Tuesday, July 26, 2016

I Shall Not Forget My Ancestors' Past



Earlier today, in a recent thread on social media, a statement was made in reference to America's "peculiar institution" that we know as slavery, and it was suggested that as a nation we should simply "get over it" and move on.

Now, I normally ignore such statements that trivialize the history of people of color, and I usually ignore those who cry "get over it" their blatant dismissal of my history. They usually come from individuals whose opinions are not important to me,  I "get over" them and their dismissal of my history and move on.

However, the one I saw today came from someone whom I know, and I was compelled to respond and to share why I shall never "get over it", I responded with an explanation of how I am honored to remember what happened to those whose history I study every day. And in addition, I am obligated to teach future generations also to never "get over it" because that term suggests, that the history of an entire people should never be mentioned, and their lives should never be consider as worth remembering.

I shall never subscribe to anyone forgetting their history and definitely not a critical institution in America, such as the enslavement of Africans upon this soil. Now that does not mean walking around with a grudge, but to ask anyone to dismiss and forget and get over it trivializes something that was vital to this country. If we cannot get over it that a war was fought then end slavery then those who descend from the enslaved dare not "get over" what happened! Remembering the painful past instills even deeper respect for the ancestors and their survival for they lived within the confines of a terrible system. I then gave some thought about what that statement to just "get over it" means to me, and so, I replied.

I have since been asked to post my reply so that it can be shared. It follows below:

I shall always honor my ancestors who went through so much! No discomfort of those who are "tired of hearing it" can ever impede my honoring them, nor mentioning it. I work with records from the slavery era every day. Every single day from slave schedules to probate records, to old newspapers, to Freedmen's Bureau. That does not mean that every where I go I bring up history. But---my history lives with me, and every person carries pieces of their history with them.

Every day, when I see the post Civil War records of people begging the Bureau to retrieve their children still held in bondage, years after the war ended, I know that freedom did not come easily and Lincoln did not "fix it". I research every day.

When I see the peonage records that reflected forced labor of men and women into the 20th century---no----I shall not forget it, and it SHALL be mentioned. I would never tell anyone to "forget" their history, simply because someone unaffected by an evil system is tired of hearing about it.

You know me enough to know that I don't "wear it on my sleeve." But clearly it shall not be forgotten and as one who sees it in records every day--as a researcher---the impact of what I research and see and learn is humbling and I am honored to call the names of my enslaved ancestors. I am also not ashamed to say that they were enslaved, for their fate in life was the result of an evil system, and their ability to live in spite of it, speaks to their resilience. 

Their strength makes me stronger when life challenges me. So yes, I shall call their names, and I shall point out that these courageous people were once enslaved.

To "get over them" is the ultimate insult to those who were legislated into "nothing-ness". By my continuous remembrance of them--I become a better person, because I must still live a good life as I move through life and interact with the sons and daughters or the descendants of those who enslaved others.


I have met the descendants of those who enslaved my ancestors. I remember, and they remember and we now work together.

I stand upon the shoulders of many people---among those were enslaved men, women and children, who survived. 

And I shall always remember.


* * * * * * * * * * * * *
And so----today I shall call their names:
-Irving and Nancy Bass, enslaved by John Bass of Giles County Tennessee
-Patrick Drennen, enslaved by John Drennen of Van Buren Arkansas
-Kitty Perry, enslaved y Nail Perry, Choctaw Nation
-Amanda Perry Anchatubbe enslaved by Emeline Perry, Choctaw Nation

