Tuesday, July 28, 2015

We Ain't What We Ought to Be

Stephen Tuck. We Ain’t What We Ought to Be: The Black Freedom Struggle from Emancipation to Obama. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010. 

         In We Ain’t What We Ought to Be, Tuck argues that “there was no such thing as a single black protest agenda,” “no single black experience,” nor was there “a single black culture” (3). Instead the fight for civil rights was fought by diverse participants who utilized diverse tactics and strategies to achieve their goals on local and national levels. Tuck demonstrates how activists were diverse in their goals. For example, the rivalry between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Du Bois demonstrated how some activists believed that racial uplift could be achieved through accommodation while others believed that political and social power was the best approach. Many activists were separatists while others were integrationists and there were those who supported the back to Africa movement while others believed in the American dream.
We Ain’t What We Ought to Be is a chronological narrative history of the black freedom struggle for full and equal rights. Tucks describes this book as “an introduction for the general reader as well as an interpretation for the specialist” (2). Tuck dismisses the notion that the 1960s marked the pinnacle of the “protest generation.” He traces the black freedom struggle from Emancipation in 1961 into the 21st century with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009. Tuck refers to these two events as the “pain and promise” of the black freedom struggle. This pain and promise is further demonstrated in the events of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Fisk Jubilee Singers fight against prejudice in America while finding success in Europe, the race riots following Jack Johnson’s “fight of the century,” the social and intellectual upheaval of the Harlem Renaissance, the activism of students and women in the Civil Rights Movement, the radicalism of the Black Power Movement, and the popularity and controversy of Hip Hop culture.
Recent scholarship has suggested that the civil rights movement did not begin in 1954 with the Brown v. Board of Education decision or in 1955 with the Montgomery bus boycott. For historian Adam Fairclough, the movement took shape in the 1890s with Ida B. Wells’ anti-lynching campaign. Glenda Gilmore situates the origins of the civil rights movement in the 1920s with the racial violence towards African Americans following World War I. Patricia Sullivan traces the movement to the 1920s with the activists and organizations that emerged prior to and after the New Deal. Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, argues that the long civil rights movement formed in the liberal and radical environment of the 1930s. Nelson Lichtenstein, Robert Korstad, and Harvard Sitkoff locate the movement’s roots in the depression and in the 1940s placing emphasis on the emerging black urban working class. Historians have adopted the notion of a long civil rights movement to encompass the roots of the movement as well as the ongoing struggles of African Americans to the present day. Tuck dismisses the notion of a long civil rights movement and instead argues that the black freedom struggle began in 1861 with African Americans fighting for freedom during Emancipation.

[1] Historian Jacquelyn Dowd Hall coined the phrase “the long civil rights movement.” See her essay “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past, “The Journal of American History 91, no. 4 (2005): 1233-1263.   

Impossible Subjects

Mae M. Ngai. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton:Princeton University Press, 2004. 

In Impossible Subjects Ngai argues that in the 20th century ideas of citizenship, race, and the nation-state were shaped by restrictive immigration policy. The period from 1924-1965 is critical to Ngai for a couple of reasons. First, many historians studying immigration have focused on immigration from Europe prior to 1924. The next wave of scholarship on immigration has been situated in the period after 1965, “when the national origins quota system was abolished and immigration from the third world increased” (3). The second reason is because the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 was the first comprehensive restrictive law. This law established the first ever “numerical limitations on immigration and a global racial and national hierarchy that favored some immigrants over others” (3).
Ngai outlines the two ways in which restrictive immigration policy “remapped” the nation. The first is the creation of categorical and hierarchical distinctions between race and ethnicity. Second, there was a sense of territory discernible through contiguous land borders. This study ends with the year 1965; it marks the passage of the Hart-Celler Act which lifted the national origins quotas. By covering the years between 1924 and 1965, this book seeks to fill the space in American immigration historiography in regards to the major themes of transnational history, labor history, citizenship, and race.  
Impossible Subjects is divided into four parts. Part one “The Regime of Quotas and Papers,” laid the legal foundation of restrictive immigration. The ever changing political and economic conditions demonstrated how some immigrants were more desirable than others. Part two “Migrants at the Margins of Law” discusses the roles of immigrant laborers such as Filipinos and Mexicans in the West and Southwest. “War, Nationalism, and Alien Citizenship,” examines Asian Americans citizenship during WWII and the Cold War. At this time, Japanese Americans citizenship status did not prevent their internment during World War II. Ngai explains that the government did not fully strip take away Japanese Americans citizenship status “but in effect it nullified their citizenship, exclusively on the grounds of racial difference” (175). In the last part,” Pluralism and Nationalism in Post-World War II Immigration Reform” Ngai evaluates how the government overhauled immigration policies causing high levels of illegal immigration. As a result, illegal immigration became problematic to America’s immigration policy throughout the 20th century and into the 21th century.    

