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Slavery is a tough role, hard sell at Colonial Williamsburg says the headline in the Washington Post:
Even as Colonial Williamsburg and other historic sites have tried to do justice to the story of slavery and attract more minority visitors, they’ve sometimes had difficulty persuading black actors to take jobs interpreting enslaved figures.
Part of his job, Seals said, is to ensure that the actors remember that they are not who they interpret. “We’re taught to be detached from your character. Doing these roles really tests that hypothesis,” he said. “It’s not for everyone.”
The costumes can be psychologically problematic. So, too, can guests, who often aren’t sure how to respond when confronted with a shameful chapter of American history.
Sympathetic visitors to Williamsburg have been known to bump or block white actor-interpreters who are haranguing or otherwise mistreating enslaved black characters. Occasionally, they’ve grabbed prop guns or started to shout about fighting back.
Racist and demeaning comments aren’t uncommon. Willie Wright, a veteran actor-interpreter, said a child once asked him if he was a slave. When Wright said yes, the boy, who was white, demanded that Wright bring him a soda.
Colonial Williamsburg has struggled to fill one slavery role: that of a young, black male.
The position, a full-time job that pays between $13 and $18 an hour, has been open for two years, said Weldon, the organization’s director of historic area programming. “Some people turned us down because they didn’t want to portray an enslaved character.” Other sites in Virginia and Maryland have hit similar roadblocks.
…the increased emphasis on black history hasn’t helped position Colonial Williamsburg as a major destination for African American tourists.
In the late 1990s, African Americans accounted for just 4 percent of the site’s approximately 1 million annual visitors. Over the past few years, as overall paid attendance has dropped — it was just over 650,000 last year — the percentage of African American visitors has also fallen. By between 2 and 3 percent over the past few years, according to Colonial Williamsburg officials.
Read it all.
A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union (1861)
In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.
The hostility to this institution commenced before the adoption of the Constitution, and was manifested in the well-known Ordinance of 1787, in regard to the Northwestern Territory.
The feeling increased, until, in 1819-20, it deprived the South of more than half the vast territory acquired from France.
The same hostility dismembered Texas and seized upon all the territory acquired from Mexico.
It has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction.
It refuses the admission of new slave States into the Union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion.
It tramples the original equality of the South under foot.
It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union, and has utterly broken the compact which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.
It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst.
It has enlisted its press, its pulpit and its schools against us, until the whole popular mind of the North is excited and inflamed with prejudice.
It has made combinations and formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation in the States and wherever else slavery exists.
It seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better.
It has invaded a State, and invested with the honors of martyrdom the wretch whose purpose was to apply flames to our dwellings, and the weapons of destruction to our lives.
It has broken every compact into which it has entered for our security.
It has given indubitable evidence of its design to ruin our agriculture, to prostrate our industrial pursuits and to destroy our social system.
It knows no relenting or hesitation in its purposes; it stops not in its march of aggression, and leaves us no room to hope for cessation or for pause.
It has recently obtained control of the Government, by the prosecution of its unhallowed schemes, and destroyed the last expectation of living together in friendship and brotherhood.
Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England.
Our decision is made. We follow their footsteps. We embrace the alternative of separation; and for the reasons here stated, we resolve to maintain our rights with the full consciousness of the justice of our course, and the undoubting belief of our ability to maintain it.
The Episcopal Church of Virginia on the Civil War Home Front
Judith McGuire, a refugee from occupied Alexandria, attended St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond on the March 27, 1863, fast day. “The churches were all crowded with worshippers,” she reported, “who, I trust, felt their dependence on God in this great struggle.”
McGuire’s comments begin to show the extent to which Virginia’s and the Confederacy’s leaders succeeded in framing the Civil War as a religious struggle. …
White churchmen who believed that they were engaged in a holy war sometimes feared that Virginians might not be righteous enough to succeed. … Clerics tried to address this fatalistic turn of white Southern religiosity by arguing that God chastened his chosen people—and that suffering was thereby a sign of white Southerners’ special relationship with God, not of their pending defeat. In a widely published sermon in January 1865, Episcopalian Charles Minnigerode preached that “[t]he might and power which our enemies bring against us, are not the might and power of God’s spirit, we may be sure—except so far as they are permitted to chasten us for our sins and train us for the hardships of a godly warfare.”
The Rev. Charles Minnigerode DD preached that sermon at St. Paul’s Episcopal, Richmond on January 1, 1865. Richmond falls in April of 1865.
