Friday, July 13, 2012
July 4th, the D.A.R., and the Times’s misrepresentation of black soldiers in the Revolution
On July 4th, the New York Times ran a front page story – “For the Daughters of the American Revolution, a New Chapter” - by Sarah Maslin Nir on the commendable founding, by two black women, of a biracial chapter of the D.A.R. (see below). That was the focus of and a central point in the story.
But the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons are notorious for their racism. For instance, Denver Norman, a descendant of two veterans who contacted me about Black Patriots and Loyalists, is, after a long struggle, finally a member of the S.A.R. The article also reports on Michael Nolden Henderson, a retired black naval officer who finally joined the latter in Georgia in 2010...
Though not quite matching Republican-sponsored renewal of Jim Crow laws in 21 states, these organizations are hardly the Daughters and Sons of Liberty. The D.A.R. still scrutinizes black applicants with a fine-toothed comb…
In 1939, the D.A.R. refused to sponsor Marian Anderson at Constitution Hall. Instead, after a political uprising, she famously sang at the Lincoln Memorial. In an alcove on the floor below the seated Lincoln in the Memorial, one can still see the photographs, along with those of the march at which Martin Luther King spoke. See here.*
As Nir's article rightly underlines in the first paragraph, Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the D.A.R. in protest. Emma Gilbert, my mother, was part of a multiracial organizing committee to organize this concert and oppose racism (no relatives in the Revolution, however). This was a decisive fight concerning what is decent in America; the D.A.R. and the S.A.R. were on the side of lynching, segregation and silence.
But influenced by the continuing atmosphere of prejudice, the article underestimates the persistence of D.A.R. racism. Forty-five years later, in 1984, Lena Santos Ferguson, who had tried for years to gain membership, including by lawsuit, and her nephew Maurice Barboza, finally got publicity for her case.** The District of Columbia city council then threatened the D.A.R.'s tax-exempt status. As part of the settlement in which Lena Ferguson joined, the D.A.R. - under monetary threat from the City Council - agreed to count black soldiers.*** The act of malicious erasure of which the organization has politically, been an important part, has produced widespread ignorance, even among blacks, of this revolutionary history. As Barboza put it in 2009 testimony before the House Natural Resources committee on a delayed monument to black revolutionary veterans on the Washington mall:
"When this project began 23 years ago, few African Americans ever thought they could have ancestors who served in the American Revolution. Unlike the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and other recent additions to the Mall, those projects had living mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands and wives to plead the cause. Two decades later, while the memorial project languished, tens of thousands of African Americans read books and articles, watched documentaries and observed their fellow citizens discovering Revolutionary War ancestors. Those descendants are now as emotionally invested in the history as any memorial advocates have been over the past decades since the construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial."
And even by 2001, their counts were still very low (some 2,400).
So this new chapter, started by the descendants of black veterans – and the Times story on it – are very important.
Yet the Times’s reporter and editor rely solely on an historian employed by the DAR to give statistics about the participation of blacks in the Revolution. Even for a newspaper which ostensibly always publishes the “other side” – i.e. on the front page: President Bush says evolution never happened/in a final paragraph: scientists say otherwise - this seems a particularly egregious omission. Apparently, journalistic “objectivity” only amounts to giving the knowingly false equal or greater time than the likely or clearly true. Or perhaps the reporter thought that checking with Raymond Arsenault, who has written The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America, was sufficent...
