Tag Archives: Civil War

The Journey to Emancipation: the Germantown Protest, 1688


NMAAHC -- National Museum of African American History and Culture

Lonnie Bunch, museum director, historian, lecturer, and author, is proud to present A Page from Our American Story, a regular on-line series for Museum supporters. It will showcase individuals and events in the African American experience, placing these stories in the context of a larger story — our American story.A Page From Our American Story“Pray, what thing in the world can be done worse towards us, than if men should rob or steal us away, and sell us for slaves to strange countries; separating housbands (sic) from their wives and children.” — from The Germantown Protest (against slavery).

In 1565, the Spanish colony of St. Augustine, in what is now Florida, became the first permanent European settlement in North America. Among the settlement’s population were some of the first enslaved Africans brought to the New World.

The first permanent settlement of African slaves in British Colonial North America arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, via a Dutch slave trading ship in 1619. It wasn’t long before the American colonies found themselves economically dependent on slave trading and enslaved labor.

Emancipation Proclamation Reproduction
Reproduction of the Emancipation
Proclamation at the National Underground
Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

More than two hundred years later, on January 1, 1863, in the midst of our civil war, Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation would free slaves in the rebellious southern states. The Proclamation, along with the voices and actions of individuals such as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, William Lloyd Garrison, and others, would ultimately lead to the passage of the 13th Amendment two years later, ending slavery in the United States and freeing nearly four million African Americans.

Reaching that milestone, however, was a long, painful, and bloody process. One of the earliest recorded actions toward ending slavery was taken by a small group of Quakers in Germantown, Pennsylvania Colony, in 1688.

Before slavery truly became institutionalized in the colonies, some Africans were sometimes treated more like indentured servants who were freed once their service ended or debt had been paid, a practice employed at times by various early Dutch and Spanish explorers and settlers. However, this changed dramatically in 1641 when Massachusetts became the first British mainland colony to legalize slavery. From that time forward, colonial slave laws became more restrictive, further codifying the institution.

Not everyone was blind to slavery’s immorality. Although slavery played a major role in the economy of colonial Rhode Island, there were some who tried to temper the practice with a 1652 law that placed restrictions on slave owning and prohibited enslavement of any person for more than 10 years. However, the effect was limited. Slave holders simply sold anyone nearing the deadline and took ownership of new slaves, thus continuing the cycle.

3b43018r.jpg
Bas-relief portrait of Francis Daniel Pastorius,
c. 1897. From the Library of Congress.

In 1688, Francis Daniel Pastorius, and three of his fellow Quakers, drafted the first, formal anti-slavery resolution in America. The resolution raised objections to slavery on both moral and practical grounds during a period when Pennsylvania Quakers were nearly unanimous in their acceptance of the practice.

The decree is referred to as “The Germantown Protest,” or “1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery.” It articulated themes of justice and equality that would be echoed throughout the long, painful period of slavery in America.

The authors’ premise was based on the biblical “Golden Rule” — treat others as you wish to be treated. Additionally, the authors recognized that colonial slave treatment mirrored the persecution Quakers had seen in Europe, and, to an extent, in the colonies.

“There is a saying, that we should do to all men like as we will be done ourselves; making no difference of what generation, descent, or colour (sic) they are… To bring men hither [to America], or to rob and sell them against their will, we stand against.”

Sadly, “The Germantown Protest” did not spark a significant change in the Americas against slavery. Even within Quaker communities the declaration was ignored, at least initially. But a seed had been planted. A belief shared silently by many was given voice.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. While it is tempting to view the Proclamation solely through the lens of Civil War events, in order to grasp the full context and importance of Lincoln’s decision, we must examine the issue of slavery in the North American colonies from its beginnings. From the Spanish colony in St. Augustine, to the first Dutch ship sailing into Jamestown, and to the Civil War waged to end it, slavery was a 300-plus year institution in America, leaving scars, fortunes, and repercussions we deal with still today.

dd-enews-temp-lonnie-bunch-2.jpg All the best,

Lonnie Bunch
Director

P.S. We can only reach our $250 million goal with your help. I hope you will consider making a donation or becoming a Charter Member today.

