Blog Posts Where Race is an Aspect of the Themes
When we went to the Plantation many things stood out and were impactful. One that stays with me is that this big house and the land from 1861 to 1863 was a headquarters for the Confederate army. Fort Sumter is visible in the distance. The plantation was taken over by a Union Black regimen in 1863 and housed Black soldiers until the end of the war. As soon as the war ended it became one of the first Freedman Bureaus that were set up all over the South.
Eventually there were 100 Freedman Bureaus. At this plantation 35 Black families split the land in equal plots to till. They had deeds and ownership. The Bureau also gave seeds, food, medicine etc. to assist the former slaves – now free – transition to a new life. Blacks could grow cotton 8 feet high which normally grew 4 feet as they would take seaweed and shoreline silt and mix it with animal manure and spread it on the fields and the seeds. This was a skill brought from Africa.
The other 99 Freedman Bureaus were engaged in this same supportive restructuring with Blacks running for public office etc. In 1869, President Johnson along with the Southern Democrats in Congress, sapped the Bureau of the majority of its funding. By 1972, the Freedman Bureaus were completely shut down through congressional legislation under President Grant. All the land was confiscated by the original white owners. At this same time Jim Crow was becoming the new slavery. Click here for more information on the demise of the Freedman’s Bureaus.
At enormous risk, the Great Migration started. Slavery was horrible, but as Jesse Jackson has said the mere taste of Freedom and then the new imposition of slavery with a different name – Jim Crow – was devastating. Standing on that land with many stories about the people who lived there is more than moving.
The tour, given by an older Gullah man, was filled with candor, pain and compassion. The impact of the stories of “rape” and the offspring from the plantation were more than my mere words can describe. The guide was deft and tactful. Yet it was apparent the plain ugly truth not only needs to be spoken, but also needs to be confessed, repaired and granted compensation.