Entitled, “Pathways to Freedom in the Americas: Shared Experiences Between Michigan, USA and Guerrero, México,” the exhibit is in English and Spanish and uses video, maps, photographs, art, and music to depict a different aspect of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It tells the story of African-American slaves escaping south to freedom in México; African heritage as it continues to permeate Mexican culture—especially in the Costa Chica region of Guerrero; the migration of Mexicans to Michigan, and the culture as it has manifested in Southwest Detroit.
HOW DID IT ORIGINATE?
The exhibition was inspired by the chance of meeting of two women who became fast friend - Patricia Ann Talley, an African-American from Michigan, USA, and Candelaria Donaji Mendez Tello, an Afro-Mexican from Guerrero, México. Through their discussions, they learned about the parallel histories of their ancestors who were brought to the Americas against their will. Together they introduced the this exhibition, which presents the mutually beneficial relationship between African Americans and Mexicans that is seldom discussed.
SECTION ONE: SHARED PATHWAYS FROM AFRICA (1440-1821)
In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain seeking a route to India. Instead, he stumbled upon the western hemisphere. His mistake opened the “New World” and Africa to one of the most horrific periods of European imperialism (empire building) in history.
In the New World, European diseases such as small pox, coupled with the strenuous labor devastated the native population. Lacking the human resources needed to produce items for sell in Europe, England, Spain and other European countries, looked to Africa for slaves.
Historian John Hope Franklin writes that “12.5 million African captives,” mainly from West and Central Africa, were forcibly brought to the Americas. Some historians suggest that the number of captives was much higher.
SECTION TWO: SHARED PATHWAYS IN HISTORY (1822 - 1865)
People of African descent were met with similar disdain in México and in the United States. Forcibly brought to both countries to work as slaves, blacks occupied the lowest statue in each society. However, they never succumbed to their assigned social status.
Whenever possible, blacks liberated themselves by escaping to maroon colonies in the countries where they were held captive, or in the case of those in the United States, found ways to leave the country.
Moreover, abolitionists worked hard to end slavery. Men such as Vicente Guerrero, Abraham Lincoln and William Lambert are examples of such activists.
SECTION THREE: SHARED PATHWAYS IN TODAY (1866 - PRESENT)
In México and the United States, people of African descent fought in wars to help free their respective countries gain independence from their colonizers and to free themselves. They continue to fight for their civil and human rights in both countries. In the Costa Chica Region of Guerrero, México, Afro-Mexicans are organizing to be recognized as a distinct ethnic group, which would afford them all the constitutional rights and support that the Indigenous groups have.
African Americans have waged a gallant struggle to attain justice and equality as provided in the United States Constitution. Many social movements have borrowed from the strategies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who became the spokesperson for the Civil Rights Movement that changed the nation and the world.
Contact us to have the Pathways to Freedom Exhibit displayed at your school, organization or business.