Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Washington, D.C.: "The Secret City"

As I've mentioned before, the history of the Nation's Capital is very much an African-American story because it was these Americans who filled the demand for labor in the city, initially as slaves and later in low-paying jobs as cleaning women, nannies, porters and custodians.

Gaining access to skilled, better paying jobs as clerical workers wasn't as easy.

Constance McLaughlin Green addressed this in her book, "The Secret City: A History of Race Relations in the Nation's Capital." 

Washington Post deputy managing editor, Ben W. Gilbert, reviewed the book in an article titled, "The Negro's Painful Rise" published on May 11, 1967.

"Americans generally assume that the Nation's history is one of steady progress, of technological improvements, of widening horizons, of improved living," he wrote. "The story of the Negro in Washington is not such a fairy tale. It is a story of adversity and a little progress, accompanied by a shocking indifference and some hostility from the mass of whites."

Gilbert explained that any progress that was made was thwarted in the 1880s.

"The segregation of Government employment by race, begun at the turn of the century, became policy under Wilson, whose first wife was distressed to see Negroes and whites working together in the Post Office," he added.

Gilbert credits Harold Ickes, Franklin Roosevelt's Secretary of the Interior, with laying "the public foundation of today's integrated city by insisting that the facilities under his jurisdiction be used without discrimination."

"Mrs. Green's book should prove valuable to anyone caring about the future of race relations in Washington," he wrote. "It would be great if funds could be found to make it available as a standard text in the city's high schools. Today's youth need to know how we got where we are. Mrs. Green can help them find out."

"The Secret City" is available on Goodreads (click).

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech

E. Marie Swan
In the summer of 1963, E. Marie Swan applied to work for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

"Growing up in the all-black community of Wilmington, N.C. I experienced firsthand what segregation was about," she said in a commentary in The San Diego Union-Tribune in January 2003. "I resolved that if I ever had the opportunity, I would make a difference in the way things were. The only problem was that I was very hotheaded and militant."

Swan explained that after listening to her rant and rave during the job interview about how she could change her community, Dr. King told her that she was too angry to be part of his movement. 

"He told me there was too much anger and hatred inside of me," she recalled. "This hurt, but it got my attention."

After a restless night of self-reflection, she decided to adopt a more peaceable attitude. She immersed herself in Dr. King's theory of nonviolence.

"The March on Washington [August 28, 1963] doesn't seem that long ago," she wrote. "Yes, I was there. The largest group of kids there was from Wilmington. Yes -- I eventually became their leader and, yes -- I continue to this day to be influenced and inspired by Dr. King." 

Mrs. Swan eventually moved to Oceanside, Calif., home of the  U.S. Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, and a traditionally politically conservative town. She went on to be elected president of the Oceanside Pacific Kiwanis Club and a recipient of Oceanside's Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Achievement Award in 2000. 

I came to know her as a reporter in January 2009 through a librarian at the Oceanside Public Library. She wanted me to share Mrs. Swan's story and invite the community to visit a display of Swan's personal memorabilia from her civil rights days which she generously loaned in celebration of President Obama's inauguration.  

To read the complete article published in The San Diego Union-Tribune/Today's Local News, click here. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Female Clerks Balk at Prospect of Working for Black Presidential Appointment

Rev. James M. Townsend
On May 11, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison appointed Rev. James M. Townsend to the position of recorder of the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. 

Harrison was impressed with Townsend's Civil War record in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, the first black regiment to enter military service and, later, his civil rights advocacy as a Republican state legislator from Indiana.

In an article, "Their Chief is a Negro," published in The Washington Post on May 15, 1889, the staff of 24 women clerks appeared to be unmoved.

"The only thing that they think or care about is that the Rev. James Townsend is a colored man," The Post reported. "Since his appointment was made nearly half of the ladies in his division have applied for a transfer to some other division." 

The women were reluctant to talk about the matter to the reporter, fearing for their jobs.

