Black American History

Truth burns up error. ~ Sojourner Truth

Elizabeth Keckley
daemon by iamiorek
‘Mrs. Keckley Has Met With Great Success’

Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” has cast a spotlight on a remarkable African-American woman who played a key role in influencing the president’s views on emancipation, bought her way out of slavery and fought to improve the lot of her people. And yet, when heroes of the Civil War era and the anti-slavery movement are celebrated, Elizabeth Keckley (portrayed in “Lincoln” by the actress Gloria Reuben) has been generally overlooked.

Until now. A play called “Mary T. & Lizzy K.,” by Tazewell Thompson, which examines the relationship between Mary Todd Lincoln and the dressmaker who became her confidante and closest friend, will open in March at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington. (Keckley was also an important character in Paula Vogel’s “A Civil War Christmas,” which recently closed at New York Theater Workshop.) And Jennifer Chiaverini’s novel “Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker” was published in January. All that in addition to her significant if less central appearance in the Spielberg film.

The little-known details of Elizabeth Keckley’s life provide enough drama, tragedy and irony to inspire a mini-series — all of it true and a testament to one woman’s courage.Collapse )

Keckley's autobiography, Behind the Scenes Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, is in the public domain and can be read or downloaded for free.
The play Mary T. and Lizzie K. will run from March 15-April 28 at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington, DC.
And finally, there are some articles about her son George Kirkland's military service here and here at The Sable Arm.

The Immortal Henrietta Lacks - CBS News

Brief life of the soldier who inspired The Count of Monte Cristo
daemon by iamiorek
Alexandre Dumas
Brief life of the soldier who inspired The Count of Monte Cristo: 1762-1806
by Tom Reiss
November-December 2012

He was the son of a black slave and a renegade French aristocrat, born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) when the island was the center of the world sugar trade. The boy’s uncle was a rich, hard-working planter who dealt sugar and slaves out of a little cove on the north coast called Monte Cristo—but his father, Antoine, neither rich nor hard-working, was the eldest son. In 1775, Antoine sailed to France to claim the family inheritance, pawning his black son into slavery to buy passage. Only after securing his title and inheritance did he send for the boy, who arrived on French soil late in 1776, listed in the ship’s records as “slave Alexandre.”

Known for acts of reckless daring in and out of battle, Alex Dumas was every bit as gallant and extraordinary as D’Artagnan and his comrades rolled into one. But it was his betrayal and imprisonment in a dungeon on the coast of Naples, poisoned to the point of death by faceless enemies, that inspired his son’s most powerful story.Collapse )

Tom Reiss ’86 is the author of a new biography of General Dumas, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo (Crown). His biographical pieces have also appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and other publications.


Free to Fight
daemon by iamiorek
Free to Fight

Andrew Williams was a slave child in Mount Vernon, Mo., when Union troops from Kansas came to his master’s house in the fall of 1862. Despite President Lincoln’s promise to leave slave owners in loyal states alone, a Union officer invited Williams’s mother to “be free,” along with the rest of the slaves on the property. They loaded into a wagon and drove off. Even before President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, freedom was coming to the Midwest.

Like many contrabands from Missouri, the Williams family traveled to Lawrence, Kan. A Fort Scott man estimated the daily migration of emancipated slaves out of Missouri at somewhere between 50 and 100. By the end of the war, a greater proportion of Kansas’s population would be black than ever before or since.

Some white Kansans organized relief societies to aid the contrabands who often arrived destitute. Others welcomed them as troops who could help “crush the rebellion.” Although the War Department authorized African-Americans only as laborers for the military, Lt. Col. Daniel Read Anthony of the Seventh Kansas Regiment insisted that his men not only free any slaves they encountered but also “arm or use them in such manner as will best aid us in putting down rebels.” Kansas’s new senator, James H. Lane, organized the refugees into military units, making Kansans among the first Northerners to accept African-Americans as soldiers.

"It is useless to talk any more about Negro courage," The Chicago Tribune reported after the Battle of Island Mound. "The men fought like tigers."Collapse )


If you have any interest in the American Civil War, I highly recommend following the NYT's Disunion blog.

The Black Fantastic
daemon by iamiorek
The Black Fantastic: Highlights of Pre-World War II African and African-American Speculative Fiction
Jess Nevins

Africans, and those of African descent, have not been treated well by speculative fiction, both inside its texts and in real life. Anti-African racism is a fact of life in Western culture, and was even more pronounced before 1945. Not surprisingly, the number of works of speculative fiction written by black writers is low. But that number is not zero, and it's worth taking a look at the fantasy and science fiction stories that black writers produced before 1945.

Exhaustiveness is not possible. What is possible is a shorter essay which concedes at the outset to being flawed and incomplete.Collapse )


Written for a white audience, I think, but it's still a nice survey.

Rare collection of Black American 1920s home movies/travel films online
Black British history, SarahForbesBonnetta
Read more...Collapse )

14 Year Old Black Youth Invents Surgical Technique. - YouTube
My Daughter
watch the video <a="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1nhkvg4dk0">here</a>

Emory University Expands Its African Origins Database
Black British history, SarahForbesBonnetta
From The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education:
"Last year Emory University in Atlanta debuted its African Origins website. The site contained a database of more than 9,000 Africans who were enslaved but later freed by the Courts of Mixed Commission in Havana, Cuba, and Freetown, Sierra Leone. Researchers took the names from ships’ registers and made recordings of the names as they were likely pronounced by officials in Havana and Freetown. They then played these recordings to linguistics experts in an effort to identify the African origins of people who were on these ships. Visitors to the site can browse through a list of names, hear how they are pronounced, and can fill out an online form if they have any information that will help researchers determine where in Africa these people originated.

Now Emory has added the names of an additional 80,000 African captives who were victims of the illegal slave trade. The updated database now contains about one half of all the people rescued from illegal slave vessels in the 1808 to 1862 period."
Full article & video: http://www.jbhe.com/2012/08/emory-university-expands-its-african-origins-database/

Black Art In America - The Leading Voice for the Black Visual Arts Community.
Herb Jeffries

The Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins Society
Sarah Davies
Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins, who was born in Portland, Maine, in 1859, is best known for four novels and numerous short stories which she published between 1900 and 1903. Her best-known work, the novel Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South, was published in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1900 by the Colored Co-operative Publishing Company. Hopkins followed this first novel with three serialized novels – Hagar’s Daughter: A Story of Southern Caste Prejudice, Winona: A Tale of Negro Life in the South and Southwest, and Of One Blood; Or, The Hidden Self. All three serials along with several short stories by Hopkins appeared in the Colored American Magazine, a literary journal which became the Colored Co-operative Publishing Company’s primary project. During this time period, Hopkins worked as an editor at the magazine. Through her editorial work, fiction, and a substantial body of nonfiction that addressed black history, racial discrimination, economic justice, and women’s role in society among other topics, she emerged as one of the era’s preeminent public intellectuals.

Read more Here


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