". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, December 31, 2010

My 2010 Goes Out

With 9 single-spaced pages.

Hopefully the article won't be that long when it is finished. But that will wait until 2011.
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Home Again, For the New Year

We knew it would be like this. We were sorely tempted to stay in C'town. But our friends! Gigs! Shopping! Movies!

It was an ordeal by the end.

First there was the inevitable New Jersey Turnpike slow moving mess at some point.

Then it was the one-hour wait mess to enter the Holland Tunnel. We also took the wrong turrn and instead of joining the endless stop and start train for the Tunnel, we went to Jersey City instead.  What?  We hit it at the height of rush hour -- the Holland Tunnel for those who don't live in the region is where essentially 6 lanes turn into ... two lanes.  So we enlessly stopped and started though mid and residential Jersey City to the Holland Tunnel instead.  It was a one-hour delay between the toll plaza and entering the Tunnel, and it took the same amount of time between the toll plaza and entering the Tunnel via our detour.  But the detour caused the stress levels to rise as we had not an idea of where we were at first or how to get back to where we were supposed to be.  Then we saw we were on the route to the Holland Tunnel and relaxed.   But it still was a drag.

Followed by the snow mess that is NYC, with nowhere to park, and a car loaded down with stuff, including much beer, wine, champagne, etc. for tomorrow night's party. We managed to unload all our things into the apartment in relays, then drove the liquor to M's loft on the lower east side, where a good parking spot was found, and walked back over here. It's nice outside, temperature-wise!

Then the mess in the apartment. What has he been doing in here when I'm not around to oversee? And it's cold in here .... And the sink is leaking .... The Time-Warner cable service here as usual really sux. I also forgot my power supply cable for my laptop.  How did I do that?  I was wrapping the cables and I swear I recall putting them into the bag -- but obviously, I did not! Only the laptop itself got inserted because, ah-hem, himself was getting antsy about leaving and I was doing about 18 things at the same time, so I lost track of what I was doing, I guess.  I can use el V's power supply fortunately, as our netbooks are very close siblings. So we can switch off and re-charge our batteries. My HP Pro desktop here still works fine, but all the research and drafts I'm doing with The American Slave Coast is on the laptop -- and, um, a new version of Word on the laptop, so kablooey with footnoting format and so on, as we'd learned way back when I got this in July.

We brought a lot of C'town groceries with us. It sure beat running around in the snow mess tonight to go grocery shopping or find a restaurant.  The city's packed with tourists.  As well, it turns out the soups and porkchops I'd frozen from our last together trip here were perfectly fine.  And we brought some of da Fox's favorite wine with us as well, which she is now drinking in preparation for sleepy time, while el V has a stash of some of his favored cervezas on hand in the refrigerator too.

So all will be well -- and I get to take ye laptop up to the NYPL Humanities (I CANNOT get its new name in mind or right!  a billionaire's name) and do some work there after NY's too.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sun Sets On 2010

Virginia History Textbooks Are Filled With Wrong, Vetting Finds

Didn't we already know this?

However, there had to be an official review, of "five professional scholars," which did find that, as we knew, Our Virginia: Past and Present, "should be withdrawn from the classroom immediately, or at least by the end of the year."  Along with the glaring error that "thousands of black soldiers fought for the South," are these and many, many more, pages-worth:
New Orleans began the 1800s as a bustling U.S. harbor (instead of as a Spanish colonial one). The Confederacy included 12 states (instead of 11). And the United States entered World War I in 1916 (instead of in 1917).
Then there are the further glaring errors in another textbook approved for Virginia schools, called Our America, from Harcourt.  Historian Mary Miley Theobald, a former Virginia Commonwealth University professor, reviewed Our America and concluded that it was "just too shocking for words."

"Any literate person could have opened that book and immediately found a mistake," she said.

Theobald's list of errors spanned 10 pages, including inaccurate claims that men in Colonial Virginia commonly wore full suits of armor and that no Americans survived the Battle of the Alamo. Most historians say that some survived.

Why Frederick Douglass Applauded South Carolina's Secession

Written by David Blight, the foremost scholar on the history of U.S. Slavery,  Director  of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale, as today's Disunion column -- "Cup of Wrath and Fire."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Honk Country - DonchU Be Comin' Rounjeer Without U Have Foods 4 Us

It's a beautiful early winter mid-day -- above freezing, sunny skies, low wind, much melting.   The Chester is frozen along the shores, but the center is tide in-running fast.  The widgeon, teal, Canadian geese and another kind, plus various gulls and other water birds viciously beaked, strong winged and long-legged abound.  They are loud, vociferous and demanding.  And very funny.  Particularly when they approach tourists who haven’t seen this display before, with necks elongated and reaching, wings flapping, honking and quacking.  Great to be out and about since the weather had been nothing but miserable with cold, wind and /or snow since Christmas Day.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Difficult Writing Task

But I've finally got what seems a successful start, with a thousand words plus many footnotes in the Introduction to the section that shines retrieval illumination -- hopefully  -- into that historical black hole in the historical dynamic of our national slavery evolution between the Era of Confederation and the War of 1812.

