The Long March

Posted on Categories Legal History, Political Processes & Rhetoric1 Comment on The Long March

In November, 1868, the newly freed slaves in South Carolina turned out to vote in the first presidential election they had ever been allowed to participate in. It was a momentous occasion; hundreds of thousands of persons who had been deprived of their rights for centuries were now finally able to enjoy all of the privileges of citizenship, including the right of suffrage. Voting in the 1860s meant travelling long distances to the county seat to cast a ballot, often requiring an overnight stay; it was an arduous process, but they were eager to make the attempt.

But many in 1868 found that they had made the trip for nothing. Armed militias of whites, determined to prevent blacks from voting, arose all across the South, particularly in South Carolina. Acting at the direction of Democratic party leaders, these bands of vigilantes, sometimes calling themselves Ku Klux Klans, confiscated Republican ballots, threatened prospective voters, and assassinated Republican candidates for office. On the two days of the November election, hundreds of armed whites rode all over upcountry South Carolina, surrounding polling stations and preventing blacks from entering. The tactic was a success; blacks were denied the right to vote in several South Carolina counties, and the local Democratic ticket was elected by large majorities in all of them.

And so, it is a measure of the distance we have come in 140 years, that yesterday an African-American man was elected as President of the United States, on the Democratic Party ticket, in an election that was almost entirely peaceful.

Studs Turkel’s Impact on Telling the Stories of Workers

Posted on Categories Labor & Employment Law, Legal History, Popular Culture & LawLeave a comment» on Studs Turkel’s Impact on Telling the Stories of Workers

Studs As many of you are probably aware, last week saw the passing of an American icon, Studs Turkel. Mary Dudziak of the Legal History Blog relates that the author and radio host died this past Friday at the age of 96. From his website:

In 1952 Terkel began working for WFMT, first with the “Studs Terkel Almanac” and the “Studs Terkel Show,” primarily to play music. The interviewing came along by accident. This later became the award-winning, “The Studs Terkel Program.” His first book, Giants of Jazz, was published in 1956. Ten years later his first book of oral history interviews, Division Street : America, came out. It was followed by a succession of oral history books on the 1930s Depression, World War Two, race relations, working, the American dream, and aging. His latest book, Will the Circle Be Unbroken : Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith, was published in 2001. Terkel continues to interview people, work on his books, and make public appearances. He is Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at the Chicago Historical Society.

Mary observes this from the Chicago Tribune:

“At his bedside was a copy of his latest book, ‘P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening,’ scheduled for a November release.”

From a labor perspective, Turkel made many important contributions in putting together oral histories of the life of workers, including Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do and Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression.

Thanks to Mary for pointing out that recordings from Terkel’s radio programs and oral history interviews are here.

Hat Tip: Patrick O’Donnell

Cross posted at Workplace Prof Blog.

Happy Columbus Day?

Posted on Categories Legal History3 Comments on Happy Columbus Day?

We have put aside naive notions of Christopher Columbus as the heroic discoverer of the New World, but on Columbus Day and in general we should continue to contemplate the troubling bases and ramifications of Columbus’ voyages.

Columbus’ voyage in 1492 rested on his contractual agreement with the King and Queen of Spain. In return for spices and especially the gold he anticipated finding, Columbus received financing for three small ships and a combined crew of 40 and also promises of ten percent of all profits, the lucrative governorship of any new-found lands, and the title “Admiral of the Ocean Sea.” Columbus returned from his first voyages with a few spices, gold he had plucked from native peoples’ ear lobes, and 350 newly enslaved men and women. (An additional 250 had died on the sail back to Spain.) The King and Queen were impressed enough to finance a second expedition in 1493 of seventeen ships with 1200 men–including a full cavalry troop and a half-dozen priests. The fleet raided and plundered the Caribbean islands and was followed by subsequent large expeditions under Columbus’ command in 1498 and 1502.

The indigenous peoples of the Caribbean paid the heaviest price for these ventures. Continue reading “Happy Columbus Day?”