Voices of Slavery: ‘They Were Saving Me For a Breeding Woman’

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Women on 2016-08-28 01:55Z by Steven

Voices of Slavery: ‘They Were Saving Me For a Breeding Woman’

This Cruel War: An Evidence-Based Exploration of the Civil War, its Causes and Repercussions
2016-08-25


Virginian Luxuries, artist unknown. c1825.

During 1929 and 1930, an Africa-American scholar named Ophelia Settle Egypt, conducted nearly 100 interviews with former slaves. Working then at Fisk University, she was the first person to ever conduct such a large scale endeavor. Accompanied by Charles Johnson, a black sociologist, she was able to get the former slaves to open up about the waning days of the institution. In 1945, she finally published her Unwritten History of Slavery, which collected thirty-eight transcripts of the interviews. Each account, published anonymously, painted a fuller picture of black slavery in Tennessee and Kentucky, where most of the interviewees had resided.

This first account, entitled “One of Dr. Gale’s ‘Free Niggers’,” is surprisingly candid about the rape of slave women by their owners, as well as other aspects of such relationships.

Just the other day we were talking about white people when they had slaves. You know when a man would marry, his father would give him a woman for a cook and she would have children right in the house by him, and his wife would have children, too. Sometimes the cook’s children favored him so much that the wife would be mean to them and make him sell them. If they had nice long hair she would cut it off and wouldn’t let them wear it long like the white children…

…Then there was old Sam Watkins, – he would ship their husbands (slaves) out of bed and get in with their wives. One man (a slave) said he stood it as long as he could and one morning he just stood out side, and when he (the master) got with his wife (the slave), he just choked him to death. He knew it was death, but it was death anyhow; so he just killed him. They hanged him. There has always been a law in Tennessee that if a Negro kill a white man it means death.

Now, mind you, all of the colored women didn’t have to have white men, some did it because they wanted to and some were forced. They had a horror of going to Mississippi and they would do anything to keep from it. A white woman would have a maid sometimes who was nice looking, and she would keep her and her son would have children by her. Of course the mixed blood, you couldn’t expect much from them…

Read the entire article here.

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The mystery of the Melungeons

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States, Virginia on 2016-08-25 01:17Z by Steven

The mystery of the Melungeons

The Economist
2016-08-24

VARDY, TENNESSEE AND BIG STONE GAP, VIRGINIA

The story of an Appalachian people offers a timely parable of the nuanced history of race in America

HEAD into Sneedville from the Clinch River, turn left at the courthouse and crawl up Newman’s Ridge. Do not be distracted by the driveways meandering into the woods, the views across the Appalachians or the shadows of the birds of prey; heed the warnings locals may have issued about the steepness and the switchbacks. If the pass seems challenging, consider how inaccessible it must have been in the moonshining days before motor cars.

Halfway down, as Snake Hollow appears on your left, you reach a narrow gorge, between the ridge and Powell Mountain and hard on Tennessee’s north-eastern border. In parts sheer and wooded, it opens into an unexpected valley, where secluded pastures and fields of wild flowers hug Blackwater Creek—in which the water is not black but clear, running, like the valley, down into Virginia. This is the ancestral home of an obscure American people, the Melungeons. Some lived over the state line on Stone Mountain, in other craggy parts of western Virginia and North Carolina and in eastern Kentucky. But the ridge and this valley were their heartland.

The story of the Melungeons is at once a footnote to the history of race in America and a timely parable of it. They bear witness to the horrors and legacy of segregation, but also to the overlooked complexity of the early colonial era. They suggest a once-and-future alternative to the country’s brutally rigid model of race relations, one that, for all the improvements, persists in the often siloed lives of black and white Americans today. Half-real and half-mythical, for generations the Melungeons were avatars for their neighbours’ neuroses; latterly they have morphed into receptacles for their ideals, becoming, in effect, ambassadors for integration where once they were targets of prejudice…

The two big questions about them encapsulate their ambiguous status—on the boundaries of races and territories, and between suffering and hope, imagination and fact. Where did the Melungeons come from? And do they still exist?…

Read the entire article here.