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Meet Mimi Smith: African American FH Player who played on the US National Team


Sports Life!

about_tamika7

I wanted to write and talk about black African Americans as field hockey players. As a young African American girl, I really had no one (as the same color) to look up to; besides my sister that is.  I went into Google one day and looked up “African American Field Hockey Players”, thus falling upon the great Mimi Smith.

It’s not uncommon and certainly obvious that there are not many black women who participate in field hockey and that it is said to be a “white” sport. I definitely beg to differ and am for the change of incorporating more field hockey into black schools and neighborhoods. And the reason I say this is possible is because of people like Mimi Smith.

Picking up a field hockey stick by accident one day, and realizing that she loved the sport is something that most field hockey players share in common. But…

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The March on Washington by Linda Lacina …Black History is American History


Slideshow: Inspiring Words From the March on Washington

                                                            image credit: Walter P. Ruther Library

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. made his now legendary “I Have a Dream” speech.

That event on Aug. 28, 1963, drew 200,000 people to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to press for issues that are just as relevant today, including civil liberties and a rise in the minimum wage. This week’s milestone gives us a chance to reacquaint ourselves with the great steps taken at this event as well as the inspiring words spoken and sung on that historic day. Below is a selection of inspiring excerpts from that day’s speeches and performances.

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Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker, the world-renowned singer and actress, had long since adopted France as her homeland and had even joined the French Resistance. Still, she was an active supporter of the American civil rights movement and was the only woman to address the crowd at the National Mall. An excerpt of her remarks is below.

“You know, friends, that I do not lie to you when I tell you I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad. And when I get mad, you know that I open my big mouth. And then look out, ’cause when Josephine opens her mouth, they hear it all over the world.”

John Lewis
John Lewis

John Lewis, currently a U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district, was 23 at the time of the March on Washington and the youngest speaker to come to the podium. He represented the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee as its chairman and was one of the original “big six” organizers of the march. An excerpt is below.

“To those who have said, “Be patient and wait,” we must say that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually but we want to be free now. We are tired. We are tired of being beat by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again, and then you holler ‘Be patient.’ How long can we be patient? We want our freedom and we want it now.”

For a full transcript and audio, visit Open Vault.

Walter P. Reuther

Walter P. Reuther

                                                            image credit: Nate Fine

Walter P. Reuther, the UAW president, was no stranger to the era’s civil rights rallies. He’d accompanied Martin Luther King Jr. to events including one in Alabama where the crowd was doused by the police with fire hoses and King was placed in jail. After the demonstration, Reuther bailed him out.

Many civil rights mobilizers were labor activists and the UAW let planners for the March on Washington work out of its union halls and even paid for the event’s sound system. Below is an excerpt from Reuther’s remarks.

“I am for civil rights, as a matter of human decency, as a matter of common morality. But I am also for civil rights because I believe that freedom is an indivisible value that no one can be free unto himself. And when Bull Connor with his police dogs and fire hoses destroys freedom in Birmingham, he is destroying my freedom in Detroit. And let us keep in mind, since we are the strongest of the free nations of the world, since you cannot make your freedom secure, accepting as we make freedom universal, so all may enjoy its blessings, let us understand that we cannot defend freedom in Berlin, so long as we deny freedom in Birmingham.”

For a full transcript and audio, visit Open Vault.

James Farmer

James Farmer

                                                            image credit: jamesfarmerlectures.umwblogs.org

James Farmer was a prominent activist who organized the first 1961 Freedom Ride for desegregation and founded the Committee for Racial Equality. Like many protesters, Farmer was often arrested for his activist work and could not attend the March on Washington because he had been imprisoned for “disturbing the peace” in Plaquemine, La. In his absence, Floyd McKissick, the National Chairman of the Congress on Racial Equality, read Farmer’s prepared remarks. An excerpt is below.

