Preserving a Piece of Abolitionist History

A Getty conservator discusses how she protects a rare and important photograph. In late August 1850, Cazenovia, New York—a small town not far from Syracuse—hosted an important gathering that was captured in a rare photograph. At the left-center of the image is orator and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, framed by a handful of the thousands of[…]

Miscegenation: The Birth, and Life, of a Word

The contents of this booklet, released in 1864, quickly became a focal point of campaign oratory. By Ralph KeyesAuthor, Speaker, and Teacher During the presidential campaign of 1864, a seventy-two-page booklet appeared on the streets of Manhattan. This publication was titled Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, Applied to the American White Man[…]

Rethinking Descriptions of Black Africans in Ancient Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art

Communicating the diversity of the ancient Mediterranean. By Paula Gaither, Elisa McAtee, Kenneth Lapatin, and David Saunders Introduction Museums have much work to do. The Black Lives Matter movement’s call for social reform extends to arts institutions, bringing focus to the need for inclusivity and equity. The ways in which we present and describe artworks[…]

The History and Legacy of ‘Black Wall Street’

Before 1921, most of Tulsa’s 10,000 African American residents lived in the vibrant district with flourishing Black-owned businesses. By Dora Mekouar Until recently, many Americans had never heard of the Greenwood District of the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, one of the largest, most prosperous Black communities in the United States that was destroyed in 1921 during what the Oklahoma[…]

George Washington in 1786 on the Abolition of Slavery

Of the nine presidents who were slaveholders, only George Washington freed all his own slaves upon his death. Before the Revolution, Washington, like most white Americans, took slavery for granted. At the time of the Revolution, one-fifth of the colonies’ population lived in bondage. Although most slaves were in the South, slavery was a legal[…]

The Story of Caesar, an Enslaved Chef and Chocolatier in Colonial Virginia

In a bittersweet history, the story of enslaved chocolatier Caesar shows the oppression that lay behind the elite’s culinary treat. Introduction The holidays are approaching, and among the many treats of the season are chocolate and hot cocoa. While these traditions provide a hefty dose of sugar, there’s a bittersweet side to chocolate’s history, too.[…]

The Revolutionary Summer of 1862: How Congress Abolished Slavery

Secession and the Civil War were about slavery and race. Introduction In his second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln recalled, “All knew that” the “peculiar and powerful interest” in slaves “was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even[…]

Citizens’ Councils, Conservatism, and White Supremacy in Louisiana, 1964-1972

White supremacist resistance against the civil rights movement transformed its rhetoric while seeking to align with the conservatism. This article examines the development of Massive Resistance, in particular Citizens’ Councils, in Louisiana after the council movement in the South had passed its zenith when being unable to prevent the passage of federal civil rights and[…]

The Whistles of George Wallace in the 1968 Presidential Campaign

Wallace appeared on the national scene in the early sixties to give an unadulterated voice to feelings of anger and fear felt by whites. Abstract Gender and emotions are important factors in the rise of modern U.S. conservatism. This article examines the 1968 presidential election as a pivotal moment in the development of the New[…]

Jane and Cicely: Massachusetts Slaves Who Died of an Epidemic in 1714

The lives, labor, and sacrifices of women and girls of color have been overlooked for centuries. Introduction What I believe to be the oldest surviving gravestone for a Black person in the Americas memorializes an enslaved teenager named Cicely. Cicely’s body is interred across from Harvard’s Johnston Gate in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She died in 1714 during a[…]

Charles Sumner: The Fight for Equal Naturalization Rights in 1870

Sumner added fire to an already explosive debate with his amendment to do away with the “whites only” clause of the naturalization law. On July 4, 1870 – 150 years ago this week – Republican Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts urged the U.S. Senate to take a radical step: to strike out the word “white”[…]

Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn, and Race in Postbellum America

How did Twain’s Huckleberry Finn engage and challenge popular ideas about slavery and race in nineteenth-century America? Originally published by Newberry Digital Collections for the Classroom, 05.04.2012, Newberry Library, republished with permission for educational, non-commercial purposes. Introduction Students in the United States know Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a fixture in the[…]

Remarkable Radical: Thaddeus Stevens, 1859-1868

Thaddeus Stevens was a fearsome reformer, who never backed down from a fight. In 1813, a young Thaddeus Stevens was attending a small college in Vermont. This was well before the time when good fences made good neighbors. Free-roaming cows often strayed onto campus. Manure piled up. Odors lingered. Resentment among students festered. One spring[…]

