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A Country Rag Native Days

Quilt by Margaret Gregg, Abingdon VA
Graphic: Quilt by Margaret Gregg, Abingdon VA (Click for We Shall Overcome as sung by Joan Baez in a 60s performance)


by Dr. Gwendoline Fortune

I gaped in Karnak, Brushed lightly by courteous, Wealthy, fair-skinned parasites Whose cameras exclude groans of slaves Ground into blood rose sand. Hell dried air cuts nostril hair, Lips sieve shreds of Pharaoh’s bonded From Cush to Canaan-- Black and brown, and so was he-- With neither look not care. Child and crone, Real and ephemeral, Specters crowd old Thebes, New Luxor, ancient Egypt, Mother Africa. Death returns a thousand, thousand times, Remembering everything and nothing, Wanting this one to be the best, Or last.

"We The People: Silence of Years"

"Come to me and I will refresh you!" -- Jesus (Matthew 11:28)

"In the year 1787, during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was alarmed because the sessions failed to open with prayer, as had been done during the Revolutionary War. So Benjamin Franklin voiced a protest against it. 'I have lived a long time, eighty-one years, and the longer I live the more convincing proof I see of this truth... that God governs the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured by Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.... I therefore beg leave to move that thenceforth prayers imploring the assistance of heaven be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed with business.' Whether it is Benjamin Franklin, Jesus, or the man down the street, we all have a need for prayer. It is up to each individual to fulfill that need. Just find a suitable time and place, then enter into the silence of prayer. Mother Teresa had a motto for the Missionaries of Charity, the order of nuns she founded. Her motto is this: 'The fruit of Silence is Prayer; the fruit of Prayer is Faith; the fruit of Faith is Love; the fruit of Love is Service; the fruit of Service is Peace.'

"I met God in the morning,/ When my day was at its best,/ And His presence came like sunrise,/ Like a glory in my breast./ All day long the Presence lingered,/ All day long He stayed with me,/ And we sailed in perfect calmness,/ O'er a very troubled sea./ So I think I know the secret,/ Learned from many a troubled way;/ You must seek Him in the morning,/ If you want Him through the day!" -- Rev. Roland Hautz, St. Bernard Catholic Church in Kingsport Daily News, 9/25-27/09

"I told them that the hand of my God had been gracious upon me, and also the words that the king had spoken to me. Then they said, 'Let us start building!'" -- Nehemiah 2:18

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." -- Jesus (John 4:18)

"The Battle of Shiloh, also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, was a major battle in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, fought April 6–7, 1862, in southwestern Tennessee. Confederate forces under Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard launched a surprise attack against the Union Army of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The Confederates achieved considerable success on the first day but were ultimately defeated on the second day." -- Wikipedia

"Site of the first large battle in the Western Theater, Shiloh was also one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. history with more than 23,746 casualties. Today, the fields are lined with memorials and an interpretive center offers films and exhibits. A 9.5-mile driving tour includes 14 stops at famous battle sites.... Drive or walk around the [Memphis National] Cemetery and learn about the area's role in the war. Almost 14,000 soldiers are buried here, 8,866 of them unknown. While in town, drop by the Memphis Pink Palace Museum to see more Civil War artifacts...." -- Civil War Trails of Tennessee

Ark of the Covenant

Shiloh. The name evokes reverence and awe. It sounds in the air like a prayer. Who won? No one maybe. Certainly not the thousands buried as unknowns -- an extraordinary number not to be missed and located by friend, foe or family and a testament to utter loss, chaos and God. The Ark of the Covenant is still kept in memory here. On either side of care, 13,047 blues and 10,699 greys -- more dead than wounded -- lay forever in mourning. At the Confederate Prison Camp of Andersonville, Georgia, "In all, 12,913 of the approximately 45,000 Union prisoners died there because of starvation, malnutrition, diarrhea, and disease."

Graphic below: The Broken Vessel, multi-media by jH
The Broken Vessel, multi-media by jH
"This momentous question [of slavery and slave states], like a firebell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union." -- Thomas Jefferson

"Born March 8th, 1841, Boston. Captain, 20th Massachusetts Volunteers, wounded in the breast at Balls Bluff, in the heel at Fredericksburg, in the neck at Antietam...." -- beginning of self-supplied Who's Who in America biography for world-famous jurist Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

"Slavery is a moral and political evil in any society, a greater evil to the white man than the black." -- Robert W. Lee

"Many [Southern] plantations were badly managed, not out of malice, but because the owner was always in debt. Even in the golden time of the Cotton Kingdom, there was a good deal of shabby gentility among planters whose own diet and amenities were not much superior to those of their slaves.... The working routine was sixteen hours a day, Sundays off always, and sometimes Saturdays also.... They kept their own poultry and grew their own vegetables and chopped their fuel in the woods. By the time of the American Revolution, half the population of Virginia were black slaves, and in the Carolinas it was two blacks to one white.... The long high noon of the Southern economy was fading into an early twilight.... Many small planters could make ends meet only by selling off their slaves.... In 1808 the importation of slaves from Africa ceased to be legal. But it was a ban rarely to be enforced.... The [1794 cotton gin invention and patent] gave a gigantic lift to the fortunes of the Southern planters. It caused the arable South to expand into a landscape of cotton, and men who had once kept 50 slaves bargained and bartered for hundreds.... So now the South settled into its golden age.... Tocqueville was to remark, in the 1830s, on the astonishing mobility of Americans, how they seldom lived in the house they were born in, how they moved around and tried their hands at many things.... [W]hile the South was spreading cotton and sugar and tobacco and expanding the empire of slavery, the North was committing itself to men and machines and spreading them through the Northwest Territories.... Henry Clay, a bony, awkward Virginian had... given 50 years of his life to a failing campaign to abolish slavery.... [T]here were fair-minded men of considerable influence in every part of the country, but they retreated into the quiet desperation of hoping for the best. They were drowned in a boiling sea of rhetoric and provocation.... On December 20, 1860, a state convention in South Carolina dissolved 'the union now subsisting' between it and other states. By February, the rest of the Deep South followed: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana. Eight days later these six seceding states met in Montgomery Alabama, formed their own Congress, adopted a Constitution, and proclaimed 'The Confederate States of America.' They were quickly joined by Texas. In March a new President, Abraham Lincoln, on his own initiative declared secession void and promised to 'hold, occupy and possess' all government property.... [I]n April Lincoln ordered a fleet to go and relieve the Fort Sumter forces. The commander of the Confederate forces invited the garrison to leave. It refused, and at 4:30 in the moring of April 12, 1861, the Southerners loosed their fire. In the afternoon of April 13 the Union forces surrendered -- and the war was on. Arkansas, Tennessee, most of all Virginia were neither of one mind nor the other. They all had whole regions where there were no slaves. Eventually Arkansas and Tennessee -- its eastern part unwillingly -- joined the Confederacy. So did Virginia, but its mountain people were stubborn enough to hold out and form a separate state, West Virginia, which remained loyal to the Union while her people split their allegiance -- and their fighting forces -- in the ratio of three to one for the Union. North Carolina was the last state to go with the South, and the border slave states -- Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, and Missouri -- ... stayed within the Union, hoping against hope to keep cool and neutral.... Two brothers were major generals with the opposing armies. The Commander of the Confederate Navy had a son killed in the Union Navy. Mrs. Abraham Lincoln's three brothers died for the South.... [N]o war is more wounding to the young than a civil war, which turns the homeland into alien country and a map of bloody family feuds.... The North had 22 million people against the South's nine million.... New York alone produced twice as many manufactured goods as the whole of the South.... Only in the naval war did one side, the North, establish an early supremacy and hold it.... [I]n the summer of 1863, the capture of Vicksburg ensured the North's total control of the Mississippi on the Confederate's western flank.... The Civil War introduced so many radical tactics -- including trench warfare, the night raid, wire entanglements, hand grenades, flame projectors, land mines, armored ships and trains, torpedoes -- that it provided the standard... even up to World War II.... The South had the audacity, but the North had the reserves.... While high-minded men and women in the North formed something called the National Sanitary Commission to start veterans pensions, organize nursing wards at the front, and provide for the human problems of the men going home, for the Southerners there was only the compassion of scattered families, and the hope that the next raid would capture not only food and ammunition but... drugs and chloroform.... [T]he South is still a separate culture -- with a literature, an idiom, a diet, mores, a prevading sense of irony, and tragedy.... Robert E. Lee was the son of Washington's cavalry leader, a dashing provident charmer whose wild speculations left his family bankrupt and himself a dying exile in the West Indies.... [Lee] freed his own slaves.... He said he believed in the Union and could 'anticipate no greater calamity' than its dissolution.... Lee left his house on the hill and never went back to it.... The place was confiscated by the government and became... Arlington, the national military cemetery. I don't suppose there is a more beautiful, bleak view in all America than the one from the porch of Lee's portico,... looking... across the river to the white marble temple that enshrines the memory of... Abraham Lincoln.... At the end of the war, the South was beaten, and -- much worse -- it was devastated. The land... was defiled. In a single long march of 60,000 men, from Atlanta 300 miles to the sea, General Sherman destroyed every town, rail yard, mansion, and crop across a swath of 60 miles.... Not until the late 1930s would the South move out of worn land and single crops into valleys and industries fertilized by public power. By that time the South had a population of poor whites listless from malnutrition and other generations of blacks cowed by the doctrine of 'white supremacy.'..." -- Allistair Cooke in America

