Photos (by Jeff Reed ’16) from last week’s Race and Reinhardt event, in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the integration of Reinhardt College by James T. Jordan ’68.


Professor of history Kenneth Wheeler talks with Mr. Jordan in the Glass House.


Dr. Wheeler, Mr. Jordan, and Dr. Edith Riehm, who gave a talk on the career of Civil Rights activist Dorothy Rogers Tilly 1899.


Reinhardt President Kina Mallard presents Mr. Jordan with a framed resolution from the Reinhardt board of trustees.


Mr. Jordan and his parents, who still live in Canton.


SGA President Jamie Palmer and Vice President of Student Activities Katie Purcell unveil a portrait of Mr. Jordan from the Reinhardt Cherokee Phoenix, which will be placed in the Lawson Academic Building.


From Reinhardt’s Events Page:

Race and Reinhardt: Making a Difference Here and Beyond

Thursday, Feb. 18, 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

During this event, special guest James T. “Jay” Jordan, the first African-American student enrolled at Reinhardt, will discuss his life and experiences as a student when he entered Reinhardt in 1966. The symposium will be moderated by Reinhardt History Professor Dr. Kenneth Wheeler.

In addition to recognizing James Jordan, there will be a lecture by historian Dr. Edith Riehm, who has studied President Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights and the post-World War II civil rights movement. Dr. Riehm will discuss the unheralded trailblazer role that Reinhardt alumna, Dorothy Rogers Tilly, Class of 1899, played in the Civil Rights Movement.

Tilly devoted her entire adult life to reforming southern race relations. Her extensive career as an activist, organizer, and mentor forged a link between the reform efforts of the early twentieth century and the modern civil rights movement. She worked with the Women’s Missionary Society of the Methodist Church, the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, the Southern Regional Council and the Fulton-DeKalb Commission on Interracial Cooperation, and the Fellowship of the Concerned (FOC).

In 1946, President Harry S. Truman appointed Tilly to his Committee on Civil Rights. The Committee produced a famous and influential report, “To Secure These Rights,” which called for an immediate end to segregation. To the end of her life, through example and education, Tilly promoted racial tolerance and acceptance of desegregation during the explosive years of the civil rights movement.

Isaiah Nixon’s Grave

From the Emory News Center:

Students find long-lost grave of Georgia man killed for voting in 1948

By Laura Douglas-Brown | Emory Report | Jan. 26, 2016

Arms linked, five Emory University students stood silently in the muddy cemetery, their cheeks damp with rain and tears. It was a moment none could have imagined when they signed up for a class focused on the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project — a moment set in motion by an act of bravery almost 70 years ago, brought full circle now through research, determination and what more than one person called a “miracle.”

With the students bearing witness under the gray Georgia sky, Dorothy Nixon Williams rested her hand on a rough concrete headstone etched with the word “Father,” bent to touch the concrete slab beneath it, then wept in the arms of her son.

“Father.” Her father, Isaiah Nixon, an African American man who had dared to vote in the 1948 Democratic Primary in Montgomery County, Georgia, only the second held since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled all-white primaries unconstitutional. Her father, who was gunned down by two white men that evening on the front porch of her home, when she was just six years old.

Her father, whose grave had been lost in the rural cemetery after Williams, her mother and five siblings fled to Jacksonville, Florida, shortly after his death.

Her father, whose grave had been found by those Emory students.

The gathering wasn’t a funeral, but their professor, Hank Klibanoff, offered a eulogy of sorts as Williams, her husband and son, the students and a few local residents — mostly relatives of others who had voted on that fateful day — stood together in the neatly kept graveyard ringed with pines.

“I don’t know anyone who is not moved by the story of Isaiah Nixon, and it is because Isaiah Nixon matters,” Klibanoff said. “His life matters, his death matters, his disappearance from history matters. And what matters more is that he has now reappeared, and I just think that is miraculous in so many ways.”

Much more at the link.

The Green Book

From the Washington Post:

The forgotten way African Americans stayed safe in a racist America

By Ana Swanson

For African American travelers, much of the U.S. could be a hateful and dangerous place, even into the 1960’s.

Jim Crow laws across the South mandated that restaurants, hotels, pool halls and parks strictly separate whites and blacks. Lynchings kept blacks in fear of mob violence. And there were thousands of so-called “sundown towns,” including in northern states like Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan, which barred blacks after dark, an unofficial rule reinforced by the threat of violence.

So in 1936, a postal worker named Victor Green began publishing a guide to help African American travelers find friendly restaurants, auto shops and accommodations in far-off places. Green dubbed the guide after himself – the “Green Book” – and published it for decades. Green says he was inspired by the Jewish press, which had long published information on restricted places.