“By marching on Washington, your trampin’ feet have spoken the message, the message of our struggle in Louisiana. You have given notice of the struggles of our people in Mississippi and Alabama too, and in California, and in New York, and Chicago, and in Brooklyn. You have come from all over the nation, and in one mighty voice, you have spoken to the nation.

You have also spoken to the world. You have said to the world by your presence here, as our successful direct action in numberless citizens has said that in the age of thermal nuclear bombs, violence is outmoded to the solution of the problems of men.”

A full transcript can be found in the archives at The King Center.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez

                                                            image credit: National Archives and Records Administration

Singers Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were both prominent in the Civil Rights movement and performed a number of folk songs at the march. As a solo, Dylan performed his then unreleased Only a Pawn in Their Game, about the assassination of activist Medgar Evans.

Below is an excerpt from “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” performed by Baez and Dylan with its songwriter, Len Chandler.

“Got my hand on the freedom plow
Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on!”

Watch the performance on this compilation video at the 16:30 mark. 

Mahalia Jackson
Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson was considered the greatest gospel singer in the world in her time. She was active in the civil rights movement performing at events that served as percursors to the March on Washington, including the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in 1957 where the above photo was taken. She addressed the crowd at the March on Washington with two songs, “I’ve Been ‘Buked, and I’ve Been Scorned” and “How I Got Over,” an excerpt of which is below.

“Coming from the north, south, east, and west
On their way to a land of rest
Lord, we gonna join the heavenly choir
We gon’ sing and never get tired”

To watch video of the performance, refer to this YouTube video.

Rabbi Joachim Prinz

Rabbi Joachim Prinz

                                                            image credit: American Jewish Archives

Rabbi Joachim Prinz, who arrived in the U.S. after being expelled from Germany by the Nazi Government, became president of the American Jewish Congress and active in civil rights issues. He was a founding leader of the March on Washington and one of several religious leaders to speak at the Lincoln Memorial that day. He spoke just minutes before Martin Luther King Jr. took the podium. An excerpt is below.

“As Jews, we recall our own history of slavery, our own experience of life in the ghetto. Like the Negro, we learned that a proclamation of emancipation was not enough.To know freedom, we had to free ourselves. To enjoy the blessings of liberty we had to liberate ourselves.”

A full transcript can be read in the archives of The King Center. 

Eva Jessye Choir
Eva Jessye Choir

Eva Jessye was a composer and conductor who worked for Gertrude Stein and was the music director for George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. She used spirituals often in her work including at the March on Washington. An excerpt of the song Freedom that she and her choir performed that day is below.

[Chorus] Freedom is a thing worth singing about
Spread the message far and near

[Chorus] Freedom is a thing worth shouting about
The time is now. The place is here.

An excerpt of the perfomance can be seen on this complilation video at the 21:45 mark. 

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

                                                            image credit: Jeff Singer

Martin Luther King Jr. was a clergyman and civil rights leader who supported non-violent activism. Versions of his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington had been presented at other rallies, including one in Detroit just two months earlier. However, a prompting by Mahalia Jackson to “Tell them about the dream!” encouraged King to shift from his prepared remarks, contributing to what is arguably one of the most famous speeches in American history. An excerpt is below.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.”

For a full transcript of the speech and audio, refer to Open Vault.

Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin was instrumental in pulling together in less than eight weeks one of the largest protest marches of its time. His remarks at the March on Washington listed the event’s demands, such as school desegregation and a ban on housing discrimination, a list that would later be brought to President John F. Kennedy. Below is an excerpt of the pledge he asked event-goers to make to carry the movement’s momentum to their hometowns.

“I pledge that I will not relax until victory is won. I pledge that I will join and support all actions undertaken in good faith in accord with the time-honored Democratic tradition of non-violent protest, of peaceful assembly, and petition, and of redress through the courts and the legislative process.”

Refer to Open Vault for audio and a complete transcript of the speech.

