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On This Memorial Day – Remembering Those Who Fought to End Slavery

There are a lot of Southern Myths about the Civil War and Antebellum South, and what life was like in the period leading up to the War. The root of the war was economic. By 1860, over 60% of the GDP, and near 80% of the trade was generated by the South. And just about every penny of that money was built and fully enabled by slavery. It is no mystery why the Articles of Secession by every Southern State lists the cause of their actions as to maintain slavery.

The South was by no means monolithic as the Southern Myth would have you believe. And it was a dangerous place, with rebellion seething just under the surface. One of the few things which kept the slave master’s cruelty in check was the distinct possibility that ol’ Massa might “fall off his horse and break his neck”. There were hundreds, if not thousands of slave rebellions, and the risk was so great that during the Revolutionary War the Southern States supplied few troops to fight the British…Because they were needed at home to keep the slave rebellions in check. The sight of Haitian Troops marching to Savannah to attack British forces holding the city must have sent chills down the spines of Southern slave owners.

Further the South wasn’t monolithic. Large regions, especially the Appalachians, had no real economic ties to slavery, making the western Southern States a battleground between pro and anti-slavery forces. If you examine the maps of the Shenandoah campaign between Union General Phil Sheridan and confederate General Stonewall Jackson, you will find that there are areas conspicuously avoided by the rebs, You will find the same in certain areas of North Carolina. Those areas weren’t “confederate friendly”.

This Memorial Day we should celebrate those who fought to put down the rebellion, and ultimately end slavery. Over 100,000 of whom were white Southerners, and 260,000 of whom were black, often escaped slaves.

100,000 From Dixie Fought for the North in the Civil War

In all the recent debate about erasing Confederate history, no one talks about the history the South itself has erased, such as the many Southerners who fought for the Union.

Earlier this past week a judge ruled that the city of Louisville, Kentucky can proceed with the removal of a Confederate monument near the campus of the University of Louisville. Arguments against removing Confederate monuments over the past year have often claimed that in doing so communities run the risk of erasing history. What has been universally overlooked, however, is that the push to establish monuments to the Confederacy during the postwar years helped to erase the history of those white and black southerners who remained loyal and were willing to give their lives to save the Union.

Southern Unionism took many forms during the Civil War. Some disagreed with the right of a state to secede from the Union at the war’s outset while others grew weary of the Confederacy in response to a number of factors, including a Conscription Act in 1862 that exempted large slaveowners, the impressment of horses or mules for the army, and a “tax-in-kind” law that allowed the government to confiscate a certain percentage of farm produce for military purposes. Others in places like Appalachia and other highland regions that included few slaves saw little value in supporting a government whose purpose was the creation of an independent slaveholding republic.

Resistance to the Confederacy also took many forms throughout the war. The release of the movie, The Free State of Jones, starring Matthew McConaughey next month, will introduce audiences to Newton Knight, who led an armed rebellion against the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi. Some joined clandestine political organizations such as the Heroes of America, which may have contained upwards of 10,000 members. Networks of communication kept resistors in touch with one another and their activities throughout the region. Unionists risked arrest by Confederate officials, ostracism from within the family, and violent reprisals from the community.

It is impossible to know just how many white southerners remained loyal to the Union during the war given disagreements over its very definition, but we do know that somewhere around 100,000 southern white men from Confederate states, except for South Carolina, served in the U.S. military. East Tennessee supplied somewhere around 42,000 men, but other Confederate states yielded significant numbers, including 22,000 from Virginia (and West Virginia) and 25,000 from North Carolina. The First Alabama Cavalry, which was considered one of the toughest units in General William Tecumseh Sherman’s army, took part in his “march” through Georgia and the Carolinas in 1864-65.

The decision to express one’s loyalty to the Union by joining the army was often a painful one to make from the lowliest private to some of the highest-ranking officers. While the story of Robert E. Lee’s decision to resign his commission in the U.S. army, rather than betray his home of Virginia, is often told and re-told in tragic prose, others grappled with the same decisions and yet chose to remain loyal. The man who offered Lee command of the U.S. army in 1861 was another Virginian by the name of Winfield Scott. Scott, whose military career stretched back to the War of 1812—including a failed presidential bid in 1852—was the highest-ranking general at the beginning of the war. Scott’s decision was no less difficult than Lee’s and yet he remained loyal and although too old to take command in the field, he helped formulate military policy that ultimately proved successful in subduing the rebellion.

