This week in history, we’ll take brief looks at Thomas Paine’s anti-slavery pamphlet, the Missouri Compromise, the slaves of the Alamo, a few incredibly important Supreme Court rulings, the Confederate Constitution, black regiments in Florida, black Confederates, and the Southern Manifesto. We’ll also take a glance at the nearly forty lynchings that took place on this week, between March 6th through the 13th.
“African Slavery in America” Published (Mar. 8) Thought by many to have been written by Thomas Paine, this pamphlet was one of the first pro-emancipation seen in the American colonies. Paine went on to found the first anti-slavery society in America a month or so later. Read the entire piece here.
Missouri Compromise Signed into Law (Mar. 6) When Missouri as admitted as a state, a line was drawn on the map at 36° 30´ latitude, which banned slavery to the north of it and allowed it to the south. This compromise came about as a way to balance the power between the free and slave states. It would be repealed in 1854 by the Kansas-Nebraska Act. More here.
Battle of the Alamo (Mar. 6) The final defeat of the Alamo came after two attacks of Santa Anna’s Mexican Army repulsed by the Texans. As the story goes, there were no Texan survivors. But that isn’t quite true. Joe, the slave of William Travis, was spared by Santa Anna in the hopes that he would deliver a warning to other Texans. Also spared was Sam, the de facto slave of Jim Bowie. More about them here.
SCOTUS Rules in United States Vs. Amistad (Mar. 9) The Supreme Court ruled that the fifty-three Africans who were aboard the captured slave ship Amistad were to be returned to Africa. Captured in 1839, it would take nearly two years for a decision to be reached. They were defended by former-President John Quincy Adams. Only thirty-five were ultimately returned, the rest having died en route or in prison. More here.
SCOTUS Rules in Dred Scott vs. Sandford (Mar. 6) In one of the most disgraceful moments in United States legal history, the Supreme Court not only ruled that the slave Dred Scott could not claim his freedom after being taken by his enslaver into a free state, but that no black Americans could be citizens due to their race. Additionally, the Missouri Compromise was ruled unconstitutional and slavery was allowed to expand into all of the territories. More here.
Confederate Constitution is Adopted (Mar. 11) Though it barred the African Slave Trade, the Confederate Constitution was very up front about the legality of slavery and the rights of individual states (which would effectively neuter the central government if one of them decided to reopen their own Middle Passage. More about the African Slave Trade in the CS Constitution here. The entire document is here.
Fugitive Slave Act Basically Nullified (Mar. 13) The Act Prohibiting the Returning of Slaves forbade United States soldiers from returning runaway slaves to even loyal enslavers. Prior to this, though it was fairly uncommon, some Union officers did return slaves, especially to loyal masters. This set the stage for many things to come. Read the full text here.
Black Regiments Capture Jacksonville, Florida (Mar. 10) Two regiments of United States Colored Troops, the 1st and 2nd South Carolina, captured Jacksonville, sending the city into a panic. Read more about black troops in Florida here.
Confederate Government ‘Allows’ Enslaved Black Troops (Mar. 13) With only a month to go before Appomattox, Richmond finally approved a bill accepting black slaves into military service, but only with the permission of their owners. There was no requirement that the masters emancipate the slaves who joined. Other laws actually had to be changed to allow black Southerners to carry firearms. Prior to this, there were officially zero black Confederates under arms in the Rebel armies. After this passage, a military act allowed free blacks into the ranks. In all, only a few dozen were ever forced to join, and it seems as if none were ever in uniform. More about black Confederates here.
NC Governor Denounces Klan (Mar. 7) Governor William Woods Holden declared a state of insurrection in Alamance County after the terroristic activities of the Ku Klux Klan became more than he could handle. His actions against the Klan became known as the Kirk-Holden War. More about that here.
SCOTUS Allows Black to Vote in ‘White Primary’ (Mar. 7) The Texas law which allowed the Democrats to bar black Texans from voting in their primary elections was struck down in Nixon v. Herndon. The Court noted that: “it seems to us hard to imagine a more direct and obvious infringement of the Fourteenth [Amendment].” More here.
Southern Politicians Denounce SCOTUS Anti-segregation Ruling (Mar. 11) 100 Southern congressmen signed the “Southern Manifesto” decrying desegregation in schools. At least one representative from all of the former Confederate States signed the document. More here.
During this week, between the years 1882 and 1992, there were recorded at least 38 lynchings of black Americans across the country. The states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming were all represented. More here.
On March 6, 1916, Will Whitley, a 23-year-old black prisoner, was pulled from his Lebanon, Kentucky cell, and hung by a mob in the town square. More here.