"We naturally have to pay a certain amount of court and deference to our chief," said one of the ladies on condition of anonymity, "and it will be very disagreeable for me to treat a negro as my superior. I shall get into some other division if I can; if not I suppose I shall have to stand it, as my bread and butter depend upon it."

Another woman added that she had no idea what kind of man Townsend was -- but it made no difference "as long as he was black."

"Mr. Townsend is expected at the Department to-morrow," the reporter wrote. "At his office his appearance is undoubtedly dreaded."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Death of Cursive Writing

After reading about the demise of cursive writing in public schools, actress Kirstie Alley quickly took to Twitter and wrote: “I'm HORRIFIED to hear that American children will no longer learn CURSIVE!!!! AMERICAN children would not be able to read the CONSTITUTION.”

She’s correct. Beginning with President Washington’s inauguration in 1789, job applicants (all of whom were men) vied for positions as federal clerks. The most important qualification was good penmanship. Since the typewriter hadn't been invented yet, records and correspondence were written by hand. Men holding these positions were called copyists or clerks. If handwriting wasn’t up to par, applicants would most likely receive a rejection letter like the following one written by Postmaster General Timothy Pickering:

    “As to a clerkship, altho’ your letters are tolerably   
    correct, yet several words are misspelt; and if your 
    composition were perfectly correct, your handwriting is not 
    good enough for a public office. Do not therefore entertain 
    the smallest hope of being introduced to one – I cannot 
    recommend you.”

Penmanship (cursive writing) remained the most in-demand office skill until 1874 when when E. Remington & Sons, the venerable rifle manufacturer, introduced the “Sholes & Glidden Type Writer.” The price was $125. The machine used the QWERTY keyboard, but only typed in capital letters. It was also awkward and temperamental.

After working out most of the quirks the company debuted the Remington No. 2 in 1887 which typed both upper and lower case letters using a shift key. When Patent Office Commissioner Halbert Eleazer Paine learned of the new model, he predicted that it would transform the way business was conducted and ordered several for his offices. Other departments followed and by 1892 the U.S. Government became the largest user of typewriters in the world. More than 2,000 Remingtons were in operation, and another 400 built by other manufacturers, making a grand total of nearly 2,500.

I recommend a terrific article about the importance of continuing to teach cursive writing that was written by a young journalist named Vignesh Ramachandran. He explains that learning cursive writing stimulates brain development and serves as a great equalizer among kids who don’t necessarily have access to digital technology. You can read Vignesh's article by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Congress Passes Deficiency Act During Civil War Giving Women Jobs -- at Half the Pay of Men

During the 19th century, federal clerical jobs remained the sole domain of men until 1854 when the U.S. Patent Office began employing female copyists who worked at home and were paid 10 cents per 100 words copied. 

By 1861, necessity became the mother of invention. To underwrite the cost of the Civil War, the government printed additional bank notes which had to be clipped and counted before being released. Old, worn-out notes were checked for counterfeit, and recounted, then destroyed. 

Male clerks earning $1200 a year had been put to work performing the necessary tasks, but the office was falling behind. U.S. Treasurer Francis Spinner, who had enlisted his wife and daughter to cut notes when he was a New York banker, suggested women be hired at half the pay to perform the jobs. He said to Secretary of Treasury Salmon Chase that “these young men should have muskets instead of shears placed in their hands and should be sent to the front, and their places filled by women, who would do more and better work, at half the pay that was given to these ‘men milliners.’” Chase hesitated, fearing that employing women as clerks would “demoralize” the department, but consented to tryout one woman. Her first day on the job, this young woman, according to Spinner, “did more work than any one of the clerks. . .[T]his decided the whole matter.” Thereafter, only female clerks were hired to clip currency. 