General George Henry Thomas, also from Virginia, became one of the most successful generals in the war and saved the Union army from being completely routed on September 19, 1863, earning him the nickname the “Rock of Chickamauga.” His loyalty to the nation cost him his family, who refused to speak with him ever again and even turned his picture against the wall. Very few monuments to the service of these men and others like them, who defied family, friends, and community for the sake of the nation, can be found in the former Confederate states. And yet the removal of some Confederate monuments has caused some to worry about erasing history.

The other significant Southern bloc that voiced their loyalty to the Union and commitment to crushing the rebellion was the region’s slave population. From the beginning of the war, and in the shadow of a Supreme Court that as recently as 1857 ruled that free and enslaved blacks could not be citizens of the United States, African Americans offered their services to the military. Beginning in 1862 along the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia, former slaves rushed into the first all black regiments. By the end of the war roughly 150,000 former slaves fought and died to save this nation. They did so under the most harrowing conditions. Black soldiers were massacred on battlefields and even sent back into slavery at places like Fort Pillow in Tennessee and at the Crater in Petersburg, Virginia by Confederates, who refused to treat them as legitimate soldiers. As if that wasn’t enough, their own government refused to pay them what white soldiers earned. Only sustained protests that lasted more than a year and continued demonstrations of bravery on the battlefield led Congress to correct this injustice in the summer of 1864.

Southern Unionists, both black and white, may have celebrated Confederate defeat, but they continued to be persecuted owing to their wartime beliefs and actions by terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Life was especially difficult for former slaves, who fought for the Union and now hoped to exercise the right to vote, own land, or run for public office. Their sacrifice for the Union ended in the rise of Jim Crow state governments by the turn of the 20th century.

After the war, as white Southerners erected monuments to their Confederate dead they also erected monuments to their former slaves, only they recalled not brave men who fought to preserve the Union, but their loving former “servants” who remained loyal to master and their Lost Cause. The very act of monument erection helped to erase this history for much of the 20th century.

The removal of Confederate monuments need not result in the erasure of history. In fact, it may for the first time create the intellectual and physical space to commemorate and remember a new narrative of the past, one that corresponds more closely to the long and rich history of service and sacrifice to this nation that is recalled each year on Memorial Day.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2016 in Black History, The Post-Racial Life

 

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The Waco Horror, and Its Aftermath

Lynching in the South was a method not only t maintain white supremacy, but to intimidate and blackmail the local minority populations into staying in line. The result of lynchings in the early 1900’s for a lot of the South was the Great Black Migration, and the loss of a large part of their workforce. One of the most violent lynchings was that of Jesse Washington in Waco Texas.

Around sundown of May 8, 1916, Lucy Fryer, the wife of a well regarded cotton farmer, was found bludgeoned to death in the doorway of her seed house. Jesse Washington, who was illiterate and branded “feeble-minded”, confessed to the murder.

Soon after a jury found him guilty, a crowd of 2,000 men seized Washington, chained him, beat him and dragged him to the town square, where he was burned.

His fingers were amputated for souvenirs and his fingernails taken for keepsakes. Finally all that was left was a charred torso, but Washington’s body parts were put in a bag so they could be dragged through downtown.

About 15,000 people, half of Waco’s population, had gathered to watch the lynching.

 

A mob gathers around to watch the lynching of Jesse Washington.

The “Waco Horror” still reverberates, 100 years later

Mary Pearson doesn’t need to be reminded of Jesse Washington’s lynching.

The Robinson resident grew up hearing the stories from her grandmother, a relative of the 17-year-old farmhand who was tortured to death on Waco’s town square a century ago last Sunday. The moral was never precisely stated, but the horror has stuck with Pearson all her 67 years.

Just after the boy received a death sentence for murdering his white employer, a mob seized him and dragged him to City Hall, where they doused him with coal oil and hanged him over a pile of burning wooden crates. They carved his charred body into souvenirs and dragged it around town.

But even more troubling for Pearson was what didn’t happen: Law enforcement didn’t intervene in the lynching, nor did anyone in a crowd of 15,000 spectators.

“All the folks were standing around, most of them were white, and nobody said anything, nobody stood up to try to do anything,” Pearson said in an interview with the Waco Tribune-Herald after a recent proclamation by Waco’s mayor condemning the lynching. “It’s a hurt and frustration even to think about it. … It can cause me a heavy depression.

“Every time I think about it, I get really angry and I have to ask the Lord to help me.”

