Cathay Williams was born a slave in the year 1844 in the city of Independence, Missouri. Her dad was a free man of color, but her mom was a slave. The law was set up in those days that any child born of a woman was considered a slave even if the father was white or a free black man. Cathay worked a the Johnson plantation in the house.
During the time of the civil war, the Union army had a system set up in dealing with escaped slaves who they called "contrabands" which meant smuggled property, which is what a slave was considered as property, not a human being. There were many contraband camps set up so that if a slave escaped from his master, he could find his way to one of these camps and live in safety.
He would be able to provide for himself and family. They also had teachers at the camps who would teach these contrabands to read and write. The union paid wages to these escaped slaves of about $10.00 a month. These contrabands would help with non-military chores helping the union effort. They also had the authority to force (impress) former slaves to work, and this is what they did to Cathay when she made her way to one of these camps.
At age seventeen, Cathay was serving the 8th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment as either as a cook, laundresses, or nurse. Cathay would travel with the 8th Indiana for the next few years accompanying the regiment. Maybe this exposure is what enticed her to pull off a stunt that had never been accomplished before.
Despite the prohibition against women serving in the military, Williams enlisted in the United States Regular Army on November 15, 1866, at St. Louis, Missouri for a 3-year engagement, passing herself off as a man. She was assigned to the 38th infantry. Only two others are known to have been privy to the deception, her cousin and a friend, both of whom were fellow soldiers in her regiment.
Sadly, shortly after her enlistment she contracted smallpox and was in and out of the hospital, giving doctors an opportunity to discover she was a woman. The doctors told her and she was discharged from the army. Later Cathay moved to New Mexico and became a cook and purchased a boarding home and even got married, but the marriage failed because her husband ended up stealing money from her and a team of horses, and she promptly had him arrested.
In her older age Cathay applied for military pension but was denied because she had passed herself off as a man in the army even though years earlier, Deborah Sampson in 1816, and Mary Hayes McCauley (better known as Molly Pitcher) had been granted pensions for disguising themselves as men to serve in the American Revolutionary War, but that didn't matter.
Cathay died shortly after her denial of pension benefits in the year of 1892. Cathay was one of the first building blocks for other African American women to imitate. She lived in a man's world but held her own. What a brave and curious woman she had to be, to seek out and explore on her own and not let man-made boundaries stop her.
We are genuinely excited to award Cathay Williams the 1866 Hamite Award because of her distinct tenacious qualities, and 1866 marked the year she accomplished a feat that had never been done before by enlisting in the United States Army. One question though Cathay, while in the army, how did the bathroom arrangement work out?
American Female Buffalo Soldier: Cathay Williams aka William Cathay photo #106
Black History Month Moment - Mayor C Kim Bracey presents Cathay Williams
How were blacks feeling in 1866?
The civil war ended last year, but there is still uncertainty and fear in the air, especially in the South. Black folks are legally free now, and it seems that certain people just don't know how to handle that fact. Things have changed, and parents don't understand their roles any longer, so they are striking out in fear and violence such as with the Memphis and New Orleans riots where many blacks lost their lives.
The Freedmen Bureau is a great help for blacks in this new adjustment phrase but there are enemies inside the ranks of the Bureau who are seeking to undermine its effectiveness, and blacks don't know how long it's going to be around.
But on a lighter side, we welcome one of our own into the world this year who would grow to be one of the greatest entertainers ever, bringing much joy and laughter to our people. Welcome William C. ("Billy") McClain who would later become an excellent acrobat, comedian, and actor.
Before we forget, we are all laughing at how Cathay Williams pulled off the prank of being the first woman enlisted in the all male US Army. She had to have some daredevil blood inside. Yeah, we needed that laugh! :)
For the year 1866:
Father Patrick Francis Healy, S.J. was the first African American to earn a Ph.D.
Cathay Williams was the first African-American woman enlistee in the U.S. Army.
Sarah Jane Woodson Early was the first African-American woman to serve as a professor; Xenia, Ohio’s Wilberforce University hired her to teach Latin and English.
Octavius Valentine Catto
Sports in 1866
Blacks were not accepted into the leauges baseball games, so they started their own teams, becoming professional by the 1870s. The first known baseball game between two black teams was held on November 15, 1859, in New York City. The Henson Base Ball Club of Jamaica, Queens, defeated the Unknowns of Weeksville, Brooklyn, 54 to 43.
