Friday, October 10, 2014

The Lynching of Jesse Washington In Waco, TX

http://www.executedtoday.com/images/washington_ground_level.jpg 
Lynching of Jesse Washington (1916)

According to the Texas Historical Society -- JESSE WASHINGTON LYNCHING. Of the 492 lynchings that occurred in Texas between 1882 and 1930, the incident that perhaps received the greatest notoriety, both statewide and nationally, was the mutilation and burning of an illiterate seventeen-year-old black farmhand named Jesse Washington by a white mob in Waco, Texas, on May 15, 1916-an event sometimes dubbed the "Waco Horror." Washington was arrested on May 8, 1916, and charged with bludgeoning to death fifty-three-year-old Lucy Fryer, the wife of a white farmer in Robinson, a small community seven miles south of Waco. After confessing that he had both raped and murdered Mrs. Fryer, Washington was transferred to the Dallas County Jail by McLennan county sheriff Samuel S. Fleming, who hoped to prevent mob action at least until the accused could have his day in court.

Washington's trial began in Waco on May 15, in the Fifty-fourth District Court, with Judge Richard I. Munroe presiding over a courtroom filled to capacity. After hearing the evidence, a jury of twelve white men deliberated for only four minutes before returning a guilty verdict against the defendant and assessing the death penalty. Before law officers could remove Washington from the courtroom, a group of white spectators surged forward and seized the convicted youth. They hurried him down the stairs at the rear of the courthouse, where a crowd of about 400 persons waited in the alley. A chain was thrown around Washington's neck, and he was dragged toward the City Hall, where another group of vigilantes had gathered to build a bonfire.

http://withoutsanctuary.org/photos/endpaper.jpg

Upon reaching the city hall grounds, the leaders of the mob threw their victim onto a pile of dry-goods boxes under a tree and poured coal oil over his body. The chain around Washington's neck was thrown over a limb of the tree, and several men joined to jerk him into the air before lowering his body onto the pile of combustibles and igniting a fire. Two hours later several men placed the burned corpse in a cloth bag and pulled the bundle behind an automobile to Robinson, where they hung the sack from a pole in front of a blacksmith's shop for public viewing. Later that afternoon constable Les Stegall retrieved the remains and turned them over to a Waco undertaker for burial.

Though lynching violated Texas law, no members of the Waco mob were prosecuted. However, the foreman of the jury that convicted Washington criticized local law officers for failing to prevent the lynching, and a special committee of Baylor University faculty passed resolutions denouncing the mob. A black journalist, A. T. Smith, editor of the Paul Quinn Weekly, was arrested and convicted of criminal libel after he printed allegations that Lucy Fryer's husband had committed the murder. Other blacks in the Waco area condemned the Fryer killing and remained conciliatory toward the white population.
http://murderpedia.org/male.W/images/washington_jesse/linc.JPG

Although the Nation, the New Republic, and the New York Times severely condemned the lynching, only a few Texas newspapers denounced the Waco mob. The Houston Post, Houston Express, Austin American, and San Antonio Express printed critical editorials, but the Dallas newspapers made few comments. The Waco Morning News expressed regret for the incident but resented the "wholesale denunciation of the South and of the people of Waco" by the national press. The most important demonstration of outrage emanated from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which launched a full-scale investigation of the affair and employed the incident as a cause célèbre in the organization's crusade for a federal antilynching bill. A photographer's pictures of the lynching strengthened the argument. Although the American entrance into World War I delayed the NAACP campaign until 1919, the "Waco Horror" remained a vivid indication that though the frequency of lynchings had begun to decline in the United States after 1900, those incidents that still occurred often were characterized by extreme barbarity.







A Labor of Love, A Labor of Sorrow

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_CvDCiEFbNy8/S5T04Su33lI/AAAAAAAAOiY/BTpW3UYncTk/s1600/aaty.jpg
LABOR OF LOVE, LABOR OF SORROW

The New York Times, "The Family Came First," by Toni Morrison, published on 14 April  1985  --  AFTER slavery, when fresh-born blacks ceased to represent a supply of unpaid labor, agents of the law, the economy, the academy and the Government began to view the black family as problematic in every way. The education of black children, the employment of black adults, housing, medical care, food - whites suddenly began to regard these normal needs as insupportable burdens, and supposed solutions to ''the problem'' of the black family destroyed some families and disfigured others.

That blacks in America were able to maintain families at all and that these families endured after the Civil War is amazing. Perhaps because of this unexpected survival, historians usually treat the black family as a special phenomenon or trivialize it beyond recognition. Not so in ''Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow,'' Jacqueline Jones's perceptive, well-written study of black women in the labor force from slavery to the present.

http://covers.powells.com/9780465021109.jpg
Black Women, Work, and the Family From Slavery to the Present. By Jacqueline Jones. Illustrated. 432 pp. New York: Basic Books

Placing the black family center stage in such a history as this is itself a singular idea, for which we owe the author gratitude. Miss Jones, who teaches history at Wellesley College, has made a valuable contribution to scholarship about black women on several counts. ''Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow'' exorcises several malignant stereotypes and stubborn myths, it is free of the sexism and racism it describes, and it interprets old data in new ways.

Miss Jones shows how the need to maintain family life shaped the work habits and choices of blacks in general and black women in particular. Examining black women as laborers is one thing; examining this labor force in the context of its life-and-death struggle to save the family is quite another. The attempt to annihilate black families was so spirited that every effort to protect those families was seen as nothing less than sabotage. A male slave who ducked off the plantation to go fishing was perceived as a loafer rather than a provider. Similarly, after slavery, when free black women stayed at home to care for their children (a duty and virtue for white women), they were said to be ''doing nothing'' and to have ''played the lady'' by demanding that their husbands ''support them in idleness.''

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-nV-s6FZ0jxw/TdaYkm4ee2I/AAAAAAAAoG0/Jvml9wE3y3M/s1600/3.jpg

Like a silent, underground river, family priorities run through the work choices blacks made after and during slavery. ''Freed blacks resisted both the northern work ethic and the southern system of neoslavery,'' Miss Jones writes. ''The full import of their preference for family sharecropping over gang labor becomes apparent when viewed in a national context. The industrial North was increasingly coming to rely on workers who had yielded to employers all authority over their working conditions. In contrast, sharecropping husbands and wives retained a minimal amount of control over their own productive energies and those of their children on both a daily and seasonal basis. Furthermore, the sharecropping system enabled mothers to divide their time between field and housework in a way that reflected a family's needs. The system also removed wives and daughters from the menacing reach of white supervisors. Here were tangible benefits of freedom that could not be reckoned in financial terms.''

