Friday, December 30, 2011

Just Finished Reading

Being on holiday break I have had some time to get in a significant amount of reading. This short book didn't take long; it only has 125 pages or so of text. I enjoyed the book. On the positive side it gave some interesting insight into middle-class white life in antebellum Virginia, however on the negative side, this very narrow topic did not seem to allow the author much room for in-depth research.

On a 5 point scale I give it it 3.5.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Just Finished Reading

On a scale of 1 to 5 I give it a 4. I highly recommend.

For more information see:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The 15th Amendment

One of several large commemorative prints marking the enactment on March 30, 1870, of the Fifteenth Amendment, and showing the parade celebrating it which was held in Baltimore on May 19 the same year. The amendment declared that the right to vote "shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Here the parade winds down Monument Street from Baltimore's Washington Monument. In the left distance is the spire of the First Presbyterian Church. Heading the parade are a small troop of black Zouaves, holding rifles across their shoulders. They are followed by several men on horseback wearing top hats and sashes, several floats, and more soldiers. The sidewalks are lined with onlookers, many of them black. Framing the central image are a series of vignettes. At left are portrait busts of the late Pennsylvania representative and champion of black suffrage Thaddeus Stevens, Maryland representative Henry Winter Davis, author of the Wade-Davis Bill, and Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner. At right are busts of distinguished blacks Martin Robinson Delany, Frederick Douglass, and Hiram R. Revels. In the upper left corner of the print is an antebellum plantation scene, where a mustachioed overseer supervises slaves picking cotton. Nearby is an elegant house surrounded by palm trees. Beneath the scene are the words, "We are in bondage. O deliver us!" In contrast, the right hand corner holds a Civil War scene of black troops rushing into battle, with the words "We fought for Liberty, we now enjoy" below. In the center, above the parade scene, appear busts of (left to right) Lincoln, Baltimore jurist Hugh Lennox Bond, abolitionist martyr John Brown, Vice president Schuyler Colfax, and President Ulysses S. Grant. The three busts in the center rest on crossed laurel branches and flags. In the lower corners stand two parade groups of black men wearing Masonic sashes and aprons. They carry banners decorated with allegorical figures as well as the portraits of Lincoln, Grant, and Swiss patriot William Tell and his son. Between these groups are two small scenes: a black schoolroom with the words "Education will be our pride," and a black preacher before his congregation, with the words, "The day of Jubilee has come."

Another of several large prints commemorating the celebration in Baltimore of the enactment of the Fifteenth Amendment. (See also nos. 1870-2 and 1870-3.) A group of black men, on horseback and wearing top hats, sashes, and badges, lead a procession. Behind them follow black soldiers and others carrying American flags and banners with portraits of an Indian brave, a black military officer, and Liberty. A small float with a crowned woman under a canopy also follows. On either side of the picture are two columns, "Education" and "Science," on top of which rest ballot boxes wreathed in oak leaves. The columns are connected by arches with the legend "The Right of Citizens of the United States to Vote Shall Not Be Denied or Abridged by the United States or Any State on Account of Race Color or Condition of Servitude." At left, beside the "Education" column, is a classroom scene where a black man teaches two black children geography. Below this scene is a bust portrait of Frederick Douglass. At right, near the "Science" column, are two black men at work. One, a stonemason, carves a large column. The other, a smith, stands at his anvil. Below this scene is a bust portrait of Mississipi senator Hiram R. Revels. The upper register of the print features portraits of white benefactors. In the center is an oval portrait of Lincoln, framed in oak leaves. It is decorated with an eagle and American flags, and flanked by seated figures of History or Learning (left) and Columbia or Liberty (right) with a shield, Phrygian cap, and sword. At the far left are busts of President Ulysses S. Grant and Vice President Schuyler Colfax, and at far right busts of abolitionist martyr John Brown and Baltimore jurist Hugh Lenox Bond.

Courtesy Library of Congress

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?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Emancipation Celebration

I ran across a short but interesting article in the January 4, 1868 issue of the Lexington (Kentucky) Observer and Reporter. It was titled "Negro Celebration" and stated, "On Wednesday last, it being the fifth anniversary of the freedom of the negroes it was celebrated by those in this city and county. Early in the day they formed a column, with music at its head, and marched through our streets until evening, when they proceeded to the Methodist Church (col'd) on Upper street, where they were addressed by [Stephen G.] Burbridge, [James S.] Brisbin and others. We heard of no disturbance at all during the day."

Burbridge controversially served as the commander of the Department of Kentucky during the Civil War and Brisbin organized the 5th US Colored Cavalry, a unit raised and trained at Camp Nelson, Kentucky.

