Monday, February 28, 2011

Tied to a Pickaxe

This picture breaks my heart. This kid looks completely isolated, defeated, and hopeless. He appears too young to have any facial hair, no mustache, no whiskers, not even any sideburns, just a childlike clean-face.

His toes stick out of his right boot. His clothes seem oversized and dirty. As he lies alone tied to a pick axe.

The Water Cure

By: Douglas A. Blackmon

In 1895, Mr. Hurt bought a group of bankrupt forced-labor mines and furnaces on Lookout Mountain, near the Tennessee state line. Guards there had recently adopted for punishment of the workers the "water cure," in which water was poured into the nostrils and lungs of prisoners. (The technique, preferred because it allowed miners to "go to work right away" after punishment, became infamous in the 21st century as "waterboarding.")

An elderly black man named Ephraim Gaither testified during the state's hearings as to the fate of a 16-year-old boy at a lumber camp owned by Mr. Hurt and operated by his son George Hurt. The teenager was serving three months of hard labor for an unspecified misdemeanor.

"He was around the yard sorter playing and he started walking off," Mr. Gaither recounted. "There was a young fellow, one of the bosses, up in a pine tree and he had his gun and shot at the little negro and shot this side of his face off," Mr. Gaither said as he pointed to the left side of his face. The teenager ran into the woods and died. Days later, a dog appeared in the camp dragging the boy's arm in its mouth, Mr. Gaither said. The homicide was never investigated.

Called to testify before the commission, Mr. Hurt lounged in the witness chair, relaxed and unapologetic for any aspect of the sprawling businesses.

Another witness before the commission, former chief warden Jake Moore, testified that no prison guard could ever "do enough whipping for Mr. Hurt." "He wanted men whipped for singing and laughing," Mr. Moore told the panel.

In response to the revelations, Gov. Hoke Smith called a special session of the state Legislature, which authorized a public referendum on the fate of the system. In October 1908, Georgia's nearly all-white electorate voted by a 2-to-1 margin to abolish the system as of March 1909. Without prison labor, business collapsed at Chattahoochee Brick. Production fell by nearly 50% in the next year. Total profit dwindled to less than $13,000.

The apparent demise of Georgia's system of leasing prisoners seemed a harbinger of a new day. But the harsher reality of the South was that the new post-Civil War neoslavery was evolving -- not disappearing.

source: Wall Street Journal, 29March2008, by Douglas A. Blackmon

The Slave Trade Enriched Boston

In the 17th century, slavery was common, legal, and vital to the colonial Massachusetts economy. As the late legal historian, Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. observed, “Merchants from Massachusetts, the most vigorous slave traders in the world, made enormous profits from the slave trade.”

In 1638, the first African slaves arrived at Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Few English settlers thought to question the ancient institution of slavery—although it never existed in England—and most whites condoned the profitable international black slave trade.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

South Carolina: Everybody is a Slave

De Mulato y Mestisa produce Mulato, es Tornaatrás
(From Mulato man and Mestizo woman, Mulato boy)

South Carolina Slave Code: Provided that in any action or suit to be brought in pursuance of the direction of this act the burthen of the proof shall lay upon the plaintiff, and it shall be always presumed, that every negro, Indian, mulato, and mestizo, is a slave unless the contrary can be made appear (the Indians in amity with this government excepted) in which case the burden of the proof shall lie on the defendant.

South Carolina Slave Code

Mestiza, Mulatto and Mulatto, ca. 1715

South Carolina Slave Code



Whereas in his majesty's plantations in America, slavery has been introduced and allowed; and the people commonly called negroes, Indians, mulatos and mestizos have [been] deemed absolute slaves, and the subjects of property in the hands of particular persons the extent of whose power over slaves ought to be settled and limited by positive laws so that the slaves may be kept in due subjection and obedience, and the owners and other persons having the care and government of slaves, may be restrained from exercising too great rigour and cruelty over them; and that the public peace and order of this Province may be preserved:

Mestizo. con Yndia. Producen cholo

Be it enacted, that all negroes, Indians (free Indians in amity with this government, and negroes, mulatos and mestizos who are now free excepted) mulatos or mestizos who now are or shall hereafter be in this Province, and all their issue and offspring born or to be born, shall be and they are hereby declared to be and remain for ever herafter absolute slaves, and shall follow the condition of the mother; and shall be deemed, …