But even if an honorable person can be employed as an genealogist by the D.A.R., such a person would likely be hired only because she was inclined to lowball estimates of black participation…****
As I underline in Black Patriots and Loyalists, the D.A.R.'s researchers secured very low estimates by only using some names that are given by masters and hence distinctive to blacks, for instance, ancient Greek or Roman names: Scipio, Cato, Socrates and the like. In a masterpiece of projection, slave-owners often projected republican names on blacks from ancient republics of which they themselves were, in modern times, the enemies and betrayers.*****
Owners also assigned slaves place names i.e. Boston King or Newport Champlin, and when not assigning the owners's own name, the surname Negro and so forth. In addition, sometimes African names, i.e. Juba or Cuffee survive among the slaves. Since most blacks were listed under their owner’s or a previous owner's surname (blacks often kept the latter perhaps as a sign of resistance), the shortfall in such lists is remarkable. (Black Patriots and Loyalists, pp. 284, fn. 12; 108-09) In contrast in Connecticut, many blacks who joined the second company of the fourth regiment took the name Freedom or Liberty. (p. 107) In Massachusetts, the lists of a whole regiment - the "Bucks of Massachusetts" - have been lost (110-12).
Even for lists of confirmed blacks, the D.A.R. way of counting amounted to roughly 10%-12% of the names.(284,n. 12 and chapter 4).
In Barboza's and Gary Nash's Times op-ed piece from 2004, "We need to learn more about our colorful past" below, they also suggest that the DAR selected only the smallest number of "blacks" it could, i.s brown people or mulattos were discounted. In addition, they also tell the tale of Essie Mae Whittingham-Williams, Strom Thurmond's illegitimate daughter with 16 year old Carrie Butler, a black maid, who kept his secret till she was 81 and he died. In 2004, Whittingham-Williams applied for membership in the D.A.R. because a Thurmond had once fought in the Revolutionary War. The effort to preserve "whiteness" which Thurmond fought for first in the Democrats (leading a segregationist or "Dixiecrat" walkout from the Convention in 1948 - see here) and then - after having fought the civil rights movement - in the Republicans was always a lie...
The D.A.R. long-time genealogist - since 1986 - Eric Grundset gives a standard, though still lowball figure, for the number of blacks who fought on the American side: 5,000 with a special DAR high estimate of all the Continental and militia white forces (some 400,000). That doesn’t sound like blacks played a very big role...
The figure of 5,000, however, was originally suggested by the great black abolitionist historian William Nell in Colored Patriots of the American Revolution (1856). See the genealogist Dick Eastman's comment below. That figure has been widely repeated since, but with no basis in counting; it indicates only that there were a lot of black soldiers on the Patriot side. For instance, a quarter of the some 6,000 troops at Yorktown were black, as Baron von Closen, advisor to Washington who reviewed them, records.
I wrote a letter to the Times on July 4 – it restricts letters to 150 words – highlighting the centrality of blacks in the actual fighting:
“To the editor,
Re: “For Daughters of the Revolution a New Chapter” (front page, July 4)
Mr. Grundset of the Daughters of the American Revolution suggests that blacks were but 5,000 of some 400,000 Patriot troops. But whites often joined militias for only 10 months. In contrast, the first Rhode Island Regiment (1778), composed of blacks and Narragansett indians, served throughout the war. They and other black regiments were 25% of Patriot troops at Yorktown and called upon by George Washington to take the two crucial British strongholds. Georg Daniel Flohr, a German private who fought with the Americans and walked around the field afterwards, reports in his diary that most of the dead, on both sides, were “Mohren” (blacks). Black soldiers thus played the leading role. Surely, this fact should give those who speak idly of patriotism second thoughts…
author of Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War of Independence (University of Chicago Press, May 2012)”
As Mike Goldfield, author of The Color of Politics, suggested in a note to me, the number 5,000 is low and perhaps dramatically low. Consider what broad perspective one should take on these numbers. Most slaves fled to and fought for the British in exchange for freedom. This has been a sore point among American historians, a reason not to probe the issue, the “dirty secret” of the American Revolution in Gary Nash’s phrase (The Forgotten Fifth, 2006).
