Brazil’s long, strange love affair with the Confederacy

I knew of the Confederados existence, but I hadn’t had the time to read much into the history of those Confederates who moved (with their slaves) to Brazil after the war. I’m horrified to find out their descendants celebrate the fact. What a strange, lingering aftereffect of the Civil War! This article was quite the eye opener.

As early as the 1860s, Brazil was actively recruiting Southern American plantation owners, part of an immigration policy aimed at attracting Europeans, European-American and other “white” migrants. According to historians Cyrus and James Dawsey, who were born and raised near Confederado communities in São Paulo, Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II also promised cheap land to any American farmer who would come with a plow – a technology Brazil lacked.

Either way, thousands of white southerners made Brazil their new home after the Civil War. In São Paulo state, they established a somewhat closed and culturally homogeneous community that maintained its southern traditions for generations.

Source: Brazil’s long, strange love affair with the Confederacy ignites racial tension

Frederick Douglass on Chinese Immigration

Another great article from the reliably great Immigrant’s Civil War blog. Here’s Frederick Douglass speaking on the post-bellum efforts to curb Chinese immigration.

Douglass declared that the people of the United States were not racially, ethnically, or religiously homogeneous. Americans, he argued, are a “composite nation,” a people made up from many peoples. In recognition of this fact, he declared, “we should welcome to our ample continent all nations, …tongues and peoples; and as fast as they learn our language and comprehend the duties of citizenship, we should incorporate them into the American body politic. The outspread wings of the American eagle are broad enough to shelter all who are likely to come.”

Source: When a Ban on the Chinese Was Proposed and Frederick Douglass Spoke Out – Long Island Wins

Looking Back On The First Government Shutdown

On the eve of the latest government shutdown ending, NPR takes a look back to the first shutdown, which also had its roots in racism. Plus ça change, America? I’m filing this blog post under “reenactments”.

GONZALEZ: At the time, African-American men were allowed to vote, but they tended to vote Republican. So Democrats didn’t want them voting. Sometimes, it resulted in violence at the polls. And the government would send troops. Nineteenth-century Democrats hated this. So when they gained control of Congress 14 years after the Civil War, they come up with this idea.

RICHARDSON: Simply starve the government until they did what we wanted by holding a gun to the head of the Treasury.

GONZALEZ: Fund the courts and the Army but only if the government stops protecting black voters.

RICHARDSON: There are a number of cartoons in the newspapers about how the Confederates have taken back over Washington and how they are deliberately starving the United States Treasury the same way that they starved Union prisoners.

Source: Looking Back On The First Government Shutdown In U.S. History : NPR

The end of the party of Lincoln

The Washington Post offers an opinion piece on how Trump’s attack on the 14th Amendment severs the modern GOP’s connection to “The Party of Lincoln”.

Republicans intended for the birthright citizenship provision to ensure that African Americans’ citizenship rights could not be abridged by racist Southerners. It was meant to protect the rights of former slaves who had just recently been liberated from bondage, as well as their children. In this way, both the current generation and the next would be the inheritors of freedom.

Now the leader of that same party has proposed to destroy the essence of the 14th Amendment. Trump’s comments underscore how far the Republican Party has drifted from its roots. Ending birthright citizenship would create two separate classes of people: those with federally protected rights and those without.

Source: The end of the party of Lincoln

New Year’s Levees

We celebrated the arrival of 2015 a week ago today.  Back in Lincoln’s time, January 1st was the day the White House doors were thrown open to the public and the masses thronged in to greet the inhabitants.  These White House New Year’s levees were common knowledge to me, but their desegregation never struck me as a revolutionary event until reading this article.

Every year the Lincolns threw open the doors of the White House for a New Year’s reception to which the public was invited. When a few African Americans – including Abbott and fellow physician Alexander Augusta – asserted their citizenship by attending in 1864, people inside the White House were shocked, but decorum prevailed.

The next year, however, things unfolded quite differently. By New Year’s 1865, it appeared that the abolition of slavery and the defeat of the Confederacy were at hand. For African American activists and their white allies, however, it was not enough simply to outlaw slavery. They envisioned a nation in which racism, too, would be eradicated. They wanted an end to discrimination in voting rights and law enforcement. And African Americans wanted to be treated with the same respect and dignity accorded to whites.

via Abraham Lincoln and a test of full citizenship.

Forty Acres and a Mule

Sherman’s famous field order is one of the war’s great what-ifs.  A terrific idea nixed by a man who can only be described as the anti-Lincoln.  Reconstruction in microcosm.

Congress created the Freedmen’s Bureau shortly after Sherman’s Field Order No. 15 demanded the redistribution of land to former slaves. The Freedmen’s Bureau was created to ensure that millions of free slaves would begin to receive economic equality and empowerment, their 40 acres and mule, shortly after the Civil War ended. President Johnson, however, reversed Sherman’s policy and issued an order for all land to be returned to the Confederacy’s White landowners and confiscated from the free Blacks.

via Michigan Chronicle – Forty Acres and a Mule.