Though slave women are stereotypically thought of as house servants, 95 percent of them were fieldworkers who had the same workload as men. And contrary to the notion that black women during slavery regarded kitchen work as a ''promotion'' from fieldwork, most sought the latter to be farther away from white supervision and closer to their own families. Deliberate ineptitude in the kitchen seems to have been the easiest route out of the big house. And this maneuver was echoed in the refusal of black domestics to ''live in'' when they reached the city.

http://www.historiccolumbia.org/Media/Default/LandingPage/WWFH%20Virtual%20Tour/African-American-Women.jpg

Of signal importance is that blacks often decided to migrate to urban centers to get better education for their children - a priority equal to (if not greater than) the hope of more and better work. Another manifestation of the priority of the family is that blacks repeatedly chose collectivism based on kinship over ''individualistic opportunity.'' Miss Jones does justice to this seldom recognized characteristic of black people and suggests that this collectivism accounts for the rapid spread of black protest in the 1960's.

Once again the myth of the emasculating black matriarch is deftly punctured here. Miss Jones supplies more evidence (there seems never to be enough to get rid of the myth) showing that during and after slavery black women were not the lone protectors of their families and black men traditionally risked their lives trying to defend their wives and children. The author's refusal to assert female competence at the expense of male roles is refreshing.

Historians usually speak of white women as though they primarily supported black causes. Other than Miss Jones, few writers have mentioned that white women could be as racist as their men. Appropriately, Miss Jones distinguishes the kind of white women who cried ''Lynch her!'' to black schoolgirls in Little Rock, Ark., from those who worked hard on black causes.

http://www.broward.org/Library/PublishingImages/ConnectionsCivilWarFam.jpg

Rather than simply looking at data, Miss Jones sees them. In so doing, she has turned an arc light on several dark and unexplored corners. There is a marvelous passage on dressing up - how important ribbons, hats, shoes and colorful dresses were to impoverished black women. Films, plays, newspaper cartoons and advertisements once joked about the way black women dressed up, and white women sometimes felt outrage at, and contempt for, black women's choices of fashion. In the mid-1860's, in Wilmington, N.C., Miss Jones writes, quoting an observer, white women took ''great offense'' at black women's wearing veils and gave up the style altogether.

The book contains a surprising analysis of how Ebony magazine - a magazine dominated by men at its inception - encouraged black women by closely chronicling their accomplishments. There is a discussion that links the way black women nourished the civil rights movement with the way they protected and encouraged runaway slaves. Feeding runaways with provisions stolen from the mistress's pantry during slavery grew into giving banquets for civil rights activists during the 1960's. Spirituals sung in clandestine slave services became rallying songs at protest meetings.

http://ourgeorgiaroots.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/00102r-Unidentified-African-American-woman-IECT.jpg

THOUGH she provides a context for joining the African past to the Afro-American present, Miss Jones is not at all optimistic about the future. She believes that the black woman's unprecedented strength can no longer ward off the quite precedented assaults on the black family. But in calling for ''a massive public works program (and) a 'solidarity wage' to narrow the gap between the pay scales of lower- and upper-echelon workers,'' she is exchanging one dependency for another. If Miss Jones is right, if the traditional ''make a way out of no way'' resourcefulness of black women can't save the black family and blacks are still at the Government's mercy, then they face their gravest danger yet.

Fully half this book is devoted to strategies slaves and newly freed women used to balance labor with family. As well done as it is, this section is the luxury we pay for by having less of Miss Jones's scholarship about events of the 1970's and 80's. The sections of the book that deal with more recent history merely track events without offering insights into them. Perhaps a separate text is needed to tell us exactly how, among modern blacks, the expression ''Hey, mama'' took on sexual connotations; how marriage came to be perceived as a barrier to self-fulfillment; and how black children came to be viewed as the Typhoid Marys of poverty rather than the victims they in fact are. Such an analysis is outside the scope of this book but not beyond Miss Jones's gifts.  (source:The New York Times)

Captain Anderson's Kentucky Slave Jail

http://i.usatoday.net/news/gallery/2012/n120201%20UndergroundRRMuseum/13-underground-pg-horizontal.JPG 

From the New York Times, "A Piece of Slavery's Hidden Past," by Patricia Leigh Brown, 6 May 2003 -- Germantown, Kentucky -- Even now, slowed by a stroke and 70 years past his boyhood toiling in the fields as a tenant farmer, Isaac Lang Jr. can still recall the terrible secrets hidden inside the old tobacco barn.

"Dad told us never to go in there," Mr. Lang, 84, recalled, sitting up in his bed in a nursing home here. "He said, `Boys, I'm going to tell you the truth. It's all right to play around that barn, but don't go inside.' He said it just wasn't right. That it was pitiful. He never did tell us why."

The building resembled the hundreds of long, low tobacco barns with rusting roofs that mark these winsome rolling hills along the Ohio River, except for a log structure concealed inside. Its windows were fitted with thick, crisscrossed wrought-iron bars ordered by Capt. John W. Anderson, a Kentucky slave trader.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/Slave_pen_exterior.jpg
In the forced westward migration of slaves in the years after 1790, historians say, Captain Anderson held an unknown number of African-Americans in the log house, which has recently been identified as the only known surviving rural slave jail.

For years, the slave jail, or holding pen, was encased and largely concealed within the tobacco barn, a later addition that screened it from the elements and ensured its survival. It was the stuff of lore, a public secret. Now in storage, its logs awaiting reconstruction, this environment of confinement will take its place in a museum dedicated to freedom, as the centerpiece of the $110 million National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

With artifacts from the slave era difficult to find and authenticate, and counterfeit shackles and slave identification tags swirling through eBay, the survival of the holding pen and its subsequent identification by historians and curators is a landmark in the material culture of slavery.

http://www.enquirer.com/editions/1999/11/10/slavejailmap_160x214.jpg

The insidious byways travelled by the traders and their slaves — rivers, oceans and roads — were served by a transcontinental network of holding pens, jails and yards built to warehouse and secure human cargo in transit. Among the few slave jails that have survived is one in the basement of 1315 Duke St. in Alexandria, Va., once the headquarters of Franklin & Armfield, among the country's largest slave trading companies. It is now a National Historic Landmark.

"That the slave pen still exists is miraculous," said John Michael Vlach, a professor of American studies and anthropology at George Washington University and the author of "Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery". "Slavery used up artifacts the way it used up people."

http://www.usgulfcoaststatesgeotourism.com/images/otc/input/content/330/w/gul6C0A3EF06C8F4F2CD.jpg 
Forks of the Road, Natchez, MS

The movement to preserve vestiges of the internal slave trade is relatively recent. For example, with a $200,000 grant from the state Department of Archives and History, the city of Natchez, Miss., is trying to buy a quarter-acre section of the Forks of the Road, the second-largest market in the South, where roughly 1,000 slaves were sold a year, and transfer it to the National Park Service. An empty tavern and a parking lot are now at the site.

In a historic part of Lexington, Ky., known as Cheapside, once home to the state's leading slave market, markers honor Kentucky's vice presidents and Confederate heroes but do not mention the area's slave roots. Doris Wilkinson, a professor of sociology at the University of Kentucky, calls such omission "psychological concealment."

The Underground Railroad museum in Cincinnati is spending about $1 million on the slave jail, including disassembly and reconstruction. Next summer, when the museum opens, its 450,000 or so expected visitors will be able to walk through the holding pen and touch its walls.