More from the sermon:
Is it not want of faith, which is the root of all that murmuring against God’s providence, that impatience at delay and the frustration of our plans, that repining under the pressure of misfortunes and losses and reverses? of that hasty spirit which charges our losses upon others, and finds relief in censure and distrust? which acts upon the impulse of the moment and forms its conclusions from the passing events of the day, judges of the favour of God by a success and of his displeasure by a reverse? which allows itself to be tossed about by changes which meet us in our earthly life, and rushes with equal thoughtlessness or recklessness–now into presumption on the crest of a prosperous wave–again into utter despondency, aye sinks down in despair, when the billows rise above us and seem ready to swallow us up.
And instead of falling into despair, and giving up and sacrificing all in pusillanimity or personal spite, manly action, which meets the stern reality with courage and, in reliance on God’s help, and trusting to his mercy, begirts itself to the work before him, and redeems the time by using every lawful means and making every reasonable exertion to do his duty and accomplish his purpose. Such, I say, are the marks of the true man, of the Christian, of the believer; who shall not make haste, but persevere under trials and against difficulties till his work is done; and who can never fail–even though here on earth he should find no other triumph but the martyr’s crown.
This is the true lesson of life, the secret of our failure or success, our victory or defeat in the problem of our existence. …
What is it that makes the present crisis so painful?
Our reverses? NO, BRETHREN. For great as they have been, (and no honest man would hide their extent,) we have had reverses before, and God always has blessed them to us, made them the source of greater harmony among ourselves, roused us to new and greater exertions, and taught us to bear them and repair them as men. What makes the present crisis so painful and so perilous lies not in what the enemy has done to us with his armies, but in what our own coward, faithless, selfish hearts may do. The all but general despondency, the lack of faith in ourselves and in God’s assistance, the haste with which, from want of faith, many would rush to this or that wild expedient, though at the sacrifice of all that first armed us to the battle, some perhaps at the sacrifice of honour and truth…
… Let us do our duty, be faithful in our work, and we can safely leave results with God! The might and power which our enemies bring against us, are not the might and power of God’s Spirit, we may be sure–except so far as they are permitted to chasten us for our sins and train us for the hardships of a godly warfare. Trust in his Spirit and in his might and gracious promises; and that trust shall buoy us up to do our part in the work of our deliverance and independence. Oh! when I recollect what others have done in the struggle for their liberty and existence, the sacrifices they have brought….
… How true are the words of the present Governor of South Carolina, when in his Inaugural he said: “Other nations, for lesser purposes, have striven longer, endured more than we have, and won for themselves imperishable honour. Let us not hesitate in our purpose, or falter in its execution.” Aye, Brethren, no nation ever gained its freedom without suffering; and had we time to refer to the facts of history, we could easily show how true it is that others have suffered more and struggled longer….
There have been many whose great stimulant was not the principle of national freedom and the sacred cause of constitutional and inalienable rights, but the aspiration for wealth and power and a great new empire. But “pride goeth before a fall”–can we wonder that such a fall should overtake us? But shall we be cast down and not rather take it as a solemn, painful lesson to profit by, and be led to the true and only foundation of all right and hope and prosperity? Shall it be said of us, that “we begun to build and were not able to finish?’
The question resolves itself into this: Shall we be of the number of those who, in the crucible of affliction, were found wanting, and proved themselves unworthy of the prize they fought for? or, shall we be of those who, through trials and fiery persecution, endured and glorified God, and honoured themselves and blessed their country by remaining faithful, and in every danger proved themselves true men, brave men, Christian heroes?
Errors, grave errors have been committed, no doubt. Only let us acknowledge the hand of God even there, even in our failures; and let us remember that the great error, the great difficulty is in us, in ourselves, in our own faithless hearts, and sinful lives, and selfish fears, and hasty judgments; and oh! I do pray and hope that God will have mercy upon us, and give us better minds and stout hearts and unfailing faith, that shall not make haste, that shall win the prize. But if we fall, let us fall with our faces upward, our hearts turned to God, our hands in the work, our wounds in the breast, with blessings–not curses–upon our lips; and all is not lost! We have retained our honor, we have done our duty to the last, and lived and died as the servants of God, lived in faith and died in the hope of glory.
Another in a series drawing on @TodayinVa from Encylopedia Virginia.