How Black Pastors Resisted Jim Crow and White Pastors Incited Violence

Religion was no barrier for Southern lynch mobs intent on terror. White pastors joined the KKK, incited racial violence and took part in lynchings. Introduction White lynch mobs in America murdered at least 4,467 people between 1883 and 1941, hanging, burning, dismembering, garroting and blowtorching their victims. Their violence was widespread but not indiscriminate: About[…]

How a Heritage of Black Preaching Shaped MLK’s Voice in Calling for Justice

A long heritage of black preachers who played an important role for enslaved people shaped Martin Luther King Jr.’s moral and ethical vision. Introduction The name Martin Luther King Jr. is iconic in the United States. President Barack Obama mentioned King in both his Democratic National Convention nomination acceptance and victory speeches in 2008, when[…]

Possible Mass Graves Identified from 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

All of the victims whose remains the groups have been searching for are homicide victims of the white mob that day. For decades, historians poring over photographs, written records and oral interviews have suspected where victims may have been buried after the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. And on Monday night, researchers announced there is[…]

Congress and the Remaking of the South, 1865-1866

Andrew Johnson lacked Lincoln’s political skills and instead exhibited a stubbornness and confrontational approach. Introduction President Johnson and Congress’s views on Reconstruction grew even further apart as Johnson’s presidency progressed. Congress repeatedly pushed for greater rights for freed people and a far more thorough reconstruction of the South, while Johnson pushed for leniency and a[…]

St. Augustine’s Slave Market: A Visual History

Placing special emphasis on visual culture in the forms of photographs and postcards, Goldstein unpacks the complicated history of St. Augustine’s Slave Market. Introduction At the center of the historic quarter in St. Augustine, Florida, stands the “old slave market,” an open-air pavilion where enslaved Africans were bought and sold (Figures 1–3). Since its construction[…]

Listening to the Past: An African-American Lullaby

Both during slavery and after, the power structures of American society confined many black women to the role of caretakers of white families. My research tries to capture the sounds of the past before the advent of recorded music. I’m curious about ideas that were spoken and sung and shouted and strummed, focusing particularly on[…]

Rights, Resistance, and Racism: The Story of the Mangrove Nine

Examining what prompted the backlash of black British people against the police. By Rowena Hillel and Vicky Iglikowski The trial of the nine arguably represents a high point of the Black Panther movement in the UK, showing the power of black activism and the institutionalised police prejudice. But what prompted the backlash of black British[…]

Remember the Red Summer 100 Years Later

Typical narratives about 1919’s anti-black collective violence, especially in school textbooks, often conclude abruptly. This summer marks the hundredth anniversary of 1919’s Red Summer, when, from May to November, the nation experienced ten major “race riots” that took the lives of more than 350 people, almost all black. How should the challenging but essential task[…]

The Civilian Conservation Corps, Racial Segregation, and the Building of the Angeles National Forest

Obscured in the Angeles’ history is the role that all-African-American CCC camps played in the development of forest infrastructure. By Daniel Medina The Angeles National Forest, granting Los Angeles County 70% of its open space, is today considered the most accessible and popular “playground” in Southern California. Its prominent recreational legacy is rooted in the[…]

A Brief Overview of Post-Civil War Segregation

In the South, segregation reproduced the racial inequality found under slavery. By Angelina Grigoryeva and Martin Ruef Segregation took various forms across the postbellum United States, with important regional differences between the Northeast and South.  In the American Northeast, segregation largely assumed the form of racialized African-American districts, similar to those today.  By contrast, the[…]

Slavery and the Origins of the Lost Cause Myth

States’ rights and slavery, while theoretically distinct, were in praxis intertwined. Here’s what a Jeffersonian analysis of Jubal Early’s lost-cause apologia can teach us. The two most significant issues that led to war between the North and South were, most scholars acknowledge, slavery and states’ rights. Northern states had fully abolished slavery by 1804, when[…]

Elegy and Effigy: The Struggle for Integration

The similarities between the effigies of James Meredith and the thousands of black bodies hanged and burned by southern lynch mobs over the years were intentional. An effigy dangled outside the second-story window of Vardaman Hall, a men’s dormitory on the University of Mississippi campus. Its head crooked from the rope tied around its neck,[…]

The Voices of Civil Rights

Photographs documenting pivotal events in the struggle for civil rights in the United States. Overview This exhibition draws from the individual accounts and oral histories collected by the Voices of Civil Rights project, a collaborative effort of AARP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and the Library of Congress. The exhibition celebrates the donation[…]

James Byrd, Jr., John William King, and the History of American Lynching

We need a historical understanding of how lynching discourse continues to shape America’s enduring “dialogue on race.” In February, 1999, John William King – who was executed in Huntsville, Texas on April 24, 2019 –became the first white man in modern Texas history to be sentenced to death for killing a black person.  How that black person, James Byrd,[…]