We went from serious discussion of national abolition, we thought, as part of Independence, conceived in Liberty, to ... not. What happened? The Constitution happened, for one thing.  Why did the Constitution happen with those articles and clauses -- that keep the word slavery silenced, while binding and weaving inexorably into the warp and woof of our nation?  Because there was in truth no serious consideration of abolition at all.  But for Our Side, unlike the republican American history view, that slavery was a constitutional side issue at most, which later would become a part of exceptional American progressivism, for us it is a story of terrible loss. 
The college isn't shut down only for the holiday break, it is really closed.  For one thing there's no internet connection anywhere as WC IT decided to take this time to upgrade its rinkydink not-even-cable campus system.  Thus the library also decided to use this closing to close itself and do serious collection shelf moving.  So all the people we hang out with here are either gone to other parts of the world, or else, as they live in the country, are rather snowbound.  The town's been a ghost world populated only by wind today.  We have really been rolling on The American Slave Coast.  It's almost as though we planned it that way or something and now we're in shock we really have the words etc. to show for it.  We can go off for New Year's with a clear conscience and a sense of  having gotten somewhere.

Honk Country -- Horrid Day

It's the wind. It's so sharp and cold, so strong, so loud. It roars as if one were in the Rockies instead of at sea level. It's making me crazy. At least I'm not in NYC where even some of the subways went out -- with passengers stuck in the cars -- for over 12 hours. That never happens, or hardly ever. This storm did it.

Starting to get a bit cabin fevered. Guess I'll retire up to the Sun Room and read about the failure of Canadian invasions by us in the War of 1812.

Still and all this is a pretty intense time-traveling experience ... here in a land where you can see the generationally gathered and expanded wealth and power of particular families still in effect after centuries. I've never lived before with this constant and familiar awareness of class and wealth distinction between Them and me. Where I grew up didn't even become a state until centuries after these still ruling families first arrived here, so it the power and class differential wasn't so glaring. Also, when I was growing up, we lived in a meritocracy and expanding economy, i.e. a time of taken-for-granted upward mobility if you were educated and worked hard..

Now el V's Huguenot forebears got here right at the end of the 17th, start of the 18th centuries -- landed first in Virginia, as did so many. However, his ancestors did not gather unto themselves generations of wealth and power. Obvious, that. Because if they had we two would never have met and married, as neither did my ancestors gather wealth and power for generations.

With the achievements in health care and medical knowledge some of our current masters may well be living a century and a half, maybe longer. This contributes only to more concentration of wealth and power for them, and less and less for the rest of us.

I'm getting a fair sense of what it must have been like for most of us in those European lands that grew out of feudalism, how effectively blocked most people felt to ever have a life better than the one ordained to them by the accident of who their family was. We're going back to that. O, not in form or political structures, but in effective social separation of classes, lack of social mobility, denial of rights, shutting down of educational and other opportunities. While of course, if you're DuPont or a Caroll or a Slidell or a Raisin or Despeaux (who came from Haiti with much property including many slaves), etc. you are still doing well, in fact, you're getting richer every year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Honk County - Day After Christmas

It is storming. Snow and wind.

Fascinating information emerges when browsing through the House's Leo Lemay Library donation's Collected Letters and Papers of George Washington, such as how deeply and tightly established already by 1769 the buying and selling of personal property slaves was the basis of each slaveholder's personal economy, particularly for their constant need of personal debt relief.

By the end of the 17th century it was all there, or rather here, in the Upper South, the Chesapeake region. So fortunate for the elite slaveholders there was the constant expansion of new land settlements to the south and the west demanding healthy slaves to work to death clearing the wilderness for the enrichment of their owners.

There's this as well: George Washington’s descriptions of his runaway slaves, sent to gazettes and slave catchers. The descriptions are lengthy, filled with multiple and specific detail of each individual, including their speech patterns – at least three of the four run-aways are clearly Africans, rather than born in the Chesapeake.
Tell me again that African Americans didn't build this country.

O, yeah, Christmas! It was wonderful. I have now the newest edition of Photoshop. The downside is I have to learn to use it. It's not like the older editions I've had before. I really do need to learn it all over again.  Time sink, time I could use profitably elsewhere, methinks.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Honk Country Merry Christmas!

Yo Ho Know ... Snow!

Yesterday, bright blue cloudless skies all day, temperatures in the low forties, yay!

We retire under a bright silver coin of a moon, effortless transcending the bit a gauze hanging about her.

I arose this morning to large, white snowflakes falling apace.

Srsly. It's a cumin' down.

I am wishing hard for all the snow to stop long before the weekend so I can get to NYC without any troubles.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Honk Country -- Revisiting It's Almost Here

Christmas is almost here.

Elsewhere I'd posted:

Even while it was Halloween season, Dollar General filled an aisle with Thanksgiving decorations and supplies, but it had already begun filling aisle after aisle with Christmas supplies, everything from candies to table decorations, gift wrap, indoor and outdoor decorations, tree decorations and many other items like Santa Claus mugs -- you name it. I'm talking thousands of items. Last Friday I was in Dollar General again for the first time in nearly three weeks. Hardly anything is left. The shelves are stripped. I don't mean by the staff to make room or go for returns or whatever. By shoppers. People have bought all this holiday stuff. Let us recall too, that not only is our county the least densely populated county in all of Maryland, it is the poorest county in all of Maryland.
A friend remarked vto the effect that so many people must be lazy or uncreative.  Why didn't they decorate paper towels with crayons or make stuff for Christmas instead of buying all this junk?

