Newton Knight– abolitionist guerrilla leader in Mississippi

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2015-07-23 20:52Z by Steven

Newton Knight– abolitionist guerrilla leader in Mississippi

Workers World

Paul Wilcox

A hidden history of the Civil War

Ever hear of the First Alabama Cavalry, or the name Newton Knight? Not likely. The capitalist media have always promoted stories of “former Confederate soldiers” who loyally served the Confederacy, loved Gen. Robert E. Lee, had no issue with slavery and so on. But there is another story, a hidden history, of poor white opposition to the Confederacy and to slavery…

…The Scouts had strong allies in the Black population, giving them food, ammunition, information and other supplies. There is no hard information about the composition of the guerilla army, except that “every day more blacks liberated from plantations came into the swamps to join the struggle.”

Many enslaved people risked life and limb to help, particularly Rachel, an enslaved person, who married Knight after the war. According to Jenkins and Stauffer, “They had an agreement, she would provide him with food and he would work to secure her freedom.” Knight was as good as his word. Eventually, he committed a “crime” in post-Reconstruction Mississippi by recognizing their own children and fighting for their right to attend school. Rachel and Newton were buried together outside a cemetery, because it was also “illegal” to have integrated cemeteries at the time…

Read the entire article here.

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Irish Immigrants and the Underground Railroad

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2015-07-21 01:35Z by Steven

Irish Immigrants and the Underground Railroad


Liam Hogan

A Ride for Liberty — The Fugitive Slaves, oil on paperboard, ca. 1862, Brooklyn Museum

But the Irish are indeed a strange people. How varied their aspect — how contradictory their character.
William Wells Brown (1852)

What William Wells Brown should have said was “the Irish are human.”

The sad history of anti-black violence perpetrated by some Irish immigrants in the United States is well known. This was often the abominable product of racism, political self-interest, craven leadership and labour competition. While these incidents, such as the New York Draft riots (1863) or the Memphis massacre (1866), were committed by a fraction of Irish immigrants who settled in the United States, they have certainly cast a long shadow over the historical relationship between the Irish-American and African-American communities. Some Irish were also active in disrupting the activities of the Underground Railroad. See the famous case of the self-emancipated slave Anthony Burns who was arrested under the Fugitive Slave Law in 1854 and held in custody in Boston. When a group of African Americans and white anti-slavery activists attempted to rescue him by force, it was an Irish militia which suppressed their advances. One of their deputised number was stabbed and killed during the altercation. When African Americans held a vigil before Burns was sent back to his owners they were subjected to the “jeers and insults of pro-slavery Irishmen.” Sojourner Truth witnessed how Burns was marched on to the ship, a solitary figure, under the armed guard of two thousand armed white men. Some of those in the crowd, likely to be Irish-Americans, cheered at this pathetic procession. They also pointed at prominent abolitionists in the crowd, shouting “there go [the] murderers” of an Irish labourer. The historian Noel Ignatiev has described the actions of the Boston Irish militia as being evidence that the Irish were “the Swiss Guards of the Slave Power.”

William Still included an account of a group of Irishmen who attacked fugitive slaves in his seminal work The Underground Railroad, A Record (1872) According to his correspondent, these Irish attackers were either a group of slave-catchers following up on a bounty or racist thugs looking to attack African Americans as part of their Halloween entertainment. Either way, they got more than they bargained for…

…Perhaps it is for these reasons that the role of a number of Irish immigrants in helping slaves escape their bondage has been overlooked. It helps to explain why the cordial relationships and marriages, although the latter were relatively rare, between Irish immigrants and African Americans in the early nineteenth century have been mostly forgotten. This complex relationship is illustrated well by Frederick Douglass’ guarded reaction to two sympathetic Irish labourers in Baltimore

Who were these Irish born “conductors”?

Because of the nature of this surreptitious activity, attempts to verify what actually happened are often difficult, if not impossible. While it may make the academic historian wince, this history generally relies on oral tradition. From the few names I have found, it seems that the Irish immigrants who supported the Underground Railroad were mostly middle class, some were Presbyterian, others were Catholic, and a majority hailed from Ulster. The class aspect is not a surprise as it mirrors the general make up of the anti-slavery movement in Ireland in the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century. The following list is far from exhaustive, so please get in touch if you know of more individuals from Ireland who were involved…

Name: Mary Weaver
From: Ireland
Location of UR Activity: Richmond, Virginia
Narrative: The remarkable story of Mary Weaver is recounted by William Still. Mary Weaver and John Hall, a slave, fell in love and wished to marry. Hall was the property of a slave owner named John Dunlap but he singled out his prior owner, a man named Burke, as being especially cruel. Both of these men might also have been Irish. Mary then proceeded to save money and make arrangements to pay for his escape via the Underground Railroad to Canada. She later joined him there and the two were soon married.

