[Blackstudies-l] Samuel Jackson on ‘Enslaved’

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Sat Sep 19 14:11:48 EDT 2020


“That is a worthwhile story to tell,” Mr. Jackson said in an interview
about his new docuseries.
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September 19, 2020
Samuel L. Jackson at the Point of No Return in Loango National Park in
Gabon, in Central Africa.AP Slave Ships Productions Ltd./Cornelia Street’s
Ships Ltd./EPIX
The trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the ships that did not make it.

By John Eligon

About two years ago, Samuel L. Jackson, the Hollywood titan, was presented
with an idea to take part in a documentary about the trans-Atlantic slave
trade.

Slavery, of course, was not a new topic of scholarship, and Hollywood had
already done a lot on the subject. But he discussed it with his wife,
LaTanya Richardson Jackson, and something in particular stood out to them.
This was a project attempting to tell the story of slavery in part through
the lens of sunken slave ships that never reached their destination — ships
that became mass graves of kidnapped Africans. It was a perspective, they
felt, that could add to society’s understanding of the horrors of slavery.

“That is a worthwhile story to tell,” Mr. Jackson said in an interview this
week.

That story is now a six-part docuseries, “Enslaved,” that premiered last
Monday on Epix, which will air a new episode each week over the next five
weeks. The documentary is also slated to begin in the United Kingdom on BBC
Two next month.

The series traces Mr. Jackson’s journey across the globe as he uncovers
elements of the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. He is joined on
parts of the journey by Afua Hirsch, a British journalist, and Simcha
Jacobovici, a documentary filmmaker and journalist who directs the series.
The story also follows Diving With a Purpose, an offshoot of the National
Association of Black Scuba Divers, as they search for wreckage of slave
ships along the ocean bottom.

The series opens with Mr. Jackson traveling to Gabon, in Central Africa,
where he meets people of the Benga tribe, which he traced his ancestry to
through a DNA test.
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I spoke with Mr. Jackson and his wife, an executive producer of the series,
about their journey, and also why this story feels urgent and relevant in
this critical moment. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Q: Why did you want to tell the story of the trans-Atlantic slave trade?

MS. RICHARDSON JACKSON: I think that most African-Americans, if we could do
it, we would at least try to trace the ancestry of our immigration here.
This is something that sort of lives in our spirit.

MR. JACKSON: We felt like it was a very different story. We’ve heard
stories of ships coming over, where they were going, but we never talked
about the ships that did not make it and what the consequences of that was,
or even what the profitability of that was for the people that sponsored
the ships. Even though people didn’t make it and they didn’t get to use
their bodies for servitude, they still profit.
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Q: What do you think that adds to the narrative that we know about the
trans-Atlantic slave trade and enslavement?

MR. JACKSON: The business of our bodies carried on. We were viewed as cargo
at that particular point before we got here and not human beings. We were
less than human, same as tossing over some boxes or some horses or anything
else that was on board.

Q: How does this coming out now fit into this larger discussion we’re
having with racial justice?
Mr. Jackson in a scene from the documentary mini-series “Enslaved.”AP Slave
Ships Productions Ltd./Cornelia Street’s Ships Ltd./EPIX

MS. RICHARDSON JACKSON: Especially with what’s going on it raises the
question and it allows us to actually see, “Look, this happened and we
should be discussing that it happened.” This is an American story. It
happened and it can’t be swept under the rug.
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Q: Sam, I know you got to get acquainted with the Benga people in Gabon.
What was that experience like for you?

MR. JACKSON: First of all, to find out that I was part of a tribe that was
still in existence was a revelation. And then to get there and to actually
go into the part of the country where they live. They’re actually a beach
tribe.

MS. RICHARDSON JACKSON: Which I think has a lot to do with, in your DNA,
your love of the sea.

MR. JACKSON: It was a very moving kind of thing to do to be in a group of
people that welcomed me in a way that made me feel like I was coming home
to a particular place, that’s familiar to look around at the faces and see
a familial look, like my uncles, my cousins. To have people that I’m
connected to, in a way that’s genetic, that helps me understand things
about who I am or how I make specific kinds of decisions or what it means
in terms of my longevity, my health, the things that I’m attracted to.

MS. RICHARDSON JACKSON: It’s validation, total validation of a place and a
time of origin.

Q: Slavery is always a hard topic. Why is it important for people to watch
this?

MR. JACKSON: We hope that the information and the knowledge give a greater
understanding of who we are and sometimes why we protest and why things
seem like they are the same. The same reason that people don’t allow people
to forget the Holocaust, that if you let things go and start to forget
that, they happen and they find a way to repeat themselves.

MS. RICHARDSON JACKSON: I think that until we deal with it and allow that
it occurred and talk about it, we can’t hope to heal it in a vacuum. Black
people trying to heal it for themselves, we always have tried to heal it
for ourselves and sort of pick it up and keep going. But there’s something
about everybody being involved in it, to try to pick up that baggage and
destroy it.

