Friday, February 22, 2008

Black History Month

I wanted to write something about Black History Month, but dealing with work, kids, and a wife, I didn't have time to get to this and now Black History is over. I'm an armature historian (meaning I watch the History Channel a lot). We are seeing history in the making, look at the current political environment to see that in 2008 we may have the first African American Presidential Nominee for a major political party. If you take a look at some of the laws that were pasted in this country, it is almost amazing how any person of color could rise above the status quo. For example, lets take a look at the Mississippi Black Code of 1865, section 7:

Section 8. Upon affidavit made by the employer of any freedman, free negro or mulatto, or other credible person, before any justice of the peace or member of the board of police, that any freedman, free negro or mulatto legally employed by said employer has illegally deserted said employment, such justice of the peace or member of the board of police issue his warrant or warrants, returnable before himself or other such officer, to any sheriff, constable or special deputy, commanding him to arrest said deserter, and return him or her to said employer, and the like proceedings shall be had as provided in the preceding section; and it shall be lawful for any officer to whom such warrant shall be directed to execute said warrant in any county in this State; and that said warrant may be transmitted without endorsement to any like officer of another county, to be executed and returned as aforesaid; and the said employer shall pay the costs of said warrants and arrest and return, which shall be set off for so much against the wages of said deserter.* Could you image quiting you job and having an arrest warrant issued, then being returned back to your employer having to pay back the cost incurred by the state in your capture. If you take a look back even further and in another state, Ohio 1804 Black Code.

Section 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio , That from and after the first day of June next. no black or mulatto person shall be permitted to settle or reside in this state, unless he or she shall first produce a fair certificate from some court within the United States, of his or her actual freedom, which certificate shall be attested by the clerk of said court, and the seal thereof annexed thereto, by said clerk.* Not even being able to settle in a state unless you can produce papers and have that information backed up. If you're thinking in today's terms you would think we are speaking about Germany in the 1930's and 1940's. The reality is that we are talking about the United States, in a time that is less than 4 generations.

Not everyone in this country and the world agreed with general thought of blacks should be enslaved. The Quakers, Religious Society of Friends, were early members of abolitionist movements that would last for centuries. Over the course of history, many African Americans were able to live and advance in this country, not just exist. Let's take a look at a few or their stories.
The Greeks describe a hero as a demi-god, the offspring of a mortal and a deity. The practical definition would be a person displaying courage and will in the face of danger to extend the greater good. There are many name less heroes of slavery times but the three that I can refer to are Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner and Frederick Douglass. Harriet Tubman was one of the most effective leaders of the Underground Railroad. Born a slave and escaping to freedom, Harriet put her life and her freedom in jeopardy by returning again and again to help other slaves gain their freedom. Nat Turner was born a slave in 1800 in Virginia. Deeply religious from childhood Nat was a natural preacher and had influence among local slaves. Claiming to have visions, many people believe Nat to be a prophet with the task of leading an uprising against his oppressors. In 1831, Nat plotted a revolt with a band of 60 African Americans mostly slaves and some freed blacks. The revolt lasted for two days killing 55 white people. The military and volunteers put down the revolt, Nat was jailed and executed six weeks after the revolt ended. Nat is a very controversial person in American History. As to the question hero of Nat Turner, out of the 55 his group killed, many were women and children. In a place where his people were oppressed and subjected to all sorts of atrocities, Nat was able to rise a resists force to declare war on the oppressor. Also there is a bigger question because while in jail Nat gave his confession of sorts to Thomas R. Gray where Nat describe his motives where given to him by God. If you believe in revelations and God speaking to a mortal human, then it may not be too out of the ordinary to think that Nat was truly given by divine inspiration. One of the most well know African Americans, out of the 18th century, is Frederick Douglass. Born in Maryland on the Eastern Shore, Frederick was born into slavery. Born of a woman slave and a white man, Frederick would never know who his father was, and only saw his mother 4 or 5 times before her death. Frederick taught himself to read and write. In one of his books he describes a story of a slave the refused to be beat and slave Foreman that was know for is brutality. In this story the slave was supposed to be whipped. The slave not wanting to be beat ran into the river up to his neck. The Foreman order the slave out of the water, when the slave refused the first time the foreman took out his rifle and shot the slave in the head. It was stories like this coming from first hand knowledge to help the abolitionist movement. Frederick went on to publish his own newspaper. These people and many more help shape this country. If it wasn't for people of the civil rights movement these stories would be lost. History books when I was in high school mention very little about the accomplishments of African Americans in the building of this country. As you can see, Slavery as a institution didn't work for the people of both sides of the equation.
Black History Month always puts me in the mood to understand my genealogy. My next few blogs will focus on my African American Roots.


Chris said...

I think this is a great idea...I cant wait to see your "roots" blog. That should make for some really interesting stuff!