Charleston, South Carolina: The Ellis Island for Enslaved Africans

 Historians have referred to Charleston as the "Ellis Island for African Americans" because roughly fifty percent of enslaved Africans brought to America during the transatlantic slave trade entered through ports in the lowcountry of South Carolina. this phrase is controversial because the immigrants at Ellis Island arrived there voluntarily whereas Africans were captured and brought here against their will. There are a number of reasons why Africans were brought to the low country, the main reasons had to due with climate, crops, and labor. First, the climate of the lowcountry is similar to that of countries in West Africa such as Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), and the Senegambia region (Senegal and the Gambia). The Europeans were not used to this type of climate making Africans perfect for the area. Second, rice crops were prevalent to the region. Africans, not Europeans, were knowledgeable about rice cultivation again making them a perfect solution to the problem. Third, Africans did not know the lay of the land and therefore were ideal in terms of labor. Natives were not used to the type of labor needed  for the crops and were susceptible to the diseases that Europeans carried from Europe.

                                               (photo credit: Google image search)

 Charleston, South Carolina is home to a number of Historical Landmarks. Among these landmarks are slave marts, plantation homes, schools, and antebellum homes. This post discusses 4 landmarks in Charleston: Old Slave Mart Museum, Drayton Hall, Avery Research Center, and the Aiken-Rhett House Museum.

Old Slave Mart Museum:

                                                             (photo credit: Flickr)

The museum opened its doors in 2007 at the site of Ryan's Mart. The building is a complex that consisted of three other buildings- a four-story brick building partially containing a "barracoon," or slave jail, a kitchen, and a "dead house," or morgue. In 1808 a ban on the United States' participation in the international slave trade led to an increase in the demand for slave labor. This created an internal slave trade in which Charleston became a major port of collecting and reselling slaves. In the decades between the drafting of the Constitution and the Civil War, more than one million African-Americans were sold to plantations in the lowcountry. In 1856, a city ordinance prohibited the public selling of slaves resulting in the opening of the Old Slave Mart and a number of other sales rooms, yards, or marts along Chalmers, State and Queen Streets. As of November 1863, slave auctions ended at the Old Slave Mart. After the Civil War, the property had many owners. Between the years of 1878 and 1937 the building was a tenement for black families as well as an auto repair shop. Miriam B. Wilson bought the building in 1938. By then the building became a museum that featured African and African American arts and crafts. In 1964 Judith Wragg Chase and Louise Wragg Graves took over the property and in 1973 placed it on the National Register of Historic Places. They operated the building until 1987. In 1988, the city of Charleston acquired the property.

                                                  (photo credit: National Park Service)

Drayton Hall:

                                                        (photo credit: Carolina Heart Strings)

                                                       (photo credit: Google Image Search)

Drayton Hall was built in 1738 and is the oldest Southern plantation house accessible to the public. TIn its 300 hundred year history, the home has not been restored. The home belonged to generations of Draytons who owned the rice plantation and kept the Georgian Palladian house until 1974. Drayton Hall was also home to African American families such as the Bowens who were brought to South Carolina as slaves from Barbados. After slavery was abolished, Richard Bowens Sr., lived and worked on the property. They were arrived with a member of the Drayton family. The population of black people on the property was very diverse: there were Central West Africans, Angolan Catholics and African Muslims, as well as Native Americans and those of mixed ancestry.

     Similar to many public plantations, Drayton Hall is a popular wedding destination. Why anyone would want to get married on a plantation in this day and age is something I can not wrap my psyche around. I am not superstitious nor do I believe in ghosts but the thought is a bit too creepy for my liking.

                                      (photo credit: Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Avery Research Center: 
                                                      (photo credit: College of Charleston)

 The Avery Research Center opened in 1865 and was established as a school for freed slaves under the name the Avery Normal Institute. Its mission was provide an  academic education to freed slaves. The three-story structure was built in 1868. The Institute was closed in 1954, and the building was later purchased by the state of South Carolina. In 1990, the Avery Research Center opened in the renovated school building by the College of Charleston. The archives of the Avery Research Center focus on the  experiences of African peoples in the Lowcountry. The archives contain documentary material dating from 1777 to the present, including manuscript, photograph and video, and audiotape collections; oral histories; African and African-American art and artifacts; a variety of published materials, including newspapers; and bibliographies.

                                                         (photo credit: College of Charleston)

Aiken-Rhett House:

                                           (photo credit: Historic Charleston Foundation)

 The Aiken-Rhett House provides a different insight into the lives of slaves. People tend to think that slaves lived only plantations. This house provides a different picture and that is slaves living in urban antebellum homes.

                                                         (photo credit: Historic Charleston Foundation)

                                                    (photo credit: Historic Charleston Foundation)

The complex was the home of former governor of South Carolina and prominent politician William Aiken Jr. and his family. The slave quarters, home to the Greggs and the Richardson families, among others, are some of the most well-intact in the country. The preserved home contains real artifacts belonging to the families and remains a true relic of the 19th century, with no electricity or major renovations.

                                           (photo credit: Historic Charleston Foundation)

  This museum offers visitors insight into the live of domestic slaves while debunking myths about house slaves and their comfortable lifestyles. Domestic slaves were constantly under the watchful eyes of their maters and mistresses. They were called upon around the clock. There was little time for downtime. Being in the "big house" did not mean that the lives of  domestic slaves were better than slaves in the fields.