By the end of the 1860s, the black baseball mecca was Philadelphia, which had an African-American population of 22,000. Two former cricket players, James H. Francis and Francis Wood, formed the Pythian Base Ball Club. They played in Camden, New Jersey, at the landing of the Federal Street Ferry, because it was difficult to get permits for black baseball games in the city. Octavius Catto, the promoter of the Pythians, decided to apply for membership in the National Association of Base Ball Players, normally a matter of sending delegates to the annual convention; beyond that, a formality.
At the end of the 1867 season "the National Association of Baseball Players voted to exclude any club with a black player." In some ways Blackball thrived under segregation, with the few black teams of the day playing not only each other but white teams as well. "Black teams earned the bulk of their income playing white independent 'semipro' clubs."
The mistreatment and segregation of Blacks didn't only happen in the South, but also the Northern cities like Philadelphia.
Octavius Valentine Catto was a black educator, intellectual, and civil rights activist in Philadelphia. As a man, he also became known as a top cricket and black baseball pioneer in 19th-century Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Misses Cooke's school room, Freedman's Bureau, Richmond, VA. photo #109-yr-1866
Freedmen's school?, South Carolina. African-American children, mainly girls, with adult women, possibly teachers. photo #100-yr-1865
Reconstruction in 1866
The Freedmen's Bureau began in 1865. Its purpose was to assist former black slaves from a life of slavery to the free labor system. The Bureau provided assistance in medical needs, housing, food, school and also legal aid. The Bureau helped people find lost family and taught them to read and write so they could better themselves. Oliver Otis Howard who was a Union general, was appointed the commissioner of the bureau in May 1865.
You have to remember during slavery days it was illegal in many states to teach blacks to read and write, so the Freedmen's Bureau had their hands full in assisting these illiterate former slaves into the American mainstream. They're many corrupt and insincere Bureau agents who along with white Southerners fought against Bureau successes every step of the way, but they are also honest Bureau officials who wanted to help and assist blacks in bettering themselves.
Congress realized the Bureau was needed for a longer period of time and sought to extend it with opposition from white Southerners and a powerful new ally, President, Andrew Johnson who vetoed the bill because he felt the Bureau showed preference to one race over another and wouldn't help in making blacks independent.
Andrew Johnson didn't care for blacks. He gave former Confederates back their land lost in the war and fired Bureau agents he felt were too partial to the black cause. It was like Johnson was saying to the South, "OK we fought a war and it's over, but we are not going to let a Negro tear us apart, it's time to heal. Screw the Negro! We whites have to stick together! He also was against every bill that came to his desk that would help blacks. His veto was later overridden by Congress, and the Bureau was extended a while longer, but not for long because it was dismantled by Congress in 1872.
After the Bureau shut down, and with some political setbacks for Republicans who were sympathetic to the black cause, Negroes were left to fend for themselves. But in an extraordinary display of unity and devotion to a common thread, the North and South put aside their differences to protect their shared interest, which was the union of the United States which meant for them wealth and prosperity in their pursuit of happiness, clothed in white skin under the banner of distorted American principles with the exclusion of the Negro from both North and South. WHEW! That's a Negro mouthful, but true. This display of unity and exclusion would hopefully serve future blacks well to learn from.
Why had American principles become distorted?
Even before slavery formally began, American principle stated "all men are created equal" and had a right to the pursuit of personal happiness. Slavery goes against American principles and the two can't co-exist. Abraham Lincoln himself was quoted as saying, "If slavery isn't wrong, then nothing is wrong" and to his credit and vision for a United and Strong America, the Reconstruction Amendments were introduced.
But laws have microscopic power over the motivations of a person's heart. White unprincipled Southerners didn't even attempt to join the new American spirit of things, aligning themselves as proud anti-American just as they had done by trying to secede in the Civil War. They fought tooth and nail against equality for the Negro.
During slavery, the dependence on free black labor had transformed these money-hungry, greedy white Southerners into a hateful white SLAVE POWER who had to be stopped at all cost. This Slave Power wanted to expand slavery to new territories, but the North took a stand, and this is what started the Civil War, not because Lincoln had a burning desire to free the slaves.
President Lincoln understood the motives of the Slave Power were against American principles and fought the war because of it.
OH MIGHTY, MIGHTY SLAVE POWER you have indeed caused alot of pain and misery! Crazy terrorist maniac, didn't your mama teach you better?
Has A True and Principled America Simply Become An Idea
That's Too Lofty For Human Beings To Follow?
