Black History Fun Fact Friday – Slave Patrols: A Brief History of American Policing

This post was originally published under another blog series Unfamiliar Faces: Lost to History. Due the current climate I have revised this post and re-categorized it under Black History Fun Facts.


Originally Published: July 14, 2015

Revised May 29, 2020

slave-patrols-police-origins

The tragic murder of George Floyd, who sadly joins the ranks of several unarmed black men killed by the police, has sparked outrage, protests, and unrest. Images and footage of the officer, Derek Chauvin (who had 18 prior complaints against him according to the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs), kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he repeated the too familiar phrase, “I can’t breathe!” is both horrifying and heartbreaking.

In response to the looting taking place by protesters of Floyd’s death, American President Donald Trump went on to call the looters “Thugs,” commenting that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The phrase comes from a 1967 quote used by Miami’s police chief, Walter Headley, in 1967, when he addressed his department’s “crackdown on … slum hoodlums,” according to a United Press International article from the time.

From the killing of Emmett Till in 1955 that sparked the Civil Rights Movement, to the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church killing those four little girls in Birmingham Alabama in 1963 (Addie Mae Collins, 14, Cynthia Wesley, 14, Carole Robertson, 14, and Carol Denise McNair, 11). From the 1965 Watts Riots that broke out over Marquette Frye, to the police officers who beat Rodney King in 1991 and the riots that broke out over their acquittal. From the killing of Trayvon Martin, Micheal Brown, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor and many others, Black people are frustrated and crying out for redemption.

Today, we look at the racists’ roots in American policing.

Slave Patrols had three functions: to chase, apprehend, and return the enslaved who had run away to their “owners,” to organize terror to deter slave-revolts and to maintain discipline for slave-workers who were subject to violence if they broke plantation rules. These organizations evolved into southern police departments whose job was to control the freed slaves who were now working as laborers and to enforce the Jim Crow segregation laws that denied freed people certain human rights.

“Early American police departments shared two primary characteristics: they were notoriously corrupt and flagrantly brutal. This should come as no surprise in that police were under the control of local politicians. The local political party ward leader in most cities appointed the police executive in charge of the ward leader’s neighborhood. The ward leader, also, most often was the neighborhood tavern owner, sometimes the neighborhood purveyor of gambling and prostitution, and usually the controlling influence over neighborhood youth gangs who were used to get out the vote and intimidate opposition party voters. In this system of vice, organized violence and political corruption it is inconceivable that the police could be anything but corrupt (Walker 1996).” –  Dr. Gary Potter

Slave Patrollers were white men who rode around on horseback carrying guns, rope, and whips, ready to capture the enslaved. Their job was also to enforce the pass system, a pass, or ticket, signed by the slave master that authorized the enslaved to travel. Without this pass, an enslaved person could be beaten, and beatings sometimes happened even when the person had a pass, eerily similar to black men and women who are beaten, choked, gunned down, and stepped on even when they have done nothing wrong.

In her book, Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, Sally Hadden writes, “mounted man presents an awesome figure, and the power and majesty of a group of men on horseback, at night, could terrify slaves into submission.” Many members of the black community still refer to large police vehicles as “patty-wagons,” a play on the former “paddyrollers,” which was also a nickname for Slave Patrols.

Run, nigger, run; the pateroller catch you,
Run, nigger, run, almost dawn.
Run, nigger, run; the pateroller catch you,
Run, nigger, run, almost dawn.

Source: Wolf Folklore Song – RUN NIGGER RUN, THE PATEROLLER CATCH YOU (RUN, NIGGER, RUN)  sung by Joe Pat| Also found in Randolph, Vol. II, #264; Brown, Vol. III, #457| Source: http://web.lyon.edu/wolfcollection/songs/patrun1287.html

As K. B. Turner  David Giacopassi  &  Margaret Vandiver remark in Ignoring the Past: Coverage of Slavery and Slave Patrols in Criminal Justice Texts, “the literature clearly establishes that a legally sanctioned law enforcement system existed in America before the Civil War for the express purpose of controlling the slave population and protecting the interests of slave owners. The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.”


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Black History Fun Fact Friday – Madison Washington by Joseph Ward

Today’s Black History Fun Fact Friday is from Joseph Ward.

Ward has prepared for us the inspiring story of Madison Washington, a formerly enslaved man who had escaped successfully and fled to Canada. Washington returned to Virginia to free his wife but was recaptured and put on a slave ship in Richmond, Virginia. Guys, Washington is the real-life Django Unchained! Not only does he free his wife, but many others.