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

Mays was the president of Morehouse College and a mentor to Martin Luther King Jr. He was also a minister and read the benediction, or blessing, at the event’s closing. An excerpt is below.

“In peace and in war thou hast blessed America as the nations of the earth look to the United States for moral and democratic leadership. May we not fail them, nor thee. Please God, in this moment of crisis and indecision give the United States wisdom, give her courage, give her faith to meet the challenge of this hour. Guide, teach, sustain and bless the United States, and help the weary travelers to overcome, someday soon. Amen.”

A complete transcript of the benediction can be found on Open Vault. 

Black History Month

On 1/31 ~ The House passes the 13th Amendment


Amendments 13-15 are called the Reconstruction Amendments both because they were the first enacted right after the Civil War and because all addressed questions related to the legal and political status of the African Americans.

On 1/31 in 1865, the U.S. House of Representatives passes the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in America. The amendment read, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude…shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

When the Civil War began, President Abraham Lincoln’s professed goal was the restoration of the Union. But early in the war, the Union began keeping escaped slaves rather than returning them to their owners, so slavery essentially ended wherever the Union army was victorious.

In September 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in areas that were still in rebellion against the Union. This measure opened the issue of what to do about slavery in border states that had not seceded or in areas that had been captured by the Union before the proclamation.

In 1864, an amendment abolishing slavery passed the U.S. Senate but died in the House as Democrats rallied in the name of states’ rights. The election of 1864 brought Lincoln back to the White House along with significant Republican majorities in both houses, so it appeared the amendment was headed for passage when the new Congress convened in March 1865. Lincoln preferred that the amendment receive bipartisan support–some Democrats indicated support for the measure, but many still resisted.

The amendment passed 119 to 56, seven votes above the necessary two-thirds majority. Several Democrats abstained, but the 13th Amendment was sent to the states for ratification, which came in December 1865. With the passage of the amendment, the institution that had indelibly shaped American history was eradicated

Amendments 13-15 are called the Reconstruction Amendments both because they were the first enacted right after the Civil War and because all addressed questions related to the legal and political status of the African Americans.

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5 Things You May Not Know About Lincoln, Slavery and Emancipation – Sarah Pruitt


slavery29.8MillionSeptember 22 marks the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, in which he declared that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in states in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
To commemorate the occasion, we invite you to consider some surprising facts about Lincoln’s views on slavery, and the complex process that led him to issue the document he later called “the central act of my administration, and the greatest event of the 19th century.
Depiction by Francis Bicknell Carpenter of Abraham Lincoln’s first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, in July 1862. It hangs in the U.S. Capitol.

1. Lincoln wasn’t an abolitionist.  Lincoln did believe that slavery was morally wrong, but there was one big problem: It was sanctioned by the highest law in the land, the Constitution. The nation’s founding fathers, who also struggled with how to address slavery, did not explicitly write the word “slavery” in the Constitution, but they did include key clauses protecting the institution, including a fugitive slave clause and the three-fifths clause, which allowed Southern states to count slaves for the purposes of representation in the federal government. In a three-hour speech in Peoria, Illinois, in the fall of 1854, Lincoln presented more clearly than ever his moral, legal and economic opposition to slavery—and then admitted he didn’t know exactly what should be done about it within the current political system.

Abolitionists, by contrast, knew exactly what should be done about it: Slavery should be immediately abolished, and freed slaves should be incorporated as equal members of society. They didn’t care about working within the existing political system, or under the Constitution, which they saw as unjustly protecting slavery and slave owners. Leading abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison called the Constitution “a covenant with death and an agreement with Hell,” and went so far as to burn a copy at a Massachusetts rally in 1854. Though Lincoln saw himself as working alongside the abolitionists on behalf of a common anti-slavery cause, he did not count himself among them. Only with emancipation, and with his support of the eventual 13th Amendment, would Lincoln finally win over the most committed abolitionists.

