Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The African Americans - Many Rivers to Cross

Starting October 22, PBS will televise a six-part series titled "The African Americans - Many Rivers to Cross." The six-hour series explores the evolution of the African-American people, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed — forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds. Commencing with the origins of slavery in Africa, the series moves through five centuries of remarkable historic events right up to the present — when America is led by a black president, yet remains a nation deeply divided by race.

The six-part series was developed by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University.  Please see the series video at Series Preview to learn more.

  • Episode One: The Black Atlantic (1500 – 1800)
  • Episode Two: The Age of Slavery (1800 – 1860)
  • Episode Three: Into the Fire (1861 – 1896)
  • Episode Four: Making a Way Out of No Way (1897 – 1940)
  • Episode Five: Rise! (1940 – 1968)
  • Episode Six: A More Perfect Union (1968 – 2013)
Episodes Two and Three should be of particular interest to students of the American Civil War. 

Episode Two - The Age of Slavery illustrates how black lives changed dramatically after the American Revolution. For free black people in places like Philadelphia, these years were a time of tremendous opportunity. King Cotton fueled the rapid expansion of slavery into new territories, and a Second Middle Passage forcibly relocated African Americans from the Upper South into the Deep South. Yet as slavery grew, so did resistance. From individual acts to mass rebellions, African Americans demonstrated their determination to undermine and ultimately eradicate slavery in every state in the nation. The episode examines how Harriet Tubman, Richard Allen and Frederick Douglass played a crucial role in forcing the issue of slavery to the forefront of national politics.

Episode Three - Into the Fire examines the the Civil War and Reconstruction.  From the beginning, African Americans were agents of their own liberation — forcing the Union to confront the issue of slavery by fleeing the plantations, and taking up arms to serve with honor in the United States Colored Troops. After Emancipation, African Americans sought to realize the promise of freedom — rebuilding families shattered by slavery; demanding economic, political and civil rights; even winning elected office.  However, an intransigent South mounted a swift and vicious campaign of terror to restore white supremacy and roll back African-American rights.

I hope you will examine this exciting new series that seeks to educate all Americans about the role of African Americans in the American Experience.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stonewall Jackson - "Coca-Cola Spokesman"

Who would think that Coke could enlist the help of Southern icon Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson in this advertisement from 1943.

"That Extra Something"

The copy reads:  1863 "Stonewall Jackson taught us what the pause that refreshes really means."

A new idea joined the army in "the sixties."  It was the rest pause ... with refreshment.  Here's what a Coca-Colar advertisement said about it in 1931: -

"Stonewall Jackson always got there first.  On the march he gave his men rations of sugar and at intervals required them to lie down for a short rest.  Thus he marched troops farther and faster than any other in the field.  Since his day all marching troops have been given a short rest period out of every hour."

I found this ad in an antique store in northeastern Georgia and "it called my name."

Have any of you found other Civil War generals selling things?  Please send them in so I can add them to the collection. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Civil War Tour of Washington DC

Sometimes timing is everything.  About a week before, Congress decided to shutdown the government, I toured many of the nation's capital's Civil War sites. Surprisingly, there are no organized tours of the historic places of the war.  Hopefully, our elected officials will stop behaving like spoiled brats and learn to play together. 

With the help of my own research and suggestions by Ms. Carol Bessette, I assembled three days of adventures.  The following list and comments should help you prepare your own self-guided tour.  Many of the sites are best visited by car while others should be accessed via the DC Metro system.

Historic Houses and Residences

Abraham Lincoln's Summer Cottage
  • Clara Barton Home - Drive to the home of the founder of the American Red Cross and battlefield nurse.  The guided tour of her residence is great for adults and children.
  • Frederick Douglas Home - Another site to drive to.  Douglas lived here after the war.  Short film highlights his life.  The beautiful hill-top residence in Arlington overlooks the capital.
  • Robert E. Lee Home - You can reach the home at Arlington National Cemetery by car or the Metro.  Interesting site overlooking Washington.  See the room where Lee wrote his resignation from the Union Army.
  • Abraham Lincoln's Summer Cottage - Take the time to drive to this site at the Soldiers' Home.  Starkly furnished home is viewed during excellent narrated tour of house.  See how you "measure up" to full size statue of Lincoln and his horse and climb the staircase Lincoln used to the room where he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • The Willard Hotel - This historic hotel was home to many dignitaries during the Civil War including Lincoln and Grant.  The hotel was a den of newspaper reporters, Union officers, Congressmen, and Southern spies.  There is a small hallway-museum. Visit using the Metro.
Downtown Washington (Only visit using the Metro.  Driving in downtown DC is a nightmare - gridlock and no place to park)

U. S. Grant
  • Ford's Theater - Site of Lincoln's assassination.  Also home across the street where Lincoln died.  You can take a John Booth tour of sites along his escape path.
  • Smithsonian National Museum of American History - Museum features Civil War Sesquicentennial exhibit and Martin Luther King's National Mall speech 50th Anniversary exhibit.  There are Civil Rights tours of Washington.
  • Frieze Around National Building Museum - Building was used after the war to pay military pensions.  Outside walls are decorated with military reliefs.
  • Statues -  The city is a not-too-subtle tribute to the Union generals of the Civil War.  General Sherman stands near the White House and General Grant guards the Capital. There are many others as well.  We managed to snap pictures of Generals Hancock and Meade.
  • African American Civil War Museum and Statue - We were not able to see these because of parking problems.  Take the Metro to visit them.
  • Lincoln Park - Emancipation Statue - not visited
  • Naval Museum - Navy Yard - Traffic and tightened security prohibited visit.  I understand that they have a good exhibit on the brown-water navy. Visit using the Metro.
Defenses of Washington (See these sites by car)

Fort Stevens
  • Fort Stevens - Reconstruction of part of fort.
  • Fort C. F. Smith - Parts of fort named after Maj. Gen. Smith are maintained.
  • Fort Ward - Museum and reconstructed fortifications.
  • Fort Washington - Only defense protecting DC at start of war.  I was not able to visit this fort.

  • Lincoln Memorial - See via Metro.
  • Arlington National Cemetery - See via Metro.
  • Alexandria, VA - Occupied city during the war and site of Col. Ellsworth shooting. See by car.
Over the next several month's, I will be preparing blogs on these locations.  Hopefully, our over-paid legislators will be able to put the government back to work and allow visitors at these historic sites.