Another friend returned:

"If you're struggling to put food on the table, Christmas dinner may be nothing special or fancy. Spending a dollar on a package of colorful paper napkins to make it a "holiday meal" is not something for which I want to criticize anyone.

And our local Dollar Generals and Dollar Stores take food stamps in payment for items which qualify."

To which I say, that's great! I agree 100%, for what that's worth. Thank goodness there is a general store where people who only have a dollar or so to spend on things that are necessary or for fun can go. More and more people need this price break -- such chains as Dollar General are among the few businesses who gained customers since the crash. There was a feature on them in the NY Times back this summer, which included the information that more manufacturers, faced with the facts that jobs aren't coming back, and the middle-class is disappearing, are putting out items that are geared for Dollar General stores' type of operation, in terms of volume, size, to hit their price break. IOW, we the people, all the people, of the United States of America, need this low-priced outlet.

One of the big problems about living in Manhattan is these places don't exist. The last versions of them in my neighborhood got chased out in 2004. I've bought things at Dollar General that have been fun because they cost a dollar, whereas in NYC I don't buy them because they cost so much more -- and they are the exact same item. Even things like tissue and cleaning supplies are less than a quarter the price they are in NYC.

We were at one of the two local supermarkets right outside of town last night. None of the people shopping at 8 PM looked happy (people here get up around 4 or 5 and are in bed early -- you don't see little kids out and about at all hours here like at home). They were not zooming through the aisles happily pulling from the shelves, filling their baskets to the brim. No matter how much they were buying, each thing they took was chosen after careful consideration of price and so on, whether a young mother by herself, an elderly man by himself, a late middle-aged couple.

I kept thinking how lucky we were -- we weren't trying to make a Merry Christmas for a whole family out of terribly pinched circumstances, or having the holiday solitary.

Christmas here is just like it was where I grew up. It is the center of the year.

Last weekend 'town' was filled with people who had come in to shop for Christmas gifts, for their wives, their husbands -- people they are close to, not obligatory gifts. People bake gifts like crazy too. They make things by the ton -- what is called the latest arts and crafts movements, or 'craftiness' (because this is women mostly, I guess, otherwise these are hobbies or avocations or something), for home use, and for gifts in their social and church circles. Every night the churches, schools, municipalities sponsor choirs, plays, dances, parties, dinners -- social get-togethers of all kinds. People hunt and they eat what they kill, and share it around. Your larger family beyond spouse and children live here too. Thinking of the young women at the supermarket last night, who were obviously shopping for at least children -- well she probably doesn't have much energy left after driving many miles back and forth to some shit job -- maybe she's a cashier at Wal-mart? -- to keep her family's body and soul together -- she's probably hasn't got much left over to be creative with, particularly if two of her four kids is sick. Because those events all month are community events, their children, they themselves, have been participating too, with refreshments after, with little gifts for teacher and kids' friends and the choir director and so on so forth. Somehow, some way, they are making Christmas for their family, and have been doing so all month long.

This is all a lead-up to the really big night and day. By Friday at 3 PM, everything here will have shut down -- the stores, the libraries, all the gas stations except Dutch Royal out of town that services the big rigs, the coffee shops, the bakeries, the restaurants. You want to eat out Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? You drive to Baltimore, baby.

This is how it was where I grew up at Christmas. This is how it is again, this Christmas of 2010. My home and the windows are decorated with ornaments, ribbons and lights I got at Dollar General. The table will have a Christmas cloth, mats and napkins too, all from Dollar General.

Maybe that was the point of of the previous entry, but I didn't make it clear, or maybe even make it: the Dollar Store's Christmas supply aisles were stripped ten days before Christmas because here, in the way it used to be called, "the true meaning of Christmas," Christmas matters to everyone. No wonder I feel so at home here.

On the other hand, I also can never forget the primary reason this county is the least densely populated and the poorest, why there's no corporate development here, is because it is almost entirely owned by the DuPonts, as part of their vast regional feudal land ownership that goes back to the end of the 17th, start of the 18th centuries. This is their summer vacation and fishing, fall and winter hunting preserves ....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Secession Ball -- Starr Center Director Comments on Secession

On WBUR Radio -- audio link provided here on the the NY Times Opinionator Disunion site.

This weekend James McPherson spoke out on NPR about neo-confederacy -- audio link here, or you can read the transcript.

An interesting contrast to today's media neo-confederacy blow-up with Haley Barbour and his foolishly mendacious presentation of the White Citizen's Council's activities in Yazoo City, Mississippi.  Evidently he didn't think anyone noticed or remembered how they methodically, in systematic cooperation, destroyed the livelihoods of every NAACP leader in town.

This bit from one of the entries on Ta-Nehesi Coates's Atlantic Monthly blog today is something in which I too take delight; the NY Times Disunion blog is part of this.  So was our Secession Ball Teach-In.  You can hear the neocons strangling on their own lies as they write reams in response to these historical events, insisting secession happened because the North disrespected the slaverholders' hysterically bombastic states' rights claims and thus had nothing to do with slavery:

One of the great advantages of the internet is that when people make ignorant claims about American history, they can, with relative ease, be corrected. Andy Hall mentioned recently that this had been an awful year for Neo-Confederates. In part, I think, that's because with a mere click of the mouse you can discover what actual Confederates were saying ....
And, why, yes!  Secession was indeed all about slavery and nothing else.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

As 2010 Dissolves Into Time Forever Past

Though of course, as I've been learning for a few decades now, the past is never past, except in NYC which is always about the present and the future.
There were few movies or television productions* this year of special interest to this particular viewer with the very fine exception of Winter's Bone. Winter's Bone is the most satisfying film I've seen not only this year but in a long time. It is woman centered, in the generationally poverty-striken Ozarks of Missouri. Father of family is out on bail, but as his court date becomes imminent he's nowhere to be found. The guarantee he signed for the bail money loan put up their bit of generationally-possessed land, their home, as guarantee. No court appearance and the loan is called in, meaning the family loses their home. They have nowhere to go. Their mother is ineffective, ill, physically and emotionally. The entire burden of keeping everything going has been on the oldest child, a daughter, a h.s. dropout, named Ree.

