That slaves were illegally smuggled from West Africa to the antebellum South, between the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807 and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, is remarkable (and outrageous, of course). The last such documented shipment arrived in Mobile, Ala., in 1860, aboard the ship Clothilda. Hannah Durkin, a researcher at Newcastle University, has now determined that one of the 110 slaves aboard, a twelve-year-old girl named Redoshi (who was renamed Sally Smith) was the last survivor of the illegal slave trade between Africa and the United States, dying in 1937. The National Post has more.
For MLK Day, the Pan-African Flag flies from my deck:
This flag is often used as an African-American flag – although not often enough, as far as I’m concerned. People fly Confederate flags all the time. They have every right to, and rather than getting angry with the fact that there are folks in this country who don’t share your values, fly your own flag as an answer to theirs.
I wanted to share these before I left:
1. The British Parliament has advertised for a new Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. My friend Hannes Kleineke sketches the history of this office:
To most people taking an interest in the work and procedures of the British Parliament, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod (or ‘Black Rod’ as he is known in popular parlance) is an immediately recognisable figure from the part he plays in the ceremonial surrounding the annual State Opening. The ceremonial is, however, only a small part of the duties of the modern ‘Black Rod’, who has overall administrative charge of much of the palace of Westminster.
This was no forgone conclusion: the office of Black Rod was originally that of usher to the King of England’s principal order of chivalry, the Order of the Garter, and for several centuries had no direct connection with Parliament. The Parliament Chamber, that is, in modern understanding, the House of Lords, was instead in the care of a different officer, the usher (or porter) of the Parliament Chamber. While the usher controlled access, and was thus able to command fees from intending suitors, his office also had a less glamorous side. The usher’s responsibilities included the preparation of the Parliament chamber and the maintenance of its furnishings, down to the provision of mundane items such as ‘canvas, corde, hamer, nailes, cordes, crochetes, worstede and other thinges’, as the account of John Frampton and William Welles, ushers in 1470, shows. The ushers had to think ahead, particularly when Parliament met away from Westminster: the items provided by Richard Baron and Simon Edward for the meeting of Parliament at Leicester in April 1450 included ‘a chair for the King to sit in’.
More at the link.
2. Moira Lavelle interviews the great Mary Lefkowitz (hat tip: Alex Lesk). My favorite bit:
Q: Some would say you are best known for your book Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth As History, arguing against the idea that all classical civilization started in Egypt. This is a bit of a departure from your other scholarship. How did this change the course of your academic career
A: In a way it isn’t a departure from my other scholarship. I’ve always been interested in how people get things wrong, so it wasn’t totally a detour. Though it was a detour to learn a lot about Egypt and Afrocentrism, which is a concept white people can zoom along and never know about.
In the ’90s Afrocentrism had this moment. There were linguistic efforts to show that Egyptian was the same as other African languages which it’s not. But Martin Bernal’s work had a moment of chic among people who didn’t know much about archaeology and Ancient Egyptian history— there was this idea that ‘isn’t it wonderful, now classics can be so relevant, we can be connected to African civilization’. Not that I have any objection of classics being connected to anything. If we ever discover a large body of Egyptian philosophy very similar to Artistotle and Plato, that would be just fine with me. I just don’t think we will. The Egyptian philosophy of that time was very metaphysical, very hard to understand for us.
The other thing that threw me about Bernal’s work was he would always throw in false etymologies of words or places. He argued the word Parthenon came from Egyptian, Pr thn meaning ‘house of crystal’. But the Parthenon has no crystal in it. It doesn’t make any sense on any etymological level. What etymologists have come up with is a very good list of loan words from Egyptian into Greek from even the 8th century, but these are just occasional loan words. Bernal didn’t know all that, and he just made up etymologies. And so few classicists even knew about linguistics that they believed the stuff.
The reason I got into the whole thing was I was asked to do a review by the New Republic and there was the concept of Afrocentrism, and I had known nothing about it. I remember writing this review and thinking maybe this was the most important thing I’d ever done. There was a whole mythology there that wasn’t recognized as mythology. It’s very interesting in it’s own right as way of gaining a kind of foundation myth. Just like in the early stages of the women’s liberation movement the Goddess Cult idea was very popular. But to say there was a matriarchy in classical religion to begin with is just false.
More at the link.
