#AceHistoryDesk #OTD Today in History – On April 16, 1862, President Lincoln signed an act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, an important step in the long road toward full emancipation and enfranchisement for African Americans. ”
This illustration from Harper’s Weekly depicts the fourth anniversary of the District’s Emancipation Act. On April 19, 1866, African American citizens of Washington, D.C., staged a huge celebration. Approximately 5,000 people marched up Pennsylvania Avenue, past 10,000 cheering spectators, to Franklin Square for religious services and speeches by prominent politicians. Two of the black regiments that had gained distinction in the Civil War led the procession.
Before 1850, slave pens, slave jails, and auction blocks were a common site in the District of Columbia, a hub of the domestic slave trade. In the words of one slave who worked for a time in the District’s Navy Yard:
…I generally went up into the city to see the new and splendid buildings; often walked as far as Georgetown, and made many new acquaintances among the slaves, and frequently saw large numbers of people of my color chained together in long trains, and driven off towards the South.
As slavery became less profitable in the border states, many traders purchased slaves and shipped them to the Deep South. In cities such as New Orleans, slaves often were resold at a higher price to cotton, rice, and indigo plantation owners. Abolitionists petitioned Congress in 1828 to abolish the District’s notorious trade. Yet, despite the efforts of John Quincy Adams and others, Congress gagged discussion of the issue for nearly 20 years.
In 1849, Illinois Congressman Abraham Lincoln attempted to introduce a bill for gradual emancipation of all slaves in the District. Although the District’s slave trade ended the following year, his emancipation attempt was aborted by Senator John C. Calhoun and others.
As president, Lincoln was better able to effect the issue. He saw slavery as morally wrong yet held it to be an institution dying under its own weight, to be abolished by voter consent. But, as commander in chief, Lincoln also realized the military expediency of emancipation. He abolished slavery in the Capital five months prior to issuing his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The law he signed eventually provided District slave holders compensation for 2,989 slaves.
Twenty-one years later, on April 16, 1883, Frederick Douglass spoke at a commemoration of abolition in the District. He called attention to African Americans’ continued struggle for civil rights:
It is easy to break forth in joy and thanksgiving for Emancipation in the District of Columbia, to call up the noble sentiments and the starting events which made that measure possible. It is easy to trace the footsteps of the [N]egro in the past, marked as they are all the way along with blood. But the present occasion calls for something more. How stands the [N]egro to-day?
The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.
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#AceHistoryDesk #OTD Today in History – On March 3, 1859, journalist Q. K. Philander Doesticks (Mortimer Thomson) attended an auction of 436 men, women, and children formerly held by Pierce M. Butler. Butler’s slaves were auctioned in order to pay debts incurred in gambling and the financial crash of 1857-58.
Doesticks’ account, What Became of the Slaves on a Georgia Plantation?, includes vivid descriptions of the largest recorded slave auction in U.S. history. The grim sale, which took place over two rainy days on the eve of the Civil War, was referred to as “The Weeping Time.”
Many of the slave families described in Doesticks’ report were the subject of a series of letters, written twenty years earlier, by famous British actress and author Frances Ann Kemble. Her Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation, 1838-1839, published in 1863 to galvanize English support of the North during the Civil War, is an unusual account of Southern planter culture from the perspective of an outspoken outsider who considered herself an abolitionist.
Kemble married Butler in 1834, retired from the stage, and spent time with him on Butler Island, the Georgia estate that he inherited from his father. She recorded her impressions of life on a large plantation, including her efforts to improve conditions endured by the slaves who lived there, in correspondence with her friend Elizabeth Whitlock.
Kemble made a successful return to the London stage in 1847 and was divorced from Butler in 1849. Pierce Butler was awarded custody of the couple’s two daughters and Kemble was granted visiting rights. One daughter, Frances Leigh Butler, later wrote an account of her attempts during the Reconstruction period to establish a relationship with her father’s former slaves. Although her mother was a sharp critic of the Georgia planter culture, Frances Leigh Butler penned a sympathetic defense of it.
Find more primary source material on the history of slavery, as well as many other aspects of the African American experience, in the online exhibit, The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship. Included in the section on slavery is a mid-eighteenth-century map of West Africa, from whence came more than two-thirds of the African captives imported to the Americas. This section also features several items that document the Amistad mutiny.
Search First-Person Narratives of the American South. This print collection from the University of North Carolina documents the culture of the American South. Search on the terms Butler Island, Pierce Butler, slave, plantation or other similar terms to learn more from these diaries, autobiographies, memoirs, travel accounts, and ex-slave narratives.
For an online overview of America’s journey through slavery, see Africans in America presented by WGBH Interactive for PBS Online. This presentation contains a section, Antebellum Slavery , with material on Frances Ann Kemble, Pierce Butler, life on Butler Island and “The Weeping Time.”
The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution.
