Beyoncé Chose Former Slaveholding Plantation as Setting for Part of Visual Album Black Is King
Beyoncé made a powerful statement when selecting filming locations for Black Is King.
Part of her recently released visual album, a project that celebrates and pays homage to the Black experience, was filmed at Sylvester Manor Educational Farm, a former slaveholding plantation in New York.
“Beyoncé and her dancers performing on the land of the manor paid tribute to the ancestors of Sylvester Manor, invoking their spirits and celebrating their heritage,” Sylvester Manor Curator and Archivist Donnamarie Barnes said in a press release.
The release states: “We are proud that Sylvester Manor is a part of the national conversation and thank Beyoncé and her team at Parkwood Entertainment for selecting our historic location to be a part of her exceptional film.”
Once ground where Native Americans hunted, fished and farmed, the location where the manor now sits was taken by European settlers in the 1650s. Over the years the property was “transformed from a slaveholding provisioning plantation to an Enlightenment-era farm, then to a pioneering food industrialist’s estate and today to an organic educational farm,” according to the press release.
It also notes, “The lens through which the public understands historic places of enslavement of African people is shifting, and we’re working hard to unearth and share the stories of the Indigenous native Manhansetts, the European settlers and the enslaved Africans brought to Shelter Island against their will."
“Sylvester Manor’s role in the history of racial injustice and slavery is always at the forefront of our minds,” the statement read, noting that the land was taken by Europeans ”from the Manhansetts, who’d been here for millennia.”
The manor was founded in the 1650s as a “provisioning plantation for sugarcane plantations,” and the existing manor house was built by enslaved Africans and indentured servants in 1735. Their descendants continued to work on the plantation until slavery was abolished in New York in 1827.
“Like many historic sites in this country, the historic record of Sylvester Manor reflects a predominately white, privileged culture. In most cases all we know of the enslaved are their names,” the statement read “So much work lies ahead and we are determined to learn more about these individuals and to give their lives agency. We are committed to revealing narratives that reflect the institutional inequities that have existed for hundreds of years.”
“In these days of heightened awareness of racial injustice, so long overdue, we believe that learning and sharing the events of our nation’s history, as they are embodied at Sylvester Manor, will guide us in the present and show us the way forward to a more just future,” the statement continued.
Beyoncé released Black is King on Disney+ on July 31, as a visual accompaniment to her 2019 Lion King: The Gift album. The one-and-a-half-hour creation offers fans an ornate and uplifting trip through Africa's gorgeous landscape and culture, with the singer as their guide. There are also numerous starry cameos including her daughter Blue Ivy, 8, twins Rumi and Sir, 3, husband JAY-Z, Naomi Campbell, Pharrell, Jessie Reyez, Lupita Nyong'o, Tiwa Savage, Tierra Whack and many other Black and African actors and Afrobeats stars.
As the description for the new film states, the visual album "reimagines the lessons of The Lion King for today's young kings and queens in search of their own crowns."