                                                 (photo credit: Historic Charleston Foundation) 

Entertain or Ignorance?: A History of Blackface in Film

Apparently Halloween is the day that people decide to actively unmask their ignorance. From Julianne Hough dressing up as Crazy Eyes from Netflix’s original series Orange is the New Black to a handful of people dressing up as Trayvon Martin to Italian fashion designer Alessandro Dell’acqua donning blackface for a “Hallohood Disco Africa” themed Halloween party. Some argue that it’s just a Halloween costume and should be seen as entertaining. While others argue that the history behind the meaning is anything but fun and games. Although everyone is not offended or up in arms about people in blackface, those who choose to wear blackface should be prepared for the backlash and expect to suffer the consequences for thinking that it is okay to do so. When I see people wearing blackface, I always wonder if they know the history behind it.

                                                        (photo credit: Eonline)

                                                    (photo credit: The Daily Dot)

                                              (photo credit: The Daily Dot)

                                                (photo credit: Fashion Bomb Daily) 

Blackface was used in minstrel shows in the early 19th century to contribute to the stereotypical images placed upon African Americans on plantations. In order to achieve the blackface look, white actors use burnt cork, greasepaint, or shoe polish to darken their skin, exaggerate their lips with bright lipstick, put on woolly wigs, tailcoats or tattered clothing, and gloves. These images crossed the oceans as numerous nations picked up on them and transcended mediums from theater to film, and dance. 

                                              (photo credit: Library of Congress)

  1. Birth of a Nation (1915)- This three hour long silent film by director D.W. Griffith was adapted from the novel The Clansman by Thomas Dixon Jr. The film is about two families during the Civil War and Reconstruction Era. White actors in blackface fought against the Klan who protected the “Aryan” cause. The film was a commercial success and a recent article in the New Yorker states that the film “proved horrifically effective at sparking violence against blacks in many cities.”

                                        (Photo credit: Museum of Modern Art, Film Stills Archives)

2. The Jazz Singer (1927)- The film follows Jakie Rabinowitz played by Al Jolson who rejects his Jewish heritage to pursue his dreams of being a popular jazz singer. While rejecting his Jewish heritage, he embraces blackface. The film was well received by black and white critics. 

                                               (photo credit: Hulton Archive)

3. Swing Time (1936)-  Starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the film is inspired by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Astaire donned blackface for the musical number "Bojangles in Harlem."  It is praised as being the best dance musical Astaire and Rogers.    

                                            (photo credit: RKO Radio Pictures)

4. Everybody Sing (1938)-  An aspiring young singer who is on the verge of being shipped out of England due to her troublesome jazz singing. She decides to escape, and pretends to be black during an audition.

                                   (photo credit: Silverscreen Collection/Getty Image)

5. Soul Man (1986)-  Basically a white college student decides to disguise himself as a black man in order to receive a scholarship from Harvard Law School. 

                                        (photo credit: New World Pictures)

6. Bamboozled (2000)- This Spike Lee film stars Damon Wayans and Jada Pinkett Smith. Wayans plays a Harvard educated television writer who decides to purposefully create a minstrel show starring blacks in blackface in hopes of getting fired. What he did not expect was the outpouring of support of the show from audiences and the network. 

                                         (Film trailer credit: New Line Cinema)

Here is a montage on the history of blackface and Minstrelsy from the film Bamboozled.

                                            (film credit: New Line Cinema)

Bottom Line- Blackface is not okay and ignorance is not bliss.  

                    (photo credit: Ohio University's Students Teaching Against Racism STARS)

Monday, July 27, 2015

African Creeks

Gary Zellar. African Creeks: Estelvste and the Creek Nation. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007. 

In African Creeks: Estelvste and the Creek Nation, Gary Zellar examines the relationships among African Creeks and Creek Indians. Zellar begins the story in slavery when Africans encountered the Creek Indians. Until the 1850s, slaves in Creek nation enjoyed relative freedoms. Creek slavery became harsher and when the Civil War emerged, African Creeks became the first black troops to enlist in the United States Army. Zellar defines the postwar Creek nation as an “unheralded success story of reconstructing race relations in the U.S." (p. 77). In the 1880s, outsider presence brought racial views that intruded the Creek nation. The 1887 Dawes Act caused racial tensions to flourish in Creek nation. The Curtis Act implemented allotment on the Creek Nation, and six thousand African Creeks were signed up in the midst of the never-ending accusations of fraud and mistakes that resulted. African Creeks quickly lost seventy-five percent of their land as the Creek Nation was pushed toward dissolution. Zellar describes African Creeks living, from the early twentieth century, in the Jim Crow state of Oklahoma as people indistinguishable from other African Americans. 

The Seminole Freedmen

Kevin Mulroy. The Seminole Freedmen: A History. Norman, OK: Oklahoma University Press, 2007. 

In The Seminole Freedmen: A History, Kevin Mulroy examines the history of African Americans and Seminole Indians and their relationships with one another from the colonial era to the 20th century. Mulroy looks to clear up misunderstandings about these interactions. He asserts that Seminole Indians embraced long-term close ties with African runaways as well as freedmen also known as Seminole Maroons. Although these groups maintained close ties, they also maintained identities and cultures that were unique and separate from one another. These ties were mostly maintained after Indian Removal to Indian Territory. Many Seminole Indians and maroons felt Indian Territory was lacking in many ways so they fled for Texas and Mexico. Mulroy asserts that the Civil War lent itself to the first substantial divisions among Seminole Indians and maroons because of the pro-slavery stance some Native Americans took. He outlines that factors that have led to battles over Seminole membership in the 20th and 21st centuries such as intermarriage, children, land allotment, Christianization and Civilization agendas, Oklahoma statehood, and Seminole tribe/nation political factionalism.    

