The American Indian at Hampton Institute, Virginia


This is an earlier blog post that has drawn a lot of interest:

Originally posted on Jubilo! The Emancipation Century:

“Louis Firetail (Sioux, Crow Creek), wearing tribal clothing, in American history class, Hampton Institute, Hampton, Virginia”; late 1890s. From the Library of Congress.

The grace, dignity, and poignancy of the photos in this blog entry belie a bitter memory for many Indigenous people: Indian boarding schools, such as the one at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, which is now called Hampton University.

The abolitionist Frederick Douglass, in response to a question he often heard from whites – “What shall we do with the Negro?” – said “Do nothing with us!” Leave us alone, he said… haven’t you done enough to us already?

Those comments were probably echoed by the American Indian of the day. The 1800s were a century long battle between Indigenous and European-descent peoples for American land. Whether destined or not, the European peoples would have the land, and control it from sea to sea by the end…

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Dick, sketched on the 6th of May, on return to camp

Dick in Camp in Virginia
This is a portrait of a young man in a Union Army camp during the Civil War, circa May 1863, in Virginia. He is probably a former slave who found work with the army. A high-resolution version of the image is here. The caption at the bottom of the picture reads “Dick Sketched on the 6th of May, the afternoon of Gen. Hookers retreat across the Rappahannock.” This was after the Battle of Chancellorsville, where forces led by Union General Joseph Hooker were beaten by Confederate forces led by Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

This picture is from the Prints and Photographs collection of the Library of Congress (LOC), and is titled “Dick, sketched on the 6th of May, on return to camp / E.F.” The drawing, of an African American man holding a mule by a rope, is by artist Edwin Forbes (1839-1895), and was done in May, 1863. The LOC Reproduction Numbers for the image are: LC-DIG-ppmsca-20539 (digital file from original item), LC-USZC4-4219 (color film copy transparency), LC-USZ62-21374 (b&w film copy neg.). The LOC Call Number is DRWG/US – Forbes, no. 64 (A size).

Links of Interest – May 8, 2015

I invite you to check out these sites which have some interesting stuff:

[1] Grand Review Parade Week is coming to Washington, DC

Starting on Friday, May, 15, 2015, a number events will be held in Washington DC to commemorate the Grand Review Parade that was held by the Union army in May 1865 to celebrate the end of the Civil War and the preservation of the Union. The activities will culminate with the reenactment of the Grand Review Parade on May 17, 2015. In the 1865 parade, African American soldiers were not participants. In a fitting tribute to those black soldiers, the parade on May 17 will include reenactors from African American regiments, as well as descendants of black Civil War soldiers, along with reenactors from other Union regiments from around the country.

Scene from the 1865 Grand Review Parade, from the website for the 2015 Grand Review Parade Week.

Details are at the website, Grand Review The theme for the activities is “Grand Review Parade Weekend: A New Birth of Freedom and Union.”

The African American Civil War Museum of Washington, DC, is a major co-sponsor of the event. The Museum has planned several activities, starting on Friday, May 15, which are noted here.

This should be great fun and education for all. I hope you all can make it to my hometown of Washington, DC, for these events.

[2] African American Military Portraits from the American Civil War

This video discusses a museum exhibit of portraits of African American soldiers who served during the Civil War. There is an interesting and poignant story about one black soldier who served in various capacities in other wars, even after reaching 70 years of age.

[3] African American Civil War Reenactors in North Carolina

The New & Observer website has an article by Martha Quillin titled “Civil War saga: Black re-enactors tell their side of the story.” James White of Wilmington, NC, who is the commander of an African American Civil War re-enactment group, is featured in the piece.

James White USCT North Carolina Reenactor
Civil War re-enactors James White, center, his son, Jayden, left, and James’ brother, Joseph White. Courtesy of James White
Image Source: News & Observer, article dated January 24, 2015.

[4] African American Doctors in the Civil War

The picture quality is not great, but this is an informative discussion of African American doctors in the mid-19th century and the role they played in the American Civil War. The speaker is Dr. Robert Slawson, an author and docent at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

[5] The Belated Burial of the Confederate Flag

Artist, activist, and mathematician John C. Sims is seeking to stage a multi-site event in the former Confederate States on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015, for “The Belated Burial of the Confederate Flag.” The event, which is “to take place simultaneously in 13 Southern states, at sites to be determined” is part of Sims’ “Recoloration Proclamation” project. Sims and his team are inviting “poets, artists, activists and community leaders to participate” in the event. This appears to be a flyer for the event:

Read more here: “Call for Artists: Be Part of John C. Sims’ The Belated Burial of the Confederate Flag,” from the Nashville Story and image both posted by Stephen Trageser.