-Jackson Perry Crow enslaved by Nail Perry, Choctaw Nation
-Sallie Perry Walton enslaved by Emeline Perry
-Mitchell Bass, enslaved by Henry C. Pride, Horatio Arkansas
-Minerva Houston, enslaved by Elizabeth Houston Millwee, Horatio Arkansas
-Georgia Ann Houston enslaved by Elizabeth Houston Millwee, Horatio Arkansas
-Martha Campbell, enslaved by Robert Campbell, Maury County Tennessee
-Amanda Campbell Young enslaved by William Tandy Young, Ripley Mississippi
-Harriet Young Martin, enslaved by William Tandy Young, Ripley Mississippi
-Berry Kirk, enslaved by William Tandy Young
-Lydia Walters Talkington, enslaved by Mary Walters, Dripping Springs Arkansas
-Samuel Walton, enslaved by Josiah Harrell, Dripping Springs Arkansas & Jim Davis Choctaw Nation


           .......and I honor those whose names are yet to be discovered as I continue my genealogical journey.





Thursday, May 12, 2016

Gems from the Black Press: Remembering Western Baptist College


Today's Focus
Advertisement for Western Baptist College in Missouri
from The Missouri Messenger January 26, 1900

Source:
Ancestry.com. U.S., African American Newspapers, 1829-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.
This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors.
Original data: Negro Newspapers for the American Council of Learned Studies. Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress.


One of the pleasures that I enjoy when conducting research is to explore the amazing articles and ads that I find in old publications. I am particularly attracted by the articles from the African American press that reflect many aspects of the African American Community over a century ago. I have noticed that a good way to learn about one's local community is to examine the classified section of early black newspapers for they reveal businesses, churches and schools in their early years. Some of the ads reflect activities of institutions long forgotten, while others reflect schools that have morphed into larger entities.

I decided to take a look at "The Missouri Messenger" a publication that was said to be "the organ of 35,000 Baptists". In that particular edition, I learned about an institution with which I was unfamiliar. The classifieds of a 1900 edition of the paper brought to my attention an ad reflecting Western Baptist College, a small Baptist college located in Macon, Missouri.

(Source: Same as above)

The college offered Christian education, and elementary and a normal school, with training for the ministry as well. Western Baptist was a boarding school as well as as a day school. Upon researching the history of the school, it was amazing to find out that the school still exists to this day. It is the first and only religious affiliated institution west of the Mississippi founded exclusively by African Americans.

The history of the school goes back to 1889 when a special meeting of  Baptists took place in Sedalia Missouri, and from the series of meetings in that state, it was decided to lease an old church building for 5 years for the purposes of establishing a school. After arrangements were made, the school opened in January of 1890 enrolling 14 students. Within a year's time an offer for a permanent location of the school was accepted from parties in Macon Missouri. There was immediate interest in the school and its legacy was established. Petitions for funding for the college were met and granted from multiple parties including endorsements from local white Baptist churches in the local area, as well as the Baptist Home Mission Society based in New York that donated $1200 to the school. (Source of historical information.)

The school was strongly supported by the Baptist church and it was common that members of the Church's hierarchy often visited the school. The same edition of the Missouri Messenger reflected the visit of pastors from St. Louis to the campus.

(Source: Same as link from above image)

Like many Historically Black Institutions, Western Baptist offered a preparatory school in addition to the normal college programs. The school began offering programs to both males and females, and eagerly sought assistance for the erection of a dormitory for girls on the school's grounds.

(Source: Same as above.)

For over 30 years the school thrived in Macon, and in 1920, the school moved to Kansas City Missouri. It was located at first on Woodland Avenue of the city and later Tracy Avenue in the city. Over time the focus became centered on higher education and that became the focus and continues to this day.

Today the school still operates as Western Baptist Bible College as a four year institution devoted to Christian education. The school has also expanded now to operate on several campuses throughout the states of Missouri and Kansas. In Missouri campus are located in Kansas City, and St. Louis. In Kansas campuses are now located in Topkea, Wichita, Olathe, and Junction City. College Commencement will take place this year on May 12, 2016 on the at 8th Street Baptist Church in Kansas City Missouri.

