Friday, September 23, 2016

National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African
American History and Culture
After 101 years of effort, the National Museum of African American History and Culture will open this Saturday (September 24, 2016).  In 1915, a group of African American veterans of the Civil War proposed a museum and memorial in Washington. Efforts to establish the museum floundered over the years stalled by the depression. Congress refused to support ideas during the 1960s and 1970s. Finally, in 2003, President George W. Bush appointed a commission to study the museum. The study, appropriately titled "The Time Has Come," resulted in Congress passing a law that authorized the museum.

"If you're interested in American notions of freedom, then regardless of who you are, this is your story too." --- Lonnie G. Bunch III 

Slave Manacles
A visit to the museum begins with the "Slavery and Freedom" gallery. The exhibit "is designed to attack the senses and draw out emotion: The ceilings are low, the rooms are dark and oppressive, and the walls are covered with quotes from the slaves and the enslaved, whose voices have been reproduced and are broadcast through the exhibits." The exhibit presents items that bring slavery to life: slave manacles used on a child, a slave auction block, a whip used to punish slaves, and ballast blocks and pulley from a Portuguese slave ship.

Please visit the museum web site to learn more.


  1. "Up Close and Personal with a painful past," The Dallas Morning News, September 23, 2016, 3A.
  2. "Black in America," Smithsonian, September 2016.
  3. National Museum of African American History and Culture
  4. Collection Search on Slavery
  5. Collection Search on Military

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Slavery at American Universities

Slave Trader's Business
Atlanta in 1864
Georgetown University made headlines recently when university officials  pledged  "to apologize for its role in the slave trade and offered to give admissions preference to the descendants of those sold for the benefit of the school, one of the most aggressive responses to date among the universities trying to make amends for the horrors of slavery."  The apology is due to the 1838 sale of slaves owned by the university for a price of $115,000. Many of the slaves ended up in Louisiana, “where they labored under dreadful conditions on cotton and sugar plantations.” 

Georgetown joins a growing number of prominent colleges and universities that are examining their connections to slavery in America from Colonial times through the Civil War. The panel’s report explores the relationship between Maryland Jesuits, slavery and the college. The Jesuits established plantations and began using slave labor on them about 1700. Those plantations became an enduring source of financial support for Georgetown, the nation’s first Catholic college. The report notes that through the Civil War “the mood at the college was pro-slavery and ultimately pro-Confederacy.” 

Slaves waiting for sale i
n Richmond about 1853
Preliminary research suggests that there were more slaves on Georgetown’s campus than previously thought, probably about 1 in every 10 people on campus in the early 19th century. Some were brought by students. Some were rented from slave owners.
Mulledy and McSherry organized the sale of 272 slaves to Louisiana businessmen while the former was college president and the latter held the title of superior of the Maryland Province of the Jesuits. The slaves were taken to various plantations in Louisiana. Many were then sold and resold.
The sale was controversial at the time. Jesuit authorities in Rome were initially inclined to support emancipation, the report said, and they imposed several conditions on any sale, including a mandate that slave families should not be divided. That condition and others were not honored.
The relationship between American universities and slavery is explored in Mark Auslander's web site slavery-and-universities. Auslander's site provides an extensive list of resources.
What I found rather amazing/disappointing is the involvement of northern colleges in slavery. Auslander reports information on the following institutions:
  • Amherst (Massachusetts)
  • Brown (Rhode Island)
  • Dartmouth (New Hampshire)
  • Harvard(Massachusetts)
  • Oberlin (Ohio)
  • Yale (Connecticut)
You might want to visit: