Altered Images From the End of the War

Louis Masur begins the final chapter of his book, The Civil War: A Concise History (2011) with a powerful opening line: “On January 11, 1865, Robert E. Lee wrote a letter that would have been unthinkable three years earlier.”  The reference is to Lee’s endorsement for the use of black troops, a move that most Confederates had previously resisted.  But as Masur points out, the belated decision, finally approved in March 1865 (just weeks before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox) demonstrated “perhaps” the “strength of Confederate nationalism” (76).  In other words, the question had always been which motivated Confederates more, a desire for their own political rights or the continuation of slavery?  In recent years, there has been an explosion of controversy over the particular subject of “Black Confederates.”  The debate mainly concerns whether they existed at all before the spring of 1865.  Here is one image frequently circulated over the Internet:

Black Confederates

But here is the original version of the same image, unaltered, showing that these alleged “Black Confederates” from 1861 were actually Union soldiers in training near Philadelphia in 1864.

Black SoldiersJerome Handler and Michael Tuite thoroughly dissect the manipulation of this image in their post, “Retouching History: The Modern Falsification of a Civil War Photograph” (2005).

Altered Image by rebelstore.com

Actual photograph, circa 1864

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Altering images is not just a modern-day phenomenon.  Print-makers and illustrators in the nineteenth-century were just as creative and calculating. In fact, the banner image from this course website provides a good example of what might be called pre-photoshop photoshopping undertaken by a commercial printer in Philadelphia following Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. Here is what the image looked like that year:

Emancipation Banner

Yet here is what the original illustration looked like in January 1863 when Thomas Nast first drew it for Harpers Weekly:

Emancipation OriginalThe difference is more than just color.  Nast’s allegory for emancipation has now been subtly altered to give the martyred president a greater role.

cropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-emancipation.jpgEmancipation DetailSometimes significant changes are also sometimes accidental rather than intentional. Here is a different image that was misdated for years as 1864.  Yet this is actually a detail from a photograph taken in Washington DC in November 1865.  Students in History 117 should be able to explain why that seemingly small mistake matters quite a bit.

black-soldiers

Believe it or not, it’s also possible to enhance images by altering them.  Here is a photograph taken at Fort Sumter on Friday, April 14, 1865.  That was a special day for the Union coalition –a kind of “mission accomplished” moment as Col. Robert Anderson returned with a delegation of notables, including abolitionists like Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and William Lloyd Garrison, to raise the American flag once again over the fort in Charleston harbor where the Civil War had begun almost exactly four years earlier.

Sumter 1865 DamagedNote the cracked glass plate from this seemingly ruined photograph now in the collection of the Library of Congress.  But look what happens to this image when it is digitized at a high resolution and then magnified.

Sumter 1865 Enhanced

That’s Rev. Henry Ward Beecher speaking on the afternoon of Friday, April 14, 1865, from what he called “this pulpit of broken stone.”  Originally, scholars, using magnifying glasses, thought that William Lloyd Garrison was perhaps seated on Beecher’s left.

Garrison 1865 Option 1But now we are confident at the House Divided Project that Garrison was actually seated in a special section on Beecher’s right, with other leading abolitionists and Lincoln administration notables.

Garrison 1865 Option 2

Garrison 1865 Detail

It was obviously a moving, reflective moment for Garrison, one captured in this detail image above from right after the ceremony and by the little known story of his visit the following morning to see the grave of secessionist icon John C. Calhoun.  You can read more about this episode here and here.  Sometimes people are surprised by the stories that slip out of public memory and don’t make it into standard textbooks.  The Garrison visit to South Carolina in April 1865 is certainly one of them, but another such lost tale involves a Dickinsonian named John A.J. Creswell, who was deeply involved in the final passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery, which occurred in early January 1865.  Here is the image that appeared in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper to celebrate that moment.