Ties that Bind

Tiya Miles. Ties the Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom. Oakland: University of California Press, 2005. 

In Ties that Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom, Tiya Miles examines the story of an Afro-Cherokee family. The family consists of a Cherokee warrior named Tarsekayahke also known as Shoeboots, his wife, an African woman named Doll, and their children, Elizabeth, John, Polly, William, and Lewis Shoeboots; in late 18th and early 19th century Georgia and Oklahoma. The intimate relationship between Shoe Boots and Doll was the first officially recorded and regulated by the Cherokee national government. Miles mainly focuses on Doll and her children as they provide the most revealing clues for African Americans moving into and out of Indian Territory and the United States. Early on, Doll and her children lived in the Cherokee nation in northern Georgia and by the end of the 1830s; Doll and her daughters lived among African American slaves in Georgia. After Cherokee Removal, Doll and her children live among the Cherokee in Indian Territory. Miles asserts that that events such as slavery, emancipation, forced migration, and marriage defined the identities of Doll and her children.      

Black, White, and Indian

Claudio Saunt. Black, White: Race and the Unmaking of an American Family. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. 

In Black, White, and Indian: Race and the Unmaking of an American Family, Claudio Saunt examines the history of a Creek family over five generations from 1780 to 1920. The history of the family reveals a fraction within the family. One branch family is of African descent and the other is Creek Indian. The family’s history is traced back to Scottish trader Robert Grierson and his Creek wife Sinnugee during slavery. In the early 18th century, slavery in the Creek Nation was defined through kinship ties. As the 19th century dawned, the Creek Nation adopted to the American definition of slavery thereby rejecting previous kinship and familial ties. Creeks divided themselves by adopting white America’s racial hierarchy that defined blacks as outsiders, created stigmas against African Creeks, and symbolized blackness with slavery. In the 1820s, Creeks began enacting laws that further marginalized African Creeks. This embracing of racial slavery divided the Griersons into black and white families, with the white side refusing to recognize their black relatives to this day.

Slavery and Freedom in Savannah

Slavery and Freedom in Savannah. eds. Daina Ramey and Leslie M. Harris Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2014.

Slavery and Freedom in Savannah is the name of a multi-part project that is comprised of a museum exhibit, this book project, and a symposium where some of the materials in this volume were presented. Slavery and Freedom in Savannah examines how urban slavery shaped the infrastructure of the port city, its economy, political and legal structure, as well as relationships among the enslaved, free blacks, and the ruling white class. During the Revolutionary War, enslaved blacks used the confusion the war caused to run away and create maroon communities in the Savannah River. These communities were quickly found and eliminated as whites reasserted their control in the effort to mitigate future resistance. The free black population largely composed of West Indian émigrés enjoyed autonomy, however, whites asserted their control over this anomalous population through guardianships. The enslaved black population also enjoyed small measures of autonomy as they took advantage of economic opportunities the Civil War presented through skilled and unskilled labor, providing food, and housing to meet the demands produced by the war. Reconstruction presented black men with opportunities to enter the political arena, which evoked fears among whites who feared blacks would control politics. The white ruling class responded by controlling, manipulating, and shaping politics through voter suppression methods, intimidation, and violence. The turn of the century saw black radical thought emerge as the black freedom struggle publicly challenged Jim Crow calling for racial uplift, self-help and respectability, and self-respect through education, social and political activism. 

Albion's Seed

David Hackett Fischer. Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. 