The Repulsive Slave Power That Was Intertwined With Slavery,
Along With it's Peoples and Racist Beliefs Were Wounded in The Civil War,
But Not Completely Destroyed, And Were Allowed To Thrive.
Would This Come Back To Haunt America With Bad Race Relations,
Between It's Black and White American Citizens?
only time will tell my friends
Oliver Otis Howard, commissioner of The Freedmen's Bureau photo#111-yr-1866
Trivia: Howard University was named for General Oliver Otis Howard, who was both the founder of the University and, at the time, Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau. Howard later served as President of the university from 1869–74.
Abolitionists Harriet Tubman photo #112- yr-1866
Susie Taylor photo #104- yr-1864
Carpetbagger photo #100-yr-1865
Hiram Rhodes Revels photo#110-yr-1870
Now with the re-building of America at hand and much money to be made, who would profit? Previously the North had noble motives in helping these millions of former slaves transition into the mainstream but after political losses and resistance from white Southerners they eventually aligned themselves with these unprincipled anti-Americans because of skin color and shared money interest and ignored the continued assistance needed in helping their black skin brothers.
With the dismantlement of the Freedmen's Bureau, America officially had over four million black nomads attempting to find their way in a hostile and prejudice land. Well at least the North could say they tried if this would soothe the conscience. This time in history was the foundation for future race relations, and a good solid foundation was not laid. The North gave up the fight too quickly and passed a terrible situation to future generations.
By now we're sure the Negro has to wonder to himself if America is being undermined and distorted at this point in history? Is something shady going on? Abraham Lincoln understood how this could happen and lost his life attempting to protect real justice, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans.
How Were Former Slaves Feeling At This Time In History?
Please consider a quote from a person who was there. Susie Taylor, our 1864 Hamite Award winner.
"For two hundred years we had toiled for them; the war of 1861 came and was ended, and we thought our race was forever freed from bondage, and that the two races could live in unity with each other, but when we read almost every day of what is being done to my race by some whites in the South, I sometimes ask, "Was the war in vain? Has it brought freedom, in the full sense of the word, or has it not made our condition more hopeless?"
Carpetbaggers were mostly well-educated, middle-class white Northerners who were called Carpetbaggers because of the fancy luggage most carried. Carpetbaggers would travel to areas of the south to assist in the rebuilding during and after the civil war. (1865-1877)
They assisted the abolitionists in teaching former black slaves to read and write among other things. White Southerners didn't like carpetbaggers because they felt they were money hungry and greedy opportunist, which in many cases were true.
Many carpet baggers would buy former plantations at low prices and hire black workers to turn a profit, and was also involved in the politics of rebuilding the south.
Hiram Rhodes Revels was elected as the first African American to serve in the United States Senate. Revels denounced the carpetbaggers for manipulating the black vote for personal benefit, and for keeping alive wartime hatreds...
"Since reconstruction, the masses of my people have been, as it were, enslaved in mind by unprincipled adventurers, who, caring nothing for the country, were willing to stoop to anything no matter how infamous, to secure power to themselves, and perpetuate it."
Abolitionists were no nonsense type of people who recognized injustice and wanted swift action taken to remedy the wrong. They had been around during the American Revolution but became stronger in voice and influence during 1830 - 1870, becoming involved with the Northern churches and politics.
Abolitionists were whites and blacks who hated slavery and wanted it immediately outlawed. Other anti-slavery movements sought a gradual change from slavery to freedom, or to restrict slavery in parts of the United States and prevent it from spreading further.
Free African-Americans (before the Emancipation Proclamation) also played a role in the movement, but enslaved blacks such as Harriet Tubman had a more dangerous mission for fear of getting caught and punished and very possibly killed.
American female Buffalo Soldier: Cathay Williams aka William Cathay
Education in 1866
Fisk University which is a historically black university was founded in 1866 in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Freedman's Bureau! An agency to keep the Negro in idleness at the expense of the white man. One in a series of racist posters attacking Radical Republicans on the issue of black suffrage The series advocates the election of Hiester Clymer, who ran for governor in 1866 on a white-supremacy platform. photo #104
The Radical Convention in Philadelphia, September 3d, 1866
Political Scene in 1866
March 4, 1866 - Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States, serving from 1865 to 1869. Johnson became president as he was vice president at the time of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Trivia: Johnson is generally considered among the worst American presidents for his opposition to federally guaranteed rights for African Americans. He fought the Negro at every turn. Every bill that came to his desk that he felt was in favor of the blacks were denied.
