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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Hot off the press: our new book, “Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites”

Posted December 30th, 2014 by
Category: News and Announcements, Public History Tags: , , , , , ,

Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014)Update: Interpreting Slavery is now back in stock at Amazon.

We’re pleased to announce the release of the Tracing Center’s new book, Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014).

“This seminal work … will make a significant impact.”

— Rex M. Ellis, Associate Director, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Interpreting Slavery, edited by Kristin Gallas and James DeWolf Perry, is the most visible product to date of a three-year Tracing Center project to develop and disseminate best practices in slavery interpretation. This project has also included surveys of the field, workshops at historic sites and museums, conference presentations and instructional sessions, as well as additional publications.

The book is a collaboration with seven leading public historians with deep expertise in navigating the interpretation of slavery:

  • Dina A. Bailey, National Center for Civil and Human Rights
  • Patricia Brooks, National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Richard C. Cooper, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
  • Conny Graft, Conny C. Graft Research and Evaluation
  • Linnea Grim, Monticello
  • Katherine D. Kane, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
  • Nicole A. Moore, Museum Educator and Historic Consultant

Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites aims to move the field forward in its collective conversation about the interpretation of slavery—acknowledging criticism of the past and acting in the present to develop an inclusive interpretation of slavery. Presenting the history of slavery in a comprehensive and conscientious manner requires diligence and compassion—for the history itself, for those telling the story, and for those hearing the stories—but it’s a necessary part of our collective narrative about our past, present, and future.
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Black soldiers achieved something “virtually unheard of” at the Battle of Nashville in 1864

Posted December 16th, 2014 by
Category: History Tags: , , , ,

The Battle of NashvilleToday marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Nashville, which, between December 16-17, 1864, broke General John Bell Hood’s Confederate Army of Tennessee and left Tennessee in Union hands for the duration of the war.

In a military sense, the 13th United States Colored Troops, despite their bravery and sacrifice on the first day of the battle, “contributed nothing to the Union victory.” Yet this African American regiment achieved something “virtually unheard of in the war” with their courage and sacrifice: they “not only earned the awed respect of white Union troops who witnessed their efforts; they also garnered heartfelt praise from an opposing Confederate general in his official report.”

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