Monday, December 08, 2008

Paul Jones in the News Again

Some time ago I wrote about Paul Jones the art collector (not Sally's Paul Jones (a.k.a. "The Real Paul Jones")). I wrote about him because many, many years after he was denied admission to the University of Alabama's law school, for no better reason than his race, the University of Alabama gave him an honorary degree. The degree was not so much to make amends but in honor of his accomplishments as an art collector.

Dr. Jones has a long history with Alabama--while an official in President Nixon's education department, he awarded a multi-million dollar grant for extension education to the University of Alabama; and more recently he has donated a significant part of his art collection to the University. This is yet more evidence of the ways that, over the course of a lifetime, things change. It reminds me of a story Dr. Jones told me of his childhood growing up in Bessemer, Alabama. He sometimes went with his parents to the Bright Star--a legendary restaurant that's still in operation in Bessemer. I highly recommend it next time you're in Birmingham. Because those were the days of Jim Crow, Jones' family could not go in the front door--but the proprietor would set up a table in the back and the Jones came in the back door. That was a courageous position for the restaurant in those days, I am reliably informed.

Some years ago I asked Dr. Jones whether he'd been back. And he said "yes. It's still a great restaurant. [Pause] And this time I went in the front door!" Ah, what changes he's witnessed over his lifetime--and what changes he's been a part of, and contributed to as well. It's an important lesson of foregiveness and of moving forward. As we say in the historical memory business, we are far too often burdened by memory.

So you can imagine my surprise when a reader of Greenespace wrote me recently to tell me about another recent story in which Paul Jones figured. During the 1972 presidential election, Dr. Jones was in charge of President Nixon's campaign to get out the black vote. In that capacity he approached Sammy Davis, Jr. Amidst the recent talk of the release of Nixon tapes, there's a story about a letter that Paul Jones wrote about his meeting with Davis. The Orange County Recorder reports:

Campaign workers talked to Davis about supporting Nixon in January 1972. "The entertainer's reaction was that he has not chosen sides and is 'hanging loose,'" said a memo sent that month by campaign staffer Paul Jones to the re-election committee. "He indicated wanting to see 'what is in it' – which was spelled out to mean something 'for the people' – not for himself."

Another example of the unexpected outdoing itself in its power to surprise, as Ralph Ellison said!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bill Thorpe

My Town Council colleague Bill Thorpe died on Saturday. We will miss him very much. I came to know him first in early 2004, when he was involved with the NAACP in asking the Council to change the name of Airport Road to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Seeing Chapel Hill's long history through his eyes helped me to understand why this gesture--which some dismissed as merely symbolic--was so important. More than that, after his election to the Council in 2005 he continued to remind all of us of the need to go beyond symbolism to action in addressing issues of social justice in our community.

He also taught me a lot about collegiality in public service--that is, about working together as colleagues. And he never ceased to remind all of us us--usefully, no doubt--that we are public servants, that our actions and decisions must always be for the good of the whole community. As anybody who knew him can tell you, he had a powerful deadpan--he could shock you momentarily into thinking you'd committed some mighty offense! only to let you know it was all right, everything was going to be all right. He really had one of the sweetest dispositions of any man I've ever known (and surely it is OK, in the 21st century, to call a man sweet). When I think of him, I will always see him smiling.

A public viewing will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, at University Baptist Church, and services will be held at 1 p.m.

Friday, September 26, 2008

What's your support system?

This is a question I was asked at yesterday's second annual Project Homeless Connect. It's a good question. There's probably a time when I would have responded, What are you talking about? I don't need a support system! I was independent, gainfully employed, healthy, reasonably happy. I still am all of those things, but no longer so naive as to think I'm any of them without a lot of support from many directions: especially family. Everybody needs a support system. Most of us have one.

A couple of years ago at one of our conversations on homelessness, I met a woman living in the Homestart shelter. Her salary at a fast food restaurant allowed her to pay rent and buy gas, but little else. When her car broke down, she had to choose between fixing it and making rent. She chose the car--because she had to get to work. Couldn't your family help? I asked. Her family was sympathetic but no, they were in no position to help.

Poverty begets poverty.

Calvin Harris' story is worse. His parents abandoned him; he was raised by cousins who didn't do very well by him either. He grew up learning New Jersey street smarts. In and out of trouble, in and out of prison for 28 of his 48 years, he lives in Person County now where he has been sober since 2006. Now, he's looking for work--a hard proposition for somebody with a felony record.

What's your support system?

Photos from Project Homeless Connect.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Remembering Katrina

On the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, some recommended reading: the special Katrina issue of Southern Cultures, cover to cover. Amazing stories, including a riveting first-person account, from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, of taking the high ground in an elegant, "safe" old inn, being engulfed in water up to the second floor, floating out into open sea, holding on for dear life to the limbs of a live oak tree, and more.

An update to their story: the live oak tree has since died, and it's been refashioned into angels standing watch where the old inn used to be.

Friday, August 22, 2008

"Traces of the Trade" in Hillsborough Sept. 6

A couple of months ago, Al blogged about "Traces of the Trade," a documentary made by a descendant of the DeWolf family of Rhode Island, "the largest slave trading family in U.S. history" according to the film. The documentary follows the steps of the filmmaker Katrina Browne and a handful of other descendants as they retrace the paths over which this trading took place: from Bristol, Rhode Island to Ghana to the Caribbean.

The film premiered at Sundance and has been shown on PBS (see trailer). And because the family included a good number of Episcopal priests, it has been taken up by the Episcopal Church nationally as part of the church's ongoing work of reconciliation with its complicity with slavery and racism.

On Sept. 6, as part of a conversation sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina at St. Matthew's church in Hillsborough, the film will be shown. After the film, I'll be part of a panel discussion--in which I'll be bringing our own Thomas Ruffin to the table.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Greening up the Garden


Frank Harmon's beautiful design for the North Carolina Botanical Garden's new visitor education center, slated to be the first Platinum LEED building in the southeast, is coming to life! Director Peter White took Tucker and me, along with Laura Moore (a neighbor and member of the Community Design Commission), on a fascinating hard hat tour today. This generously proportioned, green, and welcoming facility will have a transformative impact on the way the Garden is experienced.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Asheville Before School Starts

I made a very quick trip out to Asheville before school starts--been hearing a bunch about the place and, of course, it was everything I'd heard and more. Reminds me of Burlington, Vermont, Northampton, Massachusetts, and Portland, Oregon--the combination of restaurants and grunge and people with money, too. I'm looking forward to spending some more time out there in another year. But right now I want to talk about four things in particular.

As I was driving up Patton Street, towards (what I understand to be) the center of town, I saw an obelisk. And I said, ah, that must be a monument to the Confederacy; I'm guessing it was put up in the early twentieth century. So, after parking the car in a nearby lot (complete with spray-painted "Tourists Go Home"--gotta love the local flavor!) and a walk back there, I see that I was pretty much on the mark. It's a monument put up in the late 1930s to Zebulon Vance--governor of our state during the Civil War. And, of course, it was put up by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. So I was pretty close; and what to my wondering eyes did appear in front of it, but a smaller granite monument put up in the 1924, also by the UDC, marking Dixie Highway and commemorating Robert E. Lee. So far, so good. Actually, calling this stuff is like shooting fish in a barrel--every southern town needs its confederate monument and they're almost all from the early twentieth century. So you can impress your friends and family by making these kinds of predictions. Let's see, big monument; southern town; ... "well, [affecting voice of authority], I bet that's an early twentieth century monument to the confederacy." And almost all the time you'll be right!