Madison Washington was a man born into slavery in Virginia who escaped but risked his freedom to help free his beloved Susan. Washington is described as having extraordinary African features, superb leadership qualities, and a fierce spirit. They considered him a fugitive for escaping slavery and heading north to Canada, eventually finding work with a farmer named Mr. Dickenson. Even as a small child Madison would rebel against the inhumane treatment of him his slave masters, but rebellion eventually earned Washington his place in history.

Around the age of twenty Washington would meet the love of his life, the beautiful Susan, who he would make his wife. He planned to escape from slavery to free himself and his wife, but his plans didn’t work out. To prevent himself from being sold away from his wife, Madison escaped from the farm and hid in the surrounding woods for months. While in hiding he could keep an eye on his wife, he also began planning to lead a rebellion. His plans once again failed, and he eventually traveled north to Canada to live in free lands.

While in Canada Washington’s plan was to get a job and save enough money to buy the freedom of his wife Susan. He was becoming discouraged in carrying out his plans because he realized it would take five years to raise the money needed to free his wife. Washington made his mind up that he would return into the grasp of slavery to free his Susan. Mr. Dickenson the farmer tried his best to persuade Washington to take another course of action. He eventually left Canada with his wages and his freedom papers, heading south to Virginia. He could reach an area close to the farm where his wife was held but had to conceal his identity to prevent him from being captured.

Washington was still considered a fugitive, and anyone who recognized him would have blown his cover. Being a man of tact and organization, Washington carried miniature files and saws within the lining of his coat; these would help him break out of any chains used to restrain him. “Liberty is worth nothing to me while my wife is a slave,” said Washington as he held conversations with fellow travelers who tried to convince him to abandon his plans.

As Washington traveled closer to the farm that held his wife, he was forced to travel at night for fear of being recognized by someone. He found temporary shelter in the woods near the farm and tried to get information about her but was unsuccessful. One night while in hiding, he heard singing off in the distant woods; the singing was coming closer and closer to where he was hiding. As he investigated the singing, he became a part of the singing, there he learned that he stumbled upon a “corn shucking.”

A “corn shucking” was a mass gathering of slaves who pealed loads of corn, and after pealing the corn they were able to have a huge dinner with whiskey and dancing, which was provided by the owner of the plantation where the corn shucking took place. Washington refused to eat the food for fear of being discovered. He also was very careful to ask only a few questions and remain in the shadows. At the corn shucking, he learned that his wife had not been sold and was still on the old farm.

Being too eager to see his wife, Washington entered the parameter of the farm but was spotted by an overseer. The overseer then alerted the other white overseers on the farm. The first three men to approach Washington was struck in the face and knocked to the ground unconscious.  Eventually, Washington was subdued, shipped to Richmond, Virginia, and sold to the slave owners Johnson and Eperson. New Orleans was the destination for The Creole, a slave ship controlled by Captain Enson and owned by Johnson and Eperson.

Washington and one-hundred and forty-four other slaves were loaded upon The Creole along with other cargo the men were shipping to New Orleans. As they loaded the slaves upon The Creole, the men were placed in one cabin and the women were placed in another. For fear of rebellion, the men were heavily chained, and Washington particularly was chained to the floor of the cabin. The women were not chained and were able to roam their cabin freely.

As Washington lay chained to the floor, his attitude was rather jovial than the expected gloom the other slaves displayed. The overseers didn’t know that while Washington was displaying a docile and cooperative attitude; he was secretly picking the men he would use to overthrow The Creole. They also didn’t know that Washington still carried his mini saws and files within the lining of his coat to use when the time was right.

In 1841, on the ninth day of the voyage, The Creole encountered rough seas which made several slaves very sick. Because some slaves were sick, the overseers did not watch them properly, this created the perfect opportunity for Washington and his men to attack. Washington used his mini saw and file to free himself and at least eighteen other men. Once free, the slaves found weapons and made their way to the deck where the ship’s crew was stationed. When the slaves attacked the ship’s crew it was unexpected, and it startled the crew, the men barley moved to make them easy targets for the slaves.

Hewell, the Black slave driver, and others from the crew drew their guns and shot some slaves. Washington spotted Hewell shooting his gun, approached him from behind, and struck him in the head, wounding him severely. Washington led his men into battle with iconic flair, fueling his men to earn their victory; the slaves then dominated the crew and gained control of The Creole. Washington’s men wanted to kill the remaining crew members who were still alive, but Washington allowed no more killing. He was not interested in killing the men, only gaining the freedom of his people and his wife.

The next morning, Madison Washington was named “Captain Washington,” commander of The Creole, by his men. That same morning, Washington requested that the cook prepare a wonderful meal for the men and women who were once captives on the ship. This meal would be the first time the men and women would see each other. Little did Washington know his beautiful wife Susan was one of the women held in the cabin on The Creole. As they served the meal, enslaved men and women mingled for the first time as free human beings. Washington and Susan spotted each other and shared a passionate, tearful reunion. After years of being separated because of slavery, Madison and Susan Washington were once again husband and wife.