White Waco spent most of the 20th century trying to forget the atrocity, dubbed the “Waco Horror” by the national press. The incident stood as a turning point in national anti-lynching efforts and helped bring to prominence the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. But the atrocity received no mention in local history books until the late 1960s and was largely ignored or downplayed locally until 1998, when Councilman Lawrence Johnson publicly called for a memorial to “atone” for the lynching.

Meanwhile, the story survived on the frequency of a whisper in corners of the black community, in the form of legends and admonitions to sons and daughters.

Forgetting became impossible in the mid-2000s, when a series of books, exhibits and news articles brought the incident again to national attention. In 2006, the Waco City Council and McLennan County commissioners passed a general condemnation of the area’s lynching past.

The Community Race Relations Coalition and the NAACP have headed an effort to commemorate the centennial this spring with a lecture series, a march and a push to get a state historical marker for the lynching. The observances culminated with a “town hall” meeting at the Bledsoe-Miller Community Center.

The centennial is not meant to reopen old racial wounds or cast blame on anyone now living, said Peaches Henry, a McLennan Community College assistant English professor and president of the Waco NAACP. Rather, it’s an opportunity to bring whites and blacks together to reflect on a difficult shared history.

“Here’s the importance of history: It allows us to remind ourselves of both the good and the bad, and then to correct our course,” she said.

Henry said the city and county resolution against lynching a decade ago was a good start. The question of Washington’s innocence or guilt aside, Henry said city and county leaders failed to uphold the rule of law and were complicit in a heinous crime of torture.

The recent proclamation by Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. went further and specifically referred to the “heinous lynching of Jesse Washington.”

“It’s important to call the names of those who were wronged,” Henry said. “The same was true of the woman (Lucy Fryer) who was murdered. She was someone’s mother, sister and cousin. She was also important. For the council to offer a proclamation naming Jesse Washington is very significant. It means that in the public record he is no longer invisible.”

Those involved in the commemorations say burying the past doesn’t keep it from haunting the present.

Scheherazade Perkins, 64, a member of the race relations board, grew up in Waco and graduated from the black A.J. Moore High School in 1969. She never heard of the lynching until she was an adult, but it helped explain anxieties she heard when she was growing up.

“Obviously there is much that has been done, much progress that has been made,” Perkins said. “But there are processes that still go on, an unspoken terror that still exists, that makes people want to stay under the radar. It makes them hesitant to come forward with concerns for fear that they will be not only labeled but mistreated.

“Some of that lingers, not only with the older people who were right on the fringes of the atrocity, but with those who pass the same sentiment down: ‘Boy, you need to watch your mouth, because you never know.’ ”

The centennial comes at a time of national debate and unrest over police killings of unarmed black males, such as Freddie Gray in Baltimore; Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland. A Washington Post investigation found that 40 percent of unarmed men shot and killed by police in 2015 were black, even though black men make up only 6 percent of the population.

Henry, the local NAACP president, said she has high regard for Waco police leadership, but she still has anxieties for her own son, an Eagle Scout and college junior, wherever he goes.

“There’s the talk that every young African-American man receives: When you get pulled over, keep your hands on the steering wheel,” she said. “You never make a move without letting the officer know.

“There’s nothing about my son when he is walking or driving down the street that can protect him.”

It’s a more subtle version of the same fear that African-Americans had a century ago, Henry said…Read the Rest Here

 

 
 

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Oldest American Veteran

This one reminds me of the old Mom’s Mabley Joke about the “Oldest Man in the World”….

Cigar-Smoking, Whiskey-Swigging Oldest Veteran Turns 110

Happy birthday, Richard!

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2016 in Black History

 

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Underground

If you haven’t watched WGN’s “Underground”, I suggest watching it on the Internet or Cable Services from the beginning. It is part historical and part adventure story as a group of slaves try and escape to freedom from Georgia. The show contains great acting by both the “Good” and “Bad” guys and focuses on the spiritual and moral conflicts of the principal characters. It’s depiction of slavery is Historically accurate, and in the last part of the series , and in season two, several Historical people from the period are included, Harriet Tubman is portrayed in her role in the “Underground Railroad”, and “Bloody Patty”, Patty Cannon who terrorized Delaware and Maryland along the Eastern Shore leading the Cannon-Johnson Gang. Parts of the story are adopted from real life, like the escape of William and Ellen Craft , and a nod to Henry “Box” Brown who actually shipped himself in a crate to freedom.The show’s creators are Misha Green and Joe Pokaski.