Thirteenth Amendment

You will notice the trio of men in the lower right hand corner, obviously prominent figures according to the illustrator.  We researched them here at the college and were thrilled to discover that one of them was a Dickinsonian.  It turns out that these are three congressman from the Mid-Atlantic (from left to right) Thaddeus Stevens, William D. Kelley, and John A.J. Creswell.  We used a detail from that image for the cover of our first House Divided e-book, which profiles Creswell, a Dickinson graduate and Maryland politician who became one of the nation’s most important wartime abolitionists.  Yet, he’s almost completely forgotten, not even mentioned in Steven Spielberg’s movie “Lincoln” (2012), which concerned passage of the amendment.  You can download a free copy of Creswell’s biography, written by Dickinson college emeritus history professor John Osborne and college librarian Christine Bombaro, here.  Ultimately, that might be the best way to “alter” images from the end of the Civil War –by seeing old stories from new perspectives.

Forgotten Abolitionist New Cover

The scene at Congress on January 31, 1865 was reminiscent in some ways of an earlier scene involving a celebration of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

 

 

 

Sergeant Prince Rivers receives the colors of the First South Carolina Volunteers, Port Royal, South Carolina, January 1, 1863 (Courtesy of the House Divided Project)

Sergeant Prince Rivers receives the colors of the First South Carolina Volunteers, Port Royal, South Carolina, January 1, 1863 (Courtesy of the House Divided Project)

This scene in Port Royal, South Carolina is very revealing at several levels, but as a study of the end of the war, it offers a poignant window into the revealing saga of Prince Rivers, a man who arguably is the most teachable figure from the Civil War & Reconstruction era.

Prince-Rivers Detail

Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave

Prince, Mary. The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave. Related by Herself. With a Supplement by the Editor. To Which Is Added, The Narrative of Asa-Asa, A Captured African. Edited by Thomas Pringle. London: Published by F. Westley and A.H. Davis, Stationers’ Hall Court, 1831.

Courtesy of Caribbean Literature

Courtesy of Caribbean Literature

Mary Prince’s remarkable life story in “The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave” portrays her horrific treatment as a slave in the West Indies and long journey towards freedom. Her simple, yet effective, writing style gives readers a glimpse into the heartbreaking reality of being a female slave in the early 1800s. Mary experienced the worst of slavery including severe physical abuse and being torn away from her family as a young girl, however her resilience and determination throughout these events is something to be admired.

Mary was born into slavery in Devonshire Parish, Bermuda and spent the majority of her life enslaved to a number of different masters in Bermuda, Turks and Caicos, and Antigua. When she was about 40 years old (c.1828) Mary moved to London, England with her master and due to the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which abolished the British slave trade, Mary was technically considered free once landing in the United Kingdom [1]. However, Mary was unable to go back to the West Indies as a free woman without the consent of her old master since slavery was not abolished in this area until the passing of the Emancipation Act by Parliament in 1833 [2]. Even then, the Act instilled a form of gradual emancipation and it took until 1838 for slaves in the West Indies to become completely free [2].

While Mary Prince’s narrative portrays life as a slave in the West Indies, her experiences are likely similar to those enslaved in America and can be used to understand American, as well as British, slavery. One direct connection that can be made between slavery in the West Indies and in the United States is the frequency in which slave families were separated. Mary was separated from her family when she was young and later separated again, this time from her husband. She spent the majority of her life having to continually start over and form new relationships. In the United States although enslaved people were not allowed to legally marry it was common for slaves to start families on plantations [3]. Slave families would live in constant fear of being separated from their loved ones because plantation owners made most of their money from selling their slaves, and, in fact, one third of enslaved children would experience some sort of separation from either and/or both of their parents at some point in their lives [3]. This separation of family was a great motivator to escape from slavery and become free in order to be reunited with ones family again. Alternatively, if enslaved families were not separated, escaping from slavery would be quite difficult and they would be more likely to remain in slavery.