So a walk down towards the enormous courthouse and what do I see: a bunch of hippies surrounding a magnolia tree. As close readers of GreeneSpace will recall, I love magnolia trees--and so does pretty much everyone else, which is part of the reason why the moonlight and magnolia school was so popular. They were camping out, protesting the impending destruction of the tree to create ... a condominium, right next to the park they're building! They crux of this seems to be a decision by the local authorities to sell land left to the city by George Pack. One recent report talks about it in this way: "The park land was willed to the people forever by two deeds of the late and benevolent George Pack. The deeds and land now in question are said by many to have been improperly, if not illegally, sold by Buncombe County Commissioners in November 2006." Hmm, I'd want to see the deeds (or will, I take it in this case)--sounds like a gift in fee simple absolute, but perhaps there was a restriction on use or sale?!

Now, I part company with hippies on some issues--like property rights. However, I'm always happy to see people exercising their constitutional rights in order to encourage the rest of us to spare trees from the ax--particularly the ancient, beautiful, and slow-growing magnolia. Sounds like a new piece of what I might call hippie jurisprudence. There's something about trees, which appeals to my sense of vested rights. The old ones are venerable in part because they are old; they've survived the test of time, so that alone is a reason to preserve them, it seems to me. (Not to mention that trees as a stand-in in southern literature for families.)

Anyway, after a short time at the protest, I spotted yet another monument to the side of the courthouse. And this time as I approached it, I guessed--based on the stones--that it was from the 1880s or 1890s. Bingo! 1893 monument to soldiers at Chickamauga in 1863. Ah, gotta love monuments and monument law--and what a day when you see them all combined.

And now I'm ready for school to start, because this has been just the perfect summer.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

For Ashley

Earlier this week came the hard news that Ashley Osment's cancer has returned. The rare form of ovarian cancer that struck her last year, which had seemed to respond to treatment, was only hiding out. It has returned in the bottom of both of her lungs. She has gone through one round of carboplatin/taxol and avastin chemotherapy through her blood stream, and on August 25 she'll undergo a second round.

Her friend Maria Palmer has thoughtfully created a web site where she is posting her daily prayers and meditations--a lovely way to be present for Ashley without being intrusive at a time when it's hard to know how to help. Our love goes out to Ashley and her family.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Too many Joneses!

Cute post, Al, but it's obvious I'm no Obama. I'd love to take his courses. Or teach some pale semblance of one of them again someday. But first I have to get this obsession with State v. Mann behind me--which I may soon do if I'm lucky.

On Saturday my goal in the archives was to bear down on Thomas Jones of Chowan County, the Thomas Jones who died in 1822 and was father of Elizabeth Jones and owner of a slave named Lydia. (Lydia subsequently became the property of Elizabeth and was kept hired out until Elizabeth entered her majority at age 18.) Whose family did he come from? Was it true--as it seemed likely, at least, on the surface--that he was the son of the Thomas Jones of Chowan who helped to draft North Carolina's constitution of 1776? That Thomas Jones sounds like quite a fellow. According to Samuel Ashe's Biographical History of North Carolina, he

was bred to the law, was one of the very finest men of the province in genius and learning. About the time of the arrival of James Iredell at Edenton, Mr. Jones was clerk of the court. He was not a man of large means, but was esteemed one of the principal men of his community. He was married and had an interesting household that was on terms of intimacy with the Johnstons and others of that social circle. In 1771 Iredell mentions him as "one of the best as well as most agreeable men in the world."

He died in 1797, leaving a will that named three sons, Zachariah, Levi, and Thomas.

Now, the Thomas Jones who was the father of Elizabeth died in 1822, possessed of over 600 acres. He was a justice of the peace and was evidently well respected. Given the frequency with which these people named their children after themselves, it seemed likely to me that there was a direct line here. And how interesting to re-discover this founding North Carolinian who had been lost to history and to connect him to this important case.

Except, not so fast. It turns out that in the archival file of estate records titled "Thomas Jones, 1754-1798 (more than one estate)" (not even the state archivists can tell these Joneses a part), there's a document dated 1795 that says, "Thomas Jones, son of the late Thomas Jones esquire attorney of law deceased late of Edenton in Chowan County is dead," having died without leaving a will, and thus that Francis Jones, son of this Thomas Jones, is appointed his executor. More confusion ensues, because the will of the Thomas Jones who seems to be the father here, the lawyer and clerk, is dated 1797!

There must be a story here, but unfortunately not a clear enough line to determine that Elizabeth Jones was the grand-daughter, or even great-granddaughter, of Thomas Jones the forgotten old patriot, a man who had his moment but then, according to Ashe, disappeared from public life 20 years before his death.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

What Do Sally and Senator Obama Have in Common?

They both are interested in Justice Thomas Ruffin's 1830 opinion in State v. Mann! Sally writes about it and Obama taught it in his seminar on current issues in racism and the law at the University of Chicago back in 1994. How do we know this? The syllabus for the course is up on the New York Times' website. Pretty interesting set of readings!

I have some more thoughts on the syllabus--and why it's not getting more attention--over at the faculty lounge.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

"The South Part of Virginia" c. 1657

To follow up on the post below on the contested North Carolina/Virginia line, here's a great old map.


Nicholas Comberford’s 1657 map, The South Part of Virginia Now the North Part of Carolina. The east coast of North Carolina is drawn along the bottom edge of the map. The map extends south as far as Cape Fear and north as far as what appears to be the Virginia border. The western part of the map (on the top edge) is marked as Tuscarora Indian territory. Between the Pamlico Sound and Albemarle Sound (labeled the Roanoake Sound), the map is labeled “This is a swampy wilderness;” the land north of Albemarle Sound is labeled the same.

The original is in the New York Public Library.

Here's another version of Comberford's map, a nice color image--but the heading isn't quite the same! This one is in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Quakers with slaves

At right is the cover of the Chowan County grand jury indictment, in spring 1829, of John Mann for the assault and battery of the slave Lydia. (From the North Carolina Office of Archives and History.) The charge was presented by a man named Josiah Small. Yet the slave's owner, as Ruffin's opinion in State v. Mann tells us, was named Elizabeth Jones, who for all this time has eluded historians. Who was Josiah Small and what concern was Jones' slave to him? This document was my first clue in a long journey to find the answer.

Elizabeth Jones was Small's ward. Married to her older sister Matilda, Small assumed guardianship of Elizabeth and two of her brothers after the death of their father Thomas Jones, in 1822. To that household Elizabeth brought the slave she had inherited, Lydia. By 1829, Elizabeth was still a minor (barely, at 17), and Lydia was 23.

What's most interesting to me about the Small household is that Josiah Small was from an old Quaker family. He was a descendant of John Small (c.1639-1700), a Virginia Quaker whose family was among the waves of Quakers who scurried down to North Carolina to escape the wrath of Virginia's governor William Berkeley. A faithful servant of Charles I, "a King's man to his autocratic fingertips" as one historian writes, Berkeley suppressed all dissent from the Church of England, even after Cromwell came to power. By 1660, he'd succeeded in getting the Virginia legislature to pass a law requiring the imprisonment of all Quakers until they left the colony. He stayed in office until his death in 1677.