But as Black Patriots and Loyalists shows, a tremendous competition ensued from the start of the Revolution over which side could recruit and rely on the most black fighters: hence, the result that most of the dead at Yorktown were "Moors." Coupled with a strong abolitionist movement from below on the Patriot side, led by sailors, black and white, and other artisans - all the revolutionary crowds from below were mostly in favor of abolition****** - Christians, and key figures in the elite like John Laurens, Tom Paine and Benjamin Franklin, a surge of gradual emancipation, beginning during the Revolution, enacted the (promise of) liberation of all slaves in the Northern states by 1804.*******
The reasonable question about the Revolution is not: were there a few more blacks than Crispus Attucks, celebrated by William Nell and the abolitionists of the late 1850s-early 1860s? This is today the Daughters of the American Revolution approach which holds the line for racism as much as possible.
Instead, the reasonable question is: given that blacks were so central in the fighting even on the Patriot side and their participation, out of racism or misguided patriotism, long buried, how can we begin to unearth the larger numbers involved?
In Black Patriots and Loyalists, I offer a running commentary on how serious the misestimates are.(chapter 4) But it will take long and painstaking work in the historical records – the registers of blacks as soldiers and later as veterans who received (or their families received) land and pay 40 years later, learning how to scrutinize and cross check records - to do this.
As the Times article also notes, however, even the D.A.R. has finally revised its estimate upwards to 6,600 (Being listed as the director of the project, Mr. Grundset should have checked with his own researchers, Brianna L. Diaz and Hollis L. Gentry):
"The organization published a second edition of a book called 'Forgotten Patriots' in 2008 to document the roughly 6,600 black, Indian and mixed-race Patriots, whose names a team of D.A.R. genealogists culled by cross-referencing military rolls with census records moldering in library reference rooms from Providence, R.I., to Albany." For a pdf of the original volume, see here. For the 2011 supplement to the list, see here.
As over 30 years, researchers at the D.A.R. have looked into this topic, some glimmer of its scope has set in. The 2008 volume is dedicated to "known and unknown" black and native american soldiers and adds in a section called "Final Thoughts":
"But the work is not done. Undoubtedly there are many other minority patriots who remain undiscovered or for whom documentation does not yet exist. Hopefully the information contained herein will serve as a base for even more individuals being identified for inclusion in subsequent editions. To that end, the NSDAR welcomes additional information concerning any of the individuals identified in this publication or on others that have not been included. Naturally, documentation from original eighteenth‐century sources is essential to verify the role of any individual in the Revolutionary War, and we would appreciate receiving copies of such material as well." (p. v)
More are to be found...
It is very good that blacks, led by Olivia Cousins and Wilhelmin Rhodes Kelly, along with anti-racist whites have formed a chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. As with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, this chapter shows a promise of a multiracial society. May they help to defeat the racism which still shrouds the national heritage and is a mark of today’s politics!
"For Daughters of the American Revolution, a New Chapter
the photograph would not reproduce
Wilhelmena Rhodes Kelly, left, and Olivia Cousins, members of a new Queens chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
By SARAH MASLIN NIR
Published: July 4, 2012
Olivia Cousins can trace her family in the United States to a soldier who joined the rebelling colonists when he was just 17. But when a friend suggested she join the Daughters of the American Revolution, an organization whose members can prove they are related to someone who aided the rebels in 1776, Dr. Cousins nearly laughed.
the photographs would not reproduce
In 1985, Sarah King, left, president general of the Daughters of the American Revolution; Lena S. Ferguson, right, who sued to be admitted to the group; and her nephew, Maurice Barboza, center, marched to the site of a proposed monument for black Patriots.
Maurice Barboza with a photo of his aunt, Lena S. Ferguson, who died in 2004.
Dr. Cousins is black. And the D.A.R., as it is commonly called, is a historically white organization with a record of excluding blacks so ugly that Eleanor Roosevelt renounced her membership in protest.
Yet last week, in a circa-1857 stone chapel in Jamaica, Queens, Dr. Cousins was named an officer in a small ceremony establishing a new chapter. Her daughter took photos. The pictures documented a singular moment for the D.A.R., founded in 1890: 5 of the 13 members of the new chapter are black.