(image above) One in a series of racist posters attacking Radical Republicans on the issue of black suffrage, issued during the Pennsylvania gubernatorial election of 1866. Hiester Clymer, who ran for governor on a white-supremacy platform, supporting President Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction policies. In this poster a black man lounges idly in the foreground as one white man ploughs his field and another chops wood. Comment: Blacks owe the Radical Republicans very much for their efforts in getting slavery abolished. If it weren't for them, who knows what would have happened. Much thanks especially should be given to Charles Sumner, who was a true American visionary.
(image left) A racist poster attacking Republican gubernatorial candidate John White Geary for his support of black suffrage. On a dais in the background left, black men cheer as a procession of white men arm-in-arm with blacks enter from the right. The legend below reads: "Every Radical Candidate for United States Senator took part. "White Men & Women Are You Ready for This?"
The two platforms" From a series of racist posters attacking Radical Republicans during the 1866 Pennsylvania gubernatorial race. photo #109- yr-1863i
Race in 1866
(image left) Racist posters attacking Radical Republican exponents of black suffrage, issued during the 1866 Pennsylvania gubernatorial race.
How did "acting" Cool begin for African Americans?
It seems like it's been around forever and expected of every black kid growing up
For most blacks, cool started on the southern plantations. Opportunists slavemasters devised a way for slaves to work harder and reap the benefits of their labor. During the year at a chosen plantation slave masters would hold a "Corn Shucking Festival." Slaves from nearby plantations would also join this event with their owner's permission, so it was almost like a community gathering of all the local slaves, with greedy slavemasters making all the money.
The slave who shucked the most corn won an award, sometimes cash or a suit of clothes. Anyone who found a red ear of corn also received a reward - perhaps a kiss from a young woman or a jug of whiskey. It was at these events that the term Shuckin' and jivin' came into existence by the slaves while working and telling tall stories, talking smack, and joking around with each other.
These gatherings, even though involving hard work had to be an event looked forward to by the slaves, because it was one of the few times during the year blacks had a chance to interact with one another. Shuckin' and jivin' would become a tool the slaves would use to convince their masters of an untruth, and even among themselves. It was an early form of being cool. http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Corn-Shucking+Festival
After slavery blacks were free (sort of) to do as they pleased. Most blacks wanted to assimilate into American culture very much but were shut out by the white racist. African and European culture met head on in what was supposed to be fair in America guaranteed by our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, but blacks didn't stand a chance.
Why, what happened?
Because most whites banded together by breaking the law and made blacks second class citizens and would go on to murder, lynch, rape, humiliate them all the way until the 1960s Civil Rights movement. After Lincoln, every single United States President was aware of this and did nothing. Whites achieved like crazy and prospered while blacks lagged far behind and got along the best way they knew how.
Blacks disliked whites very much for this terrible treatment and instead of violent disobedience, they protested by living their lives opposite of white culture. I mean let's face it, why would blacks want to imitate or become a part of a race of people that hated them?
This is when being cool became a symbol of white resistance and protest. Being cool would show you were down with the struggle. During slavery, we had already created our language which was AAVE and many blacks communicated this way. Any black that did not use it was looked down as trying to act white, joining the enemy sort of speak.
We developed our own way of walking with a proud gait, (George Jefferson strut) our own style of music, our own style of dance, our own style of food, our own style of worship, that didn't have anything in common with white folks and that suited blacks just fine. We were poor, but we were proud and cool and everyone who practiced these traits was cool and a part of the resistance.
In the process, we were creating a new culture that was admired over the world. Blacks have always had a remarkable ability to create something out of nothing. But sadly there was significant risk with this lifestyle in a great country such as America.
What were the downfalls?
Oscar Micheaux felt it was wrong for blacks to live this way in America. Oscar was an African American author, film director and independent producer of more than 44 movies and he is regarded as the first major African-American feature filmmaker, the most successful African-American filmmaker of the first half of the twentieth century and the most prominent producer of race films. He produced both silent movies and "talkies" after the industry changed to incorporate speaking actors.
Oscar felt that blacks should become aggressive and use their brainpower in achieving instead of just settling for what the white man doled out. This man lived in some of the most racist times in American history, but he didn't let that stop him from fulfilling his dreams and doing it the legal way.
Evidently, Oscar had a brother who was the very cool type and was content on just putting up a show, or a front as living a successful life. We all know the type. A person that was living beyond his means. Blacks of his day called this way of living “the good life.”