This was happening during the same period when the boundary line between North Carolina and Virginia was up for grabs. The North Carolina charter of 1663 was at apparent odds with the one of 1665; in conflict was a swath of territory about 30 miles deep from where the line currently is to the middle of the Albemarle Sound. The dispute wasn't settled until William Byrd's survey of 1728--which means that for some 60 years, it was an open question.

The dispute had to do with differences of opinion on the location of Weyanoke Creek, which was supposed to be the boundary. The creek couldn't be found any more. Virginia claimed it was the same as Wiccon Creek, a tributary of the Chowan. North Carolina said it was the Nottoway River. But as William Boyd points out in an introduction to William Byrd's work, major questions of tobacco and trade routes were involved.

As early as 1679 Virginia had prohibited the importation of North Carolina tobacco, a condition which greatly retarded the economic development of the northeastern part of the province, where the soil was well adapted to tobacco culture. If the boundary ran through Nottoway River, North Carolina tobacco could be shipped down that and other streams to Albemarle Sound and thence to points without the colony.

As the debate lingered on, in 1714, Governor Spotswood of Virginia, "claiming that North Carolina continued to grant lands in the disputed region and that 'loose and disorderly people daily flock there,' proposed that Virginia survey a line through the Nottoway River and North Carolina one through Wiccon Creek, and that all settlers between those lines be removed." !! That didn't happen. When Charles Eden became governor of North Carolina, he managed to reach a compromise on the boundary. The line he proposed is the one that eventually, in 1728, was surveyed by a company including William Byrd II.

It's a more complicated story than that, but let me return to the Quaker Smalls. Because of this confusion, it appears that some of Josiah Small's ancestors may have "moved" to North Carolina simply by staying put. At any rate, by the late 1700s his father Benjamin was well established in Chowan County. On his death he left an estate of more than 500 acres and some 18 slaves. Josiah inherited about half of this, plus he had other holdings. By the time of the 1830 census, Josiah had 17 slaves.

Quakers were certainly better off in North Carolina. Under the Carolina Charter of 1663 (written largely by John Locke), "No person . . . shall be in any ways molested, punished, disquieted, or called into question for any differences in opinion or practice in matters of religious concernment, but every person shall have and enjoy his conscience in matters of religion throughout the province."

Quakers had many inconvenient practices and beliefs. They would not swear an oath in court. They considered everybody equal, rich or poor; all were brothers and sisters. Whether you were a lord or a servant, to them you were "thee." They would not fight. And of course, they thought slavery was wrong.

When did the Small family decide to become slaveholders, and why? We know that certain Quakers in Chowan County were considered dangerously abolitionist at least through 1795, when Josiah's father Benjamin, who did own slaves, would have been around 50. In December 1795, some Quakers in Chowan County were accused of actively promoting emancipation. Responding to a perceived "situation of great peril and danger" brought on by "the society of people called Quakers,"--by their "insatiated enthusiasm . . . as to partial and general emancipation"--a grand jury resolved that "speedy and resolute measures ought to be adopted by the good sense & spirit of the people" to combat their pernicious influence." This document links the Quaker agitation to "the miserable havoc & malfeasance which have lately taken place in the West Indies," which must have been a reference to the 1791 revolution in Haiti. Historians have finally understood how terrifying that event was to slaveowners throughout the South--an event too explosive to even talk about. But in my research into the first three decades of the 1800s in Chowan County, I haven't yet found any evidence of Quakers standing on principle against slavery. Perhaps it was there, but the Smalls and many of their relatives by then were well assimilated into the slaveowner class.

A reasonable explanation for this phenomenon of slaveholding Quakers comes from Seth B. Hinshaw's history of Quakers in North Carolina: "The religious conviction that slavery was morally wrong developed quite slowly," he writes. By the time it took hold, Quakers in eastern North Carolina had been owning slaves for many years, handing them down (as we see in the Small family) from generation to generation. It's not a great answer, but it's the best I can do.

Some of this information will turn up in the law review essay I'm writing as a follow-up to my talk on State v. Mann at the Ruffin symposium last fall. I want to acknowledge how helpful the web is for a project like this--rather, how handy the web is for connecting historical researchers with genealogists. A lot of what I know about the Small family comes from genealogical sources, especially Janice Eileen Wallace, with whom I had a fascinating email correspondence. The same is true for Elizabeth Jones and her descendants, for which Sally's Family Place and Sally herself have been very helpful.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where are the Neo-Confederates When You Need Them?

This evening I want to read Jefferson Davis' July 1852 address to the Phi Sigma and Hermean Societies of the University of Mississippi. But you know what? I can't find it on the internet. It's moments like these that I conclude the neo-confederates really are insignificant. If you can't scan in all the works of your leader and stick them up on the net somewhere, the question just has to be asked: what are you doing? And the answer has to be not much.

Mountaintop experience with Rheingold

On Monday afternoon we visited Howard Rheingold at his Marin County home, a cottage nestled into a lush California garden. On good days, which I suppose most are (Sunday was), his "office" is a wooden chair under a plum tree. His sunflowers are 10-12 feet tall. That would have been special enough, but there's more.

He drove us up to Mt. Tamalpais State Park where we hiked among redwoods, sometimes straight up it seemed, to a gorgeous peak with spectacular view of the Bay.

A few more pics are posted on Paul's flickr page. (Clearly I need a flickr account myself!)

From there we headed to Half Moon Bay, where Paul is among the Brainstorm Techies here at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton. He's twittering up a storm. At this moment he's going crazy over Neil Young.

We'll be heading home tomorrow. Only regret on this great trip is not having packed enough sweaters. But if you're one of GreeneSpace's Chapel Hill readers, I realize you might find it hard to sympathize.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Colorful San Francisco

David Silver, his wife Sarah Washburn, and their friends James Jacobs and ShinJohng Yeo spent the day yesterday showing us their San Francisco: the Mission, Castro, Richmond, etc.

Here's a portion of the fabulous murals on the Women's Building.

One of many murals lining both sides of Clarion Alley.

Schubert's Bakery, on Clement St. Viennese opera cakes and other European delights served up by friendly Asians. We shared a slice of Swedish Princess cake. For more photos of this and our later Vietnamese dinner at La Vie, see David's flickr.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bay Area bits & bytes

View from Grizzly Peak, Berkeley, near the home of our hosts, Lee Douglas and Betsy Strode.

Alma Kunanbaeva of the Silk Road House Cultural & Educational Center, Berkeley. Alma and her husband, Izaly Zemtsovsky, are friends of our friends David and Mary Alice Lowenthal, but we found out that we have another friend in common: Kazakhstan scholar Paula Michaels.

A stopped dog tells no time: amusement on the way to breakfast on Sutter St., San Francisco.

Plastic dinosaur (made in China), part of "Half-Life of a Dream," exhibit of contemporary Chinese art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Keith Haring sculpture, near SF MOMA. Earlier, we saw his tryptich at the AIDS Chapel in Grace Cathedral.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Internet Archive visit

Safe inside the Presidio, around the corner from the barracks of the legendary U.S. 30th Infantry Regiment (now being transformed into the Walt Disney Family Museum), is the headquarters of the Internet Archive, where we were greeted warmly by Brewster Kahle. We arrived just in time yesterday for the Friday lunch, a weekly event where everybody gathers around delicious food and talks about what they've been doing for the past week. A half-dozen of the folks were interns from Creative Commons. Paul was in his element; me, happy to be there.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

San Bruno to Berkeley

YouTube's headquarters is in San Bruno in a beautiful green building designed originally for Gap, Inc. by William McDonough. We got there just in time for lunch with Obie Greenberg, a YouTuber whom Paul had met recently on the UNC campus. A healthy buffet lunch is free for employees (and their guests). There's obvious payback to YouTube from this model, keeping workers working while munching their Mediterranean salads and their watermelon sorbet. (I understand this is the Google model as well.) But it looks like it does the trick! Seems like a fun place to work.

