Tuesday, November 05, 2013

PBS: "The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross", "Into the Fire" and "The Age of Slavery"

PBS has been airing a series, “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross”, with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The episode Nov. 5 was a hurried history of the War Between the States and Reconstruction, called “Into the Fire” (1861-1896).  The early part of the episode described the escape of slaves, some of whom would be sheltered as “contraband of war” at Ft. Monroe in Tidewater VA.  Later, Confederate forces would execute black Union troops on site, unwilling to call them “soldiers”.

The series then explains the term “40 Acres and a Mule”, the name of Spike Lee’s movie production company.
Southern society was faced with the feeling that what it used to have had been expropriated, and tended to believe there could never be true equality.  One race or the other would win.  So some African Americans preferred segregated living as “safer”, particularly with one bayou community in Mississippi. But segregation would be tested in “Plessy v. Ferguson” when a freeborn man who was only 1/8 black tried to ride in the white section of a train in Louisiana, and in 1896 the Supreme Court would uphold “separate but equal”, not to overturn it until 1954 (although even then, Brown v. Board of Education could be implemented only “with all deliberate speed”). 
The video below is a discussion of the series at the Brookings Institution.

The basic link for the episode is here

Update: Nov. 7

The episode "The Age of Slavery" aired on WHUT on Nov. 7.  The episode explained how slavery became intrinsic to the economy when a northerner, Eli Whitney, invented the cotton gin. creating the need for slave labor for the South on a huge scale.  Nachez MS became the nation's wealthiest town.  Slaveowners bred their own workforce with sexual intercourse, creating mixing.  In the north, blacks feared being called escaped slaves and kidnapped and being sent to the South.  In Delaware, one slave won freedom by getting a pastor to convince the owner that slavery was a sin. In Southampton, Suffolk County, VA, Nat Turner started a rebellion killing the entire family of owners.  A museum in South Carolina shows the tools used to hold slaves, often manufactured by the slaves.

Update: Dec. 7

I''l try to get to the site of the Turner Rebellion soon (but not during a Virginia ice storm this weekend).

There are a few buildings remaining in Courtland, VA, near the NC border. The town was at one time called "Jerusalem".  The Rebecca-Vaughan House, now restored, was the last home in which white plantation owners or the like were killed, Wikipedia link here.  Mahone's Tavern (wikipedia link) was a safe house for residents during the raid.

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