           The term Albion is Greek for Great Britain. Albion’s Seed is an extensive study of the four British folkways in America. David Hackett Fisher’s Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America explores the migrations of the Puritans, Cavaliers, Quakers, and Borders. Each of these four groups came from different parts of Great Britain for different reasons over different periods. They brought with them different ideas and attitudes about religion, marriage, and magic. The central thesis of Fischer’s study is that “the legacy of four British folkways in early America remains the most powerful determinant of a voluntary society in the United States today.”[1]
            Before exploring the four groups’ attitudes and ideas about religion, marriage, and magic, this section will look at where they  originated in Great Britain, the years of migration, where they settled in North America, the number of settlers in each colony, and who the people were that migrated in terms of occupations and work skills. “The Exodus of the Puritans” took place from 1629-1641. The Puritans originated in East Anglia from places such as Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and Lincolnshire; 21,000 Puritans settled in Massachusetts. The dress and demeanor of the Puritans marked them as yeomen, husbandmen, craftsmen, merchants, traders, and artisans of the middle class. The families came from high and lesser ranks but very few were from the bottom rung of English society.   
            The migration of the “Distressed Cavaliers and Indentured Servants” happened between the years 1642-1675. The groups travelled from the South of England from Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Berkshire, Northamptonshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Isle of Wright, and Somerset. Approximately 45,000 Cavaliers and indentured servants landed on the colony of Virginia. Sir William Berkeley with the appearance of a nobleman started a recruiting campaign for his colony. Virginia’s ruling families were founded by the younger sons of eminent English families during Berkeley’s governorship. These younger sons adapted mercantile and maritime occupations, which brought them in contact with Virginia. A great number of them were staunch Royalists serving in the English Civil War as military officers, with 98 percent supporting the King.
            The third wave or “The Friends’ Migration” occurred during the years 1675-1725. They originated in places such as Derbyshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Nottingham, and parts of central Wales; these places are referred to as the North Midlands. The number of Quakers and Quaker sympathizers totaled 23,000. They settled in the Delaware Valley in parts of west New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, northern Delaware, and northeastern Maryland. In the North Midlands, Quakers and their supporters were small farmers, craftsmen, laborers, and servants.
            The Borders made up the fourth wave of British migration in America. “The Flight from North Britain” ensued from 1717-1775. They came from border counties of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ulster. This migration was the largest with 250,000 borders settling in the backcountry of America. They were sprinkled throughout southwestern Pennsylvania, western parts of Maryland and Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The Borders were farmers, farm laborers, semiskilled workers, and small traders; a very small number of them were indentured servants.
            It is important to investigate their reasons for migrating to North America. The Puritans’ migration was not a mass movement of people who were attracted to the New World. They migrated because conditions at home grew intolerable. The years 1629-1640 were known as the ‘Eleven Years Tyranny.’ First, King Charles I tried to rule England without a Parliament. Then Archbishop William Laud and the Anglican Church began purging its Puritans members. These factors combined with depressing economic conditions and epidemics, caused Puritans board the ship Arbella and head for other places.[2]
            Sir William Berkeley migrated to America to rule Virginia. When he arrived, there were about 8,000 people living there and by the time his governorship was over the population grew to 45,000. The cavalier migration (1642-76) occurred mostly during the 1650s “when the Puritan oligarchy gained the upper hand in England and tried to impose its beliefs by force upon an unwilling people.”[3] The Virginian Royalist immigrants were refugees from oppression much like the Puritans many fought for Charles I in the English Civil War, some continued to serve Charles I until his armies were defeated and he was killed. Many others fought under Charles II and were once again defeated; some of these royalists fled to Europe and other distressed cavaliers, recruited by Sir William Berkeley made up the first families of Virginia.
            The Friends’ Migration started as early as the 1650s, when individual Quakers appeared in American colonies just a few years after the Society of American Friends has been founded. The Quakers, or Friends, were a religion that was greatly persecuted at home. In England, they were physically assaulted. When they were refused to pay church taxes, they were jailed and their property seized. They saw America not as a way to seek refuge from persecution but as a great opportunity to develop their religion. In 1677, on the “good ship Kent,” 230 Friends set sail from London and dropped anchor on the River Delaware, other ships soon followed carrying 1,400 Quakers to West Jersey by 1681.[4] The number of Quakers increased in 1682 when 23 ships sailed into Delaware Bay carrying 2,000 Quakers who founded the colony of Pennsylvania; one of these ships was Welcome and carried William Penn.
            The Borders’ migration was truly a mass migration. Unlike the other migrations, which had a strong religious and/or political basis, these migrants did not speak of holy experiments or cities on a hill; they came in search of material betterment. Back home in North Britain, financial conditions were terrible, rents were high, wages low, taxes were heavy, and leases short. In Ireland, famine and starvation were the leading causes of migration. The rapacity of English landlords, food shortages, and dreams of a better life sent Borders to the backcountry of America.
            Similar to every other aspect of their lives, these four groups’ social origins varied as well. The Puritans thought of themselves as a twice chosen people- once by God and again by the General Court of Massachusetts. The leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony chose colonists with care. Founders demanded that those wanting to settle provide written proof of good character. Some immigrants were required to submit letters of recommendation. There were instances of cultural winnowing taking place. Those who did not fit in were banished to other colonies or were sent back to England. What set Massachusetts apart from the other American colonies was its high level of family integration; the founders travelled in families. Over 40 percent of the immigrants were mature men and women over 25 years of age, children under 16 also made up a large portion. The elderly or people over 60 made up a small numbers. This migration was mostly urban with approximately one-third of the founders originating from small market towns in England, another one-third from large towns, less than 30 percent from manorial villages, and a small proportion dwelled on separate farms.