The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for …
MILDRED EUROPA TAYLOR | Head of Content December 24, 2021 at 01:00 pm | HISTORY FULL BIO MOST POPULAR RECENT ARTICLES FULL BIO Mildred Europa Taylor is a writer and content creator. She loves writing about health and women’s issues in Africa and the African diaspora. There are short stories, memoirs and novels written by White Southerners […]
“This is my great-grandma, Christina Levant Platt at age 100, weeding her garden. She was born into slavery. Her “owner” was a wife that taught my great grandma to read and write secretly, which was illegal and quite dangerous at that time for both of them. She learned to read the Bible.
She had 11 children, she lost two, one son was one of the first black attorneys in US. She sent the 4 boys to college in Boston. Exceptional in those days. She passed 5yrs before I was born but I love her as if I knew her. Family tells me she would say “ I put prayers on my children’s children’s heads”. This apparently worked💜
Around April 12, 1861, Christina was at the 1st battle of the CIVIL WAR, in Fort Sumter at Charleston Bay, South Carolina, working in the cotton fields.
She said “the sky was black as night” from cannonball fire. She saw a man decapitated by a cannonball. She was the water girl for the other slaves as a young girl and “ the lookout” for the slaves in the fields for the approaching overseer on horseback as they secretly knelt and prayed for their freedom. She would watch for the switching tail of the approaching horse and would alert the slaves to rise up and return to picking cotton before he saw them.
She eventually married a Native American from the Santee Tribe. John C, Platt. After freedom, Christina insisted upon taking her children north as she knew they would not get a good education in the south, and that’s all she cared about. She died at age 101 in 1944, where she and her husband had built a home in Medfield, Massachusetts, the first black family to move there.
With great respect, I honor my great grandmother.
So much more I could say about this miraculous woman. She gave me much strength in my hard times. Whenever I thought I was having a hard day, I would think of her and shrug it off.
#AceHistoryReport- Nov.10: Lovejoy, who was born on November 9, 1802, in Albion, Maine, decided to seek his fortune in the Midwest after graduating from college. Short on funds, he walked to St. Louis, Missouri, where, over time, he became editor and part-owner of The St. Louis Times. ….
#AceHistoryDesk says #OTD November.07: 1837: Newspaper the St Louis Observer Reported: His death both deeply affected many individuals who opposed slavery and greatly strengthened the cause of abolition.
His name appeared in the Timesfor the first time on August 14, 1830, and for the last time—as editor—on February 18, 1832.
In 1832, caught up in the powerful religious revival movement sweeping the U.S. and its frontier territories, Lovejoy experienced a conversion, which led him to sell his interests in the paper and enroll in Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. Two years later, a group of St. Louis businessmen, who sought to start a newspaper to promote religious and moral education, recruited Lovejoy to return to the city as editor of the St. Louis Observer.
Lovejoy, supported by abolitionist friends such as Edward Beecher (the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin), became ever more radical in his anti-slavery editorials. He first supported African recolonization then endorsed gradual emancipation. By 1835, he sanctioned abolition in the District of Columbia, and, by 1837, championed immediate universal emancipation.
Lovejoy’s editorials raised local ire while they increased national circulation. A group of local citizens, including the future Senator Thomas Hart Benton, declared that freedom of speech did not include the right to speak against slavery. As mob violence increased over the issue, Lovejoy, now a husband and father, decided to move his family to Alton, across the Mississippi River in the free state of Illinois. The City of Alton, Illinois. W.H. Wiseman, c1908. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division
At the time Elijah Lovejoy moved to Alton it was “a booming town.” Alton had some 2,500 residents and was considered both the rival of St. Louis and a far more important Illinois city than Chicago.
Mobs had destroyed Lovejoy’s presses on a number of occasions, but when a new press arrived in November 1837, the violence escalated. No sooner was the new press offloaded from the steamboat Missouri Fultonthan a drunken mob formed and tried to set fire to the warehouse where it was stored. When Lovejoy ran out to push away a would-be-arsonist, he was shot.
Throughout the North and West, membership in anti-slavery societies increased sharply following Lovejoy’s death. Yet officials in Illinois, with one exception, made little comment. Twenty-eight year old State Representative Abraham Lincoln stated publicly:
Let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children’s liberty…Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother…in short let it become the political religion of the nation…
Freedom’s Champion–Elijah Lovejoy, by Paul Simon. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1994. p.163.
Search the collection Slaves and the Courts, 1740 to 1860 on Elijah P. Lovejoy and Alton Trials to find items pertaining to the progression of the Alton riots and the death of Reverend Elijah P. Lovejoy.
Search across the “Photos, Prints” collections on the terms Missouriand Illinois for more images. Search on the term press for images of a wide variety of printing presses more modern than those in use during the life of Elijah Lovejoy.
Search across all collections on the term press for more images of printing presses as they evolved over time.
