November 7, Elijah Lovejoy and the cause of abolition

November 7, 2011

Many key events on November 7.  November 17, 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution replaced the Kerensky government in Russia, for example.  The Bolsheviks pulled Russia out of World War I, and set the nation on a course towards soviet government whose advocacy of soviet communism would be one of the major issues of the 20th century.

Let us not forget the death of Elijah Lovejoy on November 7, 1837.  Lovejoy edited an abolitionist newspaper in Alton, Illinois — then a rival of St. Louis and larger than Chicago.

A pro-slavery mob murdered Lovejoy on November 7, 1837.  Details from the American Memory project at the Library of Congress; all links go to the Library of Congress sources:

Elijah Lovejoy

a page of text with a silhouette image of Lovejoy

Elijah Parish Lovejoy,

1891.

Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

On November 7, 1837, Elijah Parish Lovejoy was killed by a pro-slavery mob while defending the site of his anti-slavery newspaper The Saint Louis Observer. His death both deeply affected many individuals who opposed slavery and greatly strengthened the cause of abolition.

Sacramental Scene in a Western Forest
“Sacramental Scene in a Western Forest,”
Lithograph by P. S. Duval, ca. 1801,
from Joseph Smith, Old Redstone,
Copyprint. Philadelphia: 1854,
General Collections, Library of Congress.
Section VII: Religion and the New Republic,
Religion and the Founding of the American Republic

Lovejoy, who was born on November 9, 1802, in Albion, Maine, decided to seek his fortune in the Midwest after graduating from college. Short on funds, he walked to St. Louis, Missouri, where, over time, he became editor and part-owner of The St. Louis Times. His name appeared in the Times for the first time on August 14, 1830, and for the last time—as editor—on February 18, 1832.

In 1832, caught up in the powerful religious revival movement sweeping the U.S. and its frontier territories, Lovejoy experienced a conversion, which led him to sell his interests in the paper and enroll in Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. Two years later, a group of St. Louis businessmen, who sought to start a newspaper to promote religious and moral education, recruited Lovejoy to return to the city as editor of The St. Louis Observer.

Lovejoy, supported by abolitionist friends such as Edward Beecher (the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin), became ever more radical in his anti-slavery editorials. He first supported African recolonization then endorsed gradual emancipation. By 1835, he sanctioned abolition in the District of Columbia, and, by 1837, championed immediate universal emancipation.

Lovejoy’s editorials raised local ire while they increased national circulation. A group of local citizens, including the future Senator Thomas Hart Benton, declared that freedom of speech did not include the right to speak against slavery. As mob violence increased over the issue, Lovejoy, now a husband and father, decided to move his family to Alton, across the Mississippi River in the free state of Illinois.

Alton, Illinois

The City of Alton, Illinois,

1908.

Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991

At the time Elijah Lovejoy moved to Alton it was “a booming town.” Alton had some 2,500 residents and was considered both the rival of St. Louis and a far more important Illinois city than Chicago.

Mobs had destroyed Lovejoy’s presses on a number of occasions, but when a new press arrived in November 1837, the violence escalated. No sooner was the new press offloaded from the steamboat Missouri Fulton than a drunken mob formed and tried to set fire to the warehouse where it was stored. When Lovejoy ran out to push away a would-be-arsonist, he was shot.

Throughout the North and West, membership in anti-slavery societies increased sharply following Lovejoy’s death. Yet officials in Illinois, with one exception, made little comment. Twenty-eight year old State Representative Abraham Lincoln stated publicly:

Let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children’s liberty…Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother…in short let it become the political religion of the nation…1

  • Search the collection Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860 on Elijah P. Lovejoy and Alton Trials to find items pertaining to the progression of the Alton riots and the death of Reverend Elijah P. Lovejoy.
  • Learn more about the Second Great Awakening, the religious movement that swept the U.S. between the inaugurations of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. See Section VII of the online exhibition Religion and the Founding of the American Republic.
  • Search across the American Memory “Photos, Prints” collections on the terms Missouri and Illinois for more images. Search on the term press for images of a wide variety of printing presses more modern than those in use during the life of Elijah Lovejoy.
  • Search across all collections on the term press for images of a wide variety of printing presses more modern than those used during the life of Elijah Lovejoy.
  • See the Abolition section of the online exhibition The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship which discusses anti-slavery movements in the nation, and the rise of the sectional controversy.