Madison Washington and his men defeated the crew of the Creole, and Washington ordered that the men not be killed and their wounds treated. Once the wounds of the white men healed they tried to regain control of the ship but were defeated once more. Because of the bravery and brilliance of Washington, one-hundred, and forty-four, people could gain their freedom upon The Creole. The Creole didn’t make it to New Orleans, instead, Washington and his men landed in Nassau, Bahamas because they learned it was a free island. Washington was determined to free his wife, and his determination and love for his wife led to him freeing others he did not know.

The Story of Madison Washington and The Creole is a story many of us have never heard before; a man of African lineage who embraced freedom could not only change history but change the lives of others. This story is important because it shows that once organized black people can gain their freedom. It also exemplifies the commitment of a black man to his black wife, which is counter to the normal narrative which usually degrades the black family. If we unite and trust each other we can make the impossible, possible.

Copyright © 2020 | Joseph Ward

Mr. Madison Washington, we proudly stand on your shoulders.

– JA Ward

 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madison_Washington

https://newsone.com/2762407/the-creole-slave-revolt-1841/

https://loa-shared.s3.amazonaws.com/static/pdf/Brown_Madison_Washington.pdf


Copyright©JA Ward

Website: www.ontheshoulders1.com

IG & Twitter: @Joseph Ward

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxJI7ykLdNA

Facebook: On the Shoulders of Giants

Joseph A. Ward is a graduate of Florida A&M University (FAMU) and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Ward is a graduate of the “New Hope Program” with the Florida Department of Health (DOH) in Leon County and has served as a co-facilitator of the program for over seven years, teaching life and professional skills to underprivileged persons. In addition to co-facilitating this program, he also helped establish the FAMU chapter of Men of Strength (MOST) and currently serves as its co-facilitator.

Over the past 14 years, Mr. Ward has dedicated himself to studying the history and the culture of the African diaspora. He is the founder of On the Shoulders of Giants, Inc., author of On the Shoulders of Giants Vol: 1 North America, and On the Shoulders of Giants Vol: 2 Central America. He is also the host of The Freedom Train Podcast Series and The Fix Sports Podcast.

Mr. Ward’s commitment to his community has proven him to be a reputable teacher, coach, trainer, and motivator. He is dedicated to uplifting and educating individuals around the world while helping to create mindsets and environments which foster greatness.

Click here to learn more about the On the Shoulders of Giants book series!!


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Black History Fun Fact Friday – Marital Relationships During Slavery

The inspiration for today’s topic comes from a heated discussion ongoing from an episode of The Real. The Real is a talk show that prides itself on being centered on discussions on current events, fashion, family, relationships, and celebrity news. The show’s host includes Jeannie Mai, Adrienne Bailon, Tamera Mowry-Housely, Loni Love, and now Amanda Seals. The show’s hook is presenting real topics, having real discussions, and giving very real opinions. But some audiences do not find the show to be as authentic as it prides itself to be and Loni’s comments don’t help.

Co-host Loni Love found herself in some hot water over her comments about Black men, cheating, and slavery. Here is a clip of what was said:

Whether you agree with Loni or not her comment opened the door for further discussion on this topic. I would like to use it as the catalyst for exploring what relationships were like for enslaved men and women and if there is any truth in Loni’s statement.

Questions to ponder as you read:

  1. Should we isolate Black men as cheaters who use money and power to take advantage of women?
  1. Is it fair to use slavery to support the theory that Black men, in particular, have a problem being faithful in relationships?
  1. Are we descendants of slaves? Or are we descendants of people who were enslaved?

Family separation became increasingly common during the antebellum period and being sold on the New Year was a common occurrence. Widely known as “Hiring Day” — or “Heartbreak Day,” as the Black abolitionist journalist William Cooper Nell described it — enslaved people spent New Year’s Eve waiting, wondering if their owners would rent them out to someone else, which would split up their families. (Waxman, O, 2019) “Hiring Day” was part of the larger economic cycle in which most debts were collected and settled on New Year Day,” says Alexis McCrossen, an expert on the history of New Year Eve and New Year Day and a professor of history at Southern Methodist University, who writes about Hiring Day in her forthcoming book Time’s Touchstone: The New Year in American Life.

Enslaved people were bought and sold like cattle and auctioneers appraised women based on their ability to reproduce. Women who birthed children during slavery were called “breeders,” and their children were referred to as the “increase.” The mother and father of the “increase,” could have been a legitimate couple or they could have been forced together.