Up in Berkeley, it was a great day to walk around the University of California Botanical Garden. Just our luck to be there the day of a rare blooming of the Corpse Flower (Titan Arum; amorphophallus titanum). Said to have a terrible smell at times, we couldn't smell it (at least I couldn't), but we could admire it's awesome beauty. (The Italian arum in our yard is a puny relative.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Out west

On vacation. What a lark, what a plunge! Arrived in San Francisco yesterday, spent some time in OCLC's Research Libraries Group office in San Mateo, where I got to hear my lovely and talented spouse talk informally for about an hour and a half about ibiblio and how it started and what makes it work.

Had a delightful dinner with Dan Gillmor and Noriko Takiguchi at Roti, a great Indian restaurant in the upscale town of Burlingame.

Then for the night at the Inn at Oyster Point. Today, on to Berkeley.

The view from Oyster Point toward Gertrude Stein's Oakland.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Book I Love + Antebellum Math Problem

Ok--so I'm sitting here reading John McCardell's fantastic Idea of a Southern Nation. He references an algebra book published in the 1840s by a Davidson prof, D.H. Hill, (also later a Confederate general) that makes fun of yankees.

So I surf over to a fabulous research tool this is. And though a librarian was just yesterday criticizing me for my research method (and for also not spending enough time in the archives), I have to say: it sure is convenient to be able to pull up the text on my desktop. So check out this problem from Professor Hill's book:

A Yankee mixes a certain number of wooden nutmegs, which cost him 1/4 cent apiece, with a quantity of real nutmegs, worth 4 cents apiece, and sells the whole assortment for $44; and gains $3.75 by the fraud. How many wooden nutmegs were there?
Fun in math class, eh? (Am I right in thinking that 4x-1/4x=375?)

In honor of Sally's terrific work on State v. Mann, how about this problem involving the hiring of a slave:
A planter hired a negro-man at the rate of $100 per annum, and his clothing. At the end of 8 months the master of the slave took him home, and received $75 in cash, and no clothing. What was the clothing valued at?

Also, on the issue of emancipation and the generosity of North and South, this:

A gentleman in Richmond expressed a willingness to liberate his slave, valued at $1000, upon the receipt of that sum from charitable persons. He received contributions from 24 persons; and of these there were 14/19ths fewer from the North than from the South, and the average donation of the former was 4/5ths smaller than that of the latter. What was the entire amount given by the latter?

Mighty interesting stuff to see what's on the minds of antebellum textbook authors, eh?

(By the way, just so this is clear--the book I love is McCardell's Idea of a Southern Nation.)

Barbeque Church

I've lived in North Carolina long enough to know that barbeque is religion, but I didn't know till lately that there's actually a Barbeque Church.

Related: Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbeque, by John Shelton and Dale Reed, comes out from UNC Press this fall.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Two things I love

Well, it's a Friday afternoon in July and so it's time for a little break from University, Court, and Slave. Time to talk about two things I love.

First, University Microform's Digital Dissertations. I'm able to sit here in my office in Chapel Hill and read Colin Bradley Burke's fantastic quantitative study of colleges in the antebellum period. Second, quantitative studies of history. Reading Burke's study I'm reminded that it wasn't so long ago that scholars wrote their own programs to do data analysis. (He talks about a FORTRAN program he wrote to compute coefficients.) Heck, even I did my own programming for my first quantitative study back in the mid-1980s. (That's because I didn't have an account on my school's IBM 370, so I used a desktop.) Ah, the good old days....

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wingfield, Chowan County

While Al has been keeping GreeneSpace alive, for which I'm very grateful, I've been back at work on my essay on Thomas Ruffin and State v. Mann as a follow-up to last fall's symposium. Lately that project has taken me back to the archives. As anyone who has done this sort of thing knows, it's easy to get lost in the archives, to go down trails you never intended just because they are interesting.

One of the jurors who heard John Mann's case in Chowan County in the fall of 1829 was Thomas I. Brownrigg. He was from a wealthy Irish Protestant family that established the first commercial fishing operation in provincial North Carolina, on the Chowan River just above Edenton. By his day, the estate that his grandfather Richard Brownrigg had established consisted of some 1,400 acres. Thomas' half-sister Priscilla Brownrigg was married to the solicitor (the prosecutor) bringing the case against Mann, John L. Bailey. (So much for conflict of interest.)

In double-checking some of these facts, I found this paragraph written in 1873 by Thomas Brownrigg Bailey to his mother Priscilla Brownrigg Bailey:

I rode over to Wingfield . . . The dear old place, my ancestors' home, around which cluster all the fond and proud associations of my family, is as much altered from the paradise it once was as a skeleton is different from the full and rounded form of youth and health and beauty. I rode down to the rear of the garden and took a long and wistful view of the most beautiful river I have ever seen; its glittering waters looked just as they did forty years ago. And the cypress trees with their broad bases stood out in the water, isolated, only awaiting their time to fall prostrate like others on the strand . . . the waves beating their solemn cadence on the lonely shore and the sighing of the wind through the cedars made symphony with my troubled heart. I felt humbled as in the presence of the dead; I tried to conjure up the long ago, when gay and festive and merrie throng gathered on the lawn, or made the house echo with song and dance and music's voluptuous swell. I tried to imagine where Father poured into your willing ear the words of love and plighted faith, but it would not do. In spite of me I was depressed beyond measure, and there the scarred and ruined house stared me in the face like an ugly demon. I bade silent farewell to the place and rode away.

Accompanying this paragraph was a note saying the house had been occupied in 1863 by the Buffaloes, "a band of traitorous Southerners."

What happened? It appears that during the Civil War there were two Union infantry regiments organized in eastern North Carolina out of white North Carolinians. According to Professor Donald E. Collins, they had their reasons:

Why did 1,300 men from the counties of Eastern North Carolina go against their native state and join the Union army? The answer is complex and is not simply loyalty to the United States and/or opposition to slavery. The nucleus of the First and Second North Carolina regiments, those who entered in the first enthusiastic burst of recruiting, were anti-slavery men who opposed secession. That, however, is even too simple an explanation. As pointed out by historian Wayne K. Durrill in his book A War of Another Kind, in describing the war in Washington County [See: Tidbits], it was a form of class warfare of haves versus have-nots -- the poor whites and small yeoman farmers who opposed and acted against their wealthy slave holding planter neighbors. Such men rushed to join a Union army that would help them punish the secessionist planter class.


The earliest North Carolina Union soldiers were "carried away with the idea that when they became soldiers they would be licensed to shoot down indiscriminately every disloyal citizen to the government they could find, and appropriate all of the property belonging to such persons to their own comfort, or to the benefit of the Government. " These Unionists were less anti-slavery than pro-white labor. They wished to end slavery as the first step toward deporting Blacks from the country -- to the benefit of the white working man.