Graphic below: Setting Sail, oil by Jo Yaa, East Tennessee

Setting Sail, oil by Jo Yaa, East Tennessee Signers of our Declaration of Independence were from the colonies of NH(3), MA(4), RI(2), CN(4), NY(4), NJ(5), PA(9), DE(3), MD(4), VA(7), NC(3), SC(4) and GA(3).

Signatories of the United States Constitution were from the states of NH(2), MA(2), CN(2), NY(1), NJ(4), PA(8), DE(5), MD(3), VA(2), NC(3), SC(4), and GA(2).

"The State of Franklin, or Frankland, from 1784 to 1788, [Tennessee] was finally named after the Cherokee villages called tanasi on the Little Tennessee River.... It was the 11th and last state to secede on 6/8/61, and the first to be readmitted on 7/24/66. South Carolina was the first secessionist state on 12/20/60, and Texas the last to be readmitted on 3/30/70." -- New York Public Library Desk Reference

Tennessee, having amongst the Confederate States the second highest number of Civil War battles fought on its lands, has many commemorative fields and reenactments annually of those presaging years across its diverse latitude.

Fort Pillow in Tennessee is perhaps the most referenced massacre to be memorialized.

"The split between Unionists and Confederates was, if anything, more fractious and violent in eastern Tennessee than in the rest of the state. Politically and geographically, the mountainous East was distinctive. Although there were slaveowners, particularly in Chattanooga and Knoxville, most east Tennesseans lived apart from the cotton economy and strongly opposed secession. Most of the 42,000 white Tennesseans who joined the Union Army were from this section. The East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, joined to the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad, was the only railway that crossed the Appalachian Mountains and connected Virginia with the South’s interior. While rivers held the key to west and middle Tennessee, railroads supplied the crucial arteries in the east. This made the region of vital importance to the Confederacy, whose troops occupied Knoxville and tried early in the war to secure the valley towns. An irony of the war in Tennessee was that Federals controlled mostly secessionist areas, while the Confederate Army held sway over a predominantly Unionist region. One of the first acts of east Tennessee Unionists was to burn railroad bridges in an attempt to sever the rail connections with the Confederacy. Confederate authorities reacted by harshly suppressing loyalists – they hung a number of the bridge burners and imprisoned many other Unionists.... The Chattanooga and Knoxville campaigns cemented Union control of the mountain region. Depredations by Confederate raiders continued, but Federal supremacy was never again seriously challenged. In September, 1864, General John Hunt Morgan, formerly a terror to Union troops, was ignominiously shot down in Greeneville. The political significance of east Tennessee Unionism became evident during the 1864 national election, when Lincoln drafted a Greeneville Democrat, Andrew Johnson, as his vice presidential running mate. The selection of a Southern loyalist symbolized the sort of compromise that Lincoln believed would be necessary to reunify the country after the war. East Tennessee Unionists such as Johnson and William G. "Parson" Brownlow would lead the process of restoring Tennessee to the nation – the first Confederate state to do so." -- Tennessee Civil War History Trail

