In 1866, the following handwritten notice is included in Shenandoah County's Freedmen's Bureau folder: "At a meeting of the colored citizens of Woodstock, held the 5th day of February 1866, the following preamble and resolution was unanimously adopted. - Whereas the Shenandoah Herald, a paper published in this place... has up to the date of the last issue published matter prejudicial to our race and to our progress in education and respectability, therefore Be it resolved that... they are hereby appointed a committee to wait upon the Editors of said paper and to politely and respectfully request them to desist from any further publication of such matter and to report in writing, their reply to this request as early as possible."
An earlier letter (Week 32: Fear of 'Negro Equality') addressed the perspective of African Americans in our community via local newspapers in 1865. Today, we look at excerpts specifically from Shenandoah Herald to see the perspective to which our African American neighbors are referring. I'm only sharing those issues that are available online, thus all of the excerpts are dated in the same year, but following the above notice.
- "The great iron gates of the Union are about to be thrown open for the admission of the 'outside barbarians,' niggers and all... Mr. Stevens is in favor of admitting our unbleached 'American citizens of African 'scent' first, as they have never been 'outlawed' by his committee. Having rested his weary head upon the bosom of a sooty daughters of Ham for many years, Mr. Stevens believes the negro to be more 'civilized' than the white people of the South" (Vol 1, No 38, 28 June 1866, p.2)
- "In regard to the blacks, the President says they will find work enough, and for many years to come probably better remuneration than any other class of agricultural laborers in the country. The competition of capitalists and land-holders will insure good treatment and good pay from the planters. That there will be much disorder is to be expected; but there will be no more than there would be at the North were the number of black laborers sufficiently numerous to enter into serious rivalry with the white laborers" (Vol 1, No 43, 2 August 1866, p.1).
- "Our radical brethren in this country have recently made a grand discovery relative to the negro race, that throws the researches of the Ethnological Society of Great Britain in the shade - a discovery that refutes all the stern facts given to the world by Livingstone, Anderson, and other explorers of the wilds of Africa. - They have discovered that the negro race is as susceptible of high intellectual and moral development as any other; and they intend to coax him out of the 'pig sty' by investing him with one of the most sacred privileges that man can enjoy in his highest condition of civilization and enlightenment, - the elective franchise. - Give the negroes, - many thousands of whom are scarcely half civilized, and are utterly incompetent to understand the simplest rudiments of civil government, much less its more intricate workings, - and he will come out of the 'pig-sty' a renewed, regenerated and elevated begin. If the 'Ehiopian' cannot 'change his skin,' the right to vote in obedience to the directions of radical teaching will change his whole moral being! Blessed is the man that first invented negro suffrage!" (Vol 2, No 2, 18 October 1866, p. 2)
- "...it is well known that negroes commit three-fourths of the crimes perpetrated in the district. In fact, they keep the machinery of the courts in perpetual motion. Yet the Freedmen's Bureau is of so benevolent a composition that it takes Government money, or rather the people's money to keep these colored citizens out of the... penitentiary" (Vol 2, No 2, 18 October 1866, p. 2)
- In giving a report on Wendell Phillips, a Northern representative speaking to his party: "Speaking of the constitutional amendment, he denounced the insertion of the word 'males' as 'a libel on the nineteenth century.' He would of course include women, black and white, mulatto and ginger-bread brown, under the head of 'citizens,' and give them the glorious privilege of voting" (Vol 2, No 3, 25 October 1866, p.2)
- a reprinted article, "The Submission of the South," from the Baltimore Transcript states: "Mr. Lincoln once declared that he feared, after the war was over, that Congress would have to take action to compel the Southern people to send representatives to that body. How little did he foresee what has been the actual truth... Instead of a countumacious spirit on the part of the South there has been the most entire and universal submission to the authority of the Government,... the ratification of the abolition of their slave property, involving the sacrifice of four thousand millions of dollars; the repudiation of the Confederate war debt; the acknowledgment of the supremacy of the United States, and of he indissoluble character of the American Union; the enactment of laws to protect the rights of every citizen, whether white or black" (Vol 2, No 3, 25 October 1866, p.2).
- "Our radical neighbor evidently means that the Southern people should adopt the constitutional amendment recommended by the joint committee and adopted by Congress at its last session, by which they would choose between negro suffrage and virtual disfranchisement for themselves.... We deny that the proposed amendment is 'the expressed will of the nation' until it shall have been ratified by three-fourths of all the States constituting the 'nation' ...and the South shall resist it after it shall have been incorporated in the constitution..." (Vol 2, No 5, 8 November 1866, p.2).