Spinner’s successful “experiment” precipitated Congress’s enactment of a Deficiency Act authorizing the hiring of women at $600 per year – exactly half the salary given to the lowest-paid male clerk. Women offered a way to solve the continual and pressing demand for more workers without overextending the budget.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Revival of the Typewriter

Here are two well-done (video) stories from NBC News about the comeback of the typewriter: One is about English students and writers who say the typewriter improves the quality of their work. The second is about the return of community typing contests. What's the saying? "Whatever is old is new again."  Click the links below for a treat:

"The Typewriter Is Not Dead"

"Return of the Typewriter"

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

In Celebration of Nat'l Administrative Professionals Day: The (Venerable) Washington School for Secretaries

As World War I came to an end, Dr. Richard T. Ely, founder of the American Economic Association and a former professor of President Woodrow Wilson's at Johns Hopkins University, became troubled with the inability of clerical workers to keep pace with rapidly changing systems and procedures used in offices. He conceived the idea of a business school that would make men, and women, more competitive by providing the highest level of secretarial training.
On March 8, 1920, a large display ad in The Washington Post heralded the opening of Dr. Ely's venture, the Washington School for Secretaries. 
The school was deluged with phone calls from young women eager to hone their skills. Candidates were carefully screened for education and character. Still, there were hurdles to overcome, even with 'nice girls.' 

After ratification of the 19th amendment some thought that young women had become too daring, taking up smoking, visiting speakeasies, wearing makeup and even cussing like men. 

Mrs. Adria C. Beaver Lynham was director of the school and had previously worked in The White House where she handled President Coolidge's mail. She had little tolerance for behavior unbefitting a lady and set out to transform her diamonds-in-the-rough into polished professionals. 

Mrs. Lynham imposed her rigid expectations on students by making them subject to inspection when they arrived for class in the morning. If they were not wearing hats and gloves she sent them home. She recruited an instructor from a modeling school to teach students how to cross their knees and hold a phone gracefully. Students learned how to make formal introductions and write thank you notes properly. 

Of course, they also received training in business machines. Men received the same training as women, with an emphasis on supervision. Shorthand was optional for men, while courses in accounting, salesmanship, advertising and market research were added. The school turned out thousands of graduates and in September 1930 took over the entire 5th floor of the new National Press Building located at 14th and F Sts., N.W., the former site of the Old Ebbitt Hotel.

Business flourished, even in the midst of the Depression, and in 1936 a second school was opened in New York City. The schools were operated as a university, with a graduation ceremony and a formal dance that included the coronation of "Miss Secretary." Dignitaries were invited to be commencement speakers. In June 1939, Mrs. Nellie Tayloe Ross, director of the Bureau of the Mint, told the graduating class that the economic conditions that brought woe to the country in recent years also 'brought privilege to womankind' because it gave them an opportunity to prove themselves.  

During World War II, Civil Service Commissioner Arthur S. Flemming responded to the increased demand for secretaries by appointing Mrs. Lynham head of a government-subsidized training program operated through the Washington School for Secretaries. This irked competing schools in the nation's capital who thought it was unfair.

After the war, Mrs. Lynham positioned herself as an international authority on the new field of secretarial science, also writing a book. She contributed articles to the National Education Journal and the Executive Secretary, a British publication. She also lectured in Great Britain.

Mrs. Lynham became adept at self-promotion, never hesitating to share her unconventional approach to training. "There's more to being a good secretary than just knowing how to type and take shorthand," wrote Washington Post reporter Florence Byrnes. "While these two skills may land a girl a job because they are easily measured, they won't hold the job for her unless she can perform some 798 other duties efficiently and with the charm of a hostess on Embassy Row. 

"'Actually,' says Mrs. Adria Beaver Lynham, director of the Washington School for Secretaries, 'the average Girl Friday spends only one fourth of her time in stenographic work.' On that premise the local school takes a 'different' approach to secretarial training. 

"WSS teaches all the things you'd expect a business course to cover -- plus one! Plus one is charm. The charm instruction points out the importance of good posture, appropriate business dress and grooming." 

Byrnes summed up Lynham's philosophy by describing her "Chippendale" approach to colors. 

"There's a difference in dressing for a man or woman boss. 'Men like everyday things like navy blue or black with touches of white. They'll look at bright colors but they don't like them in an office,' says Mrs. Lynham. 