Black people were not people in this sense, they were commodities. Their bodies had a price tag. Slave-masters/owners could mortgage, loan, trade, or exchange the enslaved body. “The nature of exchanging enslaved people meant that this seller was open to the idea of getting them back, perhaps after the child reached a certain age and the mother was no longer breastfeeding.” (Berry, D, pp 20)

Enslaved men, women, and children incurred interest and even in death the enslaved body was traded and sold, many of them ending up on the tables of medical schools for hands-on medical research. Slave farms existed, where Black men and women were raped and forced to have sex with one another. The South,” writes Sublettes, co-author of The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry “did not only produce tobacco, rice, sugar, and cotton as commodities for sale; it produced people.”

“Because slaves were property, Southern slave owners could mortgage them to banks and then the banks could package the mortgages into bonds and sell the bonds to anyone anywhere in the world, even where slavery was illegal. Thomas Jefferson bragged to George Washington that the birth of black children was increasing Virginia’s capital stock by four percent annually.”

– The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry

Enslaved couples were not married or in a relationship in the same way men and women are married or in a relationship today. Since this is a private area of the enslaved life, it’s difficult for historians to say for certain how these relationships worked or did not work.

“Research into the intimate areas of slaves’ lives has proven problematic for historians because the typicality of private sentiments is always hard to establish, and within slave testimony such as the WPA narratives, the reference to issues of marital discord, abuse, or adultery is rare.”

Emily West (2004) Tensions, tempers, and temptations: marital discord among slaves in antebellum South Carolina, American Nineteenth Century History, 5:2, 1-18, DOI: 10.1080/1466465042000257837

What we know is that it was illegal for Blacks to marry in the traditional sense, that many of them were forced together for breeding, and that some enslaved couples did not live on the same plantation. There’s something else we know: due to the complex and brutal system of slavery, relationship bonds between black men and women (that weren’t forced or instituted by the slave owner) were strong. “Marital ties created bonds that warrant attention equal to the bonds of motherhood.” (Berry)

Enslaved couples who married under slavery loved each other deeply because there was no guarantee they wouldn’t be sold away from one another. The story of Tamar, an enslaved woman from Camden County, North Carolina, ran away several times, was sold several times, and had her children sold multiple times. According to her brother’s testimony, Tamar “traveled by night, and hid herself in the woods.” (Berry) While in hiding she had more children with her husband. Pregnancy, in this case, could have resulted from genuine love and marital affairs.

In The “Chords of Love: Legalizing Black Marital and Family Rights in Postwar Texas” Crouch tells the story of Fannie, a slave woman who wrote a loving letter to her husband. “I haven’t forgot you,” she writes, “nor I never will forget you as long as the world stands.” (Crouch, B, Journal of African American History)

“…it’s not across the board because what is happening is that we are still dealing with the point of slavery. And we are descendants of slavery and because our families were broken up…” – Loni Love

Is there a correlation between a Black man who cheats, and the enslaved Black man who was forced to have sex with and impregnate lots of women without attachment or commitment? Has this trauma passed down through generations caused Black men to perpetuate similar behaviors as was required during slavery? Is this what Loni Love of The Real was trying to communicate?

Certainly, we have all inherited both good and toxic behaviors from our ancestors in one way or another. To this day many Black families say they eat pork because “at slavery times that’s all we had to eat, so we made food taste good by trying things out,” says Big Mama on the 1997 movie Soul Food.

But Black people aren’t the only people who eat pork or are known for eating pork (and eating like you did when you were enslaved is not wise). 

“Cheating is a matter of choice. And when you cheat it is a choice that you as a man are making to feed your ego. It has nothing to do with your boys not being around. It has nothing to do with men working too hard. It’s not a matter of race. Men make choices and cheating is always a poor choice because it’s ego-driven.”

– Charlamagne tha God

While there are certainly questionable actions we’ve picked up from being an enslaved people, there is no evidence that directly links Black men cheating to slavery. Cheating is not a trauma-based response from slavery that causes Black men to be untrustworthy and unfaithful more than any other race. Men and women of all races and backgrounds make poor choices that cause them to cheat for one reason or another.

What further complicates things is that Adrienne adds that this is true “across the board,” which is a good point. This could have been an opportunity for further clarity, historical context, and teaching but Loni cuts her off, further clarifying her point that she is specifically talking about Black people and in particular, Black men:

“No, it’s not across the board because what is happening is that we are still dealing with the point of slavery. And we are descendants of slavery and because our families were broken up we still do not have a idea of how to have…together, families were broken up…”

We are not descendants of slavery.

We are the descendants of a people who were enslaved.

If it’s true that because of slavery Black men struggle with fidelity, then we also have to say something about the white slave masters who raped and forced black men and women to breed. And we have to talk about the white slaveowners who cheated on their white wives with black women.

Black men during slavery did not have the same capacity to cheat as men and women have today. Marriage during slavery did not mean the couple could exercise fidelity because they did not have a right to their own bodies. While married, the wife may have had children by the master after being raped by him and the husband could have also fathered more children through force. The only guarantee was the love each had for one another and the hope that they could see each other as often as was allowed and cultivate some sense of normalcy for their families (as normal as was possible under slavery).

Is it fair to say, “lots of white men beat their wives because they are the descendants of slave-owners and masters who beat their slaves?” Is it ever fair to make generalizations about a group of people, gender or race?

Imagine the frustration of being a Black man in America, honorable and striving only to look and see your own woman (The Black Woman) consistently publicly declare to the world that you are not capable of doing right.

“Black men everyday are dealing with our character being shamed.”

– Willie D

If we say “black men don’t know how to be faithful because we are still dealing with the point of slavery” we first miseducate people on the history of our enslavement. Next, we alienate Black men, assume Black women and other races of people (across the board) don’t cheat, and throw Black men under the bus.


Books I recommend for further research on Slave Breeding and Blacks used as Commodities: 

The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry by Ned and Constance Sublette

The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation by Daina Ramey Berry

Medical Apartheid: The Dark Experimentation on Blacks from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington

Black History Fun Fact Friday – The End of Enslavement and Reconstruction

Founded in 1607, America celebrated her 400th anniversary in 2007. Twelve years from 1607 (1619) she brought to her shores the first 20 persons of “African” descent to begin American slavery. (Learn more about that in a previous post here). Tuesday, August 20, 2019, marked the 400th anniversary of this event. In light of the 400th year, I thought this would be an excellent time to revisit some basics. I hope this insight will help us to understand the many disadvantages Blacks have faced since “freedom,” and why the failure of the U.S. to move on its promises to Blacks set a pattern that will define it until this very day.

During the Civil War (when the Southern States wanted to pull away or secede from the U.S. and create its own Country, The Confederate States of America), the U.S. government realized that it had to destroy anything that could be used by the South to support the Confederacy. Being slave labor was a big part of the South’s economy, Lincoln eventually realized that it had to be abolished, a massive blow to the Confederacy. But he didn’t realize this right away and he didn’t want it right away. It was never part of America’s plan to do away with slavery.

“Many people are completely misinformed about Lincoln and the Negro. That war was about two thieves, the North and the South, fighting over the spoils. The further we get away from the actual incident, the more they are trying to make it sound as though the battle was over the black man. Lincoln said that if he could save the Union without freeing any slaves he would. But after two years of killing and carnage, he found he would have to free the slaves. he wasn’t interested in the slaves, but the union.”

– Malcolm X, Playboy Interview with Alex Haley, p 42-43

Malcolm X spoke nothing but the truth and we will prove it (for those willing to understand the truth) in this post.

The 10% Plan

First, Lincoln decided on what is called the 10% plan or Lincoln’s Plan. The 10% plan meant that a southern state could be readmitted into the Union once ten percent of its voters (from the voter rolls for the election of 1860) swore an oath of allegiance to the Union. In other words, when ten percent of the voting population swears an oath of loyalty to the U.S. (no support of the Confederacy). The problem with this plan:

  • The plan did not plan for African Americans
  • The Plan did not even mention African Americans

Wade Davis Bill

Next, was the Wade-Davis Bill offered by Congress. The Wade-Davis Bill (named after Senator Benjamin F. Wade and Representative Henry Winter Davis), required that 50 percent of a state’s white males take a loyalty oath to be readmitted to the Union, also known as the Iron-Clad Oath. These men had to promise no support of the Confederacy. It also required States to give blacks the right to vote and ensure citizenship rights for African Americans.

What was Lincolns response to this?

Nothing.

Pocket Veto

Lincoln did nothing, also known as a Pocket Veto. He did not sign or veto the bill. He simply did nothing. Webster’s Online Dictionary defines Pocket Veto as:

  1. an indirect veto of a legislative bill by the president or a governor by retaining the bill unsigned until it is too late for it to be dealt with during the legislative session.

Eventually, Lincoln had to save the Union. He said if he could save the Union by not freeing any slaves he would do it but obviously, he couldn’t. Ending slavery was the best way to strike the Confederacy and save the Union.

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.”

– Abraham Lincoln, Letter addressed to Horace Greeley, Washington, August 22, 1862. Source: The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, by Lincoln to end slavery in the States that were in Rebellion. This means not all enslaved people were freed. (Looks like Lincoln was going for the “free some and leave others” tactic. It didn’t work though.) On the passing of the 13th Amendment in January of 1865, slavery was officially deemed illegal in America, freeing all people enslaved.

However, many men, women, and children in Texas were still being held bondage and did not know that slavery was over:

“Since the capture of New Orleans in 1862, slave owners in Mississippi, Louisiana and other points east had been migrating to Texas to escape the Union Army’s reach. In a hurried re-enactment of the original Middle Passage, more than 150,000 slaves had made the trek west, according to historian Leon Litwack in his book Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of SlaveryAs one former slave he quotes recalled, ” ‘It looked like everybody in the world was going to Texas.’”

These men, women, and children were still enslaved until June 1865 when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free, two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Known as Juneteenth, it is the reason many Black Americans celebrate Juneteenth instead of July 4th as their National Independence Day.

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.” – https://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm

But economic and cultural forces caused a decline in Juneteenth activities and participation as well as ongoing slavery. Before we go on, let’s continue on with Lincoln for full context.

A Change of Heart?

It is believed that Lincoln may have had a change of heart toward the end of his life after returning from a visit to Richmond, VA in 1865. He received opposition from Richmond’s white citizens but it’s Black freedmen welcomed Lincoln with open arms. They saw him as the man who had “emancipated” them and pushed through the 13th Amendment. When Lincoln got back to D.C. he gave the last speech of his life and this is when it gets murky.

Some suggest this is the speech that showcases his change of heart, where he suggests that now that the war was over the Government needed to think about giving African Americans rights, specifically giving Black men the right to vote. Some 200,000 Black men fought in the War and at the very least they should be given the right to vote. (Lincoln did own slaves so did he free the slaves under him during this “change of heart?”) The speech is said to show he was leaning toward Congress’ idea of Reconstruction. And it is believed this speech is the speech that got him killed by well-known stage actor John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, while attending the play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.

The Problem

The only problem is that even if Lincoln had a change of heart, his death brought in Andrew Johnson as President and Andrew Johnson decided to go with Lincoln’s original 10% Plan and to do so quickly. By December of 1865, he offered pardons to former white slave-owners which authorized them to create new state governments. Now leading Johnson’s reconstruction are the same people who had led the Confederacy, also former slave-owners, and they set out to create laws that would recreate slavery.

Slavery Continued After Juneteenth

Juneteenth didn’t have much meaning for Black people at the time any more than the Emancipation Proclamation for a few reasons:

  1. Technically, the 250,000 Blacks in Texas were already “Free” they just didn’t know it. The document issued on June 19, 1865 was an announcement to those enslaved in Texas of the Emancipation Proclamation. Not an amendment or law.

“As for the Emancipation Proclamation, sir, it was an empty document. If it freed the slaves, why, a century later, are we still battling for civil rights?” – Malcolm X

  1. The announcement urged slaves to stay with their former owners: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

 

  1. Not all slaves were freed instantly. Many Blacks were still being enslaved both directly (working on plantations) and indirectly (recreated/renamed slave laws). When legally freed slaves tried to leave they were lynched, beaten or murdered.

“When Texas fell and Granger dispatched his now famous order No. 3, it wasn’t exactly instant magic for most of the Lone Star State’s 250,000 slaves. On plantations, masters had to decide when and how to announce the news — or wait for a government agent to arrive — and it was not uncommon for them to delay until after the harvest. Even in Galveston city, the ex-Confederate mayor flouted the Army by forcing the freed people back to work, as historian Elizabeth Hayes Turner details in her comprehensive essay, “Juneteenth: Emancipation and Memory,” in Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas.”

“Those who acted on the news did so at their peril. As quoted in Litwack’s book, former slave Susan Merritt recalled, ” ‘You could see lots of niggers hangin’ to trees in Sabine bottom right after freedom, ’cause they cotch ’em swimmin’ ‘cross Sabine River and shoot ’em.’ ” In one extreme case, according to Hayes Turner, a former slave named Katie Darling continued working for her mistress another six years (She ” ‘whip me after the war jist like she did ‘fore,’ ” Darling said).”

“In July 1867 there were two separate reports of slaves being freed, and one report of a Texas horse thief named Alex Simpson whose slaves were only freed after his hanging in 1868.” – Blacks in East Texas History: Selections from the East Texas Historical Journal By Alwyn Barr

 

Convict Leasing

Immediately after the Blacks in Texas were freed from chattel slavery in June of 1865, they were required (under the new governmental system) to have Labor Contracts. Many Blacks returned to their former slave-owners for this so that they were back to working under their former slave-owners.

There is also a well-known loophole in the 13th Amendment that states:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

This allowance of slavery for crimes opened the door for Blacks to be put back into an institution of slavery while imprisoned, giving rise to a system of Convict Leasing.

