the world. Their friends endeavored to enable them through schools, churches and industries to embrace every opportunity to rise. These 2,255 Negroes accumulated, largely during this period, $209,000 worth of property, exclusive of personal effects and three churches valued at $19,000. Some of this wealth consisted of land purchased in Ohio and Indiana. Furthermore, in 1839 certain colored men of the city organized “The Iron Chest Company,” a real estate firm, which built three brick buildings and rented them to white men. One man, who a few years prior to 1840 had thought it useless to accumulate wealth from which he might be driven away, had changed his mind and purchased $6,000 worth of real estate. Another Negro, who had paid $5,000 for himself and family, had bought a home worth $800 or $1,000. A freedman, who was a slave until he was twenty-four years old, then had two lots worth $10,000, paid a tax of $40 and had 320 acres of land in Mercer County. Another, who was worth only $3,000 in 1836, had s
er heard of white men or Europeans, nor of the sea: and our subjection to the king of Benin was little more than nominal; for every transaction of the government, as far as my slender observation extended, was conducted by the chiefs or elders of the place. The manners and government of a people who have little commerce with other countries are generally very simple; and the history of what passes in one family or village may serve as a specimen of a nation. My father was one of those elders or chiefs I have spoken of, and was styled Embrenche; a term, as I remember, importing the highest distinction, and signifying in our language a mark of grandeur. This mark is conferred on the person entitled to it, by cutting the skin across at the top of the forehead, and drawing it down to the eye-brows; and while it is in this situation applying a warm hand, and rubbing it until it shrinks up into a thick weal across the lower part of the forehead. Most of the judges and senators were thus marked; my
erwards, we learned that a body of two hundred cavalry had crossed the Grand River for the purpose of attacking us. The men slept on their arms, but no attack was made. A week or two afterwards, I had occasion to visit New Orleans on business, and while there, heard a report that Plaquemine was “gobbled up” by the rebs. I was very much relieved on my return to find everything in statu quo. A raid shortly afterwards on Bayou Goula, a trading station a few miles below us, resulted in the destruction of considerable property, but no captures of prisoners.
On the twenty-fifth of May the gunboat 54 was sent to cruise on the river in our neighborhood, and it was a welcome reinforcement to our meagre numbers. On the twenty-eighth of May the cavalry of General Banks’ army, on their retreat from the Red River campaign, passed through our post, remaining a short time in our vicinity. Among them was a portion of our Third Rhode Island cavalry, and no hospitality ever gave greater mutual pleasure than tha
read the veil of silence over this painful past; but, while we are still gathering its evil aftermath, it is well enough that we do not forget the origin of so many of our civic problems.
When Douglass was ten years old, he was sent from the Lloyd plantation to Baltimore, to live with one Hugh Auld, a relative of his master. Here he enjoyed the high privilege, for a slave, of living in the house with his master’s family. In the capacity of house boy it was his duty to run errands and take care of a little white boy, Tommy Auld, the son of his mistress for the time being, Mrs. Sophia Auld. Mrs. Auld was of a religious turn of mind; and, from hearing her reading the Bible aloud frequently, curiosity prompted the boy to ask her to teach him to read. She complied, and found him an apt pupil, until her husband learned of her unlawful and dangerous conduct, and put an end to the instruction. But the evil was already done, and the seed thus sown brought forth fruit in the after career of the orator and leader of
ndsmen? It was not simply that of indifference or neglect. There was nothing negative about it.
They began, at the first, a systematic ignoring of the fact of intellect in this abased people. They undertook the process of darkening their minds.
“Put out the light, and then, put out the light!” was their cry for centuries. Paganizing themselves, they sought a deeper paganizing of their serfs than the original paganism that these had brought from Africa. There was no legal artifice conceivable which was not resorted to, to blindfold their souls from the light of letters; and the church, in not a few cases, was the prime offender.
Then the legislatures of the several states enacted laws and Statutes, closing the pages of every book printed to the eyes of Negroes; barring the doors of every school-room against them! And this was the systematized method of the intellect of the South, to stamp out the brains of the Negro!
It was done, too, with the knowledge that the Negro had brain p
e chattels personal in the hands of their owners and possessors, and their executors, administrators and assigns, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever. A slave is one who is in the power of a master to whom he belongs. The master may sell him, dispose of his person, his industry, and his labour. He can do nothing, possess nothing, nor acquire anything, but what must belong to his master. The slave is entirely subject to the will of his master, who may correct and chastise him, though not with unusual rigour, or so as to maim and mutilate him, or expose him to the danger of loss of life, or to cause his death. The slave, to remain a slave, must be sensible that there is no appeal from his master.” Where the slave is placed by law entirely under the control of the man who claims him, body and soul, as property, what else could be expected than the most depraved social condition? The marriage relation, the oldest and most sacred institution given to man by his Creator, is unknown and unr
the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as a colleague of Lee Nichols on some of that reporter’s civil rights investigations, also contributed generously of his talents and lent his support in the early days of my work. Finally, I am grateful for the advice of my colleague Ronald H. Spector at several key points in the preparation of this history.
I have received much help from archivists and librarians, especially the resourceful William H. Cunliffe and Lois Aldridge (now retired) of the National Archives and Dean C. Allard of the Naval Historical Center. Although the fruits of their scholarship appear often in my footnotes, three fellow researchers in the field deserve special mention: Maj. Alan M. Osur and Lt. Col. Alan L. Gropman of the U.S. Air Force and Ralph W. Donnelly, former member of the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Center. I have benefited from our exchange of ideas and have had the advantage of their reviews of the manuscript.
I am especially grateful for the generous assistance of my ed
Bles Alwyn, seeking formal education to improve himself, is captivated by Zora, a vivacious, independent woman living outside society. Her shocking past and his ambivalence about how a black man should integrate into American society, drive Bles to pursue a political career in Washington where he meets successful African Americans — and falls in love — but he ultimately recoils from the hypocrisies and is compelled to return to Alabama and the mysterious swamp where Zora lives.
thousand gone before and the hopes of thousands to come. In her imagination the significance of these half dozen gleaming buildings perched aloft seemed portentous–big with the destiny not simply of a county and a State, but of a race–a nation–a world. It was God’s own cause, and yet–
“Bang! bang! bang!” again went the hard knuckles down there at the front.
Miss Smith slowly arose, shivering a bit and wondering who could possibly be rapping at that time in the morning. She sniffed the chilling air and was sure she caught some lingering perfume from Mrs. Vanderpool’s gown. She had brought this rich and rare-apparelled lady up here yesterday, because it was more private, and here she had poured forth her needs. She had talked long and in deadly earnest. She had not spoken of the endowment for which she had hoped so desperately during a quarter of a century–no, only for the five thousand dollars to buy the long needed new land. It was so little–so little beside what this woman squan