Saturday, December 24, 2011

Intriguing Commentary

It is difficult for us in the 21st century to imagine how much race figured into current affair discussions during the mid-19th century. But, when one stops to think about it, it is not so surprising due to the fact that the race based issues of slavery and emancipation dominated politics and society.

In state like Kentucky that had known slavery since even before statehood, emancipation and the Reconstruction era came as a drastic shock. In the same 1868 issue of the Lexington Observer and Reporter mentioned previously another story ran that to me is quite intriguing.

"The other day we drove to Danville in a buggy. About half a mile for Lexington we saw a couple of negroes hunting; our attention was attracted and we determined to count how many armed negroes we might meet. By the time we reached Danville, our count had become thirty seven. The Christmas holidays was not over and it was a fine day for rabbits.

The negroes are perhaps the most universally armed people in Kentucky, and are daily becoming more familiar with the use of weapons."

It somehow seems strange that a conservative newspaper such as the Observer and Reporter would make mention of something as this. I have read numerous primary source reports of the depredations of this period in Kentucky and it not surprising that African Americans would want to arm themselves for protection. Their change in status from valuable protected property (in slavery) to perceived nuisance as freedmen (in emancipation) often meant that there was little legal recourse from racial persecution. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but is the editor perhaps issuing a subtle warning to his readers?

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