The Westmoreland County slave plot compelled lawmakers to create a series of restrictions aimed at preventing further conspiracies. On July 26, 1690, Virginia lieutenant governor Francis Nicholson issued a proclamation ordering that the 1680 act be publicly read at all county courts and parish churches every six months. The following year, on April 3, 1691, the General Assembly passed “An act for suppressing outlying slaves,” which granted county sheriffs, their deputies, and any other “lawfull authority” the ability to kill any slaves resisting, running away, or refusing to surrender themselves when so ordered. For each slave killed in this manner, owners would collect 4,000 pounds of tobacco from the colonial government. The act further sought to prevent the “abominable mixture and spurious issue” of mixed-race unions by prohibiting English men or women from marrying any “negroe, mulatto, or Indian man or woman bond or free.”
As the first conspiracy in British North America not involving white supporters or participants, the Westmoreland plot confirmed long-held fears among planters while provoking new ones. Their concerns were now focused more sharply on enslaved African Americans, helping to show how Africanized the colony’s labor force had become since the Servants’ Plot of 1663. Servitude in Virginia had become a condition largely dictated by race, and, in the future, servile revolts would be planned and executed almost exclusively by blacks. Indeed, until John Brown‘s raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859, white support for slave revolts in Virginia was minimal at best.
Emphasis added. Parish churches means Church of England parishes, the precursor to The Episcopal Church. As the established church it was an instrument of the government of the time.
Read it all at EncyclopediaVirginia.org
I am descended from Chiltons who had large landholdings in Westmoreland during this time.
June 19th celebrates the day in 1865 when word reached slaves in Texas.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
General Granger read General Order, Number 3 to the people of Galveston:
See our previous post, Mapping Emancipation.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, born this in date in 1811, followed her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), with her nonfiction book A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1853). She explains the reason for writing A Key:
At different times, doubt has been expressed -whether the representations of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” are a fair representation of slavery as it at present exists…. The writer acknowledges that the book is a very inadequate representation of slavery; and it is so, necessarily, for this reason,— that slavery, in some of its workings, is too dreadful for the purposes of art. A work which should represent it strictly as it is would be a work which could not be read. And all works which ever mean to give pleasure must draw a veil somewhere, or they cannot succeed.
William Meade (1789-1862) was elected Assistant bishop of Virginia in 1829. He became the third bishop of Virginia at the death of Bishop Moore in 1841 and served as diocesan until own death in 1862.
Stowe and Meade intersect in A Key. In A Key we do not see the Meade who was troubled by slavery, who implored his recalcitrant clergy to evangelize the enslaved and who was a leading member of the American Colonization Society. Meade’s portrait is not as simple as that. Meade was a prolific writer and this is the Meade that Stowe knows. She writes,
Concerning the absolute authority of the master, take the following extract from Bishop Mead’s sermon. (Brooke’s Slavery, pp. 30. 31, 32.)
Having thus shown you the chief duties you owe to your great Master in heaven, I now come to lay before you the duties you owe to your masters and mistresses here upon earth; and for this you have one general rule that you ought always to carry in your minds, and that is, to do all service for them as if you did it for God himself. Poor creatures! you little consider, when you are idle and neglectful of your masters’ business, when you steal and waste and hurt any of their substance, when you are saucy and impudent, when you are telling them lies and deceiving them; or when you prove stubborn and sullen, and will not do the work you are set about without stripes and vexation; you do not consider, I say, that what faults you are guilty of towards your masters and mistresses are faults done against God himself, who hath set your masters and mistresses over you in his own stead, and expects that you will do for them just as you would do for Him. And, pray, do not think that I want to deceive you when I tell you that your masters and mistresses are God’s overseers; and that, if you are faulty towards them, God himself will punish you severely for it in the next world, unless you repent of it, and strive to make amends by your faithfulness and diligence for the time to come; for God himself hath declared the same.
Now, from this general rule, — namely, that you are to do all service for your masters and mistresses as if you did it for God himself, — there arise several other rules of duty towards your masters and mistresses, which I shall endeavor to lay out in order before you.
And, in the first place, you are to be obedient and subject to your masters in all things.