Creole Hairstyles, circa 1860s

Image of an unidentified “Black Creole,” a free man of mixed African and European descent (also called a free man of color) from the New Orleans area in the 1860s.
Source: Image is from the site for the documentary Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans. Image is also seen here on Flickr.

Pgt_beauregard crop
Civil War era photograph of Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard. According to Wikipedia, Beauregard “was a Louisianan-born American military officer, politician, inventor, writer, civil servant, and the first prominent general of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. …(he) was born at sugar-cane plantation 20 miles outside New Orleans to a French Creole family…

“Trained as a civil engineer at the United States Military Academy, Beauregard served with distinction as an engineer in the Mexican-American War… after the South seceded he resigned from the United States Army and became the first brigadier general in the Confederate States Army. He commanded the defenses of Charleston, South Carolina, at the start of the Civil War at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Three months later he won the First Battle of Bull Run near Manassas, Virginia.”
Source: From Wikipedia Commons. This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 525441.

A dispossessed slave master: “I have always treated my negroes kindly. I supposed they loved me.”

From the Library of Congress:Title: The (Fort) Monroe Doctrine, 1861. On May 27, 1861, Benjamin Butler, commander of the Union army in Virginia and North Carolina, decreed that slaves who fled to Union lines were legitimate “contraband of war,” and were not subject to return to their Confederate owners. The declaration precipitated scores of escapes to Union lines around Fortress Monroe, Butler’s headquarters in Virginia. In this crudely drawn caricature, a slave stands before the Union fort taunting his plantation master. The planter (right) waves his whip and cries, “Come back you black rascal.” The slave replies, “Can’t come back nohow massa Dis chile’s contraban”
Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-36161; above image is from the Virginia Memory website.

The shooting war between the Union and the Confederacy – what we call the American Civil War – began in April 1861. The Union government made it clear at the beginning that abolition – freedom for the slaves – was not its goal; the goal was to preserve the Union. But almost immediately, the Union took acts which imperiled the institution, and ultimately destroyed it.

In May 1861, Union General Benjamin Franklin Butler, who was then commanding Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA, initiated the so-called “contraband policy.” This called for the confiscation of slaves who were used as laborers for the Confederate military. Eventually hundreds of slaves from the Hampton Roads area and even beyond would flee bondage to gain freedom in and around what would be called the “Freedom Fort.”

In 1864, James Parton wrote “General Butler in New Orleans,” a “History of the Administration of the Department of the Gulf in Year 1862, with an Account of the Capture of New Orleans, and a Sketch of the General, Civil and Military.” In this bio-text of Butler, a story is told of an unnamed slave master who lost all of his slaves after their escape to Fort Monroe. The dispossessed slave master goes to the Fort to see if he can get just one of those slaves – one particular slave – back in his possession.

The account of this slave master has a touch of schadenfreude to it. (“Schadenfreude” is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. The word is taken from German and literally means “harm-joy”. It is the feeling of joy or pleasure when one sees another fail or suffer misfortune.) The Union men who receive the master are clearly no fans of slavery or enslavers, and seem to find his situation more pathetic than sympathetic. They find an ironic humor in his situation that, understandably, he does not.

Meanwhile, it is clear that the owner is hurt, shaken, perhaps devastated by the departure and loss of his slaves. The slave patriarch says “I have always treated my negroes kindly. I supposed they loved me.” But just when the war “came home” to him in earnest, just when he needed his slaves the most, they abandoned him. Clearly, the master had feelings for at least some of his slaves that went beyond mere property ownership. He lost people that he cared for, and that he presumed cared for him. At the end of the story, the feelings of the master are written true: “He had fallen upon evil times.” Continue reading

Frederick Douglass on the late Abraham Lincoln

Frederick Douglass Appealing to President Lincoln by William Edouard Scott
This mural depicts Frederick Douglass asking President Abraham Lincoln to allow black soldiers to serve in the Union army during the Civil War. Gideon Welles, the Secretary of the Navy, and Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury, are the two men standing in the back. The image surely depicts a fictional event: although Lincoln and Douglass met three times at the White House, those meetings took place after Congress approved the use of blacks as soldiers in the Union armed forces.