Mary’s narrative brought the brutality of slavery to those living in the United Kingdom and helped enlighten those who had previously been told that slaves in the West Indies and other British colonies were happy being enslaved. At the end of her narrative Mary comments, “I am often much vexed, and I feel great sorrow when I hear some people in this country say, that the slaves do not need better usage, and do not want to be free. They believe the foreign people, who deceive them, and say slaves are happy. I say, not so. How can slaves be happy when they have the halter round their neck and the whip upon their back? and are disgraced and thought no more of than beasts?—and are separated from their mothers, and husbands, and children, and sisters, just as cattle are sold and separated?” [4]. Similar to the publication of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe in the United States in 1852, “The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave” exposed slavery for what it really was and allowed people to hear a slave’s perspective [5]. As Mary made quite clear in her narrative “All slaves want to be free – to be free is very sweet” and this simple phrase would help fuel the movement to abolish slavery in all British colonies [6].

[1] “The 1807 Act and Its Effects.” The Abolition Project. 2009. Accessed November 13, 2016. [http://abolition.e2bn.org/slavery_113.html].

[2] Sherwood, Marika. “Britain, Slavery, and the Trade in Enslaved Africans.” History in Focus. 2007. Accessed November 13, 2016. [https://www.history.ac.uk/ihr/Focus/Slavery /articles/sherwood.html].

[3] Williams, Heather Andrea. “How Slavery Affected African American Families.” Freedom’s Story, TeacherServe. National Humanities Center. Accessed November 13, 2016. [http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/freedom/1609-1865/essays/aafamilies. htm].

[4] Prince, Mary. The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave. Related by Herself. With a Supplement by the Editor. To Which Is Added, The Narrative of Asa-Asa, A Captured African. Edited by Thomas Pringle. London: Published by F. Westley and A.H. Davis, Stationers’ Hall Court, 1831, 22-23.

[5] “Impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Slavery, and the Civil War.” The National and International Impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 2015. Accessed November 13, 2016. [https://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/utc/impact.shtml].

[6] Prince, Mary. The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave. Related by Herself. With a Supplement by the Editor. To Which Is Added, The Narrative of Asa-Asa, A Captured African. Edited by Thomas Pringle. London: Published by F. Westley and A.H. Davis, Stationers’ Hall Court, 1831, 23.

Link

Themes of Republicanism in Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery

Image of Booker T. Washington between 1905 and 1915 courtesy of the Library of Congress

Image of Booker T. Washington between 1905 and 1915 courtesy of the Library of Congress

Themes of Republicanism in Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery

Despite declaring that his life began in the “most miserable, desolate, and discouraging surroundings,”[i] Booker T. Washington’s narrative, Up From Slavery, is brimming with republican optimism and perseverance. Based on Washington’s narrative, after departing from the abhorrent institution of slavery, blacks had inherited republic ideals and aspects of Southern culture that defined their lives even after gaining their freedom.

Even while still enslaved in a Virginian plantation, Washington’s hunger for education was insatiable. After witnessing one of his mistresses attending school at a local schoolhouse, Douglas resolves that one day he will seek an education for himself. Republicanism placed a heavy weight on the value of education, which was seen as a deterrent for tyranny.[ii] As such, even nearly a decade after the founding of the Republic, men and women alike still attended school for the hopes of contributing to the virtuous republic through education; this desire for education was not lost on the slaves who observed this culture of seeking virtue through education.

However, education was not something that was readily available to blacks. Even after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freed slaves were in a significantly disadvantaged position. Despite the promises freedom held, it also came with an independence that had not previously existed under the rule of a master. On this matter, Washington wrote, “In a few hours the great questions with which the Anglo-Saxon race had been grappling for centuries had been thrown upon these people to be solved. These were the questions of a home, a living, the rearing of children, education, citizenship, and the establishment and support of churches.”[iii]

However, this socioeconomic disadvantage did not impede the perseverance and progress of blacks like Washington. Staying true to the republican ideal of upward mobility and the “self-made man,”[iv] Washington begins work in a salt mine operating in Malden, West Virginia. While working, Washington finds himself in a culture that operates largely outside of social institutions, and which therefore adopts a lifestyle of roughness which Washington equates to immorality– “Drinking, gambling, quarrels, fights, and shockingly immoral practices were frequent.”[v] The practices that Washington describes are likely similar, if not identical, to the rough leisure activities practiced by whites that lived in backcountry areas similar to the black community in which Washington found in Malden, WV. These practices adopted by poor residents of isolated backcountry localities were an exercise which prepared its practitioners for “a violent social life in which the exploitation of labor, the specter of poverty, and a fierce struggle for status were daily realities.”[vi]

