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History on Saturday: Pilgrim Hall Museum


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History On Saturday

Saturdays are a great time to gather the family up, bring a group, go on a date or venture out alone and visit webs and real-time historical sites. Today’s feature is:

The Pilgrim Hall Museum

The Pilgrim Hall Museum is a fascinating place to visit. The museum offers a way for visitors to learn about folks who immigrated to a new land to start a new life. We watch shows on TV today about going to new places to start a new life such the as survivor shows. These early Americans were not just trying to prove they could survive but to begin anew, build community, raise families and form government. In the Pilgrim Museum, you can see artifacts that early Americans brought with them on the Mayflower. You can also meet Native Americans that helped our first pioneers and the relationships they formed.

Visit, browse, and check out the gift shop which has books to further explore artifacts and the topics presented. View the online exhibits and escape to time in the past and see how it relates to our modern time.

The Pilgrim Museum homepage and online exhibits: http://www.pilgrimhall.org/about.htm

The gift shop: http://pilgrimhallmuseum.pinnaclecart.com/

Happy History on Saturday!

President Lincoln Addresses Two Critical Issues in 1863


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President Abraham Lincoln

During the Civil War and in the summer of 1863 the fighting between the Northern and Southern parts of the United States was closing in on a climax of death and destruction. At the time President Lincoln faced two particular problems with the situation. First, how to end slavery and second how to keep the ranks of the Union Army from becoming depleted. After considerable thought, he chose a solution for both problems: an emancipation proclamation and a wartime draft.

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Emancipation Proclamation

The proclamation itself focused solely on ending slavery by making it illegal in the United States. It did not give enslaved Blacks the full freedom that White Americans enjoyed. One reason for this is that Lincoln favored buying time for the South to come to terms with the new law,  and to gradually allow Black slaves an opportunity to choose a life for themselves once freed. Both Northern and Southern Americans had conflicting views on slavery as a whole, but the majority of all cared little for slaves once free and even disliked their assimilation into American society even more. Perhaps Lincoln felt by allowing a slow progression of this adaptation, a change that might prove easier to adapt to for all.

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Draft Poster

The wartime draft allowed an unlimited supply of able-bodied men, either age between 25 and 35 or between ages of 35 and 45 depending on their marital status, to serve in the Union Army by way of a lottery system. The lottery system was a recruitment tool used to draft individuals and not just sweep any and all men that qualified. It was meant to be a fair system. However, if you were wealthy you could get out of the draft by paying a bit of cash. This was hardly fair to those of lower income classes who never stood one chance to dodge the draft. Many folks in New York also perceived this solution as particularly federally intrusive to their lives. It  increased focus on slavery politically as three groups vied for their attention on the national stage: the New York Democrats which included Irish migrant workers, Republicans who remained neutral on the topic of slavery and Abolitionists who vigorously rallied the public support for the end of slavery with marches and speeches.  Finally, it incited anger with the White male working population who felt the law was tipped unfairly toward them by favoring Blacks and immigrants to whom the draft law did not even apply.

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Political Cartoon depicting effect of Draft Riot and Emancipation Proclamation

These groups clashed in July with deadly consequences. On the 13th, the day of the draft lottery, violence erupted, as tempers grew out of control. Working class men began attacking the very people they felt the federal government aimed to support in the draft. They attacked Irish immigrant workers naive of the American justice system. They attacked Blacks: women, children and elderly. These victims were easy targets and could not defend themselves because they did not have the same right within the law as White Americans. Another reason rioters targeted African Americans was because of their progression toward upward mobility. For example, they destroyed a black-owned orphanage, a  business created for the sole purpose of Blacks helping Blacks. These institutions’ did not interfere with White society, so why was this threatening? Perhaps the upward mobility by free or freed Blacks was a threat politically to Democrats and a reason for them to publicly protest the Republicans and the government itself.

