FEBRUARY: BLACK HISTORY MONTH (MANY died at sea)

February 19th, 2018 by Goshen Public Library No comments »

Of the 12.5 million Africans shipped to the New World during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, fewer than 388,000 arrived in America.

In the late 15th century, the advancement of seafaring technologies created a new Atlantic that would change the world forever.  As ships began connecting West Africa with Europe and the Americas, new fortunes were sought and native populations were decimated.  With the native labor force dwindling & demand for plantation and mining labor growing, the transatlantic slave trade began.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade was underway from 1500-1866, shipping more than 12 million African slaves across the world.  Of those slaves, only 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage.  Over 400 years, the majority of slaves (4.9 million) found their way to Brazil where they suffered incredibly high mortality rates due to terrible working conditions.  Brazil was also the last country to ban slavery in 1888.

By the time the United States became involved in the slave trade, it had been underway for 200 years.  The majority of its 388,000 slaves arrived between 1700 and 1866, representing a much smaller percentage than most Americans realize.

FEBRUARY: BLACK HISTORY MONTH (Earliest Protest Against Slavery)

February 16th, 2018 by Goshen Public Library No comments »

The earliest recorded protest against slavery was by the Quakers in 1688.  Quakers, also known as “The Society of Friends”, have a long history of abolition.   It was four Pennsylvania Friends from Germantown who wrote the initial protest in the 17th century.  They saw the slave trade as a grave injustice against their fellow man and used the Golden Rule to argue against such inhumane treatment; regardless of skin color, “we should do unto others as we would have done onto ourselves”.  In their protest they stated “Pray, what thing in the world can be done worse towards us, then if men should rob or steal us away, & sell us to strange Countries, separating husband from their wife and  children…”.

Their protest against slavery & human trafficking was presented at a “Monthly Meeting at Dublin” in Philadelphia.  The Dublin Monthly Meeting reviewed the protest but sent it to the Quarterly Meeting, feeling it to be too serious an issue for their own meeting to decide.  The four Friends continued their efforts and presented at the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, but it wasn’t until 88 years later that the Society of Friends officially denounced slavery.

Over the centuries, this rare document has been considered lost twice.  Most recently it was rediscovered in 2005 and is now at Haverford College Special Collections.

FEBRUARY: BLACK HISTORY MONTH (Inoculation introduced to America)

February 12th, 2018 by Goshen Public Library No comments »

Inoculation was introduced to America by a slave.  Few details are known about the birth of Onesimus, but it is assumed he was born in Africa in the late 17th century before eventually landing in Boston. One of a thousand people of African descent living in the Massachusetts colony, Onesimus was a gift to the Puritan church minister, Cotton Mather, from his congregation in 1706.

Onesimus told Mather about the centuries-old tradition of inoculation practiced in Africa.  By extracting the material from an infected person & scratching it into the skin of an uninfected person, one could deliberately introduce smallpox to the healthy individual, making them immune to smallpox.  Considered extremely dangerous at the time, Cotton Mather convinced Dr. Zabdiel Boylston to experiment with the procedure when a smallpox epidemic hit Boston in 1721 & over 240 people were inoculated.  Opposed politically, religiously, & medically in America & abroad, public reaction to the experiment put Mather’s & Boylston’s lives in danger despite records indicating that only 2% of patients requesting inoculation died compared to the 15% of people not inoculated who contracted smallpox.

Onesimus’ traditional African practice was used to inoculate American soldiers during the Revolutionary War & introduced the concept of inoculation to America.

FEBRUARY : BLACK HISTORY MONTH (Before Rosa Parks)

February 8th, 2018 by Goshen Public Library No comments »

Before there was Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin.  Most people think of Rosa Parks as the first person to refuse to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  There were actually several women who came before her; one of whom was Claudette Colvin.

It was March 2, 1955 when the 15-year-old schoolgirl refused to move to the back of the bus, 9 months before Rosa Parks’ refusal that launched the Montgomery bus boycott.  Claudette  had been studying Black leaders like Harriet Tubman in her segregated school—those conversations had led to discussions around the current day Jim Crow laws they were all experiencing.  When the bus driver ordered Claudette to get up, she refused.  “It felt like Sojourner Truth was on one side pushing me down, & Harriet Tubman was on the other side of me pushing me down.  I couldn’t get up.”

Claudette Colvin was arrested & thrown in jail.  She was one of the 4 women who challenged the segregation law in court.  If Browder v. Gayle became the court case that successfully overturned bus segregation laws in both Montgomery & all of Alabama, why has Claudette’s story been largely forgotten?  At the time, the NAACP & other Black organizations felt Rosa Parks made a better icon for the movement than the teenager.  As an adult with the right look, Rosa Parks was also the secretary of the NAACP, & was both well-known & respected—people would associate her with the middle class & that would attract support for the cause.  But, the struggle to end segregstion was often fought by young people—more than half of which were women.

FEBRUARY: BLACK HISTORY MONTH ( I Have a Dream)

February 5th, 2018 by Goshen Public Library No comments »

Martin Luther King, Jr. improvised the most iconic part of his “I Have a Dream” speech.  On Wednesday, August 28,1963, 250,000 Americans united at the Lincoln Memorial for the final speech of the March on Washington.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. stood at the podium, he eventually pushed his notes aside.

The night before the March, Dr. King began working on his speech with a small group of advisers in the lobby of the Willard Hotel.  The original speech was more political & less historic, according to Clarence B. Jones, & it did not include any reference to dreams.  After delivering the now famous line, ” we are not satisfied, & we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters & righteousness like a mighty stream”, Dr. King transformed his speech into a sermon.

Onstage near Dr. King, singer Mahalia Jackson reportedly kept saying, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin”, & while no one knew if he heard her, it could likely have been the inspiration he needed.  Dr. King then continued, “Even though we face the difficulties of today & tomorrow, I still have a dream.  It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream…”. And then the famous Baptist preacher preached on, adding repetition & outlining the specifics of his dream.  While this improvised speech given on that hot August day in 1963 was not considered a universal success immediately, it is now recognized as one of the greatest speeches in American history.