            In Virginia, immigrants came from higher and lower ranks. The distressed cavaliers were only a small number of the total population. Humble people of low rank made up the great numbers of immigrants, more than 75 percent. The servants recruited from the lower strata of English society but not from the very lowest, tended to be more rural and agrarian than the founders of Massachusetts. 2/3 of Virginian colonists were unskilled laborers or farmers; 30% were artisans; most unable to read or write; rates of literacy were lower in the Chesapeake Bay than in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
            Unlike immigrants to Massachusetts, the Friends’ migration was not much of a family affair.[5] The Quakers were men and women of humble origin who came from the lower middle ranks of English society. Quakers of Pennsylvania showed no hostility towards servants, whereas leaders of Massachusetts Bay did; people too poor to pay their own way came in larger numbers to the Delaware than to New England. Due to social filters, Quakers tended to screen out English elites, mainly because Quaker principles had little appeal to families of high rank.
            Although the social origins of the borders were more humble than New England Puritans or Delaware Quakers, they did not come from the bottom of British society, only a small number were unskilled laborers. A small important minority of Irish and North British migrants were gentry who came from the ruling order of this region. Somewhat larger groups were independent yeomen who had achieved a measure of independence from the great landlords who dominated the region, in Cumberland and Westmoreland these yeomen were called the “statesmen” class.[6] Most emigrants came from ranks below that of the gentry and statesmen. In the border countries of England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, the majority were farmers and farm laborers who owned no land of their own but worked as tenants and under tenants. A large minority were semiskilled craftsmen and petty traders. In Northern Ireland, many worked in the linen trade-impoverished handloom weavers, unemployed agents, traders, and entrepreneurs. Few came from bondage. Irish servants were not really wanted in America; it was believed that they were violent, ungovernable, and very apt to assault their masters. In British America, buyers complained of the “proud” and “haughty” spirit of these people.[7]  
            One of the most important factors examined by Fischer is religion. Their religious ways are also tied into their attitudes and ideologies towards marriage and magic. The Puritans’ migration developed as a religious movement of English Christians who meant to build a new Zion in America.[8] For the Puritans, religion was the only purpose for migrating to the New World. Religious impulse assumed many forms such as evangelical, communal, familial, and personal. According to Fischer’s research, John Dane, a tailor, his purpose for traveling to the New World “was to find a place where he could serve God’s will and be free of temptation.”[9] The religious purposes of the colony were not confined to a small “Puritans oligarchy.” Puritans were staunch Calvinists and their spiritual leader was John Cotton.
            Fischer describes the Puritan’s form of worship as meeting style and lecture. The Puritans worshipped in meetinghouses, which were rude, unpainted, square buildings. Church services took place at 9am. The town was summoned by the sound of a ringing bell or the rasping of a conch shell. The congregation arrived in orderly family groups- husbands and wives walking side by side, followed by children, servants, and dogs. A law of 1640 required men to carry arms to   meetings, and sentries were posted at the door; after the service, the men left the meeting first.[10] After the townsfolk entered the meetinghouse and took their seats, the minister and his family made a grand entrance. As the minister climbed into the pulpit, the entire congregation rose to their feet.
An important part of every service was the ritual of purification. The members who committed various sins were compelled to rise and “take shame upon themselves,” they often wore signs that declared their misdeeds.[11] The sermon was the most important part of the service. It could last up to two hours or longer. The preferred style of preaching was a relentless cultivation of the plain style. Fischer states, “[a] modern reader may see these sermons as dull and dreary but the Puritans listened attentively, sitting on the edge of their seats.”[12] When praying Puritans did not kneel, they prayed on their feet, standing upright, looking God in the eye. At the end, psalm was sung. Puritans also cherished worship meetings because this was the only time when everyone in town got together.
            Unlike the Puritans, religion was not central to the origins of those who migrated to the Chesapeake colonies. The religious life of Virginia was ceremonial, liturgical, hierarchical, and ritualist. Although it was not expected of everyone to share the same views and opinions, everyone was compelled to join in the same rituals. The Anglican service had a liturgical quality that distinguished it from the “meeting and lecture” style of New England. The Cavaliers commonly used the Book of Prayer, which included the “Declaration on Kneeling,” which the Puritans strongly disliked.[13] Also different from the New Church was the length and delivery of the sermon. In Virginia, sermons usually lasted about twenty minutes and it tended to be less theological, more pietistic.[14] The sermon was secondary in Anglican worship, music however, was essential to the service. It was more important to the Anglican Church than it was to the Church of New England. Virginians employed singing complex four-part hymns and anthems.  
            The Friends’ migration was about its religious purposes and inspiration. The foundation of their faith was the Bible. Their beliefs came from the New Testament. They developed a “system of religion” which repudiated the Five Points of Calvinism. At the center was a God of Love and Lights whose benevolent spirit harmonized the universe.[15] Puritans worshipped a different deity, one that was capable of love and wrath. Fischer describes this deity as one that is “a dark, mysterious power who could be terrifying in his anger and inscrutability.”[16] Anglicans “knelt before a great and noble Pantocrator who ruled firmly but fairly over the hierarchy of his creatures.”[17]