Cool Random Civil War Era Photograph

Photo courtesy Kentuckiana Digital Library via University of Kentucky

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

MLK, FDR and WWI Monuments in D.C.

Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.

A very impressive close up of the sculpture.

If you haven't been to see the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, go check it out the next time you're in Washington D.C. It's pretty impressive.

FDR and me

Fireside chat

Soup and bread line

FDR and his dog, Fala

World War I Monument

Thursday, December 8, 2011

USCT Flag Images

While doing some browsing on the Library of Congress website the other day I ran across some neat photographs of United States Colored Troops (USCT) flags. The images painted on the flags are very striking and I only wish these photographs had been taken in color. The mottoes on the flags tell strong stories of what these men were fighting for.

One Cause, One Country: 45th USCT

We Will Prove Ourselves Men: 127th USCT

Strike for God and Liberty: 25th USCT

Let Soldiers in War Be Citizens in Peace: 24th USCT

Sic Semper Tyrannis: 22nd USCT

Rather Die Freemen, Than Live To Be Slaves: 3rd USCT

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Anti-slavery Harp

Courtesty Library of Congress - American Memory

Friday, November 11, 2011

Yet Another John Brown Song

Courtesy Library of Congress - American Memory

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cool Random Civil War Era Photograph

If you have always thought that braided hair on African American men is a recent fashion, think again. Browsing through the Gladstone Collection on the Library of Congress website I found the above picture of an unidentified man in civilian dress, holding a Remington cap and ball pistol and sporting a white or light colored hat set at a jaunty angle. He also has a pinky ring and what appears to be possibly a rectangle "Eagle" military belt plate and what might be a holster on the right side of the image. Unfortunately the photograph is not dated other than the curator's guess as circa 1860-1870.

To see more interesting photographs in this collection try this link:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Found Another One

I apologize that I haven't been posting much the past month and a half. I have to admit that I have been preoccupied with college football. It is a seasonal disorder that affects me from September through (hopefully) January. It never fails that when the leaves begin to change, the majority of my thoughts are on any piece of news that I can gather on my beloved Oklahoma Sooners. It has been this way since I became a Sooners fan in 1985. There were the lean years in the 1990s when it was almost too tough to claim to be a Sooner fan, but since 2000 it's Boomer Sooner every Saturday in the fall.

Anyway, back on May 21, I posted about my pet peeve of finding incorrect facts in scholarly works that are supposedly "peer edited" and "vetted properly" to catch such mistakes.

Yesterday evening I finished reading Mastering America: Southern Slaveholders and the Crisis of American Nationhood by Robert E. Bonner, and published by Cambridge University Press in 2009. The book was a gift from a friend who is doing PhD work at Michigan State who found it there on a free book table. I must say I enjoyed the work, and I thought the author brought out some excellent points and made good conclusions, but I was discouraged to find an obvious (at least to me it was obvious) incorrect factual error.

In the acknowledgments section of the book the author thanks a number of named and anonymous readers, both scholars colleagues and staff at Oxford University Press for reviewing the text and making suggestions to improve the book. I have a difficult time believing that all of these supposed experts missed the mistake that struck me. Either they didn't read the book thoroughly or they don't know basic Civil War military history, which could be another post.

So what was my beef you ask? On page 242, in the second full paragraph, the author states that "A similar outpouring of poetry lamented fallen heroes like Francis Bartow and Bernard Bee (the two most prominent casualties of Manassas), the Tennessean Felix Zollicoffer (who was shot by his own men at Cumberland Gap), and Albert Sidney Johnston (who bled to death while commanding the western army at Shiloh in the spring of 1862). Whaaaaaa? The author gets it all right except for the extra information on Zollicoffer. He would have been fine if he would have left out the parenthetical information.

Zollicoffer was not killed at Cumberland Gap. He was killed by the Union's 4th Kentucky Infantry (some claim by then Colonel Speed S. Fry specifically) at the Battle of Mill Springs in Pulaski County, Kentucky; 100 miles from Cumberland Gap. Zollicoffer inadvertently rode his horse into confused battlelines. Some claim that Zollicoffer's nearsightedness and the smoke and rainy fog of the day contributed to his fatal mistake. I had never heard the author's claim that he was killed by his own men, and I knew for sure that he wasn't killed at Cumberland Gap.