1865: first state civil rights law passed in MA; 13th Amendment abolishing slavery passed; KKK formed in Pulaski TN
1869: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony established the National Women's Suffrage Association
1870: Victoria Claflin Woodhul becomes first female Presidential candidate
1872: Southern franchise is restored
1875: Civil Rights Act gives equal rights to blacks in public accommodations and jury duty
1881: the Civil Rights Act is invalidated by the Supreme Court; all-black Tuskegee Institute established by Booker T. Washington
1890: Sherman Anti-Trust law is passed by Congress
1893-97: national financial panic

"The American Revolution in the South is the theme of a potential national heritage area that may be established in North Carolina and South Carolina. During the next two years, representatives from the National Park Service, NC and SC will conduct a feasibility study for such a heritage area and report back to Congress in 2010 with a recommendation. Several criteria apply to achieving the status of a national heritage area and all will be evaluated quite carefully. One important subject area has 'the natural, historic, and cultural resources that together represent distinctive aspects of American heritage worthy of recognition, conservation, interpretation, and continuing use' and that can be best managed through public/private partnerships. 'This is a wonderful opportunity for the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail,' said Paul Carson. 'Not only will we be linking our heritage story with other parks, museums, trails and the like, but we will be able to tell our special story of how the OVNHT has come to be. After all, our Trail, stretching across four states and 330 miles, exists as a result of and through continuing public and private cooperation.... Those wishing to comment without attending a meeting can submit remarks at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/serv. Click on the link for Southern Campaign of the Revolution Heritage Area." -- OVNHT 2008 Progress Report

oil by Margaret Gregg, Abingdon VA
Graphic above: oil painting by Margaret Gregg, Abingdon VA (Click for We Shall Overcome as sung in the 60s by Mahalia Jackson)

A few other notables from Tennessee African American History:
  • Judge William Henry Hastie (1904-1976): "The first African-American governor of the Virgin Islands was Knoxville native, Judge William Hastie.... First in his class, Hastie graduated in 1925 [from Amherst College] with an A.B. degree and aftger graduation joined the staff of New Jersey's Bordentown Manual Training School. Three years later, he earned an LL.B degree from Harvard University, where he served on the staff of the Harvard Law Review. Hastie joined the faculty of Howard University Law School, and in 1931 he was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar.... In 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed Hastie judge of the Federal District Court in the Virgin Islands. He became the nation's first African-American federal magistrate.... From 1941 to 1943, Hastie served as civilian aide to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and resigned his position to protest the government's racial policies of segregation and discrimination in America's armed forces.... On May 7, 1946, Hastie was inaugurated as the first African-American governor of the Virgin Islands. On October 15, 1949, he was nominated judge of the 3rd United States Circuit Court of Appeals by President Harry S Truman. It was the highest judicial position attained by an African-American. He served on the appellate court bench for 21 years. In 1968, he became chief judge of his circuit, and in 1971, the year of his retirement from the bench, William Henry Hastie was senior judge. Hastie died on April 14, 1976, at Suburban General Hospital in East Norriton, Pennsylvania...."
  • Diane Nash (1938-): "... Diane Nash is one person who played a major role in facilitating change, and her steadfastness for and impact on civil and human rights is still felt today. Nash, a native of Chicago with familial roots in Tennessee, became involved in the nonviolent civil rights movement in 1959, as a student at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Chairwoman of the student sit-in movement in Nashville, she was one of the founding members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and an organizer with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Because of her public discourse with then-Mayor Ben West, Nashville became the first Southern city to begin the desegregation of its lunch counters. In May of 1961, Nash coordinated and revived the Congress of Racial Equality's aborted Freedom Rides with a band of student activists from colleges and universities in Nashville.... The Freedom Rides culminated with the Interstate Commerce Commission promulgating regulations prohibiting racial segregation in train and bus terminals, which went into effect on November 1, 1961. An astute tactician, Nash's ideas were instrumental in initiating the 1963 March on Washington, where she was one of six women honored.... This living civil rights icon has received numerous awards.... Today, Nash spends a great deal of her time lecturing at colleges and universities and continues to be an activist for civil and human rights, as well as for peace issues."
Graphic below: Photograph of historical marker for Langston High School, Johnson City TN
Historical marker for Langston High School, Johnson City TN

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text © authors as cited, graphics © Jeannette Harris, February 2010. All rights reserved.

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