Although these practices were common among poor, back country blacks, there were groups of newly freed slaves, one of which was Washington, who desired a culture of education and earnestness. While working in the salt mines, Washington managed to acquire one of a copy of Webster’s Blue Back Speller, a book that had burgeoned in popularity after the Revolutionary war, selling around 3 million copies by 1783[vii]. Nearly a century later, the book still provided a means of education to members of the republic seeking an education. Determined to receive a formal, higher education, Washington used the money he saved from working in the salt mines to attend the Hampton Institute. Having “resolved to let no obstacle prevent [him] from putting forth the highest effort” to seeking an education and giving to his community, Washington earns his keep at Hampton by proving his worth as a skilled janitor. Washington explains his reasoning behind his eagerness to earn his keep through labor, something which he noted that other freed slaves had chosen to give up for good; Washington knew that education was inseparable from labor and he valued labor for “labour’s own sake and for the independence and self-reliance which the ability to do something which the world wants done brings.”[viii] In describing his time at Hampton, Washington’s narrative is rich with the republican ideals of removing paternalistic and dependent relationships from the country and instead cultivating a culture of independence and individual liberty.[ix]

Even after the immediacy of his emancipation, Washington continued to play the role of the ideal citizen of the republic by seeking an educated and virtuous life. Despite having little to give other than his time, effort, and knowledge, Washington became philanthropist by supporting initiatives to educate native Americans and fellow blacks at the Hampton Institute and the Tuskegee Institute, respectively. Washington’s greatest legacy is arguably the Tuskegee Institute, a facility aimed towards instilling the republican qualities of earnestness, virtue, and appreciation of labor in the less fortunate, albeit freed, blacks of the South.[x]

[i] Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery: An Autobiography (New York: Skyhorse, 2015), 12.

[ii] Gordon S Wood, The American Revolution (New York: Modern Library, 2002), 122.

[iii] Washington, Up From Slavery: An Autobiography, 28.

[iv] Wood, The American Revolution, 121.

[v] Washington, Up From Slavery: An Autobiography, 32.

[vi] Elliot J. Gorn, “‘Gouge and Bite, Pull Hair and Scratch’: The Social Significance of Fighting in the Southern Backcountry,” The American Historical Review 90 (1985): 22, accessed August 29, 2009.

[vii] Wood, The American Revolution, 124.

[viii] Washington, Up From Slavery: An Autobiography, 68.

[ix] Wood, The American Revolution, 125.

[x] Emma Lou Thornbrough, Booker T. Washington (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1969), 37.

The Life and Escape of Moses Roper

Moses Roper faced extreme adversity during his time as a slave. He was brutally beaten and tortured on a consistent basis and demeaned to a point that would break the average person, however not Roper. Separated from his mother at the age of six, Roper became determined to reunite with his family while attempting to break free from the shackles of slavery. Roper was taken from his birthplace of North Carolina by a man named Mr. Sneed. Sneed had difficult selling Roper as he had descended from a white father and half white mother, so he traded Roper to Mr. Michael, a man who made a living by purchasing slaves in northern territory and bringing them further south to sell. Roper moved between different slave owners and traders until he was finally sold to a man named Mr. Hodge. At the time, the narrative was meant to show the American people of the horribleness of slavery and to make an argument for the freedom of all people. Today, the life and story of Moses Roper have many uses that allow for an extensive study of American slavery.

