Thursday, January 10, 2013

Additions to The Abolitionist Map of America

We've just added two more "pins" to The Abolitionist Map of America: information about two key abolitionist tracts: Harriet Beecher Stowe's A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, and American Slavery As It Is, compiled by Theodore D. Weld and Angelina and Sarah Grimke. For those of you who watched the first episode of The Abolitionists, you might recall the mention of American Slavery. You can read more about the books, including Amistad's unique copy of American Slavery at previous blog posts.

Title page of American Slavery As It Is, 1839.

Posted by Christopher Harter

Image may not be reproduced without permission.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Amistad Contributes to The Abolitionist Map of America

The Abolitionists, a three-part docudrama, premiers tonight on PBS as part of its American Experience series. Not only did the Amistad Research Center provide images of noted abolitionists for the series, but the Center was also invited to contribute to The Abolitionist Map of America, an online, interactive resource available through the PBS website and as a downloadable app for iPhones.

Amistad will continue to add new digital material to the map, which includes digitized letters, illustrations, and other documents along with descriptions. Viewers can search the map and click on documents "pinned" to the map to learn more. Our contributions chronicle not only the abolitionist movement in the United States, but reflect the international aspect of the movement through the inclusion of items discussing abolitionism in Canada, England, and Sierra Leone. Feel free to search the map or you can locate Amistad's contributions directly here.

Check back as we add more content to the map, but in the meantime enjoy The Abolitionists, which airs January 8, 15, and 22.

Posted by Christopher Harter

Tuskegee Lynching Map: Amistad Research Center on

Slate's The Vault blog has featured a horrifying and sobering graphic from our holdings in today's segment.  The Library of Congress' version of the same image has enhanced navigability features so you can glean data points for individual counties.

Posted by Andrew Salinas

Map from the Dorothy Sterling Collection. 
Image not to be reused without written permission.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Pamphlet Outlines Efforts to End Apartheid

Cover of Let the People Decide!
While processing a series of the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) records, I discovered an interesting booklet about negotiations among South African government officials and the African National Congress. Founded in 1912, the ANC challenged injustice by focusing on uniting all African people and leading the struggle for fundamental political, social and economic change for a free and democratic society.  The booklet, entitled Let the People Decide! Negotiations and the Struggle for a Democratic South Africa, was published in January 1991 and explains that the ANC decided to talk to the South African government in hopes that their discourse would create peaceful negotiations and the formation of a non-racial, non-sexist, and united South Africa. The ANC’s Department of Political Education purposefully designed the publication in a graphic, easy to read format in order to simply and clearly explain political issues in South Africa and discuss ways of ending the conflict between differing parties. 

After many years of protests against the racially divisive apartheid system were met with continuous violence by the National Party law enforcement, the ANC called for mass action for peace and freedom through talks with the government.  The booklet explains the ANC’s aim for a peaceful, united democratic society, which included mobilization of people in civic and youth organizations, trade unions, and churches.  It also defines the Harare Declaration, the ANC’s plan to achieve peaceful negotiations, which was approved by the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations. 

Page from Let the People Decide!
discussing the Harare Declaration.
In 1990, the ANC created the Harare Declaration, which insisted that the government release all political prisoners unconditionally; terminate bans on liberation organizations such as the ANC, Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), and the South African Communist Party (SACP); end the State of Emergency within the black townships; and cancel all security legislation deemed oppressive for black South Africans.  Other demands by the ANC included a cease in fighting by both sides and an agreement on how to end apartheid and replace the system with a new government and constitution.  

In reaction to the ANC’s demands, President Frederick William de Klerk agreed to negotiation talks in February 1990 and released Nelson Mandela from 27 years of imprisonment. He also lifted the State of Emergency and unbanned the ANC, PAC, and SACP, while over 3,000 other political prisoners remained in jails and other security laws were left steadfastly in place. To continue the talks for negotiations, to persuade the National Party to release the other 3,000 political prisoners from jail and to allow exiles to return home, the ANC agreed to suspend Umkhonto we Sizwe (or MK)  attacks.  Umkhonto we Sizwe, translated as “Spear of the Nation,” was the armed wing of the ANC.  They aimed to combat the plague of violence from the government, which overwhelming increased throughout the years in apartheid South Africa. 

The National Party replied to the ANC’s demands by promising to release all political prisoners from prison and declared all exiles would be able to return home. The National Party also promised to investigate the behavior of South Africa’s army and police, as well as remove the Group Areas Act. However, the government’s promises were slowly manifesting while black South Africans endured more suffering from violence, murders, and terrorism. 

The negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa began with the demand for an interim government and an elected constituent assemble.  In December 1990, the ANC held the National Consultative Conference to discuss its strategy and tactics for an interim government  and a constituent assembly to grant the citizens of South Africa voting rights for choosing the political parties they want to work together to revise the country’s constitution.  By calling for an all party conference to discuss the creation of a democratic and just South Africa and procedures for a democratic negotiating process, the people of South Africa moved forward to governing their country and solving the problems of violence.  

