Jubilee Singers And Their Biggest Fan

051This may be the last time ever to hear the haunting, unusual and poignant songs of slavery!

So went some of the advertisements for the Jubilee Singers’ concerts in the early 1870’s. And it was true. For despite the many tours of the ensemble after the first few its heart changed with the death of their tireless conductor George White.

George White demanded much of the group of former slaves, children of plantation owners and those who never tasted slavery at all—their time, their health, their unswerving loyalty to the mission they believed was from God.   For such young men and women (the youngest only 15) they carried themselves with great nobility, shocking many of the Northern crowds who had never seen slavery up close and even those who despised their arrival and tried to be rid of them.

The wife of an innkeeper was tied back by a humiliated husband so she could not pummel the young black woman playing the piano in the parlor of the inn. The innkeeper’s wife was disgusted at the thought of dark hands on her ivory keys.

For many winter months the troupe went hungry. The mission society they were affiliated with saw George White’s passionate project as a fool’s mission and a slight embarrassment to their organization until after months of small crowds, blatant racism and food at irregular intervals something changed. At every stop, like the Jews wandering in the desert after their own escape from slavery, God in the guise of enlightened people provided just enough to keep the cold and hungry band from giving up.

“There were many times, when we didn’t have place to sleep or anything to eat. Mr. White went out and brought us some sandwiches and tried to find some place to put us up.” Other times while the singers would wait in the railway station, White “and some other man of the troupe waded through sleet or snow or rain from hotel to hotel seeking shelter for us”*

Henry Ward Beecher of the famous Beecher clan invited them to perform at his church in Brooklyn. The Jubilee Singers brought the house to tears.

Some people really hate the idea of a “white” hero helping his downtrodden fellow man– as if it makes the efforts of the talented group of singers less inspiring. At any given point the young people could have quit. Their mission was to raise funds not for themselves but their foundering and beloved school, Fisk University.

When someone survives a great trial in life they have two choices. To many, a quiet life remembering their heroism with satisfaction is the road taken. To some, remembering in their own trial the suffering of others, the only path is one that turns back with outstretched hand as soon as they reach a place of decent footing.

Some may remember from a PREVIOUS POST that George White came home from the war a shattered man. Tuberculosis lingered in his lungs. He married a friend’s sister when they met at Fisk. White managed the school’s shaky finances while his wife taught. This worry over finances and White’s love of music and the freedmen led him on an improbable journey. His enthusiasm and belief in his troupe when most people held little regard for the abilities of black people inspired the young men and women to believe in themselves.

west_side_and_south_front_-_fisk_university_jubilee_hall_seventeenth_avenue_north_nashville_davidson_county_tn_habs_tenn19-nash7a-3-tif
With the money they made Jubilee Hall was built.

They played before presidents and queens. At a time when many may have wanted to bury their sad songs with the many dead of the war, White saw musical value, saw a cultural treasure and demanded it be preserved. Many ex-slaves sang these songs to each other in ashamed whispers. White demanded they come into the light and respect themselves as valued members of God’s family.

In time members of the troupe were drawn away to pursue solo careers or work in other areas. White struggled not to feel abandoned by them. He’d lost his first sickly wife while touring England (he’d hoped the trip would heal her). His own tuberculosis came in fits of bloody coughs. Ella Shepherd ( soprano, piano, organ, and guitar) stayed true to her maestro. She worried White would die before returning to the states with his three young children.

White carried on. He insisted he practice with his beloved Jubilee Singers even when he opposed a certain concert they wanted to perform. I imagine he was caught up in the music when he fell from the platform and shattered his leg. For the rest of his years he could barely walk. His second wife was forced to clean houses. White had given every cent he’d ever made to the Jubilee Singers. He died of a massive stroke at 57.

What is the soundtrack of your life?

George White’s first troupe of performers were never recorded. By the turn of the century others eagerly sought to refine and record songs like Swing Low Sweet Chariot, but I imagine it wasn’t the same thing playing in the ears of soldiers passing field hands during the war. It wasn’t the same as the voices of The Jubilee Singers with only one foot out of slavery and wondering about a future yet to come.

Quote from DARK MIDNIGHT WHEN I RISE

Related: SOUNDTRACK (a wonderful post about sound-tracking your life)

                 WHAT IS YOUR AURAL HISTORY?

What Makes a Hero?

screen-shot-2013-06-20-at-10-51-07-amOur jaded historical minds race over the word abolitionist.

George Leonard White could have stayed at his consumptive father’s blacksmith shop in New York State but left for Ohio to become a school teacher. Nothing particularly heroic in that.

 Yes, yes. George was against slavery. Ho hum. Aren’t we all equally against slavery these days? Human trafficking as a phrase hardly captures the same depth of feeling we let rise up in us when the word slavery is mentioned but it’s the very same thing.

Part of training to become a foster parent is to recognize when children (in New York, in America!!) have been victims of sex slavery. Yes, we all say, of course we’re adamantly opposed to sex slavery.So much so that we’d rather not address the subject at all.I suppose most people living in the 1860’s sort of felt the same way.

George Leonard White saw a need. At 6′ 5″ with dark hair and intense eyes George kept an orderly classroom. He noted that black children needed schooling too, so deep in the woods he taught them as well.

The Bible and music were George’s two loves. He taught himself the fiddle and sang. I wonder did he ever share this love with the children he taught. I hope so. But let’s stay a moment with George and his pupils in the school room. Nobody held a carrot on a stick, there was no Teach for America  back then. No one held George’s hand when he decided to enrich the minds of black children. This was one person acting alone in a dark wood.

The war came and George, Bible in knapsack, eagerly joined Ohio in the fight. George was certain of his reason for fighting: to help end slavery. He didn’t put himself in harm’s way because his buddies were doing the same. He had a heroic sense of conviction and a sense that his one life mattered–though he did not need a professor or coach to convince him of it. Every word of his worn Bible told him so.

When a person slogs through cold mud on stale crackers,  maggot-infested meat and coffee for three years; faces bullets and sickness and human depravity for just as long; marches up mountains and falls apart by the roadside unable to move for hours and almost no longer caring we say this is war. People tell war stories that fit neatly into boxes. Join up, go fight, come home.

A friend spots George, his 6’5″ frame wasted to a skeletal 140lbs lying in the mud. The friend helps him into a wagon. George goes home.

