The State University of New York at Stony Brook, in cooperation with the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, will hold a conference at Stony Brook on The Worlds of Lion Gardiner, c. 1599-1663: Crossings and Boundaries on March 20-21, 2009. Military man and engineer, chronicler and diplomat, lord of a New English manor married to a Dutch woman, Gardiner led a life replete with crossings: of the English Channel to engage in Continental wars, of the Atlantic, of the lesser waters of Long Island Sound, of national, imperial, and colonial borders, of racial divides, and of the very bounds of colonial law. The many crossings in which he and his contemporaries were involved did much to create boundaries between things previously less clearly separated.
The New-York Historical Society is presenting an audio tour exploring the Underground Railroad during the time of the Civil War, highlighting how issues of slavery and freedom influenced national politics and the actions of Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885), commander of the Union armies, and of Robert E. Lee (1807–1870), commander of the Confederate forces. The Run for Your Life audio tour adds a layer of interpretation to the current exhibition Grant and Lee in War and Peace and can be accessed when you visit the gallery and at nyhistory.org or on iTunesU.
Over the past five years, the New-York Historical Society has showcased documents, art and artifacts relating to the abolitionist movement and network known as the “Underground Railroad” by publishing the papers of the African Free School in print and on the Web and through the exhibitions on Alexander Hamilton; Slavery in New York; New York Divided: Slavery and the Civil War; and French Founding Father: Lafayette’s Return to Washington’s America.
This year, the N-YHS takes the story of the abolitionist movement and Underground Railroad through the Civil War, focusing significant attention on its role in the turbulent 1850’s through the time that the resources of the Underground Railroad were drawn on to assist four million freed people to participate in a new, unified democracy.
These activities, including the Run For Your Life audio tour, are developed with grant funds from the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural (URR) Program.
The tour is comprised of seven thematic stops:
When Grant and Lee attended West Point, no men of color were allowed to enlist in the US Army, however by the close of the Civil War over 180,000 African Americans had fought for the Union – many of them recently escaped from slavery. The larger saga of escaping slaves and relentless political struggle show how the African American quest for freedom held the country accountable to the principles so forcefully stated in the Declaration of Independence.
Black Seminoles Flee South
As enslaved people in Georgia and Florida sought sanctuary with the Seminole tribe, the U.S. government became more and more determined to conquer (in three different wars) the various Seminole groups who received these fugitives. Some bands became known as Black Seminoles because of the massive influx of African Americans and subsequent intermarriage.
John Brown: Escapes and Revolt
Abolitionist John Brown not only fought pro-slavery militias in Kansas in the mid-1850s, he led a band of fugitive slaves openly through the territories up to Canada, trying to prove that the Fugitive Slave Law was blatantly defied by antislavery citizens. Fulfilling the nightmare that haunted the South, he then tried to spark a general slave uprising, after capturing arms at Harper’s Ferry. When Brown was sentenced to death he gave a farewell address in which he linked his Underground Railroad expedition to Canada with his attempted insurrection.
Lee at Arlington – Wesley Norris
Right before the Civil War, Lee inherited a large number of slaves at the Arlington estate through his wealthy wife. By the terms of her father’s will, the Arlington slaves were to be freed upon his death. Lee’s slowness in doing this, and his policy of breaking up families by hiring people out to distant plantations angered Mary Custis Lee’s slaves. Some fled, since they considered themselves already free. One such fugitive slave ended up living as a freedman on the very Arlington estate where he used to work.
Grant and the Davis Plantation
The story of Isaiah Montgomery is a startling window into the chaotic period of the war when the newly freed and the newly fleeing joined together to improvise new lives. From the beginning of the war thousands of enslaved people liberated themselves and fled to Union lines, as Federal forces secured pockets of Southern territory. Grant settled them in contraband camps or arranged for their protection on plantations of their former owners seized as punishment for supporting the Confederacy. The most notable of these were the properties of Jefferson and Joseph Davis in the Mississippi River, where the former slaves took control and successfully planted cotton and ran their own schools. Benjamin and Isaiah Montgomery, slaves only two years before, turned a profit of $160,000 in 1865 on the plantation of their former owners.
