Saturday, December 20, 2014
Melozzo da Flori (Italian Renaissance artist, 1438-1494) Angel from the Vault of the Sacristy of Saint Mark January 29, 2011. "Without Melozzo, the work of Raphael and Michelangelo would have never existed.” This statement by Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, sums up the impact this renaissance painter had on some of the greatest Italian painters.
In many western Christian religions, Advent is a time of expectant waiting, self-examination, & preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas.
Georgian Christmas: An 18C Celebration
December 22, 2013 Early Modern England
Georgian Christmas dinner
"During the Georgian period (1714-1820), it was often incorrectly assumed that Christmas wasn’t celebrated with as much gusto as during the Victorian era. Although traditions, foods and celebrations differed, Christmas was actively commemorated during this period.
"Christmas meals during the Georgian period differed vastly from what was common table fare in the medieval and Tudor periods. New and improved agricultural achievements signaled a change in traditional Christmas foods. By the eighteenth century, roasts and various fowl became common but were later replaced by the turkey as the most popular meat at the Christmas table.
"Prior to the Georgian period, Christmas was a twelve day feast in which the foods were prepared well in advance with the idea of using up winter stores and foods that could be well preserved over the holiday season. Typical Christmas foods during the Georgian era were cheese, soups, turkey, geese, duck, capons, minced pies, and frumetnery – a dish which contained grains, almonds, currants, sugar and was often served with meat.
Georgian mince pies
"Mince pies were eaten at Christmas in England since the sixteenth century. They were initially made of minced meat but were later replaced with dried fruit and spices. Christmas pudding was also a popular dish and dated back to the Middle Ages. It was called ‘ lum pottage’ and made of chopped meat with dried prunes or raisins. In the Georgian period, the meat was replaced by suet. Twelfth Cake, a version of present day Christmas cake, was sliced and given to all members of the household and guests. It contained dried beans and dried peas. The person whose slice contained the bean was King for the night; a slice with a pea indicated the Queen. Even servants played along and if they won, they were recognized by everyone, including their masters as the evening’s King and Queen. By the Regency period, Twelfth cake became elaborate and added frosting, trimmings, and figurines. Twelfth night remained popular until the late nineteenth century.
Georgian Christmas - 1800 Traditions
"George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, brought the first version of the present day Christmas tree in 1800 and decorated it with gifts, dolls and tapers after her German traditions. The tradition of gift giving also became popular during the eighteenth century as the wealthy gave gifts to their laborers. Ornaments included paper flowers, tinsel, wire ornaments, beads, candles, gingerbread and wax figures. Although Queen Charlotte brought the Christmas tree to England in 1800, the tree did not become popular until Queen Victoria married German Prince Albert. Homes of this time were decorated with holly, ivy and mistletoe. Stockings filled with presents hanging over the fireplace were first recorded in England in the early nineteenth century.
"Christmas was banned by the Puritans in the mid-seventeenth century giving rise to the belief that Christmas fun and frivolity was not rekindled until the Victorian period. Christmas was completely abolished and shops and markets were kept open during the 25th of December. People were expected to continue going about their normal business and not partake in holiday celebrations or face fines and imprisonment. Puritans disliked Christmas because of its heathen origins and because of its association with extravagance and excess, but by the Georgian period, Christmas was again fully celebrated. Georgians enjoyed many different pastimes during the holidays such as cards, hunt the slipper, blind man’s bluff, shoe the wild mare, carol singing, story telling and dancing. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Twelfth Night parties were extremely popular and involved games, drinking and eating. British Pantomime also grew in popularity during the Georgian period, especially among the upper classes."
Icon of Archangel Gabriel. One of four panels from a set of the Great Deisis icons from a sanctuary screen, Sinai
The word "icon" derives from the Greek "eikon" meaning any image or representation, but the word usually is restricted to a religious image. Although the word "icon" applies to all kinds of religious images -- those painted on wooden panels (icons proper), on walls (frescoes), those fashioned from small glass tesserae (mosaics) or carved in stone, metal or ivory -- the term is used most often with paintings on wood.
Icon of Archangel Michael, 14th century
The first Christian images appeared around the 3rd century. Perhaps for the first 200 years of its existence, Christianity was influenced by the Old Testament 2nd Commandment, "Thou shall not make unto thee any graven images" (Exodus 20:4).
A Russian Icon of an Archangel also called The Archangel with the Golden Hair from the Kiev School, mid to late 12th century
"When Christians turned to promote their religion, they found many examples in the earlier art of religions in the art of the Roman Empire. For their images, they incorporated various elements from a number of sources: from Hellenic art they borrowed gracefulness & clarity of composition; from the Roman art they took the hierarchical placement of figures & symmetry of design; from Syrian art they took dynamic movements & energy of the represented characters; and from Egyptian funeral portraits they borrowed large almond-shaped eyes, long, thin noses, & small mouths. By the time Christianity became the official religion of the Byzantine Empire (313), the iconography was developing vigorously & the basic compositional schemes were well established." (From Alexander Boguslawski)
Icon Russian Icon. Archangel Michael. 14th century. From Novgorod.
The first icons were brought to Russia from the Byzantine Empire & from Bulgaria, which became an intermediary between Constantinople & Kiev, supplying newly Christianized states with books, icons, & liturgical objects necessary for the celebration of the Christian mass.
Icon Ukranian of Archangel Michael
Angel in White, painted in 1230 at the Mileseva Monastery, Serbia
Icon of Archangel Michael
Orthodox Christian Church Of Christ The Saviour
Icon of Archangel Gabriel, 1387–1395 Byzantine
Russian Icon of an Angel
Andrei Rublev (Russian artist, (c 1360-1430) The Old Testament Trinity. Detail. c. 1410
Arthur Hughes (English artist, 1832–1915) Music Party 1864
It's funny that no matter how old I get, when I think of family parties, I remember the images of English artist Arthur Hughes, an illustrator for both adults & children. His children remind me of my grandchildren.
Arthur Hughes (English artist, 1832–1915) Mrs Leathart & her Children
Arthur Hughes (English artist, 1832–1915) Of Love and Beauty
Arthur Hughes (English artist, 1832–1915) In the King's Orchard
Arthur Hughes (English artist, 1832–1915) A Birthday Party
Arthur Hughes (English artist, 1832–1915) In the Grass. He simply must have known my granddaughter Caitlyn.
Arthur Hughes (English artist, 1832–1915) Faith
Arthur Hughes (English artist, 1832–1915) Nativity
1520 Hans Baldung (1485-1545) Madonna with sleeping Child
In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were the core of early Western art.