Hawai`i officially joined the Union as the fiftieth state on August 21, 1959, although voters in the United States Hawaii Territory had ratified a state constitution on November 7, 1950.Hawaiians Dancing the Hula. Illus. in: Badan Whettran, Pearls of the Pacific, 1876, frontis. Prints & Photographs Division
More than eighty years of monarchical rule ended in 1893 when Queen Lili‘uokalani was deposed, after a failed effort to reestablish an eroding monarchical power with a stronger constitutional mandate. The Republic of Hawai’i was established one year later, on July 3, 1894, putting into motion the events that ultimately led to Hawaii’s statehood in 1959.
At the turn of the century, many Americans traveled to the tropical islands. Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name, Mark Twain, recorded his travels in Roughing It, published in 1891. He and his party climbed the volcano Haleakala in Maui and were awed by the experience:
Presently vagrant white clouds came drifting along, high over the sea and the valley; then they came in couples and groups; then in imposing squadrons; gradually joining their forces, they banked themselves solidly together, a thousand feet under us, and totally shut out land and ocean—not a vestige of anything was left in view but just a little of the rim of the crater, circling away from the pinnacle whereon we sat…Thus banked, motion ceased, and silence reigned. Clear to the horizon, league on league, the snowy floor stretched without a break…There was little conversation, for the impressive scene overawed speech. I felt like the Last Man, neglected of the judgment, and left pinnacled in mid-heaven, a forgotten relic of a vanished world.
Roughing It. Chapter 76. By Mark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens]; Hartford Conn.: American Publishing Company, 1891. p549-50
#AceNewsReport – Nov.03: However, Maratha Empire under Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj has the credit of being the first empire to abolish slavery as practiced by European invaders in Bharat.
#AceDailyNews says according Hindupost News Report: Maratha empire was first in the world to abolish Abrahamic practice of slavery!
Slavery under Islamic and European powers
It was the Islamic rule under which actual slavery was witnessed in the Bharatiya subcontinent. Prisoners of war were often kept under the watchful eyes of armed guards with their hands and feet chained. Such traumatic conditions were created that they eventually submitted. The subjugated prisoners were made slaves, converted, and sold. Islamic rule was characterized by slavery that was one of the major reasons for the rise in the Islamic population of Bharat.
Women of royal birth who were enslaved by Mohammad Bin Kasim were either sold or ‘presented’ to others by him. Females who were enslaved were often forcibly converted and married off to Arabs. Even Mahmud Ghaznavi enslaved several thousand Hindus who were eventually forced to become Muslims. The Islamist rulers
The arrival of Europeans in Bharat as traders and the setting up of the East India Company by them brought several of their practices to Bharat. That the Europeans slowly gained political power is all too well-known and this helped them in ‘controlling’ the natives.
To understand how natives in Bharat were treated we must first learn about slavery as it existed in medieval Europe. In medieval Europe, slaves were both Christian and Pagan with the latter being treated with greater disdain.
The bias that the Europeans (both colonial powers and missionaries endorsed by them) had towards Pagans was brought to Hindu Bharat by them. Hindu Dharma was denounced as a Pagan religion by the colonizers who believed that those practicing any form of Pagan religion were ‘evil’ and needed to be subjugated as well as ‘civilized’.
It must, however, be mentioned that Islamic powers that gained a foothold in Bharat also practiced chattel slavery like the subsequent European powers did because both Islam and Christianity enslave those who weren’t adherents of the two Abrahamic religions.
Slave trade was also practiced by the Portuguese, Dutch, British, and French. British government actively encouraged the slave trade thereby making England the leading slave traders in the eighteenth century. Not just the government but the English society including the church, royalty, and the common English citizens favored the slave trade as well. With such overwhelming support for slavery in Britain, it is no wonder that Bharatiyas were subjected to this cruel form of subjugation.
Chhatrapati abolishes slavery
The Maratha Empire’s administrative machinery ranks as one of the best as it gives us a glimpse of not just Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s far-sightedness but also Hindu administrative practices from earlier times that had been incorporated by Shivray.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation came as a blessing for the indigenous Hindu population. One of the fundamental principles of Shiv Chhatrapati’s government was that none of his subjects could be made slaves, much less being sold or transported.
In this regard, Herbert De Jager who worked as the ambassador with the Dutch East India Company (VOC) notes that in Chhatrapati’s qaul (permit) all privileges granted by Sher Khan on behalf of Bijapur were confirmed except the right to buy and transport slaves “since he has established as a fundamental rule of his government, that none of his subjects may be made into slaves, let alone be sold or transported”.
In the same qaul issued to Jager, Chhatrapati makes it amply clear that the slave trade wouldn’t be tolerated at any cost.