How mistakes such as this get missed simply amazes me.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Klan Keeps it Klean...Kinda'

As I mentioned in my last post I have been searching out sources about the KKK for a teacher workshop on terrorism. I have found a number of things, but one of the most interesting was a pamphlet printed in Frankfort in 1877. This document, titled The Confession of Richard A. Shuck: A Member of the Owen and Henry County Marauders of the State of Kentucky was written as told to author Jesse Fears.

The short work was intended to keep young people from going down the same road Shuck had traveled. Shuck was born in 1851 and came of age in Kentucky during the violent era of Reconstruction (or Readjustment as they called it here in the Bluegrass). When Shuck was about 20 years old he witnessed a murder. He was found out and threatened if he told on the perpetrators and did not join in the group on future depredations.

Throughout the work Shuck relates the numerous murders, beatings and robberies in which the gang was involved. In one of the tales a young man was killed and found to only have $14 on him. Many of the robberies happened along the route of the Kentucky River and the roads that ran near it in Henry and Owen counties. Along with their outlaw ways the group participated as an affiliate of the Ku Klux Klan.

In the section called "Ku-Klux Deviltry," Shuck relates that the KKK of the Reconstruction era did not only harass Republicans and African Americans, but also those whites that they didn't feel were holding up proper community standards. It's kind of ironic that a band of robbers and murderers would be passing judgement on others, but it obviously did.

The short section reads:

"As the reader will no doubt expect to hear of some remarkable thing done by the Ku-Klux, I will quiet their expectations by telling them that but little was done while I was with them, save the whipping of a negro occasionally, and one or two white men who were indolent and would not provide for their families.

While speaking of the Ku-Klux, I will relate one little thing that occurred during one of our raids. We were returning from visiting some negroes on Flat Creek and having notice of a certain lady immediately on our way who kept a very unclean and illy-regulated house, we determined to stop and clean up for her. We were not disappointed in our information relative to the house. We allotted the work in proportion to the number we had in our company. Some were to scour the floor, some the cooking vessels, others the milk vessels, while others were to attend to the washing and cleaning the woman’s face, neck and ears. They procured some corn-cobs and commenced the execution of their allotted work. The lady heartily protested, and begged leave to attend to her person herself; but the boys determined that she should at least once have a clean face and neck. They went to work with their cobs and soon completed their task. In the meantime the other work was progressing, and was soon completed. We then parted with her, leaving her with many good wishes and hope of her future prosperity."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"This Negro Hole"

I am finding that it is not too difficult to locate sources that describe white Kentucky Union soldiers' disgust at serving with black troops. I have found a few when I was not even looking for them. One source I located recently was in such a place. While looking for some direct comments on the Ku Klux Klan in the Kentucky slave narratives for an upcoming teacher professional development presentation on terrorism, I was surprised to see a short notation from one of the interviewers that said, "Extract from the Civil War diary kept by Elphas P. Hylton, a Lawrence Co. [Kentucky] volunteer in the Union Army." Lawrence Co. is far eastern Kentucky, on the West Virginia border.

The diary entry is from July 17, 1864. Kentucky had largely avoided African American recruitment until the spring of 1864, but when it started, it was full force. By the end of the war only Louisiana had sent more black soldiers into Union service than Kentucky. It wasn't unusual to find opposition to black soldiers in the Union army in 1863 and 1864, racism was prevalent across the North as well as the South, but Kentucky's opposition was particularly vitriolic due largely to it being a state where slavery was legal and where the opportunities were few and far between for African Americans to show what they were capable of in society.

The diary entry reads, "On the 17th of July (1864) I was detailed for picket duty and saw three thousand negro soldiers on grand review, a black cloud to see. On the 18th I was relieved of duty. Here I became dissatisfied as a soldier on account of the negro, negro, negro. On the 23rd we began to get ready to leave this negro hole and on the 24th, to our great joy and gladness, we were sent into camp near Danville."

His choice of words is very interesting. Using the phrase, "black cloud" obviously connotes that he didn't see black troops as a positive for the future. His repetition, "on account of the negro, negro, negro" indicates that he emphasizing this negative point. And, labeling the camp he was in a "black hole" and leaving "to our great joy and gladness" certainly does not show any empathy or liking for his black comrades. I would love to find this diary and see if his opinion of USCT soldiers changed over the rest of his military service, or if he held to his prejudiced statements.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Incendiary Documents

That slavery was a "hot" topic in America in the mid-nineteenth century is beyond debate. Why, even terms of the day were heated. Those radicals that called for the secession of the southern states in order to protect their rights in slave property were called "fire-eaters." And, abolitionist radicals that agitated for the freedom of the slaves were labeled as "incendiary."