Perhaps more strikingly, the Queens chapter is one of the first in the organization’s nearly 122-year history that was started by a black woman: Wilhelmena Rhodes Kelly, from Rosedale, who is also its regent, or president. Ms. Kelly traces her origins to the relationship between a slaveholder and a slave, who appear to have considered themselves married, and her new position is part of a remarkable journey for both her family and the organization.
“My parents understood that they were Americans and that they were a real important part of the American story,” said Dr. Cousins, who, like the other members, is a passionate student of genealogy. Her Revolutionary War ancestor was a free man of mixed race. “Their whole thing was that segregation is unacceptable,” she said of her parents. For her, she said, “de facto segregation was unacceptable.”
Racism and the vicissitudes of history have long kept the number of minorities in the D.A.R. low. Only about 5,000 of the nearly 400,000 American soldiers in the Revolution were black, said Eric Grundset, director of the organization’s library. Some were freed slaves who joined voluntarily, others slaves who bartered their service against promises of earning their freedom (which were often reneged on), and others sent to fight in place of the men who owned them.
'To the best of my knowledge, we have never had both an African-American charter regent as well as this percentage of members,' said Denise Doring VanBuren, the organization’s New York regent, who presides over the 7,000 members in the state.
Dr. Cousins, a professor of medical sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College, joined the group with two of her sisters, who are both substitute teachers: Collette Cousins, who lives in Durham, N.C., and Michelle Wherry, who lives in Lewis Center, Ohio. They will commute to the monthly meetings in Queens.
Ms. VanBuren said the D.A.R. tried in recent decades to attract members of diverse backgrounds.
In doing so, it had to overcome as many decades of bad press.
“Because of their reputation, they are probably not going to attract very many African-Americans,” said Raymond Arsenault, a professor of Southern history at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, and a civil-rights historian. “So this is quite striking that this is happening.”
Dr. Arsenault is the author of “The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial and the Concert That Awakened America,” a book that chronicles the episode that stamped the D.A.R. at the time as racist. In 1939, the group barred Anderson, a world-famous black contralto, from performing in its Constitution Hall in Washington, prompting Eleanor Roosevelt, then the first lady, to renounce her membership, and fomenting a national conversation about race.
“In the context of the Marian Anderson story and its complicated legacy, it seems like something of a milestone,” Dr. Arsenault said of the Queens chapter.
Dr. Cousins said, “When most African-Americans hear about the D.A.R., we go straight to Marian Anderson, and we get stuck there.”
Nevertheless, joining was “a no-brainer,” she said. “I’m a part of this country, and my presence needs to be recognized.”
The group does not know how many of its 170,000 members are black because it does not ask applicants for their race, Ms. VanBuren said. As well as focusing on history and genealogy, the D.A.R. offers scholarships, literacy education and assistance with the naturalization process for new citizens, among other things.
For the past 12 years, Mr. Grundset has led a research team dedicated to identifying black Patriots. Ms. Kelly, the founder of the Queens chapter, can trace her heritage to the relationship between a slaveholder and a slave, but since such unions were seldom recorded, few blacks may be able to link their family trees to the Revolution as she has.
High numbers of black D.A.R. members “will remain an anomaly,” Dr. Arsenault said, “just by sheer demographics.”
The first black woman in modern times joined in 1977: Karen Batchelor, from Detroit, whose membership was considered such big news that she was featured on “Good Morning America.” (Before her, a woman of American Indian and black descent joined in the 1890s.)
But as late as 1984, there were still echoes of the Anderson episode when a Washington chapter resisted admitting Lena S. Ferguson, a former school secretary.
As part of a settlement with Ms. Ferguson, who died in 2004, the group rewrote its bylaws to state expressly that it was open to all types of women. Today, some promotional literature even features a photograph of a black member: Ms. Kelly’s niece.
