Tag Archives: slavery

A jaunt through Jonesborough

If you want to see a stellar example of what happens when a community embraces historic preservation, you should visit Jonesborough, TN.  It’s the oldest town in the state (founded in 1779, when eastern Tennessee was still part of North Carolina) and a history lover’s paradise.  My cousin and I paid a visit the other day, after our tour of Carter’s Mansion in nearby Elizabethton.

The first thing you’ll want to do is stop by the visitor center to pick up a walking guide.  These brochures are only $1.00, and they point out all the important historic structures and locations, most of them within easy walking distance.  The visitor center also has a nice little exhibit on various aspects of Jonesborough’s past, including some nifty antique fire pumps.

Jonesborough has, at various times, been the seat of Washington Co., created by North Carolina out of some of the western districts across the mountains; a capital of the abortive State of Franklin, which ceased to exist in 1788; a government and economic center for the Southwest Territory, when North Carolina ceded her western lands to the federal government; and finally, a county seat for Tennessee.  A monument in front of the current courthouse building marks the approximate spot where a log courthouse sat over two centuries ago.

One of the oldest structures you’ll see in Jonesborough (one of the oldest structures you’ll see in the whole state, actually) is the log home of Christopher Taylor, built in 1788.  A young backwoods lawyer named Andrew Jackson lived there for a short time before moving on to Nashville and national fame.

Later, after his election to the presidency, Jackson was a guest at the Chester Inn.  Built in the late 1790’s, this building has also hosted Presidents Polk and Johnson, along with various other historic luminaries.  Now it’s the home of the National Storytelling Festival.  Check out the exhibit on the first floor; it offers a fine overview of the town’s history, and includes some pretty neat artifacts.

Next to the Taylor cabin is the site where Elihu Embree published two anti-slavery newspapers, The Manumission Intelligencer and The Emancipator.  The latter was the first newspaper in the country devoted solely to promoting the eventual eradication of slavery.  The son of Pennsylvania Quakers, Embree was actually a slaveowner himself until age thirty, joining a Tennessee manumission organization in 1815.  The Emancipator circulated as far as Boston, but its run ended when Embree died at a young age in 1820.

Our last stop was the town’s old cemetery, which sits on a hill near the historic district.  Noticing a couple of small Confederate flags on one monument, I walked over to have a closer look.  Turned out to be the grave of Brigadier General Alfred E. Jackson, who served as a quartermaster and paymaster before spending much of the rest of the war engaged in the small-scale actions that often flared up in the mountains of Appalachia.  Jackson was quite unpopular among other Confederate officers; subordinates in Thomas’ Legion (which constituted part of his brigade) considered him “morally and physically unfit” for command and asked Jefferson Davis to give him the boot.  The end of the war found this formerly prosperous businessman farming rented land in southwestern Virginia.  He was eventually able to recover some of his antebellum prosperity and died in Jonesborough in 1889.

There are plenty of other stories and buildings to check out in Jonesborough, along with quite a few historic inns and small restaurants.  The town is just a short drive from some of Tennessee’s best parks and historic sites—Sycamore Shoals, Rocky Mount, Andrew Johnson’s home, and Tipton-Haynes Historic Site, to name a few—so if you’re looking for a place to spend a history-soaked weekend, it’s hard to beat.

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Filed under Appalachian History, Civil War, Historic Preservation, Museums and Historic Sites, Tennessee History

What was the largest slave revolt in U.S. history?

Before you answer “Nat Turner” or “Gabriel,” watch this short video from LearnLiberty.org.  It’s a pretty interesting story.

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Filed under History and Memory

Nineteenth-century paternalism redux

If you haven’t already read it, let me direct your attention to a post over at Dr. Brooks Simpson’s blog, in which he highlights a few recent examples of heritage-driven kookery at its finest.  My favorite: “… what past sins of slavery are you referring to? Slaves had free housing, free food, free clothing, free medical care, free child care, free old age care, and free job training. All they had to do in return was work 9 hours a day with Sundays off to attend church.”

Faced with criticism, a commenter offered up this interpretive gem: “There were isolated incidentces of rape and abuse by employers in Northern cities. The difference was, they received unfair and low wages while living in unhealthy conditions with the rats and sewers. Now regarding, the Slavee [sic] and servant help, they, in many ways were treated with much better living and working conditions……one of the draw backs, they could never leave the plantation……”

Sound familiar?  It should, because just a few days ago we noted an 1863 textbook from North Carolina which justified chattel slavery in exactly the same terms.  The more things change…

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Filed under Civil War, History and Memory

Leftovers

Here are a few items of interest to digest along with your microwaved turkey remnants.

  • Wilson Library at UNC-Chapel Hill is hosting an exhibit of old North Carolina textbooks and the bizarre material contained therein.  The First Dixie Reader, published in Raleigh in 1863, extolled the idyllic lifestyle of the elderly female slave: “Many poor white folks would be glad to live in her house and eat what Miss Kate sends out for her dinner.”
  • The bicentennial of the War of 1812 is approaching, and the bureaucrats in Albany, NY couldn’t care less.
  • Some interesting stuff turned up when a bank employee opened up a box that had gone neglected.
  • The fate of (what’s left of) the historic K-25 plant in Oak Ridge, TN is in dispute.  The Department of Energy had promised to keep part of it intact, but now they want to tear down the whole thing.
  • Think historic preservation doesn’t make economic sense?  Think again.

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Filed under Historic Preservation, History and Memory, Tennessee History

Was the Emancipation Proclamation a moderate measure or a radical one?

My answer to the above question is “yes.”  Obama recently used Lincoln’s proclamation as an example of effective compromise.  I think he might have overstated the case, since Lincoln acted pretty dramatically within the bounds of what he thought he could realistically do.  I explain this position in a post over at the Lincoln Institute blog.  Read it and feel free to disagree vehemently.

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Civil War, History on the Web

The Atlantic slave trade

Ruining everybody’s fun for five hundred years.

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Who really disrespects the architects of secession?

Is it those who try to impose tortuous and convoluted rationalizations onto their behavior, thereby implying that they were either too stupid or too deceitful to explain why they were doing what they were doing?  Or is it those who take them at their word?

I’m with Andy Hall on this one.  Let’s at least give the secessionist leaders the courtesy of acknowledging that they were intelligent enough to know what they were about.  To do otherwise is to suggest that they were liars, fools, or both.

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Filed under Civil War, History and Memory