From History Ireland, via my friend Tom MacMaster:
Despite a growing body of historical writing on the life of General Eoin O’Duffy, there are still large gaps in our knowledge of this enigmatic figure. His various roles as organiser par excellence in the GAA, Irish Volunteers, Garda Síochána and, of course, as head of the Irish Brigade during the Spanish Civil War, are well known. Often derided as a hysterical, grandiloquent, and even absurd personality, O’Duffy nevertheless manages to capture the imagination and curiosity of those interested in Irish politics during the inter-war period. It is probably fair to say that his role as head of the 700-strong Irish Brigade on the side of General Franco’s Nationalists stands out as O’Duffy’s best known politico-military achievement. But it is due to this very fact that the General’s reputation in Irish folk-memory is held with a mix of retrospective embarrassment and scorn after the tragi-comic performance of his brigade in the Spanish Civil War.
One fact that tends to be forgotten, for example, is that O’Duffy’s ideological support for Franco had not come out of the blue—the Irishman had, after all, been rubbing elbows with international fascist leaders from as early as 1934.
It is also noteworthy that his idea of leading Irish soldiers abroad to fight on the side of a fascist army was not completely new for him in 1936 either. O’Duffy had pledged Blueshirt volunteers to Benito Mussolini’s forces after Il Duce invaded Abyssinia in the autumn of 1935. This article will examine Eoin O’Duffy’s involvement in international fascism during the mid-1930s before turning to his promise to Mussolini of 1,000 Blueshirts in the Italo-Ethiopian war. It will also investigate how people in Ireland reacted to O’Duffy’s pledge before examining why he never went.
Read the whole thing. Former Reinhardt professor Pat Zander gave a talk on O’Duffy for our Year of Ireland back in 2012.
UPDATE: Ron Good draws this picture to my attention, from Ian S. Wood, Ireland During the Second World War (Caxton Editions, 2002). The Lord Mayor of Dublin “could easily be an organgrinder’s monkey.”
I. An interesting shift: at one point African-American slaves took inspiration from Moses leading the Hebrew slaves out of bondage from Egypt, hence the spiritual:
When Israel was in Egypt’s land, Let My people go!
Oppressed so hard they could not stand, Let My people go!
Go down, Moses, Way down in Egypt’s land;
Tell old Pharaoh To let My people go!
But of course Egypt is African, or judged to be representative of Africa, so starting in the twentieth century African-Americans began to look back with admiration on ancient Egypt, partly as a riposte to the European idealization of Ancient Greece (this is where the Afrocentric charge that the latter “stole” everything from the former comes from). Thus, for example, Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation’s first black fraternity, founded at Cornell in 1906 and which:
utilizes motifs from Ancient Egypt and uses images and songs depicting the Her-em-akhet (Great Sphinx of Giza), pharaohs, and other Egyptian artifacts to represent the organization…. This is in contrast to other fraternities that traditionally echo themes from the golden age of Ancient Greece. Alpha’s constant reference to Ethiopia in hymns and poems are further examples of Alpha’s mission to imbue itself with an African cultural heritage.
(This despite the fact that they use Greek letters to identify themselves – why not a couple of hieroglyphs?)
I suppose the fall of slavery in the United States lessened the appeal of the ancient Hebrews, allowing the shift toward sympathizing with the Egyptians.
II. One of my favorite records when I was in college features the novelty song “Istanbul (not Constantinople),” which dates from the 1950s and is (I suppose) a celebration of the rise of nationalist Turkey. By way of explaining the name change of that county’s most famous city, the song points out a parallel situation:
Even old New York, was once New Amsterdam.
Why they changed it I can’t say, people just liked it better that way.
But perhaps a more accurate assessment of this name change is that the British defeated their continental rivals the Dutch and took possession of the New Netherlands in 1664, and promptly changed the names of New Amsterdam and Fort Orange to New York and Albany respectively, after the Duke of York and Albany, the future King James II. Fort Orange was so called, of course, on account of “Orange” being the name of the ruling house of the Netherlands.
What’s ironic is that James II was a Catholic, and didn’t have the good sense to keep it to himself, and provoked the Glorious Revolution of 1688, whereby Parliament invited his daughter Mary Stuart to become queen, and her husband to become king… that husband being none other than William of Orange, king of the Netherlands. These two reigned as co-monarchs, hence the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg.