Oscar didn't like it and was very upset with his brother. He later wrote in his book and discussed the culture of doers who want to accomplish, and those who see themselves as victims of injustice and hopelessness, and do not want to step out and try to succeed, but instead like to dress up, act cool and pretend to be successful while living the city lifestyle in poverty.
Oscar understood that education doesn't belong only to white people, it's a gift for all humanity to better ourselves, and honestly the best-proven way. Chinese, Japanese, Middle-Eastern and all other non-white nations understand this and have prospered by education. It's one of humanities treasure to learn.
But many blacks associated education with white and stayed far away from it, to continue with their cool lifestyle. A foolish mistake, and just what racist whites want you to believe.
Early Europeans completely dominated the Africans because they were better educated. They had guns we had spears, you do the math. In Africa our ancestors didn't value education, but traditions and silly ones at that. But that didn't save them. Education would have, though.
So without a doubt, it is entirely wrong to associate teaching and learning to white people. Many of us would look down upon another black who tried to better himself through education by saying they were trying to act white, and it wasn't cool. Racist whites laughed at us for believing this way because they knew we would always be behind.
After the 1960s, when our full Civil Rights were finally restored, many blacks chose to live the more standard American way by attending school to learn. But many also wanted to remain trapped in time with the old AAVE living in what they still perceived as defiance to the white American way of doing things. But were they only hurting themselves?
Later in time, being cool had become so prevalent in the black community it confused many kids, because they didn't quite understand if they were going to hang out with the cool kids or the so-called boring kids who liked to read and learn. At an early age, they are at a critical crossroad. Taking the cool route may seem easier, and a lot of fun, but would be a devastating mistake.
After the Civil Rights era we now have the opportunity to attend school and achieve as much as we can, but being cool has snatched many of the black kids and locked them into a culture hating education and in the process ruining their young lives.
Many entertainment figures reap much money from this cool culture by portraying cool as, well cool. They tell impressionable ones what's cool to hear, talk about, wear, eat, etc. and at the same time padding their cool humongous bank accounts.
These even get on television and flaunt their riches in a youngster's face never explicitly teaching on how they might be as successful, without being dishonest, stealing or selling drugs. Education is not cool for them to preach.
One thing is for sure, being cool can be a lot of fun and there's no denying that. Everybody wants to be liked, and it seems like cool people are respected and admired the most, from the clothes they wear to the type of songs they listen to the way they talk, the effortless way they seem to accomplish every task is amazing.
They possess incredible confidence. But truthfully everything they've accomplished wouldn't have been possible without the sacrifices of our wonderful ancestors. So don't you agree we owe a particular moral responsibility to them?
Kids should remember cool is not the real deal, It's a game we can't get caught up in. Our ancestors endured so much so we could achieve. We should never forget that. That's what this site was created. Browse through its pages, and you're going to read stories of amazing blacks.
They made it possible for us, and we're sure they would advise us to achieve through education first and foremost and save the cool for the weekends, and I ain't Shuckin and Jivin!
August 8, 1866 - Matthew Alexander Henson was the first African-American Arctic explorer.
October 12, 1866 - William C. ("Billy") McClain was an African-American acrobat, comedian and actor who starred in minstrel shows before World War I. He wrote, produced and directed several major stage and outdoor extravaganzas, and wrote a number of popular songs.
November 27, 1866 - George H. Reed was an African American actor working in the Hollywood film industry in both the silent and sound eras. His first major film was the 1920 Huckleberry Finn.
December 2, 1866 - Henry "Harry" Thacker Burleigh a baritone, was an African-American classical composer, arranger, and professional singer. He was the first black composer to be instrumental in the development of a characteristically American music.
1866 - Montague Ring was the musical pseudonym of Amanda Christina Elizabeth Aldridge. Her father, the great actor Ira Frederick Aldridge, was known as the "Black Roscius" and was famous for his portrayal of Shakespeare's Othello.
Famous Deaths in 1866
December 24, 1866 - William H. Barnes was an African American Union Army soldier during the American Civil War and a recipient of America's highest military decoration—the Medal of Honor.
Oscar James Dunn photo#104-yr-1868
Famous Weddings in 1866
December 1866 - Oscar Dunn marries Ellen Boyd Marchand born free as the daughter of Henry Boyd and his wife of Ohio.
Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield
During the Civil War, Thomas Wentworth Higginson served as colonel of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, the first federally authorized black regiment, from 1862–1864. Following the war, Higginson devoted much of the rest of his life to fighting for the rights of freed slaves, women and other disfranchised peoples.
John Brown Song
Music in 1866
Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield dubbed "The Black Swan", was an African-American singer considered the best-known black concert artist of her time. She was noted by James M. Trotter for her "remarkably sweet tones and wide vocal compass". She toured and conducted a Philadelphia music studio. Among her voice pupils was Thomas Bowers, who became known as "The Colored Mario" and "The American Mario" for the similarity of his voice to Italian opera tenor Giovanni Mario.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson:
Thomas Wentworth Higginson leads the First South Carolina Colored Volunteers, the first group of authorized African American soldiers. Higginson is a notable author who helps popularize many aspects of African American music. He contributed to the preservation of Negro spirituals by copying dialect verses and music he heard sung around the regiment's campfires.
John Brown's Song:
is a United States marching song about the abolitionist John Brown. The song was popular in the Union during the American Civil War.
"Juba Juba", a popular song about the Juba:
Juba dis and Juba dat,
and Juba killed da yellow cat,
You sift the meal and ya gimme the husk,
you bake the bread and ya gimme the crust,
you eat the meat and ya gimme the skin,
and that's the way,
my mama's troubles begin
A song about the hambone from Step it Down (v.s.):
Hambone Hambone pat him on the shoulder
If you get a pretty girl, I'll show you how to hold her.
Hambone, Hambone, where have you been?
All 'round the world and back again.
Hambone, Hambone, what did you do?
I got a train and I fairly flew.
Hambone, Hambone where did you go?
I hopped up to Miss Lucy's door.
I asked Miss Lucy would she marry me.
(falsetto)"Well I don't care if Papa don't care!"
First come in was Mister Snake,
He crawled all over that wedding cake.
Next walked in was Mister Tick,
He ate so much it made him sick.
Next walked in was Mister Coon,
We asked him to sing us a wedding tune,
Popular Soul Dances:
The Juba or Hambone dance was originally from West Africa. It became an African-American plantation dance that was performed by slaves during their gatherings when no rhythm instruments were allowed due to fear of secret codes hidden in the drumming.
Men's Fashion in 1864 photo #109-yr-1864
Women's Fashion in 1864 photo #110-yr-1864
Couples attending the Negro Labor Convention Illustration from Harper's Weekly The person who drew this Illustration was kind to black people. Usually during that time period they would portray the Negro with wild hair and humongous noses with exaggerated lips. They made us look normal. Thank you Harper's. photo #101-yr-1869
Couples attending the Negro Labor Convention Illustration from Harper's Weekly photo #101-yr-1869
Couples attending the Negro Labor Convention Illustration from Harper's Weekly photo #101-yr-1869
Fashions in 1866
1860s fashion was European-influenced clothing is characterized by extremely full-skirted women's fashions relying on crinolines and hoops and the emergence of "alternative fashions" under the influence of the Artistic Dress movement.
In men's fashion, the three-piece ditto suit of sack coat, waistcoat, and trousers in the same fabric emerged as a novelty.
Yeow!, Slavery is Finally Over!
It's smooth sailing ahead
We can't wait to get out in the workforce to make our own money
What type of employment awaits us in the 1800s?
90% of Negroes still lived in the South up until the late 1910s. Blacks looking for work in the South mainly worked on the land they lived. Most were tenant farmers that did contract work on a farm by farm basis. Some blacks were hired just for a particular job and once the job was over had to find employment elsewhere. They would work and harvest the field for the season and pay the owner out of their profits for room and board and use of farming tools.
Some but not many blacks also worked in manufacturing, and for the most part were paid comparable wages as their white counterparts. However, blacks were much less likely to hold better-paying skilled jobs, and they were more liable to work for lower-paying companies.
If blacks were not working on farms, they were engaged in unskilled labor and service jobs. They were unable to afford their homes. Because of the crazy events unfolding with voter intimidations and outright murders by the KKK, with total impunity and the total disregard for assistance from American presidents, and the end of Reconstruction help. Most black children had not attended school in the year before the Census was taken, and white children were much more likely to have attended.
Immediately after the emancipation blacks were very eager to learn, school attendance was sky high, but unfolding events that were perpetrated or voted on in approval by white citizens demoralized many blacks at this point in history before the turn of the century, and don't forget the effects of damaging Jim Crows laws which were about to formally get underway.
