The Slave Trail of Tears is the great missing migration—a thousand-mile-long river of people, all of them black, reaching from Virginia to Louisiana.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-10-22 01:18Z by Steven

The Slave Trail of Tears is the great missing migration—a thousand-mile-long river of people, all of them black, reaching from Virginia to Louisiana. During the 50 years before the Civil War, about a million enslaved people moved from the Upper South—Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky—to the Deep South—Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama. They were made to go, deported, you could say, having been sold.

This forced resettlement was 20 times larger than Andrew Jackson’sIndian removal” campaigns of the 1830s, which gave rise to the original Trail of Tears as it drove tribes of Native Americans out of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama. It was bigger than the immigration of Jews into the United States during the 19th century, when some 500,000 arrived from Russia and Eastern Europe. It was bigger than the wagon-train migration to the West, beloved of American lore. This movement lasted longer and grabbed up more people than any other migration in North America before 1900.

Edward Ball, “Retracing Slavery’s Trail of Tears,” Smithsonian Magazine, November 2015.

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Retracing Slavery’s Trail of Tears

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2015-10-22 00:02Z by Steven

Retracing Slavery’s Trail of Tears

Smithsonian Magazine
November 2015

Edward Ball, Lecturer in English
Yale University

A coffle of slaves being marched from Virginia west into Tennessee, c. 1850. (Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia)

Edward Ball is the author of five books of nonfiction and a lecturer in English at Yale University. His book, Slaves in the Family (1998) won the National Book Award and was a New York Times bestseller.

America’s forgotten migration – the journeys of a million African-Americans from the tobacco South to the cotton South

When Delores McQuinn was growing up, her father told her a story about a search for the family’s roots.

He said his own father knew the name of the people who had enslaved their family in Virginia, knew where they lived—in the same house and on the same land—in Hanover County, among the rumpled hills north of Richmond.

“My grandfather went to the folks who had owned our family and asked, ‘Do you have any documentation about our history during the slave days? We would like to see it, if possible.’ The man at the door, who I have to assume was from the slaveholding side, said, ‘Sure, we’ll give it to you.’

“The man went into his house and came back out with some papers in his hands. Now, whether the papers were trivial or actual plantation records, who knows? But he stood in the door, in front of my grandfather, and lit a match to the papers. ‘You want your history?’ he said. ‘Here it is.’ Watching the things burn. ‘Take the ashes and get off my land.’…

New Orleans, the biggest slave market in the country, had about 50 people-selling companies in the 1840s. Some whites went to the slave auctions for entertainment. Especially for travelers, the markets were a rival to the French Opera House and the Théâtre d’Orléans.

Today in New Orleans, the number of monuments, markers and historic sites that refer in some way to the domestic slave trade is quite small. I make a first estimate: zero.

“No, that’s not true,” says Erin Greenwald, a curator at the Historic New Orleans Collection. “There is one marker on a wall outside a restaurant called Maspero’s. But what it says is wrong. The slave-trade site it mentions, Maspero’s Exchange, was diagonally across the street from the sandwich place.”…

…Developing the exhibit, Greenwald and her team created a database of names of the enslaved who were shipped from the Eastern states to New Orleans. William Waller and his gang, and other hundreds of thousands arriving by foot, did not leave traces in government records. But people who arrived by ship did.

“We studied hundreds of shipping manifests and compiled data on 70,000 individuals. Of course, that is only some.”

In 1820, the number of ships carrying slaves from Eastern ports into New Orleans was 604. In 1827, it was 1,359. In 1835, it was 4,723. Each carried 5 to 50 slaves.

The auction advertisements at the end of the Slave Trail always said, “Virginia and Maryland Negroes.”

“The words ‘Virginia Negroes’ signaled a kind of brand,” Greenwald says. “It meant compliant, gentle and not broken by overwork.

“One thing that is hard to document but impossible to ignore is the ‘fancy trade.’ New Orleans had a niche market. The ‘fancy trade’ meant women sold as forcible sex partners. They were women of mixed race, invariably. So-called mulatresses.”

Isaac Franklin was all over this market. In 1833, he wrote the office back in Virginia about “fancy girls” he had on hand, and about one in particular whom he wanted. “I sold your fancy girl Alice for $800,” Franklin wrote to Rice Ballard, a partner then in Richmond. “There is great demand for fancy maids, [but] I was disappointed in not finding your Charlottes­ville maid that you promised me.” Franklin told the Virginia office to send the “Charlottesville maid” right away by ship. “Will you send her out or shall I charge you $1,100 for her?”

To maximize her price, Franklin might have sold the “Charlottesville maid” at one of the public auctions in the city. “And the auction setting of choice was a place called the St. Louis Hotel,” Greenwald says, “a block from here.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Slaves In The Family with Edward Ball

Posted in Audio, History, Interviews, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2013-05-14 04:50Z by Steven

Slaves In The Family with Edward Ball

Research at the National Archives and Beyond
BlogTalk Radio
Thursday, 2013-05-16, 21:00-22:00 EDT, (Friday, 2013-05-17, 01:00-02:00Z)

Bernice Bennett, Host

Edward Ball, Lecturer in English
Yale University

If you knew that you were a descendant of a slave- owner, would you tell anyone?

If you had an opportunity to apologize to descendants of those enslaved by your family, would you?