"We're just beginning to remember," said Carl B. Westmoreland, a senior adviser and curator at the museum who has spent the past three and a half years uncovering the story of the slave jail. "There is a hidden history right below the surface, part of the unspoken vocabulary of the American historic landscape.

"It's nothing but a pile of logs," Mr. Westmoreland said. "Yet it is everything."

The jail languished for years as the barn around it slowly collapsed. In its dark attic lay a row of wrought-iron rings — five have survived — through which a central chain ran. Men were tethered on either side of the chain.

"It was a slave ship turned upside down," said Mr. Westmoreland, a trustee emeritus of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and himself the great-grandson of slaves.

The jail's original chimney faced the Ohio River, the boundary between slavery and freedom and the same fickle water to which Captain Anderson, who is buried 100 yards from where the jail stood, marched his slave coffles. It was an eight-mile trek down the Walton Pike to the landing at Dover, Ky., where they would board flatboats for a perilous 1,150-mile journey: Dover to Covington, Covington to Louisville, Louisville to Henderson, Henderson to Smithland, Smithland to Memphis, Memphis to Vicksburg, Miss., and on to the infamous Natchez slave market.

The vague outline of the barn's foundation is still imprinted in the alfalfa fields owned by Raymond Evers, 72, a retired Cincinnati steel contractor, and his wife, Mary, 75. They purchased the 280-acre farm and what they heard referred to as a "jail cell" in 1976. Mr. Evers spends weekends on the farm, growing alfalfa, corn and soybeans. He used the barn to store machinery and would occasionally unearth chains while plowing.

Mrs. Evers grew up in nearby Minerva and Maysville. In 1998, when the couple learned of plans for an Underground Railroad museum in Cincinnati, they asked museum officials to look inside their barn.

"It was something I'd read about — past tense," Mr. Westmoreland said. "It was something that used to exist — past tense."

The Everses gave the structure to the museum in exchange for a new barn. Then Mr. Westmoreland and historians, curators and archaeologists set about to determine whether the stories of a slave jail were merely folklore.

What they knew was that Mason County, and nearby Maysville in particular, had been a hemp and tobacco center and a mecca for slaveholders from Virginia and Maryland wanting to sell slaves into the deep South. In the last decade of the 18th century, the geography of slavery, which was largely confined to the Eastern seaboard and the Appalachians, shifted profoundly, crossing the easternmost Blue Ridge mountains and expanding into the Shenandoah Valley, Kentucky and Tennessee. Surplus slave labor in Virginia, the result of depleted soil and crop failure, made it relatively easy for Kentucky pioneers to purchase black slaves at favorable prices.

http://www.stellaplantation.com/templates/images/history-1803-louisianaPurchase.jpg

The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and cotton planters' insatiable thirst for labor set in motion the forced westward deportation of slaves, most of them on foot. It was an event, the historian Ira Berlin wrote in his recent book, "Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves," that would tear families apart and displace more than a million people, "dwarfing the transatlantic slave trade that had carried Africans to the mainland."

There is as yet no known photograph or obituary of Captain Anderson, who died in July 1834 at age 41, according to his tombstone. In contrast to the antebellum stereotypes of slave traders as coarse and ill-bred characters "with a whiskey-tinctured nose, cold hard-looking eyes, a dirty tobacco-stained mouth and shabby dress," as one writer put it, they were often respected members of society. In Kentucky, they included Stephen Chenoweth, tax commissioner in Jefferson County, and Littleberry P. Crenshaw, a minister in Louisville.

Captain Anderson left an extensive paper trail of business dealings and legal disputes that described his slave trading. By piecing together information from estate inventories, court records, tax receipts and newspaper advertisements, historians have begun to assemble the story of Captain Anderson and his slave jail.
http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/236x/f4/3b/8a/f43b8aa217594206b951e838529da79b.jpg

The first breakthrough was a Mason County probate document referring to a "jailhouse" on the property. Pen Bogert, a historical researcher in Louisville, discovered in the Adams County, Miss., courthouse copies of 1832-1833 tax receipts signed by a John W. Anderson for the sale of blacks. And in 1833, Captain Anderson offered a reward in a Maysville newspaper for the capture of four runaway slaves. Among them was "Carter, aged 25 years, about five feet four inches high, very bright mulatto, bush head; very stout, heavy made, and stammers when interrogated; full round face; he professes to be a shoemaker and rough carpenter."

At the time of his death, researchers say, Captain Anderson had become wealthy enough to invest in a silver-trimmed saddle and 42 thoroughbreds. He owned 37 slaves, far more than he typically claimed at tax time.

Research indicated that Captain Anderson converted a plain log building into a slave jail. Over the past few years, archaeologists have unearthed about 6,000 artifacts, including crockery, tools and kitchen utensils. As the building was being dismantled last fall, they discovered a log on the second floor, beside the rings, bearing the stamp of J. W. Anderson.

But the decision to move the holding pen from Kentucky to Ohio was controversial locally.

"By the time the public found out about it it was a done deal," said Alicestyne Adams, an assistant professor at Georgetown College in Kentucky and the director of the Kentucky Underground Railroad Research Institute. But the priority was preservation, she said.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/section/learning/teacher/snapshot/20030507.jpg

"African-Americans have become used to having other people tell our stories," Professor Adams said. "Having an artifact that speaks to the magnitude of what occurred, and where it occurred, is extremely important."

In and around Mason County, some people wanted it to stay.

"It's part of the history of the area, but not the pretty part," said Caroline R. Miller, an English teacher in Germantown who has done extensive research on local court documents pertaining to slavery.

But many residents, Ms. Miller said, would prefer to be identified with the heroes of the underground railroad like Arnold Gragston, who was born a slave on Walton Pike and began rowing slaves to freedom in Ripley, Ohio, in 1859.

"There is a fear of being stigmatized," she said of the ambivalence. "It's not easy to learn that the history of where you live is more than unpleasant."

The green hills in and around the Everses' farm are dotted with white porticoed homes, but the original cookhouses and slave quarters out back remain hidden from public view and await historical reckoning.


http://d2zrqxibtw5pa4.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/styles/article_full/public/NURFC_002_0.jpg?itok=t632pEuu



"They bring up very painful memories," said James Oliver Horton, a professor of American studies and history at George Washington University who has been an adviser to historic sites like Monticello. "So even though they're out there, we don't want to find them."


Nonetheless, landscapes have memories. Carol Yates Bennett, 66, who grew up in Maysville, remembers her great-grandmother's story of a slave mother so bereft at her forced separation from her daughter, who was being sold downriver, that she cut off her hand in despair.

