Tag Archives: American History

“I have the right not to vote.” (Women’s Suffrage: Mini Episode)



Suffrage poster: “We are ready to Work beside you/ Fight beside you and/ Die beside you – Let Us Vote Beside You/ Vote for Woman Suffrage November 6th,” 1917. Courtesy of the New York State Library.
Suffrage Poster, November 6, 1917
Image credit: New York State Library.

Topeka Feb 11, 1887

To Gov Martin

Dear Sir:

Ten thousand Women who have enough rights without voting and also plenty to do, to attend to their own affairs without meddling with men’s business, ask you to Veto this Suffrage bill.  We don’t want to vote, and go to the polls with n****rs — and all kinds of woman.

Mrs G. Monroe
and thousands of others

We’ve all heard of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, but there were millions of women and men who spoke for, and against, women’s suffrage.  Today’s mini-episode shares a few of those voices.

Other podcasts about women’s suffrage:

History Chicks

Stuff You Missed in History Class

Credits for Primary Sources:

The letters of Effie B. Frostand Mrs. G. Monroe, as well as the Woman Suffrage Pamphlet by Rev. Stephen Estey, are read with permission from the Kanas State Historical Society.

The petition by Mrs. Kate T. F. Cornell is in the public domain and available at docsteach.org.

Anti-Suffrage Essays by Massachusetts Women is in the public domain and available at gutenberg.org.

Sources:
The Frederick Douglass Encyclopedia, James L. Conyers Jr., Nancy J. Dawson, Lee E. Thompson, Mary Joan Thompson

“The Great Schism,” Ta-nehisi Coates for The Atlantic


“Our child cries for you.” (Loved Ones of Black Civil War Soldiers: Mini Episode)



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Provost Guard of the 107th Colored Infantry, Fort Corcoran, Washington, D.C., 1863
Image credit: pbs.org

Carlisle, PA
November 21, 1864

Mr Abraham Lincoln,  

I want to know, Sir, if you please, whether I can have my son released from the army.   He is all the support I have now.   His father is dead and his brother; that was all the help that I had …

Today’s episode is a miniature one!  The Civil War is a familiar topic to most of us, and there are several podcasts on the topic.  Less familiar is the effect of the war on black women, who faced unique challenges while their loved ones were fighting.  Families in the North worried that their sons and husbands would be enslaved if captured by the Confederate Army.  Some whites who were angry about black fighting for the Union took it out on the family members that the soldiers left behind.   Today we hear a small piece of those families’ stories.

Credits:

The letters were read with permission from the Freedmen and Southern Society Project at the University of Maryland.

Other podcasts about the Civil War:

Key Battles of the Civil War
“The Massachusetts 54th Regiment,” Stuff You Missed in History Class

Sources:
“Missouri’s African American Troops,” Missouri State Archives
“8th Regiment Infantry United States Colored Troops,” National Park Service
“United States Colored Troops,” Missouri State Archives


“We will do any kind of work.” (The Great Migration: Part 2)



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“The migration spread,” Jacob Lawrence
Image credit: The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

“We must have the Negro in the South … It is the only labor we have; it is the best we have—if we lost it, we [would] go bankrupt.” –Macon (Georgia) Telegraph, 1916

Prior to World War I, African Americans had plenty of reasons to want to leave the South.  But they had little reason to believe that life would be better in the North.  But the “War to End All Wars” created unprecedented labor opportunities for southern blacks.  Labor agents enticed many migrants with free transportation, but it was The Chicago Defender newspaper that probably did the most to encourage African Americans to move.  Its portrayal of a comfortable Black Chicago, and advertisements of a “Great Northern Drive,” led many southerners to write letters like this one:

Dear Sir: Please Sir, will you kindly tell me what is meant by the Great Northern Drive to take place May the 15th on Tuesday? It is a rumor all over town to be ready for the 15th of May to go in the drive. The Defender first spoke of the drive the 10th of February. My husband is in the North already preparing for our family, but hearing that the excursion will be $6.00 from here north on the 15th, and having a large family, I could profit by it if it is really true. Do please write me at once and say is there an excursion to leave the South. Nearly the whole of the South is getting ready for the drive or excursion as it is termed. Please write at once. We are sick to get out of the solid South.

Southern whites expressed alarm and anger that their valuable Negro labor was fleeing. Black leaders also questioned whether migration was the best course.  But there was little they could do to stop it.

Recommended Reading
The Warmth of Other Suns:  Isabel Wilkerson took 15 years to write this book, and it shows. The book is THOROUGH. Think of it as Everything That You Didn’t Know That You Didn’t Know About the Great Migration.

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow:  Richard Wormser covers a lot of ground in a relative few pages.  It opens with Reconstruction and ends at 1954.