“In the days of the Moorish government, it was allowed for you to buy male slaves and female slaves here [the Karnatak], and to transport the same, without anyone preventing that. But now you may not, as long as I am master of these lands, buy male or female slaves, nor transport them. And in case you were to do the same, and would want to bring (slaves) aboard, my men will oppose that and prevent it in all ways and also not allow that they be brought back in your house; this you must as such observe and comply with”.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj put an end not just to the slave trade and slavery but also to the slave mentality that had plagued Hindus.
Slavery in medieval Europe – Science in Poland (Source)
Hindu civilisation and slavery – Indiafacts.org (Source)
#AceHistoryReport – Oct.20: The painting shows four white men in costly 18th-century outfits posing around a table, with Yale at the center. As the men smoke and sip madeira, Yale’s grandchildren play in the field behind them….
#AceHistoryDesk say that according to Yale University scholars have yet to identify the young boy, but new research offers insights on his age and likely background: For decades, an unsettling portrait of Yale University’s namesake and early benefactor, British American colonist Elihu Yale, carried a maddeningly incomplete description.
In the right corner of the canvas, a child of African descent pours wine for the group. He wears fine red and grey clothes and—most disturbingly—a silver collar locked around his neck..
First donated to the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) in 1970 and exhibited sporadically over the past five decades, the painting was initially displayed with wall text that listed the men’s titles but did not mention the enslaved child at their side. When the gallery was rehung in 2016, a new line acknowledged little beyond the boy’s apparel: “Nothing is known … except that his livery identifies him as a servant, and the padlocked collar indicates that he is enslaved.”
Unanswered questions about the enslaved child haunted New Haven resident Titus Kaphar when he first saw the portrait in 2016. Inspired, the artist painted Enough About You, which warps the 18th-century work beyond recognition, save for the boy’s portrait, which is framed in gold.
Kaphar’s subject stares directly at the viewer and does not wear a collar. As the artist told Terence Trouillot of Artnet Newsin 2019, “I decided to physically take action to quiet [and crumple] the side of the painting that we’ve been talking about for a very long time and turn up the volume on this kid’s story.”
Four years after Kaphar created Enough About You, the YCBA embarked on a project to do just that. Last fall, after a landmark summer of protests against racial injustice, director Courtney J. Martin decided to temporarily remove the Yale group portrait from view. The museum hung Kaphar’s painting, on an eight-month loan from private collectors in California, in its place.
Meanwhile, a group of five YCBA employees volunteered to research the enslaved child and his portrait in new depth. Software engineer Eric James, senior curatorial assistant Abigail Lamphier, senior library assistant Lori Misura, coordinator of cataloging David K. Thompson and assistant curator Edward Town published their initial findings online earlier this year. Viewers can explore the report via the YCBA website and the related Yale and Slavery Research Projectwebsite.
As of this week, members of the public can once again view the reinstalled Yale portrait, bolstered by rewritten wall texts that add newfound historical context to the image, as Nancy Kenney reports for the Art Newspaper.
“How long will it stay [up]? That’s the answer I don’t have just yet,” Martin tells the Art Newspaper. “The conversation is evolving.”
The painting’s new label holds several revelations from the researchers. Whereas previous estimates had dated the portrait to 1708, chemical analysis conducted in the past year now suggests that it was completed around 1719. The experts also ascribed the formerly unattributed work to John Verelst, a Dutch portraitist working in Britain during that period, and retitled it Elihu Yale With Members of His Family and an Enslaved Child.
Though the team has yet to uncover the identity of the Black child, Town tells Smithsonian that he still has hope. Scholars sometimes argue that European artists did not paint people of African or Indian descent from real-life models but instead invented from fabricated stereotypes—an assumption that strikes Town as “unsatisfying and wrong.”
“The full story hasn’t yet been told,” he says. Recovering the child’s biography “might prove impossible, but it is still the goal here.”
Despite lacking a name for the child, the YCBA team has managed to flesh out some details of his life and status. Based on input from pediatricians, the team estimates that he was about 10 years old. He would have been one of many people, mostly boys under the age of 10, taken from their families in British colonies in Africa and India and forced to work as enslaved “pages” in the households of wealthy white men. (This work in particular was probably painted at Yale’s house in London.)
The child’s enslavers also forced him to wear a padlocked collar. As the Art Newspaper reports, this was a common practice: YCBA researchers have identified at least 50 other paintings made in Britain between 1660 and 1760 that depict enslaved individuals wearing similar collars, sometimes engraved with an enslaver’s name or other identifying marks.
“This collar is not used to tether someone to another set of chains, in the way that a similar-looking object would be in Jamaica or Barbados at the same time,” says Town. Rather, “[o]ne of the invidious, cruelest things about it is that these collars would have been highly finished, high-status objects.” As instruments of control, the bands symbolically marked their wearers as enslaved and prevented them from easily running away.