Lincoln, McClellan and Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass, the leading black statesman, condemned Lincoln’s policy of returning fugitive slaves and refusing to allow them to enlist in Union forces: “We are striking the guilty rebels with our soft white hand, when we should be striking with the iron hand of the black man, which we keep chained behind us. We have been catching slaves, instead of arming them… Slavery has been, and is yet the shield and helmet of this accursed rebellion.” Soon, however, Lincoln declared that slave labor was supporting the Rebel war effort. Then some of his more openly abolitionist generals, such as Benjamin Butler, could treat the escaping people as “legitimate contraband of war” seized from the enemy to prevent aid to the Rebel cause. The flight of thousands of slaves is called by some the Last Chapter of the Underground Railroad, as African American southerners added their efforts to the Union side, and subtracted their labor from the rebels.
About the New-York Historical Society
Established in 1804, the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS) comprises New York’s oldest museum and a nationally renowned research library. N-YHS collects, preserves and interprets American history and art; its mission is to make these collections accessible to the broadest public and increase understanding of American history through exhibitions, public programs, and research that reveal the dynamism of history and its impact on the world today. N-YHS holdings cover four centuries of American history and comprise one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States as seen through the prism of New York City and State.
We Need Your Help!
Keep the lights on and history alive!
To our members and friends,
As you may have read in [yesterday’s] Times Union, RCHS is currently experiencing severe financial difficulty. The organization been running annual deficits for several years, and despite special efforts, the situation has now become critical. In a matter of weeks RCHS will no longer have funds available to meet its basic operating needs. What may have seemed – even ten years ago – a reasonable endowment with sustainable cash reserves has now dwindled to the point where we are no longer able to pay our bills. Without an immediate and substantial infusion of funds (upwards of $150,000), it appears that we will be required to close our doors while we work to implement a prudent fiscal strategy.
If we must close,
· our loyal and hardworking staff will be furloughed. Together these professionals have over 74 years of service to our community.
· exciting new educational initiatives, popular public programs, and long-planned exhibits would cease or be cancelled. The loss to our community – both economically and psychologically – would be incalculable. RCHS collections hold over 60,000 items of decorative arts, furniture, paintings, and sculpture. None of these items would remain available to the public. More importantly, an even greater number of documents relating to our past would be completely inaccessible. The utility bills alone for maintaining these collections are almost $6,000 a month.
· RCHS efforts as a major catalyst in highly visible efforts to use the historic fabric of our county to stimulate economic development will be curtailed. We hope to be able to continue serving – in fact inspiring – our community through these efforts.
We are beginning a public campaign to “keep the lights on and history alive!” As in the past, we are grateful for your active interest and suggestions regarding strategies to ensure RCHS’s survival. We also urgently need your personal assistance in providing immediate financial support during this financial crisis.
Our plan is to take the next three to four months to develop – in partnership with our supporters – a new business plan for RCHS, designed to ensure its long-term sustainability. We are fortunate to have Rachel Tooker, a very experienced and energizing Transitional Executive leading this effort. The dedicated members of the RCHS board are prepared to join Rachel to discuss our finances and future plans in detail. Please give us a call if you have questions or suggestions for us.
In the meantime, here are some things you can do to help RCHS:
Help us to spread the word about RCHS and its positive impact on the community.
Distribute RCHS membership and program brochures to your clubs and community organizations.
Hold a brunch or get-together and make a group donation to RCHS.
Give an RCHS membership as a birthday present or gift to a new neighbor.
Volunteer to help with an RCHS program or project.
Send us your ideas for making RCHS sustainable and an even more valuable part of the community.
A one-day interdisciplinary conference and exhibit at the Center for Archaeology, Columbia University, New York City will be held Saturday May 23rd, 2009; abstracts are due Sunday March 22nd, 2009.
Practices, institutions and ideas centered around collections and collecting offer a fruitful area for interdisciplinary enquiry in the humanities and social sciences. Whether in the processes through which collections come to be formed, or the ways in which existing collections are experienced by a variety of publics, the impulse to collect is often key to knowing a wider world, and also knowing oneself. This conference aims to bring a wide variety of critical perspectives to bear on this topic; including anthropological, historical and art historical, literary, architectural and museological. Papers dealing with actual formal collections such as those found in galleries or museums, as well as those interested in less tangible collections – such as collections of facts, observations or ideas – are equally welcome. There are no restrictions with regard to time period, and papers are sought relating to the contemporary world, as well as the recent and ancient pasts.