"'It all goes back to the old theory that while a man may admire a baroque piece of furniture in a gallery or home, he invariably selects simple, straight-lined pieces for his office. And a secretary must be as impersonal as the office equipment -- attractive, yet unobtrusive.'" 

The Washington School for Secretaries closed its doors in 1990. I'll be sharing other stories about Mrs. Lynham's philosophy in upcoming posts. In the meantime, enjoy these memories written by WSS graduates:

"I am an honor graduate of the old WSS - I could do shorthand at 140 and could type on a manual 85 wpm and on an electric easily over 100 wpm and those were 15 minute tests with two errors or less! I got a great job, made good money and still have these skills to this day. Our director, Adria Beaver Lynham, was one for the books. She made us toe the mark in every way -- we had to wear long line girdles, no 'bedroom' hair, just totally professionals. Young ladies walked briskly down F Street - there was to be 'no strolling.'" 

* * *

"The WSS gave me a firm foundation on which to build my career in the business world. Excellent training! At the time I attended, the intense, one-year course was equivalent to a two-year associates degree in business administration at a community college. I shall always remember the hats, heels and gloves. Everyone in WDC knew you were a WSS student at one glance. I attended the school when it was in the National Press Building, a very exciting location and when it was still a privately owned school. I believe a computer company bought the school the following year."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bravo, Joey!

Joey Pearson (right) Performing at The Kennedy Center
Joey called last night after performing at the “Let Freedom Ring” concert at The Kennedy Center celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. He said it was an "awesome" experience that included a warm "shake-a-leg" exchange with Smokey Robinson before going on stage. You can view the performance by clicking here. The introduction begins at the 21 minute mark; the performance at 22 minutes.

Second Inauguration, President Barack Obama

Barack Hussein Obama II
44th President of the United States
Second Inauguration, January 21, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Joey of The Washington Secretaries History Project Sings at The Kennedy Center Tonight

Joey Pearson
Joey Pearson began working as a mentee on The Washington Secretaries History Project nine years ago when he was in middle school in Encinitas, Calif. Among his contributions is his collaboration on this History of Washington Secretaries on YouTube.

Four years ago this weekend, he was a junior in high school when he traveled to Washington with me for the first time to attend President Obama's first inauguration. The next day he stepped foot on the campus of Georgetown University -- the rest is history.

Today, Joey is a junior, and Latin American specialist, in the Foreign Service School at Georgetown on a full scholarship.

What's more, he is honored today to be performing at the “Let Freedom Ring” concert celebrating Dr. King’s birthday at The Kennedy Center. The concert will be broadcast live at 6 p.m. ET at this link (click). 
Some people watching might recognize Joey. In 2002, he was a semi-finalist on the television show, "Star Search."

After graduation next year, Joey looks forward to teaching students in an urban environment or on the U.S.-Mexican border. 

Congratulations, Joey!

World Typing Champion Cortez W. Peters Opens First African-American Business College in Washington

Founder, Cortez W. Peters Business School
Part 5 in a series commemorating the birth of Dr. King and the second inauguration of President Obama on January 21. 

The 1934 debut of the Cortez W. Peters Business School at 1308 U St., N.W. in Washington, D.C. was a pivotal moment in history. Not only was it the first Black-owned business school of its kind, it was the first vocational school in the nation’s capital to prepare African-Americans for business and civil service. Editor's Note: Subsequently I have learned about the existence of the Jennifer Business College, operated from 1920-1960 by W. Emile Jennifer at New Jersey Ave. and N St., N.W. No other data is available. If a follower of this blog can add more information, please post a comment.

A Baltimore branch of the Cortez W. Peters Business School opened in 1935, and a Chicago school in 1941. Together, the three schools trained an estimated 100,000 students over a period of 40 years. 

Founder Cortez W. Peters was a native of Baltimore who, at the age of 11, taught himself to type when his dad, a watchmaker, received a used typewriter in trade. Peters began using the “hunt and peck” system, then developed his own method for typing fast and accurately. He began entering local typing competitions and went on to become a world champion typist.

