“Oppression doesn’t disappear just because you decided not to teach us that chapter.”

If those words were not strong enough, I do not know what words would be. Clint Smith III examined the role that the Founding Fathers played in oppressing black people in his new poem “History Reconsidered” which he performed at All Def Poetry.

His poem was a letter to the five United States presidents who owned slaves including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and Andrew Jackson.

“When you wrote to Congress that black people should count as three-fifths of a person, how long did you have to look at your slaves to figure out the math?” Smith poses to Madison. “Was it easy to chop them up? Did you think they’d be happy being more than just half human?”

Throughout the piece, his words are piercing – the words stab through the nation’s altered history that still haunts black Americans today. He offers his audience a reminder that these presidents’ accomplishments were praised without mentioning slaves that these victories were built upon.

Near the end of the poem, he drives home his point perfectly.

“When you sing that this country was founded on freedom, don’t forget the duet of shackles dragging against the ground my entire life. I had been taught how perfect this country was, but no one ever told me about the pages torn out of my textbooks. How black and brown bodies have been bludgeoned for three centuries and find no place in the curriculum. Oppression doesn’t disappear just because you decided not to teach us that chapter.”

You have to see the video below.

(Photo Credit: Portfolio/Clint Smith)

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