Edward Ball is a writer of narrative nonfiction and the author of five books, including The Inventor and the Tycoon (Doubleday, 2013), about the birth of moving pictures. The book tells the story of Edward Muybridge, the pioneering 19-century photographer (and admitted murderer), and Leland Stanford, the Western railroad baron, whose partnership, in California during the 1870s, gave rise to the visual media.

Edward Ball’s first book, Slaves in the Family (1998), told the story of his family’s history as slave-owners in South Carolina, and of the families they once enslaved. Slaves in the Family won the National Book Award for nonfiction, was a New York Times bestseller, was translated into five languages, and was featured on Oprah.

Edward Ball was born in Savannah, raised in Louisiana and South Carolina, and graduated from Brown University in 1982. He worked for ten years as freelance journalist in New York, writing about art and film, and becoming a columnist for The Village Voice.

His other books, all nonfiction, include The Sweet Hell Inside (2001), the story of an African-American family that rose from the ashes of the Civil War to build lives in music and in art during the Jazz Age; Peninsula of Lies (2004), the story of English writer Gordon Hall, who underwent one of the first sex reassignments—in the South during the 1960s—creating an outrage; and The Genetic Strand, about the process of using DNA to investigate family history.

Edward Ball lives in Connecticut and teaches at Yale University.

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Slaves in the Family

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2013-02-17 19:03Z by Steven

Slaves in the Family

Farrar Straus & Giroux
505 pages
Paperback ISBN-10: 0345431057; ISBN-13: 978-0345431059

Edward Ball, Lecturer in English
Yale University

Edward Ball tells the story of southern slavery through tracking the history of the Balls, prominent landowners, rice-planters, one or two of them slave traders, and big slave owners in a southern family in dispersal and decline. In 1698, a planter named Elias Ball arrived in South Carolina from Devon, England, to claim an inheritance to one half of a plantation. By 1865, the Ball family of South Carolina owned over a dozen plantations along the Cooper River near Charleston. The crop was Carolina Gold—rice. The empire was grown with seeds from Madagascar and slave labour purchased on the Charleston Docks. By the time the Civil War ended, nearly 4,000 people had been enslaved by the Balls. Descendents of the Ball slaves may number as high as 11,000 today.

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The Sweet Hell Inside: The Rise of an Elite Black Family in the Segregated South

Posted in Books, History, Monographs, United States on 2012-03-01 02:40Z by Steven

The Sweet Hell Inside: The Rise of an Elite Black Family in the Segregated South

Harper Perennial an imprint HarperCollins
432 pages
5 5/16 x 8
ISBN: 9780060505905; ISBN10: 0060505907

Edward Ball, Lecturer in English
Yale University

From National Book Award winner ccomes The Sweet Hell Inside, the story of the fascinating Harleston family of South Carolina, the progeny of a Southern gentleman and his slave, who cast off their blemished roots and prospered despite racial barriers. Enhanced by recollections from the family’s archivist, eighty-four-year-old Edwina Harleston Whitlock—whose bloodline the author shares. The Sweet Hell Inside features a celebrated portrait artist whose subjects included industrialist Pierre du Pont; a black classical composer in the Lost Generation of 1920s Paris; and an orphanage founder who created the famous Jenkins Orphanage Band, a definitive force in the development of ragtime and jazz.

With evocative and engrossing storytelling, Edward Ball introduces a cast of historical characters rarely seen before: cultured, vain, imperfect, rich, and black—a family of eccentrics who defied social convention and flourished.

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In First Lady’s Roots, a Complex Path From Slavery

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Barack Obama, History, New Media, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2010-05-01 05:13Z by Steven

In First Lady’s Roots, a Complex Path From Slavery

The New York Times

Rachel L. Swarns

Jodi Kantor

WASHINGTON — In 1850, the elderly master of a South Carolina estate took pen in hand and painstakingly divided up his possessions. Among the spinning wheels, scythes, tablecloths and cattle that he bequeathed to his far-flung heirs was a 6-year-old slave girl valued soon afterward at $475.

In his will, she is described simply as the “negro girl Melvinia.” After his death, she was torn away from the people and places she knew and shipped to Georgia. While she was still a teenager, a white man would father her first-born son under circumstances lost in the passage of time.

In the annals of American slavery, this painful story would be utterly unremarkable, save for one reason: This union, consummated some two years before the Civil War, represents the origins of a family line that would extend from rural Georgia, to Birmingham, Ala., to Chicago and, finally, to the White House.

Melvinia Shields, the enslaved and illiterate young girl, and the unknown white man who impregnated her are the great-great-great-grandparents of Michelle Obama, the first lady…

While President Obama’s biracial background has drawn considerable attention, his wife’s pedigree, which includes American Indian strands, highlights the complicated history of racial intermingling, sometimes born of violence or coercion, that lingers in the bloodlines of many African-Americans. Mrs. Obama and her family declined to comment for this article, aides said, in part because of the personal nature of the subject.

“She is representative of how we have evolved and who we are,” said Edward Ball, a historian who discovered that he had black relatives, the descendants of his white slave-owning ancestors, when he researched his memoir, “Slaves in the Family.”

“We are not separate tribes of Latinos and whites and blacks in America,” Mr. Ball said. “We’ve all mingled, and we have done so for generations.”…

Read the entire article here.

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