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When black is white and vice versa

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-12-25 04:18Z by Steven

When black is white and vice versa

The New Tri-State Defender
Memphis, Tennessee
2015-12-23

Brittney Gathen, Special to The New Tri-State Defender


Dr. Allyson Hobbs signed copies of her book, “A Chosen Exile: AHistory of Racial Passing in American Life,” during an event called “Book Talk” at the National Civil Rights Museum. (Photo: Merritt Gathen)

Stanford professor and author shines light on racial ‘passing’ at NCRM event.

Passing” – living as a part of one race despite being born into another – is often full of complexity and consequences, so much so that author and Stanford history professor Dr. Allyson Hobbs calls it a type of “exile.”

Hobbs, author of “A Chosen Exile: AHistory of Racial Passing in American Life,”examined the topic of racial passing during “Book Talk” at the National Civil Rights Museum last week (Dec. 17). During the event, Hobbs discussed topics such as the negative side of passing and her perception of former Spokane, Washington NAACP president Rachel Dolezal, who, despite being born white, lived as (and still identifies as) a black woman…

Read the entire article here.

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New book ‘A Chosen Exile’

Posted in History, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2015-12-19 03:16Z by Steven

New book ‘A Chosen Exile’

WREG-TV
Memphis, Tennessee
2015-12-17

For nearly 200 years, countless African-Americans chose to leave their families, friends and communities to live in exile.

Allyson Hobbs reveals this piece of history and how it affected race relations in her new book “A Chosen Exile.”

Watch the interview here.

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First Baptist unveils historic marker

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-12-15 01:44Z by Steven

First Baptist unveils historic marker

The Tennesseean
Nashville, Tennessee
2015-12-09

Jennifer Easton

If people of faith go to First Baptist Church on East Winchester Street looking for a sign, they’ll find it.

Sumner County’s oldest known African-American church celebrated another milestone Dec. 6 with the dedication of a historic marker commemorating the 150-year-old church’s early beginnings and role in the community.

Sunday’s event closed out a year of special events marking the church’s sesquicentennial celebration that kicked off last January.

Founded in 1865 by the Rev. Robert Belote, an 80-year-old ex-slave from Castalian Springs, services were first held in a log cabin on the church’s present-day site.

“Its first members were freed slaves. They had no jobs, no education, no organizations to help them, no schools and nowhere to go,” said the Rev. Derrick Jackson, pastor of First Baptist since 2001…

…Expansion and Education

The church experienced tremendous growth and expansion under the leadership of the Rev. Peter Vertrees, who served as pastor from 1874-1926.

Vertrees was a prominent local leader who established numerous churches and schools. He founded East Fork Missionary Baptist Association, made up of 28 churches in Sumner, Davidson, Trousdale, Robertson, Macon and Wilson counties. He is considered one of the most influential figures in Sumner County and Middle Tennessee history.

Born in Kentucky in 1840 to a white mother and mulatto father, he served in the Civil War as a black Confederate soldier, and afterward he moved to Gallatin.

Under Vertrees’ leadership, First Baptist expanded its congregation and built a framed church, according to Brinkley. A violent windstorm destroyed the framed building around 1905, and a new building was erected from bricks Vertrees purchased cheaply from an old penitentiary. He served as principal of South Gallatin School, adjacent to First Baptist Church…

Read the entire article here.

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The Book of Colors: A Novel

Posted in Books, Novels, United States on 2015-07-27 18:23Z by Steven

The Book of Colors: A Novel

Unbridled Books
280 pages
May 2015
5 1/2 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 978-1-60953-115-7
EISBN: 978-1-60953-116-4

Raymond Barfield, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Christian Philosophy
Duke Divinity School, Durham, North Carolina

How can a 19-year-old, mixed-race girl who grew up in a crack house and is now pregnant be so innocent? Yslea is full of contradictions, though, seeming both young and old, innocent and wise. Her spirit is surprising, given all the pain she has endured, and that’s the counterpoint this story offers—while she sees pain and suffering all around her, Yslea overcomes in her own quiet way.