“Things have changed a great deal,” Ms. Ferguson’s nephew, Maurice Barboza, said. “A large part of the change in the D.A.R. was caused by my aunt, because she took a stand.”
He said the Queens group proved that “not only would black women be able to discover their Revolutionary War heritage, but they would be at some point in time eager to join the D.A.R. and honor their heritage.”
The organization published a second edition of a book called “Forgotten Patriots” in 2008 to document the roughly 6,600 black, Indian and mixed-race Patriots, whose names a team of D.A.R. genealogists culled by cross-referencing military rolls with census records moldering in library reference rooms from Providence, R.I., to Albany.
Though progress has been slow, black people have also made inroads in other, similar organizations.
In 2010, Michael Nolden Henderson, a retired lieutenant commander in the United States Navy, became the first black member in Georgia of the Sons of the American Revolution. He became president of his chapter last year. “Historically, both these groups have not reached out to bring in members of color,” Mr. Henderson said. But, he added, “You can work from the inside to help improve the minority numbers.”
Last weekend, Ms. Kelly attended the Continental Congress, a yearly gathering of D.A.R. leaders in Washington. David H. Petraeus, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was the keynote speaker.
Few in the audience at Constitution Hall were black, but nearly all, like Ms. Kelly, were amateur genealogists.
“Their goals are my goals,” she said. “They are welcoming, they are committed to remembering these people, and as a woman of color, why not join the D.A.R.? Why not make our presence felt?”
A version of this article appeared in print on July 4, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: For Daughters of the Revolution, a New Chapter."
We Need to Learn More About Our Colorful Past
By Maurice A. Barboza and Gary B. Nash
Published: July 31, 2004
Back in 1925, American society tended not to advise young white males about the consequences of intimacy with the black maid. Even if the 22-year-old Strom Thurmond considered himself a father, the standards of the time did not require him to give the daughter born of that intimacy any love, support or acceptance. He did, however, irretrievably give her his bloodline.
Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the offspring of Mr. Thurmond and his family's black maid, 16-year-old Carrie Butler, recently announced that she intended to join the Daughters of the American Revolution based on her Thurmond bloodline. Reared apart from her father, Ms. Washington-Williams did not have the same privileges as Mr. Thurmond's white children during his life, yet she is seeking the right to some of the privileges of her lineage.
She is not the first to do so. Ms. Washington-Williams said she was motivated by the battle of Lena Santos Ferguson to join a Washington chapter of the organization and by Ms. Ferguson's quest to honor black soldiers. Ms. Ferguson's grandmother, a black Virginia woman, had married a white man from Maine whose ancestor, Jonah Gay, was a patriot. In the 1980's, Ms. Ferguson fought a four-year legal battle for full membership and to enter her local chapter. It wasn't until the organization was faced with the potential loss of its tax-exempt status in Washington that she was permitted to join.
Perhaps more significantly, Ms. Ferguson demanded, and received, a settlement agreement that bars discrimination and requires the D.A.R. to identify every African-American soldier who served in the Revolutionary War. It was important to Ms. Ferguson that black women know of their ancestors' contribution to the founding of this nation and that they embrace it.
At the time of Ms. Ferguson's settlement, the D.A.R., as an organization, likely knew of many black soldiers who served in the Revolution, yet the organization was not open with the information nor was it receptive to black members. Ms. Ferguson's settlement required the D.A.R. to publish the names they had and to do research to identify more black soldiers, those who were somewhere, undiscovered, in historical records.
On this matter, the D.A.R.'s behavior has been troubling. By early 2000, six years after the settlement agreement, the names of only 1,656 black patriots had been published in 11 D.A.R.-issued pamphlets. Yet some historians estimate 5,000 African-Americans served in the Revolutionary War. The organization's own genealogist, James Dent Walker, said estimates were ''deceptively low'' and that ''no one took the time to examine the records.''