Heroism becomes habit. Maybe that’s all it is–a very noble habit. A way of thinking about oneself. Can one’s life be a mission without the idea of God? For, really, what’s the point of a mission that dies with you? Knowing someone may read about you in a history book seems like a sad reward for bothering. Humanitarianism, social uplift, basic manners make no real sense without mission.

I’m already in love with George’s heart and I hardly know a thing about him yet. George never fully recovers his health after the war, but he refuses to shirk his mission. Soon we will find out how he leads a group of black singers to stardom and leads white America to a new understanding of black humanity. No degrees, no permission needed or asked for, just a heart for mission.

The practical weakness of the vast mass of modern pity for the poor and the oppressed is precisely that it is merely pity; the pity is pitiful but not respectful. Men feel that the cruelty to the poor is a kind of cruelty to animals. They never feel that it is injustice to equals; nay, it is treachery to comrades.
–G. K. Chesterton.

Related Links:

GEORGE LEONARD WHITE

FRIEND OF SLAVES

Affranchi

affranchis1

“Affranchi is a former French legal term denoting a freedman or emancipated slave. It is used in English to describe the class of freedmen in Saint-Domingue and other slave-holding French territories, who held legal rights intermediate between those of free whites and enslaved Africans. In Saint-Domingue, roughly half of the affranchis were gens de couleur libres (free people of color; Mulatto) and the other half African slaves.

The affranchis had legal and social advantages over enslaved Africans. They became a distinct class in the society between whites and slaves. They could get some education, were able to own land, and could attend some French colonial entertainments. Planters who took slave women or free women of color as concubines often sent their sons to France for education and, in some cases, to enter the military. They were more likely to settle property on them as well. Because of such property and class issues, some free men of color considered themselves to have status above that of the petits blancs, shopkeepers and workers. Nonetheless, the latter had more political rights in the colony until after the Revolution.

Ambitious mulattoes worked to gain acceptance from the white colonists who held power in that society. As they advanced in society, affranchis often also held land and slaves. Some acted as creditors for planters. One of their leaders in the late 18th century, Julien Raimond, an indigo planter, claimed that affranchis owned a third of all the slaves in the colony at that time. In the early years of the French Revolution and Haitian Revolution, many gens de couleur were committed to maintaining the institution of slavery. They wanted political equality based on class – that is, extended for men of property, regardless of skin color.” WIKIPEDIA

 

QUOTE: “. . . he is still your brother, and mine, in form and color accepted and approved by his Father, and yours, and mine, and bears equally with us the proudest inheritance of our race—the image of our Maker. Hold him then to be a Man.”William Seward

Old white men. The bane of revisionist historians’ existences. Yet take a look into the eyes of William Seward. He confessed to doing nothing without determining how it might affect his political career.We can take him at his word, I suppose, but I prefer to dig beneath his veneer of cynicism.

William’s wealthy father owned slaves just north of New York City in the tiny town of Florida, N.Y. when slavery was still legal that far up the seaboard. Former slaves remembered young William running not from school to home but from home to school. In later years Seward said, “Education banishes the distinctions, old as time, of rich and poor, master and slave. It banishes ignorance and lays axe to the root of crime.”

As always, I wonder if modern education with its emphasis on class distinctions, slights, victims and the myth of the evil, old (and boring) white men of the past really elevates and inspires young adults to do great things in life. (My husband always says there are no feelings in engineering, no relativism, no racism. A bridge stands if done right).

Seward graduated top of his class at Union College after a short stay in the South with a friend. He enjoyed his time there, but came away more convinced of the evils of slavery. A later trip with his wife cemented his conviction that slavery  was “morally unjust, politically unwise and socially pernicious, in some degree, in every community where it exists.” (1858, Bruce Chadwick)

Despite Seward’s self-deprecating denial of heart, he consistently, outspokenly denounced slavery in a time when few people did (for decades!). Again, the problem was not so much that average people and politicians  didn’t believe slavery was wrong. Most in the North and some in the South did, but feared the consequences of ending the institution (would there be bloodshed and suffering?). Poor innocents. We look back upon them now wondering how did they recognize the winds of war? But that is unfair. Men (and women) spent active lifetimes denouncing slavery and pursuing justice. Seward was one of them.

There is much to be learned studying the lives of brave men.

How many of us, black, white, Asian, Hispanic spend more than a few minutes liking posts about justice and love and think we’re making a difference? How many of us are so single-minded about a pet cause that we leave family and friends for months and years while suffering the slings and arrows of corrupt journalists and fellow politicians?

I plead guilty to my fickle heart and plain old laziness.

Ego can be used for good. What good is it to dampen the soul with the sense that we are all just the “little people” of the world? My father once turned tail at a restaurant with all of us in tow because he thought we weren’t quite up to snuff to eat with the other patrons. How sad for my father who did so much good but saw his reflection in such low light.

Here’s what makes Seward particularly interesting to me: When he got to Washington he held dinner parties. So? These extravagant dinner parties were attended by all and sundry. Not just Northerners. Not just abolitionists. Southerners, slaveholders and just about every type of human on the political spectrum eagerly awaited invitation.

Imagine that. Knowing that some snowflakes could not control their passions when discussing politics over dinner, the topic was forbidden and real friendship flourished–despite the fact that everyone knew where they’d stand against each other in the morning.

A noble man is one who can hold strong beliefs while allowing others the same freedom (a rare art).

Even as Seward used his home to hide fugitive slaves and helped finance Frederick Douglass’s newspaper, he visited the future Confederate president JEFFERSON DAVIS every day, rain or shine, when Davis lay sick in bed for months in Washington.

Lincoln beat him for the presidency in 1860 for a number of reasons, politics being what they are, and Seward is remembered in school  for the folly of securing Alaska. What a shame. This friend of Harriet Tubman’s was so much more than that.

After politics Seward returned to New York to write his memoirs but lost interest in them. One morning he sat at his desk and had trouble breathing. As his family gathered at his bedside they asked him if he had any final words.

The man who tried to hide his heart spoke. “Love one another.”

 

***Seward’s Rochester speech which electrified the nation is so worth reading!

The main subject, then, is whether the Democratic party deserves to retain the confidence of the American people. In attempting to prove it unworthy, I think that I am not actuated by prejudices against that party, or by prepossessions in favor of its adversary; for I have learned, by some experience, that virtue and patriotism, vice and selfishness, are found in all parties, and that they differ less in their motives than in the policies they pursue.

Our country is a theatre, which exhibits, in full operation, two radically different political systems; the one resting on the basis of servile or slave labor, the other on voluntary labor of freemen. The laborers who are enslaved are all negroes, or persons more or less purely of African derivation. But this is only accidental. The principle of the system is, that labor in every society, by whomsoever performed, is necessarily unintellectual, grovelling and base; and that the laborer, equally for his own good and for the welfare of the State, ought to be enslaved. The white laboring man, whether native or foreigner, is not enslaved, only because he cannot, as yet, be reduced to bondage.

You need not be told now that the slave system is the older of the two, and that once it was universal. The emancipation of our own ancestors, Caucasians and Europeans as they were, hardly dates beyond a period of five hundred years. The great melioration of human society which modern times exhibits is mainly due to the incomplete substitution of the system of voluntary labor for the one of servile labor, which has already taken place. This African slave system is one which, in its origin and in its growth, has been altogether foreign from the habits of the races which colonized these States, and established civilization here. It was introduced on this continent as an engine of conquest, and for the establishment of monarchical power, by the Portuguese and the Spaniards, and was rapidly extended by them all over South America, Central America, Louisiana, and Mexico. Its legitimate fruits are seen in the poverty, imbecility, and anarchy which now pervade all Portuguese and Spanish America. The free-labor system is of German extraction, and it was established in our country by emigrants from Sweden, Holland, Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland. We justly ascribe to its influences the strength, wealth, greatness, intelligence, and freedom, which the whole American people now enjoy. One of the chief elements of the value of human life is freedom in the pursuit of happiness. The slave system is not only intolerable, unjust, and inhuman, toward the laborer, whom, only because he is a laborer, it loads down with chains and converts into merchandise, but is scarcely less severe upon the freeman, to whom, only because he is a laborer from necessity , it denies facilities for employment, and whom it expels from the community because it cannot enslave and convert into merchandise also. It is necessarily improvident and ruinous, because, as a general truth, communities prosper and flourish, or droop and decline, in just the degree that they practise or neglect to practise the primary duties of justice and humanity. The free-labor system conforms to the divine law of equality, which is written in the hearts and consciences of man, and therefore is always and everywhere beneficent.

The slave system is one of constant danger, distrust, suspicion, and watchfulness. It debases those whose toil alone can produce wealth and resources for defence, to the lowest degree of which human nature is capable, to guard against mutiny and insurrection, and thus wastes energies which otherwise might be employed in national development and aggrandizement. The free-labor system educates all alike, and by opening all the fields of industrial employment and all the departments of authority, to the unchecked and equal rivalry of all classes of men, at once secures universal contentment, and brings into the highest possible activity all the physical, moral, and social energies of the whole state. In states where the slave system prevails, the masters, directly or indirectly, secure all political power, and constitute a ruling aristocracy. In states where the free-labor system prevails, universal suffrage necessarily obtains, and the state inevitably becomes, sooner or later, a republic or democracy.

Russia yet maintains slavery, and is a despotism. Most of the other European states have abolished slavery, and adopted the system of free labor. It was the antagonistic political tendencies of the two systems which the first Napoleon was contemplating when he predicted that Europe would ultimately be either all Cossack or all republican. Never did human sagacity utter a more pregnant truth truth. The two systems are at once perceived to be incongruous. But they are more than incongruous-they are incompatible. They never have permanently existed together in one country, and they never can. It would be easy to demonstrate this impossibility, from the irreconcilable contrast between their great principles and characteristics. But the experience of mankind has conclusively established it. Slavery, as I have intimated, existed in every state in Europe. Free labor has supplanted it everywhere except in Russia and developed in modern times are now Turkey. State necessities developed in modern times are now obliging even those two nations to encourage and employ free labor; and already, despotic as they are, we find them engaged in abolishing slavery. In the United States, slavery came into collision with free labor at the close of the last century, and fell before it in New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, but triumphed over it effectually, and excluded it for a period yet undetermined, from Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Indeed, so incompatible are the two systems, that every new State which is organized within our ever-extending domain makes its first political act a choice of the one and the exclusion of the other, even at the cost of civil war, if necessary. The slave States, without law, at the last national election, successfully forbade, within their own limits, even the casting of votes for a candidate for President of the United States supposed to be favorable to the establishment of the free-labor system in new States.

Hitherto, the two systems have existed in different States, but side by side within the American Union. This has happened because the Union is a confederation of States. But in another aspect the United States constitute only one nation. Increase of population, which is filling the States out to their very borders, together with a new and extended network of railroads and other avenues,, and an internal commerce which daily becomes more intimate, is rapidly bringing the States into a higher and more perfect social unity or consolidation. Thus, these antagonistic systems are continually coming into closer contact, and collision results.

Shall I tell you what this collision means? They who think that it is accidental, unnecessary, the work of interested or fanatical agitators, and therefor ephemeral, mistake the case altogether. It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either entirely a slaveholding nation, or entirely a free-labor nation. Either the cotton and rice fields of South Carolina and the sugar plantations of Louisiana will ultimately be tilled by free labor, and Charleston and New Orleans become marts of legitimate merchandise alone, or else the rye-fields and wheat-fields of Massachusetts and New York must again be surrendered by their farmers to slave culture and to the production of slaves, and Boston and New York becomes once more markets for trade in the bodies and souls of men. It is the failure to apprehend this great truth that induces so many unsuccessful attempts at final compromises between the slave and free States, and it is the existence of this great fact that renders all such pretended compromises, when made, vain and ephemeral. Startling as this saying may appear to you, fellow-citizens, it is by no means an original or even a modern one. Our forefathers knew it to be true, and unanimously acted upon it when they framed the constitution of the United States. They regarded the existence of the servile system in so many of the States with sorrow and shame, which they openly confessed, and they looked upon the collision between them, which was then just revealing itself, and which we are now accustomed to deplore, with favor and hope. They knew that one or the other system must exclusively prevail.