Cortez gives typing demonstration to high school students.
It was techniques he honed that became the heart of the curriculum at the Cortez W. Peters Business Schools. 

A 1940 newspaper ad for the school trumpeted the slogan, “Speed’s the Thing,” adding “the school will prepare and train students in commercial subjects including type- writing, shorthand, filing and all related subjects as well as preparation for Government Civil Service Examinations. . .Tuition reasonable and payable weekly. . .If you plan to purchase a typewriter, do not fail to see those on display at the Cortez W. Peters School. . .When you purchase a machine from us, you are taught how to use it.” 

Eventually the curriculum expanded to 22 subjects including salesmanship, business law and IBM card punch. 

Cortez donates typewriters to the war effort.
After Cortez died of a heart attack in 1964, his son, Cortez W. Peters, Jr. became president of the school. Like his dad, Peters, Jr. was a champion typist reaching speeds up to 130-140 wpm. He even set a record for typing in excess of 99 wpm while wearing mittens!

When the schools closed in the 1970s, Peters, Jr. began writing textbooks, consulting for other business schools and holding typing seminars throughout the country. 
Phyllis Rundell is a retired typing teacher who looks back with fond memories on a workshop she took with Peters in Colorado Springs, Colo. in the late 1980s. 

“He was an amazing man, six-feet tall with hands so huge that it was even more surprising that his fingers could fly like that,” she recalled. “He explained that the key to typing fast was maintaining perfect rhythm, and typing letter-by-letter. He said, ‘Spell every letter to yourself, until you get into the habit.’ Concentration was something he harped on all the time."

Peters, Jr. died on June 24, 1993 from a heart attack in Columbia, Mo. where he had been conducting a seminar on typing, shorthand and other clerical skills. 

As she continued in her career, Mrs. Rundell made frequent references to what she had learned from Peters, Jr. in her typing classes, inspiring a new generation of students.

Among those is Sean Kelly who was so moved by what he learned about the Peters men that he honored them with tributes on Find A Grave.com. Click here for the links: Cortez W. Peters, Sr. and Cortez W. Peters, Jr.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Black Women Face Barriers to Clerical Training & Jobs in 20th Century Washington, D.C.

Barbershop near urban hub at 14th  & U Sts., N.W.
Part 4 in a series commemorating the birth of Dr. King and the second inauguration of President Obama on January 21. 

Many African-Americans living in the District of Columbia today can trace their roots to the inception of the Nation’s Capital in 1791. By 1800, the majority were slaves until 1830 when most were freed. 

During the Civil War and Reconstruction (1865-1877), more than 25,000 African-Americans converged on the Nation’s Capital, many looking for federal jobs. Families gradually moved into the Caucasian neighborhood surrounding 14th & U Streets, N.W., and by the dawn of the 20th century the U Street corridor had become a vibrant urban hub for African-Americans with construction of a streetcar system making it convenient for government employees to travel to work. 

It was an exciting time in the nation's capital with completion of Union Station in 1907, presentation of a gift of cherry blossoms for the Tidal Basin by the people of Tokyo in 1912 and dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922.

Still, clerical jobs remained almost exclusively the domain of men, with African-Americans subject to segregationist policies. Although streetcars and public libraries were integrated, public schools, restaurants, movie theaters and other recreation facilities were not. When Woodrow Wilson became President in 1913, he implemented segregationist policies at the U.S. Post Office Department which resulted in the demotion, and even termination, of many African-American workers. Employees in the Post Office Department and the Department of Treasury were forced to do their duties in screened-off working spaces, and to use separate lunchrooms and toilets.

World War I opened the doors for women of all races when men were drafted and forced to leave their jobs. Responding to a national recruitment campaign, “For Girls Must Work That Men May Fight” women traveled from all corners of the country to assume Civil Service jobs previously held by men. 

Those gains were lost after the war when men returned to their Civil Service jobs, creating a glut of unemployed women who were released from federal service. 

