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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50th anniversary of King’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech

Posted December 10th, 2014 by
Category: History Tags: , , , , , ,

Text of King's Nobel Prize acceptance speechToday is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 1964. He was, at the time, the youngest person ever to receive that honor.

As the nation is embroiled in protests over the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson and Staten Island, let us pause for a moment to consider how much, and how little, has changed in half a century:

I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice.

I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice.

I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death.

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A museum dedicated to the slave trade in a cathedral in Providence, R.I.

Posted November 17th, 2014 by
Category: Public History Tags: , , , , ,

Episcopal Cathedral of St. John, Providence, R.I.The Tracing Center is excited to be part of a growing movement to transform much of the Episcopal cathedral in Providence, R.I. into a museum on the history of the slave trade and a center for racial reconciliation and healing.

This effort, which recently received the blessing of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, is outlined in an article by Paul Davis in today’s edition of the Providence Journal.

The Cathedral of St. John in Providence is in many ways a fitting location for a public space dedicated to interpreting the history of the slave trade and to addressing the legacies of this history today.
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Why did emancipation in Maryland, 150 years ago today, hardly matter?

Posted November 1st, 2014 by
Category: History Tags: , , ,
Letter from Annie Davis to President Lincoln, 1864

Letter from Annie Davis to President Lincoln, 1864

Today is the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Maryland.

This occasion mattered greatly, of course, to the 87,000 residents of Maryland who were still enslaved on November 1, 1864. This anniversary date also matters because the narrow passage of emancipation in Maryland furthered the gradual spread of emancipation elsewhere in the United States, including in the South, where the issue of emancipation had not yet been decided by Congress.

Nevertheless, in important ways, the reluctant abolition of slavery in Maryland scarcely mattered.

Pro-slavery attitudes and laws in Maryland

In 1864, when Maryland finally abolished slavery, the state had been on the Union side of the Civil War for three long years. Nevertheless, Maryland was a border state: slavery was common in the state, and the culture of slave-owning was widespread. Among the white population, therefore, loyalties had been deeply divided over the slavery question and secession all along.

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Developing comprehensive and conscientious interpretation of slavery

Posted September 16th, 2014 by
Category: Public History Tags: ,

Developing Comprehensive and Conscientious Interpretation of Slavery at Historic Sites and MuseumsThis year, Tracing Center staff wrote a “technical leaflet” on interpreting slavery for the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).

“Developing Comprehensive and Conscientious Interpretation of Slavery at Historic Sites and Museums,” by Kristin L. Gallas and James DeWolf Perry, outlines the strategic guidance and major lessons for interpreting slavery which are featured in our forthcoming book on interpreting slavery, due out by the end of the year from Rowman & Littlefield.

We’re pleased to say that this technical leaflet was included as an insert in the most recent issue of History News, the magazine for AASLH’s membership, and is now available to the general public through the AASLH web site.

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How much has racial prejudice hurt President Obama?

Posted July 11th, 2014 by
Category: Living consequences Tags: , , ,

President Barack ObamaThere are two new studies out on public opinion and voting behavior which shed light on persistent questions about how much racial prejudice hurts black politicians, and in particular, President Obama’s approval ratings and his vote totals in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

The first new study, “The cost of racial animus on a black candidate,” by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz and slated for publication in the October 2014 issue of the Journal of Public Economics, asks a relatively simple question: how much did racial prejudice affect Barack Obama’s vote share?1

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  1. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, “The cost of racial animus on a black candidate: Evidence using Google search data,” Journal of Public Economics 118: 26-40 (2014). []
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“The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”

Posted July 4th, 2014 by
Category: History Tags: , , , , , ,

Frederick DouglassThis post was originally published on July 4, 2013 and is reposted today in commemoration of Independence Day, in all its meanings.

It is always worth making time, on the Fourth of July, to remember those people and movements whose courage and sacrifice advanced and improved upon the ideals on which the United States was founded. This is true even for those which may have seemed radical, subversive, or even unpatriotic at the time.

In that light, we highly recommend the Fourth of July oration delivered by abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Rochester, N.Y. on July 5, 1852, entitled “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.”1

The following brief excepts from Douglass’ speech illustrate not only his burning hatred for slavery and his withering scorn for those who would not extend the nation’s liberty to all its children, but also his praise for all that is good in the American experiment, and his optimism for the future:
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  1. Our thanks to Mass Humanities, among others, for laboring diligently to make this speech, and its spirit, an integral part of our Independence Day celebrations each year. []
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