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Hello,the_nature_of_South_Africa_by_HMSDexter

I am spending spring semester in Port Elizabeth, South Africa at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University where I will intern in their writing center.  I leave in 10 days and I will not be posting very often on this site while I am gone.  I hope that you will follow me on the blog I specifically created for this study abroad trip: YNOT

The name of the blog was inspired by my late mother who’s name was Alyce and she always said, “Alyce with a ‘y’, like Alice in Wonderland.”

I look forward to returning to this blog when I come back to the States this summer.

Cheers!

Lost Cause Rhetorics

Lizzie:

The writer of this entry echoed my sentiments in her first sentence, “I am a reluctant student of the Civil War.” Its funny how as a child growing up in the South I rejected where I was from, wholesale. I talked about how much I wanted to get out of the South, above the Mason-Dixon Line and never return.  The people who were vested in Civil War history, when I was young, were mainly those who saw the Confederate Battle Flag as their heritage.  These Confederate apologists were not people I could morally identify with and thus, I wanted to flee. As I grew up I was able to break from those who saw the South from behind those distorted filters.

I chose to reblog this post because I like this author’s take on David Blight‘s book and her personal connection with the same section of the South in which I grew up.

Originally posted on Issues and Interpretations in Public History:

I’ll admit this first: I am a reluctant student of the Civil War. That being said, I would argue that any person interested in history and living along the Dixie Highway/I-75 route of Sherman’s March (where every one of my ‘stompin’ grounds as a kid was the site of a battle and whose hometown was burned in the March) cannot help but learn about the Civil War. I am also a student of American Literature, and if one likes Theoreau or Whitman or DuBois, one learns about the Civil War.

I admit the reluctance because it shaped my reading of Blight’s (good, detailed, glad I read it) book, and it shapes the way I frame my understanding of this era of American history. What was truly strange for me was re-seeing these core authors–Emerson, DuBois, Washington, Wells, Grimke, Whitman, Douglass, Johnson, etc.–completely from the lens of Civil War politics and…

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Originally posted on innerstanding isness:

HARPER’S WEEKLY. JUNE 2, 1860. 344

THE AFRICANS OF THE SLAVE BARK “WILDFIRE,”–[FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.]

THE SLAVE DECK OF THE BARK “WILDFIRE,” BROUGHT INTO KEY WEST ON APRIL 30, 1860,-[FROM A DAGUERREOTYPE.]

KEY WEST, FLORIDA, May 20, 1860.


ON the morning of the 30th of April last, the United States steamer Mohawk, Lieutenant Craven commanding, came to anchor in the harbor of this place, having in tow a bark of the burden of about three hundred and thirty tons, supposed to be the bark Wildfire, lately owned in the city of New York. The bark had on board five hundred and ten native Africans, taken on board in the River Congo, on the west side of the continent of Africa. She had been captured a few days previously by Lieutenant Craven within sight of the northern coast of Cuba, as an American vessel employed…

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Originally posted on Souljourneying:

Did you hear about the Ani DiFranco fiasco?

She, as a fairly well-known feminist and LGBT singer-songwriter, decided to host a feminist songwriter workshop at a Louisiana plantation.  There was a tremendous uproar that you can read about in the Huffington Post.  While DiFranco eventually cancelled the retreat, HuffPo makes it sound as if this occurred because people were upset that the she agreed to host the retreat on a plantation.  Period.  I was following the stream of tweets on this, and I think they shed more light.  If you look at those tweets, you see that some people, though not all, were not upset because the place was a plantation.  They were upset by how the current plantation owners, who are descendants of the original plantation operators, depict slavery.

The plantation, you see, is one of the oldest and largest in all the South.  This is not, and should…

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Lizzie:

It has been a long time since I was in a k-12 history class and I’m wondering how the American institution of slavery is now being taught in schools. How should we teach our children about this part of our history?

Originally posted on theGrio:

As it expands into wider release, 12 Years a Slave seems to have accomplished an improbable feat.

It’s sparking conversations on African-American history and slavery in a month other than February.

The movie centers on Solomon Northrup, a free man who is lured from New York to Washington, where he is abducted, sold into bondage and taken to Louisiana. His struggle to survive and regain his freedom reveals the depth of the oppressive system that pervaded American life.

For example, the United States Constitution counted slaves as three-fifths of a person. That definition gave Southern states more Congressional seats and more power in determining the course of the nation.

“Counting slaves as three-fifths of a person would bring a state’s representation higher,” says Ed Pennell, a park ranger at the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York. “When you look at from that perspective, you get the idea of…

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The biggest compromises the United States faced at it first became a Union and then as it tried to keep the Union together, were around the institution of slavery. This is a brief overview.

History, the word itself connotes something that is complete, done, over with, nothing more to discover.  However, the trouble with that notion is that it can lead to a single story being told that could discount new information. Therefore as new information is discovered it is into an old narrative.  Historians, rhetoricians, archivists, and museum curators need to seek out new information. Once these discoveries are made they need to take a revisionist approach to placing it accurately into the existing historical account. They must be open to the possibility that new discoveries could explode the existing narrative and create a new story.

While history is presented in the classrooms and history books with varying degrees of complexity, over time a less complex view of the Civil War has been accepted as popular memory. Despite being stripped of its nuance and complexity, the period leading up to the Civil War was fraught with compromise.  The American institution of slavery was fraught with compromise since the founding of the United States.

Most notably the Constitutional compromise of 1787, in which the delegates from non-slaveholding states to the Constitutional Convention made compromises with the Southern delegation to count enslaved people as three-fifths of person for the purposes of representation in Congress and distribution of tax revenues (Willis 55-56). However, in Freedom National written by James Oakes he argues that the Northern delegation was willing to make this compromise because they believed the institution of slavery to be on the decline.  He further explains the point by stating the Constitutional framers were convinced by the works of classical economist, like Adam Smith, “that slave economies were backward and inefficient” (x). Therefore, since slavery was on a natural decline driven by the laws of economics they believed that their compromise was not giving up was not actually giving up much.