These soldiers were called Home Guards. Their role was not to involve leaving the state. Rather, they were to cooperate with northern soldiers, perhaps serving as scouts or doing reconnaissance. "Perhaps the most hazardous duty involved recruiting forays into the no-man's land of the Albemarle Sound and Roanoke/Chowan rivers region where they were regularly harassed by small bands of Confederate guerilas."

But the company that took over Wingfield was no credit to the Union. According to William Mallison in The Civil War on the Outer Banks, after being turned into a post of the Union army, Wingfield went from bad to worse.

It became a center of “fugitive negroes, lawless white men, traitors and deserters from the Confederate army. Their leader, Captain Jack Fairless, a deserter, and his men “pillaged, plundered, burned, and decoyed off slaves in their forays into Chowan . . . Bertie, Perquimans, Hertford, and Gates Counties.”

Capt. Fairless was fatally shot by one of his own drunken men. A fierce battle then took place between the remaining Union men and some Confederates, the Union side "armed with an antique cannon stolen from Edenton." The Confederates eventually prevailed, but Wingfield was destroyed.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

More Books I Love that I Haven't Read in a While

Recently, as I was re-reading Robert Bonner's fantastic essay on Michael O'Brien's Conjectures of Order, I was reminded that his first book was a history of the southern identity between the two world wars, The Idea of the American South, 1920-41--and about UNC's contribution through the university's sociologists. In previous readings of The Idea of the South I've focused on the conservative thought (much of is about the agrarians), but Bonner's gentle reminder sent me over to my book shelf to pull down The Idea of the American South, to learn about my new home.

One thing about O'Brien's work--I always have the sense that he's smarter than everyone he's writing about (and he's sure smarter than I am). It's strange to read a book where the author sees connections that I don't think the subjects under study saw--or to deal with ideas that the subjects under study didn't understand as well as the author. But then maybe that's maybe one of the central goals of intellectual history--to see people's ideas in context and perhaps put them in a stream of thought, which they themselves perhaps only dimly perceived.

One of these days I want to talk about legal thought in his Conjectures of Order.

Monday, July 07, 2008

New Urbanism: A Participant Observation Study

I returned from Philadelphia with a copy of the new urbanist bible, Jane Jacobs' Death and Life of Great American Cities in tow. I'm going to be talking a little bit about my experience living in a new urbanist community for a while--but perhaps I should begin with my experience with Jane Jacobs first. I read it in an urban history class that I took way back in the spring of 1985 (in some ways its hard for me to say way back, because my college years still seem so fresh--but, ah, a lot of water's gone under the bridge since then). And now I realize that my choice of a place for law school (New York) may have been heavily influenced by that book and its obvious love for New York.

Anyway, I filed it away in the memory banks, thought about it now and then. I graduated from law school and headed south, to Richmond, where I clerked for a judge on the fourth circuit (the beloved John Butzner, a most humane and kind man). And I chose an unusual apartment--in a renovated tobacco warehouse--again, perhaps, influenced by Jacobs. Judge Butzner joked a little bit about me as his scrappy, resourceful New York clerk and, in fact, his love for things and people of New York may have been why he hired me. Over the course of the year I learned that his brother-in-law was an architect in New York and that his sister was the author of a legal history book--Constitutional Chafe (about discarded constitutional provisions). That book was published by Jane Butnzer.

It wasn't until near the end of my clerkship that I was interviewing with a New York firm and one of the partners said, "oh, I know Judge Butzner's sister--you may know her too." All of which must have caused me to have a puzzled look on my face. And then he said, "Jane Jacobs." To which I responded something like, "oh, Death and Life of Great American Cities?! She's Judge Butzner's sister?" What a supremely modest man who didn't bother to mention who his sister was. ...

I think there's a great article to be written about Butzner's jurisprudence. If you're interested in what Jacobs' method looks like in the legal system, Butzer is the person to study--it's a jurisprudence that looks to the common law method. He took a very direct approach to precedent and followed it rigorously, though he also saw the considerations of humanity at stake in his decisions. And there was, every now and then, a small appearance of the moral indignation that so characterizes Jacobs' work when she identifies the bureaucracy's treading on the rights and humanity of people in a city.

But, to return to the subject of my post. I'm most interested by this new urbanist community I now live in. And so I've been taking notes as I wander around southern village and as I sit in the Weaver Street Market munching my lunches. Got a lot to say about this place, mostly about what works with it. A small preview: this is a really gendered space.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Independence Day in Hillsborough

What could be better for someone who studies history and cemeteries than an Independence Day visit to the grave of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence?! Not much, I imagine. Hence, I set off on Friday morning to visit Hillsborough. Hillsborough, of course, is where Thomas Ruffin lived and where several of the "Regulators" were hanged after their rebellion was put down in 1771.
In the church yard of the Hillsborough Presbyterian Church, Thomas Hooper--a signer of the Declaration--was buried in 1790. Was buried is the operative term--he was exhumed and reburied in Greensboro in 1894 (as part of the creation of a park to commemorate a Revolutionary War battle fought there). I'm not a huge fan of reburials to create a new park--seems like the attempt to "manufacture" gravitas--and it's done at the expense of a dead person, who obviously can't object. But then if the relevant family members are ok with it, that's all that's required by law.
Anyway, the church yard is lovely and I saw the place where Hooper had been buried. (He's a pretty interesting guy, btw--born in Boston and educated at Boston Latin School and Harvard, then trained in law with James Otis and relocated to North Carolina in the 1760s. Hooper was initially closely tied to the colonial government, then slowly came over the Revolutionary cause, and after the war was a Federalist.)
(This is cross-posted from propertyprof.)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Traces of the Trade, on P.O.V. This Tuesday

I've been buried in work on University, Court, and Slave (though you couldn't tell it from how little progress I made last week), so I'm a little behind the curve on this most exciting news. The much-discussed documentary Traces of the Trade will be broadcast on television for the first time this Tuesday, June 24, on the PBS show P.O.V. (In Chapel Hill, POV's broadcast of the film will be on Friday the 27th.) Traces of the Trade is about James DeWolf of Bristol, Rhode Island (one of our country's wealthiest men and a leading figure in the slave trade in the eighteenth century) and a journey that DeWolf's descendants made recently as they retraced the paths of his trade routes and property holdings. They began in Bristol, then went to Ghana and the Caribbean.

I saw a director's cut of this back in 2005 at a conference at Brown University. It was fantastic--absolutely fantastic. I can't wait to see the final version. You need to see this. Trust me on this one.

This evening's Bill Moyer's Journal has a short preview, which you can watch here. Also, Sally tells me that the director, Katrina Browne, will be speaking in Chapel Hill on September 6. You may also be interested in c-span's broadcast with Thomas DeWolf, who's the author of a book on this subject, Inheriting the Trade.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Thomas Ruffin: Of Moral Philosophy and Monuments

Well, it's a Friday afternoon in June and though my favorite librarian recently told me I should be relaxing now that I'm moved into Chapel Hill, I'm sweating out a paper for a colloquium next week. It's going to be about University, Court, and Slave. I'm trying to get the introduction written so I can distribute it on Monday. But instead of doing that, I'm blogging about a piece of it....