1 Paul Simon, Freedom’s Champion: Elijah Lovejoy (Southern Illinois University Press: 1994), 163.


Frederick Douglass Book Award nominees (read ’em!)

August 16, 2009

What to read this year for U.S. history?

Kevin Levin at Civil War Memories notes three worthy candidates for outside reading, for student projects, and other good use (I’ve stolen his whole post — you’d do well to go visit his site and see what else he has):


Out+of+the+House+of+BondageI‘m a little late in posting this, but wanted to point your attention to the three finalists for this year’s Frederick Douglass Book Award that is sponsored by Yale’s Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition.

The finalists are Thavolia Glymph for Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge University Press); Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton and Company); and Jacqueline Jones, “Saving Savannah: The City and the Civil War (Alfred A. Knopf Publishers).  The prize comes with a generous check of $25,000.  I’ve read both Annette Gordon-Reed’s book (a National Book Award winner) and Glymph’s study.  Although the publisher sent me a copy of Saving Savannah, I have not had a chance to look through it.   My money is on Glymph’s Out of the House of Bondage.


Bad guys of Baltimore

August 12, 2009

Or, “How a little study of history can make your visit to a city so much more entertaining and fun.”  At Clio Bluestocking Tales.

Why do visitors leave pennies at this gravesite?  Read the story at Clio Bluestocking Tales

Why do visitors leave pennies at this gravesite? Read the story at Clio Bluestocking Tales

For five weeks, I walked around the streets of Baltimore, or at least the distance between a certain major university known for its doctors, the Inner Harbor, and Fells Point — especially Fells Point — with some diversions elsewhere. As I walked, I began to notice landmarks of some very bad guys who have graced the streets of this interesting city.

Fans of “The Wire” will especially want to read it.  Did you catch the reason Clio is in Baltimore, for the full effect?

It’s not that history tells you how to live your life, or save it; it can make your life worth the living and saving.


Historical anniversary: July 10, 1850, Millard Fillmore succeeds to the presidency

July 10, 2009

Millard Fillmore was elected vice president largely because he was on the ticket with the very popular Gen. Zachary Taylor, hero of the Mexican War.

About 15 months into his presidency, President Taylor took ill  after presiding over July 4 festivities in blazing heat.  He died on July 9, 1850; Vice President Millard Fillmore took the oath as president the next day, and served out the term.

Millard Fillmore in an 1850 lithograph by Francis DAvignon after a photograph by Matthew Brady (unclear if this was before or after his ascending to the presidency) - Library of Congress image

Millard Fillmore in an 1850 lithograph by Francis D'Avignon after a photograph by Matthew Brady (unclear if this was before or after his ascending to the presidency) - Library of Congress image

Taylor had encouraged New Mexico and California to draw up state constitutions, which would have disallowed slavery in those states.  To southern leaders who threatened secession, Taylor promised to personally lead the army that would hold the union together by force, and personally hang those who had proposed rebellion.

Fillmore had presided over the Senate during months of furious debate on issues that always seemed to come down to slavery.  Because he didn’t hold to the views of the Whig Party which had elected the Taylor-Fillmore ticket, even more than Taylor had strayed, the cabinet resigned.  Fillmore appointed Daniel Webster as Secretary of State, and proceeded to push for compromise on issues to avoid war.  His machinations helped get California admitted as a free state, but left New Mexico as a territory.  His support of the Fugitive Slave Act alienated even more Whigs, and by 1852 the Whigs refused to nominate Fillmore for a term of his own.  He left office in 1853, succeded by Franklin Pierce.

Fillmore’s greatest accomplishment as president, perhaps, was his sending a fleet of ships to Japan to force that nation to open up to trade from the U.S.  The political furor over the Fugitive Slave Act, the Missouri Compromise, and other issues around slavery, tend to eclipse the memory of the good that Fillmore did.

Nota bene:  Controversy surrounded the death of Taylor.  Because he had threatened southern secessionists and incurred anger from several other groups, from the time of his death there were rumors he had been poisoned with arsenic.  Officially, the cause of death was gastroenteritis; popular accounts note that he had, in the heat of July, drunk milk and eaten cherries and cucumbers.  Certainly strep, staph or other bacteria in the milk could have created a problem.  In 1991 a team led by George Washington University Law Professor James Starrs exhumed Taylor’s body from his Louisville, Kentucky burial plot, and tested his remains for arsenic at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  Analysis presented to the Kentucky medical examiner indicated aresenic levels way too low for a poisoning victim.