“After the Civil War, slavery persisted in the form of convict leasing, a system in which Southern states leased prisoners to private railways, mines, and large plantations. While states profited, prisoners earned no pay and faced inhumane, dangerous, and often deadly work conditions. Thousands of black people were forced into what authors have termed “slavery by another name” until the 1930s.”

https://eji.org/history-racial-injustice-convict-leasing

Slave Codes

Black Codes is another system of slavery created by the new government. Black Codes were laws specifically created for African Americans, subjecting them to criminal prosecution for “offenses” such as loitering, breaking curfew, vagrancy, having weapons, and not carrying proof of employment. If you remember, these weren’t new laws.

These were the same “offenses” that would get the enslaved whipped or sold during slavery. For instance, the enslaved couldn’t travel from place to place without a pass signed by their owner. “Those without such a pass could be arrested, jailed, and detained as a runaway. Some owners wrote general passes allowing their slaves to “pass” and “repass.” (http://www.inmotionaame.org/gallery) Under Black Codes, Blacks had to carry proof of employment when very few Blacks were employed. Failure to do so will get them jailed.

Although physically freed, Blacks were held economically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually captive in the U.S. for over four hundred years. Captive to almost one hundred years of Jim Crow Laws, over eighty years of lynchings, fourteen years of fighting for Civil Rights (if we count from 1954-1968), and the continued Police Brutality of unarmed Blacks that persists to this day.

The era of Reconstruction was to reconstruct or restore the South’s political relationship with the Federal Government; to reconstruct the Southern States’ representation in the National Government. The promises made to freedmen at the abolition of slavery were never realized because perhaps, as Lincoln put it, the purpose was never to free them in the first place but to save the union. Once they reestablished the union America set out to recreate slavery. Promises such as owning land (“40 Acres and a Mule”) were broken when Johnson ordered nearly all land in the hands of the government to be returned to its prewar owners—slave/plantation owners.

The truth is the Emancipation Proclamation, Reconstruction and Juneteenth did nothing to restore land or citizenship rights to the 40 million newly freed Blacks. Instead, they remained psychologically and economically disadvantaged, forced into a mental and spiritual form of enslavement that lasted for centuries.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Juneteenth

I don’t celebrate holidays (this includes Kwanzaa and Juneteenth.) But it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t explore what this day is and what makes it so special for Black Americans; many replacing their 4th of July celebrations with Juneteenth instead. Despite my personal thoughts on it I respect the day as an important part of history to remember and I don’t believe we’ve ever covered it on this blog.


According to the Emancipation Proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln January 1, 1863, the proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” By rebellious states it was referring to those states that had seceded or withdrawn from the United States, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also exempted parts of the Confederacy (the Southern secessionist states) that had already come under Northern control. The freedom it promised also depended upon United States military victory. In brief, Emancipation only applied to those slaves who lived near Union lines.

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News of the supposed emancipation did not spread as quickly as the movies would have us to believe. Many slave-owners packed up their belongings and their slaves and moved to Texas in mass. “Since the capture of New Orleans in 1862, slave owners in Mississippi, Louisiana and other points east had been migrating to Texas to escape the Union Army’s reach.” (Henry Louis Gates Jr.) In a hurried re-enactment of the original Middle Passage, more than 150,000 slaves had made the trek west, according to historian Leon Litwack in his book Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of SlaveryAs one former slave he quotes recalled,”‘It looked like everybody in the world was going to Texas.’’ For the next two years, slave owners and the enslaved would live removed from the updates of the war and slavery would go on, business as usual.

And so, when General Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas, on June 19th to lead the Union occupation force, he had to deal with ongoing slavery in defiance of the Emancipation Proclamation. To fix this, he issued the following order:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor. The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

This second proclamation, specifying that all slaves were free, is the foundation to the celebration of Juneteenth, a combining of June and the nineteenth when the order was issued. However, it is also important to know that just like the first proclamation, this order did not free all the enslaved.

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“There is much evidence to suggest that southern whites—especially Confederate parolees—perpetrated more acts of violence against newly freed bondspeople in Texas than in other states,” writes historian Elizabeth Hayes Turner in an essay titled “Juneteenth: Emancipation and Memory.” “Between the Neches and Sabine rivers and north to Henderson,” she continues, “reports showed that blacks continued in a form of slavery, intimidated by former Confederate soldiers still in uniform and bearing arms.” Murder, lynching, and harassment were common. “You could see lots of Negroes hanging from trees in Sabine bottom right after freedom,” reported one freed slave, “They would catch them swimming across Sabine River and shoot them.”

Still, Blacks celebrated their freedom with the first official Juneteenth event taking place in 1866 where they read the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and praised Abraham Lincoln as the great liberator. (I find this odd but that’s another topic for another day). The celebrations continued until coming to a halt with the institution of Jim Crow, laws that essentially put Blacks back into a form of slavery where we were fully disenfranchised and outside of the law. Convict Leasing is a great example of this. After the Civil War and the end of slavery, Southern states, who had amassed great wealth from slavery, found their economy in shambles.