The settlement required the D.A.R. to do historical and genealogical research to find the names of black soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War. Yet, while doing this research, the D.A.R. has failed to use census records and other historical documents that could help identify the races of soldiers. It has also used a narrow classification system for race, one that increases the potential for underreporting: the D.A.R. includes only men described in historical records as ''black,'' ''Negro'' or ''mulatto,'' on their lists of black soldiers. However, whites of the period used a far greater range of colors to describe African-Americans. They meticulously recorded color distinctions among slaves: labels like ''brown,'' ''yellow,'' and ''copper'' (among others) were used consistently in advertisements for the return of runaways. Excluding those ''colored'' patriots puts them off-limits to prospective black D.A.R. members who might otherwise make the connection.
Yielding to pressure, in 2001, the D.A.R. published ''African-American and American Indian Patriots of the Revolutionary War.'' The number of names grew to 2400 names from 1,656, including an additional 744 previously assumed to be ''white.'' But there are still many more African-American soldiers to be identified, and while it acknowledges a handful of ''brown'' soldiers as black, as well as many ''yellow'' ones, the D.A.R. still holds to a narrow definition of an African-American.
This may give a clue to the D.A.R.'s resistance: when confronted with 64 ''brown'' soldiers who could have sired members, the organization conceded that as many as 57 may be listed in its index of proven Revolutionary war soldiers (patriots whose descendants became D.A.R. members). Yet, for generations, descendants of ''brown'' patriots married ''light'' or ''white'' mates, thus increasing the chances that white society, including organizations like the D.A.R., would be a safe harbor for their offspring. When the lists are complete, many people whose families assimilated into white society and cloaked their African heritage may learn, for the first time, of their complicated ancestry.
And in the black community, many people are unaware of their Revolutionary War heritage or reluctant to embrace it -- whether their ancestors were white or black. They may fear ostracism from other blacks who may view white ancestry as a source of shame and a reminder of the injustices and indignities of slavery. The Daughters of the American Revolution's efforts to hide the complicated realities of the past have fueled these types of feelings. But every American, regardless of color, must realize that the past is not pretty, linear, or easily explained.
Maurice Barboza, a founder of the Black Patriots Foundation, is the nephew of Lena Santos Ferguson. Gary B. Nash is a professor of history at U.C.L.A.
August 02, 2004
A Dispute about Black Soldiers in the Revolutionary War
The New York Times has an interesting op-ed story by Maurice A. Barboza and Gary B. Nash that talks about black Americans in the Revolutionary War and their recognition (or lack of recognition) by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
In 1994 the D.A.R. settled a lawsuit involving discrimination. As part of the settlement, the D.A.R. was to identify every African-American soldier who served in the Revolutionary War. The patriotic organization was to publish the names they had and to do research to identify more black soldiers, those who were somewhere, undiscovered, in historical records.
By early 2000, six years after the settlement agreement, the names of only 1,656 black patriots had been published in 11 D.A.R.-issued pamphlets. Yet some historians estimate 5,000 African-Americans served in the Revolutionary War. The organization's own genealogist, James Dent Walker, said estimates were "deceptively low" and that "no one took the time to examine the records."
In a recent e-mail to me [Dick Eastman], African-American genealogist Tony Burroughs disputed the claim of 5,000, saying that it should be much higher. Burroughs stated, "The article was correct in stating scholars estimated 5,000 Blacks fought in the Revolutionary War. What the article didn't state was that that 5,000 estimate was from historian William Cooper Nell's research in the 1850s. Every historian since then has repeated that number. I recall Jimmy Walker, the first one to do original research to identify Blacks in the Revolutionary War since Nell, saying in a lecture on the Rev. War, that he found 5,000 Blacks in New England alone."
Posted by Dick Eastman on August 02, 2004 in Current Affairs
Here is part of testimony before Congress by Maurice Barboza, President of The Liberty Fund D.C., on the approved but still not completed memorial to the Black Veterans of the Revolution on the National Mall:
"The wisdom of Congress in declaring the participation of African Americans in the Revolutionary War to be of “preeminent historical and lasting significance” has been confirmed over the past two decades.