And Christian ministers are commanded to “exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things, not answering them again, or gainsaying.” [Titus 2:9.] You see how strictly God requires this of you, that whatever your masters and mistresses order you to do, you must set about it immediately, and faithfully perform it, without any disputing or grumbling, and take care to please them well in all things. And for your encouragement he tells you that he will reward you for it in heaven; because, while you are honestly and faithfully doing your master’s business here, you are serving your Lord and Master in heaven. You see also that you aro not to take any exceptions to the behavior of your masters and mistresses; and that you are to be subject and obedient, not only to such as are good, and gentle, and mild, towards you, but also to such as may be froward, peevish, and hard. For you are not at liberty to choose your own masters; but into whatever hands God hath been pleased to put you, you must do your duty, and God will reward you for it.
. . . .
You are to be faithful and honest to your masters and mistresses, not purloining or wasting their goods or substance, but showing all good fidelity in all things…. Do not your masters, under God, provide for you? And how shall they be able to do this, to feed and to clothe you, unless you take honest care of everything that belongs to them? Remember that God requires this of you; and, if you are not afraid of suffering for it here, you cannot escape the vengeance of Almighty God, who will judge between you and your masters, and make you pay severely in the next world for all the injustice you do them here. And though you could manage so cunningly as to escape the eyes and hands of man, yet think what a dreadful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God, who is able to cast both soul and body into hell!
You are to serve your masters with cheerfulness, reverence, and humility. You are to do your masters” service with good will, doing it as the will of God from the heart, without any sauciness or answering again. IIow many of you do things quite otherwise, and, instead of going about your work with a good will and a good heart, dispute and grumble, give saucy answers, and behave in a surly manner! There is something so becoming and engaging in a modest, cheerful, good-natured behavior, that a little work done in that manner seems better done, and gives far more satisfaction, than a great deal more, that must be done with fretting, vexation, and the lash always held over you. It also gains the good will and love of those you belong to, and makes your own life pass with more ease and pleasure. Besides, you are to consider that this grumbling and ill-will do not affect your masters and mistresses only. They have ways and means in their hands of forcing you to do your work, whether you are willing or not. But your murmuring and grumbling is against God, who hath placed you in that service, who will punish you severely in the next world for despising his commands.
A very awful query here occurs to the mind. If the poor, ignorant slave, who wastes his master’s temporal goods to answer some of his own present purposes, be exposed to this heavy retribution, what will become of those educated men, who, for their temporal convenience, make and hold in force laws which rob generation after generation of men, not only of their daily earnings, but of all their righte and privileges as immortal beings? Read the rest of this entry »
Emancipation did not begin or end during the Civil War with Lincoln’s Emancipation Declaration. This is the underlying message of a project of the University of Richmond, Visualizing Emancipation. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:
Edward L. Ayers, a historian and president of the University of Richmond, calls the emancipation of slaves during the Civil War “the least-understood social transformation in American history.” A new interactive map he helped build shows that emancipation didn’t occur in one moment, he says, but was “an unfolding,” happening from the very first years of the war to the very last. And, he adds, it happened because of African-Americans, not merely for them, or to them.
“Looking at the map, there’s no single event that you can point to and say, ‘Emancipation happened here,’” Mr. Ayers said. “But in the absence of the defining moment, you start to see patterns of how African-Americans helped the Union and followed the paths of the armies and fought for their own emancipation. Here, the emancipated people appear as key players in their own stories, not told through the eyes of someone else.”
Now that the map is published online, Mr. Ayers and Mr. Nesbit are inviting the public and members of other universities to contribute more information from primary texts. So far, they have received about 12 submissions.
From the earliest forays of the Union forces into the South, slaves used the opportunity to seek their freedom. And Union officers de facto emancipated slaves with the president’s approval:
Union troops in the field, meanwhile, were unsure what to do with African Americans who escaped slavery by crossing into Union lines. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 required that they be returned to their owners, and this is exactly what a Confederate colonel demanded when three of his slaves fled to Fort Monroe [Virginia] in May 1861. [General Benjamin F.] Butler ordered that because Virginia had seceded from the Union, its citizens could no longer claim the protection of U.S. laws. Furthermore, he argued, because these particular slaves had been helping to construct fieldworks, they should be considered “contraband of war” and defined as property with military value. Lincoln approved, and in August, Congress passed the First Confiscation Act. It declared free all slaves being used directly in the Confederate war effort. When another Union general, John C. Frémont, attempted to go further than that—on August 30, he ordered emancipated all Missouri slaves owned by active Confederates—he was overruled.
Like the Confiscation Act, the Emancipation Proclamation was not intended as a purely benevolent act towards the slaves. Lincoln calculated that the Northern electorate was ready to support the abolition of slavery in the South as a device to bring the war to a conclusion. The proclamation exempted the slave holding states not in the Confederacy. And it gave states in the Confederacy the same opportunity to be exempt if they quit the Confederacy by January 1, 1863.
