This month’s release of imprints from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes two imprints reflecting on events in Richmond, Virginia, following the war. Both publications express sympathetic views of the Confederacy. On a lighter note we focus on a colorfully illustrated picture book for children from the Civil War era.
Robert Edward Lee: An Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Monument to General Robert Edward Lee at Richmond, Virginia, May 29, 1890, by Archer Anderson (1890)
At a time when memorials to the Confederacy and her most prominent soldiers and politicians are under attack by demands to remove them, it may be timely to consider the impetus and emotion that fueled the erection of these memorials in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The end of Reconstruction ushered in the Jim Crow era. Many of the monuments constructed toward the end of the 19th century were as much a celebration of white supremacy as a permanent memory of the war.
Contemporary Americans are not so likely as Archer Anderson, the author of this address, to assert that:
Never Caught was described by Columbia University Professor Eric Foner as “a fascinating and moving account of a courageous and resourceful woman. Beautifully written and utilizing previously untapped sources it sheds new light both on the father of our country and on the intersections of slavery and freedom.”
“Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge”—a new book about the risks one young woman took for freedom—was published yesterday. Author Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Distinguished Blue and Gold Professor of Black Studies and History at the University of Delaware, explores not only the 22-year-old’s courageous escape from the Philadelphia home of the first First Family but also the subsequent efforts George Washington took over many years to have her recaptured.
Writing about Dunbar’s new work, Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of “The Hemingses of Monticello,” says, “There is no way to really know the Washingtons without knowing this story.” In a discussion at a recent Readex-hosted American Library Association event, Prof. Dunbar shared the story of Ona Judge:
As explained above, Prof. Dunbar’s sources include historical newspaper coverage spanning Judge’s escape “from the household of the President of the United States,” as described in a 1796 runaway slave advertisement, to articles such as this 1845 item reprinted in the National Anti-Slavery Standard:
This month’s release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes works illustrating various forms of internal strife caused by slavery and the opposition to it. Highlighted here—in George Washington's "Last Will and Testament," a book by an Irish abolitionist, and a compilation of the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln—are examples of conflicting sentiments within an individual, a movement, and a country.
The Last Will and Testament of General George Washington (1800)
By George Washington
Item. Upon the decease of my wife, it is my will and desire that all the slaves which I hold in my own right shall receive their freedom. To emancipate them during her life, would, though earnestly wished by me, be attended with such insuperable difficulties, on account of their intermixture by marriages with the dower negroes, as to excite the most painful sensations, if not disagreeable consequences from the latter, while both descriptions are in the occupancy of the same proprietor; it not being in my power, under the tenure by which the dower negroes are held, to manumit them.
Washington continues, describing the treatment he expects of his slaves upon their eventual emancipation:
Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851) by American painter Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art)
No Christmas celebration would be complete without Santa Claus, carols and George Washington. Wait, George Washington? What does he have to do with Christmas, you might ask? Well, quite a bit if you live near the site where General George Washington and his soldiers crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776. Each year at Pennsylvania’s Washington Crossing Historic Park, a group of dedicated Revolutionary War re-enactors and history enthusiasts gather to recreate Washington’s famous Christmas-night river crossing. The participants brave the cold dressed in authentic reproduction clothing and use replicas of the same kind of boats Washington and his men would have used. This year will mark the 234th anniversary of their daring crossing and pivotal victory the next day at the Battle of Trenton.
Antiques and the Arts Online recently reported the results of a Judaica auction held this past May that included important Americana items. Among the books sold was the first Haggadah printed in America (New York, 1837), which had been part of the Gratz College of Philadelphia’s library for nearly 100 years.
Bringing $12,300 was a June 19, 1790 issue of the Gazette of the United States, which contains this transcript of George Washington's four-paragraph letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Savannah, Georgia.