Ms. Bennett went to visit the jail on the Everses' farm before it was dismantled. "You just sensed the presence all around you," she said. "It felt like hallowed ground." (source: The New York Times)


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

African Americans and the War of 1812

http://www.eiu.edu/~eiutps/war1812_key.jpg

From the USA National Park Service Series: Fighting for Freedom: African Americans and the War of 1812, "Chapter 6: Wedged Between Slavery and Freedom: African American Equality Deferred," by Gene Allen Smith of Texas Christian University -- The documentary record that chronicles black service during the War of 1812 is very fragmentary at best. Peter Denison, Prince Witten, Charles Ball, Ned Simmons, and Jordan Noble all chose sides during the War of 1812, and these choices ultimately defined their individual and collective identities.
In the end, the War of 1812 did not provide greater opportunities or equality for free blacks as they anticipated, nor did it initiate a wave of emancipation for enslaved Americans seeking freedom.
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-uwhEjJtx8dQ/UPGjG4O26VI/AAAAAAAA1-s/l23UCdoIfh4/s1600/smith.jpg

As their stories testify, men of African descent did serve as soldiers and sailors aboard warships and on privateers during the war in substantial numbers on either side; nearly 1,000 African American sailors were captured and held in Britain’s notorious Dartmoor prison—and they embraced their status as free black seamen struggling to uphold their belief in “Free Trade and Sailors Rights.” Some 600 Chesapeake Bay slaves joined the British Colonial Marines and marched with redcoats on Washington, DC, and Baltimore, while others chose to remain with their masters and fight for the Americans. The American army had not opened its enlistments to black troops, and most states did not permit blacks to muster. There were no all-black regular army units in 1812 and 1813, and the black presence, when noted, was poorly documented. Along the coast of Georgia and South Carolina, enslaved peoples faced the same choices as did those in the Chesapeake, while along the Gulf Coast they found additional choices—some joined with the Spanish, with Native American tribes, and others with Andrew Jackson or the British. Jackson ultimately secured the assistance of most with promises of freedom and equality that never fully appeared.

In some instances, the feats of men like Denison were recorded for posterity, but the stories of noncombatants are chronicled often only in statistics. In the Chesapeake, as many as 4,000 to 5,000 enslaved people fled to British protection and were evacuated to Bermuda, Canada, or Trinidad. In New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, enslaved people and free blacks worked alongside whites to dig entrenchments for those cities, loudly proclaiming their civic and patriotic duty. Yet, black-white relations worsened after the war. Collectively, black unity had demonstrated a powerful threat, engendering fears in white America that were exacerbated by memories of the recent revolution in nearby Haiti (1791–1804). In the aftermath of the conflict, Americans destroyed free mulatto gulf communities in former Spanish Florida that they viewed as a threat to peace and as a challenge to the white status quo. Later, the removal of American Indians east of the Mississippi River bolstered the southern plantation system, creating the Cotton Kingdom of the mid-1800s and further altering race relations. Meanwhile, in British dominions, former American enslaved people clutched tenaciously to the freedom they obtained with evacuation, though the British government abandoned them in a segregated naval base in Bermuda or herded them into ill-provisioned camps in Canada and then into unsettled regions of Trinidad; they struggled economically, but they remained free.

http://files.usmre.com/4172/extractedshipcd(1).jpg

In the end, the War of 1812 did not provide greater opportunities or equality for free blacks as they anticipated, nor did it initiate a wave of emancipation for enslaved Americans seeking freedom. They would find themselves wedged between slavery and freedom, and between race discrimination and egalitarianism. Their patriotic efforts had not reshaped white minds about what role they should play in society, and public memories of the war largely ignored their contributions. New prejudicial racial distinctions replaced class differences among blacks and destroyed once and for all the optimism of the Revolutionary era. For African Americans, the “forgotten war” delayed their quest for equality and freedom. (source: National Park Service)


Fighting for Freedom: African Americans and the War of 1812 from Virginia Historical Society on Vimeo.

Monday, September 15, 2014

British Colonials In Africa

http://www.pri.org/sites/default/files/migration/PriMigrationsDamanticWordpressAttachmentsImagesMigration/www.theworld.org/wp-content/uploads/Mau-Mau.jpg

From the New York Times Sunday Book Review, "'Imperial Reckoning' and 'Histories of the Hanged': White Man's Bungle," by Daniel Bergner, on 30 January 2005 -- In a war-ravaged town in Sierra Leone a few years ago, I listened as five men debated the idea of recolonization, which many of their countrymen favored. They sat in a derelict shed, the office of a building contractor who'd lost all his equipment to rampaging soldiers. He was lucky to be alive and unmutilated; factions in the civil war had cut off the hands of civilians, then let them live as the ultimate message of terror. Amid the ruin of their nation, only one of the five men objected to the idea. ''We had segregation, right over there,'' he said, pointing toward the desolate grounds of a secondary school, his voice rising in outrage. ''We couldn't go to that school!'' To which the contractor, white-haired and old enough to have spent his childhood under British rule, said, ''At least there was school for Africans.''

The men spoke during extreme times in their country; their desperation had reached this pitch after 10 years of anarchy. But despair pervades the continent. ''The average African,'' Moeletsi Mbeki, deputy chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs and brother of South Africa's president, declared recently, ''is poorer than during the age of colonialism.'' Yet for anyone tempted, even fleetingly, to look to the past for solutions to Africa's problems, two new books, ''Imperial Reckoning,'' by Caroline Elkins, and ''Histories of the Hanged,'' by David Anderson, give warning.

http://a2.mzstatic.com/us/r30/Publication6/v4/5e/14/80/5e14802f-b1a7-173a-28f7-8634611e9dae/9781780222882.225x225-75.jpg

Focusing on the final decade of British rule in Kenya (ending in 1963), both writers evoke a period when, especially in Elkins's view, the colonial pretense of civilizing the dark continent gave way to the savagery of imperial self-preservation. Some 40,000 whites lived in Kenya by the early 1950's, drawn by promises of long leases on fertile land and native labor at low wages. ''Whatever his background,'' Anderson, a lecturer in African Studies at Oxford, writes, ''every white man who disembarked from the boat at Mombasa became an instant aristocrat.'' But by midcentury, many of the natives, particularly those of the Kikuyu tribe, refused to play their assigned role. The Kikuyu had been put off their most arable land by white farmers. They, like other Kenyan tribes, had been banished to ethnic reserves too small to sustain them. They were forced to carry passbooks as they searched for work from the governing race. In 1952, stirred partly by their displacement and partly by British efforts to prohibit traditional Kikuyu customs, a Kikuyu secret society, the Mau Mau, launched a rebellion, attacking white-owned farms and brutally killing perhaps a hundred whites and 1,800 of their African supporters. In retaliation, the British carried out a campaign that, Elkins suggests, amounted to genocide.