Spanish. Serrana or brown Indian woman produce Mestizo

taken, reputed and adjudged in law to be chattels personal in the hands of their owners and possessors and their executors, administrators and assigns to all intents, constructions and purposes whatsoever, Provided that if any negro Indian mulato, or mestizo shall claim his or her freedom, it shall and may be lawful for such negro, Indian, mulato, or mestizo, or any person or persons whatsoever, on his or her behalf to apply to the justices of his Majesty's court of common pleas by petition or motion, either during the sitting of the said court, or before any of the justices of the same court at any time in the vacation.

And the said court or any of the justices thereof, shall and they are hereby fully impowered to admit any person so applying, to be guardian for any negro, Indian, mulato or mestizo, claiming his, her or their freedom, and such guardians shall be enabled, intitled and capable in law to bring an action of trespass, in the nature of ravishment of ward against any person who shall claim property in, or who shall be in possession of any such negro, Indian, mulato or mestizo.

Black with Mulata produce a Sambo
Series of paintings sent by the Viceroy Amat King Carlos III in 1770.

Iron Chains and Collars on Slaves

In 1819, the Legislature of Louisiana recognized the lawfulness of putting iron chains and collars upon slaves, to prevent them from running away, as follows:

“If any person or persons, &c., shall cut or break any iron collar which any master of slaves shall have used in order to prevent the running away or escape of any such slave or slaves, such persons so offending shall, on conviction, be fined not less than two hundred dollars, nor exceeding one thousand dollars; and suffer imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, nor less than six months.” (Act of Assembly of March 6, 1819. Pamphlet, p. 64.)

Compare this penalty with that imposed by the Legislature of the same State for cruelties committed on slaves, viz: “not more than five hundred dollars nor less than two hundred,” (1 Martin’s Digest, 654,) and it will appear that the releasing of a slave from the “usual” punishment of the “iron chain or collar” is regarded a more aggravated crime than inflicting upon him the “unusual punishment,” whatever it may be, prohibited by law! For thle act of mercy, the offender may be fined $1000 and imprisoned two years; for the act of atrocious cruelty, he may be fined $500, but without imprisonment. Thus it is that the Legislature of Louisiana discountenances cruelty.



The slaves are often tortured by iron collars, with long prongs or “horns” and sometimes bells attached to them—they are made to wear chains, handcuffs, fetters, iron clogs, bars, rings, and bands of iron upon their limbs, iron marks upon their faces, iron gags in their mouths, &c.

In proof of this, we give the testimony of slaveholders themselves, under their own names; it will be mostly in the form of extracts from their own advertisements, in southern newspapers, in which, describing their runaway slaves, they specify the iron collars, handcuffs, chains, fetters, &c., which they wore upon their necks, wrists, ankles, and other parts of their bodies. (Beecher Stow, Harriet, Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, pg.73)

WITNESSES: H. Gridly, sheriff of Adams county, Mi., in the "Memphis (Tenn.) Times,'' September, 1834.

TESTIMONY: "Was committed to jail, a negro boy—had on a large neck iron with a huge pair of horns and a large bar or band of iron on his left leg.''


WITNESSES: Mr. Lambre, in the "Natchitoches (La.) Herald,'' March 29, 1837.

TESTIMONY: "Ranaway, the negro boy Teams—he had on his neck an iron collar.''

WITNESSES: Messrs. J. L. and W. H. Bolton, Shelby county, Tennessee, in the "Memphis Enquirer,'' June 7, 1837.

TESTIMONY: "Absconded, a colored boy named Peter—had an iron round his neck when he went away.

WITNESS: William Toler, sheriff of Simpson county, Mississippi, in the "Southern Sun,'' Jackson, Mississippi, September 22, 1838.

TESTIMONY: "Was committed to jail, a yellow boy named Jim—had on a large lock chain around his neck.''

WITNESS: Mr. James R. Green, in the "Beacon,'' Greensborough, Alabama, August 23, 1838.

TESTIMONY: Ranaway, a negro man named Squire—had on a chain locked with a house-lock, around his neck.''