While doing some research recently I ran into a law passed in Kentucky on March 30, 1860 that banned the writing, printing, or circulating of "incendiary documents" in the state. This law was passed at the same time that Kentucky enacted laws to reorganize the state militia and limit the rights of free men and women of color; only a few short months after John Brown was hanged. It is easy to understand that fear of a John Brown type act in the Commonwealth motivated these laws. After Harper's Ferry it was felt that the safety of the public was in jeopardy and anything or anyone that threatened that sacred safety should be removed, banned or restricted in the state.

The law stated, "that if any free person write or print, or cause to be written or printed, any book or other thing, with intent to advise or incite negroes in this State to rebel or make insurrection, or inculcating resistance to the rights and property of masters in their slaves, or if he shall, with intent to aid the purposes of any such book or writing, knowingly circulate the same, he shall be confined in the penitentiary not less than one, nor more than five years."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Kentucky Petitioned Canada?...Well, Sorta'

Yes...using the Canadian maple leaf is a tad anachronistic for talking about Canada in the mid-nineteenth century, since they were still under the rule of Great Britain, but that's O.K.

So, what in the world would have Kentucky fired up enough in 1859 to make a request of Canada via the federal government? Yep, you guessed it. It was slavery.

On December 19, 1859, in the wake of John Brown's raid, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a resolution that "strongly" urged "the treaty-making power of the government of the United States the necessity of so amending the tenth section of our treaty with Great Britain in regard to fugitives from justice, which was ratified in London, on the 13th day of October, as to include in its provisions fugitives from service or labor, so held under the constitution and laws of the United States, or of either of the States."

But, why ask for an amendment of the treaty? Well, the resolution clearly explains why in its opening. "Whereas, The citizens of Kentucky have been for a series of years, and are still subjected to an annual loss involving hundreds of thousands of dollars, by the escape from this State of persons held to service or labor in the State...into the British possessions of North America." In other words, Kentucky was losing major money in slave property by their escape to Canada. The petitioners also explained that the treaty was also needed because "no treaty exists between the government of Great Britain and the United States for the reclamation and extradition of persons so escaping from labor or service."

And, to power it home how necessary this measure was, the petitioners suggested "that the Governor [Beriah Magoffin] of this Commonwealth be requested to forward, under his official seal, a copy of the foregoing preamble and resolution to each of our Senators and Representatives in Congress, and a like copy to the President of the United States [James Buchannan]."

If the Kentucky legislature was concerned enough about the loss of slave property, worth "involving hundreds of thousands of dollars" to pass a resolution for their return, then one can safely assume that the number successfully fleeing was significant.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cherokee Nation Expels Descendants of Tribe's Black Slaves

I received an emailed article from a colleague at work today that was very interesting. The article explained that recently the Cherokee Supreme Court (they are a sovereign people) ruled that only Cherokees of blood descent are allowed to be members of the tribe and thus benefit financially from the profits they earn from their casino businesses. That means that descendants of former Cherokee slaves who had long been considered official members of the tribe are now not.

Not too many people know that the Cherokees, among many other southern Indian tribes such as the Creeks, Chickasaws and Choctaws held African American slaves. Many of these tribes had become so-called "civilized" to white ways in the early 19th century and that included agricultural slaveholding. When most of these Indians were removed to west of the Mississippi River in the 1830s, they took their slaves with them.

I really want to know more about this topic and there appears to be several good books out there about it. One is pictured here: Ties that Bind: The Story of and Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom, by Tiya Miles. Others include African Cherokees in Indian Territory: From Chattel to Citizens, by Celia E. Naylor, and The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story, by also by Tiya Miles.

To me the relationship between these two groups is fascinating. Here are two of the most oppressed peoples in American history and yet one group was willing to hold the other as slave. I guess it goes to show something that should not surprise any of us; that is that sometimes people are motivated more by economics than by common circumstances.

Here is a link to the article:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Time's 100 All-time Best Nonfiction Books

Jumping around a little bit ago on the internet I ran across a list of the 100 top nonfiction books printed in English since 1923 and chosen by Time magazine. Why it says "all-time" and only includes books since 1923 is unexplained. The books were not ranked in any order, but they were separated by different genres such as "War," "Social History," "Sports," etc.

I was pleased to see that there were a number of books that I have in my library or that I have read over the years. Black Boy by Richard Wright is a classic, although I prefer the fiction Native Son. Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown and Notes on a Native Son by James Baldwin made the list, as did Why We Can't Wait by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I remember reading that for my American Studies class as a junior in high school. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley is also on the list. If you have never read that one, make plans to as soon as you can. You won't be disappointed. Another one that stands out is Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown. Bury My Heart should be required reading for every American.

