Tag Archives: culture

Upcoming Conversations about History

Dear Readers,

September looks to be a busy month. I’m planning to travel for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia to do a timeline event in mid-September. I’ll report back on the details of this event once I return.

However, there are other things that I’ve agreed to do and wish to make you aware of, especially for the Virginia readers.

On Saturday, September 21st, I will be giving a presentation that I keep returning to: “Diamonds, Education, Emancipation, and Race: The Family of Silas Omohundro”. This presentation will be at the Museum of the Confederacy located at 1201 E. Clay Street, Richmond, Virginia. Parking is free with validation at the Medical College of Virginia’s parking deck located adjacent to the Museum. The presentation lasts an hour from 11-12. I will plan on speaking for about 45 minutes to leave time for questions and comments. This presentation usually leaves everyone a little stunned for a moment but then opens up interesting dialogue about the construction of race and the slave trade in pre-Civil War America. I want to thank Cathy Wright (fellow UNCG alum) for coming to hear my presentation earlier this year and inviting me to do this. I can only echo what has been said many times…this isn’t your grandfather’s centennial commemoration of the American Civil War. The cost is included with Museum admission. More information about the admission cost can be found here.

Also on Thursday and Friday, September 26-27, the Joseph Roberts Jenkins Center at Norfolk State University and the Hampton History Museum are hosting a conference focusing on 1619: The Making of America on September 26-27, 2013.  This conference will focus on new questions of biology, literature, law, society, race and gender. 

The conference will take place at the Hampton Roads Convention Center on Thursday, September 26, 2013 and at Norfolk State University’s New Student Center on Friday, September 27th.  Each day will feature different scholarly and community leaders speaking on a variety of issues that faced Native Americans, Europeans and Africans in Virginia and beyond.

On Friday, the 27th at 11AM, I will be in a panel with Robert Watson and Michael Cobb. I will speak about interpreting the experiences of enslaved and free and then freed blacks in mid-19th century America. I envision the session will feature a lively discussion about the successes, failures, and challenges on presenting the myriad of actions and feelings of people of African descent during this period.

Additionally, later that evening I will be doing a first-person presentation about Private Peter Churchwell of the 23rd United States Colored Troops. Churchwell’s life began with him as the property of the Gordon family of Orange County, Virginia but he escaped from slavery in 1862, enlisted in 1864, was captured in the Battle of the Crater in July 1864, survived a second round of enslavement and became a citizen in a turbulent late-19th century America.

The conference fees include $40 per day or $75 for 2 days. Evening sessions are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. You can learn more about the conference at http://www.1619makingofamerica.com/.

I’ll hope to see old friends and meet new people at both of these events!

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150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

I apologize for the lack of posts of late. However, quantity over quality has always been a motto of mine (except I’d prefer to have a quantity of trillions of dollars; but we can’t all have what we want).

Today, January 1, 2013, is a historic day. It has been 150 years since Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Abraham Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation / The Strobridge Lith. Co., Cincinnati, 1888 lithograph. Original image at the Library of Congress.

The National Archives exhibited the original document Sunday, December 30, 2012-January 1, 2013. There were other programs there in December and some others coming later in January.

The Emancipation Proclamation perhaps was best summed up by former slave turned abolitionist-writer/orator, Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass, circa 1850


“THE first of January, 1863, was a memorable day in the progress of American liberty and civilization. It was the turning-point in the conflict between freedom and slavery. A death-blow was given to the slaveholding rebellion. Until then the federal arm had been more than tolerant to that relic of barbarism. It had defended it inside the slave States; it had countermanded the emancipation policy of John C. Fremont in Missouri; it had returned slaves to their so-called owners; it had threatened that any attempt on the part of the slaves to gain their freedom by insurrection, or otherwise, should be put down with an iron hand; it had even refused to allow the Hutchinson family to sing their anti-slavery songs in the camps of the Army of the Potomac; it had surrounded the houses of slaveholders with bayonets for their protection….”

 

Much has been made about Lincoln’s motivations. Be not confused, Lincoln was opposed to slavery. Being opposed to slavery did not make him a racial equality person throughout his whole life. However, by the release of this Emancipation Proclamation, much about Lincoln’s feelings regarding enslaved people and their immediate future (at least) had been altered.

Lincoln’s final draft of the Emancipation Proclamation was something different in American political discourse and in Lincoln’s own thought process for this document (points I summarize from Eric Foner’s book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (W.W. Norton & Co., 2010):

  • The proclamation did not seek slave owners’ cooperation in emancipation.
  • There was no mention of loyal versus disloyal owners.
  • It was immediate and offered no financial compensation for the slaveholders.
  • There was no mention of colonization or action from the specific states.
  • For the first time really in American history, the Federal government would actively seek, train, uniform, train, and arm black soldiers. This is an often ignored portion of the document but by the end of the Civil War, of the approximately, 179,000 black men who served in United States Colored Troop regiments or in the few state regiments of black men, some 150,000 were former slaves (the remainder being free-born persons from North and South).

So with this in mind, I encourage all my readers to take a re-read of the Emancipation Proclamation (which you can find here along with the preliminary draft, a former slave’s interview, and a thoughtful commentary from the respected and revered historian John Hope Franklin.)

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