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<https://nl.nytimes.com/f/newsletter/awDBd7vqDbX-ubH04RVVfg~~/AAAAAQA~/RgRhSGoGP4QIAWh0dHBzOi8vd3d3Lm55dGltZXMuY29tLzIwMjAvMDkvMTcvc3BvcnRzL2Zvb3RiYWxsL2luc2lkZS1vbmUtbmZsLXRlYW1zLWF0dGVtcHQtdG8tdHVybi1wcm90ZXN0LWludG8tYWN0aW9uLmh0bWw_Y2FtcGFpZ25faWQ9MzcmZW1jPWVkaXRfcnJfMjAyMDA5MTkmaW5zdGFuY2VfaWQ9MjIzNDEmbmw9cmFjZSUyRnJlbGF0ZWQmcmVnaV9pZD00Mjc0MDg5NyZzZWdtZW50X2lkPTM4NTM1JnRlPTEmdXNlcl9pZD0zOTM4ZjE3ZDgxODJhMjJmZGUxNDY3ZmY5ZDBiYjVjNVcDbnl0QgoAMgblZV8xe4a-UhBsaW1hQGdlbmVzZW8uZWR1WAQAAAAA>
[image: Article Image]


<https://nl.nytimes.com/f/newsletter/E0-1_2CwerjIzUAc-e8grA~~/AAAAAQA~/RgRhSGoGP4QAAWh0dHBzOi8vd3d3Lm55dGltZXMuY29tLzIwMjAvMDkvMTUvdXMvaW5zaWRlLWEtbnVyc2luZy1ob21lLWRldm90ZWQtdG8tdHJlYXRpbmctdGhvc2Utd2l0aC1jb3ZpZC0xOS5odG1sP2NhbXBhaWduX2lkPTM3JmVtYz1lZGl0X3JyXzIwMjAwOTE5Jmluc3RhbmNlX2lkPTIyMzQxJm5sPXJhY2UlMkZyZWxhdGVkJnJlZ2lfaWQ9NDI3NDA4OTcmc2VnbWVudF9pZD0zODUzNSZ0ZT0xJnVzZXJfaWQ9MzkzOGYxN2Q4MTgyYTIyZmRlMTQ2N2ZmOWQwYmI1YzVXA255dEIKADIG5WVfMXuGvlIQbGltYUBnZW5lc2VvLmVkdVgEAAAAAA~~>
  Inside a Nursing Home Devoted to Treating Those With Covid-19

In a New Mexico long-term care facility, residents rely on care providers
for medical care and moments of connection.

By Isadora Kosofsky
<https://nl.nytimes.com/f/newsletter/E0-1_2CwerjIzUAc-e8grA~~/AAAAAQA~/RgRhSGoGP4QAAWh0dHBzOi8vd3d3Lm55dGltZXMuY29tLzIwMjAvMDkvMTUvdXMvaW5zaWRlLWEtbnVyc2luZy1ob21lLWRldm90ZWQtdG8tdHJlYXRpbmctdGhvc2Utd2l0aC1jb3ZpZC0xOS5odG1sP2NhbXBhaWduX2lkPTM3JmVtYz1lZGl0X3JyXzIwMjAwOTE5Jmluc3RhbmNlX2lkPTIyMzQxJm5sPXJhY2UlMkZyZWxhdGVkJnJlZ2lfaWQ9NDI3NDA4OTcmc2VnbWVudF9pZD0zODUzNSZ0ZT0xJnVzZXJfaWQ9MzkzOGYxN2Q4MTgyYTIyZmRlMTQ2N2ZmOWQwYmI1YzVXA255dEIKADIG5WVfMXuGvlIQbGltYUBnZW5lc2VvLmVkdVgEAAAAAA~~>
[image: Article Image]

via Biden for President
<https://nl.nytimes.com/f/newsletter/FamHzSmtsMoJjVacoq1zJQ~~/AAAAAQA~/RgRhSGoGP0TYaHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubnl0aW1lcy5jb20vMjAyMC8wOS8xMy91cy9rYW1hbGEtaGFycmlzLXBhcmVudHMuaHRtbD9jYW1wYWlnbl9pZD0zNyZlbWM9ZWRpdF9ycl8yMDIwMDkxOSZpbnN0YW5jZV9pZD0yMjM0MSZubD1yYWNlJTJGcmVsYXRlZCZyZWdpX2lkPTQyNzQwODk3JnNlZ21lbnRfaWQ9Mzg1MzUmdGU9MSZ1c2VyX2lkPTM5MzhmMTdkODE4MmEyMmZkZTE0NjdmZjlkMGJiNWM1VwNueXRCCgAyBuVlXzF7hr5SEGxpbWFAZ2VuZXNlby5lZHVYBAAAAAA~>
  How Kamala Harris’s Immigrant Parents Found a Home, and Each Other, in a
Black Study Group

Donald Harris and Shyamala Gopalan grew up under British colonial rule on
different sides of the planet. They were each drawn to Berkeley, and became
part of an intellectual circle that shaped the rest of their lives.

By Ellen Barry
<https://nl.nytimes.com/f/newsletter/FamHzSmtsMoJjVacoq1zJQ~~/AAAAAQA~/RgRhSGoGP0TYaHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubnl0aW1lcy5jb20vMjAyMC8wOS8xMy91cy9rYW1hbGEtaGFycmlzLXBhcmVudHMuaHRtbD9jYW1wYWlnbl9pZD0zNyZlbWM9ZWRpdF9ycl8yMDIwMDkxOSZpbnN0YW5jZV9pZD0yMjM0MSZubD1yYWNlJTJGcmVsYXRlZCZyZWdpX2lkPTQyNzQwODk3JnNlZ21lbnRfaWQ9Mzg1MzUmdGU9MSZ1c2VyX2lkPTM5MzhmMTdkODE4MmEyMmZkZTE0NjdmZjlkMGJiNWM1VwNueXRCCgAyBuVlXzF7hr5SEGxpbWFAZ2VuZXNlby5lZHVYBAAAAAA~>
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