            The worship of Quakers centered on the Inner Lights and the movement of the Spirit. Such meetings took place once a week, or several times a week. Worship meetings went through a strict sequence of ritual stages. First, the gathering took place. The Quakers quietly arrived; frivolous conversations, laughter, smoking, spitting, and chewing were all forbidden. The second stage is referred to as “turning the mind to the light.” This stage was a moment of silence while waiting for God in the light.[18] The third stage consisted of people rising and speaking, often preaching or praying. The fourth and final stage was a return to silence, as Quakers would shake one hands and leave in “quiet dignity.”[19] The worship service took place inside a room suffused with light, which was symbolic of their beliefs. Anglican churches as well as the meetinghouses of Puritans were sometimes so dark ministers would complain that they were unable to read their sermons.
            The Borders religious denominations were mixed to include Anglican, Roman, Catholics, Presbyterians, and Protestants. The worship services tended to be intense. The sermons and hymns were abounded with military metaphors.[20] Prayers were invoked for vengeance and the destruction of enemies. The Borders brought with them the tradition of field meetings or prayer societies, for which they had been persecuted for back, home in North Britain. This outdoor gathering could last for several days attracting thousands of people. The preachers were praised for their skills. The intensity of the group was astonishing. The displays of emotions and shouting were heard and felt from a half a mile away.[21] They also introduced another form of worship which was a ceremony of fellowship called the “Feast of Fat Things” or the “Love Feast”; outdoor ceremonies began with prayer and preaching, then climaxed with a great shout and ended in a Christian “love feast.” These feasts involved eating bread and drinking wine. One observer failed to see the “love” at one particular feast because the members were “often in contention and quarreling, back-biting and slandering.”[22] Fischer lists the “ingredients” of backcountry religion: the camp meeting, the Christian fellowship, the love feast, the evangelical preacher, the theology of Protestant fundamentalism, and born-again revivalism.
            The groups’ attitudes towards religion influenced their actions in terms of marriage ways. The average age of males was twenty-six and females were twenty-three. A high number of Puritans never married. They suspected that failure to marry was a sign of God’s ill favor. They also believed that matrimony was a sacred union that must be solemnized by a priest. This union was not a religious ceremony but a civil ceremony. Puritans cherished true love and the notion of falling in love. Once the courtship ritual between the couple was complete, the next steps were the marriage and wedding rituals. The Puritans followed the Church of England’s five step process of espousal. The process began with a betrothal ceremony and then the couple made a public announcement also known as posting banns.[23] The ideal time for a marriage was in November, the Puritans favorite season.
The wedding was performed at home by a magistrate in a simple civil ceremony. There was no exchanging of vows or wedding rings. The wedding was a small celebration that included the singing of psalm. At the wedding, dancing and excessive drinking were forbidden. On the wedding night, the bride dressed in a special gown and put to bed by friends who accompanied the couple into the chamber. Puritans allowed divorce in extenuating circumstances such as in the event of adultery, if the contract was fraudulent, and in the case of physical violence.
In Virginia, males and females were younger when they got married. The men were about twenty-four and the women were eighteen. Marriage was a sacred union in which everyone was expected to achieve. Any bachelors and spinsters in the colony were considered unnatural and even dangerous to society. Both New England and Virginia rejected the idea of celibacy. Unlike in New England, divorce did not exist because marriage was regarded as an indissoluble union.[24] Virginians also followed the Church of England’s five step process of espousal. November and December were favored for wedding ceremonies.
Virginians partook in two wedding ceremonies. The first was a Christian ceremony in church or at the bride’s home and always with a minister according to the laws of the Anglican Church and the Book of Common Prayer. The second ceremony involved jumping over a broomstick. This was the only type of wedding ceremony that was permitted for slaves; it quickly took on a special meaning for blacks.[25] The ceremonies were followed by a fancy ball, which included a feast and a house party that went on for days. The groom gave his guests expensive gifts. The families of yeomen farmers celebrated on a smaller scale but customs were the same. Marriages were unions of properties as well as persons. Unlike in New England, love was not a necessary precondition for unions.[26] In Virginia, marriage between first cousins took place; this practice was condemned by New England.
Quakers tended to be a little older when they married. The men were usually twenty-seven and the women were twenty-four. There was a strict set of marriage customs that specified who one might marry, how, when, where, and why. They believed that marriage should be based on the idea of “pure and true love.” They strongly believed that marriage is a union between sweethearts. Quaker moralists demanded that love must be a part of every marriage; it must precede marriage just like in New England. They also forbade unions between first cousins. The wedding ritual was a complex and lengthy process. All parents had to consent to the marriage taking place. Once it was decided that the couple could marry, a supper is then organized for their families and close friends; invitations were then sent out. The wedding took place where the couple quietly declared their agreements to marry. It was not a grand affair. Everyone would sit quietly and then quietly go home. The newlyweds went to the home of the bride’s father and lived there for two weeks, and then afterwards the newlyweds settled into their own home. A long period followed in which the newlyweds welcomed visitors. Quaker ceremonies were plain but the process was complex; it was an agreement between man and woman as well as couple and community.    
The Borders were the youngest group to get married. Men were typically twenty and the women were around nineteen. The wedding rituals were not complex or lengthy. The Borders were the liveliest of them all. The wedding ritual was an all-around grand affair. On the wedding day, the groom’s friends mounted and heavily armed stopped by cabins to fire a volley and pass around a whiskey bottle.[27] The bride’s friends also heavily armed would use felled trees along the road to create entanglements of grape vines and branches to block the passage of the groomsmen. The two parties would come together and stage a contest in which the champions raced for a beribboned bottle of whiskey.[28] Afterwards, the bride is brought into the room by the best man, not her father. Once the ceremony has ended, there is an abundance of kissing, drinking, whopping, and high hilarity. A dinner and dance then took place, followed by plenty of games. The festivities could last for days. Even the poor border families spent much on weddings.      
