Remember, Memorial Day was started by African-Americans

Posted May 27th, 2016 by
Category: History Tags: , , , ,

In honor of Memorial Day, we are reposting this blog entry from 2013, which recounts how the first Memorial Day was celebrated by free black troops and civilians in Charleston, S.C. at the end of the Civil War.

St. Michael's Church, Charleston, South Carolina, 1865As we pause today to remember the nation’s war dead, it’s worth remembering that Memorial Day was first celebrated by black Union troops and free black Americans in Charleston, South Carolina at the end of the Civil War.

As historian David Blight recounts in his masterful book, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001), Charleston was occupied by Union troops in the spring of 1865, most white residents having fled the city. In this atmosphere, the free black population of Charleston, primarily consisting of former slaves, engaged in a series of celebrations to proclaim the meaning of the war as they saw it.

The height of these celebrations took place on May 1, 1865, on the grounds of the former Washington Race Course and Jockey Club, an elite facility which had been used by the Confederates as a gruesome prison and mass grave for unlucky Union soldiers. Following the evacuation of Charleston, black laborers had dug up the remains of Union soldiers, given them a proper burial, and built the trappings of a respectful cemetery around the site to memorialize their sacrifice.

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About our new partnership to form the Center for Reconciliation

Posted August 24th, 2015 by
Category: News and Announcements, Outreach, Public History Tags: , , , , ,

Cathedral of St. John in Providence, R.I.Today the New York Times is running an article on our partnership to create a Center for Reconciliation in the Episcopal cathedral in Providence, R.I.

The article, by Katharine Seelye, is headlined “Rhode Island Church Taking Unusual Step to Illuminate Its Slavery Role.” Seelye discusses our plans to offer a museum interpreting slavery and the slave trade in Rhode Island, and the North, with emphasis on the historical complicity of the entire nation, including the Episcopal Church, in the institution of slavery. She also talks about our intent to offer programming and community activities aimed at educating the general public and fostering dialogue, healing, and reconciliation.

The article details how the DeWolf family’s efforts to illuminate their slave-trading past in Rhode Island, including Katrina Browne’s PBS documentary, “Traces of the Trade,” have helped to inspire the Episcopal Diocese to put forward the idea for the Center for Reconciliation.

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Congress finally votes to abolish slavery, 150 years ago today

Posted January 31st, 2015 by
Category: History Tags: , , , , ,

Passage of the Thirteenth AmendmentToday, January 31, 2015, marks the 150th anniversary of the narrow but momentous decision, by a bitterly divided U.S. Congress at the end of the Civil War, to abolish slavery throughout the United States.

Why the Union began to take emancipation seriously

In January 1865, the Civil War was in its final days. Yet many in the Union were still opposed to emancipation.

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A state apology for slavery would acknowledge “the most fundamental sin in Delaware’s long history”

Posted January 24th, 2015 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , , ,
Famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass was one of the many enslaved who escaped to freedom through Delaware

Famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass was one of the many enslaved who escaped to freedom through Delaware

We can now add Delaware to the list of U.S. states where there is a popular movement to finally acknowledge the history of slavery and, perhaps, to apologize for that history.

The story until this month: in 2010, the Dover City Council passed a resolution, at the urging of the city’s human rights commission, asking the state legislature to apologize for slavery and Jim Crow. Since that time, no member of the Delaware General Assembly has been willing to put forward such a resolution.

Since January 1, however, there has emerged a movement in Delaware to have the governor issue pardons to three Delaware abolitionists who were convicted in the 19th century of aiding enslaved people along the Underground Railroad.

In response, historian Samuel B. Hoff of Delaware State University, who was chair of the Dover Human Relations Commission in 2010, is calling for the public to capitalize on the current momentum to address the state’s racial past, not on pardoning a handful of abolitionists for their crimes, but by finally acknowledging that these should never have been crimes: that state laws supporting slavery “were themselves morally bankrupt.”

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Will Mississippi finally offer an apology for slavery?

Posted January 13th, 2015 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , , ,

This is the season for state legislatures to consider whether to finally offer an apology for their role in slavery and racial discrimination, as eight states in the North and South have seen fit to do in recent years.

On Friday, we reported on the apology bill which has been filed in the new session of Georgia’s House of Representatives. That resolution would express the Georgia General Assembly’s “profound regret” for the state’s historic role in slavery.

This morning, we have word that an apology resolution has been filed in the Mississippi State Legislature by Rep. Willie Perkins (D-Greenwood).

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Will Georgia finally apologize for slavery?

Posted January 9th, 2015 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , ,

Georgia state representative Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta)The last time we provided an update here on the effort to have U.S. states to apologize for their role in slavery and racism, we reported that the Tennessee House of Representatives had voted overwhelmingly to approve a resolution which would have expressed “profound regret” for the state’s part in slavery and segregation. This was back last spring, and despite the fact that the state legislature’s lower chamber had softened the resolution’s language, which originally would have offered “profound apologies,” the state senate ignored the resolution. As a result, the proposal will expire next week, when the Tennessee General Assembly convenes for another term.

However, in the new year, there is another active effort to have a state apologize for slavery, this time in Georgia. We first reported about this on social media last month, when Georgia state representative Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) announced that in January, at the start of the legislative session, he would press for an apology for the state’s role in slavery and Jim Crow.

Brooks’ resolution, which is designated H.R. 3 and which can be found here, would have Georgia’s General Assembly express its “profound regret” for the state’s role in slavery, “atone” for that history, and call for “reconciliation among all Georgians.”

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