What Yslea struggles with is expressing her thoughts. And she wonders if she will have something of substance to say to her baby. It’s the baby growing inside her that begins to wake her up, that causes her to start thinking about things in a different way.

Yslea drifts into the lives of four people who occupy three dilapidated row houses along the train tracks outside of Memphis: “The way their three little row houses sort of leaned in toward each other and the way the paint peeled and some of the windows were covered with cardboard, the row might as easily have been empty.”

She becomes an integral part of this little community, moving in with Rose who is old and dying. As her pregnancy progresses, everything changes within the three houses.

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The Forgotten Supervillain of Antebellum Tennessee

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2015-05-01 11:31Z by Steven

The Forgotten Supervillain of Antebellum Tennessee

Narratively: Human Stories, Boldy Told.
2015-04-28

Betsy Phillips


(Photo Source: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Isaac-franklin-by-wb-cooper.jpg)

In a brutal business defined by cruelty, Isaac Franklin was perhaps the worst slave trader in all of cotton country—and the richest man in the south. Yet today his heinous crimes are long forgotten.

The people of Nashville hear slave trader Isaac Franklin’s great annual parade of misery long before they see it. The rhythmic thud of 400 trudging feet carries quite a way. Then comes the sound of men singing, “Cut him down, cut him down, catch him if you can.”

There’s a river and a field and a few scattered houses between Nashville and Franklin’s coffle coming down Gallatin Pike, but once it crests the hill at what will one day be known as Eastland Avenue, everyone up on the bluff can see it. A great centipede of 200 men chained together at the waist, their hands locked behind their backs, marching toward Nashville. A hundred women and children follow behind in wagons, destined for sale. A man with a fiddle walks alongside the chained men, playing to keep them moving at the same speed.

The time is late August 1833. Nashville is a village of 5,500 people living near the crumbling remains of Fort Nashborough. Log cabins are finally giving way to wood-framed buildings and, for the rich, brick. For the past seven years, it has been the state capitol, but it still has the feel of a frontier village. Most people are related or married into each other’s families. Gossip, drinking and duels provide most of the town’s entertainment.

The only bridge into town is the old stone-pillared toll bridge. In five years, when the Cherokee are forced across this bridge, sick, starving, afraid, Nashvillians will claim they were so moved by the suffering that they tried to help the refugees, but were rebuked by the soldiers escorting them. Yet the people in Franklin’s coffle are also sick and afraid. They’ve been walking clear from Alexandria, D.C., and they’ll keep walking all the way to Natchez, Mississippi.

From historical accounts of such marches, notably George William Featherstonhaugh’sExcursion Through the Slave States” and Edward Baptist’sThe Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” the picture comes into focus. The men’s bare feet are blistered and bloody. The haunted-looking women try to keep the spirits of the children up, but every night brings new horror. People are beaten and whipped. Franklin and the three other white men traveling with him take women off into the brush. Not far enough off. Everyone hears the women pleading. Later, they hear the women crying.

Almost everyone in Nashville has known Isaac Franklin since he was born. They all know about the women he keeps trapped on his farm outside of town. And they all know that, when Franklin’s captives get to Natchez, whatever hell they’ve faced on the road — the beatings, the rapes, the forced marches — will seem like the good old days. King Cotton will grind most of these people to a bloody pulp. The ones not destined for the plantation are likely destined for the brothel.

No one rescues them. A couple of local traders come out to talk to Franklin. He doesn’t even bother to get off his horse. He’s not as imposing as you might expect such a man to be. In portraits from the period, his black hair is fine and perpetually messy. He frowns instead of smiles and his eyes are dark with some secret disappointment.

One of the traders gestures to the middle of the coffle. The dark corners of history leave us to imagine their conversation. “I’ll give you $350 for the tall one over there,” he says.

“Gentlemen,” Franklin snorts, “that’s a buying price, not a selling price.” The man will bring eight to nine hundred dollars in Mississippi.