Anderson's book, meant as a kind of requiem for the ''as yet unacknowledged martyrs of the rebel cause: the 1,090 men who went to the gallows as convicted Mau Mau terrorists,'' never manages to render a vivid martyr. Examples of colonial judicial corruption and hypocrisy are thoroughly explored, but little room is left for character. Elkins, a history professor at Harvard, also neglects individual portraits, but she develops an unforgettable catalog of atrocities and mass killing perpetrated by the British. ''Imperial Reckoning'' is an important and excruciating record; it will shock even those who think they have assumed the worst about Europe's era of control in Africa. Nearly the entire Kikuyu population of 1.5 million was, by Elkins's calculation, herded by the British into various gulags. Elkins, who assembled her indictment through archives, letters and interviews with survivors and colonists, tells of a settler who would burn the skin off Mau Mau suspects or force them to eat their own testicles as methods of interrogation. She quotes a survivor recalling a torment evocative of Abu Ghraib: lines of Kikuyu detainees ordered to strip naked and embrace each other randomly, and a woman committing suicide after being forced into the arms of her son-in-law. She quotes an anonymous settler telling her, ''Never knew a Kuke had so many brains until we cracked open a few heads.'' Her method is relentless; page after page, chapter after chapter, the horrors accumulate.

http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/oct2008/imperial_reckoning_kenya_b.jpg

Yet for all its power, ''Imperial Reckoning'' is not as compelling as it should be. With so much evidence of atrocity, Elkins often forgoes complexity and careful analysis. Not only are the colonists barbaric in their treatment of the Kikuyu, but, as she has it, they are basically barbarous in private as well, maintaining ''an absolutely hedonistic lifestyle, filled with sex, drugs, drink and dance.'' More important, there is the case that Elkins apparently wishes to make -- for genocide. ''Mau Mau,'' she writes, ''became for many whites in Kenya, and for many Kikuyu loyalists as well, what the Armenians had been to the Turks . . . and the Jews to the Nazis. As with any incipient genocide, the logic was all too easy to follow.'' According to the official statistics, the British killed 11,503 Mau Mau adherents. By contrast, Elkins estimates that ''somewhere between 130,000 and 300,000 Kikuyu are unaccounted for.'' She reaches her figures by reviewing colonial censuses taken in 1948 and 1962; she compares the increase in the Kikuyu population to the larger increases in three other Kenyan tribes. It's a fragile means to support her case, partly because we're left wondering whether the other tribes also grew more swiftly than the Kikuyu during earlier periods.

Unfortunately, Elkins's prosecutorial zeal in a sense precludes a true ''imperial reckoning.'' For British rule brought crucial benefits that persist -- among them modern education and a degree of infrastructure -- as well as violent oppression to its subjects. A thorough reckoning would provide, by way of paradox, not only a more deeply insightful but a more deeply wrenching work of imperial history.(source: New York Times Sunday Book Review)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Author Greg Grandin On The Economist And Slavery

http://www.angolabelazebelo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/escravatura-angola.jpg 

From the Nation Magazine, "‘The Economist’ Has a Slavery Problem: Multiple commentaries from the journal show a pattern of making sure white people aren’t taken for total villains when discussing slavery," by Greg Grandin, on September 2014 -- A few months ago, my recent book The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World received a lukewarm review in The Economist. The title of the unsigned review, “Slavery: Not Black or White,” was odd, calling to mind a parody of an Onion headline: “Nietzsche: Not Good or Evil.” After all, slavery, a centuries-long institution involving the buying and selling of tens of millions of human beings, did in fact result in divvying up the diversity of much of the world’s population into those two colors. The review itself was written in that smarmy style that makes US corporate managers and hedge funders swoon, identified some time ago by James Fallows as “colonial cringe.” Readers on this side of the Atlantic assign an Oxbridge accent to the text, which “involves a stance so cocksure of its rightness and superiority that it would be a shame to freight it with mere fact.” Another critic said the magazine is written by young people trying to sound old.

The Empire of Necessity tries to establish the dependent relationship of slavery to the capitalist revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in all of the Americas, north and south, and presumes to use Herman Melville as embodying the moral complexities of that relationship. In other words, there’s a lot going on in the book. But the reviewer seemed only excited to find a few instances confirming that the trans-Atlantic slave system was not universally, 100 percent, absolutely, totally, categorically, “a matter of white villains and black victims.” “As is commonly supposed.” “Blacks,” he or she was happy to report, “profited from the Atlantic slave trade.”




 http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_pBT1Xc1uMPQ/SpDUgt9ccbI/AAAAAAAAACI/oKYfqo3AJvc/s320/Pelourinho+Debret.jpg

The reviewer then complained about the book’s gloominess: “Unfortunately, the horrors in Mr Grandin’s history are unrelenting. His is a book without heroes. The brave battlers against the gruesome slave business hardly get a look in, although it was they who eventually prevailed.” One might think that “brave battlers” would be a good description of the group of West Africans who led the slave-ship revolt that is the book’s set piece. Having endured horrific captivity and transport, forced not just across the Atlantic but the whole American continent into the Pacific, the deception they managed to pull off under extremely hostile conditions was, I’d say, heroic.


Slavery might not be black or white, but bravery and morality apparently are: whites possess those qualities, a possession that merits historical consideration; blacks don’t, at least according to The Economist. The Empire of Necessity didn’t “credit” William Wilberforce, the white reformist MP, or white abolitionist evangelicals and Quakers, for ending slavery. Nor, the reviewer points out, did I make mention of the British Royal Navy freeing “at least 150,000 west Africans from slave ships during the 19th century.” The book isn’t about abolition, or, for that matter, the British Royal Navy. No matter. “The British historians,” wrote the great historian of slavery, Eric Williams, “wrote as if Britain had introduced Negro slavery solely for the satisfaction of abolishing it.” So too, apparently, anonymous Economist reviewers.

http://cpantiguidade.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/comercio-de-escravos_31.jpg

Then last week another review appeared that made it clear that The Economist has, well, a race problem. Also published without a byline, this one is of Ed Baptist’s wonderful The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, and is even more of an apologia for white resentment, if not supremacy (by which only white folks have virtues worthy of historical commentary). It had to have been by the same critic, for it uses nearly exactly the same victim/villainy opposition as scaffolding: “Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains.” This time, though, the Internet responded with a barrage of snark (“@TheEconomist asks the tough question: why are black people victims in a book about slavery?” #notallwhites #notallslavemasters) that, remarkably, forced the editors to withdraw the review and apologize for its apologia: “Apology: In our review … we said: ‘Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains.’ There has been widespread criticism of this, and rightly so. Slavery was an evil system…” Glad we got that cleared up.

The review of Baptist’s book in fact had other problems than what its editors apologized for. Baptist provides meticulous, extensive and comprehensive evidence that capitalism and the wealth it created was absolutely dependent on the forced labor of Africans and African-Americans, downplaying culturalist arguments for Western prosperity, of the kind rehearsed by historians such as Niall Ferguson. This seemed to particularly irk the reviewer, who asserted that Baptist “overstates his case when he dismisses ‘the traditional explanations’ for America’s success,” including its “individualistic culture, Puritanism,” and “ingenuity.” Here, the reviewer adopts exactly the “cocksure” tone Fallows long ago described, unburdened by the need to actually make a counter-argument or provide evidence. An assertion pronounced in crisp English is as good as its word.
http://planetasustentavel.abril.com.br/imagem/exposicao-direitos-humanos-caixa-petrobras-gal-escravos-no-brasil.jpg

So a pattern is detected, one reaching back much further than the review of my book. In the 1860s,The Economist stood nearly alone among liberal opinion in Britain in supporting the Confederacy against the Union, all in the name of access to cheap Southern “Blood Cotton” (ironically, the title of the Baptist review) and fear of higher tariffs if the North triumphed. “The Economist was unusual,” writes an historian of English public opinion at the time; “Other journals still regarded slavery as a greater evil than restrictive trade practices.”

