and "White-washing" of their culture be remembered equally? Yes, yes, and definitely defiantly YES. And will there be Kerfuffle? Yes, it seems certain that Kerfuffle will ensue.

    Let us all rejoice in our present wealth and accomplishments. Let us all rejoice in our collective heritage and the struggles that we as a nation have overcome. Let us not forfeit our right to take pride in our respective lineage by squandering factual knowledge of our past for the token handouts of tourists – seeking some Disney Land here in the warm heart of South Western Virginia. We are optimists and realists, we take pride in our supersedure over pre-natal blemishes…

    I – a caucasian with ancestral ties to the slave trade, stood beside my "slave", and believe me, friends, I was shocked at the ease with which I quoted and free versed my lines — heretical it might sound — indeed I knew every line by heart – it came from WITHIN…

    I will not speak for my friend Scottie. Suffice to say his ancestors stood on auction blocks, yet he is now free and successful. His performance, even when confronted by the cruel, hateful, and vile words of Mark Beliles – showed his true character as an upstanding citizen and de facto role model of this community. He is a proud father of two mixed children. The very notion that Reverend Mark Beliles would curse him aloud reveals the Reverend’s inner nature. Yet I harbor no hatred or ill will towards the Reverend. In the greater scheme, he played a role that we could never have imagined or found a willing participant to play. I thank you, Reverend Mark Beliles, for your performance. Your venom tasted sweet, and we laughed aloud at your curses. Thank you for amusing not only ourselves, but the many tourists who asked "Is he serious?"

    I can not help but feel some (quickly passing) pity for you, Reverend, for in cursing the truth you have only succeeded in cursing yourself. As you judged us on Court Square, you yourself will be judged. Ouch.

    I hate lies. Revisionist lies predate the Reverend by many years. Revisionist efforts erase all of our accomplishments – not as a race, but as a people united under the flag of freedom. Revisionists mask the brutal reality that "civilized" Europeans harbor a historical brutality incomparable in human history. Consider the collective Euro-Centric "ACCOMPLISHMENTS" from the genocide of the Native Americans, to our enslavement of Africans, to our massacre of the Jews – these are the grand feats of the "WHITE RACE" – quite frankly, I am humbly grateful for the opportunity to bare witness to my past, however ignoble and despicable it may seem – ON STAGE – so that these erroneous ways may be seen and reviewed by all.

    Many Americans today expect, even demand, as in the case of the decrepit Reverend Mark Beliles, our collective shame and guilt at the thought of our past – as though we somehow linger on under its heavy gaze. NEVER! I show NO SHAME! NO GUILT! NO FEAR! I am PROUD of who I am NOW, and would never change or rewrite history to belittle my or Scottie’s accomplishments.

    To enumerate my own accomplishments for example, I am descended from Southern families, now mostly beneath the ground, mostly where they belong. There were those who tried to pass on to me a sense of racial superiority. There were others who conveyed the truth of my smallness, my humble equality, my truer inner nature. I stood with those. I revoked the liars, disowned them, and yet since the age of five, I have known that racism still existed in my immediate heritage.

    It was not WE who demanded a public revisiting of the past. WE have buried our DEAD, and would gladly leave them below ground. It is the Revisionist who wishes to revive these old souls and bring them back, ghouls long since gone, into the present – but as it is said – you can’t put a shine on shit. No matter, for we have not forgotten, yet.

    Standing with a rod in hand I confronted that heritage again at Court Square, and having confronted a heritage of hatred intimately, I laugh in its face, make fun of it — such is the nature of bearing witness.

    To those cowards hiding behind made-up revisionist stories I condemn you, and beseech you to confront your own histories. Give it up, dramatize the strange but true stories of our collective past. If it is indeed in your past and not in your present, as seems to be the case, for why else would you repudiate the truth?

    In my past there were those who indeed traded slaves, and those who indeed felt no remorse in baiting passersby to bid on the stock. Without fear or trepidation I face those demons. I bared those demons for the crowds, and the crowds likewise bared their response. Many cried at the stark visage of Bilal holding himself aright in the cold. Others laughed and asked to see his teeth. Others stood at a distance and raised their right arm in a fist. We all stood together, we all know what it meant.

    It was a defiant act.

    There are no slaves at Monticello. There are no slaves in the fields, there are no slaves at the festival…. Does it seem strange that we took this occasion to speak out, or does it seem strange that more has not been said?

    If your past frightens you, you are waking up – take heart, you shall learn to laugh again. If anger starts to swallow you at the sight of injustice, take strength in prayer and meditation before acting – and let truth and love be your guides. Enjoy yourselves, count your blessings that you do not live amongst the hate mongers of the past, and that you need only witness these DEMONstrations on a stage… be grateful. Be Very Very Grateful. Do not let yourselves be fooled – learn to ACT, and to the end of celebrating our present success we will continue to ACT. What upset the Reverend so deeply that he would curse us? In the Hook Reverend Mark Beliles says that the truth constituted a "fraudulent misrepresentation of our speech." In other words – we should not critique publicly planned revisionist lies. Think cold hard cash. Sweet lies sell better than bitter truth. Check out the links to his tour guides…. imagine to what end he pursued the Court Square Enhancement project – check the links on do a Google search on Mark Beliles. DO THE MATH YA’LL!!!! So yes, your comments are being read, yes they are being given thought, and yes – we feel that revisionist liars, whose strongholds in this community are renowned, have been given ample warning. As such, no further warning will be deemed necessary, although in the future we will attempt to provide better notice for those who also wish to laugh at their demons in the present.

    Peace, blessings, rock on

    Anson Parker

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