Town is careful to qualify that the precise details of this child’s bondage would have differed from the experiences of enslaved people in the British colonies, where slavery was codified by law. Chattel slavery technically had “no legal basis” in England, per Historic U.K. But many Black people were forced to work in British households in “an ill-defined but often violently enforced state of what historians have characterized as ‘slavish servitude,’” the researchers write. (The slippery legal semantics around enslavement within Britain’s shoreline would later be tested in court, most notably in the 1772 case of James Somerset, adds Town.)
The child’s precise relationship with the four men in the painting is likewise unclear. Some clues have come to light: for instance, the man standing at Yale’s shoulder is newly identified as David Yale, the patriarch’s adopted heir. He looms over Lord James Cavendish, to the left of Yale, and a figure now identified as Yale’s son-in-law William Cavendish, on the right.
In other words, this is a family portrait that Yale likely commissioned near the end of his life to promote his power and legacy, says Town. Born in 1649 in Boston, the merchant made his fortune during a 20-year tenure working for (and stealing from) the East India Company in present-day Chennai (then called Madras). He later retired in luxury to Wales and England. In 1718, he donated a set of expensive goods to the future Yale University, lending the young Connecticut college its name.
Town and historian Teanu Reidnote that the extent of Yale’s direct involvement in the trade of enslaved people remains unclear. But other scholars argue that he certainly would have benefited and profited from the trade indirectly, as Mark Alden Branch reported forYale Alumnimagazine last year.
No known written records prove that Yale personally enslaved people. His private papers are missing—a fact that further complicates efforts to determine how the young boy ended up painted into a group portrait. This lack of a paper trail means that researchers can’t say for certain whether Yale or one of his relatives claimed ownership of the child.
That being said, “[f]or me, it’s splitting hairs, because they’re all one social and economic and familial unit,” says Town.
Research into the boy’s identity and story is ongoing. Archivists are currently investigating regional archives located near the estates of Yale and his sons-in-law, who owned properties in Suffolk, Buckinghamshire and Derbyshire, for clues about their lives, businesses and households, per the Art Newspaper.
While Yale’s relationship to the institution of slavery is subject to historical debate, he was certainly comfortable sitting for portraits that featured enslaved people. Of the seven painted likenesses of Yale in the university’s holdings, three depict him alongside an enslaved person: the aforementioned family portrait attributed to Verelst, a rendition of the same group on copper and a separate full-length portrait that once hung in the university’s Corporation Room. The last of these, which was removed from public view in 2007 due to its racist themes, shows an enslaved adult of Indian or South Asian heritage walking up to Yale and holding out a letter. The artist, James Worsdale, attempts to marginalize the figure of the servant, depicting him as emerging from the shadows and rendering him as slight compared to Yale’s imposing bulk.
Similarly, Verelst painted the young African boy in the corner of his group composition. In a 2014 YCBA exhibition, curators asked attendees to disobey these visual cues and instead consider the enslaved child in the portrait as if he were the focus of the work. As Kaphar demonstrated with Enough About You, artists can encourage members of the public to “reframe” portraits like Elihu Yale, literally and figuratively.
“I wanted to find a way to imagine a life for this young man that the historical painting had never made space for in the composition: his desires, dreams, family, thoughts, hopes,” Kaphar told Artnet News in 2019. “Those things were never subjects that the original artist wanted the viewer to contemplate.”
#AceNewsReport – Oct.17: The men–among them three free blacks, one freed enslaved person, and one fugitive enslaved person–hoped to spark a rebellion of freed enslaved persons and to lead an “army of emancipation” to overturn the institution of slavery by force. To these ends the insurgents took some sixty prominent locals including Colonel Lewis Washington (great-grand nephew of George Washington) as hostages and seized the town’s United States arsenal and its rifle works…..
#AceHistoryDesk reports #OTD Today in History – October 16: That a man might do something very audacious and desperate for money, power or fame, was to the general apprehension quite possible; but…that nineteen men could invade a great State to liberate a despised and hated race, was to the average intellect and conscience, too monstrous for belief…….
The upper hand which nighttime surprise had afforded the raiders quickly eroded, and by the evening of October 17, the conspirators who were still alive were holed-up in an engine house. In order to be able to distinguish between insurgents and hostages, marines under Colonel Robert E. Lee waited for daylight on October 18 to storm the building.
Brown and most of his men were veteran foes of slavery. In 1849, he and his family had settled in a black community at North Elba in New York State. Brown had become increasingly militant during the 1850s in his quest to eradicate slavery. In 1855, he had migrated to the Kansas Territory to become the leader of a band of anti-slavery guerrillas. He led a nighttime raid in retaliation for the sack of Lawrence, Kansas, by pro-slavery forces and helped to liberate the enslaved and to transport them safely to Canada.
In 1858, Brown drafted a constitution for a provisional United States government of which he was elected president. He intended to establish an effective means of freeing the enslaved people of Maryland and Virginia. Most of his raiders held commissions in the government’s army. Apparently, only the black conspirators held no commissions. Even the ill-conceived plan for the raid had been germinating in Brown’s thoughts for some time; he had moved to nearby Kennedy Farm in July to prepare for the raid.