“[Hall] was also under the influence and advice of a daughter of old Ireland. She was heart and soul with John in all his plans which looked Canada-ward. It is very certain, that this Irish girl was not annoyed by the kinks in John’s hair. Nor was she overly fastidious about the small percentage of colored blood visible in John’s complexion. It was, however, a strange occurrence and very hard to understand. Not a stone was left unturned until John was safely on the Underground Rail Road. Doubtless she helped to earn the money which was paid for his passage. And when he was safe off, it is not too much to say, that John was not a whit more delighted than was his intended Irish lassie, Mary Weaver. John had no sooner reached Canada than Mary’s heart was there too.”

“Circumstances, however, required that she should remain in Richmond a number of months for the purpose of winding up some of her affairs. As soon as the way opened for her, she followed him. It was quite manifest, that she had not let a single opportunity slide, but seized the first chance and arrived partly by means of the Underground Rail Road and partly by the regular train. Many difficulties were surmounted before and after leaving Richmond, by which they earned their merited success. From Canada, where they anticipated entering upon the matrimonial career with mutual satisfaction, it seemed to afford them great pleasure to write back frequently, expressing their heartfelt gratitude for assistance, and their happiness in the prospect of being united under the favorable auspices of freedom!”…

Read the entire article here.

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Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640

Posted in Articles, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Slavery on 2015-07-03 18:18Z by Steven

Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640

University of North Carolina Press
January 2016
Approx. 336 pages
6.125 x 9.25, 15 halftones
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4696-2341-2

David Wheat, Assistant Professor of History
Michigan State University

This work resituates the Spanish Caribbean as an extension of the Luso-African Atlantic world from the late sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century, when the union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns facilitated a surge in the transatlantic slave trade. After the catastrophic decline of Amerindian populations on the islands, two major African provenance zones, first Upper Guinea and then Angola, contributed forced migrant populations with distinct experiences to the Caribbean. They played a dynamic role in the social formation of early Spanish colonial society in the fortified port cities of Cartagena de Indias, Havana, Santo Domingo, and Panama City and their semirural hinterlands.

David Wheat is the first scholar to establish this early phase of the “Africanization” of the Spanish Caribbean two centuries before the rise of large-scale sugar plantations. With African migrants and their descendants comprising demographic majorities in core areas of Spanish settlement, Luso-Africans, Afro-Iberians, Latinized Africans, and free people of color acted more as colonists or settlers than as plantation slaves. These ethnically mixed and economically diversified societies constituted a region of overlapping Iberian and African worlds, while they made possible Spain’s colonization of the Caribbean.

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The Social Construction of Race

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2015-07-01 20:55Z by Steven

The Social Construction of Race


Brian Jones

Race is a social fiction imposed by the powerful on those they wish to control.

The first friend I ever had was a little boy named Matt. We were maybe four or five years old. Matt came to me one day with a very serious look on his face and gave me a little talking-to. He explained to me: “Brian, you’re brown. And I’m peach.”

I don’t remember saying anything back, but I think in my mind I was like “Okay. . . ? Well these Legos aren’t going to build themselves.”

Matt was trying to do me a favor. He was trying to introduce me to the very bizarre and peculiar rules that we all know as grownups — very important things to understand. If you didn’t understand them, you’d find American life and society very strange. You’d do things you shouldn’t do, go places you shouldn’t go. You’d mess up if you didn’t understand the particular rules that govern the ideology of race in the United States.

Sometimes when you go outside of the American context you begin to appreciate how particular and unique these rules are. I remember reading about a (probably apocryphal) interview with the former dictator of Haiti, Papa Doc Duvalier, who referred to the “white majority population” of Haiti. The American journalist interviewing him didn’t understand, so they had to define to each other what makes somebody white or black. The American journalist explained that in the US, one metaphorical drop of black blood designates someone as black. And Duvalier replied, “Well, that’s our definition of white.”

The whole idea of this talk — if you take away nothing else — is this: the whole thing is made up. That’s it. And you can make it up different ways; and people have and do. And it changes. And it has nothing to do with biology or genetics. There’s a study of several decades of census records that found that twice as many people who call themselves white have recent African ancestry as people who call themselves black.