- editorial comment on an excerpt from The Christian Advocate: "Indeed, they are in strict accordance with the whole theory of the radical party, that the negro race is the political and social equal of the white. Teh Advocate is for putting this radical idea into practice.... Let a few more of the northern States, now under bondage to this relentless party, choose negroes to make their laws, and we shall soon be told that it is the 'expressed will of the nation' and that it is the duty of the South to 'submit' to it!" (Vol 2, No 6, 15 November 1866, p.2)
- "As we before stated, in voting on the amendment, the southern States will virtually choose between negro suffrage and non-representation. If they shall adopt the amendment and 'establish negro suffrage,' they will count the negro population in the apportionment of representation; but if they reject the amendment, the negro population is not so counted... If we refuse to conform to the requirements of our radical task-masters, they will deprive the rebels, so-called, of all participation in the government, and give their birth-right to the negroes..." (Vol 2, No 7, 22 November 1866, p.2)
- "A fair by the Colored People, Of this place, will be held during the coming holidays, the proceeds to be applied in repairing the house used by the colored people as a church and for erecting a pulpit in the same. Aunt Mary, the head-centre, requests us to respectfully invite the white citizens to contribute to their enterprise, that they may have a comfortable place to worship in this winter. We believe this to be a laudable purpose, and as they appeal to us, and not to our enemies, let us render whatever assistance we can" (Vol 2, No 7, 22 November, 1866, p.3).
- "Where's the Nigger? - A Mongrel sheet, the Tamaqua Journal, says: - 'We have had the Republican victory, now where's the nigger? ... You can eat nothing, wear nothing, see nothing, taste nothing, or have nothing that is not more or less affected by the miserable niggerism that has controlled the country ever since the Black Republican party got it by the throat.' No you see it" (Vol 2, No 11, 20 December 1866, p.2)
A perusal of only six months in 1866 yields examples of the prejudiced perspectives disseminated in newspapers regarding the view of African Americans in Shenandoah County, Virginia. While the Freedmen's Bureau was working to increase equality in opportunities, by providing for basic needs, monitoring work contracts, and helping to establish educational opportunities for African Americans that were recently freed, leaders in our community circulated stereotyped stains of character for African Americans, as well as promoted a general sense that they should not be deemed as equal to white citizens. Meanwhile, laudations of the immovable faith, honor, and right character of Confederate soldiers amassed in these same papers - setting the stage for decades of oppression against African Americans and establishment of the Lost Cause Narrative. A narrative which until 2020 was still intertwined with our county's southern campus public schools via the names they bore.
SENK is an artist and writer in the Shenandoah Valley. The blog, 52 Weeks, is an ethical contemplation on the importance of choosing public school names that are not divisive within a community. Each post is based on over eight years of research by the author. 52 Weeks is a compassionate appeal to community and school board members to not revert to the names of Confederate leaders for Shenandoah County, Va, public schools.
47 / Maintaining Public Peace
46 / Brown v. Board
45 / Rebuilding a Pro-Confederate South
44 / An Out-of-area Education
43 / Where's the 'Common Sense Consideration'?
42 / Education Without Heart
41 / Self-Preservation
40 / Free Public Schools
39 / The Mask of Defiance
38 / The Golden Door of Freedom
37 / Prejudicial to our Race
36 / Are We Compassionate?
35 / Community
34 / Need for Radical Change
33 / Bitter Prejudice
32 / Fear of 'Negro Equality'
31 / Rachel, Lashed to Death
30 / The Whim of the Court: A Look at Jacob, Stacy, Lett; March & Peter; Jeffrey & Peter
29 / Ben, Tom, Ned, Clary, & two men from the furnace
28 / The Loss of Fortune
27 / James Scott, A Free Man
26 / The Unremembered, The Unheard
25 / The American Cause
24 / Tithables for the County & Parish
23 / Satisfactory Proof of Being Free
22 / Building Community Takes Trust
21 / Jacob's Case
20 / Whose Control?
19 / Racial Classifications
18 / The Cost of Freedom in 1840
17 / Sale of Children
16 / Bequeathal of Future Increase
15 / The First Annual
14 / From a Descendant of a CSA Soldier
13 / True Americanism
12 / Slavery. A Hot Topic.
11 / Real Character
10 / Real Apologies
9 / Freedom from Fear
8 / 250 Years
7 / The Courage of Christ
6 / Whose Narratives?
5 / The 13th Amendment
4 / Symbolic Act of Justice
3 / Giving Thanks
2 / Confederate Congress
1 / Veteran's Day