WITNESS: Mr. Hazlet Loflano, in the "Spectator,'' Staunton, Virginia, Sept. 27, 1838.

TESTIMONY: "Ranaway, a negro named David—with some iron hobbles around each ankle.''

WITNESS: Mr. T. J. De Yampert, merchant, Mobile, Alabama, of the firm of De Yampert, King & Co., in the "Mobile Chronicle,'' June 15, 1838.

TESTIMONY: "Ranaway, a negro boy about twelve years old—had round his neck a chain dog-collar, with 'De Yampert engraved on it.''


WITNESS: J. H. Hand, jailor, St. Francisville, La., in the "Louisiana Chronicle,'' Jully 26, 1837.

TESTIMONY: "Committed to jail, slave John—has several scars on his wrists, occasioned, as he says, by handcuffs.''


WITNESS: Mr. Charles Curener. New Orleans, in the "Bee,'' July 2, 1838.

TESTIMONY: "Ranaway, the negro, Hown—has a ring of iron on his left foot. Also, Grisee, his wife, having a ring and chain on the left leg.''

WITNESS: Mr. Owen Cooke, "Mary street, between Common and Jackson streets,'' New Orleans, in the N. O. "Bee,'' September 12, 1837.

TESTIMONY: "Ranaway, my slave Amos, had a chain attached to one of his legs.''

WITNESS: H. W. Rice, sheriff, Colleton district, South Carolina, in the "Charleston Mercury,'' September 1, 1838.

TESTIMONY: "Committed to jail, a negro named Patrick, about forty-five years old, and is handcuffed.''


WITNESS: W. P. Reeves, jailor, Shelby county, Tennessee, in the "Memphis Enquirer, June 17, 1837.

TESTIMONY: "Committed to jail, a negro—had on his right leg an iron band with one link of a chain.''

WITNESS: Mr. P. T. Manning, Huntsville, Alabama, in the "Huntsville Advocate,'' Oct. 23, 1838.

TESTIMONY: "Ranaway, a negro boy named James—said boy was ironed when he left me.''


WITNESS: Mr. William L. Lambeth, Lynchburg, Virginia, in the "Moulton [Ala.] Whig,'' January 30, 1836.

TESTIMONY: "Ranaway, Jim—had on when he escaped a pair of chain hand. cuffs.''
----WITNESS: Mr. D. F. Guex, Secretary of the Steam Cotton Press Company, New Orleans, in the "Commercial Bulletin,'' May 27, 1837.

TESTIMONY:"Ranaway, Edmund Coleman—it is supposed he must have iron shackles on his ankles.''

WITNESS: Mr. Francis Durett, Lexington, Alabama, in the "Huntsville Democrat,'' March 8, 1838.

TESTIMONY: "Ranaway—, a mulatto—had on when he left, a pair of handcuffs and a pair of drawing chains.''


WITNESS: B. W. Hodges, jailor, Pike county, Alabama, in the "Montgomery Advertiser,'' Sept. 29, 1837.

TESTIMONY: "Committed to jail, a man who calls his name John—he has a clog of iron on his right foot which will weigh four or five pounds.''

WITNESS: Mr. Charles Kernin, parish of Jefferson, Louisiana, in the N. O. "Bee,'' August 11, 1837.

TESTIMONY: "Ranaway, Betsey—when she left she had on her neck an iron collar.''


WITNESS: Mr. T. Enggy, New Orleans, Gallatin street, between Hospital and Barracks, N. O. "Bee,'' Oct. 27, 1837.

TESTIMONY: "Ranaway, negress Caroline—had on a collar with one prong turned down.''

WITNESS: Mr. John Henderson, Washington, county, Mi., in the "Grand Gulf Advertiser,'' August 29, 1838.

TESTIMONY: "Ranaway, a black woman, Betsey—had an iron bar on her right leg.''

(source: American Slavery As It Is, by Theodore Weld, New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839)

Harper's Weekly Slave Cartoon, ca. 1863

POMPEY. "What day ob de month id dis, Massa?"

MASTER. "Twenty-sixth December. Why?"