Papers are solicited on the following and related themes:
The temporality of gathering – how the past and future are grasped and mediated through material substances and practices
Collecting and power – how collecting sets up or maintains power differentials between collector and collected, exhibitor and exhibited
Fixing and making worlds – the bonding of materials, substances, place and people
Histories of collecting – changing modalities and definitions of the collection and of what it is to gather materials, ideas or people in place and time
Collecting as a transformative process – how collecting alters, re-presents or invents the object that is collected and the implications of such transformations
Spaces of collection and collections of spaces – the politics, poetics and meaning of the exhibition space and its architectural framing
This conference is run by graduate students affiliated with the Center for Archaeology and is organized in conjunction with an exhibit on collecting designed by students in the Museum Masters program at Columbia.
Please send a 200 word abstract along with contact information (including name, email, institution affiliation) to Matt Sanger at email@example.com
Any questions can also be sent to this address.
There was an interesting review of Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line by Martha A. Sandweiss in the New York Times Book Review yesterday. The book is about Clarance King, first director of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), American alpine climbing pioneer and author who passed as black, married a former slave, and lived two lives from his home base in New York City.
Passing Strange meticulously — sometimes too meticulously; the book can be plodding — recounts the unlikely convergence of two lives: King was born in 1842 in Newport, R.I., to parents of longstanding American stock, and Ada Copeland was born a slave in Georgia, months before Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter. Copeland, like most slaves, is woefully underdocumented; we know that she somehow became literate, migrated to New York in the 1880s and found a job in domestic service. King, by contrast, is all but overdocumented; after schooling, he went west as a surveyor, summing up 10 years of work in two books, including the 815-page “Systematic Geology,” which told, one historian said, “a story only a trifle less dramatic than Genesis.”
The pair met sometime around 1888, somewhere in bustling New York. By telling Copeland he was “James Todd,” a Pullman porter from Baltimore, King implied his race; a white man could not hold such a job. They married that year (though without obtaining a civil license), settling in Brooklyn and then, as Copeland had five children, Flushing, Queens. All the while King maintained residential club addresses in Manhattan, where colleagues knew him as an elusive man about town. Living a double life is costly, and King’s Western explorations never quite delivered returns, so the Todds were always broke.
King was among the first to climb some of the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada range in the late 1860s and early 1870s and wrote Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, which includes accounts of his adventures and hardships there.
According to The Literature of Mountain Climbing in America (1918):
The beginnings of mountaineering in America have to be looked for mainly in early histories and narratives of travel, though the first ascent in the Canadian Rockies is chronicled in the supplement to a botanical magazine. The first magazine article upon American mountains seems to be Jeremy Belknap‘s account of the White Mountains, printed in the American Magazine in Philadelphia in February, 1788. The first book was Joel T. Headley’s The Adirondack, published in 1849. The Alpine Journal of England, the earliest of such magazines, had a short account of a climb in Central America in its first volume, 1864, and in the third volume, 1867, there was an account of an ascent of Mt. Hood. The first book devoted to alpine climbing in America was Clarence King’s Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada.
As an aside, among the men who were associated with Clarence King was his good friend, artist John Henry Hill. Hill accompanied King on two expeditions west (1866 and 1870) as a staff artist but his New York claim to fame is his work on the Adirondacks which he first visited in the 1860s. He camped and sketched throughout the Adirondacks, and from 1870 to 1874, lived in a cabin he dubbed “Artist’s Retreat” that he built on Phantom Island near Bolton’s Landing, Lake George. During one winter, Hill’s brother, a civil engineer, visited and the two men set out on the ice to survey the narrows and make one of the first accurate maps of the islands which Hill than made into an etching “surrounding it with an artistic border representing objects of interest in the locality.” On June 6, 1893 Phantom Island was leased by the Forest Commission to prominent Glens Falls Republican Jerome Lapham.
His journal and much of his work is held by the Adirondack Museum, and additional works can be found at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New-York Historical Society, and the Columbus Museum of Art.
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In 2009, George Mason University and the American Historical Association will offer the first Roy Rosenzweig Fellowship for Innovation in Digital History. This award was developed by friends and colleagues of Roy Rosenzweig (1950–2007), Mark and Barbara Fried Professor of History and New Media at George Mason University, to honor his life and work as a pioneer in the field of digital history.
This nonresidential fellowship will be awarded annually to honor and support work on an innovative and freely available new media project, and in particular for work that reflects thoughtful, critical, and rigorous engagement with technology and the practice of history. The fellowship will be conferred on a project that is either in a late stage of development or which has been launched in the past year but is still in need of further improvements. The fellow(s) will be expected to apply awarded funds toward the advancement of the project goals during the fellowship year.
