This week in history, we’ll take quick looks at one of the earliest slave revolts, Pennsylvania’s incredibly slow emancipation, the ban of the Atlantic Slave Trade, the day that Arkansas made being a free black person illegal, a couple Confederate flags, two different Reconstruction-era acts, and quite a bit more. We’ll also take a glance at the 40+ lynchings that took place on this week, between February 28 and March 5.
Slave Revolt in Newton, Long Island (Feb. 28) Though little seems to be known about this, it appears to be one of the earliest slave revolts on record. A family of seven were murdered by their two slaves, a Native American and black woman. The Native was hanged, and the woman burned alive. Two other black men, who were found to be their accomplices, were executed as well. Original document here.
Crispus Attucks Killed (Mar. 5) Generally considered to be the first fatality in the American Revolution, Attucks was a runaway slave from Massacusetts. He was one of five colonists who were killed during the Boston Massacre, when British soldiers open fire upon civilians, some armed with clubs. More about him here.
Pennsylvania Becomes First State to Abolish Slavery (Mar. 1) Though a couple of the original thirteen colonies entered the United States without slavery, Pennsylvania became the first to pass a law calling for the gradual emancipation of its slaves. Very few slaves were actually freed immediately, and it would take until nearly 1850 for the slave population to dwindle to zero. More here.
Congresses Bans the Atlantic Slave Trade (Mar. 2) The United States Constitution allowed Congress to decide upon the fate of the slave trade beginning in 1808. Getting an early jump on things, they passed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves a year early. It would go into effect on January 1, 1808. This would be challenged through much of the 1850s, especially by Southern slave traders and Northern investors. It was even potentially circumvented by Federal judge A.G. Magrath in 1858. Following the Civil War, it became a nonissue. You can read the Act here.
Arkansas’s Free Negro Expulsion Act (Feb. 28) Act 151, passed on this date by the Arkansas legislature, prohibited any free black person from residning in the state. The Act defined “black” as anyone who had at least one grandparent of African descent. Black people had the choice to either move out of the state or become slaves. More about it here.
Confederate Congress Approves the Stars and Bars (Mar. 4) With a new nation of their own, the Confederates needed a new flag. Many wanted something that played off of the United States flag, and on this date, they came up with the First National. More here.
Freeman’s Bureau Established (Mar. 3) The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was established to oversee the relief and education of the newly-freed slaves from the seceded states. While not an overtly radical or controversial organization, many in the South resented it. More here.
Confederate Congress Approves the Third National Flag (Mar. 4) After years of confusing the “Stainless Banner” as the white flag of surrender, the Confederates finally decided to change it up again – ironically immediately before surrendering. More here.
Lancaster Becomes Lincoln (Mar. 1) The city of Lancaster, Nebraska is renamed Lincoln, Nebraska on the same day that Nebraska becomes a state. Lincoln also became the state capital. This wasn’t the first town named after Abraham Lincoln, however. That was Lincoln, Illinios in 1853. More here.
Congress Passes First Reconstruction Act (Mar. 2) The Act, which divided the ten formerlly-seceded states into five military districts, effectively placed the entire South under martial law. President Andrew Johnson immediately vetoed the Act, but his veto was overruled. It demanded that the states extend equal rights to all citizens regardless of race. Additionally, it gave black males the right to vote, while taking that right away from those who fought against the United States in the Civil War. More here.
Congress Enacts Civil Rights Bill (Mar. 1) President Grant signed the “Force Act” into law, giving black Americans the right to equal treatment in public. It allowed them to serve on juries, to have equal accommodations and barred separate cars, etc. for transportation. Seven years later, the Supereme Court found this law to be unconstitutional. It would be the last civil rights bill to become law until 1857. More here.
Hattie McDaniel wins Oscar (Feb. 29) For her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, McDaniel becomes the first black American to win an Academy Award (for Best Actress in a Supporting Role). Her role, playing the racial stereotype of a black mammy (named Mammy) was widely criticised by the black community. The next black American to win an Oscar was James Baskett, who played another racial stereotype as Uncle Remun in Disney’s Song of the South (he won the Academy’s honorary “Special Award”). Sidney Poitier became the first black man to win, but that wouldn’t be until 1963. More here.
On this week, between 1871 and 1841, there are recorded around 41 individual lynchings of black people. This includes the mass-lynching of five black men in Juliette, Florida under the suspicion of murder. Ten days later, three more were lynched in the same town for the same reason. These forty some lynchings took place in at least eleven states, including South Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky, and Arkansas. More here.