One of the chapters is on Thomas Ruffin, so I thought I'd post a note about an article that I forthcoming in the North Carolina Law Review (thanks to Sally and Eric Muller's kindness) on Mr. Justice Ruffin. The article was part of Sally and Eric's conference last fall on The Perils of Public Homage. Chapel Hill residents may find this of particular interest because there's a dormitory on campus named (in part) after him. (It's Ruffin Hall and it's also named for his son.) Anyway, the paper is about two things. First, it's about Ruffin's jurisprudence; second, it's about what we make of the fact that there's a building named after him. The payoff on the later point is that I'm not at all sure the building was named for him because he was a proslavery jurist--in fact, I think that by the early twentieth century that piece of his jurisprudence may have been largely forgotten. And so now, somewhat oddly, the building serves as an occasion to talk about the era of slavery and what that meant to our state and our university.

Here's the abstract:
"Thomas Ruffin: Of Moral Philosophy and Monuments " returns to Justice Thomas Ruffin s opinions, particularly on slavery, to excavate his jurisprudence and to try to assess what Ruffin s legacy means for us today. It begins with an exploration of Ruffin s 1830 opinion in State v. Mann, where he self-consciously separated his feelings from his legal opinion to release a man who abused a slave from criminal liability. Anti-slavery activists frequently wrote about Mann, because of its brutal honesty about the harsh nature of slavery. After discussing Harriet Beecher Stowe s fictional account of Ruffin and Mann in Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, which further developed the theme of separation of law and morals, the paper turns to some of Ruffin s other opinions. It looks to slavery opinions including Heathcock v. Pennington (which released a renter of a slave from liability for his death in a coal mine) and Green v. Lane (which dealt with a trust to give quasi-freedom to slaves), as well as non-slavery cases like Scroggins v. Scroggins (which argued against granting judicial divorces because that would encourage more of them).

Ruffin s jurisprudence took the world as it was, or as he phrased it, looked to the nature of things. His judicial opinions the monuments he left to us illustrate a world of proslavery moral philosophy. That thought separated humanity from law and then decided cases based on precedent and considerations of utility to society. Ruffin was a great expositor of the system of slavery, as well as a great wielder of what Stowe called cold legal logic.

What should we make of this legacy today? Perhaps Ruffin aided the cause of antislavery through his honesty in State v. Mann. And, thus, perhaps we should honor him for that. Moreover, perhaps the honor he received in the early twentieth century (when a dormitory was named in part for him on the UNC campus) derives from his facility with legal reasoning outside of the slavery context. However, honoring him also runs the risk of honoring proslavery values. Conversely, removing his name from a building now runs the risk of concealing the prevalence of proslavery thought in the nineteenth century. That is, removing a name might facilitate a process of forgetting when universities should be trying to provide a proper context for viewing our past.
The paper's available on the social science research network.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Charming Chapel Hill Story

So I'm back from Philadelphia, where I went to see my dad for father's day. What a pleasure being within driving distance of Philly--this is the first time since I was in practice, lo' those many years ago, that I've been able to get home for the weekend. I hope to make a habit of this. On the way up there on Friday I had lunch in my old stomping ground of Richmond; drove a little around downtown and I hardly recognized it. There are new, tall buildings where there used to be parking lots. Last time I was in Richmond (in 2000) I enjoyed the restored Tredegar iron works. They're done a great job with it. My, things change over the course of nearly 20 years.

Anyway, as I was returning my rental car this morning, I asked the folks at Enterprise to give me a lift up to school--and a nice man next to me said, actually, I'm driving up Franklin Street. So I accepted his offer and to my good fortune it turned out that the man offering the lift is John Shelton Reed--whose works I've been reading for a while. What an unexpected pleasure! I didn't ask him what he thought of Dreamland Barbeque--but I will.

Monday, June 09, 2008

One good thing about moving

... is coming across books that I haven't handled in a really long time and enjoying them again. There are the books I love that I return to time and again, like Rhys Isaac's Transformation of Virginia and David Davis' Problem of Slavery in Western Culture; and I carried with me two books that I particularly love--Angela Miller's Empire of the Eye and Michael O'Brien's Conjectures of Order. But then there are the books that I haven't opened in a while, which really repay reading again--like Mark Steiner's An Honest Calling: Lincoln as Lawyer and Edmund Morgan's American Slavery--American Freedom and Stamp Act Crisis (what a beautifully, beautifully written book).

And while I'm talking about beautifully written and important books: when I arrived in my office on Wednesday I was pleasantly surprised to see the advance sheets of Mary Dudziak's Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey. Now, I'm really partial to books with Dream in the title--particularly if they're about race. Mary's book has a great first paragraph (I'm partial to first lines and here):
It was January 1960, but it was summer. An American lawyer arrived in a new land, but he called it his home.
The whole book reads like a novel. It's a fabulous history of civil rights in the United States that runs parallel to Marshall's work to create a constitution for Kenya. I absolutely love it.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The (Not) Silent Slave

Been absurdly busy getting settled in lovely Chapel Hill. This week I had the pleasure of riding a bus home from work (and it's free, no less!); haven't been able to do that since I left Honolulu a few years ago. And I'm getting used to this most friendly town--what an unexpected pleasure to run into an old friend and now colleague at the Weaver Street Market at lunch the other day. And once I get a little more settled I hope to talk some about my "new urbanist" experience. But right now I have something else to talk about--silence and slaves....

So I understand that Silent Sam's a key monument on the UNC campus. I'm looking forward to spending a lot of time around his statue and elsewhere on the campus. However, these days I'm interested in other antebellum (or maybe in the case of Mr. Sam, bellum) characters who are often silent, though perhaps not quite so silent as Sam: slaves in southern literature. One piece of University, Court, and Slave looks to the ways that slaves are silenced in court--they're rarely permitted to testify. I'm interested in this because it seems such an obvious corruption of seeking truth--but there's a larger purpose that's served by the silence.

But what about slaves who speak in southern literature? We hear a lot from Uncle Tom. And in some of the southern responses we hear from slaves as well--like Mary Eastman's Aunt Phillis' Cabin. But what about Beverly Tucker's obscure novel George Balcombe? The last line of the novel comes from a slave, who testifies to the love of Mr. Balcombe: "We been all mighty willing, sir, to have Mass' George for master." Wow--putting words of testimony to Mr. Balcombe into the mouths of the enslaved. Mighty interesting stuff--monuments and slaves who speak intermittently.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

87 Years Ago Today... The Tulsa Riot

TulsariotWell, it was 87 years ago today that the Tulsa Tribune story hit the streets and ignited the Tulsa riot of 1921. The story--called by the Oklahoma City Black Dispatch "the false story that set Tulsa ablaze"--said that "Diamond" Dick Rowland, a young black man, had tried to assault a young white woman in an elevator the day before. After that, white people gathered at the courthouse, where Rowland was being held. They'd come to see a lynching and maybe participate in one.

Meanwhile, over in Greenwood, the black section of Tulsa, veterans of the world war met in a back room of the "Dreamland Theater" with a newspaper editor to plan how to stop the lync hing. Their trip to the courthouse to stop the lynching later that evening resulted in a struggle. Immediately it turned into the riot that led to the destruction of the black community. Along Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa this evening the ghosts of 1921 may be walking again, reliving that tragedy....

More on this story here. This is cross-posted from thefacultylounge.

Resurfacing in Chapel Hill

Well, it was a long trip from Tuscaloosa to Chapel Hill.