So an Orange was replaced by an Albany, who was replaced by another Orange (who opened up Ireland for Protestant settlement, hence the Orange Order, and Orangeman’s Day).
Peter H. Wood explains the advent of race-based American slavery, in an excerpt from his new book on the topic:
By 1650, hereditary enslavement based upon color, not upon religion, was a bitter reality in the older Catholic colonies of the New World. In the Caribbean and Latin America, for well over a century, Spanish and Portuguese colonizers had enslaved “infidels”: first Indians and then Africans. At first, they relied for justification upon the Mediterranean tradition that persons of a different religion, or persons captured in war, could be enslaved for life. But hidden in this idea of slavery was the notion that persons who converted to Christianity should receive their freedom. Wealthy planters in the tropics, afraid that their cheap labor would be taken away from them because of this loophole, changed the reasoning behind their exploitation. Even persons who could prove that they were not captured in war and that they accepted the Catholic faith still could not change their appearance, any more than a leopard can change its spots. So by making color the key factor behind enslavement, dark-skinned people brought from Africa to work in silver mines and on sugar plantations could be exploited for life. Indeed, the servitude could be made hereditary, so enslaved people’s children automatically inherited the same unfree status.
Lifetime servitude could be enforced only by removing the prospect that a person might gain freedom through Christian conversion. One approach was to outlaw this traditional route to freedom. As early as 1664, a Maryland statute specified that Christian baptism could have no effect upon the legal status of a slave. A more sweeping solution, however, involved removing religion altogether as a factor in determining servitude.
Therefore, another fundamental key to the terrible transformation was the shift from changeable spiritual faith to unchangeable physical appearance as a measure of status. Increasingly, the dominant English came to view Africans not as “heathen people” but as “black people.” They began, for the first time, to describe themselves not as Christians but as whites. And they gradually wrote this shift into their colonial laws. Within a generation, the English definition of who could be made a slave had shifted from someone who was not a Christian to someone who was not European in appearance. Indeed, the transition for self-interested Englishmen went further. It was a small but momentous step from saying that black persons could be enslaved to saying that Negroes should be enslaved. One Christian minister was dismayed by this rapid change to slavery based on race: “These two words, Negro and Slave” wrote the Rev. Morgan Godwyn in 1680, are “by custom grown Homogeneous and Convertible”—that is, interchangeable.
Read the whole thing.
Congratulations to Dr. Anne Good on organizing another successful Culture Fest. This year’s celebration took place yesterday in the Glass House, and featured exhibits on some forty different countries, music, food, and fashion.
It is with great pleasure that the Reinhardt history program announces that three worthy students have been inducted into the Reinhardt chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the honor society for students of history.
From left to right: Dr. J. Good, Daniel Carpenter, Zach McElveen, Kaitlyn Gibson. Photo: Lauren Thomas.
The ceremony took place yesterday in the Glass House. The new initiates received their certificates, honor cords, and roses, and learned the meaning of esoteric symbolism of the Phi Alpha Theta insigne (seen on the banner). Current members Alex Bryant and Brandi Allen and alumni members Barbara Stamey and Caitlan Sumner were also in attendance.
Patrick Zander, assistant professor of history at Georgia Gwinnett College (and formerly of Reinhardt) was our guest speaker.
Photo: Lauren Thomas.
He delivered a very interesting talk entitled “TWA, African Development, and Breaking the Color Line in 1950s Kansas City (1946-1954).” This paper dealt with how Trans World Airlines was commissioned to set up a national airline in Ethiopia, and how a TWA executive (Zander’s own grandfather) forced Eddy’s Restaurant to serve visiting Ethiopian executives, in defiance of the conventional segregation of the time. Mr. Eddy himself was in a bit of a quandary: he did not want to risk alienating the biggest corporation in town (nor to court the wrath the Eisenhower administration), but he also did not want to risk a walkout by all his other white customers. His solution: he had the band play a drum roll and the MC announce the presence of “our honored guests, the Ethiopian cabinet!” It worked, and although not particularly momentous, the incident did represent a small victory for desegregation in 1950s Kansas City.
Congratulations again to our new inductees!
The next Phi Alpha Theta event will be the Georgia Regional Conference, scheduled for March 28 at RU.