Ree's a drop out because her family responsibilities take all her time. She sees to it there is food for them to eat, even if it is a squirrel stew, the squirrel which she shot, skinned,  dressed and cooked herself. She chops the wood for their wood-burning heat and cooking stoves. She helps the young ones with their schoolwork, she sends them to bed (though none of them have what the middle-class could see as a bed much less a separate bedroom). She gets them up, clean, dressed and fed for school. This girl, sixteen or seventeen, can use an axe and a wood chipper with a skill equal to her expertise with a gun. She washes clothes by hand, in the winter. She cares for her mother who is often insensible. She has a respected standing in the community among both the men and women as one of their own, who does what is needful, without talking or complaining either. When they can, people pitch in with what little they've got to share and share with her, whether it be feeding her horse because she's not got the money to buy hay, loaning her use of their wood chipper, sending over a part of the latest venison butcher. Many of them are blood kin to Ree and each other in one way or another.

Now Ree must save their home. This means finding her father, which means moving into the community's masculine sector. Information about her father is stone-walled from all the men she requests it from.

She gets some help and support from a number of women including her best friend and cousin who married one of the biggest drug dealers and is now a mom. When you might think at least there's this in Ree's deprived world, this warm network of supportive strong women to hold her up, this changes with the snap of fingers -- because the men say so.  The women can't survive without each other, but this is a patriarchy and none of the women can ever forget that. Now it really gets interesting.

The film's beautifully composed, lit and shot. It moves quickly but without any sense of melodrama left over from the 1930's hillbilly potboilers, like Erskine Caldwell's 1932 Tobacco Road (which, set in Georgia, is a long way from the locale of this film). The music and sound track are exquisite.

Winter's Bone makes an interesting first part of a film duology with the non-fiction documentary, The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. Now, these people and their documentarians have definitely been too much influenced by their own mythology.

With both these films you see people and faces that are seldom given space or voice in the media. But in contrast to TWAWWOWV, in Winter's Bone, the dignity of Ree's character and so many of the other women in the film will make you want to cry, but you know better than to do that, to disrespect them and their struggles that way. They don't cry for themselves. There isn't a wrong move, a false note, a single cliche, a drop of condescension in any scene of this film.

I know those people of Winter's Bone, down in my bones. I'm not Scotch-Irish and I grew up on the prairie but still, these are my people. Everything in this film that is known and familiar, whether it be the homes, the animals, the kids, the sky of winter where it is hard, cold and dark. That community, I know it in the most intimate spaces of my heart.

* For television it was David Simon's Treme on HBO and The Good Wife on CBS.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Virginian Rides Again on AMC

Recently I learned that the network which brought us the lauded historical fiction series, Mad Men, will be presenting us more fictional versions of history:

[ Hell On Wheels is at its heart a vengeance story about an ex-Confederate rebel hunting the Union soldiers who killed his wife, as well as a gritty Western that takes place in the lawless, eponymous traveling camp of the title. ]

You can see why this distresses anyone who knows anything about the history of that period and what preceded this era of American history?  Worse, since it is the network of Mad Men, who most people believe gets most things right (though I've seen some really glaring period errors, particularlily dealing with 'women's things'), people are going to think this series will be telling it like it was too, which means perpetuating the outright lies, revisionisms and falsification fantasies that began about the Civil War and slavery long before South Carolina seceded or fired on Fort Sumter or War was declared by Abraham Lincoln's congress.

Do we need to say that civilian deaths at the hands of Union soldiers were very, very, very few, and that a Confed officer's wife was killed by a Union soldier because she was married to a Confed officer -- there are no records of this happening.  There are records of Union soldiers being courtmartialed and / or executed for mis-treating civilians, though there were few instances, considering this was an army and all -- and mostly those were for mistreating the 'contraband,' those slaves who stole themselves away and tried to join or followed the Union army. The real killing and plundering of civilians was carried on though the entire war by Nathan Bedford Forest's (who was a slave trader and founder of the KKK) and Stuart's special troops, Quantrill's "Raiders," etc. -- partly because the Confed was chronically short of everything, including payment for the troops.  One of the many reasons it was such a disaster that Lee's army wasn't attacked during the retreat to Virginia after Gettysburg is that the Army of Virginia was way lumbered by the thousands of free blacks the troops had stolen to sell back home.  Many of these raiders carried on after the war as they'd been doing, like Jesse James, etc.