Brown claimed he, “knew the proud and hard hearts of the slave-holders, and that they would never consent to give up their slaves, till they felt a big stick about their heads,” and that a slave-holding community was, by its nature, in a state of war, thus drastic actions were necessary and justified. His supporters felt they had a moral imperative to take action:
Millions of fellow-beings require it of us; their cries for help go out to the universe daily and hourly. Whose duty is it to help them? Is it yours? Is it mine? It is every man’s, but how few there are to help. But there are a few who dare to answer this call and dare to answer it in a manner that will make this land of liberty and equality shake to the centre.
In his account of the raid for Century Magazine, Alexander Boteler pointed out that, “…the usages of ordinary warfare had been more than once disregarded, during the day, by the belligerents on both sides.” Harper’s Ferry mayor Fountain Beckham was clearly unarmed and his hands were in his pockets when he was shot by the insurgents; raider Dangerfield Newby’s ears were cut off as trophies; and Jeramiah Anderson was tortured and beaten as he lay dying. Some considered the Harper’s Ferry raid to have been the first skirmish of the Civil War:
then and there the first shot was fired and the first blood was shed–the blood of an unoffending free negro…that there and then occurred the first forcible seizure of public property; the first attempt to “hold, occupy, and possess” a military post of the Government; the first outrage perpetrated on the old flag; the first armed resistance to national troops; the first organized effort to establish a Provisional Government at the South, in opposition to that of the United States; the first overt movements to subvert the authority of the constitution and to destroy the integrity of the Union.
Fellow abolitionist Frederick Douglass recognized in Brown an unparalleled devotion, “I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.” Brown had lost two sons in the raid. Another son had already sacrificed his life for the anti-slavery cause in the Osawatomie raid.
Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life, for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and MINGLE MY BLOOD FURTHER WITH THE BLOOD OF MY CHILDREN, and with the blood of millions in this Slave country, whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments,–I say LET IT BE DONE.
For his actions, Brown was quickly tried and convicted of murder, slave insurrection, and treason against the state and sentenced to death by hanging. The simplicity and sincerity of Brown’s address after his sentencing astounded listeners on both sides of the issue. While awaiting his fate in the Harper’s Ferry jail, he received a sympathetic letter from Massachusetts’ writer and abolitionist Lydia Maria Child. “I think of you night and day,” she wrote, “bleeding in prison, surrounded by hostile faces, sustained only by trust in God and your own heart. I long to nurse you–to speak to you sisterly words of sympathy and consolation.”
Brown declined her offer, asking instead that she contribute to the financial support of his surviving family that included two daughters-in-law whose husbands had been killed in the raid. “Would you not,” he wrote, “as soon contribute fifty cents now, and a like sum yearly, for the relief of those very poor and deeply afflicted persons, to enable them to supply themselves and their children with bread and very plain clothing, and to enable the children to receive a common English education?” “Outrage,”February 2, 1837. Anti-Abolitionist Handbill. The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History & Culture. Rare Book & Special Collections Division
Child’s support of Brown occasioned a bitter exchange of letters that reveals the depth of animosity between abolitionists and Southern slaveholders in the wake of Brown’s raid. “I and thousands of others,” Child wrote Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise, “feel a natural impulse of sympathy for the brave and suffering man. Perhaps God, who sees the inmost of our souls, perceives some such sentiment in your heart also.”
“I could not permit an insult even to woman in her walk of charity among us,” Governor Wise responded, “though it to be to one who whetted knives of butchery for our mothers, sisters, daughters and babes. We have no sympathy with your sentiments of sympathy with Brown.”
John Brown’s actions made him a martyr to abolitionists. Of the five conspirators who escaped from the engine house and were never caught, four served in the Union Army during the Civil War (only Brown’s son Owen did not.) The Harper’s Ferry raid remains one of the more controversial events of the country’s history. Frederick Douglass sums up his assessment of his friend’s actions:
Did John Brown fail? He certainly did fail to get out of Harper’s Ferry before being beaten down by United States soldiers; he did fail to save his own life, and to lead a liberating army into the mountains of Virginia. But he did not go to Harper’s Ferry to save his life. The true question is, Did John Brown draw his sword against slavery and thereby lose his life in vain? and to this I answer ten thousand times, No! No man fails, or can fail who so grandly gives himself and all he has to a righteous cause.
#AceNewsReport – Aug.14: Aranya didn’t think her life could get any worse after she found herself paying $100 a week to sleep on the floor of someone else’s kitchen, forced to cook, do laundry and clean for a family she barely knew: Then she was recruited to work in a massage parlour that doubled as a brothel, for at least 10 hours a day, only paid per client, with no idea how to escape: Aranya didn’t think slavery existed in modern Australia. She now knows better.