In a 1-2 page narrative, entries should provide a method of access to the project (e.g., web site address, software download), indicate the institutions and individuals involved with the project, and describe the project’s goals, functionality, intended audience, and significance. A short budget statement on how the fellowship funds will be used should be attached. Projects may only be submitted once for the Rosenzweig Fellowship.
The entry should be submitted by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions about the prize and application process should be directed to email@example.com. The deadline for submission of entries is May 15, 2009. Recipients will be announced at the 2010 AHA Annual Meeting in San Diego.
Historian Alan Singer, a professor of education at Hofstra University, will address “Time to Teach the Truth: The History of Slavery in New York State,” during a daylong series of talks and workshops at SUNY Cortland and at Cortland Junior-Senior High School on Wednesday, March 4.
“Most Americans are aware of the more than two century-long history of slavery in our country,” explained Keith Smith, director of the Educational Opportunity Program and one of the event organizers. “Most, however, consider slavery to have been limited to the South. Dr. Singer is an expert on the many facets of slavery in the Empire State, and how to teach about them. He is eager to discuss his work with colleagues and students.”
A drop-in discussion session will be held between 9:30-11:30 a.m. in Old Main, Room 127, for any educators, would-be educators, and others interested in conversing with Singer and viewing his teaching materials. Singer will speak on the history of slavery in New York state during a sandwich seminar, which is free and open to the public, at 12:30 p.m. in Brockway Hall Jacobus Lounge.
He will conduct a workshop on teaching about slavery from 3-4 p.m. at Cortland Junior-Senior High School. For information about attending that event, please contact Karen Hempson, coordinator of the Professional Development School, a SUNY Cortland-Cortland Public Schools initiative, at (607) 753-4209 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the Hofstra University School of Education and Allied Human Services, Singer is a professor of secondary education and the director of social studies education. A former New York City high school social studies teacher, he is editor of Social Science Docket, a joint publication of the New York State and New Jersey Councils for the Social Studies. His books include New York and Slavery, Time to Teach the Truth and Social Studies for Secondary Schools (Lawrence Erlbaum and Associates, 2nd edition, 2003).
Singer, who earned a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Rutgers University, is the author and editor of New York and Slavery: Complicity and Resistance, a 268-page secondary school curriculum guide.
The daylong events are being sponsored by a combination of College and community groups. The College sponsors are: Africana Studies Department; Center for Gender and Multicultural Studies; Dean of Arts and Sciences Office; Dean of Education Office; Education Club; Educational Opportunity Program; History Department; President’s Office and the Provost’s Office. The community sponsors include the Cortland Junior-Senior High School Department of Social Studies, the Professional Development School, and the Wilkins Foundation.
According to the New York Landmark Society a proposed change in New York State Tax Law would adversely affect preservation projects in the state:
A proposed change to the New York State Tax Law would harm preservation and increase sales tax on preservation projects by narrowing the definition of “capital improvements” on buildings. The new language would limit the definition to apply only to projects that constitute “new construction, or a new addition to or total reconstruction of existing construction.” This is a change from the current definition which allows an exemption of sales tax on labor for the many preservation projects whose scope is less than 100% reconstruction of a building.
As a result of the proposed change, many renovations, restorations and rehabilitations of existing buildings would no longer qualify as “capital improvements” and the labor associated with these projects would become subject to the State sales tax (4%), and possibly also the New York City sales tax (4%) and MTA sales tax (.375%). At present, these projects generally pay sales tax on building materials but not on labor.
Please e-mail Governor Paterson today by clicking here saying:”please continue using the current definition of ‘capital improvement’ in part PP of Tax Law 1101(b)(9) and not limit it to new construction. The proposed changes work against preservation projects by adding a sales tax to the cost of labor. Preservation projects promote economic revitalization, build communities, and save energy.”
Matt Knutzen is reporting on the NYPL’s blog that they have updated the Map Division’s Google Earth index to the digitized New York City map collections. The index now includes “more than 2000 maps from 32 titles, organized chronologically and geographically by borough, all published between 1852 and 1923.”
Here are Knutzen’s recommended ways to search for maps using the index.
1. Select a borough and vintage using the folders from the list on the left sidebar.
2. Double click the map to fly to your chosen location, then use the time slider at the top left of the map frame to narrow the chronological search scope.
3. Enter a street address in the “fly to” search box, then use the time slider.
Once you’ve located a historical map coverage, scroll your mouse over the area and click. A popup window will allow you to access bibliographic information and a digital copy of the historical map.