I read again, er, listened to Owen Wister's The Virginian on cd this fall while working out. It's all there in that ur construction of the Western: the protagonist, handsome (the homo-eroticism with which the narrator describes and reacts to the protagonist is unrivaled even by Melville) chivalrous, silent except when he's got something to say, exuding the power of mighty skilled violence, honest; the pretty easterner school marm who falls immediately for his ultra masculine dangerous good looks; the wealthy lawyer rancher - politician; the rattlesnake traitorous cattle rustler; vigilantism; the community dancing the reels where highjinks are enacted by protagonist and best friend who goes to the bad; the saloon and the poker game; most of all it's got "smile when you call me that."  It's all there, every bit of this revisionist fantasy of what it means and meant to be a Southerner, including the in-your-face hatred of anything that isn't a white man.  This is WHITE MAN's country, is repeated more than once in the novel.

I spent a couple of summers watching westerns and keeping count of how many of the protagonists were confederates who had a personal beef with the Union: I found only ONE protagonist who wasn't.  And now, this.  The reason the Confederacy rules Hollywood, is that so many of the major players at the beginning of the industry were Southerners, whose fathers may have fought in the Civil War.  This was certainly true of D.W. Griffith, whose father was a founding father of the KKK.  They include Merian C. Cooper, creator of King Kong. As a public relations campaign on behalf of the glorious mistreated South, this has worked brilliantly for decades. Gone With The Wind is essntially an updating and retrofit of the vile Birth of a Nation, which is taken from the Dixon novel, The Klansman, to make it less offensive to the sensibilities of Mitchell's time. So strong is this tradition of American history that even directors like John Ford can start wanting to be a southern, a Virginian, which he kind of did for a while, even though he was from New England stock. The latest to don the Southern heritage mantel is Joss Whedon, which is one of the reasons Firefly is such a wreck in terms of world-building, and the characters one-dimensional.  Like "a vengeance story about an ex-Confederate rebel hunting the Union soldiers who killed his wife," building a creation on un-examined mendacity, this is the lazy way to give depth, i.e. the vaunted back story, for a character, to explain motivation and excuse any evil, ugly horrible action the character might do.

The Viriginian and Birth of a Nation still rule Hollywood, still wreaking historical, social and political damage.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Whitman & Lincoln - Poet's Pocketbook

Disunion -- "In Whitman's Pocket, an Imagined Lincoln" by Adam Goodheart.

The heart of this is the actual Pocketbook, the leaves of which you can see, one-by-one, as if you were at the Library of Congress, paging from each adhesive silk-encased leaf yourself.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where Is The Slave Trade?

This is farking amazing, though it follows through with what I see over and over again in scholarly and primary documents in the history of MD: the trade in slave is just plain ignored.

I just received an historical statistical economic study -- purely academic -- of the mercantile opportunity in colonial and early America Annapolis, 1763 - 1805, and the mercantile hegemony that controlled it. The words 'slave' and 'slave trade' do not appear in the index, nor, it seems anywhere in the text. Nowhere. Not at all. According to the author of the study, the foundation of Annapolis's prosperity, the most wealthy by far of all of England's North American settlements, was due to tobacco and tobacco alone. Even if this is true, how can you speak of the wealth generation of the tobacco trade, the agricultural labor, the ships, the insurance companies, all the rest, without mentioning the slave trade? How can you?

Also, there's this: many other studies speak matter-of-factly that what made Annapolis so stinking rich was its many merchants engaged in the African slave trade and the domestic trade as well (which, for much of that time was almost entirely local).

When it comes to Maryland, at least -- slavery and the slave trade were and remain deep dark secrets, a subject not fit for respectable discourse, much less history. Yet, as mentioned previously, the front pages of every issue of the Maryland Gazette have advertisements for the buying and selling of slaves and rewards for slaves that have runaway. Moreover, the author of this book (1975, Johns Hopkins Press), footnotes citations constantly from the Maryland Gazette.

This is evidence of the psychology of refusing to acknowledge what is all around you, of what you yourself do, that was essential for how and why slavery endured so long in this nation of constitutional guarantee of liberty and democracy.  Evidently that psychology endured well into the 1970's.  As with the determination to celebrate secession with balls and other gaities this very winter, that psychology is still operative in too many psyches.  Perhaps it is more proof that the national psyche, then, is also pathological.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Maryland Gazette - Annapolis

The entire years' issue runs, from 1810 - 1815 has had its microfilm digitized and there they are, week by week, month by month, year by year, thanks to the Maryland Historical Society. All accessible from this chair right here in which my ass is planted.

Everytime I go there I fill with awe and gratitude.  With luck, meaning particularly no flu, I might have a good 15,000 words on the Era of Good Feeling by the end of January.  BTW, the front page of every issue contains either an advert to buy slaves for cash or a reward for a runaway slave.

On another subject, but one to which I am very close: Dayem! it's cold! The wind, she's gusting like 40 50 mph.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Honk Country - B'more & the Maryland Historical Society

Our visits to Baltimore have been brief, but always packed with information. This visit began with having breakfast-lunch in Hightown, which has a lot of Mexican businesses, as well as Dominican and some Cuban, even. Thus many restaurants. A perfect old-school Mexican food meal, which I haven't been able to get for a long time. The young owner (the place was celebrating its first anniversary this week, which observances include Santa coming for the kids in the evening) even printed out directions to help us get to the MD Historical Society the easiest and quickest way.

I am slowly getting an impression that Baltimore, if not exactly booming, is not anywhere near the economic melt-down that people like to think it is. There are jobs here, a lot of them, and they are white-collar jobs perfect for the late-twenties, early thirties, still unencumbered with small children, kinds. Though I did see a lot of young white couples with young children in the very pricey, gentrified Fells Point area, when we went there later.