Unlike too many of those who in modem time invoke their authority, they had a choice between the two. They preferred the system of free labor, and they determined to organize the government, and so direct its activity, that that system should surely and certainly prevail. For this purpose, and no other, they based the whole structure of the government broadly on the principle that all men are created equal, and therefore free – little dreaming that, within the short period of one hundred years, their descendants would bear to be told by any orator, however popular, that the utterance of that principle was merely a rhetorical rhapsody; or by any judge, however venerated, that it was attended by mental reservation, which rendered it hypocritical and false. By the ordinance of 1787 they dedicated all of the national domain not yet polluted by slavery to free labor immediately, thenceforth and forever; while by the new constitution and laws they invited foreign free labor from all lands under the sun, and interdicted the importation of African slave labor, at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances whatsoever. It is true that they necessarily and wisely modified this policy of freedom by leaving it to the several States, affected as they were by different circumstances, to abolish slavery in their own way and at their own pleasure, instead of confiding that duty to Congress; and that they secured to the slave States, while yet retaining the system of slavery, a three-fifths representation of slaves in the federal government, until they. should find themselves able to relinquish it with safety. But the very nature of these modifications fortifies my position, that the fathers knew that the two systems could not endure within the Union, and expected within a short period slavery would disappear forever. Moreover, in order that these modifications might not altogether defeat their grand design of a republic maintaining universal equality, they provided that two thirds of the States might amend the constitution.

It remains to say on this point only one word, to guard against misapprehension. If these States are to again become universally slaveholding, I do not pretend to say with what violations of the constitution that end shall be accomplished. On the other hand, while I do confidently believe and hope that my country will yet become a land of universal freedom, I do not expect that it will be made so otherwise than through the action of the several States co-operating with the federal government, and all acting in strict conformity with their respective constitutions.

The strife and contentions concerning slavery, which gently disposed persons so habitually deprecate, are nothing more than the ripening of the conflict which the fathers themselves not only thus regarded with favor, but which they may be said to have instituted.

It is not to be denied, however, that thus far the course of that contest has not been according to their humane anticipations and wishes. In the field of federal politics, slavery, deriving unlooked-for advantages from commercial changes, and energies unforeseen from the facilities of combination between members of the slaveholding class and between that class and other property classes, early rallied, and has at length made a stand, not merely to retain its original defensive position, but to extend its sway throughout the whole Union. It is certain that the slaveholding class of American citizens indulge this high ambition, and that they derive encouragement for it from the rapid and effective political successes which they have already obtained. The plan of operation is this: By continued appliances of patronage and threats of disunion, they will keep a majority favorable to these designs in the Senate, where each State has an equal representation. Through that majority they will defeat, as they best can, the admission of free States and secure the admission of slave States. Under the protection of the judiciary, they will, on the principle of the Dred Scott case, carry slavery into all the territories of the United States now existing and hereafter to be organized. By the action of the President and Senate, using the treaty-making power, they will annex foreign slaveholding States. In a favorable conjuncture they will induce Congress to repeal the act of 1808 which prohibits the foreign slave trade, and so they will import from Africa, at a cost of only twenty dollars a head, slaves enough to fill up the interior of the continent. Thus relatively increasing the number of slave States, they will allow no amendment to the constitution prejudicial to their interest; and so, having permanently established their power, they expect the federal judiciary to nullify all State laws which shall interfere with internal or foreign commerce in slaves. When the free States shall be sufficiently demoralized to tolerate these designs, they reasonably conclude that slavery will be accepted by those States themselves. I shall not stop to show how speedy or how complete would be the ruin which the accomplishment of these slaveholding schemes would bring upon the country. For one, I should not remain in the country to test the sad experiment. Having spent my manhood, though not my whole life, in a free State, no aristocracy of any kind, much less an aristocracy of slaveholders, shall ever make the laws of the land in which I shall be content to live. Having seen the society around me universally engaged in agriculture, manufactures, and trade, which were innocent and beneficent, I shall never be a denizen of a State where men and women are reared as cattle, and bought and sold as merchandise. When that evil day shall come, and all further effort at resistance shall be impossible, then, if there shall be no better hope for redemption than I can now foresee, I shall say with Franklin, while looking abroad over the whole earth for a new and more congenial home, “Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” You will tell me that these fears are extravagant and chimerical. I answer, they are so; but they are so only because the designs of the slaveholders must and can be defeated. But it is only the possibility of defeat that renders them so. They cannot be defeated by inactivity. There is no escape from them compatible with non-resistance. How, then, and in what way, shall the necessary resistance be made,? There is only one way. The Democratic party must be permanently dislodged from the government. The reason is, that the Democratic party is inextricably committed to the designs of the slaveholders, which I have described. Let me be well understood. I do not charge that the Democratic candidates for public office now before the people are pledged to-much less that the Democratic masses who support them really adopt-those atrocious and dangerous designs. Candidates may, and generally do, mean to act justly, wisely, and patriotically, when they shall be elected; but they become the ministers and servants, not the dictators, of the power which elects them. The policy which a party shall pursue at a future period is only gradually developed, depending on the occurrence of events never fully foreknown. The motives of men, whether acting as electors or in any other capacity, are generally pure. Nevertheless, it is not more true that ” hell is paved with good intentions,” than it is that earth is covered with wrecks resulting from innocent and amiable motives.

The very constitution of the Democratic party commits it to execute all the designs of the slaveholders, whatever they may be. It is not a party of the whole Union, of all the free States and of all the slave States; nor yet is it a party of the free States in the North and in the Northwest; but it is a sectional and local party, having practically its seat within the slave States, and counting its constituency chiefly and almost exclusively there. Of all its representatives in Congress and in the electoral colleges, two-thirds uniformly come from these States. Its great element of strength lies in the vote of the slaveholders, augmented by the representation of three-fifths of the slaves. Deprive the Democratic party of this strength, and it would be a helpless and hopeless minority, incapable of continued organization. The Democratic party, being thus local and sectional, acquires new strength from the admission of ever new slave State, and loses relatively by the admission of every new free State into the Union.

A party is, in one sense, a joint stock association, in which those who contribute most direct the action and management of the concern. The slaveholders contributing in an overwhelming proportion to the capital strength of the Democratic party, they necessarily dictate and prescribe its policy. The inevitable caucus system enables them to do so with a show of fairness and justice. If it were possible to conceive for a moment that the Democratic party should disobey the behests of the slaveholders, we should then see a withdrawal of the slaveholders, which would leave the party to perish. The portion of the party which is found in the free States is a mere appendage, convenient to modify its sectional character, without impairing its sectional constitution, and is less effective in regulating its movements than the nebulous tail of the corset is in determining the appointed, though apparently eccentric, course of the fiery sphere from which it emanates.