POMPEY. "Oh! cause you knows Massa LINKUM he gib us our Papers on de First January, God bless um; and now I wants to say as how you allus was a good Massa, and so I'll gib you a Mont's Notice to git anudder Boy. Niggers is powerful cheap now, Massa!"

source: Civil War Harper's Weekly, January 10,1863

Friday, February 25, 2011

US Railways Were Built with Slave Labor

John Henry said to his captain:
"You are nothing but a common man,
Before that steam drill shall beat me down,
I'll die with my hammer in my hand."

North America's four major rail networks — Norfolk Southern, CSX, Union Pacific and Canadian National — all own lines that were built and operated with slave labor.

Historians say nearly every rail line built east of the Mississippi River and south of the Mason-Dixonline before the Civil War was constructed or run at least partly by slaves.

Ted Kornweibel, a professor of Africana studies at San Diego State University, has documented use of slaves by 94 early rail lines. By his count, 39 now belong to Norfolk Southern, based in Norfolk, Va.; 36 are owned by CSX of Jacksonville, Fla.; 12 are part of Omaha-based Union Pacific; seven belong to Canadian National, headquartered in Montreal.

Canadian National

Corporate records of the time show railroads bought slaves or leased them from their owners, usually for clearing, grading and laying tracks. Enslaved workers frequently appear in annual reports as line-item expenses, referred to variously as "hands," "colored hands," "Negro hires," "Negro property" and "slaves."

The president of Union Pacific's Memphis, El Paso & Pacific Railroad wrote to stockholders in 1858 that slaves were the "cheapest, and in the main most reliable, most easily governed" laborers.

Union Pacific

Railroad records contain thousands of lease agreements with slave owners. A single volume of records for the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad, now owned by CSX, covering just two months in 1850 contains 47 agreements with slave owners.

Slaves "formed the backbone of the South's railway labor force of track repairmen, station helpers, brakemen, firemen and sometimes even enginemen," wrote University of Pennsylvania historian Walter Licht in the book Working for the Railroad.

Norfolk Southern declines to confirm ownership of individual rail lines from the 19th century but says it owns "80% or more" of the 39 identified by Kornweibel. It won't comment on whether the lines were built and run with slave labor or related questions.

Norfolk Southern

CSX says it can verify the names of only a handful of the 19th-century rail lines that make up its network. "As to the basic issue of reparations, we're not going to discuss that," spokeswoman Kathy Burns says.


In a statement, Canadian National said it "takes very seriously claims that slave labor" was used to build some of its early rail lines. "We are actively researching the issue. We invite any party to share with CN any relevant information or documentation."

Union Pacific says it owns nine of the 12 railroads Kornweibel identified as UP lines that owned or leased slaves. Ownership of the lines today has "no relevance" to how they were built, UP spokesman John Bromley says.
The Mobile and Girard Railroad, now owned by Norfolk Southern, advertised for slaves in 1856. Corporate records of the time show railroads bought or leased slaves.

"We have no way of knowing, and we have no intention of researching that issue," Bromley says.

Slavery: Turning Humans Beings into Things

St Nicholas Abbey has no church connection. It has always been a sugar plantation house.

Sitting in the grand plantation house, next to the mills that turned sugar into liquid gold...What did you care if you had to go to West Africa to by the slaves. Then ship them back across the Atlantic.

Oh yes, the logistics were difficult, but nothing the greatest seafaring nation in the world couldn't handle. The British were good at commodities. A couple of thousand pounds bought you 200 acres of Barbadian cane fields, a mill and 200 odd slaves. And within a few years, it returned an equal amount every year.--for the rest of your life.

You were now among the richest men anywhere in the British Empire. The slave economy in the Caribbean wasn't just a “sideshow” of Empire--it was the Empire.

Three and a half million slaves were transported in British ships alone. They went to British plantations, to make British profits and build British cities—Bristol, Liverpool, and Glasgow. Where the cult of liberty is still on everyone's lips in smart coffeehouses.

Apart from the occasional visiting Quaker or exiled Puritan, there was a deafening silence in the “land of liberty” about turning fellow men into “work animals.” The scale of profits sealed the conspiracy of silence.

