Historic recognition: Washington’s family tree is biracial

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2016-09-18 18:36Z by Steven

Historic recognition: Washington’s family tree is biracial

U.S. News & World Report

Matthew Barakat, Northern Virginia Correspondent
The Associated Press

ZSun-nee Miller-Matema poses for a portrait at Mount Vernon, the plantation home of former U.S. President George Washington, in Alexandria, Va., on Monday, July 18, 2016. Miller-Matema is a descendent of Caroline Branham, one of George Washington’s slaves who served as former first lady Martha Washington’s personal maid. The National Park Service and the nonprofit that runs the historic Mount Vernon estate are acknowledging an aspect of U.S. history that doesn’t show up in most textbooks: The family tree of America’s first family has been biracial from its earliest branches. (AP Photo/Zach Gibson) The Associated Press

The National Park Service and Mount Vernon are acknowledging history not included in most textbooks: America’s first family tree has been biracial from its early branches

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — George Washington’s adopted son was a bit of a ne’er-do-well by most accounts, including those of Washington himself, who wrote about his frustrations with the boy they called “Wash.”

“From his infancy, I have discovered an almost unconquerable disposition to indolence in everything that did not tend to his amusements,” the founding father wrote.

At the time, George Washington Parke Custis was 16 and attending Princeton, one of several schools he bounced in and out of. Before long, he was back home at Mount Vernon, where he would be accused of fathering children with slaves.

Two centuries later, the National Park Service and the nonprofit that runs Washington’s Mount Vernon estate are concluding that the rumors were true: In separate exhibits, they show that the first family’s family tree has been biracial from its earliest branches.

“There is no more pushing this history to the side,” said Matthew Penrod, a National Park Service ranger and programs manager at Arlington House, where the lives of the Washingtons, their slaves and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee all converged…

Matthew Barakat/Associated Press
Craig Syphax and Donna Kunkel portrayed their ancestors at a June reenactment of the 1821 wedding of slaves Charles Syphax and Maria Carter at Arlington House.

Read the entire article here.

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The Strange and Ironic Fates of Jefferson’s Daughters

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2016-09-18 18:14Z by Steven

The Strange and Ironic Fates of Jefferson’s Daughters

The Daily Beast

Sally Cabot Gunning

Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero/The Daily Beast

Martha Jefferson was Virginia elite. Her half-sister Harriet, though seven-eighths white, was deemed a slave at birth. No one could have predicted their fates.

Martha Jefferson was born in 1772, just as Monticello was rising above her, promising a life surrounded by beauty, luxury, and pampering. For the first ten years of her existence this promise held, but in 1782 Martha’s mother died, leaving a father incapacitated by grief, but still a father in pursuit of his daughter’s future happiness. He set out a stringent regimen of study which included reading, writing, literature, languages, music, art, and dance.

Two years later, Martha and her father traveled to France, joined later by Martha’s younger sister and her enslaved maid, Sally Hemings. In France Martha boarded at a convent school and received a formal education few other American women of the day would acquire in their lifetimes. At her father’s Paris residence, she received another kind of education, conversing with world leaders and learning, among other things, that there are countries where slavery was illegal. “I wish with all my soul that the poor Negroes were all freed,” she wrote her father from school. She listened eagerly as her father and his secretary, William Short, talked of plans to set up their slaves as free tenant farmers when they returned to Virginia. But the 17-year-old Martha listened eagerly to William Short for another reason—she had fallen in love and her father had taken note; he abruptly took Martha, her sister, and Sally Hemings—who was pregnant with Thomas Jefferson’s child—back to Virginia.

There the realities of the Virginia way of life and her father’s new preoccupations with Monticello, politics, and dare she imagine it—Sally—convinced Martha it was time to claim a life for herself.  After three short months at home, with her father’s whole-hearted blessing, Martha married her distant cousin, Thomas Randolph, a man determined to make his way in Virginia “without dependency” on the institution of slavery…

Read the entire article here.

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American Segregation Started Long Before the Civil War

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-09-14 14:08Z by Steven

American Segregation Started Long Before the Civil War

What It Means to Be American: A National Conversation Hosted by The Smithsonian’s and Zócalo Public Square

Nicholas Guyatt, University Lecturer in American History
Cambridge University

How the Founders’ Revolutionary Ideology Laid the Groundwork

Segregation remains an intractable force in American life, more than 60 years after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling outlawed racial separation in America’s schools. The Government Accountability Office recently estimated that more than 20 million students of color attend public schools that are racially or socioeconomically isolated. This figure has increased in recent decades, despite a raft of federal and state initiatives.

Major cities like New York and Chicago struggle with high levels of residential segregation, especially at the neighborhood level. The entrenched correlation between race and poverty is partly to blame, but segregation catches even affluent people of color. A recent study found that, while only 9 percent of white Americans earning $100,000 or more lived in poor areas, 37 percent of African-Americans on the same income level lived in poorer neighborhoods.