So a typical look at the African American family at the end of the 1800s Census lived and worked on a farm in the South and did not own their home, and children in these families were unlikely to be in school even at very young ages.
Blacks also found employment in the mining industry, which was very dangerous work. In 1883, thousands of European immigrants and a large number of African Americans migrated to southern West Virginia to work in coal mines. These coal miners worked in company mines with company tools and equipment, which they were required to lease. Along with these expenses, the miners have deducted pay for housing rent and items they purchased from company stores. Furthermore, the coal companies went as far as creating their monetary system so the miners could only shop at company-owned stores. In addition to the poor economic condition, safety in the mines was a great concern with many men either killed or permanently injured.
African-Americans also worked in the shipping business as stevedores or more commonly called, longshoreman which consisted of waterfront manual laborer involved in loading and unloading ships. In the 1800s, the word stevedore was usually applied to black laborers who loaded and unloaded bales of cotton and other freight on and off riverboats.
Work for Negroes in the Northern cties weren't much better. Many blacks probably thought that after the Civil War their streets were going to be paved golden with opportunity, but boy were they in for a surprise!
Blacks were denied at every level on the economic ladder. It has been observed that this was a period the black crime rate rose, with the white crime rate going down. Whites controlled every single aspect of gainful American employment.
Factories were going full steam ahead, but when blacks tried to enter, they were shut out, why? Mainly because the whites didn't want to work side by side with blacks, so as a result they were not hired.
The textiles and garment industries were also booming during this period, but there aren't records of blacks ever being hired.
It was possible for blacks to find work with the railroads as Pullman porters, track workers, or common laborers, but at the same time when their families and friends wanted to travel on the train, they were segregated. How demoralizing that had to be. White railroad unions blocked them out from making better pay which was in the maintenance and train building departments.
In the early 1800s, there were many black craftsmen such as carpenters, machinist, contractors, etc. who enjoyed a good reputation with their skilled art trade, but in the late 1800s that image changed due to the increase of separate but equal doctrine. It's not a dispute blacks couldn't do the work, the issue was the color of skin that kept them out of the workforce.
When a black would apply for employment at a retail store, they wouldn't hire them, saying whites did not want to be served by them. One black was fortunate enough to land a job as the cities only black clerk at a commercial bank. What was the catch? He never received a raise or promotion and dared not complained.
Businesses would hire newly arriving immigrants before hiring their American black brothers. Blacks were better educated, but just the wrong color in their eyes.
If a black person extended himself through higher learning going on to become a doctor or lawyer, one important question has to be answered. Who were going to be his paying clients? This problem persist in today's world and as long as America is around, it always will. It's a deeply entrenched belief in white people whether conscious or unconscious to avoid doing business with blacks. (generally speaking)
Whites rarely would patronize black professionals, even famous black sociologist of those days WEB Dubois made a comment "Education will get you nothing but disappointment and humiliation.'' which Dubois had to be frustrated when making that statement because he was at the forefront in African American achievement through education.
It has been noted that there were only two avenues open for blacks during this period in history which was strike-breaking and vice.
Different businesses such as the coal mines would hire blacks a strike-breakers when the whites would protest for more money. Of course, many blacks lost their lives with the violent outburst by the white workers fearing they were losing their jobs. Blacks had to take the chance along with the danger, what else could they do?
They had to feed their families too. With the women, it was the same thing. When white dressmakers went on strike, the company hired black women to take their place. So basically, blacks were used as pawns in the game.
The other avenue open to blacks was the vice, and this clearly explains how and why this phenomenon has extended down to our day for a segment of our black community. It would seem these blacks are still demoralized and traumatized from these events in history. But we have every hope they will rise and soar like the eagles. There was a lot of gambling, prostitution, lottery, and bootlegging, going on in the cities, and maybe the police kept a blind eye to it because they ignored it for a while. - At this point in history, Philadelphia was estimated to have 10,000 prostitutes and 1,000 brothels in the 1890s. Most of the vise would find it's way into the black neighborhoods with black leaders unable to stop it.
We think it's important to note that old saying that "the more things change the more they stay the same" applies here. America has made some progress in racial relations but the attitude still exist for blacks entering the workplace which is mostly white. Many will keep quiet but may not want you there, but you have your family to feed just like they do and as long as everyone does his work and obey the rules is all that matters. We're not out to win a popularity contest. But if they sincerely want to work with you, that would be wonderful!