Here's a little thing of devilish prettiness—silver-- it looks like jewelery. Might be a hat pin, or something like that. But, it's not. This is an object that marked the passage of a human being to a thing. This is a branding iron. "Once these initials were burned into your flesh, you were no longer a human...You were an object. You were a commodity. You belonged to someone. You were a beast-of-burden. . ."-- Simon Schama (historian)

The Wrong Empire, chapter 3

Chapter Two: The First Slaves

Out of a swampy thicket, near the blue waters of Long Island Sound, 200 old men, women and children stepped into the bright sunshine and entered a new world.

Hundreds of edgy soldiers, mustered from villages and farms across Connecticut, had finally surrounded the Pequots and their leader, Sassacus.

It was July 13, 1637, a critical day in the Pequot War that had consumed Puritan Connecticut for several years. Six weeks before, in a key victory for the colonists, Capt. John Mason had led a massacre at the Pequot fort in Mystic, killing as many as 700 Indians in a single hour.

attack on the Pequot fort at Mystic

This summer afternoon was a jubilant one for the Puritans and their Mohegan scouts who had cornered these "most terrible" Pequots. A new chapter in American history was about to begin: Indian enslavement in Colonial America.

Among the Pequots caught in the bog in what's now part of Fairfield, a group of perhaps 17, mostly children, were thought to have been exported as slaves. Others were handed out to soldiers as wartime booty. Historians believe these 17 Pequots later ended up on an island off Nicaragua. Like many of the Indian slaves sent from America over the next century, there is little record of what happened to them.

Barely five years after their first recorded contact with Europeans, this final battle of the bloody Pequot War conclusively finished a doomed experiment by Indians and Puritans to live side by side. By the time the Treaty of Hartford was signed the following September, formally ending the war, the English had killed or enslaved more than 1,500 Pequot men, women and children, scholars believe.

During the uneasy decades that followed, as the Puritans pushed deeper into Indian country and their numbers swelled, it was difficult to travel through Connecticut, Massachusetts or Rhode Island and not encounter an Indian slave, working in a field, orchard or boatyard.

By the end of the 1600s, there were probably thousands of Indian slaves, many of them servants in homes and on farms. It would become, in the words of Roger Williams, a founder of Brown University, an essential component of "the Unnecessary Warrs and cruell Destructions of the Indians in New England."

In Connecticut and throughout New England, where, 350 years later, descendants of Indians and Europeans still have an uneasy relationship, Indian slavery remains a rarely recited part of our history.

Wampanoag, longhouse

"There are a lot of things that people in America don't have any idea about,"' said Everett "Tall Oak" Weeden, an Indian historian who shares both Pequot and Wampanoag ancestry. "History has been sanitized."

The Indians `have their eyes fixed upon us'

A primal fear of Indians, a desperate shortage of labor, a biblical sense of entitlement - these forces coalesced, leading to the enslavement of the Native Americans in southern New England in the 1600s. The colonists ultimately thought of the conflict as the "civilized" English against the "savage" natives.

"Partly it's social control. But they also want the labor. People wanted household servants," said Margaret Newell, a professor at Ohio State University who is writing a book on Indian slavery.

In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and to a lesser extent in Connecticut, Newell said, "You would find [Indian] women working as domestic servants, taking care of children. You would find men working as farm laborers, drivers. You would find children taking care of livestock."

For some Indians, servitude lasted only until age 24. But others were bound to masters for indefinite periods. Indian slaves and household servants appear on census rolls and court records well into the 18th century.

This was a time of growing divisions and bloody violence between the native populations and the Puritans. As the colonists sought to settle in to their new home in America, there were conflicts, small and large, all over. It was a time of murdered women and children, of severed limbs and smashed corpses, when it was not uncommon to see Indian and English heads mounted on stakes, wigwams burned and frontier farms devastated.

For many Indians, Mason's brutal Pequot massacre and others after it remained fresh. For the colonists, the scalpings and mutilations, which included flayings and torture, seemed too monstrous for any true Englishman to ever accept.

By the beginning of King Philip's War in 1675, when Indians attacked and destroyed town after town in New England, it would be difficult to overestimate the fear English colonists felt as they sought to conquer and subdue New England. After a string of stunningly successful Indian attacks at the start of the conflict, Puritans were well aware that "all the Indians have their eyes fixed upon us."