I'm sitting here in my pet friendly hotel in Chapel Hill listening to the Democratic Rules Committee debate; riveting stuff, for sure. And because Chapel Hill is a new beginning for me, I thought that I'd post Thomas Cole's Falls of the Kaaterskill, which is about nature and the new. It's also a connection to my past, however, because it's home is the fabulous Westervelt Warner Museum in Tuscaloosa.

I have new found respect for folks like movers. I also have new found respect for the antebellum southerners I study. The amount of energy it took to settle the south and the physical difficulties were extraordinary. But what the move--packing my books and files, even with the help of movers--as well as the drive impressed upon me how difficult is was to sustain and propagate intellectual culture. The library at the antebellum University of Alabama had something like 5000 volumes; it was one of the largest libraries in the country at the time. Yet it must have been extraordinarily expensive and difficult to assemble those book. Moreover, it's testimony to the extraordinary commitment to the community of ideas that people in the old south, in places that were so difficult to get to, read and wrote about ideas of religion, politics, and moral philosophy. They sustained a culture in the face of adversity. Now, that may also tell us something about why that culture was so thoroughly conservative. (Although in the eighteenth century the hurdles were even greater and that was not so nearly conservative an intellectual culture.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A song for Al

My excellent guest-blogger Al Brophy is in transit today and tomorrow, moving from Tuscaloosa to Chapel Hill. This little song, via twittering Paul, goes out to him and Barb.

History from the Jim Crow Era

One of my favorite works of history is W. Sherman Savage’s The Controversy Over the Distribution of Abolitionist Literature, 1830-1860 (1938), by the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Why has it won this place in my heart? In part because of the conditions under which Dr. Savage (who was a professor of history at Lincoln University) wrote and published it–in the dark days of Jim Crow. It’s newsprint paper testifies to the difficult economic conditions of its publication. Yet, despite the hardships of being an African American scholar of extremely modest background and means, Dr. Savage persevered.
I first fell in love with this volume when, as a third year law student (now many, many years ago) I was working on the response to abolitionist literature that was mailed through the United States mail to southern slaveholders and free blacks alike. The abolitionists’ campaign was a shrewd one–to use that great engine of commerce, the mails, to get their ideas into the hands of people where they might have an impact. The response testifies to the power of ideas to liberate us as a people.
Savage’s volume collected a lot of wisdom and presented it in simple and therefore elegant prose. And as I wondered about why such an important work was printed on such, well, inexpensive paper it dawned on me that this was the case because this was likely all the publisher could afford. Ah, further testimony to how ideas can find expression and an audience, even when they are not clothed in the trappings of wealth and majesty.
It’s further testimony to the perseverance of people who sought to tell the truth in those dark days–and were able to help our country remake itself.
Savage’s book is also a reminder that the mainstream academy does not always address issues of importance to African Americans. As Christopher Metzler’s been talking about here of late, we need to be careful to produce scholarship of importance to the African American community–and to our country as a whole. Similarly, we ought to be very suspicious of our colleagues who tell us that issues of race aren’t important or that we’ve already learned what we’re going to from research on race.
Alfred Brophy

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Yale's Hidden, Then Disappearing Portrait

This repeats a post from a few years back over at moneylaw, where I used to post now and then.

Yale recently took down a picture of Elihu Yale, the university's namesake, which depicts a young enslaved male (who is wearing a metal collar) waiting on him. I had never heard of the picture before the story broke. Yet, now that I see it, I think it's an important depiction of the connections between that great university and the institution of slavery. I've posted the picture, from the Hartford Courant website at right.

The article reports that the painting hung in a room where the trustees met, though the room apparently was not generally open to the public. It is going to replace the offending portrait with another one, which does not have a slave in it.
Yale has other portraits of its benefactor, with less historical baggage. A painting of roughly the same size - of Yale standing alone by a table, a seascape behind him - will soon be dusted off and pulled from a storeroom at the Yale University Art Gallery to replace the one up now.

The African slave trade was brought to America by European settlers, desperate for bodies to work the sugar and cotton plantations, to supply their trading empires with goods. In paintings of the time, images of blacks in metal collars, marking them as slaves, were not uncommon, said John Marciari, a curator of early European art at Yale.

"It's a simple but lamentable fact of history," he said.
I think it's important to talk about the past and so I am grateful for the discussion of the Yale portrait. But I also worry when I see an effort to erase history, which may be one effect of moving the portrait. Lots to talk about here, of course. This will be a piece of University, Court, and Slave, of course.

Thanks to the fabulous Jim Campbell of Brown University for alerting me to this story.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Memorial of Samuel Townsend

In honor of memorial day, I thought that I'd post on a most interesting will--that of Samuel Townsend of Madison County, Alabama. (Thanks to the fabulous Merrily Harris of the University of Alabama's Hoole Library for bringing this to my attention.) Mr. Townsend's 1856 will freed a number of people (Joel Williamson speculates that at least some of them were family members). The will is important evidence of the ways that testators, lawyers, and executors negotiated around the system of slavery--and on this I will be talking more later this summer.

However, you know what the very first substantive request was? To be buried on his plantation and for a memorial to be erected over his remains! ("I wish my body to be interred in the grave yard on the plantation where I now reside, a marble monument worth from five to seven hundred dollars erected upon my grave, and enclosed by a durable stone wall.") Pretty cool to look to wills to see how people thought about memorials, isn't it?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

An Honorary Degree for Paul Jones

The blogosphere is lighting up with discussion of Washington University’s award of an honorary degree to Phyllis Schlafly. Sometimes those decisions are controversial; at other times, they are something that everyone agrees on.

All of this reminds me of one of my university’s excellent decisions on an honorary degree, which it awarded back in 2006 to art collector and benefactor Paul Jones. (Not Sally's Paul Jones, a.k.a. "The Real Paul Jones"!) The University of Delaware houses much of his collection of African American Art.

But first a step back in time to the 1930s Alabama. It was one of Jones’ childhood aspirations to play football for the Crimson Tide. Alas, that was not to be. Instead, he played for Alabama State. In the 1940s, when Jones was a student at Howard University, he applied to the University of Alabama’s law school and was denied admission because of his race. That didn’t stop him, however; he went on to a successful career as a businessman in Atlanta, then to work in the Nixon administration, and even a run for Congress in 1982 (as a Republican). At one point in the 1970s, Dr. Jones was in the federal government’s education department and approved a large grant to the University of Alabama for adult education. He never mentioned his history with the university at that point–he just did something that was forward-looking and positive. Though that did not mean that he had forgotten his history with the university; in fact, he saved the law school’s letter to him.

In 2004 the University of Alabama and Dr. Jones began a partnership that involved a show of some of his art collection in Tuscaloosa; that was followed by a generous gift by friends of the university for a scholarship for needy students in his name. And this culminated in his giving a commencement address in August 2006, along with an honorary degree. Even there, Dr. Jones did not talk about the past; he chose instead to talk about the graduates, their families, and the future. It was a moment of a gesture to make amends for the past and to build something better for the future.

This repeats a post I put up recently over at diverse education's group blog, The Academy Speaks.

Alfred Brophy

Friday, May 23, 2008

University, Court, and Slave

I thought that I'd talk a little about my current project. I'm pretty excited about it, in part because it's something I've been working on (in one way or another) since beginning graduate school. I've had a bunch of detours, through colonial American history (particularly Quaker legal thought), through violence in the early twentieth century and contemporary discussion of reparations. But I'm now back and working on intellectual thought in the old South.