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They had to figure out how to keep a slave-like system going and like sharecropping, convict leasing was another answer. Black Codes and Pig Laws, unfairly penalized poor African Americans for crimes such as stealing a pig. It was also a crime to be unemployed. These laws could be imposed on Black men easily, sending them to jail and thus former slave owners turned “entrepreneurs” could lease them to various companies that would work them to death and treat them like they were slaves. This made the states tons of money. In 1883, about 10 percent of Alabama’s total revenue was derived from convict leasing. In 1898, nearly 73 percent of total revenue came from this same source. Death rates among leased convicts were approximately 10 times higher than the death rates of prisoners in non-lease states. In 1873, for example, 25 percent of all black leased convicts died.

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Texas Juneteenth Day Celebration, 1900 (Austin History Center, Austin Public Library)

Juneteenth didn’t make a full resurgence until The Civil Rights Movement when Blacks began to celebrate it in full again. And while many Blacks have celebrated it for centuries, it still did not become an official Holiday until it was made a Texas state holiday in 1980, and it wasn’t until 1997 that Congress recognized June 19th as “Juneteenth Independence Day,” after pressure from a collection of groups like the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage and National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation.


For more Black History Fun Facts, be sure to visit the BHFFF Page HERE.

New lynching Memorial Evokes Terror of Victims

Visitors to the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice first glimpse them, eerily, in the distance: Brown rectangular slabs, 800 in all, inscribed with the names of more than 4,000 souls who lost their lives in lynchings between 1877 and 1950.

Each pillar is 6 feet (2 meters) tall, the height of a person, and made of steel that weathers to different shades of brown. Viewers enter at eye level with the monuments, allowing a view of victims’ names and the date and place of their slaying.

As visitors descend downward on a slanted wooden plank floor, the slabs seemingly rise above them, suspended in the air in long corridors, evoking the image of rows of hanging brown bodies.

The memorial and an accompanying museum that open this week in Montgomery are a project of the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative, a legal advocacy group in Montgomery. The organization says the two sites will be the nation’s first “comprehensive memorial dedicated to racial terror lynchings of African Americans and the legacy of slavery and racial inequality in America.”

READ MORE HERE

Slavery in Libya

Deu 28:68 “And YAH shall bring you back to Egypt in ships, by a way of which I said to you, ‘You are never to see it again.’ And there you shall be sold to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one to buy.

“The United Nations (UN) revealed on Wednesday that hundreds of migrants from Nigeria and other West African countries passing through Libya enroute Europe are being bought and sold in what it described as modern-day slave markets before being held for ransom, forced labour or sexual exploitation.”

I haven’t had the chance to sit down and share my thoughts on the slavery taking place in Libya. I usually take my time with such things. I don’t want to echo what everyone else is saying or jump on bandwagons. I want to be logical, spiritual, and develop my own thoughts about it so I’ll just keep this short until then.

If you are new to what’s going on, The Slave Trade has basically reopened and Israelites, so-called Blacks / Africans, are being taken back into captivity throughout Libya. You can catch up on what’s going on HERE   and HERE.

Since I started this blog I’ve spoken about Slavery, the Enslaved and the horrors of this time. I talk a lot about The Civil Rights Movement, Jim Crow, Police Brutality, and the overall mistreatment of Blacks in America and the mistreatment of Blacks period. For three years now I’ve tried to give as much historical information as I am able to inform you of these things and in return, I get people who are tired of hearing about slavery. Tired of seeing movies and TV shows and reading books where slavery is present. We believe it is an eyesore that must be covered up and hidden underneath our beds. We want to forget about this time and sugar-coat the details. And when good men seek to help those who need it they are called dictators and thus removed from power.

Few people know that Khadafi tried to help Blacks in Libya before his death. He wanted to protect them and for this, he was called a dictator and killed while American’s cheered their ignorance in front of TV screens that told them lies. (Wag the Dog is a good movie on how TV often controls our perception of reality.)

If there is one thing we should know about slavery is this: At least we knew we were slaves and fought collectively for freedom. Today, we think we are free so we don’t fight anymore. It usually takes us to experience something as traumatic and tragic as this for us to understand and realize where we stand not just in America but all over the world.

While what’s going on in Libya is heartbreaking, I hope that finally, we can see why these stories are worth telling and why these reminders are still necessary. I keep saying there’s nothing new under the sun, that what has been done is what will be done, and that we should not be shocked but to pay close attention to what’s going on in the world. Our eyes may very well witness more tragedy and our hearts more pain.

(FYI: Black History Fun Fact Friday continues next week….been busy but I haven’t forgotten.)