Illustration of an attack on Black Memphians. Harper's Weekly, 26 May 1866
Freedmen's schoolhouse burned in the Memphis Riot of 1866
The riot in New Orleans of 1866, murdering negroes in the rear of Mechanics' Institute
The former Freedman's Savings Bank on Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. photo #105-yr-1874
Our Community in 1866
Newsworthy Events in the Black Community:
The Black Codes were laws passed by Southern states in 1865 and 1866, after the Civil War. These laws actually put blacks into a new form of slavery, perhaps worst than the previous one.
On April 9, Congress overrides President Andrew Johnson's veto to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The act confers citizenship upon black Americans and guarantees equal rights with whites.
The Memphis riots of 1866 were the violent events that occurred from May 1 to 3 in Memphis, Tennessee. The racial violence was ignited by political, social and racial tensions following the American Civil War, in the early stages of Reconstruction.
On June 13, Congress approves the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing due process and equal protection under the law to all citizens. The amendment also grants citizenship to African Americans.
Congress authorizes the creation of four all-black regiments in the United States Army. They will be known as Buffalo Soldiers.
Police in New Orleans supporting the Democratic Mayor storm a Republican meeting of blacks and whites on July 30, killing 34 black and 3 white Republicans. Over 150 people are injured in the attack.
The Freedman's Savings Bank, was a private corporation chartered by the U.S. government to encourage and guide the economic development of the newly emancipated African-American communities in the post-Civil War period. The bank's central office was located in Washington D.C., but had many branches throughout America, especially in the South. Although functioning only between 1865 and 1874, the company achieved notable successes as a leading financial institution of African-Americans. Its failure in 1874 was devastating to the newly emancipated black community. Trivia: With over 480,000 names on file, it make for the largest single repository of lineage-linked African-American records. The searchable database is available to amateur as well as professional genealogists.
#100 - Public Domain image - A happy family 1 print : wood engraving. | African American woman with seven children. Original Format: Photos, Prints, Drawings Date: 1866
#101 - Public Domain image - Glimpses at the Freedmen - The Freedmen's Union Industrial School, Richmond, Va. 1 print : wood engraving. | Room of African American women sewing. Contributor: Taylor, James E.
Original Format: Photos, Prints, Drawings Date: 1866
#102 - Public Domain image - African American soldiers mustered out at Little Rock, Arkansas,
1 drawing on green paper : pencil and Chinese white ; 24.5 x 36.0 cm. (sheet). | Soldiers return home, greeted by women and children. Contributor: Waud, Alfred R. (Alfred Rudolph) - Waud, Alfred R. Original Format: Photos, Prints, Drawings Date: 1866
#103 - Public Domain image - The Radical Convention in Philadelphia, September 3d, 1866
1 print : woodcut with letterpress on wove paper ; 50.8 x 34.9 cm. (image) | A racist poster attacking Republican gubernatorial candidate John White Geary for his support of black suffrage. (See also "The Constitutional Amendment!," no. 1866-5.) The artist purports to show the convention of Radical Republicans held in Philadelphia in September 1866. On a dais in the background left, black men ... Original Format: Photos, Prints, Drawings Date: 1866
#104 - Public Domain image - The Freedman's Bureau! An agency to keep the Negro in idleness at the expense of the white man. Twice vetoed by the President, and made a lawy by Congress. Support Congress & ...
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Freedman%27s_bureau.jpg Date: 1866
#105 - Public Domain image - [Half-length portrait of an African American man, possibly a Buffalo soldier]
1 photographic print on carte de visite mount : albumen ; 10 x 6 cm. | Photograph shows a three-quarter-length portrait of an African-American man. Contributor: Mosser & Snell Original Format: Photos, Prints, Drawings
#111 - Public Domain image - Rights and restrictions "Published photographs in this collection were created before 1923 and are therefore in the public domain. Unpublished photographs in this collection are also in the public domain as Mathew Brady died in 1896 and Levin C. Handy died in 1932. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Oliver_Otis_Howard.jpg
#112 - Public Domain image - By Artist: H. Seymour Squyer, 1848 - 18 Dec 1905 (National Portrait Gallery) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
#113 - Public Domain image - By Alfred Rudolph Waud; Harper's Weekly, 26 May 1866 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
#114 - Public Domain image -
By Alfred Rudolph Waud; Harper's Weekly, 26 May 1866 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
#115 - Public Domain image -
By Theodore R. Davis (Engraving of sketch by Theodore R. Davis via ) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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