Hello again, History Mate.
Happy April. Let me jump in with two new gems from our past:
“The Recoil of Negro Sympathy.” That was the peculiar headline I came upon in the old North Branch Democrat, an anti-Lincoln weekly in the northeastern Pennsylvania town of Tunkhannock. It ran in August 1862, soon after word had gotten out that Lincoln intended to issue an emancipation proclamation. Beneath it was this commentary: “There is observable in these days an effect of the Abolition movement which does not promise well for the future temporal welfare of the negro. While prosecuting so earnestly their schemes for releasing the Southern negro from the share of toil allotted to him, they have been unmindful that by their exertions, sentiment more than ever hostile to the black race is created in the North. The Abolitionist if possessed of any true philanthropy would begin to consider now whether this unfriendly sentiment so rapidly changing from prejudice to positive hate, in its effect upon the free blacks of the North, is not likely to outweigh all the advantages to be derived from an anti-slavery crusade. Not only is the insolence of the free black now becoming more offensive, but the feeling of jealousy which begins to pervade the laboring classes, from the fear of negro competition, forms an element destined to operate henceforth with unwonted power. The Abolitionists, apparently, are in this way forging a weapon that may recoil on their own heads with stunning effect, and involve them and the unfortunate objects of their labors in ruin.” (Bad enough that The Democrat was legitimizing white bigotry, but it was also insinuating that there would be violence and that black people and their allies would be responsible. Such was racism in the North.)
The Fall of Taney. Did you catch the recent story out of Frederick, Md.? For 85 years its city hall displayed a bronze bust of Roger Taney, the U.S. Supreme Court chief justice notorious for his 1857 Dred Scott decision upholding slavery. But no more. On March 18, onlookers in the now-cosmopolitan town applauded as the thing was uprooted and moved to a nearby cemetery in accordance with a vote by the Frederick aldermen. “An embarrassment,” one official said of the bronze relic. I’d written about seeing it during my 2014 road trip to research whether a fugitive slave I was profiling, George Keys, might have fled from another of Frederick’s famous sons, Francis Scott Key. As fate would have it, the Taney bust will now be placed near the Key memorial — two renowned figures, both slaveholders.
Lots of Book News. So far I’m scheduled to give a dozen author talks through next February, with five others in the works. The next talk will be May 17, 6:30 p.m., at the Narberth Bookshop in downtown Narberth, Pa. Also, Sunbury Press has issued Embattled Freedom as an e-book and has arranged for me to be interviewed on the Pennsylvania Cable Network’s statewide “Pa Books” show. Also, I’ve presented copies of Embattled Freedom to the mayor of Scranton and, through intermediaries, to Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and U.S. Senator Bob Casey. Hey, why not? All three have ties to the Scranton area. Also, later this month, Intermediate Unit 19, a consortium of twenty school districts in northeastern Pennsylvania, will give a presentation to educators about the classroom applicability of the book and website. Finally, I’ve gotten some nice feedback from readers, and ask that folks consider posting reader reviews on Amazon. Please do. Even a short one helps!
I had the honor of addressing the Working Writers Group on April 14 in West Philadelphia.