Franklin’s victims pass briefly among the villagers and then disappear down the Natchez Trace

…Perhaps most chilling, though, is the idle chit-chat about the young women they raped and sold for sex, the “maids” and “fancy girls” — code words for light-skinned slave women. Every “your” in that phrasing — “your girl Minerva,” “your fancy girl Allice,” “your Charlottesville maid” — indicates that Isaac is teasing Ballard about his fondness for “fancy maids.” Not that Franklin saw anything wrong with that. Indeed, his disappointment at not finding the Charlottesville maid in the most recent shipment of slaves seems an admission he was hoping to get his turn.

Later letters between the two men and another nephew, James Franklin, make clear that the Charlottesville maid, a woman named Martha, was eventually raped by all three of them. This practice — not just of raping one’s slaves, but of openly bragging and joking about raping them — was so widespread that in his essay “‘Cuffy,’ ‘Fancy Maids,’ and ‘One-Eyed Men’: Rape Commodification, and the Domestic Slave Trade in the United States,” Edward E. Baptist maintains that “coerced sex was the secret meaning of the commerce in human beings.” In other words, this wasn’t some moral failing of a few rotten men. This was an important privilege of slave ownership.

Franklin and Armfield were making a lot of money specifically from selling women to men so that the men could rape them. White men were especially eager to pay for young, light-skinned women. Ethan Andrews wrote of the practice, “[M]ulattoes are not so much valued for field-hands, they are purchased for domestics, and the females to be sold for prostitutes…no objection seems to be felt to keeping in one’s house female slaves, who have been guilty of crimes for which a white female would forfeit her life.”

As Franklin noted in his letter, he was getting $800 to $900 for the kind of slave usually considered the most expensive — a strong male field hand — and the same for unskilled “fancy maids.” He thought a “fancy maid” who could also sew would bring more than that: $1,000. The letters the traders sent each other are peppered with references to “the fancy white maid” and “the fair maid” and “our white Caroline.” But Isaac’s letter hints at the cost of this abuse to the women. He couldn’t sell Minerva because she had become “a caution,” an old term for a woman who is too difficult to deal with.

What became of Minerva isn’t clear from the letter. A slave suitable for sex work must be somewhat compliant. If Isaac couldn’t break her will, likely she would have been be sold as a field hand. That Minerva hadn’t already been sold as such is surprising, unless Franklin was keeping her for his own pleasure. The traders had their favorite fancies, which they alternately shared with each other and held back for their own use…

Read the entire article here.

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A real-life Lucious Lyon: The former slave who built a Beale Street “Empire” and transformed Memphis

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-09 01:27Z by Steven

A real-life Lucious Lyon: The former slave who built a Beale Street “Empire” and transformed Memphis

Salon
2015-04-04

Preston Lauterbach


Bob Church (Credit: University of Memphis Special Collections)

Memphis — and music as we know it — wouldn’t be the same without Robert Church’s legacy of vice, virtue and power

Depending on which critic or fan you ask, Fox TV’s “Empire” is somewhere between Shakespeare’s drama “King Lear” and Norman Lear’s campy “Good Times.” Less apparent to the show’s legions of viewers is how the story of Lucious Lyon and Empire Entertainment echoes the original black empire, a real-life dynasty of vice, virtue, and power, built in the heart of the old Confederacy just after the Civil War by a former slave who became monarch, Robert Church.

Like Lucious Lyon, who must plan for the future of his empire after being diagnosed with a crippling, often fatal, ailment, Bob Church had plenty of reasons to consider his legacy. It wasn’t so much that a specific death sentence loomed over Church—he just happened to find himself in life threatening situations, often. By his early 30s, Church had survived two gunshot wounds to his head, a steamboat disaster, a Civil War naval battle that he escaped by swimming the Mississippi River and an assassination attempt that backfired when a shotgun aimed at him exploded toward the shooter. Had Bob Church not been the combination of tough and lucky that saved him in these fateful scrapes, legendary Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, might be just another strip of concrete. Instead, it gained such an extraordinary reputation that Memphis entertainer Rufus Thomas would crack, “If you could be black on Beale Street one Saturday night, you’d never want to be white no more.”