To expect the Democratic party to resist slavery and favor freedom is as unreasonable as to look for Protestant missionaries to the Catholic propaganda of Rome. The history of the Democratic party commits it to the policy of slavery. It has been the Democratic party, and no other agency, which has carried that policy up to its present alarming culmination. Without stopping to ascertain, critically, the origin of the present Democratic party, we may concede its claim to date from the era of good feeling which occurred under the administration of President Monroe. At that time, in this State, and about that time in many others of the free States, the Democratic party deliberately disfranchised the free colored or African citizen, and it has pertinaciously continued this disfranchisement ever since. This was an effective aid to slavery; for, while the slaveholder votes for his slaves against freedom, the freed slave in the free States is prohibited from voting against slavery. In 1824 the democracy resisted the election of John Quincy Adams-himself before that time an acceptable Democrat and in 1828 it expelled him from the presidency and put a slaveholder in his place, although the office had been filled by slaveholders thirty-two out of forty years.

In 1836, Martin Van Buren-the first non-slaveholding citizen of a free State to whose election the Democratic party ever consented-signalized his inauguration into the presidency by a gratuitous announcement that under no circumstances would he ever approve a bill for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. From 1838 to 1844 the subject of abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia and in the national dockyards and arsenals, was brought before Congress by repeated popular appeals. The Democratic party thereupon promptly denied the right of petition, and effectually suppressed the freedom of speech in Congress, so far as the institution of slavery was concerned.

From 1840 to 1843 good and wise men counselled that Texas should remain outside the Union until she should consent to relinquish her self-instituted slavery; but the Democratic party precipitated her admission into the Union, not only without that condition, but even with a covenant that the State might be divided and reorganized so as to constitute four slave States instead of one.

In 1846, when the United States became involved in a war with Mexico, and it was apparent that the struggle would end in the dismemberment of that republic, which was a non-slaveholding power, the Democratic party rejected a declaration that slavery should not be established within the territory to be acquired. When, in 1850, governments were to be instituted in the territories of California and New Mexico, the fruits of that war, the Democratic party refused to admit New Mexico as a free State, and only consented to admit California as a free State on the condition, as it has since explained the transaction, of leaving all of New Mexico and Utah open to slavery, to which was also added the concession of perpetual slavery in the District of Columbia, and the passage of an unconstitutional, cruel, and humiliating law, for the recapture of fugitive slaves, with a further stipulation that the subject of slavery should never again be agitated in either chamber of Congress. When, in 1854, the slaveholders were contentedly reposing on these great advantages, then so recently won, the Democratic party unnecessarily, officiously, and with super-serviceable liberality, awakened them from their slumber, to offer and force on their acceptance the abrogation of the law which declared that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude should ever exist within that part of the ancient territory of Louisiana which lay outside of the State of Missouri, and north of the parallel of 36′ 30′ of north latitudes law which, with the exception of one other, was the only statute of freedom then remaining in the federal code.

In 1856, when the people of Kansas had organized a new State within the region thus abandoned to slavery, and applied to be admitted as a free State into the Union, the Democratic party contemptuously rejected their petition, and drove them with menaces and intimidations from the halls of Congress, and armed the President with military power to enforce their submission to a slave code, established over them by fraud and usurpation. At every subsequent stage of a long contest which has since raged in Kansas, the Democratic party- has lent its sympathies, its aid, and all the powers of the government which it controlled, to enforce slavery upon that unwilling and injured people. And now, even at this day, while it mocks us with the assurance that Kansas is free, the Democratic party keeps the State excluded from her just and proper place in the Union, under the hope that she may be dragooned into the acceptance of slavery.

The Democratic party, finally, has procured from a supreme judiciary, fixed in its interest, a decree that slavery exists by force of the constitution in every territory of the United States, paramount to all legislative authority, either within the territory or residing in Congress.

Such is the Democratic party. It has no policy, state or federal, for finance, or trade, or manufacture, or commerce, or education, or internal improvements, or for the protection or even the security of civil or religious liberty. It is positive and uncompromising in the interest of slavery-negative, compromising, and vacillating, in regard to everything else. It boasts its love of equality, and wastes its strength, and even its life, in fortifying the only aristocracy known in the land. It professes fraternity, and, so often as slavery requires, allies itself with proscription. It magnifies itself for conquests in foreign lands, but it sends the national eagle forth always with chains, and not the olive branch, in his fangs.

This dark record shows you, fellow-citizens, what I was unwilling to announce at an earlier stage of this argument, that of the whole nefarious schedule of slaveholding designs which I have submitted to you, the Democratic party has left only one yet to be consummated-the abrogation of the law which forbids the African slave-trade.

I know-few, I think, know better than I-the resources and energies of the Democratic party, which is identical with the slave power. I do ample justice to its traditional popularity. I know further-few, I think, know better than I-the difficulties and disadvantages of organizing a new political force, like the Republican party, and the obstacles it must encounter in laboring without prestige and without patronage. But, understanding all this, I know that the Democratic party must go down, and that the Republican party must rise into its place. The Democratic party derived its strength, originally, from its adoption of the principles of equal and exact justice to all men. So long as it practised this principle faithfully it was invulnerable. It became vulnerable when it renounced the principle, and since that time it has maintained itself, not by virtue of its own strength, or even of its traditional merits, but because there as yet had appeared in the political field no other party that had the conscience and the courage to take up, and avow, and practise the life-inspiring principle which the Democratic party had surrendered. At last, the Republican party has appeared. It avows, now, as the Republican party of 1800 did, in one word, its faith and its works, ” Equal and exact justice to all men.” Even when it first entered the field, only half organized, it struck a blow which only just failed to secure complete and triumphant victory. In this, its second campaign, it has already won advantages which render that triumph now both easy and certain.

The secret of its assured success lies in that very characteristic which, in the mouth of scoffers, constitutes its great and lasting imbecility and reproach. It lies in the fact that it is a party of one idea; but that is a noble one-an idea that fills and expands all generous souls; the idea of equality-the equality of all men before human tribunals and human laws, as they all are equal before the divine tribunal and divine laws.