Thousands of English and Indians would perish in the bloody two-year conflict, named for a regal Wampanoag sachem, or chief, whose father, Massasoit, sat with the Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving feast. By the end of 1675, it was full-scale battle across New England.

"Many of our miserable inhabitants lye naked, wallowing in their blood, and crying, and whilst the Barbarous enraged Natives, from one part of the Country to another are in Fire, flaming their fury, Spoiling Cattle and Corn and burning Houses and torturing Men, Women and Children," wrote one unidentified colonist, quoted in historian Jill Lepore's revealing 1998 book, "The Name of War."

The Indian threat "strained even the most eloquent colonists' powers of description," Lepore writes of a time early in the war when Indians nearly drove the Puritans from New England's interior.

"I was so struck by how strident and how fearful these people were," University of Connecticut anthropologist Kevin McBride said of his research into Indians and Puritans of the 1600s. "These guys must have been panicked."

Enslaving the problems

As the 17th century wore on, and colonists grew to outnumber natives in New England by about 2 to 1, Indians were increasingly pursued. A systematic divvying up of captives from the many Connecticut tribes emerged. The colonists originally focused on the more warlike Pequots, but soon members of the Narragansetts, Nipmucks and Wampanoags were also enslaved.

"The general court appointed certain persons in each county to receive and distribute these Indian children proportionately, and to see that they were sold to good families," wrote Almon W. Lauber in his 1913 book, "Indian Slavery in Colonial Times."

"The custom of enslavement came from the necessity of disposing of war captives, from the greed of traders and from the demand for labor," explained Lauber, whose book is still considered an essential reference.

Captured Indian warriors were frequently executed - or shipped to slave markets around the world. By the time King Philip's War began, Indian slaves, often women and children, were a common sight across southern New England.

From Newport, R.I., to Portsmouth, N.H., Indians came to public auction, "tied neck to neck," and sold for half of what an African might bring.

A 7-year-old girl was toted to Connecticut from a battle in Massachusetts, a spoil of war who was handy around the house. At times, there were so many captured Indians available that a few bushels of corn or 100 pounds of wool sufficed for payment. A New London man left "an Indian maidservant" as part of his estate. Another, a farmer and businessman from the New London area, kept a careful diary noting how common Indian slaves were on the farms and in the homes of southeastern Connecticut.

And on sailing ships, bound for the slave markets in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and the Azores, Indians were packed away tightly by the profiteers, who kidnapped or bought them wholesale from Colonial authorities eager to finance an increasingly costly war against the Indians.

Indians who surrendered were treated only slightly more gently in the colony, with the Connecticut General Court ordering children sold as indentured servants for 10-year terms, though some would be slaves far longer if they got into legal trouble in Puritan courts.

A note left by attacking Nipmuck Indians after the plundering of Medfield, Mass., in February 1676 reveals much about the time: "We have nothing but our lives to loose but thou has many fair houses and cattell & much good things."

The rewards of war

In the fall of 1676 the sailing ship Seaflower departed Boston Harbor for the Caribbean, its cargo hold filled with nearly 200 "heathen Malefactors men, women and children" sentenced to "Perpetuall Servitude & slavery."

As Lepore recounts in her book - one of the few published scholarly examinations of Indian slavery - the sale and lucrative export of Indians had become by 1676 one of "the rewards of war" that replenished "coffers emptied by wartime expenses." Despite government efforts to regulate it, much of the trade was conducted illegally and ruthlessly.

The slave export began to heat up in 1675 and 1676, when captives from the rapidly expanding King Philip's War were filling New England cities, further frightening the English. Most of the Indians captured and exported out of New England were from Massachusetts, whose towns suffered the most from Indian attacks.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the colonists also found that adult Indian males who were kept as slaves made poor servants here. Mason said as much, when he wrote of captives from the Pequot War: "They could not endure that Yoke; few of them continuing any considerable time with their masters."

African-Indian intermarriage

Records of Indian slaves turn up well into the 18th century, but the practice faded rapidly in the 1700s, because of a growing market for African slaves and the widespread elimination of Indians and their culture. Scholars like Lepore also said that New England at this time began to see itself as a place that celebrated liberty and a growing anti-slavery movement.