On April 14, 1865, president Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth in Washington, DC. On April 15, Lincoln passed away, becoming the first president to be assassinated in office.

On April 14, 1876, Frederick Douglass, perhaps the most prominent African American of his time, gave an “Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln.” This was done in Washington, DC, at the unveiling of The Freedmen’s Monument which had been commissioned by African Americans to honor the late president.

Douglass’s speech remains one of the most thoughtful, critical, and honorific summaries of Lincoln’s role in achieving racial progress during his time in office.

Douglass says that Lincoln was the black man’s “friend” and “liberator,” and that “the name of Abraham Lincoln was near and dear to our hearts in the darkest and most perilous hours of the Republic.” But he also says Lincoln was “preeminently the white man’s President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men,” that “the race to which we belong were not the special objects of his consideration,” and that “truth compels me to admit, even here in the presence of the monument we have erected to his memory, Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man.”

Douglass eschewed simplicity in discussing Lincoln. Lincoln’s policies toward and relations with African American were complex, and in his long speech, Douglass laid out those complexities in detail.

But I think this one comment from that speech sums it up: “Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.”

Douglass understood that Lincoln was a man, a white man, of his times. But that is why Douglass was ultimately thankful for Lincoln, enough to see Lincoln as a hero for African Americans. Because despite his own prejudices, and those of the nation, Lincoln found cause to condemn slavery as evil, and to use the Civil War as a means to destroy the institution. Lincoln was a man of his times who rose above his times, to do something revolutionary. Douglass, and African Americans, were “appreciators of his benefits.”

Of special interest to me is the portion of the speech where Douglass says “under his rule, Lincoln did this” or “Lincoln did that.” (See the italicized text below.) To those who might claim Lincoln did little or nothing for the cause of African American freedom and advancement, and that Lincoln’s supporters were moved by “a blind and unreasoning superstition,” Douglass lists a bill of particulars, to use a phrase, about Lincoln’s achievements, a list that withstands the scrutiny of time.

I also found it interesting that in speaking of Lincoln’s humble origins, Douglass said that as “a son of toil himself, he was linked in brotherly sympathy with the sons of toil in every loyal part of the Republic.” Douglass seemed to feel that being a “common man,” Lincoln was uniquely poised to represent all working people, of any background, as he executed his duties.

These are excerpts from Douglass’s speech, and there is a lot of text here. We bloggers are sometimes told to avoid making posts with such length, as it may be too tedious for readers. But it has a lot to offer about how Douglass, and perhaps many other African Americans of the era, viewed the president. Enjoy the read:

Friends and Fellow-citizens:

I warmly congratulate you upon the highly interesting object (the Freedmen’s Monument in Lincoln Park, Washington, DC,) which has caused you to assemble in such numbers and spirit as you have today. This occasion is in some respects remarkable. Wise and thoughtful men of our race, who shall come after us, and study the lesson of our history in the United States; who shall survey the long and dreary spaces over which we have traveled; who shall count the links in the great chain of events by which we have reached our present position, will make a note of this occasion; they will think of it and speak of it with a sense of manly pride and complacency.

We stand today at the national center to perform something like a national act — an act which is to go into history; and we are here where every pulsation of the national heart can be heard, felt, and reciprocated. A thousand wires, fed with thought and winged with lightning, put us in instantaneous communication with the loyal and true men all over the country.

Few facts could better illustrate the vast and wonderful change which has taken place in our condition as a people than the fact of our assembling here for the purpose we have today. Harmless, beautiful, proper, and praiseworthy as this demonstration is, I cannot forget that no such demonstration would have been tolerated here twenty years ago. The spirit of slavery and barbarism, which still lingers to blight and destroy in some dark and distant parts of our country, would have made our assembling here the signal and excuse for opening upon us all the flood-gates of wrath and violence… In view, then, of the past, the present, and the future, with the long and dark history of our bondage behind us, and with liberty, progress, and enlightenment before us, I again congratulate you upon this auspicious day and hour. Continue reading