The Missouri Messenger is a unique paper reflecting not only the Baptist community that it served, but also a unique school with an interesting legacy and history. It can be viewed on Ancestry in the collection of African American newspapers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Notes from the Colored Convention, Little Rock Arkansas 1865

Image from Colored Convention Nashville TN, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Magazine, May 6, 1876


                              We dream no more, our country wakes at last.
                              And reads wise lessons from the stormy past.
                              The spirit of the nation, proud and free
                              Might err and wander reft of memory.

                              But linked to truth, magnetic poles of yore
                              The dead sense wakens and she sins no more.
                              The drama moves, the people fill the stage
                              And virtue will restore the golden age.

~Words from the Colored Convention, 1865, Little Rock Arkansas

Throughout the south in the years after the Civil War, newly freed African people assembled in large numbers to discuss the future, share their common goals and to publicly declare their directions and hopes for the future. These gatherings were known as Colored Conventions and though they are seldom mentioned today, these were critical first steps made by the ancestors on the brink of a new direction and life course.

Such a convention took place in Arkansas in the state capitol in Little Rock in 1865. Most of the delegates were from Pulaski County, but several from other counties also participants. I was glad to see that George Sewell of "Sebastine(sic)" county was there. 

The minutes and proceedings of those meetings are left behind and as we make the effort to tell the family story--we need to incorporate the impact that such meetings may have had on the larger population.

The delegates of the Arkansas Colored Convention were:

From: Proceedings from the Convention of the Colored Citizens of Arkansas Held in Little Rock, Thursday, Friday & Saturday Nov. 30, December 1 and 2, 1865






These pages reflect notes emanating from that first Colored Convention in Arkansas. The minutes of this convention other conventions held throughout the south are found on a wonderful website called "Colored Conventions" .





Although I did not recognize the names of the delegates to the convention, it is still part of the local Arkansas history and these proceedings reflect a strong step that the newly freed population took to determine its own life course, and this is a story that needs to be told.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Gems From the Black Press: Remembering Eckstein Norton University



This article is part of a series  of articles whose purpose is to share each week an interesting article from early black publications of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As previously noted,the articles found inside of these long forgotten publications contain rich history that reflect  the early years of African America life in the first decades of freedom. Some are publications of fraternal or benevolent societies, and some were more community based. All  pieces shared in this series provide a close up to history and culture of times long past.



Today's Focus
Ohio Falls Express, Louisville KentuckyJuly 11, 1891
Advertisement for Eckstein Norton University


One of the things I like about old newspapers are the classified ads. They reflect the ordinary business of the people, and from such ads, one can find out about the products used by many in the community. In addition, one can learn about the people and the services that they offered and that they were seeking. Businesses are often reflected in those publications, as well as places of worship, and educational institutions. One such institution caught my attention, and it was one of which I had never heard before. The school was Eckstein Norton University, located in Louisville, Kentucky.




Source of Image:
Ancestry.com. U.S., African American Newspapers, 1829-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors.Original data: Negro Newspapers for the American Council of Learned StudiesWashington, D.C.: The Library of Congress


Having worked in higher education for over 25 years, I recognize the names of many institutions including the numerous Historically Black Colleges & Universities or HBCUs as we call them. But what a surprise to see an institution that was never known to me, out of Kentucky. Eckstein Norton University based in Louisville.

An advertisement about the school appeared on the front page of the Ohio Falls Gazette on July 11,1891.




Eckstein Norton University was located at Cane Springs, in Bullitt County Kentucky. The school was founded in 1890 in a hostile community that had never accepted the concept of "colored" schools. The first schools for Freedmen established by the Freedmen's Bureau were burned and the county continued to exhibit hostility towards any institution that would aid the population of newly freed slaves. The freedmen's school in Shepherdsville was continually threatened and in 1867 the Noble school was burned. According to resources at the University of Kentucky, small schools in Black churches were also burned. But the desire of former slaves to learn was strong, and prevailed. In spite of much public resistance against freed blacks at least eight schools did manage to prevail in the extremely hostile climate.