I wasn't shocked to see a Civil War book listed, but I was a little surprised that it was Shelby Foote's trilogy, Civil War: A Narrative. I figured that if there was a Civil War book on the list it would be James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. Shelby Foote was an excellent writer...a narrative writer, so comparing him to the more scholarly McPherson is probably a little unfair. Both are good, just different.

If you are interested in checking out the list, here's the link:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

1850 Kentucky Bill of Rights

While doing some poking around online researching for a work project I found the Bill of Rights for the 1850 Kentucky Constitution.

Like other states, Kentucky has gone through its fair share of constitutions. The commonwealth's first one came in 1792, when the bluegrass state became the #15 state in the Union. It was rewritten in 1799, again in 1850 and then lastly in 1891.

Article 13 of the 1850 constitution is the document's Bill of Rights, of which there are 30 sections. But, it was the first four sections that really caught my attention.

The Bill of Rights begins: "That the general, great, and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and established, WE DECLARE-" Nothing earth shattering there...sounds very American.

"1. That all freemen, when they form a social compact, are equal, and that no man, or set of men, are entitled to exclusive, separate public emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services." At least it says "freemen" are equal. I wonder what free men of color in Kentucky in the 1850s would have thought about that statement.

"2. That absolute, arbitrary power over the lives, liberty, and property of freemen exists nowhere in a Republic, not even in the largest majority." In other words. you can't take our property away from us, even if you are in the majority.

"3. The right of property is before and higher than any constitutional sanction; and the right of an owner of a slave to such slave, and its increase, is the same, and as inviolable as the right of the owner of any property whatever." Property is preeminent! Is it clear when we say property that we mean slaves are our property?

"4. That all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority , and instituted for their peace, safety, happiness, security, and the protection of property. For the advancement of these ends, they have, at all times, and inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform, or abolish their government, in such manner as they think proper." If that is not a statement of states rights I don't know what is. John C. Calhoun couldn't have made a stronger statement. However, Kentucky never thought it proper to alter, reform or abolish their government when their property was threatened fourteen years later, during the Civil War.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Civil Rights Bus Tour - Day 5, July 15, 2011

Our last day of touring was an amazing day in Memphis, Tennessee. Our first stop was another site that was not on our original itinerary, but I'm glad it was added. Mason Temple is the location of the Church of God in Christ's world headquarters and the location that Dr. King gave his last public speech on April 3, 1968.

It was here that Dr. King gave his "Mountaintop" speech. In the speech King seemingly prophesied his death. "I've been to the mountaintop...I've looked over and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you...." Absolutely haunting! The next day he was killed on the hotel balcony where he was staying.

A historic photo of King at Mason Temple on April 3, 1968.

One of my favorite stops was to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Stax recording studios was started in an old movie theater. Stax was named for a white brother and sister team, Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton, who began the studio. It would become the recording home of such musical stars as Issac Hayes, Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Booker T. and the MGs, and Sam and Dave.

The original music studio was torn down, but the museum and a youth music academy now keep the Stax story alive. Stax was an integrated label from the beginning and the music it produced almost magically seemed to break down racial barriers.

The Ike and Tina Turner exhibit.

The iconic Soul Train. The museum featured a huge screen that showed clips of the famed TV show with a dance floor in front that made you feel like you were a personal guest of show host Don Cornelius.

The Isaac Hayes exhibit. I was loving the gold platform shoes.

Isaac Hays's macked out Caddy.

Lunch was at Rendezvous, a Memphis landmark. The BBQ was excellent and the atmosphere even better.

Our last stop of the day was to the Lorraine Motel, which now serves as the National Civil Rights Museum. The museum has an impressive gallery that holistically covers the movement.

A wreath hangs on the balcony outside of Room 306 where Dr. King was killed.

The museum also owns the former boarding house across the street that was rented and used by convicted killer James Earl Ray.

Many people overlook why Dr. King was in Memphis when he was killed. He was there supporting the city's sanitation workers during a strike for better working conditions. On March 28, a demonstration had turned violent when looters broke windows of stores along the march route. Over 280 people were arrested and one man was killed.

One of the moving forces in Memphis that supported the sanitation workers was Rev. Samuel Kyles. In the picture above Rev. Kyles collects money in symbolic garbage cans at Mason Temple.

Dr. King was on the way to Rev. Kyles's home for supper when he was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Rev. Kyles was beside Dr. King when the bullet struck.

While at the museum we were fortunate to get to meet and hear Rev. Kyles (center) recount spending the last minutes of Dr. King's life by his side.