I like Baltimore more every time we go there. Yes, I could live there very easily, now that its got latinos and latino cooking and music! (The white kids' music is dreadful, though.)

The MD Historical Society is located in old 'monumental' Baltimore. It's more like a museum, which it includes, as well as the library. It's large and friendly. We got initiated (paid our membership fees) and oriented. Ned did some work with the la Trobe papers in the archives. I looked up figures active with the shipyaqrds. I was able to learn more in those three hours than all my research here had accomplished so far. It's easier to drill down in dedicated special collections. Still, the information I'm looking for is really hard to find, because the word 'slaves' just isn't used when talking about ships, shipowners and routes. "Merchandise" can easily be slaves, but to find out, woo, they obscure that carefully, even from themselves, those who are buying, shipping, selling, insuring, etc. I took many notes.

After the library closed, we wandered about the museum galleries. We looked at pictures, maps, a vast hall of silver, and other things. What impressed me most was a large oil painting of the gap between the Shenandoah and Ohio Rivers, named Harper's Ferry. The artist deliberately chose this spot, to contrast its idyllic beauty, with two row-boats filled with beautifully dressed pleasure-seeking young men and women, its forward-looking attitude (on one side you see the tracks laid down for the first railroad of the region, and on the other, a trade road) with what happened there. The painting is a memorial to John Brown.

We'll be going back, soon. But next I want to go to the Baltimore Historical Society because I believe I'll learn more about shipping companies, shipbuilders and insurance companies in their collections.

After the museum closed we cruised on down to Fell’s Point, the old waterfront where the Fells Point shipyards used to be also, where was built many of the clippers (via Haitian refugee owner with his slaves) and privateers -- and slave ships. The connections between Baltimore -- the region as a whole -- New Orleans and Haiti are old, strong and many.

Talk about Williamsburg (Brooklyn) hipsterism gone much further, with a lot more room and a lot more fun! This is the consequence, then of Annapolis's choice to not live up to the Dock Union's bribery (season 2, The Wire) and dredge the harbor and make the improvements that would allow it to compete with the ports like Los Angeles and China. I took a photo of the plaque on the Fell's Point Baltimore Police District HQ in honor of David Simon and his and Burns' Homicide -- this was the cop HQ in that earlier television series they did.

The architecture at Fells' Point is a dream, a local continuation of what you see in southern Pennsylvania like Harrisburg, in Annapolis, in Delaware. Just beautiful, so beautiful, so intelligently and elegantly constructed that you can imagine the area at any season and its seasonal varieties of light and weather. You can also fairly easy imagine yourself back into the past here, when it was a roiling, broiling waterfront of freemen, slaves, an international cast of watermen and sailers, and ships from all over the world. It still reeks of those days in those now-too-hip-to-live waterfront bars. Live music in all of them too, all of it reeked as well. Thank gawd for hiphop and salsa. How many times can anyone stand folky covers of schlock?

The Christmas decorations were brilliant but – well, how can you say this? tasteful. They really are, which seems to be the case all over this region. Not blow-up balloon santies and frosties here, thank goddness. Beautiful lights, but nothing in your face or uncomfortable to your eyes. Big flashers are evidently not popular around here.

In the meantime, while we were gone, the late middle-age, verging into elderly docents, made merry in the House, which was on C’town’s Historical House tour for the benefit of Children Without Winter Coats. el V put up the U.S., the Maryland and the Washington College flags over the portico of the House before we left. The flags are one of the indicators that this residence is open for touring (there are maps that the Kent County Museum and the Visitors Center, where the tours gather, give out, so you can make the tour solo if you want too.) I have no idea what the docents did in here all day, but there were many glasses washed and huge unwashed tray covered in cookie crumbs left behind ... this was not a ‘House’ platter, I’ll have you know ....

Also, they managed to 'break' the downstairs toilet, so they trekked upstairs to ours off the master bedroom. I did not like this, btw. I'd moved office into the sunny room up here, so my computer and so on were not downstairs where surely nothing would happen, but I'm just not leaving my digital life open to access to anyone. I don't think they came in the sun room though. In any case, however, I'm just glad that nobody got hurt going up and down those dangerous stairs. These are not young people. In any case, there was nothing to see in the bedroom, the dressing room or the bathroom, as all was tidy, orderly and very clean, because that's how I roll! Well, there was an ankle-length fuzzy cardigan on the bed, which I wear in this season as my 'housecoat.'

Normally, someone from the Starr Center would have been here all day too, but this benefit tour wasn't on the annual schedule, it's the end of the semester, and everyone's insanely busy and had made plans, so it was just the ladies yesterday.

I got the impression the docents approved my holiday decorations, at least. All were still in place when we returned, except for the huge silver platter-tray, that I’d loaded up with greens and holly and candles and ornaments. The center candles had been removed to sit on either side of the tray, while evidently a big pitcher of something sat in their place. Acorns have been sown broadcast throughout the house, as I gathered some from the ground these last weeks whenever I spied likely ones. Golly, you can get holly and acorns just outside the door when you want!

Coming back we got caught in a rainstorm, which was unexpected. That was a bit of hairy driving, over the Bay Bridge, with such strong winds. I worried about the rain freezing, but to his gratitude and my own, i worried entirely in silence. No need to distract him, that was for sure! el V performed heroically, and even more so, for when we got home, he made dinner himself.