In 1890 Eckstein Norton was opened. It was named for the president of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, who had donated funds for the school.The school was located along the Bardstown branch of the railroad, and consisted of seven buildings. The academic program offered a primary school, a normal school and a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree. degree program. (1)

In 1911 it was decided to merge Eckstein Norton University with Lincoln Institute and the school closed officially in 1912.

Only a few images remain of the school, and the exact location of the school is not state on the few sites devoted to its brief history. But the advertisement itself reveals much about the school and its location and the kind of environment that it provided for the students.







Unfortunately, Eckstein Norton University had a short history. The institution merged with Lincoln Institute in 1912 and this small institution closed it's doors.


Additional Information on Eckstein Norton University:


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Gems from the Black Press: Arkansas Weekly Mansion


This article is part of a series  of articles whose purpose is to share each week an interesting article from early black publications of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As previously noted,the articles found inside of these long forgotten publications contain rich history that reflect  the early years of African America life in the first decades of freedom. Some are publications of fraternal or benevolent societies, and some were more community based. All  pieces shared in this series provide a close up to history and culture of times long past.



Today's Focus:

Arkansas Weekly Mansion
Editor's Notes

The Arkansas Weekly Mansion was a weekly publication based in Little Rock Arkansas. Like many African American publications, news from around the country pertaining to "the race" was often presented in the weekly editions. Ancestry has , one edition of this publication digitized. The issue is from 1883, and it presents an interesting glimpse of life around the country.


I looked at the column entitled "Editor's notes" and found a fascinating list of simple news bullets from around the nation. Image from the edition is here below, followed by a transcription of the notes.




Mrs. Mary A. Shadd Cary has graduated in law from Howard University. (Afro-American)


The board of bishops A.M.E. Church meets in Chicago June 27.

Cadet Whitaker’s father died recently in Kershaw County, South Carolina.

Mr. Theodore Sterrett, father of the wife of historian George W. Williams, died recently in Minneapolis Minn. He was formerly barber at the Galt House, Louisville Kentucky.

James T. Rapier, formerly a member of Congress, died in Montgomery Alabama, May 31.

Mr. McCabe, the colored state auditor of Kansas, is conducting his office with great credit to himself and profit to the state.

Dr. Jenifer writes to the Christian Recorder, that he has cancelled the $10,000 on the Charles Street and the $666 mortgage on the old Anderson street churches.

A large mass meeting of the citizens of Louisville has endorsed the meeting of the convention in that city, and pledged a “generous Kentucky welcome” to all comers.

Chicago has two colored medical graduates this year—Messrs. D.  H. Williams, and J. W. Henderson. There is a colored section boss names Washington Turner, in the employ of the Illinois Central railroad, who has a working gang of sixty-five colored men.

Thomas F. Cassells, colored has entered on his duty as collector on the port of Memphis.

John H. Alexander, the colored youth recently appointed cadet at West Point, from Ohio, is son of an old man “Jim” Alexander formerly of Helena Ark., and well known to the citizens of the state. James M. Alexander Sr. was a member of the legislature in Clayton times.

The state teacher’s association meets at the operahouseat (sic)the capitol June 27, 28, & 29. A fine programme (sic) will be presented.  

The colored men of the Cherokee nation have protested against the recent action of the Cherokee nation in declaring that the large amount of money received from the government shall be distributed only to Cherokees by blood.

Judge Gedders, democratic candidate for governor of Ohio, held a competitive examination at Elyrea (sic) for appointment to a cadetship at West Point, which resulted (see remaining text below)



in a tie. The Judge requested that the two candidates shall be re-examined at West Point with the understanding that the winner will get the appointment. The winner, a colored student from Oberlin, named Alexander was appointed. “The world do move.”

J. S. Harris city editor of the Kansas City Enterprise is compiling a book to be entitled, “The Prominent Colored Men of the West.”

Rev. J.W. Asbury, a colored minister is nominated for registrar of state lands in Kentucky.
George Bentley, (col.), porter of the Fourth National Bank of Grand Rapids Mich., recently robbed the bank of $1500.