I know, and you know, that a revolution has begun. I know, and all the world knows, that revolutions never go backward. Twenty, senators and a hundred representatives proclaim boldly in Congress to-day sentiments and opinions and principles of freedom which hardly so many men, even in this free State, dared to utter in their own homes twenty years ago. While the government of the United States, under the conduct of the Democratic party, has been all that time surrendering one plain and castle after another to slavery, the people of the United States have been no less steadily and perseveringly gathering together the forces with which to recover back again all the fields and all the castles which have been lost, and to confound and overthrow, by one decisive blow, the betrayers of the constitution and freedom forever. (NYHistory.com)

Bravery=Freedom

What would you do if you saw a person you knew as an acquaintance being taken away by two strange men?

John Price escaped from slavery in 1856 with few skills and in sorry health. When the residents of the utopian Christian town of Oberlin, Ohio took him in, they found Price odd jobs and had him stay at various homes realizing Price didn’t have the strength or skill set to make it further up the Underground Railroad.

As the leaves turned on a chilly fall day in 1858 an Oberlin teenager picked up Price who’d been gathering potatoes on a freedman’s farm at the edge of town, for Oberlin was fully integrated and strongly abolitionist. Oberlin had been established by two Presbyterians who believed that Christians needed to work out their salvation by living a truly righteous life–one that advocated freedom for slaves. Oberlin College was open to men of all races and their town had hidden many runaway slaves.

Let us stop to wonder about men who establish towns. From scratch.

Sometimes I fear I may offend a random visitor to my blog who hates Christians. This random visitor may see my favorite Bible quote , “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 and dismiss me as one of those people.

It’s obvious that I don’t have the moral courage to form a town based on my understanding of Christianity. I doubt I’d even have the courage to wear a t-shirt proclaiming my belief in the sanctity of all life (it helps ease my conscience that I look terrible in t-shirts, but still.). The men and women at Oberlin didn’t have to wear t-shirts. Their acts of courage and commitment were the greatest form of advertisement for the Good News of JC (I often cringe at saying Jesus Christ out loud).

My blog is a small one and I think it would be fair to admit that the likelihood of real harm coming to me for mentioning my Christian beliefs is relatively small and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but my ego is big. But enough about me. 🙂

John Price, the runaway slave picking potatoes, rides along with the teenager from Oberlin. The teenager slows his horse as another carriage approaches with two strange men. The men are slave hunters. They capture Price quite easily since the teenager is an accomplice in the kidnapping. Further down the road two white students from Oberlin pass the carriage carrying Price back to slavery. Price calls out to them in their buggy, but they turn their eyes away.

Ansel Lyman, one of the students in the buggy runs through the town of Oberlin upon his return with news of Price’s kidnapping, and the town comes alive. As men and women race toward Wellington, some with guns, the crowd grows as news of the kidnapping spreads. No one sits at home watching TV or watching their fireplaces.

In Wellington the slave catchers and Price watch from their hotel as the crowds gather. The catchers are armed of course but they fear their fate will be the same as the building across the way which happened to burn down that morning. I imagine this was a bit more than the catchers bargained for. The Dred Scott decision had made it legal to catch slaves in free states.

The people of Oberlin considered the Scott decision unconstitutional and morally wrong as did many brave souls in the North. Here we must remember that abolitionists were painted as extremists. Most people chose peace over righteousness.  I wonder if I would have done the same. I like staying home before the fire.

400px-oberlinrescuersRumors spread that the army will be called in. A few good men with guns rescue Price. A freedman eventually gets Price to Canada, but the incident challenges the nation.

The Rescuers as the men who stormed the hotel and hid Price are now called are marched to stand trial before a jury and judge of the Democratic persuasion who hate abolitionists. Two men are tried and both are found guilty. All the others after the judge frees them on bail refuse to pay and spend time in the jail across the courtyard. The head of the jail happens to support abolition and opens the place to visitors. At first it’s just the families of the men but before long people from across the North journey to support the abolitionists. Black and white men and women flood the area united against immoral and corrupt government policies and actions.

The Democrats‘ worst nightmare comes true. War is just around the corner, but forgive them for not knowing it just yet.

slave-catcher_pic_poster_so2011

**Featured image of John Mercer Langston, a lawyer and Oberlin’s town clerk, came from a family of abolitionists. His brother Charles and his brother-in-law O.S.B. Wall were among the town’s residents who rescued John Price from a slave-catcher.

Oberlin College Archives, Oberlin, Ohio

READ MORE: WHEN THE SLAVE CATCHER CAME TO TOWN

 

ARTIST: Jean-Leon Gerome

jean-leon-gerome-5
The Slave Market in Rome

l_pl1_37885_fnt_tr_t03ii

geromeslavemarket
The Slave Market

 

“It is one of these [more expensive] women, an Abyssinian, that M. Gérôme has taken as the principal figure of his composition. She is nude and being displayed by the djellab, who has the fine head of a brigand accustomed to every sort of abduction and violence; the idea of the eternal soul must not very often have tormented such a bandit. The poor girl is standing, submissive, humble, resigned, with a fatalistic passivity that the painter has very skillfully rendered.” Maxime Du Champ (Wikipedia)

More on Gerome HERE

 

 

 

jean-leon-gerome-the-slave-market

 

The Astonishing Facts about Slavery

 

william-wilberforce-knowing
Image courtesy epm.org

Slavery is about power not race . . .

BLACKS OWNING BLACKS: We’ve all heard that warring African tribes sold their prisoners into slavery (for much of history it was to  Muslim slave traders), but just like their white counterparts some free black Americans had slaves.

“Owning slaves offered the opportunity for economic advancement for blacks (Schweninger, 22).  By the mid 1700’s, black artisans and shopkeepers owned slaves in the city, while free blacks also held slaves on farms in the country.  In the city of Charleston, free blacks nearly monopolized the jobs of barbers, bricklayers, shoemakers, tailors and dressmakers.  They prospered in their entrepreneurial jobs and were able to earn the capital needed to purchase slaves.