Friday, December 19, 2014
Although the 2010 census left out questions about ethnicity, this map shows how it looked in 2000. Melting pot: This map shows the ethnic heritage of Americans
The map that shows where America came from: Fascinating illustration shows the ancestry of EVERY county in the US
By Jessica Jerreat - 1 September 2013 Daily Mail.com
A truly captivating map that shows the ancestry of the 300+ million people who call the melting pot of America home can now be seen on the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau map...
The inscription on the Statue of Liberty in New York's harbor reads 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free' and the fascinating map identifies the truly diverse nature of the United States in the 21st century.
By far the largest ancestral group, stretching from coast to coast across 21st century America is German, with 49,206,934 people. The peak immigration for Germans was in the mid-19th century as thousands were driven from their homes by unemployment and unrest. The majority of German-Americans can now be found in the the center of the nation, with the majority living in Maricopa County, Arizona and according to Business Insider, famous German-Americans include, Ben Affleck, Tom Cruise, Walt Disney, Henry J. Heinz and Oscar Mayer. Indeed, despite having no successful New World colonies, the first significant groups of German immigrants arrived in the United States in the 1670s and settled in New York and Pennsylvania. Germans were attracted to America for familiar reasons, open tracts of land and religious freedom and their contributions to the nation included establishing the first kindergartens, Christmas trees and hot dogs and hamburgers.
41,284,752 Black or African Americans
The census map also identifies, Black or African-American as a term for citizens of the United States who have ancestry in Sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of African Americans are descended from slaves from West and Central Africa and of course have become an integral part of the story of the United States, gaining the right to vote with the 15th amendment in 1870, but struggling with their civil rights for at least another century. Predominantly living in the south of the nation where they were brought to work on the cotton plantations and as slaves in the late 18th to mid-19th centuries, Black or African Americans also have sizable communities in the Chicago area of Illinois and Detroit, Michigan.
Another group who joined the great story of the United States were the Irish and the great famine of the 1840s sparked mass migration from Ireland. It is estimated that between 1820 and 1920, 4.5 million Irish moved to the United States and settled in the large cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco. Currently, almost 12 percent of the total population of the United States claim Irish ancestry - compared with a total population of six and a half million for the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland today.
And from 1990 to 2000, the number of people who claimed Mexican ancestry almost doubled in size to 31,789,483 people. Those with Mexican ancestry are most common along the Southwestern border of the United States and is largest ancestry in Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, Dallas and San Antonio. In many states, the Hispanic population doubled between the 2000 and 2010 census. In New Mexico, Hispanics outstripped whites for the first time, reaching 46 per cent compared to 40 per cent. The figures reveal the changing face of the U.S., with the number of Hispanics up by 15 million by the 2010 census, from these figures in 2000. Hispanic children now account for one in four American youngsters as a portrait emerges of a country with an aging white population and rapid minority growth. While Hispanic communities cover a swath of states from California to Texas, American Indians are more dispersed, with pockets of populations in states including Arizona, New Mexico, Montana and the Dakotas, with a higher concentration in Alaska.
The next largest grouping of people in the United States by ancestry are those who claim to be English-American. Predominantly found in the Northwest and West, the number of people directly claiming to be English-American has dropped by 20 million since the 1980 U.S. Census because more citizens have started to identify themselves as American. They are based predominantly in the northeast of the country in New England and in Utah, where the majority of Mormon immigrants moved in the middle 19th century.
The surprising number of people across the nation claiming to have American ancestry is due to them making a political statement, or because they are simply uncertain about their direct descendants. Indeed, this is a particularly common feature in the south of the nation, where political tensions between those who consider themselves original settlers and those who are more recent exist.
One of the most influential nationalities to migrate in large numbers to the United States were the Italians. Between 1880 and 1920, more than 4 million Italian immigrants arrived in the United States forming 'Little Italies' wherever they went. Bringing their food, culture and entertainment to the nation, another large wave of Italian immigrants arrived in the country following WWII, bringing the total number today to 17,558,598 people.
The largest of the Slavic groups to live in the United States, Polish Americans were some of the earliest Eastern European colonists to the New World. Up to 2.5 million Polies came to the United States between the mid-19th century and World War 1 and flocked to the largest industrial cities of New York, Buffalo, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Chicago.
Historically, along with the English, the French colonized North America first and successfully in the North East in the border areas alongside Quebec and in the south around New Orleans and Louisiana.
The map also reveals a concentration of people stating American as their ethnic heritage, mostly in the South. Many may have stated American on the census form as a political statement, or because they have a mixed or unknown heritage, according to Business Insider.
While the United States has its roots in being a welcoming place for immigrants, that hasn't always been the case. As a wave of new arrivals flooded U.S. shores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but a movement to restrict who was allowed into the country took hold as well.
In 1882, Congress enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first major federal law to put immigration limits in place and the only one in American history aimed at a specific nationality. It came into being in response to fears, primarily on the West Coast, that an influx of Chinese immigrants was weakening economic conditions and lowering wages. It was extended in 1902.
Other laws followed, like the Immigration Act of 1917, which created an "Asiatic Barred Zone" to restrict immigration from that part of the world, and the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, which limited the number of immigrants from any country to 3 percent of those people from that country who had been living in the United States as of 1910.
The 1924 Immigration Act capped the number of immigrants from a particular country at 2 percent of the population of that country already living in the United States in 1890. That favored immigrants from northern and western European countries like Great Britain over immigrants from southern and eastern European countries like Italy.
It also prevented any immigrant ineligible for citizenship from coming to America. Since laws already on the books prohibited people of any Asian origin from becoming citizens, they were barred entry. The law was revised in 1952, but kept the quota system based on country of origin in the U.S. population and only allowed low quotas to Asian nations.
The American children of Italian and other European immigrants saw that law "as a slur against their own status" and fought for the system to be changed, said Mae Ngai, professor of history and Asian American studies at Columbia University. In fighting for change, they looked to the civil rights movement.
The political leaders who agreed with them saw it in the same terms, as a change needed for equality's sake, as well as to be responsive to shifting relationships with nations around the world. Speaking to the American Committee on Italian Migration in June 1963, President John F. Kennedy cited the "nearly intolerable" plight of those who had family members in other countries who wanted to come to the U.S. and could be useful citizens, but were being blocked by "the inequity and maldistribution of the quota numbers."
Two years later, in signing into law a replacement system that established a uniform number of people allowed entry to the United States despite national origin, President Lyndon B. Johnson said it would correct "a cruel and enduring wrong in the conduct of the American nation."
The Largest Ancestry Groups In The United States
Liz O'conner, Gus Lubin, and Dina Spector AUG. 13, 2013, Business Insider
It's not easy to identify all of the ingredients in the great American Melting Pot. The 2010 U.S. Census left off questions about ancestry to avoid controversy, though the Census Bureau's American Community Survey separately tracks Hispanic and Latino origin, Asian origin, American Indian and Alaska Native tribal groupings, and various other ancestry groups. African American, which appeared as a major ancestry group in the 2000 Census, is now listed by the Census as a racial group, with ancestry listed only for smaller groups from specific African countries.
We have updated this post to count the Black or African American racial group as America's second-largest ancestry group. We have also added Arab and West Indian ancestry groups to this list, since they represent significant ethnic groups when counted together even if they don't make the list when tracked for specific countries. Below is a list showing many of America's largest ancestry groups. Please note that respondents may have selected more than one ancestry group or race.
The largest wave of Germans came to America during the middle of the 19th century, facing civil unrest and high unemployment at home. Today, the majority of German-Americans can be found in the non-coastal states, with the largest number in Maricopa County, Arizona. Famous
41,284,752 Black or African Americans
Black or African American are terms used for citizens or residents of the U.S. with part or total ancestry from a native population of Sub-Saharan Africa. Most African Americans are the descendants of slavesfrom West and Central Africa. The group gained the right to vote with the 15th amendment in 1870 — and through decades of subsequent legal battles.
The great famine of the 1840s sparked a mass exodus from Ireland. Between 1820 and the 1920s, an estimated 4.5 million Irish moved to the United States, many of whom settled in large cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. At least 22 U.S. presidents have been of Irish descent.
Between 1990 and 2000 the number of people who reported Mexican ancestry nearly doubled in size. Mexican is the most commonly reported ancestry along the Southwestern border of the United States and leading ancestry in Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, Dallas, and San Antonio, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
English Americans are found in large numbers in the Northwest and West, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. The number of people who reported English ancestry decreased by at least 20 million since the 1980 U.S. Census, partly because more citizens of English descent have started to list themselves as "American."
A large number of people claim American ancestry, either as a political statement or because their pre-American ancestry is mixed or uncertain. This is particularly common in the South.
Between 1880 and 1920, more than 4 million Italian immigrants arrived in the United States. Immigrants formed "Little Italies" in many large Northeastern cities as well as remote areas in California and Louisiana. As these communities grew and prospered, Italian food, entertainment, and music greatly influenced American life and culture. Another large wave of immigrants arrived after World War II. Today, the largest concentration of Italian-Americans can be found in Suffolk County, New York.
Polish Americans are the largest of the Slavic groups in the United States and represent some of the earliest colonists in the New World. Immigration reached new heights between the mid-19th century and World War I, when an estimated 2.5 million Poles entered the United States. These new arrivals flocked to industrial cities like New York, Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Chicago in search of a better economic life.
9,136,092 French (except Basque)
Historically, the number of immigrants from France has been smaller than from other European nations. Figures may also be lower since French Americans are more specifically identified as French Canadian, Acadian, or Louisiana Creole by the U.S. Census. States with the largest French communities include California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New York.
More than one million Scots left for the United States in the 19th century, many in search of work in the shipping industry. Scottish immigrants continued to trickle in through the 1920s, especially as economic conditions worsened in Scotland. California, Florida, Texas, New York, and Michigan have the most Scottish descendants.
Between 1717 and 1775 hundreds of thousands of Scotch-Irish immigrated to the United States, mostly coming from the province of Ulster in Northern Ireland. Most settled in New England, but many moved westward toward the frontier, settling in Appalachia or even further west. Today Scotch-Irish can be found throughout the country, but still dominate the East Coast.
4,920,336 American Indian or Alaska Native
Nearly 5 million Americans identify as Native American or Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races, while 2,502,653 Americans identify as Native American or Alaska Native alone. As of 2012, 70% of Native Americans live in urban areas according to The New York Times. The largest American Indian tribe is the Cherokee with 284,000 full-blooded individuals. Alaska has the highest Native American population, followed by New Mexico, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Montana, according to the 2010 Census.
New York City (originally New Amsterdam) was established by Dutch Immigrants in the early 17th century. Although Dutch immigration slowed in the 18th century, a new wave of Dutchmen came to America following World War II. Today, Dutch Americans are concentrated in several counties in Michigan and Ohio. Many Dutch Americans also live in California, New York, and Pennsylvania.
4,607,774 Puerto Rican
Puerto Ricans first began migrating to the States in large numbers after the 1917 passing of the Jones-Shafroth act granted all Puerto Ricans U.S. Citizenship. Since then, Puerto Rican immigration to the continental U.S. has been significant, with numbers spiking since the late '90s. As of the 2010 Census, the highest number of Puerto Ricans could be found in New York, followed by Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The annual Puerto Rican Day Parade in Manhattan draws millions of spectators each year and is one of the largest outdoor events in the United States.
Norwegian immigration reached its peak between the end of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century. Between 1880 and 1893, Norwegian immigration was the second largest in Europe behind Ireland. Historically, the majority of Norwegian Americans live in the upper Midwest, especially Minnesota, western Wisconsin, northern Iowa and the Dakotas.
During the 19th century, Swedish emigration to the United States was largely motivated by economic advancement. From 1851 to 1930, more than 1.2 million Swedes crossed the Atlantic, traditionally settling in Midwest homesteads. By the turn of the century, however, more Swedes moved to urban centers in search of industrial jobs. Today, Minnesota has the largest concentration of Swedish descendants in the country.
3,245,080 Chinese (except Taiwanese)
Chinese immigrants first began arriving on the West Coast in the early 1820s and trickled in slowly up until the Gold Rush began, when the Chinese American population grew exponentially. The majority of Chinese Americans today live in California, with notable communities in Hawaii and around New York City, Boston, and Chicago.
Alaska was originally settled and controlled by Russians. After the U.S. purchased the land in 1867, many Russians remained in the territory. However, most came to America during the large wave of European immigration that took place during the late 19th century. U.S. states with the highest percentage of people who claim some sort of Russian ancestry include Maryland, New York, North Dakota, and South Dakota, according to the 2000 census.
2,781,904 Asian Indian
Asian Indians had been immigrating to the U.S. in small numbers for decades, but starting in 2000, the population has grown rapidly. The Asian Indian population was one of the most rapidly-growing ethnic groups in the U.S. as of 2011. They comprise over 16% of the Asian-American community and are one of the highest-educated groups in the nation. California, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Illinois were the states with the highest populations of Indian Americans as of the 2000 Census.
2,625,306 West Indian (except Hispanic groups)
This group includes Americans who self-identified as Bahamian, Barbadian, Belizean, Bermudan, British West Indian, Dutch West Indian, Haitian, Jamaican, Trinidadian and Tobagonian, or U.S. Virgin Islander. 290,828 people also stated that they were simply "West Indian" or "Other West Indian." Many West Indians first came to the United States in search of economic opportunity at the turn of the century, and West Indian immigration continued until the onset of the Great Depression. Another wave of West Indian immigrants came to America in the 1950s and 1960s.
The 1965 Immigration Act led large numbers of Filipinos to immigrate to the U.S.; more than 40,000 Filipinos have been arriving in the U.S. annually since 1979. Filipinos make up a large part of the visa waitlist. California, Hawaii, greater New York, Illinois, and Texas all have large Filipino populations.
2,087,970 French Canadian
French Canadian Americans make up a large and diverse group. Many immigrated to America from Quebec between 1840 and the late 1920s, while others in more Midwestern states had lived there for generations. Many Americans of recent French Canadian descent speak French at home. French Canadian Americans today are overwhelmingly concentrated in New England, with the state of Maine having the highest population.
In the late 1600s, Welsh Quakers began coming to America in droves, settling largely in Pennsylvania and later in Ohio. The Welsh language was commonly spoken in many of these intensely-Welsh areas until the 1950s when it began to die out. Today, Welsh Americans can be found around the country, with particularly high numbers in the Midwest.
Cubans began immigrating to the states in the early 1900s, with large numbers flowing in after the Cuban revolution of 1959. Today, Cuban Americans are major contributors to politics, professional sports, academia, and the entertainment industry. Nearly 70% of Cuban Americans live in Florida, but prominent Cuban communities can also be found within New York and New Jersey.
Before 1960, the U.S. was home to fewer than 10,000 Salvadorans, but the Salvadoran Civil War in the 1980s forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee El Salvador. Many of them came to America. California, Texas, New York, Virginia, and Maryland have the highest number of Salvadorans. They also make up the largest Latino group on Long Island, surpassing Puerto Ricans.
Arab Americans from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and Syria, among other countries, comprise a large and diverse ancestry group that has been settling in the U.S. since the late 1800s. According to the Arab American Institute, nearly 94% of Arab Americans live in metropolitan areas. The metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of Arab Americans include Los Angeles, Detroit, New York/New Jersey, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
Many Vietnamese immigrants came to America after the Vietnam war, often via boat, to escape extreme poverty or persecution. Today, Vietnamese Americans make up nearly half of all Vietnamese living overseas and are the fourth-largest Asian American group.
Czech immigrants were known in the 19th and early 20th centuries as "Bohemian" since they originally came from the lands that made up what was once the empire of the Bohemian crown. These lands are now presided over in large part by the Czech Republic. The most Czech Americans can be found in Texas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
Hungarian Americans comprise one of America's oldest ethnic groups, with records of Hungarians participating in the American Revolution. After the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, even more Hungarians came to the states in search of a better life.
The Portuguese have a long history in the U.S., with Portuguese soldiers fighting in the American Revolution. A large wave of Portuguese immigrants also came to the U.S. in the mid-to-late 20th century. Areas with notable Portuguese populations include the Metro Boston area, the Tri-state area, and the San Francisco/Oakland Bay area.
Korean Americans make up the second-largest Korean diaspora community in the world (the largest is in China). The 1965 Immigration Act allowed large numbers of Koreans to immigrate to the United States, a pattern which has continued to present day. Since 1975, Koreans have ranked among the top 5 groups of immigrants to the U.S. Most Koreans live in New York, New Jersey, California, and Illinois, according to the 2000 Census.
Danes have been living in the U.S. since the late 1600s, but they steadily immigrated to America for much of the 1800s before Danish immigration tapered off. California, Utah, Minnesota, and Wisconsin all have large numbers of Danish Americans.
1,414,551 Dominican (Dominican Republic)
After the fall of dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1965, the U.S. occupied the Dominican Republic in order to end a civil war. The U.S. also eased travel restrictions, and as a result, large numbers of Dominicans began immigrating to the U.S. in the late 1960s. The states with the most Dominican Americans are New York, New Jersey, Florida, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.
Although Greek heritage has been recorded in the U.S. since the 1600s, the most substantial number of Greek immigrants came to the U.S. from the mid-1800s up until Greece's admission to the European Union in 1981. Today the U.S. is home to the largest Greek community outside of Greece.
Elizabeth Freeman ("Mumbet") 1742-1829
Elizabeth Freeman ("Mumbet") was born a slave around 1742. She was raised, along with her younger sister Lizzie, in Claverack, Columbia County, New York (about 20 miles south of Albany). Her owner, a Dutchman named Pieter Hogeboom, gave the two girls to Sheffield, Massachusetts, resident John Ashley when he married Hogeboom's daughter Annetje.
Family lore suggests that after 40 years of bondage in the Ashley household, Mumbet was prompted to seek her freedom when Annetje attempted to strike Mumbet's younger sister with a shovel. Mumbet blocked the blow, but was seriously injured, never regaining the full use of her arm. In a contrasting account, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, who would later record Mumbet's life story, reported that Freeman decided to seek freedom after hearing a public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
Whatever the reason, Mumbet turned in 1781 to Theodore Sedgwick, a prominent Stockbridge attorney, to help secure her freedom. Legal action began in the spring of 1781, when Mumbet (and another slave man known as Brom) brought a suit for freedom against John Ashley. Brom & Bett v. John Ashley, Esq. would turn into one of the most important legal cases in Massachusetts history. When John Ashley refused a writ of replevin (a court order to return or release unlawfully obtained property), he was ordered to appear before the Court of Common Pleas in Great Barrington on 21 August 1781. Sedgwick's principal argument stated that slavery was inherently illegal under the newly ratified Massachusetts Constitution, which stated that: "All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness."
This section of the state constitution has since been altered to explicitly forbid discrimination on the basis of "sex, race, color, creed or national origin." The jury found Sedgwick's arguments convincing, and both Mumbet and Brom were set free. John Ashley was also instructed to pay thirty shillings in damages plus trial costs. Ashley initially appealed this decision to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, the highest court in the Commonwealth; however, he dropped his appeal before it came before the court, presumably because of the intervening decisions in the Quock Walker trials, which made it clear that no court in Massachusetts would ever find slavery legal under the new Constitution.
Almost nothing is known about Brom's life as a free man, but the remaining 48 years of Mumbet's life are very well documented. She became a paid servant in the household of Theodore Sedgwick, and Sedgwick's youngest daughter, Catharine Maria, wrote a draft account of Mumbet's life, that was published under the title "Slavery in New England," in Bentley's Miscellany in 1853.
Mumbet remained a beloved servant of the Sedgwick family for the rest of her life. In one famous incident, she single-handedly defended the Sedgwick house from a small mob of rebels during Shays' Rebellion in 1787 (Sedgwick himself was away from home working to end the rebellion). Mumbet was eventually able to achieve a small level of financial independence, even buying her own house before her death in 1829. She is the only non-Sedgwick buried in the "inner circle" of the Sedgwick family plot in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Her epitaph reads:
"Elizabeth Freeman, known by the name of Mumbet died Dec. 28 1829. Her supposed age was 85 years. She was born a slave and remained a slave for nearly thirty years. She could neither read nor write, yet in her own sphere she had no superior nor equal. She neither wasted time, nor property. She never violated a trust, nor failed to perform a duty. In every situation of domestic trial, she was the most efficient helper, and the tenderest friend. Good mother fare well."
American poet Phillis Wheatley probably was born in Senegal, Africa in the early 1750s. Her only written memory of Africa was of her mother performing a ritual of pouring water before the sun as it rose. When she was about 7, she became a commodity. She was kidnapped from her family, marched to the coast, sold to Peter Gwinn as slave cargo, and stowed on a ship called The Phillis for an unimaginable trip through the middle passage. When the dark ship finally reached its destination in Boston, the frightened little girl was sold at John Avery's slave auction to tailor John and his wife Susanna Wheatley on July 11, 1761. The prosperous Boston family named their new acquisition after the ship she arrived in; taught her English, Latin, and Greek; and treated her as a family member. The Wheatleys and their daughter, Mary, introduced Phillis to the Bible; and to 3 English poets – Milton, Pope and Gray. Phillis used her new language skills to write her own poetry.
She published her first poem at the age of 14. Her poem "On Messrs. Hussey and Coffin" appeared in the Newport Mercury in 1767. She was especially fond of writing in Pope's elegiac poetry style, perhaps because it also mirrored an oral tradition of her African tribal group. Both Europeans and Africans used poem and song as a lament for a deceased person. That she also was well-versed in Latin, which allowed her to write in the epyllion (short epic) style, became apparent with the publication of "Niobe in Distress."
She became a sensation in Boston in the early 1770s, when her poem elegy on the death of the extremely popular English-born evangelist George Whitefield gained wide circulation in colonial newspapers. Whitefield died September 30, 1770, in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Wheatley's elegy reached Selina Hastings of England, Countess of Huntingdon, who was a great admirer of Whitefield. The countess, in turn, sent Wheatley's poem to London papers, which reprinted it many times.
Because many found it hard to believe that a slave or a woman could write such poetry, in 1772, Wheatley received an attestation of authenticity from a group of Boston luminaries including John Hancock and Thomas Hutchinson, the governor of Massachusetts, which was printed in the preface to her book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral released in London in 1773. The book was issued from London, because publishers in Boston refused to publish it. Wheatley and her master's son, Nathanial Wheatley, had traveled to London, where the Countess of Huntingdon and the Earl of Dartmouth helped finance the publication.
Phillis' fame and the aging of her owners ultimately brought her freedom from slavery on October 18, 1773, just as the British American colonies were contemplating a freedom of their own. She received a letter from General Washington, after she had written a poem to Washington, lauding his appointment as commander of the Continental Army. On February 28, 1776, Washington wrote to Wheatley, "I thank you most sincerely for your polite notice of me, in the elegant Lines you enclosed; and however undeserving I may be...the style and manner exhibit a striking proof of your great poetical Talents."
Though Benjamin Franklin received her, and Washington personally met with her as well, Thomas Jefferson refused to acknowledge her intelligence and skill. In Notes on the State of Virginia, he declared, "Religion, indeed, has produced a Phillis Wheatley, but it could not produce a poet. The compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism."
Adopting classical styles, topics, neoclassical images, and scriptural allusions, allowed Wheatley to express a subtle critique of America's slaveholding colonies and emerging new republic. While she was a strong supporter of independence during the Revolutionary War, she felt slavery was the issue which kept Ameican whites, such as Jefferson, from true heroism. Wheatley wrote that whites could not "hope to find/Divine acceptance with th' Almighty mind" when "they disgrace/And hold in bondage Afric's blameless race."
In a letter which appeared on March 11, 1774, in the Connecticut Gazette, Wheatley wrote of the hipocrisy of freedom-loving slaveholders, "God grant Deliberance...upon all those whose Avarice impels them to countenance and help forward the Calamities of their fellow Creatures. This I desire not for their Hurt, but to convince them of the strange Absurdity of their Conduct whose Words and Actions are so diametrically opposite, How well the Cry for Liberty, and the reverse Disposition for the exercise of oppressive power over others agree I humbly think it does not require the penetration of a Philosopher to determine."
On April 1, 1778, she married a free black Bostonian named John Peters. Initially this marriage produced 2 babies who died in childhood. Despite tragedy and poverty, Phillis continued to write poetry. In 1779, she advertised in the Boston Evening Post and General Advertiser, in hopes of finding a publisher for a volume of 33 poems and 13 letters. In the struggling post-revolutionary economy, this volume was never published. In September 1784, The Boston Magazine published under her married name, Phillis Peters, a poem "To Mr. and Mrs.----, on the Death of Their Infant Son;" and in December, 1784, it published "Liberty and Peace" celebrating the outcome of the Revolutionary War, once again using her married name. She may never have seen the poems published in December.
By this time, her husband had deserted her, forcing Wheatley to earn a living as a scullery maid in a Boston boarding house for destitute blacks. On December 5, 1784, she died there in poverty at the age of 31, probably from an infection or blood clot contracted while giving birth. Her third baby died only a few hours later. They were buried together in an unmarked grave. The Boston Independent Chronicle reported, "Last Lord's Day, died Mrs. Phillis Peters (formerly Phillis Wheatley), aged thirty-one, known to the world by her celebrated miscellaneous poems. Her funeral is to be this afternoon, at four o'clock, from the house lately improved by Mr. Todd...where her friends and acquaintances are desired to attend."
Before her death, she had addressed several other poems to George Washington. She sent them to him, but he never responded again. Her last known poem was written for Washington. After Phillis' death, her estranged husband, John Peters, went to the woman who had provided temporary shelter for Phillis and demanded that she hand over the manuscripts of the proposed second volume. After Peters received Phillis' manuscripts, the second volume was never seen again.
Cotton Mather, (1663-1728) was a socially & politically influential New England Puritan minister
Cotton Mather's (1663-1728) RULES For the Society of NEGROES. 1693. (Mather's rules for allowing African Americans to worship in the church.)
WE the Miserable Children of Adam, and of Noah, thankfully Admiring and Accepting the Free-Grace of GOD, that Offers to Save us from our Miseries, by the Lord Jesus Christ, freely Resolve, with His Help, to become the Servants of that Glorious LORD.
And that we may be Assisted in the Service of our Heavenly Master, we now Join together in a SOCIETY, wherein the following RULES are to be observed.
I. It shall be our Endeavour, to Meet in the Evening after the Sabbath; and Pray together by Turns, one to Begin, and another to Conclude the Meeting; And between the two Prayers, a Psalm shall be Sung, and a Sermon Repeated.
II. Our coming to the Meeting, shall never be without the Leave of such as have Power over us: And we will be Careful, that our Meeting may Begin and Conclude between the Hours of Seven and Nine; and that we may not be unseasonably Absent from the Families whereto we pertain.
III. As we will, with the Help of God, at all Times avoid all Wicked Company, so we will Receive none into our Meeting, but such as have sensibly Reformed their Lives from all manner of Wickedness. And therefore, None shall be Admitted, without the Knowledge and Consent of the Minister of God in this Place; unto whom we will also carry every Person, that seeks for Admission among us; to be by Him Examined, Instructed and Exhorted.
IV. We will, as often as may be Obtain some Wise and of the English in the Neighbourhood, and especially the Offcers of the Church, to look in upon us, and by their Presence and Counsil, do what they think fitting for us.
V. If any of our Number, fall into the Sin of Drunkenness, or Swearing, or Cursing, or Lying, or Stealing, or notorious Disobedience or Unfaithfulness unto their Masters, we will Admonish him of his Miscarriage, and Forbid his coming to the Meeting, for at least one Fortnight; And except he then come with great Signs and Hopes of his Repentance, we will utterly Exclude him, with Blotting his Name out of our List.
VI. If any of our Society Dele himself with Fornication, we will give him our Admonition; and so, debar him from the Meeting, at least half a Year: Nor shall he Return to it, ever any more, without Exemplary Testimonies of his becoming a New Creature.
VII. We will, as we have Opportunity, set our selves to do all the Good we can, to the other Negro-Servants in the Town; And if any of them should, at unfit Hours, be Abroad, much more, if any of them should Run away from their Masters, we will afford them no Shelter: But we will do what in us lies, that they may be discovered, and punished. And if any of us, are found Faulty, in this Matter, they shall be no longer of us.
VIII. None of our Society shall be Absent from our Meeting, without giving a Reason of the Absence; And if it be found, that any have pretended unto their Owners, that they came unto the Meeting, when they were otherwise and elsewhere Employ'd, we will faithfully Inform their Owners, and also do what we can to Reclaim such Person from all such Evil Courses for the Future.
IX. It shall be expected from every one in the Society, that he learn the Catechism; And therefore, it shall be one of our usual Exercises, for one of us, to ask the Questions, and for all the rest in their Order, to say the Answers in the Catechism; Either, The New-English Catechism, or the Assemblies Catechism, or the Catechism in the Negro Christianized.
Slaves recorded as having arrived at MA on December 12, 1638 on board the ship Desire (depicted here by a 19C artist). In 1641 MA became the 1st colony to officially recognize slavery.
Massachusetts was the first slave-holding colony in New England, though the exact beginning of black slavery in what became Massachusetts cannot be dated exactly.
Slavery there is said to have predated the settlement of Massachusetts Bay colony in 1629, & circumstantial evidence gives a date of 1624-1629 for the first slaves. "Samuel Maverick, apparently New England's first slaveholder, arrived in Massachusetts in 1624 and, according to [John Gorham] Palfrey, owned two Negroes before John Winthrop, who later became governor of the colony, arrived in 1630."
The first certain reference to African slavery is in connection with the bloody Pequot War in 1637. The Pequot Indians of central Connecticut, pressed hard by encroaching European settlements, struck back & attacked the town of Wetherfield. A few months later, Massachusetts & Connecticut militias joined forces & raided the Pequot village near Mystic, Connecticut. Of the few Indians who escaped slaughter, the women & children were enslaved in New England. Roger Williams of Rhode Island wrote to Winthrop congratulating him on God's having placed in his hands "another drove of Adams' degenerate seed." But most of the Native Americn men & boys, deemed too dangerous to keep in the colony, were transported to the West Indies aboard the ship Desire, to be exchanged for African slaves.
The first documented reference to the slave trade in Massachusetts is in the journal of John Winthrop (the founder of Boston), who recorded on 26 February 1638 that the Massachusetts ship Desire had returned from the West Indies carrying "some cotton, and tobacco, and negroes, etc., from thence..." Boston was one of the primary ports of departure for slave ships. In Massachusetts, slaveholding probably was of limited economic importance except in Boston where craftsmen used slaves in their trades, but the slave trade out of Boston was much more significant.
"Such exchanges became routine during subsequent Indian wars, for the danger of keeping revengeful warriors in the colony far outweighed the value of their labor." In 1646, this became the official policy of the New England Confederation. As elsewhere in the New World, the shortage & expense of free, white labor motivated the quest for slaves. In 1645, Emanuel Downing, brother-in-law of John Winthrop, wrote to him longing for a "juste warre" with the Pequots, so the colonists might capture enough Indian men, women, & children to exchange in Barbados for black slaves, because the colony would never thrive "untill we gett ... a stock of slaves sufficient to doe all our business."
In 1644, Boston merchants began importing slaves directly from Africa, selling them in the West Indies, & bringing home sugar to make rum, initiating the so-called triangular trade. From 1672-1696, the British Parliament granted the Royal African Company a monopoly in the slave trade. Yankee slavers avoided the monopoly by smuggling slaves in through small coastal harbors. In 1681, John Saffin & other Boston merchants wrote to the shipmaster William Welstead, warning him, that the authorities planned to seize a slave ship heading for Rhode Island, & that he should intercept the vessel & direct it to Nantasket to offload its human cargo. In 1696 the British Parliament revoked the monopoly held by the Royal African Company, enabling Massachusetts merchants & shipmasters to engage freely in the slave trade.
By 1676, however, Boston ships had pioneered a slave trade to Madagascar, & they were selling black human beings to Virginians by 1678. For the home market, the Puritans generally took the Africans to the West Indies & sold them in exchange for a few experienced slaves, which they brought back to New England. In other cases, they brought back the weaklings, who could not be sold on the harsh West Indies plantations (Phyllis Wheatley, the poetess, was one) trying to get the best bargain they could for them in New England. Massachusetts merchants & ships were supplying slaves to Connecticut by 1680 & Rhode Island by 1696.
The break-up of the slave import monopolies & the defeat of the Dutch opened the way for New England's aggressive pursuit of the slave trade in the early 1700s. At the same time, the expansion of New England industries created a shortage of labor, which slaves filled. From fewer than 200 slaves in 1676, & 550 in 1708, the Massachusetts slave population jumped to about 2,000 in 1715. It reached its largest % of the total population between 1755 & 1764, when it stood at around 2.2 percent. The slaves concentrated in the industrial & seaside towns; however, & Boston was about 10 percent black in 1752.
Colonial governors in the 18C were specifically forbidden to assent to any law laying duties on or discouraging the slave trade. There were some attempts to regulate or even to eliminate the slave trade, but most were ineffective or of short duration. A miscegenation act of 1705-1706 included a £4 import duty on slaves brought into the colony, but an owner could recoup his expenses if a slave were sold out of the colony within a year, or if the slave died within six weeks of import. It has been argued that this act, rather than curtailing the slave trade, was simply a revenue-raising endeavor for the colony.
As in other maritime colonies of New England, the richest & most powerful families were among the chief slavers. Cornelius Waldo, maternal great-grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was a slave merchant on a large scale, a proud importer of "Choice Irish Duck, fine Florence wine, negro slaves and Irish butter." His ship, Africa, plied the Middle Passage packed with 200 black people at a time crammed below-decks, though lethal epidemics of "flux" sometimes tore through the captives cutting into Waldo's profits. Peter Fanueil, meanwhile, inherited one of the largest fortunes of his day, which was built in large part on his uncle's slave trade. His philanthropy with this money gave Boston its famed Fanueil Hall.
Massachusetts, like many American colonies, had roots in a scrupulous fundamentalist Protestantism. Christianity was no barrier to slave-ownership, however. The Puritans regarded themselves as God's Elect, so they had no difficulty with slavery, which had the sanction of the Law of the God of Israel. The Calvinist doctrine of predestination easily supported the Puritans in a position, that blacks were a people cursed & condemned by God to serve whites. Cotton Mather wrote that blacks they were the "miserable children of Adam & Noah," for whom slavery had been ordained as a punishment.
A Massachusetts law of 1641, specifically linked slavery to Biblical authority, & established for slaves the set of rules "which the law of God, established in Israel concerning such people, doth morally require." When 2 Massachusetts slave merchants joined with London slave raiders in a massacre of an African village in 1645, the colonial government registered its indignation, because the two men were guilty of the Biblical crime of "man-stealing" (kidnapping Africans instead of acquiring them in the approved way, in exchange for rum or trinkets) - and because the slaughter of 100 or so villagers had taken place on a Sunday. Nonetheless, because of its Scriptural foundation, Massachusetts' attitudes toward slaves in some ways were more progressive than those of other colonies.
Slaves in Massachusetts usually lived with their owners & had more direct contact with family members than the way of life we associate with plantation slavery in the West Indies & later in the American south. The Massachusetts courts recognized the right of slaves to hold & dispose of some property; to keep wages for work done not on their masters' time; to bring suit in court; & the right to jury trials, legal counsel, & some legal protection. While slaves were generally taxed as property, they were also considered to be persons by the legal system.
The diversified New England economy placed African Americans in a variety of occupations: domestic service, farming, skilled & unskilled labor, maritime trades, innkeeping, catering, & other small industries. Slaves in poor health, who were unable to work, were considered a burden. Towns passed legislation to avoid fiscal responsibility for the unemployed, the elderly, & the infirm, both slave & free.
Daily life of African Americans was controlled through legislation. A 1703 law forbade blacks, Native Americans, & mulattos from venturing out after 9:00 p.m., unless on a master's errand. There were other laws governing curfews, marriage, shopping, ownership of livestock, travel, & trade.
Like Connecticut & Rhode Island, however, Massachusetts had a problem with masters who simply turned out their slaves when they grew too old or feeble to work. Unlike the later Southern system, which took pride in its paternal care for slaves in their old age, Massachusetts masters had to be forced to keep theirs by a 1703 law requiring them to post bond for every slave manumitted in order to provide against the slave becoming indigent & the responsibility of some town. There are also instances on record of slave mothers' children given away like puppies or kittens by masters unwilling or unable to support them. There was no law against this.
Later reminiscences, long after slavery's end, emphasized the benign nature of Massachusetts slavery, but the laws & statutes of the time show it to be grim. Fear of an uprising no doubt was behind the 1656 exclusion of blacks (& Indians) from military duty. Concern about fugitive slaves, meanwhile, probably lay behind the 1680 act by which the colony imposed heavy fines on captains of ships & vessels that took blacks aboard, or sailed away with them without permission from the government. Protection of masters' property from slave theft certainly motivated the 1693 statute that forbade anyone from buying anything from a black, Indian, & mulatto servant.
Advertisements for slaves printed in the Boston Evening Post of July 16, 1739.
Boston, which had the largest slave population, also had its own layer of controls, on top of the province-wide ones. In statutes enacted at various times between the 1720s - 1750s, slaves in Boston were forbidden to buy provisions in market; carry a stick or a cane; keep hogs or swine; or stroll about the streets, lanes, or Common at night or at all on Sunday. Punishments for violation of these laws ranged up to 20 lashes, depending on aggravating factors.
Black slaves were singled out for punishment by whipping, if they broke street lamps, under a law of 1753; & a special law allowed severe whippings for any black person who hit a white one (1705-6).
There were several ways that a slave in colonial Massachusetts could gain his or her freedom. Perhaps the most straightforward, and by far the most dangerous, method was simply to run away.
Another path to freedom was that of manumission (the legal act of freeing a slave), a tradition as old as the Roman Empire. Writs of manumission were all that was required to free a slave; however, for a short time after the passage of a 1703 colonial law, the government declared that no slave could be manumitted without posting a £50 bond with the municipal government. This bond was intended to ensure that the former slave could be provided with food & lodging, in case of unemployment or illness. Slaves could also be manumitted by purchasing their own freedom.
Another option slaves had to gain their own freedom was by legal petition. In the early 1770s, groups of Massachusetts slaves & freemen petitioned the colonial government claiming that freedom was a right belonging to all men & women. Even though there was much public discussion of liberty & freedom in the years leading up to the Revolution, the Massachusetts colonial government had little authority to end, or even curtail, slavery or the slave trade because of instructions from Parliament to the royal governor, & none of the petitions succeeded.
Many African Americans participated in military activities during the American Revolution. It is estimated that 5,000 African Americans served in the Revolutionary army. A much larger number (possibly 100,000) fled to British-controlled territory & many served with the British forces. During the first years of the war, George Washington was reluctant to use African Americans in battle, but as the war progressed, both sides formed African American units. In Massachusetts, where the small African American population included some free blacks, some African Americans served within regular militia, state, & Continental regiments, rather than in separate, segregated units.
During the earliest battles of the American Revolution, African Americans fought alongside whites against the British troops within some of the militia units raised by the New England colonies. After the Continental Army was formed in mid-1775, the Continental Congress & General George Washington implemented a series of different enlistment policies regarding African Americans. In July 1775, no new free African Americans were permitted to enlist in the Continental Army, & some efforts were made by the Continental Congress to remove all blacks then serving from the existing regiments. However, as the Revolution continued & troops were needed to sustain the war effort, the Continental Congress & Army changed their policies. In January 1776, the Congress removed the restriction on reenlisting free African Americans. In 1777, General Washington issued orders that regiments could enlist any free man (regardless of the color of his skin).
Emancipation in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Legislature in 1777, tabled a proposal for gradual emancipation. The 1778 draft constitution legally recognized slavery & banned free blacks from voting. It was rejected at the polls, for other reasons. The more liberal state constitution approved 2 years later contained a bill of rights that declared "all men are born free and equal, and have ... the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberty."
This provided the basis for abolishing slavery in Massachusetts, but it clearly was not the intent of the Legislature to do so. Popular sentiment & the courts were pro-abolition, however. And it was a 1783 judicial decision, interpreting the wording of the 1780 constitution, that brought slavery to an end in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts had a strong, politically active white working class which perpetually sought an end to slavery, not for the benefit of blacks but to remove them from local economic competition. "If the gentlemen had been permitted by law to hold slaves," John Adams wrote, "the common people would have put the Negroes to death, and their masters too, perhaps."
1. Lorenzo Johnston Greene, The Negro in Colonial New England, 1620-1776. N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1942, p.16.
2. Edgar J. McManus, Black Bondage in the North, p.6.
3. Greene, p.62.
4. Letters and Documents Relating to Slavery in Massachusetts, MHS Colls., 5th Ser., III (1877), pp.401-2.
Research for this article comes from the Massachusetts Historical Society and from Douglas Harper, a graduate of Dickinson College, is a historian, author, journalist, & lecturer based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is the founder and maintainer of the Online Etymology Dictionary. He is the author of four books on Pennsylvania history.
Probably Lucas Cranach (c 1472-1553) or his workshop. Madonna & Child 1525
In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were the core of early Western art.
Probably Lucas Cranach (c 1472-1553) or his workshop. Madonna & Child 1525
In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were the core of early Western art.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
The intricate steps involved in planting, cultivating, harvesting, and preparing rice required an immense labor force. Planters stated that African slaves were particularly suited to provide that labor force for two reasons: 1) rice was grown in some areas of Africa and there was evidence that some slaves were familiar with the methods of cultivation practiced there, and 2) it was thought that the slaves, by virtue of their racial characteristics, were better able than white laborers to withstand the extreme heat and humidity of the tidal swamps and therefore would be more productive workers. Rice cultivation resulted in a dramatic increase in the numbers of slaves owned by South Carolinians before the American Revolution.
In 1680, four-fifths of South Carolina's population was white. However, black slaves outnumbered white residents two to one in 1720, and by 1740, slaves constituted nearly 90% of the population. Much of the growing slave population came from the West Coast of Africa, a region that had gained notoriety by exporting its large rice surpluses.
While there is no consensus on how rice first reached the American coast, there is much debate over the contribution of African-born slaves to its successful cultivation. New research demonstrates that the European planters lacked prior knowledge of rice farming, while uncovering the long history of skilled rice cultivation in West Africa. Furthermore, Islamic, Portuguese, and Dutch traders all encountered and documented extensive rice cultivation in Africa before South Carolina was even settled.
At first rice was treated like other crops, it was planted in fields and watered by rains. By the mid-18th century, planters used inland swamps to grow rice by accumulating water in a reservoir, then releasing the stored water as needed during the growing season for weeding and watering. Similarly, prior records detail Africans controlling springs and run off with earthen embankments for the same purposes of weeding and watering.
A slave's daily work on an antebellum rice plantation was divided into tasks. Each field hand was given a task--usually nine or ten hours' hard work--or a fraction of a task to complete each day according to his or her ability. The tasks were assigned by the driver, a slave appointed to supervise the daily work of the field hands. The driver held the most important position in the slave hierarchy on the rice plantation. His job was second only to the overseer in terms of responsibility.
The driver's job was particularly important because each step of the planting, growing, and harvesting process was crucial to the success or failure of the year's crop. In the spring, the land was harrowed and plowed in preparation for planting. Around the first of April rice seed was sown by hand using a small hoe. The first flooding of the field, the sprout flow, barely covered the seed and lasted only until the grain sprouted. The water was then drained to keep the delicate sprout from floating away, and the rice was allowed to grow for approximately three weeks. Around the first of May any grass growing among the sprouts was weeded by hoe and the field was flooded by the point flow to cover just the tops of the plants. After a few days the water was gradually drained until it half covered the plants. It remained at this level--the long flow--until the rice was strong enough to stand. More weeding followed and then the water was slowly drained completely off the field. The ground around the plants was hoed to encourage the growth and extension of the roots. After about three weeks, the field was hoed and weeded again, at which time--around mid-June or the first of July--the lay-by flow was added and gradually increased until the plants were completely submerged. This flow was kept on the field for about two months with fresh water periodically introduced and stagnant water run off by the tidal flow through small floodgates called trunks.
Rice planted in the first week of April was usually ready for harvesting by the first week of September. After the lay-by flow was withdrawn, just before the grain was fully ripe, the rice was cut with large sickles known as rice hooks and laid on the ground on the stubble. After it had dried overnight, the cut rice was tied into sheaves and taken by flatboat to the threshing yard. In the colonial period, threshing was most often done by beating the stalks with flails. This process was simple but time consuming. If the rice was to be sold rough, it was then shipped to the agent; otherwise, it was husked and cleaned--again, usually by hand. By the mid-19th century most of the larger plantations operated pounding and/or threshing mills which were driven by steam engines. After the rice had been prepared, it was packed in barrels, or tierces, and shipped to the market at Georgetown or Charleston. In 1850 a rice plantation in the Georgetown County area produced an average yield of 300,000 pounds of rice. The yield had increased to 500,000 pounds by 1860.
See National Park Service