The richest colored man in America is Mr. Aristide Marie of New Orleans who owns several large stores opposite the custom house, and has a yearly income of $50,000. He spends (illegible text)
(partially illegible paragraph…)

…We have received a copy of (illegible)…called “Poetic Gems” by R (? Text not visible) Attorney at law, Charlotte, (illegible). It contains a number of poems, (Illegible) etc. by the author, some of decided merit.

The Grand Lodge of Colored Freemasons of Georgia, has purchased a site on Gwinnett Street, Savannah, and proposes to erect a “fine three-story temple”. The cornerstone will be laid June 25th.

J. H. H. Longstark, of the Savannah Echo, translates the annexed from the Georgia Familiar Journal:  The present negro population of the United States is between 6,500.000 and 7,000,000. They have increased during the last decade thirty-five percent. If the white population is not increased by emigration, and the colored people keep on at this rate, the negro will have at the end of one hundred years from now a majority of 12,000,000.

Messrs. Palesser, Paleser, & Co., of Bridgeport Conn., have lately issued a sheet containing plans and specifications for a handsome modern six or eight room cottage, which is worth examining by anyone intending to build. The same firm furnishes specifications in blank for any class of residence which are of great practical value and convenience.

Hon. Wm. T. Brown formerly Superintendent of Education in Louisiana died at New Orleans May 15.

Mr. Tully Con, a great under-ground R.R. man in the olden times died in St. Francis Co., recently.

In the New York Globe, Col. Williams, the historian moves that “an American Negro Historical Society” be created. We second the motion.


As can be noticed, the editor often made his own remarks about observations that he shared from other publications. His remarks made after the small piece about the young Alexander being appointed to West Point speaks to the sentiment of the editor and the readership: "The world, do move." Following the suggestion of historian Col. Williams who suggested that a national historical society be formed, a "Negro Historical Society" again the editor voiced his own sentiment: "We second the motion."

As a researcher who also studies Oklahoma and Indian Territory history I was pleased to see an article reflecting the voices of protest expressed by Cherokee Freedmen, regarding their treatment by the Cherokee Nation by a move to exclude them from national funds, based on color. And the information about the young man who earned the appointment at West Point encourages me to pursue more details about the young man, and to see if more can be learned of his career.

Items such as these tiny snippets from the early Black press, provide a closer glimpse into the lives of our forefathers and mothers and the readers can glean a sense of pride seldom reflected in other pieces from the press in the same era.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Gems from the Black Press: The 1920 Negro State Fair, of Oklahoma

This article is part of a series  of articles whose purpose is to share each week an interesting article from early black publications of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As previously noted,the articles found inside of these long forgotten publications contain rich history that reflect  the early years of African America life in the first decades of freedom. Some are publications of fraternal or benevolent societies, and some were more community based. All  pieces shared in this series provide a close up to history and culture of times long past.
************************************


The Tulsa Star. (Tulsa, Okla.) October 9, 1920, Weekly Mail Edition, Page 1
Accessed from: Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress

In the early first half of the 20th century, life in the new state of Oklahoma was a fascinating place to be. Although segregation had worked its way into what was once Indian Territory, there was still an amazing and thriving, self-supporting Black community. A fascinating article from the Tulsa Star from October 1920 reflects much of the spirit of the Oklahoma African American population.

During that time, North Tulsa and the Greenwood District was thriving, black towns numbered more than two dozen, and the future looked bright for this state once a part of the western frontier. The article of October 9, 1920 provides and amazing glimpse into early Oklahoma Black life, especially before the 1921 racial disturbance when the Greenwood District was attacked.

The event was the Negro State Fair, scheduled to unfold in Wewoka, Oklahoma. The fair was a four day event taking place on the ranch of J. Coody Johnson, a leader in the Freedmen Community in Wewoka. and was expected to draw people from throughout the state.  The Negro Fair was widely celebrated and accepted by officials of the state. The fair was directed primarily to the African American population, as was clearly spelled out in the article.