This is not just a matter of folksy beliefs, or prejudice, or wrong ideas, though those things are all in the mix. This is a matter of law…

Read the entire article here.

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The mythology of racial democracy in Brazil

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2015-06-24 01:32Z by Steven

The mythology of racial democracy in Brazil

openDemocracy: free thinking for the world

Ana Lucia Araujo, Professor of History
Howard University, Washington, D.C.

Brazil’s government has taken important steps to combat racial inequalities over the past two decades. Afro-Brazilian populations nevertheless remain socially and economically excluded, continuing patterns that began with legal slavery.

Brazil has been in the news a great deal of late, especially in association with the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The most popular images involve football, carnival, samba, sunny beaches, and tanned women in bikinis. Less well known is the history of slavery and racism, which continues to have a profound impact upon Brazilian society.

Brazil has the dubious distinction of having imported the largest number of enslaved Africans—more than five million—of all countries of the Americas. The slave trade from Africa to Brazil was outlawed in 1831, but an illegal trade continued until 1851 before being outlawed for a second time. In contrast, legal slavery persisted until 1888, making Brazil the last country to abolish slavery in the western hemisphere. Today, 53 percent of the Brazilian population self-identify as black or pardo (brown, or mixed race). These terms as established by the Census refer to colour and not ancestry.

Achieving the abolition of slavery in Brazil was a long and difficult process. Abolition in 1888 was preceded by laws that, theoretically at least, freed the children of enslaved women (1871) and slaves who reached the age of sixty (1885). There was already a large free black population when slavery was abolished, and both this population and newly freed slaves received little or no assistance from the Brazilian government. There was no distribution of land or provision of education, leaving established patterns of wealth, privilege and racial hierarchy in place. In 1891, a new constitution established that only males with high incomes had the right to vote. The illiterate population, the vast majority of whom were Afro-Brazilians, remained prohibited from voting. At the same time, the government continued to encourage European immigration as a means to replace the enslaved African workforce, whose numbers had decreased following the ban of the Atlantic slave trade to Brazil. Inspired by eugenic theories, the monarchy and later the Republican government, as well as Brazilian elites, believed that the arrival of massive numbers of Europeans would lead to miscegenation and eventually ‘whiten’ the majority black Brazilian population…

Read the entire article here.

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Joseph Emidy: From slave fiddler to classical violinist

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2015-06-23 00:11Z by Steven

Joseph Emidy: From slave fiddler to classical violinist

BBC News

Miles Davis, BBC News Online

Joseph Emidy led the Truro Philharmonic Orchestra

The remarkable life of a former slave who became a pioneer of classical music has been commemorated.

The “genius” violinist Joseph Emidy, from West Africa, was enslaved for two long periods of his eventful life.

But having finally gained his freedom in 1799, Emidy became “Britain’s first composer of the African diaspora”.

His achievements were marked at Truro Cathedral on Sunday with the erection of a ‘boss‘ – a painted wooden carving featuring a violin and a map of Africa.

On his death in 1835, The West Briton newspaper reported in Emidy’s obituary: “As an orchestral composer, his sinfonias may be mentioned as evincing not only deep musical research, but also those flights of genius.”…

…Emidy was finally discharged four years later in the port of Falmouth on 28 February 1799.

He married a local woman, Jenefer Hutchins, in 1802, started taking on music students and became involved with the the first of Truro’s biennial concerts in 1804.

Beverley Wilson (far right) the great, great, great, great grand-daughter of Joseph Emidy met kora player Sona Jobarteh (centre)

Silk Buckingham described him as “an exquisite violinist, a good composer, who led at all the concerts of the county, and who taught equally well the piano, violin, violoncello, clarionet and flute”…

Read the entire article here.

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Episode 613 – President Barack Obama

Posted in Audio, Autobiography, Barack Obama, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, United States on 2015-06-22 21:29Z by Steven

Episode 613 – President Barack Obama

WTF with Marc Maron
Monday, 2015-06-22

Marc Maron, Host

Barack Obama, President of the United States

Marc and President Obama in the garage (Photo: Pete Souza)

Marc welcomes the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, to the garage for conversation about college, fitting in, race relations, gun violence, changing the status quo, disappointing your fans, comedians, fatherhood and overcoming fear. And yes, this really happened. This episode is presented without commercial interruption courtesy of Squarespace. Go to to see behind-the-scenes photos and captions.