Beale Street’s birth as an alternate universe for black America, a center of political clout and cultural fertility that changed America, all began with Church…

…Understanding the uncertainty of the vice-lord life in a hell-roaring river town, Church knew he must cultivate an heir. His eldest son Thomas lived in New York, passing for white, some have said. Thomas wouldn’t do. Eldest daughter Mary had become a steadfast leader in her own right, the first black woman on Washington, D.C.’s board of education and a founder of the NAACP. She could not be compromised. As with Lucious Lyon’s three sons, there was some competition among the Church children—they all would have liked to keep his money—but unlike “Empire’s” twisted succession plot, old man Church had no doubt who to choose: his youngest son, Robert Jr…

Read the entire article here.

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I’m black, my brother’s white … and he’s a cop who shot a black man on duty

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-08-29 19:58Z by Steven

I’m black, my brother’s white … and he’s a cop who shot a black man on duty

The Guardian
204-08-25

Zach Stafford, Writer
Chicago, Illinois

I never thought that my brother would be one of those police officers. He was supposed to be different because of me

My white brother loved black people more than I did when we were growing up. As a black interracial child of the south – one who lived in a homogenous white town – I struggled with my own blackness. I struggled even more with loving that blackness. But my brother, Mitch, didn’t. He loved me unapologetically. He loved me loudly.

He also loved screwing with other people’s expectations. Whenever we met new people or I joined a social situation he was in, Mitch would make sure I was standing right next to him for introductions and say, “This is Zach, my brother” – and then go silent with a smirk…

..And then, years later and far away in Chicago, I got the phone call: my brother, now a cop, had shot an unarmed black man back in Tennessee.

Hearing about black men dying is never exactly a surprise. Every day, you see the news stories: On the news, black men die while getting Skittles. On the news, black men die in choke-holds. On the news, black men die for playing their music too loud. It seems black men die on the news more than they do almost anything else on the news, even with a black president in office. Every 28 hours, a black man is killed by a police officer in America…

Read the entire article here.

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Becoming Melungeon: Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2013-08-22 02:49Z by Steven

Becoming Melungeon: Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South

University of Nebraska Press
2013
232 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8032-7154-8

Melissa Schrift, Associate Professor of Anthropology
East Tennessee State University

Appalachian legend describes a mysterious, multiethnic population of exotic, dark-skinned rogues called Melungeons who rejected the outside world and lived in the remote, rugged mountains in the farthest corner of northeast Tennessee. The allegedly unknown origins of these Melungeons are part of what drove this legend and generated myriad exotic origin theories. Though nobody self-identified as Melungeon before the 1960s, by the 1990s “Melungeonness” had become a full-fledged cultural phenomenon, resulting in a zealous online community and annual meetings where self-identified Melungeons gathered to discuss shared genealogy and history. Although today Melungeons are commonly identified as the descendants of underclass whites, freed African Americans, and Native Americans, this ethnic identity is still largely a social construction based on local tradition, myth, and media.

In Becoming Melungeon, Melissa Schrift examines the ways in which the Melungeon ethnic identity has been socially constructed over time by various regional and national media, plays, and other forms of popular culture. Schrift explores how the social construction of this legend evolved into a fervent movement of a self-identified ethnicity in the 1990s. This illuminating and insightful work examines these shifting social constructions of race, ethnicity, and identity both in the local context of the Melungeons and more broadly in an attempt to understand the formation of ethnic groups and identity in the modern world.

Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Race, Identity, and the Melungeon Legend
  • Chapter 1: Inventing the Melungeons
  • Chapter 2: Melungeons and Media Representation
  • Chapter 3: Playing the First Melungeons
  • Chapter 4: Becoming Melungeon
  • Chapter 5: The Mediterranean Mystique
  • Chapter 6: The Melungeon Core
  • Closing Thoughts
  • Appendix 1: Melungeon Questionnaire
  • Appendix 2: Media Articles
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Index
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