Lincolns two solutions did affect the United States significantly, but it did not unify the nation, as he had desired. To quell the riot and fighting federal troops were ordered in to control crowds, establish curfew and authority and, bring order to the city. The draft stayed, and the anger and rage lingered on for years to come. Tensions increased between ethnic groups and whites. Now the country was not only divided by north and south but between race and ethnicity as well.

Some White citizens did support African Americans and came to their defense to try and fight back against or protect them from violence. However, there were too few of these groups to make a difference. No one directed their attention to the political systems in place that seems to incite further racial problems between different ethnicity in New York at the time.

The Draft Riots remains a spot of contention within the history of the United States as a nation. What has yet to be determined is why the nation focused more on the government to end the war and bring peace and less focus on ending racial tensions and bringing the nation together racially and ethnically.

 

References used:

The New York City Draft Riots of 1863 http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/317749.html.

New York Draft Riots

http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/draft-riots

Four Days of Fire: The New York City Draft Riots

http://www.history.com/news/four-days-of-fire-the-new-york-city-draft-riots

Civil War Draft Records: Exemptions and Enrollments by Michael T. Meier

http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1994/winter/civil-war-draft-records.html

 

African-American Woman Bessie Coleman


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Bessie Coleman, via Wikipedia.

Bessie Coleman (1892-1926) defied Jim Crow laws and racism towards Blacks early in the 20th century by becoming the first African-American female aviator. Despite the fact that she grew up poor, she sought out the opportunity to make her dreams come true. With the help of a mentor and the inspiration of her brothers, she ventured overseas to France to obtain flight training. France at the time did not discriminate against Blacks but welcomed them into its society and schools. There Bessie not only completed her training but gained fame and prestige as a fully qualified and talented airplane pilot, who performed stunts at air shows. This recognition influenced other African American women to realize they too could defy oppression by White society and seek opportunities previously closed to women of their race. Bessie’s success and others contributed not only to the Women’s Movement and but also to the Equal Rights Movement for years to come because of her belief in optimism and perseverance.

Unfortunately, Bessie would not live to see the changes inspired by her contributions of African-American firsts. She died on April 30, 1926, at her final air show. Her legacy continues to this day through the recognition and adoration by modern female African American aviators.

History on Saturday: James C. Craig, Barber from Grand Rapids


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1915. Henry Wayne Robbins’ barber shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Meet James C. Craig, a barber from Grand Rapids, Michigan in the late 1800s. He is an African-American man who immigrated to the city in 1871. Amazed at his success during the late 19th and early 20th centuries a newspaper editor inquired about the man, and Mr. Craig replied to him, telling his story in his words.

“I was born in the city of Louisville, Kentucky on the second day of April 1849. I was a slave until 1862. I followed the 23rd Regiment of Michigan in 1864 throughout the southern states and left them at [in] Atlanta, Georgia. Then I came to Flint, Michigan with Captain George Buckingham. He was sick. I then learned the barber trade in the year 1865. Then in the year 1868, I went to Battle Creek, Michigan. I lived there until 1870 and went into business for myself. I did not meet with success as I hoped. In 1871, I came to Grand Rapids and opened up business again as a barber. I am pleased to tell you that I have made it a success this time. My place of business is 70 Canal Street. On October 28, 1884, I was appointed the honorary commissioner of the 5th District of the World’s Fair at New Orleans.”-James C. Craig (1)

This biography is modest because it tells the story of Mr. Craig’s life of perseverance and determination but it does not include information about his membership and participation in African-American (men-only) organizations. His collection does contain clippings of meetings and notes that suggest he was interested in the quality of life of fellow African-American citizens and their fight for equal rights in Grand Rapids. How active he was in these memberships or the privileges they might have given him are not known at this time. Mr. Craig’s commitment to his business and networking through memberships did distinguish him as a gentleman of his class and race. Additional research is needed to understand how if any of his contributions, his legacy, and his life helped influence the African-American community of Grand Rapids as well as the dream of equal rights for everyone in America. (2)

1. Finding aid for the James C. Craig collection Collection 183 Finding aid prepared by Lynn Eleveld … Finding aid for the James C. Craig collection Collection 183 http://grplpedia.grpl.org/wiki/images/7/7b/183.pdf

2. Jelks, Randal Maurice. African Americans in the Furniture City: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Grand Rapids. Urbana and Chicago: U of Illinois, 2006. Print.