Meanwhile, the eradication of Indian males through war, ravaging diseases and slavery led to significant intermarriage between native women and African males in the 18th century and beyond. Thus, as researchers like McBride and Newell note, the arrival of African slaves would help assure the survival of some Indian communities into the 21st century - while also setting the stage for some of the racial tension today.

Narragansett woman dressed up for a powwow

"Slavery really did have a devastating impact on the Native American population. Men were more likely to be exported. You had some tribes and populations where the ratio of women to men is completely out of whack," said Newell.

In the 20th century this would lead to tribes, such as the Narragansett and Pequots, with members who, to an outsider, look distinctly African American - but who nevertheless descend from historic New England tribes.

For many modern Indians in southern New England, slavery remains an essential and too-little-discussed element of their being, a chapter that must be acknowledged to understand the dynamics of today's often fragile relationship between Indians and non-Indians.

Back to the past

This year, on the 365th anniversary of the Fairfield "swamp fight" of 1637, "Tall Oak" Weeden and a delegation of Wampanoag Indians and Mashantucket Pequots went hunting for remnants of this forgotten slavery era.

Searching for clues, they traveled to St. David's Island in Bermuda. There they met with a small clan claiming to be descendants of New England Indian slaves shipped there centuries ago. Those who went came away convinced they had struck gold when they saw the faces, the dances and rituals of the St. David's Indians.

"I was struck by how much they looked like us," said Michael J. Thomas, a Mashantucket tribal leader who went on the Bermuda trip this past summer.

According to local legend, the wife and son of King Philip might have been among those on St. David's. After the king's death, his wife, Wootonekanuske, is said to have married an African man, preserving a genealogical line with Indians in New England.

The Pequots, flush with casino wealth and in the midst of their own 21st century resurgence, plan to dig even further into slavery's hidden history, Thomas said.

"What's to be learned is a more accurate perception of Colonial-era history," he said. "It helps people to understand our insecurities of today."

Plains Indian Artist Henry Karunach

The National Heritage Museum writes, "...this little painting (only 8 inches by 6 inches) of a Plains Indian artifact. We know the name of the artist, Henry Karunach (d. 1888), because he signed his work. He would be a mystery to us if we did not have two accompanyng photographs. They both tell us more about Karunach and provide context about his life. This painting is one of the staff picks featured in "Curators' Choice: Favorites from the Collection."

Karunach, a member of the Arickara tribe from Fort Berthold, North Dakota, was among the first Native American students who studied at the Hampton Institute, in Virginia. Founders established the school in 1868 with the goal of educating recently freed African Americans. A decade later, the school began teaching young Native American men and women in trades, English language and other subjects with the now-dubiously regarded goal of “civilizing” them. From 1878 to 1923, over 1,300 Native American students attended the Hampton Institute.

Hampton Institute administrators commissioned portraits of students when they arrived at the school and again several months later. The school used these images to illustrate how students’ studies and experiences at the school changed them. Administrators employed the photographs in seeking political support and funding for their work. In the first photo shown here, taken in 1878, Karunach, wearing a long shirt (far right), stands in the back row of a group of ten students. Fifteen months later, the photographer captured him and seven other students with whom Karunach had entered school. In this image, they are wearing suits, ties and short haircuts. Hampton Institute administrators commissioned portraits of students when they arrived at the school and again several months later. The school used these images to illustrate how students’ studies and experiences at the school changed them. Administrators employed the photographs in seeking political support and funding for their work. In the first photo shown here, taken in 1878, Karunach, wearing a long shirt (far right), stands in the back row of a group of ten students. Fifteen months later, the photographer captured him and seven other students with whom Karunach had entered school. In this image, they are wearing suits, ties and short haircuts.

At the Institute, Karunach, whose name meant “Sioux Boy,” honed his English skills and learned how to make shoes. He also created this colorful painting of an object, perhaps a garment, decorated with feathers, fringe and bright colors. On the back of it, someone noted, "The work of an Indian at Hampton School." The caption on the later of the two photos says Karunach was “doing well” working as a shoemaker at Fort Berthold in North Dakota. I hope that description matched Karunach’s own assessment of his work and life after school. He died in 1888, ten years after he started school at the Hampton Institute.


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