Since the Baptist review appeared, only to be quickly withdrawn, other historians, such as Mark Healey, have dug up reviews with similar problems. The Economist seems committed to making sure that white people aren’t taken for total villains and darker-skinned folks held accountable for their share of world’s inequities. It also seems dedicated to make sure the economic system created by slavery is denied its parentage, and on insisting that the miseries that continue to be produced by neoliberal capitalism can only be cured by more neoliberal capitalism. A few years ago, for instance, the magazine upbraided the Laurent Dubois, in his book on the history of Haiti, for, you guessed it, dismissing cultural explanations for the country’s poverty and focusing instead on structural issues. Haitians need to be held responsible for “their society’s underdevelopment,” and the best way to end their misery is to stop clinging to substance production and accommodate themselves to “specialised wage labour for a global market.”

http://arquivo.geledes.org.br/images/stories/miojo/esclavemarcelverdier.jpg

The reviewing practices of The Economist are opaque, its reviewers shrouded in collective anonymity and endowed with the timeless authority of the “Royal We.” “In our review … ” started off its Baptist recantation. But who was the author of the reviews of The Empire of Necessity and The Half Has Never Been Told? A staff writer? A professional historian? Of slavery? Of the United States? Of the British Empire?

If so, why not be a “brave battler” and stop hiding behind the neoliberal plural. Have the courage of your convictions and come out. An apology and withdrawal isn’t enough. Release the name of the reviewer. (source: The Nation; Please support The Nation. Donate now!)


Author Edward E Baptist On The Economist's Book Review



http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-NJuRJYy8QqE/UK9w9lXBQiI/AAAAAAAAAZg/ukDoiBm7Lv8/s1600/douglas.png

As reported by The UK Guardian, "The Economist's review of my book reveals how white people still refuse to believe black people about being black: This is what happens when racism goes viral. This is why, somehow, it still can," by Edward E Baptist, on 7 September 2014  --  In 1845, Frederick Douglass, a fugitive from slavery, joined dozens of white passengers on the British ship Cambria in New York harbor. Somewhere out on the Atlantic, the other passengers discovered that the African American activist in their midst had just published a sensational autobiography. They convinced the captain to host a sort of salon, wherein Douglass would tell them his life story. But when the young black man stood up to talk, a group of Southern slaveholders, on their way to Britain for vacation or business or both, confronted him. Every time Douglass said something about what it was like to be enslaved, they shouted him down: Lies! Lies! Slaves were treated well, insisted the slaveholders; after all, they said, the masters remained financially interested in the health of their human “property”.

In a review of my book about slavery and capitalism published the other day, the Economist treated it the same way that the tourist enslavers treated the testimony of Frederick Douglass on that slave-era ship long ago. In doing so, the Economist revealed just how many white people remain reluctant to believe black people about the experience of being black.
http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/frederickdouglass.jpg

Apparently, I shouldn’t have focused my historical research on how some people lived off the uncompensated sweat of their “valuable property”, the magazine’s anonymous reviewer wrote: “Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains.” Worst of all, this book reviewer went on, I had, by putting the testimony of “a few slaves” at the heart of book about slavery, somehow abandoned “objectivity”’ for “advocacy”.

Of course, the reviewer wasn’t treating me like the slaveowners on the Cambria treated Douglass. They threatened to kidnap him and send him to New Orleans – the largest slave market in North America. No, a single nameless reviewer from a single stodgy magazine couldn’t do much to me.

Still, the review enraged a significant number of people. Within a few hours, Twitterstorians scorched the earth of the magazine’s comments page with radioactive reviews of the review. The parodies and viral disdain forced the Economist to retract the review and issue a partial apology.

http://sites.duke.edu/tidesofkinship/files/2014/02/TimeCivilWar_p019_slaveFamily_2_slideshow.jpg

But the Economist didn’t apologize for dismissing what slaves said about slavery. That kind of arrogance remains part of a wider, more subtle pattern in how black testimony often gets treated – sometimes unknowingly – as less reliable than white. The Economist reviewer was saying that the key sources of my book, African Americans – black people – cannot be believed.

As the historian Jelani Cobb pointed out to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Friday night, the reviewer’s ideas about slavery’s history are not actually as uncommon as many of us would like to believe. He’s right: All across the American south, you can go to historic plantation sites still pushing the idea that slaves who had a “good” master were happy, and “faithful”.

If you write about the history of slavery, you become used to the pattern: No matter how many accounts you cite from ex-slaves, people often say they need more information before they can accept what former cotton pickers say about how cotton picking worked. And when we’re talking about contemporary events, the presumptive doubt is just as bad.

http://www.shirleyplantation.com/images/slave_bucket.jpg

For instance: white people have had numerous opportunities, especially after Ferguson, to hear what African Americans think about how policing takes place when white civilians aren’t around. Yet twice as many white Americans as black Americans still think that police treat African Americans fairly.

Perhaps this is because, according to a recent survey, 75% of white Americans have zero black American friends. Surely if more white people knew more black people on a personal level, some would be more ready to accept the accounts from African Americans about how white privilege affects their own lives.


Instead, we’ve still got white magazine writers refusing to believe first-person accounts of history, which re-enforces white privilege at the very time when we should be revoking it. In the meantime, both historians and advocates of contemporary change often have to turn to the strategy of getting white people to vet black testimony before other white people will believe it.

Back in 1845 on the Cambria, as the attackers surrounded Douglass, threatening to throw him overboard, he told the other white passengers that if they didn’t believe his words, he would speak the words of the enslavers. Straight from the book of state law in the south, Douglas read aloud those punishments allotted to slaves, then – “lashings on the back, the cropping of ears and other revolting disfigurements” – as now: “for the most venial crimes, and even frequently when no crime whatever had been committed”.  (source: The Guardian)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Greg Grandin’s "Empire of Necessity"

http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2014/01/23/theempireofnecessity_sq-0a9bdead3b415ebc6b318a2f3bbc0bb67812e17c.jpg

From the New York Times Sunday Book Review, "A Vengeful Fury: Greg Grandin’s ‘Empire of Necessity’," by Andrew Delbanco, on 10 January 2014 -- Between the early 16th century and the middle of the 19th, more than 12 million human beings were shipped against their will from Africa to the New World and sold into slavery. An untold number died at different stages of the journey — overland in Africa, during the “middle passage” at sea or soon after arrival. Among those who perished, most died of disease, some by suicide and still others from wounds or execution following failed revolts.