Next came the Missouri Compromise of 1820, in which Missouri was allowed to enter the union as a slave state and Maine was allowed to enter the union as a free state.

Figure 1 Illustrates the map of the United States after the Missouri Compromise

The Compromise also drew an imaginary line at 36 degrees 30 minutes north latitude, dividing the new Louisiana Territory into a north and south area. All of the Louisiana Territory north of this line was free territory, meaning that any territories that became states from this area would enable African-Americans to be free. The Compromise also encouraged people in the north to return runaway slaves to their homes and did not prohibit slavery, even in the free territories (Kluger 480).

The next compromise that Congress made was as the United States expanded its western boarder to the Pacific Coast. This compromise was called, “The Great Compromise of 1850” and was first proposed by Henry Clay in the United States Senate (McPherson 70).  However, the Compromise was not a single piece of legislation proposed by the Kentucky Senator, but were several bills broken into these five parts creating the compromise (loc.gov):

  • The Fugitive Slave Act-which forced the free states to participate in returning runaway slaves to Southern states
  • Ending the slave trade in Washington, D.C.
  • California entered the Union as a free state
  • Utah formed a territorial government
  • The boarder dispute between New Mexico and Texas was settled

This compromise was meant to provide representational balance between free states and slave states in order to keep the United States together as a Union.  However, McPherson points out that this compromise was not one where, “all parties conceded part of what they wanted, but a series of separately enacted measures each of which became law with a majority of congressmen from one section voting against a majority of those from the other” (71).  These measures only temporarily prevented the crisis and come again in a few short years through the Civil War.

From the founding of the country through each one of these compromise crises there was one central issue: slavery. The power that came from the institution of slavery and the economic system it produced was not one that could be dismantled easily.  Illustrated through these compromises is that the institution of slavery in the United States was constantly changing.  Slavery existed in every part of the Union no matter if it was legally a free state or a slave state (Bachman).

St. Cloud Contextualized

Historically, St. Cloud, Minnesota has been known as a racially homogenous community. Located in central Minnesota, St. Cloud is situated on the Mississippi River and its metro region extents through these four counties: Benton, Stearns, Sherburne, and Wright. Although, the city of St. Cloud itself is only in Benton and Stearns counties. While the city of St. Cloud is not large it serves as a regional commerce hub to the rural farming community it is surrounded by.

According to St. Cloud’s governmental website, the city formed from three different townships incorporating into one municipality.  The original three cities were known as Upper, Middle, and Lower towns (website).  Middle Town was primarily first settled by German Catholic immigrants and migrants from the east coast states. While Lower Town’s founders were migrants from New England. The third town that incorporated with the other to when St. Cloud was formed was Upper Town or Arcadia.  Prominent founding members of the Upper Town community were Southerners who had relocated to the Minnesota Territory through Federal appointments, missionary work, or the fur trade.  In 1856, these three towns combined into the city of St. Cloud.

The city developed into an area for commerce not just for the fur trade, but also granite.  When granite was discovered in the quarries near St. Cloud it allowed the town to grow beyond its fur trading roots.  In the mid 1800′s most of the commercial granite in the United States came from New Hampshire and other rocky areas of the East. The market for granite was relatively small in the sparsely settled Midwest, and transportation costs made it difficult for Minnesota companies to compete for work in faraway eastern cities. St. Cloud benefited from the development of the steamship that could make traversing the Mississippi River timelier and thus improved commerce. Many quarries failed, but others survived as new uses for granite were developed. Prosperity came to the St. Cloud area quarries in the 1890′s when monument work began to replace paving, bridge, and foundation blocks as their principal products. St. Cloud continues to be a major supplier of granite. Prized now more for its beauty than its strength, granite quarried in the St. Cloud area graces such state landmarks as the Capitol and the History Center in St. Paul (citation).

Even with all of this commerce, the population of St. Cloud remained low keeping it a small town.  There was the expected growth after World War II where the whole country experienced a baby boom.  From 1950 through 1980 the growth from census to census was marginally small. However, the U.S. Census Bureau numbers for the St. Cloud area have shown dramatic increases over the past 20 years.  As Table 1 illustrates the city of St. Cloud experienced a population growth of 35%.  On the other hand, the Stearns County population increased by 27% during the same time period.  As stated previously, St. Cloud is also in Benton County and this would account for Stearns County not representing St. Cloud’s full population growth.

Table1: Population Growth 1990-2010

1990 2000 2010 % Growth1990-2010 2010% Minority Population
Stearns County 118,791 133,167 150,642 27% Increase 9.40%
St. Cloud (city) 48,812 59,111 65,842 35% Increase 16.70%

Data Source: United States Census Bureau

It is also significant to note that the racial makeup of both St. Cloud and Stearns County is becoming more diverse. As of the 2010 United States Census, the European American population for this area was 84.59%, which mirrors the European American population for the state of Minnesota at 85.3% (Admin Minnesota).  In contrast, the white population of the United States as a whole is 72.4% with minorities comprising 27.6% of the population in the country. As is noted in Table 1, St. Cloud shows a higher concentration of minorities within the city; as opposed to Stearns County whose minority population does not reach ten percent.

My purpose for presenting this demographic data is to present a more complete understanding of the rhetorical situation in which the Stearns County History Museum will present its exhibit. As Stearns County continues to grow and become more diverse it will benefit the community as a whole to understand that the history of Stearns County is more complex than people might think at first.

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