When I pictured the future back in the 18th century, I have to admit this isn’t quite what I had in mind. Sure, there have been tons of impressive technological advancements, but I always thought that by the year 2012 everyone would eat their meals in pill form, there would be moving sidewalks, and one would be able to look up at the sky and see an interstellar highway system full of flying slaves zipping around on jet packs.
True, the Internet and smart phones alone are amazing, life-altering devices. But they don’t feel like the future, you know? During those First Continental Congress sessions we spent full days imagining how crazy life would be in the 21st century: holograms of talking heads appearing out of nowhere whenever you need information on something, aliens and humans living together on the same planet like it’s not a big deal, and having the ability to walk out onto the balcony of your home and sit upon the back of a hovering slave waiting to fly you to the location of your choosing.
But fast-forward to 2012, and there isn’t a single Negro propelling through the air.
IMAGE: Detail from the Paideia Tree of Knowledge mural (2011) by Elaine Clayton, created for Paideia School Elementary Librarian Natalie Bernstein and filled with characters from children’s literature. This represents Newbery Medalist Virginia Hamilton’s The People Could Fly, a book of 24 American black folktales.