Negotiations culminated with the establishment of a free and democratic South Africa and the historic first democratic elections in April 1994. That same year ended the apartheid political policy of racial segregation and Nelson Mandela began his term as the first black South African president.

Posted by Felicia Render

(Images from the American Committee on Africa records addendum. May not be reproduced without permission.)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Connecting the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-Apartheid Movement, Part 2

March 1992 press release
discussing opposition to a visit
by Mangosutho Buthelezi to
Alabama by civil rights
activists Gwen Patton and
Alvin Holmes.
Last month's blog post discussed a press release written by Gwen Patton of the Southern Regional Africa Peace Coordination Network that summarized an anti-apartheid candlelight ceremony held at the Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1992. In part, the press release related the history of two members from the church who shared a past of civil rights activism and also led anti-Apartheid efforts in Alabama, Gwen Patton and Alvin Holmes.  It goes on to highlight previous opposition by Patton and Holmes press release to the visit of Zwazulu Chief Mangosutho Buthelezi to Alabama in 1989.  Together, Patton and Holmes helped persuade Montgomery public officials to not meet with the South African leader when he came to town because of Buthelezi’s opposition to American sanctions against South Africa.  

While many of the state action files in the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) Records Addendum discuss sanctions and divestment against South Africa, the debate of Buthelezi’s visit is illustrative of the arguments for and against the economic policies that many consider a strong factor in ending apartheid.  Additionally, the frustration shown by Patton and Holmes in this situation demonstrated how they believed it was necessary to end apartheid abroad while continuing to address race relations in Alabama, more than 20 years after the Civil Rights Movement they both participated in as activists.

Buthelezi visited Alabama in 1989 after receiving an invitation from a professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.  After Buthelezi received word that Black leaders in Alabama refused to meet with him, he told The Citizen on September 2, 1989, that he found it “ridiculous that Americans can be so arrogant as to pontificate about what I do in South Africa.”  According to Buthelezi, American economic sanctions against South Africa “hurt poor Blacks who work in foreign-owned factories.” In response to the Zulu Chief’s remarks, Alvin Holmes responded, “If he thinks we’re arrogant, he’s an articulate, educated Uncle Tom.”  Both Holmes and Patton disagreed with Buthelezi and stated that “he is an apologist for Pretoria” and a “puppet of the South African government.” Furthermore, in an article in The Montgomery Advertiser on August 31, 1989, Gwen Patton accused Buthelezi of coordinating with the apartheid system and argued that “The apartheid system, itself, is anethema to democracy. Any collaboration is unacceptable.”

In the same Montgomery Advertiser article, Patton drew a link between fighting for anti-apartheid policies in South Africa and continuing the fight for racial equality in Alabama.  Specifically, Patton told the newspaper that “Apartheid is reprehensible, and we here in Alabama, and particularly in Montgomery have worked out similar grievances and we’re not moving forward in this state. There is a historical link between the two countries.” In this statement, Patton suggested that African Americans in Alabama still did not have equal rights or equal opportunity.   

This sentiment is backed up in several additional news clippings within the Alabama State Action file in the ACOA records.  For example, on February 13, 1987, the New York Times reported that Black democratic leaders asserted that “blacks have been systematically excluded from positions of power” and they “called for a protest march on the capitol” in response to appointments made by Governor Guy Hunt.  Additionally, on February 20, 1990, William King, a councilman and teacher in Selma, Alabama, told the New York Times that “we’re still two separate and paranoid communities, even though the blatancy of the racism has gone.”

Posted by Diane Galatowitsch

(Images from American Committee on Africa Records Addendum. May not be reproduced without permission.) 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Emancipation Proclamation Anniversary, Part 1

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Amistad will be hosting an exhibition related to slavery, abolition, and emancipation during its 2013 exhibition series. In addition, we will be featuring a series of blog posts from now through June 2013 highlighting items from our collections that speak to the topics of slavery and emancipation. Our first entry is a broadside from the William and Gene B. Haddon Collection:

Broadside poem entitled "Emancipation"
by Jacob Emerson, 1863.

This small broadside includes a poem entitled "Emancipation" by Jacob Emerson. Emerson was born in Bridgton, Maine, in 1776 and appeared to have lived in nearby Harrison in 1863. This broadside was printed by H.C. Little of Bridgton likely in early 1863 following President Abraham Lincoln's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. The March 1863 date in the lower left corner may be the date Emerson wrote the poem or the date it was printed by Little or both.

Emerson's poem begins with the stanza "Eighty-seven years have passed and gone, / Like a dream it seems to me, / When I first breathed the vital air, / Our country was not free" and ends "January first of sixty-three, / Put forth a firm decree / The African blood of every grade, / Henceforth should all be free. / "A jubilee was then proclaimed, / In every state was told, / Just like the Jews in ancient days, / By Mordica of old."

Although Emerson demonstrates a less-than-agreeable attitude toward Native Americans common to his day, the poem provides an impassioned abolitionist voice in support of Lincoln's decree.

Posted by Christopher Harter

(Image from the William and Gene B. Haddon Collection. May not be reproduced without permission.)