Alas, I'm one of those people who study dead, white men--and Christians and slaveholders at that. Every now and then a white woman wanders across my pages, too. And sometimes enslaved people speak--though as I'll talk about next month, I more often study ways that the slaveholders try to prevent them from speaking.

My current project is a monograph, tentatively called "University, Court, and Slave." It's about jurisprudence in the south in the years leading into Civil War. And the way I try to get at that complex set of ideas is by looking to the writings of academics, who were often more expressive about the matrix of ideas about economy (utility), history, and precedent than were judges faced with deciding cases in front of them.

In the years leading into Civil War, orators at Harvard and Yale spoke in support of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. William and Mary’s President Thomas Roderick Dew and University of Virginia Professor Albert Taylor Bledsoe were among the leading American proslavery writers. Randolph Macon College President William Smith wrote a proslavery college textbook, Lectures on the Philosophy and Practice of Slavery. Smith's book, like many other southern texts, are available on the UNC website. I 'm glad such books are available, so they can be studied.

These days I’m studying the intellectual defense of slavery in American colleges in the years leading into Civil War. The same language of moral philosophy that’s employed in colleges also appears in public debate (like the debate over the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 in Congress) and in judicial opinions. The concern for considerations of utility rather than individual humanity to slaves and their references to historical “knowledge” about the ubiquity and need for slavery appear in college classrooms, in public oratory, and in judicial opinions. Sometimes people write about the role of moral philosophy in judicial opinions. What interests me is how there is a common language. I don’t suggest that lessons Justice Thomas Ruffin learned while a student at Princeton in the first decade of the nineteenth century controlled him when he was a judge on the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1829 through the 1850s. Rather, the language of utility and history that was common to college classrooms and to judicial opinions suggests some of the connections. The professors and jurists (and politicians, too) are drawing upon a common understanding of how to address moral problems.

Those sometimes hidden connections can help us answer some important questions about the reasoning process of antebellum jurists–-and so are important to legal historians. Once we focus on the ubiquitious considerations of utility, I think we understand why people as different in outlook as Morton Horwitz and Richard Posner both see economic considerations as central to jurisprudence in the 19th century.

Even more important than what they say about 19th century jurisprudence, these connections illustrate how powerful the proslavery forces were. They demonstrate that when we think about investigating universities’ connections to slavery, we should pay close attention to the ways that they loaned their intellectual capital to the project of continuing nearly four million people–-indeed our whole country–-in bondage. Those proslavery college professors were engaged scholars; they used their talents and their positions of influence to teach the next generation.

There are also stories about a few places where college professors opposed slavery. Judge William Gaston of the North Carolina Supreme Court spoke against slavery in an address at the University of North Carolina in 1835. After the mid-1830s, Southern schools–like the South more generally–were consistently and forcefully in favor of slavery.

President Francis Wayland of Brown University is one of those who opposed slavery; in 1845 he debated through a series of letters a proslavery minister from South Carolina, Richard Fuller. But those who opposed slavery were relatively few. More told their students and whoever else would listen that slavery was right; was ordained of God; was necessary for the continuation of American society; and that emancipation would cause greater harm (for slaves, as well as others) than would continuation of slavery. Such as some of the lessons we learn from rigorous investigations of our past, such as Brown University undertook. And for that knowledge, as for some many other things, we owe Brown's President Ruth Simmons and the Steering Committee’s leader, History Professor James Campbell, a huge debt.

Alfred Brophy

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: The Law and Politics Volume

Following up on a brief mention over at my home (, I want to mention a very exciting new book: volume 10 in the UNC Press' New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Jim Ely and Bradley Bonds edited it. These sorts of volumes are absurdly difficult to conceptualize: how can you capture something so sprawling as southern law--to say nothing of politics--in a few hundred pages. So they're necessarily selective. But that's the fun it is, isn't it? Seeing what you can put together--what cast of a few dozen characters can be made to speak for a region and many centuries? Reminds me of Richard Wightman Fox and James Kloppenberg's fantastic Companion of American Thought. Back in the day, it was a great present for almost all occasions.
Here is the press' description of the volume:
Volume 10 of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture combines two of the sections from the original edition, adding extensive updates and 53 entirely new articles. In the law section of this volume, 16 longer essays address broad concepts ranging from law schools to family law, from labor relations to school prayer. The 43 topical entries focus on specific legal cases and individuals, including historical legal professionals, parties from landmark cases, and even the fictional character Atticus Finch, highlighting the roles these individuals have played in shaping the identity of the region.
The politics section includes 34 essays on matters such as Reconstruction, social class and politics, and immigration policy. New essays reflect the changing nature of southern politics, away from the one-party system long known as the "solid South" to the lively two-party politics now in play in the region. Seventy shorter topical entries cover individual politicians, political thinkers, and activists who have made significant contributions to the shaping of southern politics.
Of course, it invites comparison with the law section of the Encyclopedia of New England, published a few years back by Yale University Press (of which I was a co-editor).
Sally's the master of things southern and legal, so I'll be interested in her thoughts on this important volume. There is a synthetic essay by Maxwell Bloomfield and Jim Ely and there are both topical essays (like southern law schools, convict lease system...) and biographical entries. One thing that I'm interested in is how the editors present the system of southern law? How do ideas appear in the story? How does the southern legal system relate to the national system? How do little people and legal mandarins fit into the story? Where does violence fit in and civil rights, too? What about the dissenters. Ah, there's just so much work to be done on southern legal history.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Edward Durell Stone's Crimson Carpets!

The New York Times' coverage of the death of A&P heir Huntington Hartford includes a video of his art museum on Columbus Circle, which was designed by Edward Durell Stone. You know what other building was designed by Edward Durell Stone? The one I've worked in the last seven years--the University of Alabama Law School! It's a pretty cool building--has a couple of spiral staircases and is reminiscent of the "dog trot" style popular in early Alabama homes. It also has crimson carpet--and that's what caught my attention, because the video refers to the crimson carpet in the Columbus Circle building!

The wills prof in me loves this vignette from the Times' obituary (which is a great read, btw):
he even floated the idea of his mother’s adopting his first wife, Mary Lee Epling, so that he might keep her as a sister after their divorce in 1939. Instead, Mary Lee made a successful new marriage, with Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
I love the closing lines:
"I have tried to use my millions creatively,” Mr. Hartford wrote in one of the early issues of his magazine Show. But, he added, “The golden bird, coming to life, has sometimes wriggled out of my hand and flown away.”
Alas, we've lost another person with personality.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

This is why they call it the moonlight and magnolia school

I've got my internet connection back up, so....

On Sunday I came home, on the late side from a colleague's house--they live next to the famous Tuscaloosa Country Club (famous because it's the subject of an important vignette in Carl Carmer's Stars Fell on Alabama).

The magnolia tree in the front smelled oh so sweet and the moon cast such beautiful shadows. No wonder there's a whole genre built around them. (The so-called "moonlight and magnolia school" that flourished from the wake of Civil War through the early twentieth century, which focused on the beauty of the old south.) Of course, focus on that can cause us to lose sight of a lot else, which we should be paying attention to.

By the way, trees are great stand-ins in southern thought for the critical southern values of inheritance and family. So when I was looking for a question for my remedies exam, I thought one based on a case from Jacksonville about some homeowners who sought an injunction to prevent the Alabama Power Company from cutting down their trees was the makin's of a great question.