By Anjuli Kolb

The Adidas Originals Facebook page (and the internet at large) blew up after a photograph of a shoe with ankle chains, the JS Roundhouse Mid, designed by Jeremy Scott, was posted this past Monday. Scott said the shoe was inspired by the 1980s toy My Pet Monster. The Reverend Jesse Jackson got involved. Meanwhile, the National Parks Service has plans for an event called “Walk a Mile, a Minute in the Footsteps of the Enslaved” on July 8. Adidas, for their part, have decided to pull the shoe. As Olaudah Equiano reminds us, "apparel" manufacturers were always slow to join the cause of abolition. 


“The design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery…Jeremy Scott is renowned as a designer whose style is quirky and lighthearted and his previous shoe designs for Adidas Originals have, for example, included panda heads and Mickey Mouse. Any suggestion that this is linked to slavery is untruthful.”

—Adidas statement regarding the JS Roundhouse Mid shoe, 18 June, 2012.


“I hope that the slave trade will be abolished. I pray it may be an event at hand. The great body of manufacturers, uniting in the cause, will considerably facilitate and expedite it; and, as I have already stated, it is most substantially their interest and advantage, and as such the nation’s at large, (except those persons concerned in the manufacturing neck-yokes, collars, chains, hand-cuffs, leg-bolts, drags, thumb-screws, iron muzzles, and coffins; cats, scourges, and other instruments of torture used in the slave trade).

—Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, The African, Written by Himself1789. 


“Park Ranger Angela Roberts-Burton will be in period clothing telling tales of the enslaved who labored here. Experience agricultural labor that enslaved people may have performed at Hampton. Work in the fields with actual hoes and scythes. Carry buckets of water with a yoke on your shoulders.”

—Publicity materials for the National Park Service’s Hampton Farm Site in Maryland, which is planning an event called “Walk a Mile, a Minute in the Footsteps of the Enslaved on the Hampton Plantation” on 8 July, 2012. 

Let Me Recite What History Teaches (LMRWHT) is a weekly column that flashes the gaslight, candlelight, torch, or starlight of the past on something that is happening now. The citational constellations work to recover what might be best about the “wide-eyed presentation of mere facts.” They are offered with astonishment and largely without comment. The title is taken from the last line of Stein’s poem “If I Told Him (A Completed Portrait of Picasso)."

Image: Black Media Scoop