Listen to the episode here. Download the episode here.

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U.S. ‘Not Cured’ of Racism, Obama Says, Citing Slavery’s Legacy

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, United States on 2015-06-22 20:40Z by Steven

U.S. ‘Not Cured’ of Racism, Obama Says, Citing Slavery’s Legacy

The New York Times

Michael D. Shear, White House Correspondent

Christine Hauser, Reporter

WASHINGTON — Just days after nine black parishioners were killed in a South Carolina church, President Obama said the legacy of slavery still “casts a long shadow” on American life, and he said that choosing not to say the word “nigger” in public does not eliminate racism from society.

In a wide-ranging conversation about race, including his own upbringing as a man born to a black father and a white woman, Mr. Obama insisted that there was no question that race relations have improved in his lifetime. But he also said that racism was still deeply embedded in the United States.

“The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on,” the president said during an interview for Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast that was released on Monday. “We’re not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not.”

He added, “Societies don’t overnight completely erase everything that happened two to 300 years prior.”

Mr. Obama has been more open about the issue of race during his second term, in part because of racially charged episodes in the last several years. The killing of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager in Florida, and the protests that followed several police shootings have prompted the president to be more reflective about his own racial identity and the nation’s.

In the hourlong interview, Mr. Obama talked about being a rebel during his youth and “trying on” different kinds of personas as he struggled to understand what kind of African-American man he wanted to be.

“I’m trying on a whole bunch of outfits,” Mr. Obama said. “Here’s how I should act. Here’s what it means to be cool. Here’s what it means to be a man.”

He said that a lot of his issues when he was young “revolved around race” but that his attitude changed around the time he turned 20. That is when he began to understand how to honor both sides of his racial identity, the president said.

“I don’t have to be one way to be both an African-American and also someone who affirms the white side of my family,” he said. “I don’t have to push back from the love and values that my mom instilled in me.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The Baptism of Early Virginia: How Christianity Created Race

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Religion, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2015-06-17 22:54Z by Steven

The Baptism of Early Virginia: How Christianity Created Race

Johns Hopkins Univesity Press
August 2012
240 pages
1 halftone, 1 line drawing
Hardback ISBN: 9781421407005

Rebecca Anne Goetz, Associate Professor of History
New York University

In The Baptism of Early Virginia, Rebecca Anne Goetz examines the construction of race through the religious beliefs and practices of English Virginians. She finds the seventeenth century a critical time in the development and articulation of racial ideologies—ultimately in the idea of “hereditary heathenism,” the notion that Africans and Indians were incapable of genuine Christian conversion. In Virginia in particular, English settlers initially believed that native people would quickly become Christian and would form a vibrant partnership with English people. After vicious Anglo-Indian violence dashed those hopes, English Virginians used Christian rituals like marriage and baptism to exclude first Indians and then Africans from the privileges enjoyed by English Christians—including freedom.

Resistance to hereditary heathenism was not uncommon, however. Enslaved people and many Anglican ministers fought against planters’ racial ideologies, setting the stage for Christian abolitionism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Using court records, letters, and pamphlets, Goetz suggests new ways of approaching and understanding the deeply entwined relationship between Christianity and race in early America.

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The Trouble with Virginia

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2015-06-17 19:56Z by Steven

The Trouble with Virginia

Michele Beller: writing the mixed-race experience of America, from Buckingham County, Virginia, to Dominica, West Indies, and beyond

Michele Beller

Finally. My book project is coming to life. My dream of writing is here. As I learn new things or have something interesting to share, I promise you, I’ll post it here. Now. Here is the story of my (first) book:

The Trouble with Virginia is a historical novel based on the true story of my great-great grandmother, Virginia. She was the daughter of a prosperous white plantation owner and a mulatto slave who lived openly as husband and wife — a dangerous way to live in the antebellum South. Virginia grew up with many privileges of her white father, yet her father had to buy her a husband from a nearby plantation. Her first two children were born into slavery—her father’s property. Then came the Civil War, marching right through Virginia’s front yard.

But this isn’t just a story about our distant past. My parents married in 1958–a time when it was still illegal for them to marry in sixteen states; like Virginia, my father is white and my mother is black. My parents believed there’s no such thing as race or color. I didn’t understand until I grew up how defining race still is; it may have been a hundred years later, but when I left home, neither side knew what to do with me. My parents loved me, but they didn’t prepare me for the fight that awaited me out in the world. I had no idea race was such a defining issue…

Read the entire article here.

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