The only downside? The music is awful. The decision to incorporate Hip-Hop music distracts, and cheapens the show. There is no shortage of period music from the era, written by the slaves themselves . While the lyrics were often written in allegory, to protect the slaves themselves from retribution, the music directors apparently felt the audience was too stupid to figure it out. The best known song was “Follow the Drinking Gourd”. One I remember finding once was something like “Black Pirate Mary”, which told the story of a black woman who raided the Plantations in Louisiana, killed the slavers, and added the former slaves to her pirate band.

Underground: A Thrilling Quest Story About Slavery

A harrowing new period drama takes its cues from both history and the apocalyptic narratives that populate today’s TV and film.

…But the idea of escape, specifically a harrowing flight through hostile territory while under constant threat of death, is built into the foundation of America’s history. The flights of hundreds of thousands of enslaved people via the Underground Railroad and other efforts in the 18th and 19th centuries are themselves a story of escape from apocalyptic horrors, with many souls risking mutilation, death, disease, and unimaginable psychological trauma in their quest for freedom and a promised land.

Finally, television is exploring America’s most autobiographical apocalyptic quest story. WGN America’s Underground, which airs the final episode of its first season Wednesday night, is an epic series about slavery and escape created by the Heroeswriters Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, and executive produced and scored by John Legend and his Get Lifted team. The entertainment industry has tackled the subject before—on television with Alex Haley’s landmark 1977 miniseries Rootsand its 2016 remake, and in film with 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, Django Unchained,and the upcoming Birth of a Nation, among others. But those treatments largely focused on the terrors of plantation life or on revenge fantasies. Underground, by contrast, provides historical fiction about the great flights that shaped American history, taking its cues as much from other weekly primetime thrillers as it does from the famous canon of slavery period pieces.

Underground’s main plot follows a group of escaping slaves known as the “Macon Seven,” whose members include Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Noah (Aldis Hodge), who inevitably become the show’s power couple as they lead their group north. Scenes cut between their journey, the Georgia plantation they escaped from, and the abolitionists at their destination in the Ohio River valley. Some episodes play out uncannily like The Walking Dead, only with single-minded slave catchers taking the place of zombies. Questing characters follow the video-game-inspired level-up process that’s become The Walking Dead’s key structure, with Rosalee and Noah evolving from naive co-conspirators to nearly unkillable wraiths over the course of the first season.

That isn’t to say that Underground is a total departure from its heavier slavery-film counterparts. Scenes back on the Macon plantation, anchored by Amirah Vann’s Ernestine, who’s the mother of Rosalee and the enslaved object of owner Tom Macon’s (Reed Diamond) desires, are as emotionally resonant and torturous as any scene in Roots. Enslaved people are beaten, mutilated, humiliated, stripped naked, and killed, all of which is generally shown in visceral detail. The show doesn’t shy away from the rampant sexual assault that defined plantation life, and it also does a good job of portraying how enslaved people carved out whatever spaces for survival they could. One of the advantages of it being a television series is that Underground has the space to explore the full depth of its enslaved characters: They are brilliant, petty, caring, peaceful, and violent at once, as are all people, and their daily interactions and individual stories have room to breathe and not be swallowed up by the need to sum up for audiences in a few hours just how awful American slavery was.

But the core of Underground is still the quest, which sets it apart as both a TV series and a work about slavery. It isn’t perfect. Some of the episodes require quite a good amount of suspended disbelief, and the Get Lifted team’s decision to incorporate modern music into the show—while a brilliant way to connect the dots in black history and culture across time—sometimes comes across as forced.Underground toes the line between fantasy and reality in a way that can be uncomfortable for historically minded viewers such as myself. But it’s off to a good start, and holds the mark as perhaps the most watchable and rewatchable media about slavery yet. For once, a show finally connects the real epic quests of blackness at the center of American identity with its penchant for fantasy apocalypses.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2016 in Black History, The Post-Racial Life

 

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Harriet Tubman Home to Become National Park

On the Money, and now a National Park for this exceptional woman –

Harriet Tubman’s Home taken around 1940

Harriet Tubman Gets Historical National Park In New York

Just two days after the official announcement that Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed an agreement establishing the celebrated abolitionist’s former home as a National Historical Park.

The agreement allows land belonging to Harriet Tubman Home Inc. in Auburn, New York, to be transferred to the National Park Service, Cayuga County’s newspaper The Citizen reports. The 26-acre property will now be known as the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park. Congress approved legislation in 2014 to create this park and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Maryland.