History on Saturday-Million Man March 1963


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Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington in 1963, where many various groups organized a meeting for people to come together to show their support of the Civil Rights Movement. It culminated in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, I Have a Dream Speech.

This is a popular event in history but one that is repeatedly told through popular history circles. If one were to grab a few books and do some research at a local library they would find there was much more to the civil rights than that. Dr. King himself was a small part of the movement. Not unlike today, people tended to rally around those they felt confident to be the fore runner for justice in our country and he was chosen for the civil rights movement at the time. He paid the ultimate sacrifice for it too. Today we celebrate his life, work and death as we keep the memory alive and his dream lives on in the hearts of many. He would be amazed at the progress we have accomplished since that time but he would also tell us to keep working toward our goals.

I am including some webs I found to visit that offers insight into the importance of the civil rights movement, Dr. King, and the march. Enjoy!

The Civil Rights Movement:

http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/1945-present/civil-rights-movement

Dr. King:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/mlk/

The March:

http://www.npr.org/news/specials/march40th/march.html

Benjamin A. Butler-A Different Kind of Gent


Benjamin A. Butler

Benjamin A. Butler is a fascinating character in US history for a number of reasons. In 1818, he was fortunate to be born during revolution and change in the country. He grew up in Massachusetts and was most likely well off since he was able to attend college at Waterville, Maine. In 1838, he graduated with a law degree and pursued a criminal defense career in Lowell, Massachusetts. Perhaps he chose criminal defense as a way to serve the poor of whom he sympathized with and rallied around.

Benjamin A. Butler was also a military man with a long history of service under his belt. He served as Brigadier General in the Massachusetts Militia, which was kind of like today’s National Guard, and with the Union Army during the Civil War. His participation in the Civil War not only brought him full tilt to the front lines of the poor but also face to face with slaves. Butler used his talents in law and military organization as a strategy that helped slaves, supported the Union and helped the poor through charitable opportunities which arose as consequence of the war.

The US Civil War played out with soldiers and guns on one side and by politicians on the other. Butler didn’t allow this to sway his decisions but determined the best course of action by evaluating the situations he came across at the time. The first sign of this was when he confronted a slave problem in Virginia. The problem was what to do with slaves who had escaped in the South or had been abandoned. Congress had recently enacted the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which mandated that escaped slaves be returned to their masters and were not considered “free”. Butler was a man of law and questioned this situation of runaway slaves in times of war.  These escaped slaves had become “impressed” into the construction of batteries. He also could not fathom the idea of abandoning the slaves while invading towns and pushing masters to leave their plantations, so he took the slaves as contraband. As Sydney Nathans describes in his book,  To Free A Family: The Journey of Mary Walker, anti-slavery organizations celebrated Butlers ideas of devising a way to help by using his knowledge of the law. According to the law, slaves were property and in time of war confiscated property was considered contraband. The idea of contraband satisfied two problems Butler saw important to focus on. First, he confiscated slaves so they could not aid the southern war effort by being impressed. Secondly, by helping the slaves it gave him political support back home in Massachusetts,  primarily an abolitionist state.

In 1862 when Butler and his forces invaded New Orleans he saw wealthy aristocrats taking advantage of the poor. Being a man who sympathized with the poor and a history of successful organization of his troops, set upon empowering people to turn their hardships around. He even dipped into his own pockets to get the ball rolling. Many of the people he helped were Southerners unable to provide for themselves due to male head of households being whisked off to join the war. Butler gathered contraband slaves and put them to work helping with tasks. Some of this must have inspired his support of black troop units back home to serve in the Union forces.