“We are swamped with inquiries from these women in regard to new government opportunities and we cannot begin to place them all, very few in fact, it is still a great puzzle what to do with them,” said Mrs. Helen Gardner, who was appointed the first woman Civil Service commissioner. “The majority are from small towns and from families in moderate circumstances. Their only experience previous to government service was in helping with the family housework and the family sewing. Now, with the clerical market overcrowded, they have no other field to which they may turn.” 

On June 4, 1919 Congress passed the 19th amendment guaranteeing all American women the right to vote, and on August 18, 1920 it was ratified. 

Also in 1920, Dr. Richard T. Ely, a former economics professor of President Woodrow Wilson’s, opened the new Washington School for Secretaries to provide these women, and men, with business training to keep pace with the modern office. 

Washington’s segregationist policies left many African-American women out in the cold.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

African-Americans Enter Public Office

 Cong. Geo. Henry White, R-NC, 1897-1901
Part 3 in a series commemorating the birth of Dr. King and the second inauguration of President Obama on January 21st. 

Today's Democratic Party boasts the election of the first African-American President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama II, who begins an historic second term in a few days. 

During Reconstruction (1865-1877), it was the GOP, "The Party of Lincoln," that worked with African-Americans to help them get elected to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The Republican Party also advocated for African-Americans by appointing them to patronage jobs, particularly those as postmasters. 

Using voter intimidation and poll taxes, Southern Democrats, representing the former Confederacy, were unscrupulously able to grab and wield power again. 

In his book "The Negro and the Federal Government" (1967), Samuel Krislov discusses this era when African-Americans began losing gains previously made in elective offices in southern and border states. 

One of the most historic examples was North Carolina attorney George Henry White who ran as a Republican and defeated the white Democratic incumbent to be elected to the U.S. Congress in 1896, representing a predominantly African-American district. White confronted disfranchisement and mob violence head-on and, on January 20, 1900, introduced the first bill in Congress to make lynching a federal crime. It died in committee. 

Krislov wrote: "White used the power of his office to appoint several African-American postmasters across his district, with the assistance of the state's Republican senator, Jeter C. Pritchard. They were able to make patronage hires, as did other postmasters. Following the actions of North Carolina Democrats in 1899, who changed the state constitution to disfranchise blacks, White chose not to seek a third term. He told the Chicago Tribune, 'I cannot live in North Carolina and be a man and be treated as a man.' He announced plans to leave his home state and start a law practice in Washington, D.C. at the end of his term.” 

On January 29, 1901 White delivered his final, and what would be prophetic, speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives: "This is perhaps the Negroes' temporary farewell to the American Congress, but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again. These parting words are in behalf of an outraged, heart-broken, bruised and bleeding, but God-fearing people; faithful, industrious, loyal, rising people – full of potential force." 

"On the whole political patronage had proved an inadequate means to expand Negro opportunity," Krislov explained. "It was rather the civil service, with its merit system, that opened the way to Negro participation in public life.”

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Clara Barton: Advocate for Slaves and Freedmen

Part 2 in a series commemorating the birth of Dr. King and the second inauguration of President Obama on January 21. 

Clara Barton is best remembered as the founder of the American Red Cross. Less is known about her role as the first woman to work for the federal government, and her advocacy for African-Americans before, during and after the Civil War.

In 1854 Barton had the distinction of becoming the first woman to work for the federal government when her congressman recommended her for a job with Commissioner Charles Mason in the U.S. Patent Office. 

Barton's trustworthiness and exquisite penmanship made her valuable as a recording clerk where she penned patent applications,  caveats and regulations. Barton thrived in her new job, writing a friend: “My situation is delightfully pleasant. There is nothing in the world connected with it to trouble me and not a single, disagreeable thing to do, and no one to complain of me.”
Barton’s glee was short-lived. After the all-male staff complained that a woman held such a coveted job, Secretary of Interior Robert McClelland arranged to have her demoted to copyist. She continued in that capacity until James Buchanan was elected president four years later and eliminated her job all together. 