The Green Book included listings for hotels, restaurants, gas stations, bars and beauty salons across the U.S., as well as travel articles, paid advertisements, and stories about local attractions. The guide first focused on New York, but was gradually expanded to cover the whole U.S. The first edition said on its cover, “Let’s all get together and make motoring better,” while the 1949 edition featured a quote from Mark Twain – “Travel is fatal to prejudice.”

While poverty and discrimination kept many African Americans from owning cars, a new black middle class rose up in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, and many of them were eager to escape poor treatment on public transportation.

Yet car ownership came with its own challenges. Many African Americans would pack meals, blankets and gasoline in their cars on trips in case they ended up somewhere where they wouldn’t be served or didn’t want to ask.

More at the link. Plan a trip using Green Book data courtesy of Brian Foo of the New York Public Library.

County Histories and Historical Records

I was pleased to read a new column by David Parker, professor at Kennesaw State University and friend to Reinhardt’s history program. Happy archives month!

County histories remind us of need to preserve historical records

In 1929 the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution urging counties to compile their histories in honor of the state’s upcoming bicentennial (in 1933, 200 years after the founding of Georgia in 1733). More than 100 counties appointed official historians, and nearly three dozen published their histories. These books varied, but they typically included chapters on geography and natural resources, Native Americans, the Civil War, churches, schools, newspapers, and so forth.

Among the authors of these books were teachers and lawyers, preachers and journalists, school superintendents and county court judges, and leaders of local historical or patriotic societies. The published histories tended to be long—an average of nearly 500 pages, from Schley County’s 33 pages to Upson’s 1,122. Many of those pages consisted of census records, military rosters, lists of county officials, and reprints of newspaper articles. Some books had lengthy biographical sections, with histories of prominent individuals or families. Many included general sections on life in the old days—quilting bees, militia days, barn raisings, corn shuckings, log rollings.

David Kyvig and Myron Marty, authors of Nearby History: Exploring the Past Around You (1982), noted that the county histories written in the early 20th century tended to be “long on local pride and short on critical observations.” The first part of that formula was certainly correct. The title page of the Coffee County history explained that the book was “a story… showing that Coffee County, in South Georgia, is God’s Country and a good place to live.” Walker County residents were “a hardy, brave and patriotic citizenry,” and those of Chattahoochee were “splendid men and women… whose lives are a credit to the civilization of America.”

The books were certainly “long on local pride,” but were they “short on critical observations”? In many cases, yes. A number of the county historians uncritically embraced Lost Cause ideology, a historical perspective that downplayed the role of slavery in the coming of the Civil War, overstated the support of white southerners for the Confederate cause, and distorted the nature of Reconstruction.

Perhaps the Lost Cause is most evident in the discussions of slavery. The Dougherty County historian noted that the institution “was a feudalism as illustrious as that of any medieval country of Europe. The barons were the slaveholders—the serfs were the negroes, and perfect tranquility in relations prevailed.” In Schley County, “White settlers were kind to their slaves, clothed and fed them, and allowed them to worship with them in their churches.” In Upson County, “Everyone knows that slaves were treated very kindly indeed, and only in rare instances was there any trouble between slave and master.” In Walker County, “There were generally, almost universally, the kindest of relations between master and servant.” And in Coffee County, “The training the negroes received while they were slaves has been a great blessing to them.”

Embarrassing sentiments, to be sure, but not universal ones. Find out more at the link.

Virginia Cemeteries

My friend Lynn Rainville (whose institution has been saved for at least one more year!) was recently featured in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, for her work on Virginia cemeteries. Excerpts:

Uncovering hidden histories in Virginia cemeteries


When Lynn Rainville left Chicago in 2001 to teach at Sweet Briar College, slavery — and her ongoing fascination with what the dead can teach the living — took on an immediacy.

“I started teaching at a college that was a former plantation. And I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness. They didn’t teach me about this in any book,’ ” she recalled Thursday. “And I just started studying slavery. I’d been already studying cemeteries for a decade, American cemeteries, and I wanted to have a project I could bring my students to.”

Rainville, a research professor in the humanities at Sweet Briar, is the author of a new book, “Hidden History: African American Cemeteries in Central Virginia,” on her research at more than 150 forgotten burial sites in Amherst, Albemarle and Nelson counties.

In town for a lecture at the Virginia Historical Society, she estimated that there are tens of thousands of African-American cemeteries, churchyard burial grounds and family plots in Virginia, with “easily thousands” undiscovered. “Each community probably has dozens of black cemeteries that have not been located,” she said.