Tubman escaped from slavery in Maryland in 1849, but she returned numerous times to rescue at least 70 other people. In 1859, she moved to a house in Auburn, New York. In 1896, she bought 25 acres next to that property, where she opened the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, which provided housing for elderly African-Americans. She deeded the establishment to the AME Zion Church in 1903, with the agreement that they would manage the home and the property, according to the National Park Service.

Harriet Tubman National Historical Park includes Tubman’s former residence, the Home for the Aged and the nearby Thompson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church.

Harriet Tubman at her home in Auburn, New York, in 1911

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2016 in Black History, Giant Negros

 

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Black Folks on the (confederate) Dollar

Happy darkie slaves working for Massa…Seems back in the “Good Old Days”, white Republicans loved putting black folks on the money when they were slaves.

Now that black folks are free…Not so much.

 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2016 in American Genocide, Black History

 

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Conservatives Again Show Their Racist Behinds on Tubman Being Added to $20 Bill

The conservatives even trotted out their favorite Uncle Tom, Uncle Ben Carson…

Followed by his owner – Donald Trump

 

They only want to honor white men: The pathetic conservative meltdown over the Harriet Tubman $20 bill exposes the right’s petty identity politics

The only reason to be mad about the changes to the money is a belief that only white men should receive tribute

On Wednesday, the Treasury Department unveiled a plan to redesign the $20, $10, and $5 bills to better reflect American history, moving some of the (all white, all male) former presidents around on the bills and making room to put luminaries like Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, and Eleanor Roosevelt on various bills. The biggest shift will be Tubman, who helped create and run the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves, gracing the front of the $20 bill, kicking Andrew Jackson to the back.

(Why Jackson, the Donald Trump of his time — except more genocidal — needs to stay on the bill is another question altogether.)

The Treasury’s decision should be non-controversial. After all, we all agree that history is made by more than presidents (plus, the $100 bill has a non-president on it, which confirms this is a shared belief), and that people other than white men exist and matter. Don’t we? You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees publicly with these contentions, except perhaps on some Twitter accounts that Trump keeps retweeting.

Yet, in a move that was entirely predictable, right wing pundits are in meltdown, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that, regardless of any surface claims to believe in equality, the reality is that they adhere to the belief that white men are the only ones who really matter and the rest of us are just the supporting cast.

The strategy that modern conservative propaganda uses, when called upon to rationalize overt racism and sexism, is to get conservative women and people of color to express the sentiments. It’s a cheap and obvious but unfortunately effective ploy, and one that was immediately employed by the folks at Fox News to appeal to their audience members who want to hear why they aren’t bigots, even though they revolt at women and black people on money.

Greta Van Susteren played her part to the hilt on Fox Wednesday night, even going so far as to say that she’s “a feminist”, before offering an opinion that disproved this contention.

“Rather than dividing the country between those who happen to like the tradition of our currency and want President Andrew Jackson to stay put and those who want to put a woman on a bill,” she argued.

Denying women the vote, keeping women from working, putting women in the stocks for having a sharp tongue, treating women as subhuman property of men are also “traditions,” you know. The whole point of being a feminist is refusing to accept that tradition trumps a woman’s right to equality. But beyond just that, appeals to tradition are considered a logical fallacy for a good reason. The idea that we should keep doing a stupid and harmful thing because we have done it that way in the past isn’t a grand and noble idea. It’s refusing to learn from experience.

Of course, no one actually buys this argument, not really. The folks waxing poetic about the impropriety of change when it comes to the currency probably aren’t writing their sentiments on parchment paper with quill pens. The only time they cling to tradition is if the tradition flatters their prejudices, in this case the prejudicial belief that only white men can be great Americans.

Van Susteren pretended to be open to compromise by arguing that Tubman should go on a new bill, recommending a $25 denomination. This gambit is quickly becoming a popular one for conservative pundits and politicians who are pandering to white men who think that having only white men on their money somehow makes them superior people by association.

Ben Carson, doing his duty of offering cover for racist opinions, argued on Fox News, “I love Harriet Tubman. I love what she did, but we can find another way to honor her. Maybe a $2 bill.”

Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump picked up this argument.

“Maybe we need to do another denomination — maybe we do a $2 bill,” Trump told Matt Lauer. “Yes, I think it’s pure political correctness — [Jackson’s] been on the bill for many, many years, and really represented someone who was really important to this country.”

If it’s not obvious what they’re doing here, let me spell it out for you: They’re pretending to be generous by offering to put Tubman on money that either doesn’t exist or people don’t use. The implication is that it’s only okay to honor women of color as long as you simultaneously assert that white men are still better...More

 

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