Martin Delany

In early 1865 Delany was granted an audience with Lincoln. He proposed a corps of black men led by black officers who could serve to win over Southern blacks. Although a similar appeal by Frederick Douglass had already been rejected, Lincoln was impressed by Delany and described him as “a most extraordinary and intelligent man.”

To say the least!  Reading Martin Delany’s biography reminds me of a memorial plaque I saw in Paris, chronicling the life of a poor orphan boy who grew into one of the greatest generals of his time, with a truckload of other major accomplishments along the way.   Most “Great Men” have a much shorter CV than Delany’s, yet his name has not been remembered as well as others from his day.  It’s worth a read of this bio to make up for that.

via Martin Delany – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Grant’s Jewish Order

More favourite figures behaving in regrettable ways! It’s like a deeply unpleasant theme week…

There’s little to glean here for anyone who knows the story already, but due to the quick cancellation of the order, the fact that Grant once tried to expel the entire Jewish population of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. In truth, the article leaves out almost all the details of the story, while presenting others that go unexplained or unexplored, including this tidbit:

When asked what first sparked his interest in Grant’s orders, Sarna recalls the story that makes up the book’s introduction. As a young professor, he was asked to deliver a talk at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. As the talk coincided with the 120th anniversary of General Orders No. 11, Sarna thought it was fitting to speak on the man who later became the 18th U.S. president.

While delivering the lecture, Sarna made what he thought was a grave factual error—that is, until a member of the audience who was a descendant of the very man about whom Sarna was speaking rose to his feet and confirmed Sarna’s suggestion.

“It was deeply memorable,” Sarna recalls, “having a descendent of this family essentially confirm that their ancestor had been involved in a kind of secret deal with Grant’s father Jesse. Certainly that was memorable and stuck in my mind as a subject that deserved further research.”

It does, however, seem to be in support of a book, to be released on March 13th, that promises a more thorough investigation.

I’ve always found the order a tarnish on Grant’s reputation. Disappointing, especially when one considers that he was very open-minded and supportive of the black troops in his army.

Sherman Behaving Badly

It’s always disheartening to read reports of your favourite generals and presidents saying horrible things on the subject of race, but given the times, there’s a distasteful story for just about every personality in the war, North and South. Today, it’s Sherman:

Blinded by his implacable racism, Sherman could see no worthwhile moral or legal debate to be had over slavery. History had forced this institution on the South, Sherman thought, and its continued prosperity depended on embracing it. “Theoretical notions of humanity and religion,” he flatly declared, “cannot shake the commercial fact that their labor is of great value and cannot be dispensed with.” Further, Sherman believed that slavery benefited both races. In 1854 he assured his brother that blacks thrived in the Southern heat and later told David F. Boyd, one of his professors at the Louisiana military academy and eventual friend, that he considered slavery in the South “the mildest and best regulated system of slavery in the world, now or heretofore.”

Still, slavery did trouble Sherman in one way: He grew increasingly worried that the political fight over it would threaten the stability of the Union. However, while he occasionally singled out Southerners for overreacting to antislavery sentiment — once writing that they “pretend to think that the northern people have nothing to do but steal niggers and preach sedition” — Sherman overall displayed a clear sympathy for their side in the growing schism. He was emphatic in an 1859 letter to his wife that the South should make its own decisions regarding slavery and then “receive its reward or doom.” Sherman thus anticipated Jefferson Davis’ famous plea of two years later that the South simply be left alone.

One of the things I love about Sherman was his pragmatism. He disagreed with the root cause of the war, but once the South went in for treason, he embraced the waging of it wholeheartedly. Ironic then, by his quote above of letting the South decide its own doom, that he wound up as the angel that avenged its choice.

Pre-Glory Glory

I’m catching up on Disunion articles I missed, and this one was very interesting. Everyone knows about the Colored Troops’ admission to the Union Army, but it never occurred to me that blacks were fighting before that, or that the Navy was totally desegregated.

Still, some black men managed to join the Northern forces. In October 1861 William H. Johnson of Company V, Second Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers, wrote to the Pine and Palm, a New York City black paper, describing army life in Virginia: “The proscribed [black] Americans, (and there are many), attached to this regiment” had even formed their own association, the “Self-Defenders of Connecticut.” Presumably, the need for able-bodied men convinced some officers to look the other way when it came to rules about who could and couldn’t fight.

Similarly, beginning in November 1861 George E. Stewart, the son of a former slave exiled from Virginia after Nat Turner’s Rebellion, sent correspondence from his unit in Maryland to another black paper, the Anglo-African. The younger Stewart made his way to the infantry by joining the Navy, which had always accepted black sailors, and then transferring to a land unit when the opportunity arose.