Courtesy of Spartacus Educational

Hodge soon sold Roper to a slave master named Mr. Gooch who owned a plantation in Cashaw County, South Carolina. Mr. Gooch was a very cruel slave master who immediately began to beat Roper when he was unable to complete the unreasonable tasks that were bestowed upon him. While with Mr. Gooch, Roper determined that he was around the age of thirteen. It was at this age, after being threatened with floggings for an uncontrollable mistake, Roper made his first of many attempts to escape. Escaping from slavery was highly dangerous and could result in the severe injury and death of a slave. In his journal, Milton Polsky explains, “Running away was considered an unpardonable sin by the master class”(1). This knowledge of how master dealt with runaway slaves was no secret to the slaves; they saw what happens upon being caught and returned, yet Roper continued to try and try again. This speaks volumes to conditions under slavery. Roper describes his mind and spirit by writing, “Here again words are insufficient to describe the misery which both body and mind whilst under this treatment, and which was most dreadfully increased by the sympathy which I felt for my poor degraded fellow sufferer”(2).

This constant pain and suffering did not make Roper any less determined to achieve his ultimate goal of freedom. Unfortunately, Gooch recognized this vigor and determination of Roper and proceeded to break him down as much as possible. In her academic journal, “Revising Torture: Moses Roper and the Visual Rhetoric of the Slave’s Body in the Transatlantic Abolition Movement” Martha J. Cutter Writes, “Torture endeavors to dehumanize and render powerless its subjects; it also intends to shred human dignity and condense a person to a body in pain…”(3). During his second attempt at freedom, Roper was captured and imprisoned after he could no longer continue due to extreme hunger, prompting him to beg for food from a nearby house. Roper describes his treatment upon his return to Mr. Gooch;

In the morning after his breakfast he came to me, and without giving me any breakfast, tied me to a large heavy barrow, which is usually drawn by a horse, and made me drag it to the cotton field for the horse to use in the field. Thus, the reader will see, that it was of no possible use to my master to make me drag it to the field, and not through it; his cruelty went so far as actually to make me the slave of his horse, and thus to degrade me (4).

Courtesy of Documenting the American South

Torture Device used by Mr. Gooch; Courtesy of Documenting the American South

Roper went on to escape one final time before being sold. He made his way back to where he was originally taken in North Carolina through deceiving white men of his freedom. Here, Moses found his family, but remained near them for too long and was captured and returned back to Mr. Gooch. Upon his return, Moses was sold multiple times and found himself in the custody of Mr. Register. Register was a drinking man, which enabled the final escape of Roper. This escape lasted for almost sixteen months. During this time, Roper was traveled through much of New York but was unable to find a safe haven where he could work and live without the fear of being returned to the south.

Moses Roper eventually heard of a ship sailing to England from New York, and on November 29th, 1835, he reached Liverpool. He writes, “My feelings when I first touched the shores of Britain were indescribable, and can only be properly understood by those who have escaped from the cruel bondage of slavery”(5). Roper persevered from some of the most difficult and trying times imaginable, and he recorded his entire experience in an attempt to expose America to the cruel reality of slavery. Even by the end of his journey, Moses Roper highly regards the free institutions of the United States and hopes that “may America soon be indeed the land of the free”(6).

(1)  Polsky, Milton. “The American Slave Narrative: Dramatic Resource Material for the Classroom.”The Journal of Negro Education 45, no. 2 (1976): 169. http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2967085.pdf

(2) Roper, Moses, “A Narratives of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper From American Slavery: (Philadelphia: Merrihew & Gunn, 1838), 20.

(3) Cutter, Martha J. “Revising Torture: Moses Roper and the Visual Rhetoric of the Slave’s Body in the Transatlantic Abolition Movement.” ESQ: A Journal Of The American Renaissance no. 3: 371 (2014). Project MUSE, EBSCOhost (accessed November 13, 2016).

(4) Roper, Moses, “A Narratives of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper From American Slavery: (Philadelphia: Merrihew & Gunn, 1838), 19.

(5) Roper, Moses, “A Narratives of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper From American Slavery: (Philadelphia: Merrihew & Gunn, 1838), 84.

(6) Roper, Moses, “A Narratives of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper From American Slavery: (Philadelphia: Merrihew & Gunn, 1838), 89.