In Richmond, cemeteries such as East End, Evergreen and Woodland are overgrown and endangered. The African Burial Ground, after years of protest, was reclaimed from a surface parking lot. Other burial grounds no doubt remain undetected.

More at the link. I would be interested to know if such research has been done in Cherokee County. This area was not a hotbed of slavery but the institution did exist here; ergo, slave cemeteries must have.

American Slavery

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.

Confederacy, Again

It seems that since my visit to the Museum of the Confederacy, things have gotten a little more difficult for those who look back on the era with fondness. The shooting deaths of nine African-Americans at a Charleston, S.C. church have prompted numerous, vociferous calls to take down the Confederate Battle Flag that files at the State House in Columbia, a sentiment endorsed by Gov. Nikki Haley. That debate is ongoing, but a preference cascade has ensued: Mississippi is again considering whether to remove the Battle Flag from the canton of its state flag, the governor of Alabama ordered the Confederate flags removed from the capitol grounds in Montgomery, and eBay and Amazon have announced that they will no longer deal in Confederate-flag branded merchandise, including that beloved icon of early-80s childhood, the General Lee (from the television show Dukes of Hazzard). Even the dean of the National Cathedral in Washington has called for the removal of two stained glass windows that illustrate the Civil War, because they contain Confederate flags.

I’m no fan of the Confederacy, but I have to say that this all seems a bit much. What does a shooting in Charleston have to do with a flag on display two hours away in Columbia? (I guess, since all hopes for gun control in the wake of previous shooting massacres were dashed, the SPLC has decided that this is a safer bet? Never let a crisis go to waste!) And how is it coherent to ban computer games set in the Civil War while giving a pass to Communist, jihadist, and Nazi themed paraphernalia, still for sale on Amazon and eBay?

I think some context might be in order. In South Carolina, the Confederate Battle Flag used to fly from the State House. Following protests, the flag was moved to a Confederate memorial on the grounds of the State House. That was the compromise between Confederate heritage groups that wanted it to remain, and people who wanted it removed entirely. It is the sort of compromise endorsed by John Coski, whose book I have mentioned:

If even a vocal minority of vocal flag loyalists regards the flag not merely as a memorial to Confederate dead but as a living testament to the power of anti-federal ideology or the symbol of a still-living Confederacy, it is difficult to defend the flag as a neutral, apolitical symbol that everyone should learn to respect.

Confederate heritage groups should be free to use the flag in their functions, including Memorial Day observances, parades, and ceremonies commemorating important anniversaries… But instead of urging everyone to keep it flying everywhere, flag advocates should censure any use of the flag that is not unambiguously memorial or historical in nature. Those who truly regard the battle flag as a sacred war memorial for Confederate ancestors should oppose its use on T-shirts, baseball caps, and other popular culture items that trivialize its meaning… Similarly, flag defenders should seek to remove battle flags displayed on state flags or in any sovereignty context, since this use blurs the distinction between the flag as a memorial and the flag as a symbol of sovereignty….

Flag critics in turn must be more tolerant of the flag’s presence as a war memorial and historical symbol…. Elected officials, community leaders, and intellectuals must cease encouraging the untenable belief that there is an inherent American right not to be offended. Flag critics must (for practical as well as ethical reasons) become more willing to distinguish between a KKK rally and a [Confederate] Memorial Day parade.

Alas, the spirit of compromise has abandoned us this past week. Opponents claim that it is an American swastika, tainted for all time by its use by anti-Civil Rights activists in the 1950s and -60s. This is an ironic fate: according to Coski, in the late nineteenth century, former Confederates argued that the Battle Flag was an apolitical symbol, unlike any of the three national flags adopted by the CSA (that is, the so-called Stars and Bars, the Stainless Banner, and the Blood-Stained Banner, the latter two of which do feature the Battle Flag on the canton). The Battle Flag alone was alleged to be suitable for the remembrance of soldiers’ spilt blood. But its use in the twentieth century means that it is now more political than the national flags – or at least the first national flag, the Stars and Bars, which does not feature the Battle Flag at all, and was found to be suitable as the basis for the current flag of Georgia (2003).

But I would still draw a distinction between the Battle Flag and the anti-Civil Rights flag. In vexillology, proportions matter. That is, the Battle Flag was square (and often, as on the SC grounds, had a white border). The Southern Cross, as commonly flown in the twentieth century, was rectangular. Thus, I would say that on the grounds of the SC state house at least, it should have a place, as a part of the Confederate memorial (although I would be in favor of changing Mississippi’s flag).