#AceDailyNews says slavery still exists in Australia today but these people are fighting back after one woman realised her friends were not real friends but only wanting to use her like everyone else now she wants to help people like her who suffer the same fate …..
The ‘friends’ who said they would help
Aranya is the youngest of three and no stranger to hardship.
She was an orphan by age 12 and scratched a living cleaning rich people’s houses in her home country in South-East Asia. Her brother started a lunch service for the teachers at their school, taking orders and rushing to fill them before recess ended.
The summer heat was smothering and its winters icy, but it was home and Aranya never wanted to leave.
The Australian man she met online, who would later become her husband, had agreed to move overseas to be with her when he retired. But he changed his mind, so Aranya left everything she knew and came to Australia.
At first, her married life in Geelong was normal.
She was settling in and even met some people in the local South-East Asian community who took her to temple, showed her where to shop, and where to get food that tasted like home.
Aranya thought of them as friends.
Then, while taking a holiday back in Asia, her husband demanded a divorce. And those same friends swooped in.
They offered her a place to stay in Geelong while she sorted out her affairs. They said they would help her find a home and a job and that she could continue the life she had come to love.
Aranya, a small, shy woman with a contagious smile when she’s brave enough to share it, believed them.
She was deceived, and the room she was promised was the kitchen floor of a stranger’s home.
She was charged $100 a week and was expected to scrub, dust, and mop the house, cook meals for the family and care for their children. She was paid for none of it.
Then, while travelling on a bus, another woman she had never met approached her promising safety. It was another deception, and Aranya found herself in the brothel.
Aranya doesn’t want her real name used.
She says there are people who still want to do her harm. They claim she owes them at least $9,000 in unpaid rent.
But she does want to speak out to help those who could be just like her — a little too trusting, a little too unsure of what’s right and wrong in a new country.
Aranya wants people to know what happens to migrants who fall through the cracks. Who want nothing more than a good life, to work hard and raise a family but end up enslaved by those who see them as a means of making a profit.
Preying on religion
It took months for Aranya to tell someone what was happening to her, because she never thought she was being cheated.
Aranya says her diligent upbringing as a Buddhist taught her the art of silent atonement, and she felt the people who took advantage of her should be forgiven and not be made to feel bad for their actions, however inhuman.
“We tend to not do that because we don’t want bad karma to come after us,” Aranya says.
“If you hurt someone it means you will see them again in the next lifetime.
“It’s almost like you need to not say anything to become a good person.”
This was reinforced by her captors, who she says were also of South-East Asian heritage and used the knowledge of her traditions to convince her she should be grateful and that they were doing her a favour by providing her work and a roof over her head.
But she couldn’t let go of her disappointment and one question: Why was this happening to her?
“I was lost and vulnerable. I was shocked and I didn’t know what to do so I just accepted it,” she said.
Those around her said they held deep connections with the police, so reporting what was happening felt out of the question.
Two other women Aranya stayed with at the brothel seemed content to live in the system.
They had boyfriends connected to the business and easy access to booze and parties.
She kept expecting something to change, for her life to pick up.
And then one day it did.
Difficult to find, even harder to prove
Modern slavery can be extremely difficult to prove, says detective sergeant Trevor Russell.
He is the team leader for the Australian Federal Police modern slavery team for Victoria and Tasmania.
Victims, he said, were often unable to see the offending occurring against them.
“They might think their situation is normal,” he said.
Debt bondage is one of the most common forms of modern slavery worldwide.
There is often no paper trail; instead, everything is agreed upon verbally.
The debt can be tied to a person’s family who remain in their home country.
Victims are warned to do what they’re told or their family will be harmed.
Whether true or not, few take that chance.
Aranya’s enslavers had no connection to her older brother and sister in Asia; her last remaining family.
So they employed brainwashing and debt bondage.
It’s a very common strategy, says Kyla Raby, the national program coordinator at the Red Cross Support for Trafficked People Program.
“It draws on that feeling of comfort and safety and it allows for greater coercion and control,” she said.
It also makes it harder for victims to come forward.
“Some people don’t even identify what’s being done to them is wrong,” she said.
“They often blame themselves or think they chose to be in that situation.”
It’s hard to estimate the extent of the problem. The Red Cross has about 130 people in its program at the moment, but Ms Raby says that’s “scratching the surface”.
According to the Global Slavery Index, more than 40 million people around the world are living in modern slavery conditions, with up to 15,000 victims living in Australia.
In a 2019 report, the Australian Institute of Criminology said for every one person identified as a victim of modern slavery, there were another four who were not identified.
Sallie Yea, from the Department of Social Inquiry at La Trobe University, said modern slavery in Australia was so “clandestine and hidden” it’s “very difficult to get precise numbers”.
Adding to the silence is often a cultural fear of authority.
Initially, people experiencing modern slavery only have to speak informally with the AFP to access the Red Cross program, but after three months (or six months for victims of forced marriage), they have to make a formal police report to access long-term support.
“The help is time-limited,” Ms Raby said.
“I have seen people drop off the program because they don’t want to refer it to the police for an investigation.”
Sergeant Russell said he recognised the barriers preventing people from coming forward but wanted to reassure victims they would not be “cut off at the knees” if, for some reason, their case did not qualify for assistance.
“That would be counterproductive. We are really awake to the fear of police and for people to come forward and tell their story to a stranger, let alone a police officer, is really confronting so we make sure everyone we deal with is treated sensitively,” he said.
“We are victim led in getting good outcomes, we aren’t all about prosecution.”
‘People should be equal in Australia’
Aranya met Issara Saeyim at a local community centre in Geelong a bit over a year ago.
She had been allowed to go on the proviso the classes could improve her English.
She almost fell in love with Issara. Who was this woman? So confident, so buoyant, always laughing at her own jokes.
At the time, Aranya had no idea how similar their lives were.
Years ago, Issara had been forced to work illegally for meagre dollars in a Geelong restaurant, moved between women’s refuges before the violence within some of them was enough to make her leave.
She found a cheap place to rent and slept on the floor with her young son, unable to afford a bed.
“In Thailand, you feel like an animal, so I came here with hope. It’s a first-world country where people should be equal,” Issara says.
She fell into a deep depression when she realised that wasn’t true.
Though Issara contemplated suicide, small steps empowered her to keep going.
She was approved for Centrelink, granted a visa that allowed her to study and learn English, which led her to the local community centre; an unassuming, single-story neighbourhood house that through Issara’s relentless pursuits, has become a refuge for victims who are terrified of their modern-day enslaver and equally terrified of telling authorities.
Issara receives calls and texts almost every day from people around regional Victoria needing help: a woman trapped in a relationship with a man in Ballarat fearing for the safety of her teenage daughter; a couple living in a caravan on a vegetable farm who aren’t allowed to leave the property and need help sending money back home to their family in Asia.
When Issara watched Aranya walk into the community centre, she saw herself from years earlier: a hunched demeanour, meek voice, and deliberate movements as if at any moment the room could swallow her whole.
She carefully coaxed Aranya into talking about her situation. Then, she came up with a plan.
‘They’re not here to get you’
Aranya’s escape wasn’t easy.
It had to be coordinated between seven people but completely directed by her.
On a cold, dry Saturday morning, the manager of the community house, Liz Bonner, got the text: no-one was home except Aranya and the two other women who also wanted out.
They threw all their belongings into black garbage bags and had them ready and waiting in the living room and on the porch for easy access.
The truck arrived, parked, and a roller door thrown up.
No-one knew if this would work; it was broad daylight and they worked with speed.
Then it was done. Aranya and two other women moved into a house in the hope of peace and safety.
Aranya was the only one who stuck it out, the other two women went back, preferring the security of the known.
But it took consistent persuading before Aranya even contemplated going to the police.
Her captors, she said, knew the police in Geelong. It was said that a powerful woman in the community used to be married to a policeman and would ensure anyone who spoke out was punished.
No-one knows how much truth there is to this story, Issara says, but the fear it perpetuated in Aranya couldn’t be questioned.
The AFP travelled to the community centre from Melbourne to explain what they did and how they did it. Issara translated everything to Aranya who was sceptical, but listened.
It took courage for Aranya to believe there would be no negative consequences for speaking out, not even for the people who trapped her.
“They’re not here to get you,” Liz would tell her.
Almost a year after leaving the house, Aranya told her story to two federal agents through a translator over four hours.
She still hasn’t pressed charges, and even if she does, there’s no guarantee of justice. It’s difficult to collect a body of evidence based on verbal agreements.
“The wheels turn as fast as they turn,” Liz said.
“But we took her power back that day.”
Down the cold hallway of a sharehouse, past a bedroom with scattered sheets and another with discarded pistachio shells littered across the floor, is Aranya’s room.
The curtains are open, letting in the grey light of a typical mid-winter day in Geelong.
She doesn’t love it here, but it’s a safe place and she can go to the community centre where she has true friends.
Laid out along a bookshelf is an array of intricately woven flowers made from perlaceous yellow ribbon.
Two more are hanging from a metal coat hanger above her bed, another six are stored in a felt box on the floor.
It takes two days of delicately folding and twisting the strands of ribbon to make just one phuang malai.
They’re a good luck charm, Aranya says, something beautiful to soothe the storm still raging in her head that has, for a long time now, distracted her from prayer.
“I used to pray an hour a day, every day, but I can’t concentrate anymore,” she said.
Her prayers used to be for one day having children, but as the years ticked over she says it’s too late.
Instead, when she can focus, she prays for wisdom, a job to pay rent, maybe one day even a car.
“My dream is to help people, like Issara does. I want to help people who have experienced the same experience like me to get out,” she says.