 

Decoding the Course Banner Image

Print-makers and illustrators in the nineteenth-century could be quite creative and calculating. In fact, the banner image from this course website provides a good example of what might be called pre-photoshop photoshopping undertaken by a commercial printer in Philadelphia following Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. Here is what the image looked like that year:

Emancipation Banner

Yet here is what the original illustration looked like in January 1863 when Thomas Nast first drew it for Harpers Weekly:

Emancipation OriginalThe difference is more than just color.  Nast’s allegory for emancipation has now been subtly altered to give the martyred president a greater role.

cropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-emancipation.jpgEmancipation DetailThis discrepancy appears to have slipped past most scholars, or at least they have not commented on it in print.  Yet at a teacher’s workshop in 2013, an educator from Utah discovered the contrast while working on a project about Lincoln’s emancipation policy.

Underground Railroad

William Still

William Still

The Underground Railroad was a metaphor used by antislavery activists to describe and publicize efforts at helping runaway slaves during the years before the Civil War. While secrecy was essential for particular operations, the movement to help fugitives was no secret at all. Northern Underground Railroad operatives were often openly defiant of federal statutes designed to help recapture runaways. Agents used state personal liberty laws, which aimed to protect free black residents from kidnapping, as a way to justify their fugitive work. Vigilance committees in northern cities such as Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Detroit formed the organized core of this effort. These committees often worked together and provided legal, financial and physical protection to black people threatened by kidnappers or slave-catchers. Notable vigilance leaders included black men such as William Still in Philadelphia, David Ruggles in New York, Lewis Hayden in Boston and George DeBaptiste in Detroit. There were also thousands of other individuals, often white and usually motivated by religious belief, who helped fugitives during the antebellum period. Though most of these Underground Railroad figures operated with relative impunity in the North and across Canada, southern operatives faced grave dangers and thus maintained a much lower profile. This is one reason why Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave herself, was such a courageous figure. Her repeated rescues inside the slave state of Maryland during the 1850s became the basis for her legendary post-war reputation as “Moses.” Though Underground Railroad agents such as Tubman freed only a fraction of the nation’s slaves (probably no more than several hundred each year out of an enslaved population of millions), the widespread reports about their actions infuriated southern political leaders and helped bring about the Civil War and the end of slavery in the United States.

Additional Resources

Susie King Taylor

Susie King Taylor, Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33rd United States Colored Troops  Late 1st S.C. Volunteers:, (Boston 1902).

taylofp

Courtesy of Doc South

In a time of chaos and confusion, it is hard to stay optimistic. However for Susie King Taylor optimism came naturally. Her determination in life inspired others, and allowed her to be an educated, independent, veteran in a time of oppression. Susie Taylor was born into slavery, but lived a life far less oppresses than the standard slave at the time. Susie’s mother worked as a domestic servant for the Gress Family on a farm in Liberty County Georgia, but Susie and her brother were treated almost as part of the master’s family. Susie recalled, “I had often been told by mother of the care Mrs. Grest took of me. She was very fond of me, and I remember when my brother and I were small children, and Mr. Grest would go away on business, Mrs. Grest would place us at the foot of her bed to sleep and keep her company.”[1] 

 

c32_0003350b

Courtesy of TheAtlantic

At the age of seven Susie was allowed to go and live with her grandmother. While living with her grandmother in Savannah Georgia, Susie received an education in secret. At that time African Americans were not supposed to receive formal educations in the south. She was so determined to receive an education that she covertly went to school at odd hours of the day and had her books wrapped in paper so no one could see them. She would study as often as she could. Susie even asked close friends to tutor her at night. Although her home life was less oppressive than others, Susie still experienced oppression, and racism in the world around her. In her autobiography she said, “I have seen many times, when I was a mere girl, thirty or forty men, handcuffed, and as many women and children, come every first Tuesday of each month from Mr. Wiley’s trade office to the auction blocks, one of them being situated on Drayton Street and Court Lane, the other on Bryant Street, near the Pulaski House. The route was down our principal street, Bull Street, to the courthouse, which was only a block from where I resided.” [2]

When the Union Army invaded the South, Susie volunteered to assist the army in any way possible. She served as an aid in hospitals, a cook, a launderer, a tutor for the men in literacy and a friendly ear to talk to. She traveled with the army and as a result saw the devastating effects of war. She learned to fire a rifle and was fired at herself. While with the 1st S.C. Volunteers she experienced racism at every southern town she visited. Even when she helping to save the homes, and lives of Charlestonians in the aftermath of the attack on Charleston the inhabitants thanked her with sneers and insults. After the war she returned to Savannah Georgia where she opened a school for African American children.