Juneteenth 2009

June 19, 2009

[This is mostly an encore post, from 2008 — fyi.]

Oldest known photograph of a Juneteenth celebration, in Austin, Texas, in 1900 - Austin Public Library image

Oldest known photograph of a Juneteenth celebration, in Austin, Texas, in 1900 - Austin Public Library image

The Texas State Archives offers a succinct history:

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, is the name given to emancipation day by African-Americans in Texas. On that day in 1865 Union Major General Gordon Granger read General Order #3 to the people of Galveston. General Order #3 stated “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

Large celebrations on June 19 began in 1866 and continued regularly into the early 20th century. The African-Americans treated this day like the Fourth of July and the celebrations contained similar events. In the early days, the celebration included a prayer service, speakers with inspirational messages, reading of the emancipation proclamation, stories from former slaves, food, red soda water, games, rodeos and dances.

The celebration of June 19 as emancipation day spread from Texas to the neighboring states of Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. It has also appeared in Alabama, Florida, and California as African-American Texans migrated.

In many parts of Texas, ex-slaves purchased land, or “emancipation grounds,” for the Juneteenth gathering. Examples include: Emancipation Park in Houston, purchased in 1872; what is now Booker T. Washington Park in Mexia; and Emancipation park in East Austin.

Celebration of Juneteenth declined during World War II but revived in 1950 at the Texas State Fair Grounds in Dallas. Interest and participation fell away during the late 1950’s and 1960’s as attention focused on expansion of freedom for African-Americans. In the 1970’s Juneteenth revived in some communities. For example, in Austin the Juneteenth celebration returned in 1976 after a 25 year hiatus. House Bill no.1016 passed in the 66th legislature, regular session, declared June 19, “Emancipation Day in Texas,” a legal state holiday effective January 1, 1980. Since that time, the celebration of Juneteenth continues across the state of Texas with parades, picnics and dancing.

Texas State Library Reference Services 3/95

Celebrations across Texas started last Saturday, and will continue for another three or four days, I gather. Thought it’s an official State of Texas holiday, few people take it off. So celebrations are scheduled when they can be.

The great mystery to me is why the holiday seems to have spread so far outside Texas. Juneteenth is based on a uniquely Texas event — it involved notifying only the slaves in Texas that they had been freed. Celebrations go much farther today, even to places the Civil War didn’t touch.

Resources:


Campaign underwater? (and classroom DVD offer)

June 19, 2008

Who are these guys?

Who are these guys in the pool? Can you identify them?

Can they swim?

(Answers below the fold.)

Read the rest of this entry »


“Network of the Lincoln Bicentennial”

June 10, 2008

You’ve got to love C-SPAN. Commercial television networks spend billions purchasing rights to be the sole broadcaster of sporting events, the Superbowl, the World Series, the NBA championships, the NCAA basketball championships, the Olympics.

What’s a money poor, creativity- and content-rich public affairs cable channel to do? Well, gee, there’s the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth coming up in February 2009 . . .:

Meet C-SPAN, “the network of the Lincoln Bicentennial.”

Note the site, set your video recorders (digital or not — just capture the stuff). C-SPAN plans monthly broadcasts on Lincoln and the times, plus special broadcasts on certain events — November 19, the 145th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, for example.

Of particular value to students and teachers, C-SPAN offers a long menu of links to sites about Lincoln, and to original speeches and documents (DBQ material anyone?).


War with Mexico

House Divided

Lincoln-Douglas Debates

·1st Debate: Transcript | Video

·2nd Debate: Transcript | Video

·3rd Debate: Transcript | Video

·4th Debate: Transcript | Video

·5th Debate: Transcript | Video

·6th Debate: Transcript | Video

·7th Debate: Transcript | Video

Cooper Union Speech

Farewell Address

First Inaugural

Second Inaugural

Gettysburg Address

Last Address

Good on ’em. C-SPAN leads the way again.

Teachers, bookmark that site. Are you out for the summer? U.S. history teachers have a couple of months to mine those resources, watch the broadcasts, and watch and capture the archived videos, to prepare for bell-ringers, warm-ups, and lesson plans.

What will your classes do for the Lincoln Bicentennial? Will that collide with your plans for the Darwin bicentennial?


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