If we want to understand why racial segregation still exists in America, we should start by understanding its origins…

…And then there was the prospect of racial amalgamation, which scrambled the moral compasses of even the most progressive whites. Of all the European empires in the New World, British North America was the most squeamish on the question of amalgamation. But while the science and religion of the European Enlightenment suggested no barrier to intermarriage, even white Americans who embraced “all men are created equal” struggled with the practical application of that phrase. The preacher David Rice, who tried valiantly to outlaw slavery in the Kentucky constitutional convention of 1792, admitted that his own prejudices against intermarriage were hard to shake; but he was determined, he told his fellow delegates, not to allow irrational feelings to “influence my judgment, nor affect my conscience.”

Alas, many others who spoke in the abstract against slavery failed to follow Rice’s example; or, like Thomas Jefferson, they compartmentalized their private and public lives. It’s now widely accepted that in the 1790s and 1800s, Jefferson secretly fathered six children with Sally Hemings, a multi-racial slave in his household, while insisting in public on his “great aversion” to “the mixture of color.”

It soon became apparent that the realization of “all men are created equal” required more than an abstract recognition of black or Native humanity; it required the surrender of what we now call white privilege. When even the most liberal whites struggled to meet this challenge, they developed an alternative plan that might deliver the United States from the guilt of slavery and oppression without obliging white people to live alongside people of color: perhaps blacks and Indians could be persuaded to move elsewhere…

Read the entire article here.

Nicholas Guyatt teaches American history at the University of Cambridge in England. He is the author of Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation (Basic Books).

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‘An offer of my heart’: A story of black love after the Civil War

Posted in Articles, History, Slavery, United States on 2016-09-09 16:53Z by Steven

‘An offer of my heart’: A story of black love after the Civil War

The Washington Post

DeNeen L. Brown, Reporter

One hundred and forty-four years after they were written, the civil rights advocate found the letters in the bottom of an old suitcase, stacked in thin envelopes and tied together by a faded, baby-blue ribbon.

Somebody had preserved them with such care. Laura W. Murphy opened a letter, looked at the date and gasped.

“Who has anything [written] from 1871 in their possession?” she thought.

The handwriting was exquisite, penned by her great-grandfather in ink that flowed from a quill. In all, there were 12 letters, capturing a courtship between a black man and a black woman six years after the end of the Civil War

Laura W. Murphy reads through letters between her great-grandparents, Mary Rebecca Lee and James W. Hughes, which were exchanged during Reconstruction. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Read the entire article here.

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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

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 crime of miscegenation: racial mixing in slaveholding Brazil and the threat to racial purity in post-abolition United States

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-08-27 18:45Z by Steven

The crime of miscegenation: racial mixing in slaveholding Brazil and the threat to racial purity in post-abolition United States

Revista Brasileira de História
Ahead of print 2016-08-08
24 pages
DOI: 10.1590/1806-93472016v36n72_007

Luciana da Cruz Brito
City University of New York

This article discuss how the Brazilian example was debated and appropriated by politicians, scientists, and other members of the white US elite, who in the post-abolition period were preparing a nation project which maintained the old slaveholding ideologies of white supremacy and racial segregation, lasting in the country until the twentieth century. In Latin America it was possible to assess the negative effects of racial mixing, while Brazil became an example of backwardness and degeneration, reinforcing the need for urgent segregationist policies in the United States. The question of racial mixing was linked to the production of a notion of national identity which was sustained by the idea of purity of blood and in opposition to Latin American societies.

Read the entire article in English or Portuguese.

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Town founded by freed slaves celebrates 200 years

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-08-25 15:24Z by Steven

Town founded by freed slaves celebrates 200 years

USA Today

Joey Garrison, Metro and Political Reporter
The Tennessean, Nashville, Tennessee

FREE HILL, Tenn. — Tucked away in the wooded hallows and ridges north of Celina, Tenn., in the Upper Cumberland region, freed slaves and later their descendants have lived here for two centuries.

The community is called Free Hill, or often Free Hills, and this unincorporated enclave in tiny, poor and otherwise mostly white Clay County is one of Tennessee’s last remaining black settlements that freed slaves established.

People in this county along the Tennessee-Kentucky border — about two hours northeast of Nashville — tell the story of a white slave owner named Virginia Hill of North Carolina who bought the property to free her slaves and give them a secluded place to live.

Historians aren’t certain about all the facts or years, and what might be part folklore, but documents prove that free blacks had settled at Free Hill before the Civil War

Establishing history

History is the lifeblood of Free Hill. Surnames like Page, Burris and Philpott on the gravestones of the Free Hill Cemetery are some of the same names that carry on today.

And the story of its founding explains the unlikely occurrence of an African-American community arising in an area that is officially in Appalachia.

Accounts of Free Hill residents vary. They almost all begin with a North Carolina slave owner named Virginia Hill, whom most say came to a forest near the Cumberland and Obey rivers sometime before 1840, purchased 2,000 acres and set her slaves free.

Some say the slaves took control of the land themselves. Others say the slaves that Virginia Hill brought were her four biracial children, and that she was seeking to avoid a scandal.

They took her surname Hill — a name that is documented as the earliest African-Americans in Free Hill — and named the community after her.

The story goes that Free Hill became known as a safe haven for runaway slaves leading up to the Civil War and for freed slaves after the war. The names Free Hill and Free Hills have interchangeable meanings: descendants of the Hill family or a hilly area where freed slaves lived…

Read the entire article here.

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Intimate Bonds: Family and Slavery in the French Atlantic

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery on 2016-08-16 01:01Z by Steven

Intimate Bonds: Family and Slavery in the French Atlantic

University of Pennsylvania Press
August 2016
304 pages
6 x 9
6 illus.
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8122-4840-1
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8122-9306-7

Jennifer L. Palmer, Assistant Professor of History
University of Georgia

Following the stories of families who built their lives and fortunes across the Atlantic Ocean, Intimate Bonds explores how households anchored the French empire and shaped the meanings of race, slavery, and gender in the early modern period. As race-based slavery became entrenched in French laws, all household members in the French Atlantic world —regardless of their status, gender, or race—negotiated increasingly stratified legal understandings of race and gender.

Through her focus on household relationships, Jennifer L. Palmer reveals how intimacy not only led to the seemingly immutable hierarchies of the plantation system but also caused these hierarchies to collapse even before the age of Atlantic revolutions. Placing families at the center of the French Atlantic world, Palmer uses the concept of intimacy to illustrate how race, gender, and the law intersected to form a new worldview. Through analysis of personal, mercantile, and legal relationships, Intimate Bonds demonstrates that even in an era of intensifying racial stratification, slave owners and slaves, whites and people of color, men and women all adapted creatively to growing barriers, thus challenging the emerging paradigm of the nuclear family. This engagingly written history reveals that personal choices and family strategies shaped larger cultural and legal shifts in the meanings of race, slavery, family, patriarchy, and colonialism itself.

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Born a Slave: Rediscovering Arthur Jackson’s African American Heritage

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2016-08-05 23:51Z by Steven

Born a Slave: Rediscovering Arthur Jackson’s African American Heritage

The Orderly Pack Rat
328 pages
6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
Paperback ISBN: 978-0970430816

David W. Jackson

By the close of the Civil War in 1865 all American slaves became free citizens. Suddenly a new life dawned for them and their descendants.

Arthur Jackson, a slave born in 1856 in Kanawha County, Virginia, was nine-years-old when he and his family were emancipated in Franklin County, Misouri. He took the surname of his master, Richard Ludlow Jackson, Sr., within whose household he was born and lived intermittently until adulthood.

Eventually Arthur met Ida May Anderson, a white woman, and they raised a family together. Their six children passed for white and Arthur’s African American heritage became a family secret and was eventually forgotten. During the following century, five generations of Arthur and Ida’s descendants lived as white Americans.

Thirty years of genealogical research by one of their great-great-grandsons, the author, revealed the secret that Arthur was born a slave, that he and Ida were a biracial couple, and that their children were of mixed racial heritage.

Born a Slave: Rediscovering Arthur Jackson’s African American Heritage explores this man’s birth, childhood, life as a freedman, his ancestry, and his master’s family. It also calls all Americans—regardless of apparent race or ethnicity—to abandon preconceptions and explore their every ancestor objectively and with an open mind… especially if they may have been a slaveholder, or if they were born a slave.

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Putting The Past Behind Them: Slave Descendant Unites With Plantation Owner

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2016-08-05 23:30Z by Steven

Putting The Past Behind Them: Slave Descendant Unites With Plantation Owner

Growing Wisconsin

Lynne Hayes

The dinner was historic on many levels. On one side of the table sat Nkrumah Steward, 44, the ancestor of a slave. On the other side of the table sat Robert Adams, the ancestor of the man who owned that slave.

This was a meeting of two men who shared a complicated past, one that forever ties them together by blood and circumstance.

If it weren’t for Steward’s fascination with genealogy and his desire to complete a family tree, the two men might never have met.

Digging Into His Past

Over the last 20 years, Nkrumah Steward, of Canton, Michigan, an IT Technician for Coca-Cola, has questioned relatives, plowed through archival papers, and hunted down details through online genealogy sites to piece together his family tree.

He was fortunate to have known his great-grandfather, James Henry, who he knew was the first to be born a free man on his mother, Linda’s, side. Steward had always been curious as to why James Henry looked so “white.”

Through his research, Steward came to learn why. Not only was he descended from slaves, but the line began with a union between his 4th great grandmother, Sarah, a house slave, and, Joel Robert Adams, the slave owner of a South Carolina plantation known as Wavering Place.

Steward’s maternal family tree branched out like this: Sarah and her master, Joel Robert Adams, had Louisa in 1835; Louisa had Octavia. Octavia’s son, James Henry, was the first to be born free. James Henry later fathered Steward’s grandfather, J.D.; and J.D. fathered Steward’s mother, Linda.

Though he was born free, James Henry’s mixed blood made life complicated. He was allowed only to attend a black college; but when he moved from South Carolina to Detroit, Michigan, he “passed” for white and was able to get jobs he would never have had as a black man…

Read the entire article here.

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