There has been a consciousness that the forgotten black patriots of the Revolutionary War deserve a memorial from as early as 1848. Historian William C. Nell and others petitioned the Massachusetts legislature for a memorial to Crispus Attucks that year. Seven years later, Nell authored, “The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution,” the first of many books on the subject. In 1908, Virginians Giles B. Jackson and Webster Davis observed in “The Industrial History of the Negro Race of the United States” that “Monuments innumerable have been erected to white soldiers who fought in the Revolution. Only a few kind words have been said for the colored soldiers….”
Historians and researchers have written scores of books and articles that confirm the memorial’s merit and worthiness of a Mall site. Scholars Gary B. Nash, a prolific colonial historian, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author and humanities professor, sent an impressive bibliography to the U.S. Senate in 2006 that said “[T]he nation’s Mall will never be a “completed work of art” until this memorial takes its place across from a memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence.” Most of those 40 books were written in just the past five years.
The descendants of those patriots are beginning to step forward. Perhaps as many as 60 African Americans have joined the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons of the American Revolution, since my aunt Lena Santos Ferguson demonstrated it could be done in 1984. (See part 5 below) For example, in 2006, four black men were inducted into the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution at Gunston Hall. They are related to a woman who joined the DAR several years ago. She discovered her Revolutionary War ancestor, a free black man from North Carolina, listed in “African American and American Indian Patriots of the Revolutionary War.” Published in 2001, this book was one of several requirements of a settlement agreement that resolved my aunt’s four-year battle for membership in the DAR during the mid-1980s.
During the Memorial Advisory Commission hearing in 2006, the descendants of multiple patriots from Charles City County, Virginia testified in support of the memorial. Two of them were students from the County who are descended from Sgt. Isaac Brown, Joseph Wallace and William Timothy. The other, Dr. Marion Lane of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is also a descendant of Sgt. Isaac Brown. The national news media has embraced the recent discovery of the Revolutionary war ancestor of Dr. Gates, John Redman of Virginia, through his PBS Series “African American Lives.” Dr. Gates was inducted into the SAR in July 2006. Last year, Dr. Lane became a member of the DAR.
There is another unusual story: Cato Mead’s name is on a cemetery stone and engraved into a memorial at the Iowa state capitol along with 41 other compatriots who died there. Originally from Connecticut, he made his way west with the Mormons. However, his color had been lost to history until recently. Retired schoolteacher Barbara MacLeish of Minnesota discovered he was black. The Montrose, Iowa community now gathers annually around his gravestone to honor his memory.
In 2005, Liberty Fund D.C. and the SAR announced a cooperative effort to encourage African Americans to trace their heritage. Further, the Sons of the American Revolution and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University have undertaken a joint project to examine pension files of Revolutionary War soldiers and compare them with census records to identify black soldiers and uncover evidence of living descendants. One of the purposes is to encourage descendants to honor their ancestors by joining the SAR and other hereditary organizations.
In October 2007, the Haitian-American Historical Society dedicated a memorial in Savannah, Georgia to the Chasseurs Volontaires de Saint-Domingue, the 500-man Haitian unit that fought in the October. 9, 1779, battle that decided the Siege of Savannah. (See the attached photographs and article for the Record.)
In January 2008, the Sons of the American Revolution and an ancient African American Congregation, the Elam Baptist Church, dedicated a memorial to the black soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War from Charles City County, Virginia. (See the attached photographs and op-ed by Maurice Barboza for the Record.)
For the full statement, see here.
*This is Harold Ickes, secretary of the Treasury speaking out against racism and Marian Anderson singing "My country tis of thee" - the one song that remains recorded and in which one can hear her towering voice.
One wonders which of the Daughters has such a passion for liberty...