            Magic ways were intertwined into the religious attitudes of these four groups. Fischer describes each group of being obsessed with magic in some way, shape, or form. The Puritans, he argues, are obsessed with witchcraft. He states that they lived in a ‘world of wonders,’ believing that unicorns lived in the hills and mermaids swam in the waters off Cape Ann. They brought with them several forms of magical obsession. One of these beliefs was providential magic. They were constantly searching for God’s purposes in the world. This led them to study nature with an intensity that played a critical role in the birth of modern science.
This intensity was also demonstrated in their obsession with “wonders” that could possibly be signs of God’s providences in the world.[29] Puritans kept meticulous records/diaries stating wonders that presented themselves such as bodies appearing without heads, animals changing shapes, dancing dishes upon table tops, doors and windows flying open and then slamming shut. They spoke about God and the Devil speaking to them through the mouths of children. The 17th century was filled with people searching the world for supernatural signs  Puritans were concerned about forms of magic that could usurp God’s powers such black magic as well as white magic; more than 95% of all formal accusations and more than 90% of executions for witchcraft in British America occurred in the Puritan colonies.  
            The Cavaliers are described as being obsessed dealt with fortune. The quality of their obsession with magic was not the same as in Massachusetts. No person was ever executed for witchcraft in Virginia; courts punished false accusations of witchcraft. These punishments often included heavy fines and costs against a person(s) “who denounced their neighbors as minions of the Devil.”[30] Virginians were more interested in other forms of magic such as studying stars, planets, spheres, and portents- not as signs of God’s purpose but as clues to their own fate. Gentlemen kept “fortune books,” which were compilations of magical and astrological lore for good luck in love, marriage, sex, health, and travel.[31] Their interest in fortune was linked to their obsession with gambling. They constantly made bets on horses, women, cards, cockfights, backgammon, prices, as well as the weather. In Massachusetts, gambling was strictly forbidden. For Virginians, gambling was a symbol of social status and social bonding. Whereas the Puritans searched for God’s redeeming providence in the world through nature, Virginians sought assurance in gambling, more precisely in their dice, which held clues to the cosmos as well as a token of each person’s place within it.[32]   
            The Quakers obsession with the supernatural took shape within Spiritualism. There were some accusations of witchcraft but there were no laws against witchcraft. However, Quakers were unwilling to persecute witches themselves and were unable to prevent persecution by others.[33] Much like the Puritans, Quakers were not into black magic or white magic. Unlike the Cavaliers, the Quakers were hostile towards astrology. They believed that “the brightest heavenly star paled against the shining of the light within.”[34] The idea of the Inner Light led them to a form of superstition called spiritualism. On numerous occasions, Quakers tried to communicate with the dead and raise them from the grave. They were also believers in the power of the Holy Spirit and reincarnation. There are many accounts of Quakers performing healing miracles. Sometimes their concerns for animals were tied into their belief of reincarnation. It is believed that when a man dies he changes into an animal and sometimes vice versa.[35]
            The Borders obsession is centered on sorcery. They strongly believe in witchcraft, wizardry, and diabolical magic. Their witchcraft was not the same sort of witchcraft obsession among the Puritans. In the backcountry, Borders had witchmasters who cured diseases, inflicted by the influence of witches; no one was executed for witchcraft. Comparable to the Virginians, Borders also had an affinity for astrology. It was believed that the stars and planets had a power over earthly events for example, one should plant flowers in the blooming days, under the sign of Virgo.[36] The Borders were also strongly attached to experimental sorcery or secular superstition. This consisted of conjuring, charms, spells, omens, sorcery, which were used to control any possible emotion and for the execution of any imaginable purpose in the world. Most of this folklore was brought from Ireland, Scotland, and the north of England but many influences came from Native Americans, Africans, Germans, and many other cultures, which demonstrate the diversity in the backcountry.
            In Albion’s Seed, Fischer develops a model for the way in which American culture constructed itself. The basic thesis of this study is that although less than 20% of the present U.S. population has British antecedents, our British genesis is still the dominant factor determining our culture. This formative British culture, however, was not monolithic. America still reflects the social, class, and religious divisions of 17th and 18th century Britain. A study as extensive as this has to take an interdisciplinary approach. Fischer, using graduate students at this university, Brandeis, sorted through various sources both quantitative and qualitative. He employed the data of linguists, folklorists, and anthropologists. He also does a great job of incorporating well designed maps, tables, graphs, charts, and line drawings. Albion’s Seed is a great source for those wanting to study this part of American history.

[1] David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 7.
[2] Ibid, 14.
[3] Ibid, 212.
[4] Ibid, 419.
[5] Ibid, 434.
[6] Ibid, 613.
[7] Ibid, 614.
[8] Ibid, 18.
[9] Ibid, 20.
[10] Ibid, 120.
[11] Ibid, 121.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid, 336.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid, 426.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid, 523.
[19] Ibid, 524.
[20] Ibid, 618.
[21] Ibid, 707.
[22] Ibid.
[23] Ibid, 81.
[24] This tradition of jumping over the broom became a part of many slave marriages. The tradition continued after the institution of slavery ended. Ibid, 281.
[25] Ibid, 282.
[26] Ibid, 283.
[27] Ibid, 671.
[28] Ibid.
[29] Ibid, 126.
[30] Ibid, 340.
[31] Ibid, 341.
[32] Ibid, 343.
[33] Ibid, 528.
[34] Ibid, 529.
[35] Ibid, 530.
[36] Ibid, 710.

Travel Bucket List

Hey scholars, I am in the process of renewing my passport. I cannot believe it has been ten years since I got it. Thinking back to when I...