Benjamin A. Butler’s legacy continued for years after the Civil War. He continued to serve in politics and continued to use his love for law to help represent those who were forgotten by society. He was able to see corruption with Andrew Jackson’s administration. He was able to see that politicking and reconstruction after the Civil War sought to keep tempers flaring in the south by keeping free blacks suppressed with terrorism and intimidation. He continued work with the passing of the Ku Klux Klan Act and Civil Rights Act. He seemed to be the right man for the job at the time. His background, education and love for fairness and law led him to opportunities that he embraced with the best of intentions and heart. His successes and failures teach that decisions are made with everyone involved and the outcomes will affect everyone as well. If one group or side is not taken into considerations the outcome can be far more detrimental. His ideas set up social programs and systems that aided society during war and its aftermath. He showed how organization can aid in military strength for support of any operation. Lastly, he showed how law can work to benefit those who are oppressed by the social elite and powerful.

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1968: A Pivotal moment for African-Americans


     1968 was a pivotal year in America’s civil rights movement. Black Americans were still suffering from white supremacy of which met them at every tuned opportunity to advance in their standards of living. Martin Luther King Jr., a spokesman for black Americans, preached reform through peaceful means. Even more so, he warned Americans that situations of unrest would occur in the event this fell upon deaf ears or further spurred black’s civil rights infringement. Feeling a lack of support for them, Black Americans grew impatient with bureaucracy in waiting for their needs to be met or not at all. In 1968, all of these things came to a head in April of that year.

Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated in Memphis on April 5, 1968. Just days earlier he stood tall at one of his many speaking engagements preaching his message of peace not violence as a means to secure civil rights for all Americans. Angry, shocked and hurt, Washington, DC. black residents flooded the streets and local businesses to release their pent-up frustration. They looted, rioted and shouted the need for action and this time no amount of police force would deter their ambitions.

The following day schools and government offices were open as usual. This was unlike President Kennedy’s day of mourning after his assassination. In protest of this unfair action, a more liberal black activist, Stokely Carmichael, persuaded local black business owners to shut down and close in a wave of defiance against white’s lack of sympathy showed the black community. The looting and fires lead to the discharge of National Guard troops who were not allowed to fire upon the rioters.  For once, blacks were not ruled by police brutality. After the riots, the first black mayor of  Washington, DC., Walter Washington, was placed in charge of the city, supported by President Johnson; a pro-Civil Rights leader. Blacks that remained in these looted and rioted areas took over soon after as segregation ended and middle-class black families moved away. What remained was a new community built by blacks and protected by blacks so strongly no white person dared to venture there.

What was learned from this trying time in 1968 was thatAmericawas ready more than ever to end segregation and to begin to allow law to work for the advancement of civil rights. Black Americans would not sit idly by and be intimidated into accepting things the way they were. They mourned Martin Luther King Jr. and honored him by picking up the torch and carrying his vision with them into the future. Americans also learned that violence on violence was not the answer and it could not control the black community; strong as any other in its determination for political freedoms.

The Fires of 1968 Marker Photo, Click for full size

Today a marker stands to remind those who pass by to remember lives lost and reborn on the eve of major advancement of the civil rights movement.

Black Buffers


In 1968, the Black Buffers were a group of ex-convicts formed by fundamentalists William Porter and John Staggers. The purpose of this group was to patrol the streets of Washington D.C. along side the radical political group, the Black Panthers. The men were installed to preach and recruit for fellowship with the fundamentalists. They were called Black Buffers because they essentially buffeted the Black Power movement against an all white police force that used brutality to control of Black citizens.

To keep the buffers from being seen as a fundamentalist group to establish their own right, Doug Coe, fundamentalist group leader, created The Young Life program. This program was literally run by white leadership but camouflaged with black men to appear as a normal civil rights activist group. It was an experiment in social conservatism. The experiment set up the conservatism using the control of a social group, the black ex-cons in Washington D.C., then manipulating the public into believing they were not a group capable of uprising and producing hysteria which was rampant in the 1960’s. The group did not ignite the flame it intended to do but fizzled out about a year later when revenues could not be obtained for its continuation through fund raising.

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