Lincoln reinstated Barton when he was inaugurated as president on March 4, 1861. After assuming her new position, Barton was dismayed to learn that the department was controlled by two outspoken southern sympathizers. She reported this to senior management, offering to do the work of the men at no extra pay if they were removed from their jobs. The proposal backfired and only served to alienate her further from the staff.

As a result of Lincoln's election, southern states seceded from the union and on April 12, 1861 the Civil War broke out with the firing on Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Four days later the 6th Massachusetts Regiment traveled south to defend the nation's capital, but was attacked by southern sympathizers in Baltimore. They arrived in Washington badly beaten, with fatalities. Barton found the soldiers temporary quarters in the Senate Chamber of the Capitol. From there, she began traveling from battlefield-to-battlefield caring for Union soldiers, and earning the reputation as the "Angel of the Battlefield." 

While in South Carolina in April 1963, she met, and became passionately aware of the plight of freed slaves and black Union soldiers.

"When it came to providing care for black soldiers enlisted in the Union army, Barton stood forth as exceptional. To her they were heroes. 'Whiter blood than theirs has often failed to exhibit traits as high and noble,' as she was to write after witnessing how patiently the black soldier bore his wounds." (Source: "Clara Barton: In the Service of Humanity" by David Henry Burton.) 

From 1866-68, Barton delivered more than 200 lectures about her Civil War experiences, sharing the stage with other abolitionists and independent thinkers including Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison and Mark Twain.

Barton's efforts to organize relief programs for Union soldiers ultimately led to her founding the American Red Cross in 1881.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Meet Moses Grandy. . .

This is the first in a series of posts to commemorate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the historic second inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama II on January 21, 2013. The series traces the emergence of African-Americans from slavery and the long, circuitous route into public office. There is no better way to begin than by reading Moses Grandy's first-hand account of a life born into slavery. Mr. Grandy bought his freedom three times, then traveled by ship from New Orleans to England to share his experiences with abolitionists. They recorded his saga in chilling detail, and published it in 1844, casting light on the darkest chapter of American history and one man's determination to bring an end to it. Following is Mr. Grandy's story in his own words.

"My name is Moses Grandy. I was born in Camden county, North Carolina. I believe I am fifty-six years old. Slaves seldom know exactly how old they are; neither they nor their masters set down the time of a birth; the slaves, because they are not allowed to write or read, and the masters, because they only care to know what slaves belong to them.

"The master, Billy Grandy, whose slave I was born, was a hard-drinking man; he sold away many slaves. I remember four sisters and four brothers; my mother had more children, but they were dead or sold away before I can remember. I was the youngest. I remember well my mother often hid us all in the woods, to prevent master from selling us. When we wanted water, she sought for it in any hole or puddle formed by falling trees or otherwise. It was often full of tadpoles and insects. She strained it, and gave it round to each of us in the hollow of her hand. For food, she gathered berries in the woods, got potatoes, raw corn, etc. After a time, the master would send word to her to come in, promising he would not sell us. But, at length, persons came who agreed to give the prices he set on us. His wife, with much to be done, prevailed on him not to sell me; but he sold my brother, who was a little boy. My mother, frantic with grief, resisted their taking her child away. She was beaten, and held down, she fainted; and, when she came to herself, her boy was gone. She made such outcry, for which the master tied her up to a peach-tree in the yard, and flogged her.

"Another of my brothers was sold to Mr. Tyler, Dewan's Neck, Pasquotank county. This man very much ill treated many colored boys. One very cold day, he sent my brother out, naked and hungry, to find a yoke of steers; the boy returned without finding them, when his master flogged him, and sent him out again. A white lady, who lived near, gave him food, and advised him to try again; he did so, but, it seems, again without success. He piled up a heap of leaves, and laid himself down in them, and died there. He was found through a flock of turkey buzzards hovering over him; these birds had pulled his eyes out."

Click here to read Mr. Grandy's full story.