For nearly four centuries, as Greg Grandin writes in his powerful new book, slavery was the “flywheel” that drove the global development of everything from trade and insurance to technology, religion and medicine. To read “The Empire of Necessity” is to get a sort of revolving scan from the center of the wheel. What we see is an endless sequence of human transactions — the production and exchange of meat, sugar, rice, cotton, tobacco, gold, among many other things — all connected, through slavery, by linkages whose full extent cannot be discerned from any point along the way. Slaves, Grandin writes, “were at one and the same time investments (purchased and then rented out as laborers), credit (used to secure loans), property, commodities and capital.”

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Ctn6eyN-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Grandin’s kaleidoscopic technique gives his book a certain pastiche quality (many years and miles are silently traversed in the breaks between chapters), but through a remarkable feat of research he establishes a strong narrative line that gives the book coherence and momentum. Beginning in 1804 with their embarkation from West Africa, he follows a particular group of slaves to a British slave ship until it is seized in the name of “liberty, equality and fraternity” by a French pirate, who exercised his liberty by selling them to a buyer in Buenos Aires. Then came a forced march across the “never-ending blanket of grass” of the Argentine pampas, which must have cruelly reminded the captives of the African steppe they once had known. Next was the hard climb into the Andes, where the weak and sick had their limbs or heads cut off in order to facilitate removal of shackles and halters for future use, their mutilated bodies left to nonhuman predators along the trail. Upon arrival in Valparaiso, survivors were taken aboard the slave ship Tryal, bound for Lima, under the command of a Spaniard named Benito Cerreño.

Into this harrowing account Grandin, the author of “Fordlandia,” intersperses sections about two New Englanders who seem at first disconnected from the story but who were destined to intersect with the lives — and deaths — of the slaves, and thereby with each other. The first was a merchant seaman named Amasa Delano who dropped anchor in late 1805 at Santa Maria Island off the Chilean coast. The second was a Massachusetts writer, Herman Melville (from whom Grandin borrows his title), who, probably sometime in the 1840s, read Delano’s memoir and was drawn to the tale of what happened early in 1805 when Delano spied a ship sailing erratically near the island, in evident need of help.
http://cdn.history.com/sites/2/2013/12/150619827-H.jpeg

That ship was the Tryal, whose human “cargo” had rebelled, murdered their owner along with a score of other whites and demanded that Cerreño sail them back to Africa. Fifty years later, Melville made Delano’s story the basis of a short novel that he called “Benito Cereno.”

When Delano boarded the vessel to aid what he surmised was a distressed crew, he was duped by the risen slaves — and by Cerreño, who feared for his life should he hint at the truth — into believing that the disorder aboard was the result of storm damage and disease. But as Delano was being rowed back to his own ship, the Spanish captain suddenly leapt overboard after him, screaming for help. Now grasping the truth of the situation (at least some of it), Delano dispatched an armed party that subdued, then tortured, the rebellious slaves. When he returned to the ship, he found them “writhing in their viscera.”

In “Benito Cereno,” Melville retold these events with some significant ­changes. Omitting what Grandin calls “Delano’s nearly yearlong hounding” of the Spaniard for what he considered his due compensation for the rescue, he emphasized Cereno’s lingering shock and Delano’s impenetrable insouciance. He focused on the leader of the slave rebellion, whose corpse, after his trial and hanging, was decapitated, with the head impaled on a spike in the main plaza of Lima so all could contemplate his “voiceless end.”

http://www.truthdig.com/images/eartothegrounduploads/9780805094534_custom-c1e1b96b55bb0ecc95468b545d1acdede0770b0e-s6-c30.jpg

Melville refused to write knowingly about the unknowable inner lives of the slaves, a reticence that elevated his novella far above the antislavery manifestoes of his time in which slaves appear in one form of caricature or another. He conveyed the horror of slavery while looking unblinkingly at the reciprocal fury of self-liberated slaves toward those who had enslaved them.

Grandin does not say much about the literary power of “Benito Cereno.” But by reconstructing the world through which the slaves moved toward their doom, he has done more than any previous scholar — and there have been many — to illuminate the context of the work in which Melville confronted slavery without presuming to comprehend its vast ramifications. “The Empire of Necessity” is also a significant contribution to the largely impossible yet imperative effort to retrieve some trace of the countless lives that slavery consumed.  (source: New York Times Sunday Book Review)


Greg Grandin on "The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World" from Brooklyn Historical Society on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

University Slavery: The University of Maryland


From the Washington Post, "Students Trace University of Maryland's Slavery Ties," by Jenna Johnson a Washington Post Staff Writer, on 10 October 2009 -- When the University of Maryland elaborately celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2006, there were only fleeting mentions of its early ties to slavery. The next year, black faculty members urged President C.D. Mote Jr. to follow the lead of Maryland lawmakers and issue an apology for the university's historic use of slave labor.

Mote refused to do so, but he asked a group of students to research the topic. As they presented him with a final report Friday, the students recommended the university "issue a statement of regret," honor African Americans who assisted with its creation by naming them founders, add classes focused on slavery, continue research and ensure that the university is not benefiting from current international "coercive labor practices."


Mote said Friday that he will review the recommendations but that he has no plans for a statement because all institutions at that time were influenced by slavery.

"It's a little difficult for a university to retrospectively change its founders," he said. "It's like changing the signers of the Declaration of Independence."

The report does not contain a "smoking gun" or examples of how slaves were forced to construct parts of the campus beginning in 1856, just before the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, said history professor Ira Berlin, who led the class. But at least 16 of the university's original 24 trustees owned slaves, and it would have been nearly impossible then to "undertake this type of enterprise in Maryland and not use slaves," he said.


"If slaves didn't lay the bricks, they made the bricks. If they didn't make the bricks, they drove the wagon that brought the bricks. If they didn't drive the wagon, they built the wagon wheels," Berlin is quoted as saying in the report.

The report tells the story of three men who were instrumental in opening the Maryland Agriculture College, as the university was then known, at a time when farmers were forced to plan how they would operate in a post-slavery economy.

The three "founders" profiled are remarkably different: Charles B. Calvert, a principal founder and wealthy backer of the school, came from a prominent Maryland family that had owned dozens of slaves for decades. Benjamin Hallowell, the school's first president who resigned after one month, was a Quaker who adamantly opposed slavery and requested that slave labor not be used. Adam Plummer was one of Calvert's slaves, whose labor "created the wealth that funded the college," the students wrote in the report.

Plummer's great-great-grandson, the Rev. L. Jerome Fowler, said he received a copy of the report this week and opened to the table of contents. Tears came to his eyes.

"I saw my ancestor, Adam Francis Plummer, listed as a founder," Fowler said at a reception Friday. "You don't know what that did for me."

noose

In the past decade, several other universities have researched the role of slavery in their construction and early days of operation. But in many instances, these research projects are conducted by professors and historians, not undergraduates, Berlin said. During the first semester, the class studied the history of slavery. The next semester, they began researching and writing.