Later in life she moved to Boston, where she worked as a maid. Her son became mortally sick and so she returned to the South to care for him. As she traveled through the south she was shocked at the rampant racism and treatment of blacks. Susie heard horror stories of murders and lynchings against blacks, and she herself faced blatant racism. Despite her obstacles she visited her son and buried him. One example that she recalled in her journey to the south was when she was in Cincinnati. She wrote, “I reached Cincinnati on the eighth, where I took the train for the south. I asked a white man standing near (before I got my train) what car I should take. “Take that one,” he said, pointing to one. “But that is a smoking car!” “Well,” he replied, “that is the car for colored people.” I went to this car, and on entering it all my courage failed me. I have ridden in many coaches, but I was never in such as these. I wanted to return home again, but when I thought of my sick boy I said, “Well, others ride in these cars and I must do likewise,” and tried to be resigned, for I wanted to reach my boy, as I did not know whether I should find him alive”[3]  Despite all of the adversity Susie Taylor faced she carried on in a dignified manner and always lent a hand to those in need. She wrote her autobiography as a testament to the valor of the men who fought, and as a guide for understanding the life of an African American in the south.

[1] Taylor Susie King, “Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops Late 1st S. C. Volunteers: (Boston: By Author, 1902), 2.

[2] Taylor Susie King, “Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops Late 1st S. C. Volunteers: (Boston: By Author,1902), 65.

[3] Taylor Susie King, “Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops Late 1st S. C. Volunteers: (Boston: By Author, 1902), 69.

 

Backcountry

 

GougingBackcountry, n. –a rural area or wilderness

Traditional US history textbooks typically focus on North-South sectionalism, because of the overriding importance of the Civil War.  However, students must never forget that other types of regional divisions also seemed quite powerful to American contemporaries, such as East and West, or tidelands and piedmont, or lowlands and backcountry.  The idea of the backcountry, in particular, was an especially potent one during the era of the early republic.  This was a time of rapidly changing social mores, and vast territorial expansion.  And yet it was also a period marked by relative isolation in communications and transportation.  Waterways still connected people and places faster than any other means.  The result was a society in turmoil as its leaders groped their way toward a new, post-revolutionary stability.  Few academic articles capture that moment, or the essence of the backcountry better than Elliott Gorn’s, “Gouge and Bite, Pull Hair and Scratch”: The Social Significance of Fighting in the Southern Backcountry,” which appeared in the American Historical Review in 1985.  Gorn depicts a practical orgy of violence through the stories of the rough-and-tumble fighting culture of the Southern backcountry.   Students should be able to explain what gouging was and why it was significant. Why would Americans, especially white men in the southern backcountry, engage in such behavior and what does it suggest about their changing culture?  Both Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln, the two most important American politicians of the mid-nineteenth century, grew up in the backcountry culture dominated by southern plainfolk.  How does their background help explain their political success?  In an even larger sense, how does the rise and fall of gouging in the backcountry help explain the story of nineteenth-century America?  Finally, how does the culture of rough-and-tumble fighting compare to the social dynamics of modern America?

 

Recommended Slave Narratives

The two most famous published ex-slave narratives were produced by Frederick Douglas and Booker T. Washington.  Students can choose to write about Douglass’s Narrative (1845) (or one of his two other subsequent autobiographies, My Bondage and My Freedom from 1855 or Life and Times from 1892) or Washington’s Up From Slavery (1901), but here are about two dozen more choices from among the significant (and teachable) ex-slave narratives that have been published in American history, available full-text online from “North American Slave Narratives,” in Documenting the American South.