2. Lincoln didn’t believe blacks should have the same rights as whites. Though Lincoln argued that the founding fathers’ phrase “All men are created equal” applied to blacks and whites alike, this did not mean he thought they should have the same social and political rights. His views became clear during an 1858 series of debates with his opponent in the Illinois race for U.S. Senate, Stephen Douglas, who had accused him of supporting “negro equality.” In their fourth debate, at Charleston, Illinois, on September 18, 1858, Lincoln made his position clear. “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,” he began, going on to say that he opposed blacks having the right to vote, to serve on juries, to hold office and to intermarry with whites. What he did believe was that, like all men, blacks had the right to improve their condition in society and to enjoy the fruits of their labor. In this way they were equal to white men, and for this reason slavery was inherently unjust.

Like his views on emancipation, Lincoln’s position on social and political equality for African-Americans would evolve over the course of his presidency. In the last speech of his life, delivered on April 11, 1865, he argued for limited black suffrage, saying that any black man who had served the Union during the Civil War should have the right to vote.

3. Lincoln thought colonization could resolve the issue of slavery.  For much of his career, Lincoln believed that colonization—or the idea that a majority of the African-American population should leave the United States and settle in Africa or Central America—was the best way to confront the problem of slavery. His two great political heroes, Henry Clay and Thomas Jefferson, had both favored colonization; both were slave owners who took issue with aspects of slavery but saw no way that blacks and whites could live together peaceably. Lincoln first publicly advocated for colonization in 1852, and in 1854 said that his first instinct would be “to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia” (the African state founded by the American Colonization Society in 1821).

Nearly a decade later, even as he edited the draft of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in August of 1862, Lincoln hosted a delegation of freed slaves at the White House in the hopes of getting their support on a plan for colonization in Central America. Given the “differences” between the two races and the hostile attitudes of whites towards blacks, Lincoln argued, it would be “better for us both, therefore, to be separated.” Lincoln’s support of colonization provoked great anger among black leaders and abolitionists, who argued that African-Americans were as much natives of the country as whites, and thus deserved the same rights. After he issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln never again publicly mentioned colonization, and a mention of it in an earlier draft was deleted by the time the final proclamation was issued in January 1863.

4. Emancipation was a military policy.  As much as he hated the institution of slavery, Lincoln didn’t see the Civil War as a struggle to free the nation’s 4 million slaves from bondage. Emancipation, when it came, would have to be gradual, and the important thing to do was to prevent the Southern rebellion from severing the Union permanently in two. But as the Civil War entered its second summer in 1862, thousands of slaves had fled Southern plantations to Union lines, and the federal government didn’t have a clear policy on how to deal with them. Emancipation, Lincoln saw, would further undermine the Confederacy while providing the Union with a new source of manpower to crush the rebellion.

In July 1862 the president presented his draft of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet. Secretary of State William Seward urged him to wait until things were going better for the Union on the field of battle, or emancipation might look like the last gasp of a nation on the brink of defeat. Lincoln agreed and returned to edit the draft over the summer. On September 17 the bloody Battle of Antietam gave Lincoln the opportunity he needed. He issued the preliminary proclamation to his cabinet on September 22, and it was published the following day. As a cheering crowd gathered at the White House, Lincoln addressed them from a balcony: “I can only trust in God I have made no mistake … It is now for the country and the world to pass judgment on it.”

5. The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t actually free all of the slaves. Since Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation as a military measure, it didn’t apply to border slave states like Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, all of which had remained loyal to the Union. Lincoln also exempted selected areas of the Confederacy that had already come under Union control in hopes of gaining the loyalty of whites in those states. In practice, then, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t immediately free a single slave, as the only places it applied were places where the federal government had no control—the Southern states currently fighting against the Union.

Despite its limitations, Lincoln’s proclamation marked a crucial turning point in the evolution of Lincoln’s views of slavery, as well as a turning point in the Civil War itself. By war’s end, some 200,000 black men would serve in the Union Army and Navy, striking a mortal blow against the institution of slavery and paving the way for its eventual abolition by the 13th Amendment.

Black History Month