Another factor in black slaveholding was the development of a class of citizens referred to as “free persons of color.”  There were relationships between white masters and slave women from the beginning of African slavery in the colonies.  Often these relationships resulted in mulatto children born to the slave women.  In some cases, masters would treat these mulatto children as their own, and they might inherit property at the master’s death.  The mothers of the mulatto children would often be manumitted, or freed for a reason, at the death of the master.  The manumitted mulatto son or daughter would then become a part of the growing group of “free persons of color.”  On one occasion, “the amorous relationship between the slave Tabatha Singleton and her master survived the manumission decree…. He paid the rent for her tenement and eventually conveyed a house, lot, and two slaves to her” (Powers, 1994, 38).  For this reason and for other reasons, there were many female slaveholders in South Carolina, and particularly in Charleston.

From amorous relationships between masters and slaves (and free persons of color) there grew a distinct class of “brown” elites.  There was a difference in the way that whites regarded free dark-skinned blacks and light-skinned blacks.  Light-skinned blacks were considered closer to white in the social stratification in southern society.  A racial stratification developed into a three-tiered model with whites on the top, mulattoes and free blacks (of light complexion, mostly), and slaves.  Slaveholding free blacks were considered at the top of the second tier, the most respected blacks of all in white society.

A third factor in the development of black slaveholding was the desire of “free persons of color” to operate in the economic world of white slaveholders and to be as equal to whites as possible.  By the mid 1700’s to early 1800’s, most free blacks considered themselves more American than they did African, for almost all of them had been born on American soil, free or slave.  They wanted to live the same life as whites, and they saw slaveholding as a way to become more equal with their white counterparts.

An important fourth and final factor in black slaveholding was the economic profitability of using slaves to work in jobs and businesses owned by “free persons of color.”  “In a society that vested the ownership of one many in another, slaves represented another form of property held by free blacks.” (Powers, 1994, 39)  Early on in the colony of South Carolina, mulattoes were often trained as artisans and were able to earn the money to purchase slaves by working.  They were commercial masters who aligned themselves with the white majority in order to preserve the system of slavery. (Koger, 1985, 30)   As this practice progressed, the black slaveholders often had the same incentives as whites to own slaves.” TEACHING US HISTORY

DESPITE THE DEATHS OF 600,000 MEN IN THE CIVIL WAR SLAVERY DID NOT END ON THE CONTINENT. Native Americans had to be forced to give up slavery:

EUROPEAN SLAVERS CAME LATE TO THE GAME AND GOT OUT EARLY.  If you don’t know who William Wilberforce is you should: “He was only five feet tall and rather homely, by most accounts, but William Wilberforce had a smooth and powerful way of speaking. It wasn’t easy, but this Christian politician managed to talk the British Empire into abolishing slavery.” WILLIAM WILBERFORCE vs. SLAVERY

Westerners saw their slaves as an investment (still gross) but not as throwaway tools. Here’s an excerpt from a story on modern slavery comparing the going price for a modern slave to one in 19th century US:

“I live in New York — a three-hour flight down to Port au Prince, Haiti, and an hour from the airport — I was able to negotiate for a 10-year-old girl for cleaning and cooking, permanent possession and sexual favors. What do you think the asking price was?

TM: I don’t know … $7,500?

BS: They asked for $100, and I talked them down to $50. Now to put that in context: Going back to the time when my abolitionist ancestors were on their soapbox, in 1850, you could buy a healthy grown male for the equivalent of about $40,000.

TM: When I first read such big numbers, I was shocked.

BS: This is not to diminish the horrors that those workers would face, nor to diminish their dehumanization one bit. It was an abomination then as it is today. But in the mid-19th century, masters viewed their slaves as an investment.” READ MORE ABOUT THE MODERN SLAVE TRADE HERE: THERE ARE MORE SLAVES TODAY THAN AT ANY TIME IN HUMAN HISTORY

Here are 10 FACTS ABOUT THE ARAB SLAVE TRADE YOU DIDN’T REALLY WANT TO KNOW (preview: Black boys between the age of 8 and 12 had their scrotums and penises completely amputated to prevent them from reproducing. About six of every 10 boys  bled to death during the procedure, according to some sources, but the high price brought by eunuchs on the market made the practice profitable.)

THANK GOD FOR MEN LIKE WILBERFORCE right?

Now if you have the time I HIGHLY recommend you watch this illuminating video on the history of slavery. You make think you know all about it but I think you’ll be surprised. Only watch it if you want to think. 🙂  I may not agree with everything  in it but . . .well, you’ll see.

 

Slavery: Yesterday and Today

The institution of slavery was never a uniquely American thing. It’s a human thing. It’s a thing that each generation of humans must grapple with, but just as most Americans didn’t own slaves or even know slaves most of us in modern times fail to see the slavery all around us.

Some humans of every stripe like power. They go to the dark side. Evil exists in the hearts of men. All men. We choose. Daily.

Cotton was once king and demanded laborers in the field. Today sex and sneakers drive trade in humans. Let’s compare, shall we?

1. An estimated 29.8 million people live in modern slavery today

2. Slavery generates $32 billion for traffickers globally each year

3. Approximately 78% of victims are enslaved for labor, 22% of victims are enslaved for sex

4. 55% of slavery victims are women and girls

5. 26% of slaves today are children under the age of 18

6. An estimated 60,000 victims of slavery are enslaved in the United States.

  •  The 2013 Walk Free Global Slavery Index places U.S. at 134th out of 162 countries
  •  Rankings were determined based on three factors: a country’s estimated slavery prevalence by population, a measure of child marriage and a measure of human trafficking.

7. Iceland, Ireland and the United Kingdom tied for the ranking of 160 in the 2013 Global Slavery Index. However, even with the top ranking in the survey, these countries are not free from slavery. In the United Kingdom alone, there are an estimated 4,200 to 4,600 victims of slavery.

8. The country with the highest percentage of of its population in slavery is Mauritania with approximately 4% of the total population enslaved. This amounts to roughly 140,000 to 160,000 people enslaved — Mauritania’s total population is only a mere 3.8 million.

9. India has the largest number of slavery victims at a horrifying 14 million.

10. The top 10 per-capita slavery hot spots are:

Mauritania
Haiti
Pakistan
India
Nepal
Moldova
Benin
Cote d’Ivoire
Gambia
Gabon

***BORGEN PROJECT.ORG

END SLAVERY BY 2020

Modern_day_slavery
The face of modern slavery courtesy of Atlanta Black Star

 

OLD SLAVERY IN THE US:

“The level of slave exports grew from about 36,000 a year during the early 18th century to almost 80,000 a year during the 1780s.

The Angolan region of west-central Africa made up slightly more than half of all Africans sent to the Americas and a quarter of imports to British North America.

Approximately 11,863,000 Africans were shipped across the Atlantic, with a death rate during the Middle Passage reducing this number by 10-20 percent. As a result between 9.6 and 10.8 million Africans arrived in the Americas.

About 500,000 Africans were imported into what is now the U.S. between 1619 and 1807–or about 6 percent of all Africans forcibly imported into the Americas. About 70 percent arrived directly from Africa.

Well over 90 percent of African slaves were imported into the Caribbean and South America. Only about 6 percent of imports went directly to British North America. Yet by 1825, the U.S. had a quarter of blacks in the New World.

The majority of African slaves were brought to British North America between 1720 and 1780. (Average date of arrival for whites is 1890)

Comparisons

American plantations were dwarfed by those in the West Indies. About a quarter of U.S. slaves lived on farms with 15 or fewer slaves. In 1850, just 125 plantations had over 250 slaves.

In the Caribbean, Dutch Guiana and Brazil, the slave death rate was so high and the birth rate so low that they could not sustain their population without importations from Africa. Rates of natural decrease ran as high as 5 percent a year. While the death rate of U.S. slaves was about the same as that of Jamaican slaves, the fertility rate was more than 80 percent higher.

US slaves were further removed from Africa than those in the Caribbean. In the 19th century, the majority of slaves in the British Caribbean and Brazil were born in Africa. In contrast, by 1850, most U.S. slaves were third-, fourth-, or fifth generation Americans.

Demography

Slavery in the US was distinctive in the near balance of the sexes and the ability of the slave population to increase its numbers by natural reproduction.

Unlike any other slave society, the U.S. had a high and sustained natural increase in the slave population for a more than a century and a half.

In 1860, 89 percent of the nation’s African Americans were slaves; blacks formed 13 percent of the country’s population and 33 percent of the South’s population.

In 1860, less than 10 percent of the slave population was over 50 and only 3.5 percent was over 60.

The average age of first birth for slave women was around 20. Child spacing averaged about 2 years.

The average number of children born to a slave woman was 9.2–twice as many in the West Indies.

Most slaves lived in nuclear households consisting of two parents and children: 64 percent nuclear; 21 percent single parents; 15 percent non-family.

Mother-headed families were 50 percent more frequent on plantations with 15 or fewer slaves than on large ones. Smaller units also had a disproportionately large share of families in which the father and mother lived on different plantations for most of the week.

Average number of persons per household was 6.

Average age of women at birth of their first child was about 21.

Few slaves lived into old age. Between 1830 and 1860, only 10 percent of slaves in North America were over 50 years old.”

READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE

WPA PHOTOGRAPHS OF EX-SLAVES

Books I’ve Known And Loved

IMG_0001Of two minds. It’s how we live without crumbling into tears of frustration, terror and despair. We play mental games, don’t we? When I say “we” I mean slave owners and slave traders (past and present), black and white, vegetarians and trophy hunters.

Abraham Lincoln was just like the rest of us until he was sainted by assassination. Of two minds, he wrestled with slavery. Ambition isn’t always a bad thing for it gets a person out of their easy chair. It forces a person to declare something, to speak up–maybe the words and the ideas aren’t perfectly crystallized yet. Maybe a consensus hasn’t formed in the popular mind, but an ambitious person with moral qualms takes up the challenge knowing that even if he stumbles it’s better than sitting on the couch eating popcorn.

Better. Now there’s a word. It hardly means anything anymore. I’m surprised it’s not a banned word in public schools for it hints at meritocracy and superiority. And here is the mental game again: let’s pretend somethings aren’t painful. Let’s pretend that if we don’t like something it doesn’t exist.

Except for some outspoken and at times incredibly naive and hypocritical abolitionists most people in the North just preferred not knowing too much about the ins and outs of slavery. While most opposed it, it wasn’t their problem. Some may have read a few horror stories and congratulated themselves for being open enough and courageous enough to read the stories in their entirety.

I imagine if there was Facebook back in the day animal stories would go viral, celebrities would organize campaigns to save the Cecils in faraway lands. But would they allow themselves to watch an entire Planned Parenthood video? Would they watch a slave being whipped or beaten or raped? Would they pretend that slavery was like a clinical doctor’s office–clean and pain-free?

Or would they wrestle as Lincoln did with their own prejudices, fears and ignorance? Today in our tolerant and polite society how many of us are willing to be called vicious and mocking names for our beliefs? Let’s be honest with ourselves. How many of us would be willing to die for our beliefs or even be shunned for our beliefs? How many of us take the time to study what we think we already know because a talking head on TV or a blog told us it was so?

When I say “we” here I mean ME. In Africa the people wonder why we care more for an animal that they understand eats people than we do people. Our president chides African nations (in a  condescending way I find offensive) for selling albino body parts for rituals. Okay. I’m with him on that, but he’s of two minds isn’t he? There’s a big body parts controversy right here in the states.

When I felt the child I was told I had to abort or I’d die move inside me and when I saw the ultrasound they had to take before the operation I was of one mind: SAVE ME. I understand the fear, despair and embarrassment of believing the lie of exploding populations and a  life made easier without another baby to feed. I was poor and of an environmental mindset.

That baby haunts me still because I didn’t want her even before the health crisis. I want her now. (And yes it was most definitely a baby. I saw it and felt it).

I may lose my limited readership taking a stand here, but It’s impossible after watching bureaucrats chowing down lunch while callously discussing harvesting baby organs for thoughts not to crystallize. My heart had been wavering this summer about the foster care/adoption classes I took this spring. My life is peaceful and good here on the farm, but how can I not open my life up to the many families in crisis? How can I stay of two minds?

Some of you may wonder what this has to do with one of the best books ever written about antebellum America. This book requires an expansion of the mind. This book is an exercise. Yes, it’s thoroughly readable and full of anecdotes, but it’s more. It’s a study of the American mind and soul in all its wonderful and horrible complexity. David M. Potter spares no one, but he’s the rare soul who captures the difficulty of coming to one mind about things. He understands (and loves?) people.

Lincoln was an American man. Not a perfect man, but he took a stand and a chance. Here’s what Potter says about him:

David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis
David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis