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  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Who Really Ran the Underground Railroad?

    One of the genuine pleasures of teaching African-American Studies today is the satisfaction of being able to restore to the historical record "lost" events and the individuals whose sacrifices and bravery created those events, never to be lost again. Few institutions from the black past have attracted more attention recently from teachers, students, museum curators and the tourism industry than the Underground Railroad, one of the most venerable and philanthropic innovations in our ancestors' long and dreadful history in human bondage. But in the zeal to tell the story of this great institution, legend and lore have sometimes overwhelmed historical facts. Separating fact from fiction -- always an essential part of telling it like it really was -- has required a great deal of effort from a number of scholars. Doing so only makes the sacrifices and heroism of our ancestors and their allies all the more noble, heroic and impressive....

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    New Hampshire to consider honoring a 233-year-old petition from slaves seeking freedom

    CONCORD, N.H. — When 20 slaves petitioned New Hampshire two centuries ago seeking their freedom, lawmakers decided the time wasn’t right and delayed action.Now, 233 years later, legislators in one of the nation’s whitest states have decided the time is right to consider the request. A Senate committee on Wednesday unanimously recommended the full body posthumously emancipate the 14 petitioners who never were granted freedom.Woullard Lett, a member of the Manchester NAACP, said it’s never too late to right a wrong....

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Author and historian Walt Bachman uncovers the story of Minnesota slavery

    In the annals of emancipation, Minnesota is recognized as one of the “free states.”But when author and historian Walt Bachman began digging into his family history, he uncovered substantial evidence that as late as the 1850s, slaves were kept by officers at Fort Snelling and Fort Ridgely, in full knowledge of — and even subsidized by — the government.When these slaves were sold to civilians, they continued to live in Minnesota under the bonds of slavery, and their children were born into slavery.“Slavery in the North was not tied to agriculture or industry, as it was in the South. They typically worked as house servants,” said Bachman.“In Minnesota, there were never large gangs of farm workers, or auction blocks. There weren’t those trappings of the worst forms of slavery,” he said. “But there is ample evidence of brutality towards slaves in Minnesota, including a slave who was whipped to death by her Army officer master. Slavery, wherever it was practiced, was a pernicious institution, and Minnesota was no exception.”...

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