Tag Archives: slavery

Library of Congress Electronic Exhibit – African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship

The Woolworth sit-in, LOC

The Woolworth sit-in, LOC

In honor of Black History Month, the Library of Congress is hosting the electronic exhibit “African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship.” The exhibit displays more than 240 artifacts, including documents, images, videos, and more.

The exhibit “explores black America’s quest for equality from the early national period through the twentieth century.”

This is a rich, multimedia exploration into the experience of African Americans in this country for over 200 years.

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Texas Drought Uncovers Slave Cemetery

The record dry summer in Texas has uncovered a large slave graveyard in Corsicana, Texas. Archaeologist Alan Skinner of AR Consultants has uncovered at least twenty graves of African Americans, dating to the 19th century.

Archaeologists are currently working with government officials to determine the proper steps to further analyze and ultimately preserve the cemetery. To learn more about the finds, see the article in the Athens Review.

Update on Excavations in the Great Dismal Swamp

New archaeological excavations at the Great Dismal Swamp, near my hometown in Virginia, continue to yield fascinating finds, highlighting the world of run-away slaves and the Underground Railroad.

I have written about the excavations in two previous posts: “Archaeology in the Great Dismal Swamp” and “Continued Excavations in the Great Dismal Swamp.”

This month’s Archaeology Magazine highlights the season’s findings including solid evidence of human occupation (to support earlier historical documentation of the events) including postholes for housing, rubbish pits, and interesting portable human artifacts.

To read more about these findings, see the article “Letters from Virginia – American Refugees” in this month’s Archaeology Magazine.

Juneteenth – Our Other Independence Day (via Smithsonian Magazine)

When I first moved to Texas five years ago, I was introduced to a new Holiday I had never heard of – “Juneteenth.” Everyone spoke about it in the way that you do of references you assume everyone understands, “What are y’all doing for Juneteenth?” or “Have you seen the school’s planned display for Juneteenth?” I finally got up the nerve to ask a colleague what the deal was in “Juneteenth”? I figured it was some celebration of Texas Independence (a topic of which I know shamefully little due to the fact that I’m a ‘foreigner’ here in the Great State). However, what I learned was a shocking and fascinating story of slavery, the American Civil War, and a small beach town of Galveston, Texas.

The Official Juneteenth Committee in East Woods Park Austin, TX courtesy of the Austin History Center

The story of Juneteenth begins with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia in April of 1865. The event marked the end of the war and, along with it, an end of slavery in the Southern States. Even though the slaves had been officially freed in the Emancipation Proclamation (check out this great link by the way, it’s a featured document in the government archives) on January 1, 1863 with President Lincoln’s statement:

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.”

It wasn’t until the official surrender of the Confederate states that the Union was actually able to enforce the proclamation. Not surprisingly, the news of Lee’s surrender and the freedom of the slaves took a while to make its way across the South where roads and communication lines were disrupted. It was not until June 19, 1865 that the slaves of Galveston, Texas (one of the western-most cities in the Confederacy) learned of their freedom from General Gordon Granger, when he arrived in the small Texas town along with 2,000 Union troops and read order number 3:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

The slaves of Texas, more than 250,000 of them, learned that they were free more than two months after the end of the war. A series of grass-roots celebrations followed and continues to the modern day. This month’s Smithsonian Magazine highlights the history of Juneteenth in this article. I highly recommend it for those interested in Civil Rights and the American Civil War.

Archaeology in the Great Dismal Swamp

Archaeologists in the Great Dismal Swamp (right where I grew up) are researching and exploring the swamp area that served as a refuge for run away slaves and those operating on the underground railroad.

The swamp, originally 2,000 square miles of wetland, was the ideal hiding place for those looking to escape slavery or life outside of the norms of society.

Since 2001, Sayers has been researching and exploring the presence of maroons (African-Americans who permanently escaped enslavement) and other communities in the swamp’s approximately 200 square miles of undeveloped, densely wooded wetlands in southeast Virginia and northeast North Carolina.

Read more about the research in this Science Daily article