Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow Part 1


The PBS premiere episode begins with the end of the Civil War and Reconstruction, periods that held so much promise for free black men and women. But as the North gradually withdrew its support for black aspirations for land, civil and political rights, and legal due process, Southern whites succeeded in passing laws that segregated and disfranchised African Americans, laws that were reinforced with violence and terror tactics. By 1876, Reconstruction was over.

"Promises Betrayed" recounts black response by documenting the work of such leaders as activist/separatist Benjamin "Pap" Singleton, anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells, as well as the emergence of Booker T. Washington as a national figure.

'What we are in justice entitled to': A 1865 letter from a freedman

'What we are in justice entitled to':
A 1865 letter from a freedman


To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir:


I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung
you long before this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col. Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville hospital, but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here; I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson), and the children, Milly, Jane and Grundy, go to school and are learning well; the teacher
says grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday- School, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated; sometimes we overhear others saying, "The colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks, but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Col. Anderson. Many darkies would have been proud, as I used to was, to call you master. Now, if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.
A
s to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free- papers in 1864 from the Provost- Marshal- General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you are sincerely disposed to treat us justly and kindly -- and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty- two years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid for our clothing and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, esq, Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night, but in Tennessee there was never any pay day for the Negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter please state if there would be any safety for my Mil
ly and Jane, who are now grown up and both good- looking girls. You know how it was with Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve and die if it comes to that than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood, the great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

P.S. -- Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.


From your old servant,


Jourdon Anderson

Monday, September 21, 2009

Booker T. Washington Speech: Cast Down Your Bucket Where You Are

Booker T. Washington


"Cast Down Your Bucket Where You Are"
Booker T. Washington’s 'Atlanta Compromise Speech'


Booker T. Washington: Mr. President and gentlemen of the Board of Directors and citizens. One third of the population of the South is of the Negro race. No enterprise seeking the material, civil, or moral welfare of this section can disregard this element of our population and reach the highest success. I must convey to you, Mr. President and Directors, and Secretaries and masses of my race, when I say that in no way have the value and manhood of the American Negro been more fittingly and generously recognized, than by the managers of this magnificent exposition at every stage of its progress.

It is a recognition that will do more to cement the friendship of the two races than any occurrence since the dawn of our freedom. Not only this, but the opportunities here afforded will awaken among us a new era of industrial progress.Ignorant and inexperienced, it is not strange that in the first years of our new life we began at the top instead of the bottom, that a seat in Congress or the state legislature was more sought than real estate or industrial skill, that the political convention of some teaching had more attraction than starting a dairy farm or a stockyard.
A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal: “Water, water. We die of thirst.” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time, the signal, “Water, send us water!” went up from the distressed vessel. And was answered: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A third and fourth signal for water was answered: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River.

To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land, or who underestimate the importance of preservating friendly relations with the southern white man who is their next door neighbor, I would say: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” Cast it down, making friends in every manly way of the people of all races, by whom you are surrounded.
To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, were I permitted, I would repeat what I have said to my own race: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your fireside. Cast down your bucket among these people who have without strikes and labor wars tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads and cities, brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, just to make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of the South.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

DuBois Congratulates Booker T. Washington

Although W. E. B. DuBois would later publish his pointed challenge to Booker T. Washington's educational and political philosophy in his celebrated work, Souls of Black Folk (1903), at the time of Washington's Atlanta speech, DuBois wrote this letter to express his congratulations.

W. E. B. DuBois to Booker T. Washington, September 24, 1895. Autograph letter.

My dear Mr. Washington,

Let me heartily congratulate you upon your phenomenal success at Atlanta—it was a word fitly spoken..

Sincerely Yours,

W.E.. B. Du Bois

Wilberforce, 24 Sept., '95

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Ballad of Booker T.

Langston Hughes

The Ballad of Booker T.
by Langston Hughes

Booker T.
Was a practical man.
He said, Till the soil
And learn from the land.

Let down your bucket
Where you are.
Your fate is here
And not afar.

To help yourself
And your fellow man,
Train your head,
Your heart, and your hand.

For smartness alone's
Surely not meet-
If you haven't at the same time
Got something to eat.

Thus at Tuskegee
He built a school
With book-learning there
And the workman's tool.

He started out
In a simple way
For yesterday
Was not today.

Sometimes he had
Compromise in his talk
For a man must crawl
Before he can walk

And in Alabama in '85
A joker was lucky
To be alive.

But Booker T.
Was nobody's fool:
You may carve a dream
With an humble tool.

The tallest tower
Can tumble down
If it be not rooted
In solid ground.

So, being a far-seeing
Practical man,
He said, Train your head,
Your heart, and your hand.

Your fate is here
And not afar,
So let down your bucket
Where you are.
-- Langston Hughes (1941)

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