We lit candles all over the dining room, ate, and enjoyed our conversations, while Phil Schapp on WKCR played great jazz. Drank wine with dinner, and had a brandy for dessert. Shoot! it was 11 PM!

Now it's a dank, dark, windy and frigid Sunday morning.  But we're cozy and have ample occupation.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Road to Disunion

This is a daily NY Times blog-column that tracks the events leading to secession from the election of Lincoln as the new Republican party's POTUS, according to the current monthly calender, but in 1860. There are regular columnists, such as the current Director of the Center and the first Director of the Center, as well as others. (V will be doing at least one along the line).

Finally we get a woman writing, Susan Schulten; while most of the columns are first rate (with an occasional dud such as the one written by a rightwinger, which was ignorant and a-historical to boot), this one in particular is special, with information and a perspective (reading art historically) that are new to me, at least. Since it is about maps some of you might find it as fascinating as I have.

Disunion blog-column, "Visualizing Slavery," here (it's also just about the only reason to bother clicking on the NY Times op-ed section).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Honk Country - Freakin' Cold

Is this ever going to break?  It's the same in NYC, which I know is way too early generally speaking for this kind of cold.  It's usually January before the temps fall below freezing.  But below freezing nights have been the run for the last 7 or 8 days.  There's no sign that this is going to change any time soon.  What's up with this?

The furnance failed again yesterday afternoon, the system that heats the downstairs.  We made the call and the college sent out a fellow immediately, who arrived just before I had planned to walk over to the Center's Christmas party.  I was able to move upstairs where the heating system was still in effect.  Downstairs was purely ice box.

We are packed with cd boxes and books el V brought down from NYC, for the spring semester Cuban music / Postmamboism course.  Tonight's the college president's party for the faculty.  Tomorrow at 9 T comes to clean the House for Saturday's historic C'town's houses tour to benefit the Coats for Kids organization.  With this weather kids must have coats.  But everything's such mess, between Christmas decorations and all of el V's stuffs, and my research materials all over the place.  It's going to take hours to move all this, including my computer and peripherals, out of the historic tour part of the House to upstairs -- or the Center's office -- somewhere.  Yes, I've been fretting about this for days.


I'm going to throw the daily ration of nuts outside now, for the squirrels, and whatever birds want to fight over them.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Somerset County - ITV & *Midsomer Murders*

No wonder the locations of the ITV long-running (1997, first series) Midsomer Murders looks so familiar. They are in England's Somerset County. The houses and out buildings, even much of the landscape, this series could be shot on the Eastern Shore, MD, and the viewers wouldn't know otherwise, until the characters spoke, of course.

However, Maryland's Somerset County was settled initially mostly by Virginians "to escape religious persecution," i.e. Catholics.
Our county Kent was named for England's County Kent, which is east of England's Somerset County, both in the South of England, from whence did come most of the Chesapeake's 16th and 17th C Company and colonial bigwhigs who owned and ruled the region for so long, i.e. the Cavaliers as they became in their mythology. The demographic tables and charts of Albion's Seed for this Folkway provide this information, as well as that this is the region of England that was established already by the Romans as vast agricultural latifundias worked with slave labor. This practice of agriculture via slaves never really quite went away there, not even by the era of migration to the New World Viriginia Company colony. What it had done was transform in certain ways, particularly via the structures of feudalism.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Voices of Black Cowboys -- John Lomax, Library of Congress Recording

An NPR "Weekend Edition"program this (Sunday) morning brings you their voices -- you can listen to it streaming a little later today; in the meantime the website has the story sans audio as well:

"In southeast Texas, you had a large number of blacks who were slaves and had been doing cow work. When freedom comes, it would be just as natural for them to begin to do that work," Searles says, adding that there was demand for cowboys. "They gained a degree of respect and independence."

The trail drives were a unique moment in history that brought together a diverse lot of men, including freed slaves and confederate war veterans. And, while some cowboy crews were segregated, photographs of others show black and white men working side by side in what Searles calls "range equality."

"In that environment, you want to have pretty good relations," he says. "Because that person could elect to help you or not help you in a dangerous situation."
Some of those voices -- you swear are from Louisiana.  This makes sense, since many of the cowboys were formerly slaves in East Texas.

It's thrilling and chilling to hear the actual voices of real cowboys from those days.  I adored cowboys as a child, as did so many of us where and when I grew up.  My dad and his friends modeled themselves on cowboys, the cowboys of popular western literature and the earlier western movies of trail drives.  The cowboy was the figures of the hero for us all.  Of course we never thought of what the real cowboy was, nor that so many of them were black.

I recall so well that summer some years back now, when I realized the connection between the Western and the Confederacy mythologies in Hollywood and the fiction of the cowboy.  I still recall how angry my own attempts to model myself on the Cowboy Hero made my mother and grandmother.  That was unfitting for a girl.  When we played cowboys as children I was the cowboy.  I made my little brother be the cowgirl.  The cowboy had the best horse.  They never understood.   But then, they perceived my horse love as embarrassingly improper girl behavior too.  To this day I don't understand why they thought anyone would - should prefer doll dishes to galloping over the prairie.  But then, they never understood that what I really was up to was getting rid of being a girl all together, and becoming a horse.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Honk Country Dispatches - Top 'O Fox Hunting Morning

The temperature in our bedroom upon arising this AM was 62 degrees. According to C'town Accu Weather, outside is 27°. We shut down the heat upstairs almost all day, turning it on only to warm up the bathroom for showers.

