TIPHC Newsletter, May 5-11, 2019
A symbol of slavery — and survival
Angela’s arrival in Jamestown in 1619 marked the beginning of a subjugation that left millions in chains
Photo: The 1624-1625 Jamestown census lists an “Angelo a Negar.” (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
(The Washington Post)
By the time Angela was brought to Jamestown’s muddy shores in 1619, she had survived war and capture in West Africa, a forced march of more than 100 miles to the sea, a miserable Portuguese slave ship packed with 350 other Africans and an attack by pirates during the journey to the Americas.
“All of that,” marveled historian James Horn, president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, “before she is put aboard the Treasurer,” one of two British privateers that delivered the first Africans to the English colony of Virginia.
Now, as the country marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of those first slaves, historians are trying to find out as much as possible about Angela, the first African woman documented in Virginia. They see her as a seminal figure in American history — a symbol of 246 years of brutal subjugation that left millions of men, women and children enslaved at the start of the Civil War. (more)
Meet Sgt. Mal Wiley: Oldest survivor of Austin’s segregated police force(Austin American-Statesman) In 1965, Sgt. Mal J. Wiley was one of 11 African American officers serving in Austin Police Department’s force of more than 200 men.
“We were the East Austin police,” Wiley, 82, says of his first years as an officer after joining in 1960. That’s because all black Austin Police Department officers were assigned exclusively to the zones around East 11th and East 12 streets.
“We were denied privileges,” says Wiley, an Army veteran. “We received no promotions, no nice assignments. So we all got together.”
Anticipating their demands, the department’s leadership drew up plans for Wiley and his fellow officers to transition into regular departmental shifts.
“In 1966, Chief R.A. ‘Bob’ Miles had been meeting with community leaders, who asked, ‘Why do we never see black officers anywhere but in East Austin?’” Wiley recalls. “That all changed, too. Before, we always got a hand-me-down car. So they retired No. 26, the deep East Austin car. They added more positions. No more walking a beat. One officer got to drive the paddy wagon. We had regular shifts like everybody else. We started to get promoted.”
Wiley’s career reminds us that just over 50 years ago, segregation in Austin extended even to its police force, separated into two squads, one black, one white. (more)
In a neglected cemetery lie black jockeys who helped create the Kentucky Derby
(Los Angeles Times) The headstones — cracked, chipped, crumbled — rise sporadically across eight acres of dried grass. Mold and wind have eaten away at the slabs of stone, but if you kneel close enough, maybe wipe a palm across the faded inscriptions, family names emerge.
Tucked off a quiet two-lane road lined by towering oak trees in Lexington, you’ll find African Cemetery No. 2, the burial site of many of Kentucky’s first — yet often least remembered — jockeys and horse trainers.Every May, racing fans from around the world flock to Churchill Downs in Louisville, eager to watch thoroughbreds — many of them reared in the rolling hills nearby — tear around the track. The horse racing industry brings billions of dollars and infinite pride to the Bluegrass State each year. This Saturday will mark the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby.
But as with the cemetery that houses the remains of some of the sport’s pioneers, little attention is paid to the critical role black equestrians played in forming the industry in the late 1800s. In the years after the Civil War, most horse trainers and grooms were black men — so, too, were jockeys. Of the first 28 winning jockeys of the Derby, 15 were African American. (more)
Published scholarship on black history in Texas is growing and we’d like to share with you some suggested readings, both current and past, from some of the preeminent history scholars in Texas and beyond. We invite you to take a look at our bookshelf page – including a featured selection – and check back as the list grows. A different selection will be featured each week. We welcome suggestions and reviews. This week, we offer, “Frankie and Johnny — Race, Gender, and the Work of African American Folklore in 1930s America,” by Stacy I. Morgan.
Originating in a homicide in St. Louis in 1899, the ballad of “Frankie and Johnny” became one of America’s most familiar songs during the first half of the twentieth century. It crossed lines of race, class, and artistic genres, taking form in such varied expressions as a folk song performed by Huddie Ledbetter (Lead Belly); a ballet choreographed by Ruth Page and Bentley Stone under New Deal sponsorship; a mural in the Missouri State Capitol by Thomas Hart Benton; a play by John Huston; a motion picture, She Done Him Wrong, that made Mae West a national celebrity; and an anti-lynching poem by Sterling Brown.
In this innovative book, Stacy I. Morgan explores why African American folklore—and “Frankie and Johnny” in particular—became prized source material for artists of diverse political and aesthetic sensibilities. He looks at a confluence of factors, including the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Depression, and resurgent nationalism, that led those creators to engage with this ubiquitous song. Morgan’s research uncovers the wide range of work that artists called upon African American folklore to perform in the 1930s, as it alternately reinforced and challenged norms of race, gender, and appropriate subjects for artistic expression. He demonstrates that the folklorists and creative artists of that generation forged a new national culture in which African American folk songs featured centrally not only in folk and popular culture but in the fine arts as well.
This Week in Texas Black History
On this day in 1958, Lovie Lee Smith was born in Big Sandy, Texas. In high school, he led the Big Sandy Wildcats to three consecutive state championships and was all-state three years as an end and linebacker. Smith was a two-time All-America and three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference defensive back at the University of Tulsa. As head coach of the Chicago Bears, in 2007, he became the first African-American professional head coach to qualify a team for the Super Bowl when the Bears beat the New Orleans Saints, 39-14, in the NFC championship game. However, the Bears lost in Super Bowl XLI to the Indianapolis Colts, 29-17.
In 1974, U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan was among the members of the House Judiciary Committee which opened hearings on whether to recommend the impeachment of President Richard Nixon in the Watergate controversy. On July 25th, Jordan delivered a powerful message to the committee reminding her colleagues of the Constitutional basis for impeachment. Jordan asserted, “My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the constitution.
In 1994, Dr. Carol Surles becomes the first African-American president of Texas Women’s University in Denton. A native of Florida, Surles earned her undergraduate degree in psychology at Fisk University in Nashville, her master’s degree in counseling from Chapman College in California, and her doctoral degree in education from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
Blog: Ron Goodwin, Ph.D., author, PVAMU history professor
Ron Goodwin is an assistant professor of history at Prairie View A&M University. Even though he was a military “brat,” he still considers San Antonio home. Like his father and brother, Ron joined the U.S. Air Force and while enlisted received his undergraduate degree from Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, Texas. After his honorable discharge, he completed graduate degrees from Texas Southern University. Goodwin’s book, Blacks in Houston, is a pictorial history of Houston’s black community. His most recent book, Remembering the Days of Sorrow, examines the institution of slavery in Texas from the perspective of the New Deal’s Slave Narratives.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it givith light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. — Matthew 5: 14-16
This is the month set aside to honor…(more)
Fifty years ago, in January 1969, Richard Nixon was sworn in as the thirty-seventh president of the United States. His legacy as President was marred by the Watergate investigations and his eventual resignation from office which overshadowed the way in which he won the office. His central campaign rhetoric was designed to garner support from white Southerners (otherwise known in history as the “Silent Majority”) whose racial beliefs leaned heavily towards the support of white…(more)
Historians, scholars, students, lend us your…writings. Help us produce the most comprehensive documentation ever undertaken for the African American experience in Texas. We encourage you to contribute items about people, places, events, issues, politics/legislation, sports, entertainment, religion, etc., as general entries or essays. Our documentation is wide-ranging and diverse, and you may research and write about the subject of your interest or, to start, please consult our list of suggested biographical entries and see submission guidelines. However, all topics must be approved by TIPHC editors before beginning your research/writing.
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