The fair was endorsed by the larger community, and a presence from the entire state of Oklahoma was anticipated! Schools were closed for two days with permission of the State Superintendent. Also for entertainment there were exhibits and for the daring, flights in an airplane were also available. This was amazing during an era when air traffic was not frequent.




The fair was organized by attorney, and rancher J. Coody Johnson, known to have been a strong advocate for Seminole Freedmen. He was a wealthy man by the early 1900s and his land was used for the state event. He was assisted by Mrs. Julia Davidson of Wewoka who served as secretary for the event.

 
The Tulsa Star. (Tulsa, Okla.) October 9, 1920, Weekly Mail Edition, Page 4
Accessed from: Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress

Organizers of the Negro State Fair, Wewoka, Oklahoma


It is not known how often the fair was held after the event of 1920. But it is quite clear that this is an event that should be noted as one in which the members of the Oklahoma Black community  sought to honor their own accomplishments, and to celebrate their successes during those four memorable days in 1920. 
****************************

Monday, January 18, 2016

Gems From the Black Press: La Quasima Club of Columbus & the Social Event of the Season

Gems from The Black Press: This article is part of a series  of articles whose purpose is to share each week an interesting article from early black publications of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As previously noted,the articles found inside of these long forgotten publications contain rich history that reflect  the early years of African America life in the first decades of freedom. Some are publications of fraternal or benevolent societies, and some were more community based. All  pieces shared in this series provide a close up to history and culture of times long past.
********


Today's focus:
The Reception Given by the LaQuasima Club
from: The Columbus Standard





In 1901 the Columbus Standard was said to be the leading newspaper for Afro-Americans in the state of Ohio. An online article from July 1901 describes an interesting social event that was said to the the social event of the season for the Black community, in Columbus Ohio.

Source:Ancestry.com. U.S., African American Newspapers, 1829-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. This
collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors.

Original data: Negro Newspapers for the American Council of Learned Studies. Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress.

Apparently the event was honoring men who had been serving in the US military and had been involved actively in the conflict in the Philippines. The reference to "Our Boys" is reflecting the men returning from conflict.  Little is seen in the press of how returning service men of color were received upon return from service, especially after the Spanish American conflict. These returning soldiers were returning from time served in the Spanish American War and specifically from the Philippine Islands.

The event unfolded at the Odd Fellows Hall in Columbus, and a list of attendees was included in the article. It was clearly described as a major society event, for the article pointed out that seventy-five couples of young people from "the prominent colored families in the city were present." (1) I was quite surprised to note that among the guests whose names were published was a resident of my own hometown, of Ft. Smith Arkansas as well.

The article described the event where the ladies were "attired in airy evening gowns, the gentlemen wearing the up-to-date shirt waist, all responded gracefully to the music of the people's orchestra, presented a scene which stirred the pride of those who looked upon it."

Beyond this being a simple description of a social event, such an article is quite useful in terms of providing today's reader with an interesting glimpse into the social life of an African American community at the turn of the 20th century. Clearly there was an "elite" portion of the population with the reference to the "prominent" families in attendance. At the same time there was an orchestra more than likely a black orchestra in Columbus at that time as well.  The article is also full of names of many who were in attendance, and this can be an interesting way of looking at a portion of the population almost as a Who's Who list of the Black Columbus at that time, and it provided a wonderful glimpse about he ways in which the Columbus Black community socialized. 

The very existence of the La Quasima club is something for those with ancestral ties to Columbus to explore.
What was the origin of this club?
How long did it last?
Did it evolve into something that still exists today?

And there is also the Odd Fellows Hall. Was this a G.U.O. O. F. building? (Grand United Order of Odd Fellows?) Does the building still stand today?

Articles such as this one from the Columbus Standard provide that opportunity to give readers even 100 years later a flavor of life in the community at that time.