Sources–

I referred to several sources, but used the following most heavily–

Benjamin ‘Pap’ Singleton,” Kansas State Historical Society

The Journal of Negro History, Volume IV, 1919

The Journal of Negro History, Volume VI, 1921

Blowing the Trumpet: The ‘Chicago Defender’ and Black Migration during World War I,” James R. Grossman

Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration,” James R. Grossman

Black Workers and the Great Migration North,” Carole Marks

The Defender: How a Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America, Ethan Michaeli

Race, Class, and Power in the Alabama Coalfields, Brian Kelly

The Great Black Migration:  A Historical Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic, Steven A. Reich

Negro Migration During the War,” Emmett J. Scott


“We have to be shot down here like rabbits.” (The Great Migration: Part 1)



“…the slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery.” W.E.B. du Bois

Initiated before the end of the Civil War, Reconstruction held the promise of freedom, full citizenship, and (for men) the franchise for African Americans. But even before the Federal troops that were enforcing Reconstruction withdrew from the former Confederate States, Southern communities and legislatures set about to return the freed men and women to their former condition.

Despite the guarantees of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, blacks were denied their new rights through legal and extra-legal means. In the decades after the war, many blacks did make legislative, educational, and financial gains.  However, many more faced limited economic opportunity and the constant threat of violence.

Seeking information about opportunities in the North, men and women, the young and the older, regardless of education level, wrote letters to the Chicago Defender newspaper, the Chicago Urban League, and other organizations.  The following letter was written by a 17-year-old girl from Selma, Alabama:

Dear Sir: I am a reader of the Chicago Defender I think it is one of the Most Wonderful Papers of our race printed. Sirs I am writeing to see if You all will please get me a job. And Sir I can wash dishes, wash, iron, nursing, work in groceries and dry good stores. Just any of these I can do. Sir, whosoever you get the job from, please tell them to send me a ticket and I will pay them when I get their, as I have not got enough money to pay my way. I am a girl of 17 years old and in the 8 grade at Knox Academy School. But on account of not having money enough I had to stop school. Sir I will thank you all with all my heart. May God Bless you all. Please answer in return mail.

In this first episode of a three-part series on the Great Migration, we will see what changed–and what didn’t change–for African Americans in the South after the Civil War.

28.1942.20


Recommended Reading
The Warmth of Other Suns:  Isabel Wilkerson took 15 years to write this book, and it shows. The book is THOROUGH. Think of it as Everything That You Didn’t Know That You Didn’t Know About the Great Migration.

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow:  Richard Wormser covers a lot of ground in a relative few pages.  It opens with Reconstruction and ends at 1954.

I referred to several sources, but used the following most heavily–

Slavery by Another Name, Douglas Blackmon

Black Workers and the Great Migration North,” Carole Marks

Blowing the Trumpet: The ‘Chicago Defender’ and Black Migration during World War I,” James R. Grossman

Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration,” James R. Grossman

Separate is Not Equal:  Brown v. Board of Education

The Civil War:  The Senate’s History


Welcome to American Epistles!



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Image credit:  Public Doman

Where does “history” come from? How do we know, for example, what words didn’t make it into the Declaration of Independence?  Or what the delegates to the Constitutional Convention argued about before the final document was signed on September 17, 1787?

To a great degree, our history textbooks started with the diaries that the Founding Fathers kept, and the letters they wrote to one another.

But there is more to history than Founding Fathers and famous generals. There are millions of names that we’ll never know, of soldiers who fought in American wars, and families who waited for their return. People who hoped and waited for change, but may not have lived to enjoy the rights that the law would eventually grant them. People who weren’t trying to make history, but were just living their lives.

On American Epistles, we will hear from these “ordinary” people, through their journals, diaries, and personal letters. Each episode will focus on a different time period or event, and feature the words of some Americans who lived through it.

Please come back on Saturday, January 5, for the first episode, about the Great Migration. We will hear letters from a few of the millions of African Americans who left the Jim Crow South in search of a better life. Letters like this one:

East Chicago, Indiana

June 10, 1917

Dear Old Friend:
These moments I thought I would write you a few true facts of the present condition of the north. Certainly I am trying to take a close observation–now it is tru the (col) men are making good. Never pay less than $3.00 per day or (10) hours–this is not promise. I do not see how they pay such wages the way they work labors. They do not hurry or drive you. Remember this is the very lowest wages. Piece work men can make from $6 to $8 per day. They receive their pay every two weeks. This city I am living in, the population [is] 30,000 (20) miles from Big Chicago, Ill. Doctor I am some what impress. My family also. They are doing nicely. I have no right to complain what ever … People are coming here every day and are finding employment. Nothing here but money and it is not hard to get. Remember me to your dear Family. Oh, I have children in school every day with the white children. I will write you more next time. How is the lodge?

Your friend,

New episodes will post the first and third Saturday of every month … hopefully. 🙂  Thank you all for your support and see you next year!

Credits:

The letter from Sgt. Ann Burchard is the property of the State Historical Society of Missouri. Browse their full collection of WWII correspondence.

The letter by the migrant to Indiana was originally printed in the Chicago Defender Newspaper, and reprinted in the Journal of Negro History, which is in the public domain and available at Gutenberg.org.

Sources cited:
Chernow, Ron. Washington: a Life. Penguin Books, 2010