Ickes celebrates Lincoln, and misguidedly Jefferson but ignores the blacks both in the Revolution and in the Civil War and the ordinary whites, i.e. John Brown, whose movement Lincoln finally spoke out for.
**As he describes in his testimony to the House Natural Resources Committee, Maurice Barboza joined the Sons of the American Revolution and then encouraged his aunt, who had, rightfully, some trepidation, to join the Daughters:
"Between 1978 and 1980, I traced my ancestry to multiple Revolutionary War patriots. A black genealogist suggested I join the Sons of the American Revolution. In 1980, after being welcomed by the SAR, I suggested to my aunt Lena Santos Ferguson that she join the Daughters of the American Revolution. She said, "Maurice, it won't be easy” and reminded me of how when she was a girl in 1939 the DAR had denied opera singer Marian Anderson an opportunity to perform at Constitution Hall. Sure enough, Lena’s application languished for years. A DAR chapter official told one of her sponsors that her membership would 'break up the chapter.'"
***Barboza continues: "My calls to reporters to expose the story often were not comprehended. 'Call back when the story matures,' some replied. In September 1983, we visited Rep. Nancy L. Johnson. Our hometown of Plainville, Connecticut is in her district. Rep. Johnson agreed to introduce a bill to honor black soldiers and liberty seekers as a way of prodding the DAR. President Ronald W. Reagan signed Pub. Law 99-245 in an Oval Office ceremony in mid-March 1984, just days after Lena became a reluctant celebrity.
On March 9, 1984, the front page of The Washington Post announced, "Black Unable to Join Local DAR Chapter: Race is a Stumbling Block." The D.C. city council threatened to repeal the group's real estate tax exemption. The law firm Hogan and Hartson came to my aunt's defense and remained her pro bono counsel for over 17 years. That morning, and for weeks to come, my telephone rang continuously: Today Show, Good Morning America, JET, AP, UPI, New York Times, The Washington Afro-American, Good Morning America, 60 Minutes, Charlie Rose, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal. Now, anxious to avoid further scrutiny, the DAR invited Lena to join.
Lena refused the overture, insisting that the group sign a settlement agreement to ensure no other black woman would suffer her fate. The DAR was required to keep track of, and help, minority descendants become members; advise women that they could be eligible regardless of their race or the race of their ancestor; offer scholarships to graduating seniors in D.C. schools; conduct a seminar on blacks in the Revolutionary war; and identify everyone of African descent who served. She sought no personal consideration except simple respect. Only after 17 years of prodding did the DAR finally publish the compendium of over 2,000 African American and 400 Indian patriots. Many more names await discovery."
****Maurice Barboza and Gary Nash published an op-ed in the Times in 2004 "We need to learn more about our colorful past" on the corruption of DAR estimates. Nash is a great American historian who has written extensively on blacks, native americans and poor whites in the Revolutionary era and was co-chairperson of the panel to design national history standards of inclusiveness. He has tried, persistently and reasonably, to undercut the thick atmosphere of racism that surrounds these issues.
The reporter and the editor would have done better to google the Times' own op-ed pieces...
*****Using Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution to count slaves as 3/5 human to advance the vote of owners, the South controlled the Presidency: for 52 out of the first 72 years of the Republic, the President was a slave-owner. The South also controlled Congress, and promoted, over often mass opposition, genocide against Creek Indians in Georgia and the maintenance and expansion of bondage.
******I use the analogy of the Democratic Convention in 2004 when Medea Benjamin was hauled out for unfurling a banner: "US out of Iraq," when Teresa Heinz Kerry spoke. Probably 90% of the delegates agreed with Benjamin, and very likely, even the nominee John Kerry who presided over the arrest but then had her released; the New York Times dutifully reported the elite view, the Democrats a pro-war party...
That the elite favored or compromised on slavery is no proof that the revolutionary crowds did.
*******New York enacted gradual emancipation enacted in 1799 and New Jersey in 1804, but the last slaves were not freed until the 1840s…