"To be able to rummage through archives and decipher old handwriting -- undergraduates never get to do that," said Jessica Dwyer-Moss, a senior majoring in government, politics and history. Unlike class reports that are graded and forgotten, Dwyer-Moss says, she hopes this report is read throughout the campus so that it "might do some good in the world."  (source: Washington Post)




Slavery and the University of Maryland (Fortune's Bones, February 24, 2012) from The Clarice on Vimeo.

Oregon Slavery

From The Portland Tribune"Nokes' book breaks the chains of history," by Lori Hall on 16 May 2013 --  When Greg Nokes of West Linn found out that one of his Oregon ancestors was a slave owner he was surprised to say the least.

His relative, Robert Shipley, took his slave, Ruben Shipley, with him, moving from Missouri to Oregon with the promise of releasing Ruben after he helped settle a farm back in 1853.

First, Nokes was not pleased to learn about that component of his family’s history. Second, he was interested to learn there were slaves in Oregon, what was known as a state closed to slavery.

Intrigued, Nokes started researching and writing. The result is his latest book, “Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory,” which launches May 19.


Research and writing are in Nokes’ blood. His father was an editor for The Oregonian when he was growing up and passed on the love of the written word to Nokes.

“Writing became natural to me,” he said.

After graduating from Willamette University, Nokes started working for the Medford Mail Tribune. From there he went on to 43 years of journalism, working 25 years with The Associated Press and 15 years with The Oregonian.

As a young man, not only did Nokes want to write, but he also wanted to see the world.

“I’ve been fortunate to do both,” said Nokes, who recently turned 76.

Nokes was stationed in New York, San Juan, Buenos Aires and Washington, D.C., while working for the AP. In D.C. he was an economics and diplomatic correspondent. Over the course of his career Nokes visited more than 50 countries before retiring in 2003.

Not one to settle down, Nokes launched a second career by researching and writing his first book, “Massacred for Gold.” It took him 14 years from start to finish to write this nonfiction story about a covered-up 1887 massacre of 34 Chinese gold miners in Hells Canyon. This book resulted in a memorial at Chinese Massacre Cove last year and shined a light on perhaps the largest massacre of Chinese people on American soil.
After finishing that book, Nokes sat down to coffee with his brother, Bill, to discuss book ideas. Bill suggested writing about Ruben Shipley, an element of family history Nokes did not know about.

“In researching his life, I came across other slaves in Oregon,” Nokes said. “This was all new to me.”

In all, Nokes could find 35 names of slaves in Oregon, though he said there were probably up to 100, and “hardly anyone in Oregon knew of this history.”

One family that struck a particular chord with Nokes was the Holmes clan. Slaves Robin and Polly Holmes and their children moved from Missouri to Oregon with their master, Nathaniel Ford, in 1844. They had expected to be freed upon moving to the state closed to slavery.


Like many other settlers, Ford ignored the territory’s laws and forced the Holmeses to work his land. Robin and Polly were finally freed in 1850, but Ford refused to free their three children.

Despite being illiterate and an obvious underdog, Robin Holmes fought back for his children by taking his former master to court.

“He managed to get the ear of some sympathetic attorneys and sued Ford,” Nokes said.

The court battle lasted 15 months, but a judge finally ruled in Holmes’ favor, granting the return of his children.

According to Nokes, Holmes vs. Ford, decided in 1853, is a landmark case in Oregon and the only slavery case ever brought in Oregon courts.

“It’s just another story people in Oregon didn’t know about,” Nokes said.


“Breaking Chains,” however, is more than just the Holmeses’ story. The book explores slavery in general in Oregon and the territory’s questionable laws, including its 1857 Constitution that banned African Americans from moving into the state. That law wasn’t repealed until 1926.

Though Nokes may not be proud of his ancestor, he was happy to learn Ruben Shipley became a successful farmer. And because of his ancestry, Nokes had the opportunity to write “Breaking Chains” in the hopes that Oregonians can learn the complete picture and history of this region and how it formed.

“I hope it will get into schools. I think it will be useful,” Nokes said of the book. “I like to think I contributed to the knowledge of this region’s history. ... The book is more about the history of slave issues in Oregon than just individual slaves.” (source: The Portland Tribune)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Washington and Lee University Will Remove Confederate Flag


As reported by the Washington Post, in an article entitled, "U.S. colleges have worked to address ties to slavery, Confederacy," by Karen Chen, on 8 July 2014 -- With Washington and Lee University’s announcement Tuesday that it will remove historic Confederate battle flags from the main chamber of Lee Chapel and its acknowledgement of regret for the school’s ties to slavery, the college in Lexington, Va., joined numerous other U.S. colleges that have worked to address their ties to slavery and the Confederacy. Here is a list of prominent schools that are among those that have publicly addressed the issue during the past decade, in chronological order.


University of Alabama — 2004. The university apologized to descendants of slaves who had connections to campus in the years prior to the Civil War, according to the Associated Press. The move, among the first ever by a U.S. school, came shortly after the school decided to put a marker near the graves of two slaves on campus and to put others on buildings where slaves had worked and lived.


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — 2005. The school installed the Unsung Founders Memorial to recognize the people of color who helped build the university, both free and enslaved statewide.


University of Virginia — 2007. The Board of Visitors unanimously passed a resolution expressing regret for the use of slaves at the school. The resolution recognized that the vision of the school’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, was carried out by slaves who helped build the Rotunda and the buildings on the Lawn, the historic heart of the school that Jefferson designed.


Brown University — 2007. The Ivy League school in Providence, R.I., commissioned a three-year report examining the institution’s history with slavery, which culminated in a recommendation to acknowledge the past, spread the report’s findings and a promise to create a hefty endowment for Providence urban public schools. A dedicated memorial is scheduled to be completed this year, in time for Brown’s 250th anniversary.


College of William and Mary — 2009. The historic Williamsburg, Va. school — which graduated four signers of the Declaration of Independence — opened “The Lemon Project,” an investigation into its slavery ties.

Harvard University — 2011. A Harvard history professor and more than 30 students created a booklet called “Harvard and Slavery: Seeking a Forgotten History”, according to the Harvard Gazette. It reported that three Harvard presidents owned slaves and that slaves worked on campus as early as 1639.

Emory University — 2011. The university in Georgia apologized for its connections to slavery on the day before the school’s 175th anniversary. In a resolution, the school acknowledged its “entwinement with the institution of slavery throughout the College’s early history” and “regrets both this undeniable wrong and the University’s decades of delay in acknowledging slavery’s harmful legacy.”

Princeton University — 2013. History professor Martha Sandweiss led a seminar that began digging into the New Jersey Ivy League school’s history with slavery.

Washington and Lee University — 2014. After a protest from a group of black students, the university announced that it will remove Confederate battle flags from the main chamber of Lee Chapel, which honors Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who served as the university’s president after the Civil War. The school also said it regrets its connection to slavery and acknowledges that it owned as many as 80 slaves in its early years. (source: The Washington Post)

Share It

HOME

HOME
Click here to return to the US Slave Home Page