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.

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.

 

  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.

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The 1619 Anniversary: 5 Things people still get wrong about Slavery

There is much more to be added to this list but these five are good points. Black History Fun Fact Friday returns to the blog this week. We will be revisiting some basics. Specifically, the End of Chattel Slavery and Reconstruction.


“In August 1619, the first ship with “20 and odd” enslaved Africans arrived on the shores of Virginia. Four hundred years later, we look back at this moment as the start of an enduring relationship between the founding of the United States and the unconscionable exploitation of the enslaved.

In a sweeping project published by the New York Times Magazine this month exploring the legacy of slavery, Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote, “[The enslaved] and their descendants transformed the lands to which they’d been brought into some of the most successful colonies in the British Empire. … But it would be historically inaccurate to reduce the contributions of black people to the vast material wealth created by our bondage. Black Americans have also been, and continue to be, foundational to the idea of American freedom.”

 

>>Keep Reading Here<<

The Function of Freedom

 

As I have said before, I hope to use my writing as an underground railroad leading us back to spiritual freedom and away from mental bondage. If people can’t be liberated in their own lives, I hope my books can provide a roadmap. May Morrison RIP and may we step up. The Legends are gone and it is our time now to make an impact. It is our time. What will we do with it?

We Are Not Your Negroes

Inspired by James Baldwin’s “I am Not Your Negro”

 

Negroes are born
without name
without record
they are boys despite age
Uncles
Johns
Negroes are sign language
using symbols to communicate
their existence
born without land
without placement
without ownership
what King referred to as
“a degeneration
of nobodyness”
they are sojourners
wandering from person to person
in search of themselves
Negroes are born
without heritage
without honor
without pride
without mothers
their umbilical cords
cut
their screams muffled with injustice
their bodies sold
and bellies stuffed with lies
Negroes bleed death
and cannot recognize their own corpse.

But we are not Negroes.

We are soil and Earth
lips that sing
mouths and song and praise.
We are bodies and flesh
veins and blood and salt
We are salt
of the Earth.

Seasoning.

We are crowns and rubies and pearls
eyes and nose
vision and smell.
We are scripture and fire
and dripping honey
We are blood, teeth, and bone
We are people
brave. proud. strong.
But we are not your

Negroes.

I Want My Stuff

I want my truth
before slavery.
I want customs and traditions
without being conditioned
I want unconditioned
hair.
I want my stuff.
I want my Kings and Queens
my silver and my gold
I want my laws and commandments and my stories
retold.
I want do-overs
for how we’ve been done over
I want my children re-educated
Give me raised fists
and two-parent households.
I want functioning Black family units,
Afros, Black power, curly hair
and I want my cocoa butter skin.

I want credit for all my skills.
I want my midwives
I want my tribes
I want my inventions before you re-invented them.
I want Lewis Howard Latimer
not Thomas Edison.
I want my covenants renewed
I want my 40 acres and a mule.
I want my land rich as I left it
I want my spirituality accepted
I want my names changed back
I want my Proverbs and freedom songs
and I want my Moses Black.
I want what you stole from me
I want King Solomon Black and comely.
I want it all back.

I want my stuff.

Introduce Yourself: Introducing Guest Author Khaya Ronkainen

Today, I’d like to welcome Khaya Ronkainen. Welcome to The PBS Blog! Let’s get started.


What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Khaya Ronkainen. I was born and bred in South Africa, and I now call Finland my second home.

South Africa in the houusee. What was your childhood dream?

To become a teacher. I have huge respect for teachers. I talk this, and also the reasons why I never took up the occupation after all, in the “About” page of my site.

Nice. We’ll be sure to link that below. In your own words, what is humility?

Humility is not a low opinion of one’s self but an awareness that there’s always room for improvement, even if one is confident in their abilities and skills/talents.

Absolutely agree. Who’s your favorite Historical figure?

Nelson Mandela, because he gave me a voice. Most people are aware of apartheid system and its laws that prohibited many things in South Africa. For those who do not know what apartheid is, I suggest a read that sheds some light on the nature of racial injustices at the time, Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, a South African author. I read somewhere that if one wants to understand a country, they must read its authors. So I hope you’re inspired to pick up the book if you’ve never read it.

Awesome. What is the most thought provoking book you’ve ever read?

Animal Farm by George Orwell. It’s the first influential book I read that showed me the power of a written word, and opened up a whole new world. I have to thank my English teacher, Mrs. Roos, during my high school years. She knew how to activate young minds and keep them engaged through literature.

Available now on Amazon

Loved Orwell’s 1984. What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer?

It’s often difficult for me to describe what I do to people who don’t write or create in any other form. Because what I do, writing, largely depends on an exaggerated inspiration or the elusive muse that holds me hostage, but with no promise of real money.

The most exciting thing?

Dreaming stories into being, that is, the gift of imagination.

You said, there’s no promise of real money in writing. With Indie Publishing being as successful as it is these days, do you think that’s changing? In what way can we improve how writers are paid?

Certainly, there’s no denying the success and benefits of indie publishing; total creative control, higher royalties, supportive indie communities, and so on. More importantly, indie books are doing well as traditionally published books, when it comes to e-publishing, in some genres.

When I talk about no promise of real money, I’m not speaking for all writers but my own writing, which is mostly poetry. Let’s face it, poetry is a difficult genre to sell. My observation is that people love poetry or at least, the idea of poetry, but are not so eager to buy poetry books.

We also know that no one goes into poetry for money. Poets still have to hustle and take regular jobs in order to earn a living. So, perhaps, I’ll rephrase your question, “In what way can we improve how writers are paid?” with “How can we support poets, as readers, and stop undervaluing their work by expecting to get it for free?

As you can see, I’m passionate about this topic. But I’ll stop here.

No, keep going! I love the passion and you are absolutely right. While no one should “poet” for money, no one should do anything else for money! You shouldn’t embrace any path for money specifically and yet we must eat. Looking at it this way, why is poetry or writing…why is Art in general, not expected to be profitable? Something to think about.

I suppose I don’t have to ask what genre you write in…

Poetry, because I like its brevity and the immediacy it creates. Fiction (semi-autobiographical works) because I like to blur the line between fact and fiction. I’m also a horror genre “visiting writer.” As a matter of fact, I’ve recently published my second poetry chapbook, a small collection of dark poetry.

Available now on Amazon

Outside of writing, what are some of your passions?

Nature is my playground and a playmate, my husband. Seriously, I do all sorts of outdoor activities, and I draw huge inspiration from nature.

I can see that about you! Beautiful. What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?

Taking a sabbatical in order to go backpacking through Asia.

Thank you Khaya for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!


Copyright ©2019. Khaya Ronkainen. photo used with permission.

Bio

Khaya Ronkainen is an independent author, writer, poet, public speaker and many other things. She currently lives in Finland with her husband.

Her work often examines duality of an immigrant life, cultural identity, relations among immigrants, and nature. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Seasons Defined and From the Depths of Darkness, both available at Amazon Kindle.

She is currently at work on her debut novel about growing up in South Africa during apartheid era. Learn more about the writer and her work or connect via her blog at www.khayaronkainen.fi.

You can also find/connect with Khaya at:

Amazon Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07DGT7683

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/khaya.ronkainen/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18097702.Khaya_Ronkainen

Blog: http://www.khayaronkainen.fi/


Are you an author? Looking for more exposure? Learn more about my Introduce Yourself Feature HERE. 

My Biggest Lesson of 2018

This is the time of the year where we step back and analyze where we are and where we want to be. The time where we consider if the goals, we set at the beginning of the year have been realized and if there are any changes or improvements that need to be made. This is also the time of the year when I share with you the lessons I’ve learned from the year. Usually, I do this closer to the end of the month but my family is moving so things are busy around these parts. Last year, I had an entire list of lessons learned. This year, I only have one.

December is when I do a lot of reflection. An entire year has passed. What changed? What remained? What needs to be added onto or removed? 2018 has been filled with amazing growth for me personally as well as professionally. At the end of 2017, I was celebrating my move to Georgia and one of my books in a brick and mortar bookstore. At the end of 2018, four of my twelve books are in three bookstores and I’ve just purchased my first home. I attribute this to learning one valuable lesson. A lesson that I do not think we ever stop learning but that gets easier the more we love ourselves, a lesson that I’ve learned and that I will keep learning, a lesson that has changed my mentality and thus also, the way I do things. To further illustrate this point, let me first tell you about an experiment.

The Asch Conformity Experiment

Named after Solomon Asch, the Asch Conformity Study was meant to study conformity in people (how we behave according to other people’s desires and standards) and was conducted in the 1950s. The participants were shown three lines on a piece of paper and a fourth line. The participants had to simply match one of the three lines with the fourth line. Most of the people were accomplices in on the study with only one or two real participants. According to the study, 76% of participants picked the wrong line after the majority of the room picked the wrong line. The study was groundbreaking in studying conformity in groups and has been repeated many times throughout the years. (You can find examples of the study on YouTube.)

As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to fall into conformity by doing what everyone else is doing in an effort to achieve success. The problem is, entrepreneurship is about authenticity and there is nothing authentic about conformity. Everyone wants to be an influencer. The only question is, what are you influencing people to do? Who are you influencing people to be?

We talk about embracing being unique and different but at the same time, we secretly want a seat at the table. At the same time, we don’t really want to be different. We want to be like everyone else because not being like everyone else comes at a cost that we are not courageous enough to pay. It is the cost of standing out instead of standing in. It is the cost of rejection and being misunderstood. It is a beautiful sacrifice that many of us, despite what we say, are not willing to make.

But you can’t want to be like the world and be different from the world at the same time. Either stand for something or fall for anything.

In the midst of the Kevin Hart situation, I think it’s important for us to all remember how important it is to be ourselves and to stand on our own integrity. And if we must influence, I hope it is to influence others to be undeniably and unapologetically themselves.

I. The biggest lesson I learned 2018 is to be fully myself even when who I am is not accepted by others. There are people who will think I’m foolish about certain decisions but it is my decision to make and my lesson to learn. I’ve learned to trust Yah more and to trust his will for my life. To make decisions without explaining myself or feeling the need to defend my position.

…and I hope the same for you.

Tall Tales Book Shop. 11.30.18. Copyright©2018. Yecheilyah Ysrayl.

What I enjoy most about being an Independent artist is the freedom to produce work that speaks to who I am, to not have to pull back, slow down, or sugarcoat my beliefs because of someone else standard. The right and the freedom to live freely in every sense of the word. To be true to myself, to my authenticity and do not have to apologize for it. I don’t have to tap dance around the truth for a check, I don’t have to scratch my hair unless it itches, and I don’t have to laugh unless something is actually funny. I’ve never been part of the “cool kids table” and I am not about to start now. This is freedom.

I hope you walk into 2019 not afraid to shine or to fail, understanding that both experiences shape you. It can be liberating to choose yourself, armed with the power to move forward without guilt, without arrogance, and without pride but with a deep love for yourself that is so strong that you can quickly realize when anyone or anything devalues you, even if that someone is your own self. The biggest challenge is not the war we fight with others but the war we fight with ourselves. To quote the African proverb, “when there is no enemy within, the enemy outside cannot hurt you.” Kill the enemy within. Slay your demons, silence the doubt, and walk free.