Natasha Trethewey Archive

Black Voices on the Civil War

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Charlottesville has me thinking about poems of the Civil War that center black experiences. Poems from the Civil War canon are usually heavy on Whitman, Dickinson, or folk songs. The following three texts should satisfy anyone who wants to read beyond “O Captain, My Captain.”

Homesickness for Divided Places and Unknown Lands

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When does a home become so hostile that you should consider leaving? Southern writers complicate clearly defined ideas of homesickness. In states where discrimination was legislated, hate crimes not prosecuted, and outsiders viewed with suspicion, nostalgia mixes with escapist impulses, love of landscape with horror at racial violence.

NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA: Journey to the Center of an American Document, Query XIV

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We’ve reached the section of Notes I dread the most. It’s also the query I’ve spent more time contemplating than any other. Here, at the center of the book, he makes his infamous case for slavery in his time.