How Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels turned an enslaved man’s narrative into an opera
“How Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels turned an enslaved man’s narrative into an opera”
As a young man, my own history was shaped by the life of a slave. Though I had never seen one, in fact, I had been in the same situation as many white people I knew, who had been bought and then enslaved. I had also been in the situation of a young woman who was sold by a relative who left her father to take her to a man who promised her a life of freedom.
I know this history well. For me, it helped make my experience as a white woman who was enslaved as an equal in a way that it might not for a black person. The world I grew up in was different. I grew up in a time before slavery was legal. Before I was told to understand the world, I had to imagine it. I often wrote stories in the margins of school books as a way of making sense. As an eight-year-old, I would write my own stories of the slave world.
While the stories were, for me, a way of making sense, I would also think about what they might mean for the way I would experience life as a black woman in America. What should life be like for a black person in America? Where should a black person look for meaning?
When I was a teenager and writing stories, I imagined being free and living in a world where everyone lived in peace and harmony. I imagined a world where the white race were not dominant in the world, and where minorities could be free to enjoy their differences and find acceptance. I imagined a world in which slavery was not an option.
I did not realize that would never be a reality.
On November 30th, 1851, a slave trader named Henry Clay passed through Natchez, Mississippi. He brought a girl with him. On his ship, he did not specify what the girl’s role would be