Tagged: South Carolina

Faithful Slaves Monument: Thanks, But No Thanks

This is a monument in York County, South Carolina, to memorialize the “Faithful Slaves” of the the Civil War.


Faithful Slaves Memorial, York County, South Carolina; from The Historical Marker Database

The monument reads in part:

Dedicated to the faithful slaves who loyal to a sacred trust toiled for the support of the army with matchless devotion and sterling fidelity guarded our defenceless homes, women and children during the struggle for the principles of our Confederate States of America.

Full details of the monument are here. The comments at the link say that the thirteen-foot marble monument “is a tribute to the faithfulness of the Southern negro to the women and children of the South during the war… (and) probably the only one of its kind in the South.”

The folks who built this monument may well have been heartfelt in their motivations. But looking at it from my own vantage point, I find the thing disturbing and perverse.

I am going to describe the memorial with a metaphor that some might find objectionable… don’t say I didn’t warn you. To me, this memorial is akin to a rapist thanking a rape victim for being quiet during the act, thereby not alerting others to what was happening.

In both cases, thanks are being given for an action that benefits the victimizer, but does nothing to help the victim.

I can see why these folks would feel gratitude toward the slaves that are honored by this monument. In 1860, there were over three and a half million slaves in the South. But by the end of the Civil War, some estimates say that over 500,000 slaves fled their masters to go to contraband camps, head North, or otherwise seek freedom. Many males slaves joined the Union army or served the army in support roles. Meanwhile, many of the slaves who didn’t flee aided and abetted the Union effort by serving as spies, guides, or providing other support.

So, any slave who stayed with and supported their masters and masters’ families was undoubtedly seen as a blessing.

The thing is, this memorial is all about what the slaves did for their masters. I think it’s fair to ask, what did the slaves receive in return? Did they receive their freedom? Did they receive land or property, or reimbursement at a fair wage for their labors? Did they receive any political rights? The answer to these questions appears to be no.

Ultimately, I find this memorial to be self-serving and hollow.

I’m sure that the monument’s builders believed they were doing a good thing. But thanking a slave for being a good slave… that doesn’t resonate with me at all. If I was a slave, my reaction would be “thanks massa… thanks for nothing.”

Now, here’s a memorial I’d like to see. It features a huge statue, with a group of white men on one side, and a group of slaves on the other. The white men include Jefferson Davis (President of the Confederacy), Alexander Stephens, (Vice-President of the Confederacy) or John C. Calhoun (a leading proponent of slavery and secession prior to the Civil War). Their mouths are open, their faces etched with a mournful apology. On the other side, the slaves have a blank but measuring stare, as if they are trying to make sense of words that they never expected to hear.

On the base of the monument, there are two words: “We’re Sorry.”

Are there any such monuments in the South, or anywhere in this country? There should be.

(Hat tip to cwmemory.com )

Wow!: Memorial to the Denmark Vesey ‘Slave Revolt’ Conspiracy To Be Built in SC

I was very surprised to read this story about a monument that is planned for Charleston, SC:

In an event sure to rekindle the racially polarized debate over Denmark Vesey’s place in history, a site in Hampton Park was dedicated Monday for a monument to the man hanged for plotting a slave rebellion in Charleston.

A model of the new Denmark Vesey Memorial that will be erected in Hampton Park, designed by Ed Dwight.
To the local politicians, religious leaders and historians at the event, Vesey was a civil rights leader acting on a universal desire for justice that unites all people. Monument designer Ed Dwight favorably compared Vesey to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

But this is Charleston, where the hanging of a portrait of Vesey in the municipal auditorium in 1976 — more than 150 years after Vesey was himself publicly hanged — prompted much criticism, and the theft of the painting. “It was very controversial,” College of Charleston history professor Bernard Powers Jr. said. “People were writing to The (Charleston, SC) News and Courier expressing outrage that the portrait of a criminal could be hung in a public place.”

An article about the memorial, including a model of the memorial statue, is here.

There is no doubt that the story of Denmark Vesey is compelling. Wikipedia provides a summary:

In 1781, Vesey was purchased by Captain Joseph Vesey from the then-Danish Caribbean island of St. Thomas. He labored briefly in French Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti), and then was settled in Charleston, South Carolina as a youth, where Joseph Vesey kept him as a domestic slave. On November 9, 1799, Denmark Vesey won $1500 in a city lottery. He bought his own freedom and began working as a carpenter. Although briefly a Presbyterian, Vesey co-founded a branch of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816. The church was temporarily shut down by white authorities in 1818 and again in 1820.

Inspired by the revolutionary spirit and actions of slaves during the 1791 Haitian Revolution, and furious at the closing of the African Church, Vesey began to plan a slave rebellion. His insurrection, which was to take place on Bastille Day, July 14, 1822, became known to thousands of blacks throughout Charleston and along the Carolina coast. The plot called for Vesey and his group of slaves and free blacks to slay their owners and temporarily seize the city of Charleston. Vesey and his followers planned to sail to Haiti to escape retaliation.

Two slaves opposed to Vesey’s scheme leaked the plot. Charleston authorities charged 131 men with conspiracy. In total, 67 men were convicted and 35 hanged, including Denmark Vesey.

It’s important to note that no actual slave revolt took place. Vesey and his people were basically tried on the basis of conspiracy charges.

I admit to being surprised that something as controversial as this – a monument to a person who was accused of planning a slave revolt – is being built in South Carolina, of all places. The state has been embroiled in controversies over the presentation of history, such as the display of the Confederate flag on the state capital grounds.

But perhaps I’m overreacting. It could just be that things have progressed to the point that it’s possible to place these issues in public sites and public memory, even in South Carolina. It’s heartening to see, in any event.

Why did South Carolina Secede from the Union? In Their Own Words: to Protect Their States Rights to Maintain Slavery.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the Civil War this year. It is an absolutely engaging subject, one that commands the constant and ongoing interest of tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of Americans.

One of the more controversial issues concerning the Civil War is, what was the “cause” of this War?

Many say that the central issue of the war was slavery. Others say the central issue was the South’s desire to protect their states rights.

Myself, I don’t think those are mutually exclusive statements. I believe the Civil War was about states rights – that is, the states rights to maintain slavery.

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s let the Southerners tell their own tale.

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union. On December 24, 1860, the state issued its Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. This document is South Carolina’s declaration of independence from the Union.

The following text is an excerpt from the document, and a very large excerpt at that. For emphasis, I have bolded the word slave, or other references to slavery, such as labor, which refers to slave labor; and persons. In some cases, I’ve added a parenthetical note, with the abbreviation Ed. (for Editor), to explain a comment which might not be immediately understood by the reader.

I think it’s quite clear: South Carolina seceded because they believed that the institution of slavery was in peril. Here, in their own words, is South Carolina’s reason for leaving the Union:
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Help Comes to School in South Carolina’s ‘Corridor of Shame’

Here’s some good news, involving a young student from South Carolina you might remember from President Obama’s State of the Union speech in February. Although it might take a few minutes to get to the “good” part.

Ty’Sheoma Bethea is an eighth grader at J.V. Martin Junior High School in Dillon, S.C. The school is in a poor area of the state, dubbed “the corridor of shame,” and doesn’t have the money to fix it’s crumbling physical plant. The middle of of the following video clip shows Barack Obama making a visit to the area in January 2008 during the election season:

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Links of Interest: Anxious Black Women, New Racial Politics in SC, Religious Bigotry, and More

Here are some interesting reads:

• The Huffington Post has a very good story on how Pre-Election Anxiety Squeezes African American Women.

“On the news yesterday, they revealed a potential neo-Nazi plot against Barack Obama, and then they gave more details on the racially-motivated Ashley Todd hoax. It made my heart pound. My blood pressure rose precipitously,” said anthropologist Wende Marshall, professor of public health services, University of Virginia.

Barack Obama’s candidacy represents a pivotal moment in history, and many African American women are having a visceral reaction to the final, frantic days of the presidential campaign.

• South Carolina’s The State has a report on the emergence of a new generation of black leaders.

African-Americans could end up holding a majority of policymaking positions in Richland County, South Carolina this year, continuing a shift toward a younger generation of black leaders. Richland is the location of South Carolina’s capital city, Columbia.

From the General Assembly to County Council and City Hall, voters this decade have selected more black candidates, some of them breaking through racial barriers to win in white-majority districts.
These politicians are different from those who came of age in the Civil Rights era.

They are Democrats who don’t toe the party line. They run a different style of campaign. And their pragmatic approach to politics sometimes rubs those who came before them the wrong way.

“They were fighting for social equality while we are fighting for economic equality,” said Barry A. Walker Sr., 47, an Irmo town councilman who owns a restaurant and blues club in downtown Columbia. “I’m not running on the fact I couldn’t sit at the lunch counter. I can eat where I want — but wonder if I can afford it.”

• At the website Political Intersection, black Republican Sophia Nelson looks at race in the campaign in her essay Murtha, Powell, McCain, Obama, Palin: Let’s Talk About Race & the 2008 Campaign

The problem for the GOP is as I stated back in March in Politico in my article titled, “Obama Does Not Have a Race Problem, the GOP Does.” The proverbial chickens have come home to roost for my party because of years of “southern strategy” politics, neglect of black voters, and catering to mostly white southern conservative constituencies. This has laid the groundwork that anything McCain & Palin say will be wrongly construed as “race baiting” or worse.

I also reject that using Senator Obama’s middle name is somehow a racist thing to do. It is as former U.S. Civil Rights Chairman & longtime liberal Democrat Mary Frances Berry (who is also black) stated on CNN on Wednesday, October 8th, “I do not think it is racial “code” language to call Senator Obama by his name. After all it is his name and if he is elected –we will call him Barack Hussein Obama—as we did Lyndon Baines Johnson, George W. Bush, George HW Bush, and William Jefferson Clinton.”

What the past two weeks in American politics has proven to me is that we are still in some ways two separate and unequal Americas—less so on race—and much more so on social class and geographic divisions. That is key to understanding the McCain-Palin strategy. We all need to take a collective national breath and get a grip. We are in very serious and very dangerous economic times—I want the President who is going to lead America to brighter days and sustained prosperity—I don’t care what color he is or how old he is—like most Americans, I want results.

• Concerning a comment from the above link, {I do not think it is racial “code” language to call Senator Obama by his middle name}: the use of Obama’s middle name is not racial code, it’s religious code. One of the undercurrents in this year’s election season is religious bigotry against Muslims in particular and non-Christians in general. Colin Powell touched on this eloquently is his endorsement of Obama.

Perhaps the most horrific case of religious bigotry on the campaign is Republican North Carolina senator Elizabeth Dole’s “Godless” ad attack on challenger Kay Hagan. The ad, in all its hateful glory, is here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lf2vDk-4Ag

The ad demonizes atheists, and implies that Hagan herself is “godless”. It has been condemned by GOP operatives like Ed Rollins and Alex Castellanos, and rightfully so.

• This is an interesting story from Knoxnews.com: Jamillah Farrakhan balances fashion and faith

Jamillah Farrakhan balances fashion with her faith.

The 25-year-old is the granddaughter of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and one of the models at the Ebony Fashion Fair.

Political Miscellany 6/20/08

The Hill reported plans by Barack Obama to meet with his fellow Congressional Black Caucus members on Thursday (6/19). Relations within the CBC are said to be strained due to the hotly contested presidential primary. Many members of the CBC backed Sen Hillary Clinton, even though black voters overwhelmingly supported Obama.

Obama previously met privately with a group of religious leaders, including megachurch pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes, and Rev Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The meeting was held to solicit their input on national and world issues, and not necessarily to get their endorsements.

About 30 people were at the meeting. In addition to Jakes, three other prominent members of the black church were present: the Rev. Stephen Thurston, head of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., a historically black denomination; the Rev. T. Dewitt Smith, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., which was home to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders; and Bishop Phillip Robert Cousin Sr., an A.M.E. clergyman and former NAACP board member.

Other reported attendees were conservative Catholic constitutional lawyer Doug Kmiec; evangelical author Max Lucado of San Antonio; Cameron Strang, founder of Relevant Media, which is aimed at young Christians; the Rev. Luis Cortes of Esperanza USA; and Paul Corts, president of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities.

As they say, politics makes strange bedfellows. Consider the case of Sen Barack Obama and Georgia congressman John Barrow.

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