Visualizing Emancipation cannot be appreciated without a visit to the website.
Added June 15, The Root: When Were Blacks Truly Freed From Slavery?
Though President Abraham Lincoln ended slavery with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, slaves in Texas had no knowledge of their freedom until two and a half years later. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston and declared the end of the Civil War, withGeneral Granger reading aloud a special decree that ordered the freeing of some 200,000 slaves in the state.
Because of the delay, many African Americans started a tradition of celebrating the actual day slavery ended on June 19 (also known as Juneteenth). But for some, their cheers were short-lived. Thanks to the South’s lucrative prison labor system and a deceptive practice called debt peonage, a kind of neo-slavery continued for some blacks long into the 1940s. The question then arises: When did African Americans really claim their freedom?
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II by Japanese troops, Roosevelt signed Circular No. 3591 (pdf), giving teeth to the Anti-Peonage Law of 1867, which criminalized the practice. Dispatching a federal investigation, Roosevelt’s team prosecuted guilty whites and effectively ended peonage in 1942. …
One of the projects the Committee on Race and Reconciliation has embarked upon is a study of slave ownership by the clergy of the Diocese. The study uses as its starting point the U.S. Census of 1860, and the companion Slave Schedules, matched with the list of clergy of the diocese in 1860. The diocese at the time covered all of present day Virginia and West Virginia.
There were some holes in our study, and today I went back to look for the Rev. Aristides Spyker Smith listed in the clergy directory as the Rev. Aristides Smith, Principal of the Norfolk Female Seminary, a private school not a theological seminary. We’d not previously found him in the 1860 U.S. Census, but today I did. Ancestry.com transcribes his first name as Austides which is perhaps why we’d located him before.
According to the census, the family lived in Norfolk County and Aristides was the head of household. His occupation is given as P.E. Clergyman and school teacher. Three other Smiths, all in their twenties, resided in the house. The two eldest were school teachers, both male. No occupation is given for the youngest, Ellen. The household also employed a white female servant, aged 16.
We’ve found most clergy in the Diocese of Virginia owned or rented at least one slave. These would not be listed by name on the U.S. Census, but rather listed under the owner’s name under the Slave Schedule. I have not found anyone on the Norfolk County Slave Schedule who is a likely or possible match with Aristides.
However, with a name as unusual as Aristides it pays to do surf the internet. It turns out that during his lifetime Aristides did rent and sell slaves:
Harrison and Smith family papers, 1857-2005
The Harrison and Smith family of Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina included Aristides Spyker Smith (1809-1892), an Presbyterian and Episcopal minister and principal of women’s schools in Virginia and Mississippi. Smith’s sons were Jonathan Reynolds (Johnnie) Smith (1836-1862) and Leonidas Wilkinson Smith (1835-1864). Also included was Smith’s daughter Ellen Alice Smith Harrison (b. 1840), her husband George Harrison (fl. 1852-1875), their daughter Sarah Walton Harrison (1868?-1891) and her husband Paul Garrett (1863-1940), and their son Aristides Smith Harrison (b. 1864) and his wife Katie Wilson Curtis, a daughter of George B. Curtis (1834-1920) of Biddeford, Maine, who traveled to Colorado in search of gold and adventure (ca. 1856), returning east and settling in Enfield, N.C. He opened a general store, and later a bank and a cotton business.
… items include a southern business directory used by Aristides Smith as a scrapbook; tax-in-kind receipts from the Confederate government; receipts for the rental and sale of slaves; notebooks of Aristides Smith on mathematics and astronomy…
More about Aristides Spyker Smith:
- Obituary that appeared in the Obituary Record of Yale University 1892
- In his book, Declarations of Dependence: The Long Reconstruction of Popular Politics in the South, 1861-1908 (2010), Gregory P. Downs reports that as late as 1882 Smith “proclaimed that Southerners were still ‘His chosen people.'”
- Ashley Michelle Mays writes in her 2010 MA thesis “To Suffer in Silence”: Confederate Widows’ Grieving Processes After the Civil War (pdf), “Aristides Spyker Smith preached a sermon entitled “On Keeping the Heart,” which preserved Confederate virility in the hearts if not the actions of the South, nearly five times in 1866, but after that its use tapered dramatically.”