Of course, you could make the case that there should be no Confederate memorials either, but I don’t think that’s a good road to go down. As someone said, where will that end? Lots of memorialized American leaders did unsavory things. Will monuments to Andrew Jackson (expeller of the Cherokee), Thomas Jefferson (slaveowner), Woodrow Wilson (segregator of Washington DC) and even Abraham Lincoln (executor of 38 Sioux in the Dakota War) be removed as well? Instead, my general preference is to live and let live. In a democracy, you have to share the country with people you don’t like, and the same right they have to celebrate their heritage is the same right you have to celebrate yours – even on the grounds of the capitol. Let us not forget that there is a large, beautiful, and meaningful monument to South Carolina’s African-American heritage on the east side of the SC State House – and I would be in favor of adding as many more monuments as will fit. And if flags are at issue, why not fly the Pan-African flag, a horizontal tricolor of red, black and green? I’ve always thought that more use should be made of this.

Confederate Monuments

While in Richmond we got a chance to see the Museum of the Confederacy. It is completely surrounded (and dwarfed) by the Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital and parking ramp, somewhat surprisingly – you’d think that they would have restricted development around such hallowed ground. But I suspect that time has passed it by. The original museum was housed in the White House of the Confederacy; in 1976 it was moved to a purpose-built building next door, while the house was restored to how it might have looked when Jeff Davis lived there. It’s clear that they have tried to make it more of a museum and less of a shrine, but the main exhibit can’t seem to get beyond its roots: you go through a chronological timeline of battles and other events, but all that’s on display are things like Lee’s overcoat or Longstreet’s sword or Johnston’s overcoat or Stuart’s overcoat. I did like the second floor, which was devoted to the various Confederate flags and clearly the work of John Coski, whose book on the subject I quite admire. (I was unaware of the existence of RuPaul as “Miss Rachel Tensions” in the 1995 movie To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.) The basement had some interesting social-history what-nots, like a keepsake made of human hair or a hat made of corn husks, although not all of this was Confederate as such.

Lately, this Museum of the Confederacy has merged with two other museums: one at Appomattox Court House, the site of Lee’s surrender in April of 1865, and one at Historic Tredegar, which is located on Richmond’s waterfront and was once the site of a gun foundry. We did not have time to go to Tredegar, but it apparently deals with the war from the Union, Confederate and slave perspectives. This new three-site institution is known as the American Civil War Museum and its motto is “Confederacy, Union, Freedom” – reflecting the mandate of the Tredegar site more than that of the Museum of the Confederacy site. So I suspect that if you are in Richmond, and you only have time to see one, you should probably go to Tredegar.

We did cruise up and down Monument Avenue, and marveled at the outsized monuments to Stuart, Lee, Jackson and Davis (there were also monuments to oceanographer Matthew Fontaine Maury and African-American tennis star Arthur Ashe; I think they need more such non-Confederate statues).

On the grounds of the State Capitol is an equestrian statue of Washington and six other famous Virginians. This was unveiled in the 1850s. The image of Washington on his horse was reproduced on the Great Seal of the Confederacy.

Via Wikipedia. The date, 22 February 1862, is when the CSA’s constitution went into effect and Jeff Davis was officially inaugurated to his six year term as president. The Confederates admired Washington as someone who had led a successful armed rebellion against a stronger foe.

Not far from the State Capitol is St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, another site with Confederate associations (both Lee’s and Davis’s pews are marked). I confess that I was taken aback by this stained glass window:

I like the Egyptian details. The white writing reads: “By faith Moses refused to be called the Son of Pharaoh’s daughter choosing rather to suffer affliction with the children of God for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” and below that, across the bottom “In Grateful Memory of Robert Edward Lee, Born January 19, 1807.” This is a rather interesting way of viewing Lee’s resignation of his federal commission in order to lead the Army of Northern Virginia. Sorry, I think that African-American slaves have a much better claim to the notion that they were akin to the Hebrews in Egypt.

But speaking of things Egyptian, we enjoyed seeing this building:


It dates from 1845 and is now part of VCU – and has even made it onto the VCU seal.

Via Wikipedia. MCV = Medical College of Virginia; RPI = Richmond Professional Institute. These were merged in 1968 to form VCU.

Exhibit on Campus

From Lauren Thomas:

Come see the exhibit “The Tuskegee Airmen: The Segregated Skies of WWII” on the main floor of the Burgess Administration Building, Feb. 9-13.

“The Tuskegee Airmen” explores the history and heroism of the first African American pilots to fly in combat during World War II. Although required to train and fight in segregated units, the Tuskegee Airmen proved to be some of the most skilled aviators during the war. Between 1941 and 1946, what became known as the “Tuskegee experiment” trained more than 1,000 pilots.

This traveling exhibit is provided to us on loan by Kennesaw State University’s Museum of History and Holocaust Education, and is featured in conjunction with Black History Month.