We've slept comfortably under comforter and what I call the Bed Sweater, a king-sized bed afghan knitted out of cashmere-silk wool -- is there such a thing? -- by MIL long ago, which we never use at home. It's too nice, and way too warm, generally. It's perfect for current conditions here. However, as el V left yesterday afternoon for long weekend in NYC and then George Mason University, I wondered how snug sleeping would be without him. Turns out to still be perfect, though the waking up isn't as enjoyable.

It's official: coyotes are here, in large numbers, in all of Maryland's counties. Part of the official word is that there are way too many deer in Maryland, but I knew that already.  Coyotes do kill the fawns -- several of those kills were discovered this spring.  This aspect is pleasing to the Fish and Wildlife people, because the deer are also throwing twin births (hormones in the water from fertilizer run-off?), which used to be unusual, which contributes to the deer population explosion -- that devour the crops and other produce in this agricultural economy.

A Horse Lady at the library yesterday informed we interested sorts that 20 - 25 years ago you seldom saw a fox in Kent County. Now the fox hound pack, horse-riding hunters, chase them from late fall through until cubbing season (March and April), when the babies start to come out of the dens, who aren't experienced or fast enough to take refuge if a hound finds them. In the 1730's this proper red fox was introduced here from England in order that proper fox hunting take place. The point for horses and hunters and dogs is the running, for no foxes are allowed to be caught or killed. (The first fox hunting club - pack was established in Maryland in 1650, when Robert Brooke arrived here with his pack of hunting dogs, which were the root of several strains of American Hounds. These dogs remained in the Brooke family for nearly 300 years.)

Horse Lady's horses love fox hunting time. Running all over the place as fast as you can go! With lots of other horses! Yay! She had to rush off to take care of her horses as they knew, in the ways that horses know these things, that they were going out for the first Hunt of the year this morning, and were 'champing at the bit."

The fox hunters and the Fish and Wildlife people are concerned that the coyote population will soar like the deer population (Lyme's has soared again -- our admin at the Starr Center had it, and all the evidence is that it is very painful, very awful, and the medication for it basically leaves you starving, since so many foods react badly with it). Coyotes kill and eat foxes.

Her listeners disbelieved Horse Lady's  information that the coyotes had arrived, and were here at least five years ago. "I've never seen one!" Horse Lady snorted. "Coyotes are very good at that." She warned that your small dogs and cats better be kept indoors now.

I asked about the black bears. She said one had been spied a couple of years ago, making its way down to Alabama "for some unfathomable reason." It was was tracked all the way from New Jersey by the Fish and Wildlife people in order to learn what they can about black bear migration from north to south.

This morning's hard ground (no mud or ice), sunny and bright and cold weather -- makes perfect fox hunting conditions.

There are many Hunt Clubs here in Maryland, and throughout the Delmarva region, which includes D.C., which has a Club with its own pack, and Pennsylvania too, where the region merges with that north of Baltimore.

I wish "Maryland (1940) a 20th Century-Fox Hunting and Riding Film at Roxy" were available on dvd.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Honk Country Dispatches - The Cumin ' O the Greens

Huge wreath on front door, which gets caught in the door jamb every time you close the door.

A huge box of hollies and evergreens. All of which will be perfectly tinder from the central heat in about 12 hours.
Nevertheless I 'seasonalized' the front three period rooms: receiving room (I just call it the front room), parlor (I call it the living room) and the dining room.

Pine and spruce needles everywhere. But my pine cones seemed happy to see them. I suppose now I have to obtain some big wide red ribbon .... Lights?

Maybe I'll go do that now, now that the rain and wind have quit, and some sun seems to be coming out.

I just wish Buildings and Grounds had waited another week or so before delivering the greens, due to the drying out factor. But the benefit tour for childrens' winter coats is the 11th. Still, this seems too early. It's only December 1.
I will not dare to light candles.  I NEED window candles! Battery or electric. Dollar General didn't have any. N is going to have to drive me to the little malls outside of town. Nor does it have any tall vases and so on in which to display MORE GREENS and lights and ornaments and ribbons.
I've made three runs to Dollar General already!
I'm messing with all these things, tying bows out of the ribbons -- I've gone nuts, and I've just started. I did this all afternoon instead of working.  All because W College delivered me a big box of greens and hollies. It's made worse by N laughing at me and egging me on.  I'm going to be doing this now for days. Like playing with my dollhouse. I never played 'stories' with my dollhouse. I constanted re-arranged and decorated. Nobody lived in my dollhouse. It was mine.

I MUST HAVE A LARGE CHRISTMAS DEER, on which I can drape ribbons and lights.  Really. I MUST!  It would be great, looking out the living room windows! There are conveniently located outlets. Really.

I need silver polish for this huge ornate silver platter tray with feet that’s been in the broom closet all these weeks and looks as though it hasn’t been removed in years.  And – oh, yes!  wind ribbons on the chandliers. And o who knows what I can do?  The next historic house tour is the 11th, I think.  How will they deal with this?  I don’t think this is very authentically 18th century.  But I am keeping to gold and green.  Mostly.  Red is allowed.  O dear.