Civil rights elder preserves S.C. history

Kara Anderson profiles Cecil Williams, photographer who has documented the civil rights movement in South Carolina.

In elementary school, Cecil Williams photographed lawyer Thurgood Marshall’s early efforts to desegregate public schools. In high school, he documented the ‘60s civil rights sit-ins. As a young adult, he covered Harvey Gantt’s 1964 desegregation of Clemson University, the aftermath of the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre and the 1969 strike by Charleston hospital workers.

“The saying goes: A picture is worth a thousand words. But no. I say a good picture, a storytelling picture is worth a thousand words,” said Cecil Williams, a 78-year-old civil rights photographer.

Williams’s body of work, spanning the last six decades, defines good documentary photography in South Carolina. Starting as a child in the ‘50s, the Orangeburg native covered most major civil rights events in the Palmetto State, from the 1954 Brigg v. Elliott case, which he claims started the national civil rights movement, to the removal of the Confederate battle flag from atop the South…

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Good Intentions & Hard Work & Nothing Else: Is Amasa Delano’s Moral Blindness a USA Trait?

I’ve been listening to Greg Grandin‘s The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom and Deception in the New World. The book is full of historical tidbits (and here), and I hope to write a review of it after I’ve finished.

As I was listening to the latter part of the book, after Amasa Delano has returned to Boston to face his creditors, I thought about how much he resembled today’s liberal class in the United States.

He did not favor slavery, but, when presented with an opportunity to make money by capturing the slave ship The Trial from the Senegambians who had taken it over, he didn’t hesitate to use great violence to subdue them and return them to Spanish captivity. When his debts mounted, he began taking shipments of salted cod to the slave-based economies of the Caribbean. In other words, he had a moral position against slavery but did not hold it strongly enough to desist from attempting to profit from it.

So far, based on Grandin’s book, the only regret Amasa Delano ever expresses regarding his takeover of The Trial was the failure of Spain and its colonists in the Americas to compensate him as much as he thought his right. He never considers the impact his actions had on the enslaved Africans.

In fact, it seems that Amasa Delano’s inner life centers around understanding a universe which permitted his failure to achieve the success he thought he deserved by virtue of his good (in his mind, for himself) intentions and his hard (self-reported) work (later undertaken by slaves, undocumented workers & laborers in unsafe conditions around the world).

Likewise, when I tell people today that the entire political class should be tried for the war crime of invading and occupying Iraq, they typically respond with some version of “We meant well” and “The US army is competent and did its best in a difficult situation.” Good intentions and hard work. Iraqis. Oh, them. I hadn’t thought about them.

State of Georgia in 1939: African-American recreation facilities only needed to include “simple local developments”

Throughout the [Georgia] State Planning Board’s Report on Outdoor Recreation in Georgia (1939), the writers advocated for segregated recreational facilities based on racial and socioeconomic categories. … For white “land owners,” prime destinations apparently included coastal and mountain destinations “during the warm summer months” and “especially when crop prospects” were favorable. But for “the white tenant class of the farming population,” the report observed, “recreation among the men and boys” consisted primarily “of hunting and fishing” and sports. Additionally, these white tenant families–perhaps white wives and girls more specifically–enjoyed “old fashioned church sociables [sic] … and special events” such as barbecues. Finally the authors assessed African Americans, who were not subcategorized as property owners or tenants or by their sex. The authors’ racial stereotypes assumed that African Americans’ recreation was “peculiar to their racial characteristics” and only “centered around churches.” As such, African American recreation facilities only needed to include “simple local developments, such as playfields with barbecue grounds and swimming pools.” African Americans, so the thinking went, would not like the beach or mountains, and these prescriptions ultimately limited African American exposure to particular types of outdoor recreation and environments.

From pp. 103-4, Southern Water, Southern Power: How the Politics of Cheap Energy and Water Scarcity Shaped a Region by Christopher J. Manganiello.

Segregationists Opposed Federal Government Multi-Use Water Projects in the South

[McCormick, SC attorney] Frank Harrison was among a small group of regular writers to South Carolina’s congressional delegation who linked the Savannah River’s water and energy history to the nation’s civil rights conflict and postwar rights-based liberalism beginning in the 1950s. … “The taking of huge areas of private property by the Federal Government is becoming increasingly dangerous especially in view of  the recent [Brown v Board of Education] Supreme Court decision and other actions of the administration in attempting to continue the centralizing power of the Federal Government.” “The widespread increase of federal public use and recreation areas may result in serious political repercussions in this state and other states because these areas may become areas which cannot be used to any extent by members of the white race.” … The conservative letter writers who shared their ideas about Trotters Shoals and environmental politics identified entitlements–to local self-determination, to peaceful segregated recreation, or access to the water supply–as fundamental rights. [pp 158-60]

From Southern Water, Southern Power: How the Politics of Cheap Energy and Water Scarcity Shaped a Region by Christopher J. Manganiello.

Is Negan a Better Leader than Rick? #TWD #TheWalkingDead

These comments are based on the AMC’s The Walking Dead through the end of Season 6, not the comic book, of which I’ve only read the first compendium. It contains spoilers. Continue reading

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Experience at USA Civil War Battlefield Sites

From p. 99 of Ta-Nehisi Coates‘s Between the World and Me:

But whenever I visited any of the [USA Civil War] battlefields, I felt like I was greeted as if I were a nosy accountant conducting an audit and someone was trying to hide the books. I don’t know if you remember how the film we saw at the Petersburg Battlefield ended as though the fall of the Confederacy were the onset of a tragedy, not jubilee. I doubt you remember the man on our tour dressed in the gray wool of the Confederacy, or how every visitor seemed most interested in flanking maneuvers, hardtack, smoothbore rifles, grapeshot, and ironclads, but virtually no one was interested in what all of this engineering, invention, and design had been marshaled to achieve.

I tried to say something similar in my review of Robert Hicks’s The Widow of the South, but I failed to say it as clearly and succinctly. I guess that’s why TNC is the best-selling author and I’m blogging.

Bigot Harkens Back to Civil War Nostalgia to Ban Syrian Refugees

I’ve previously blogged about the dangers of romanticizing the United States Civil War by ignoring the question about whether the cause of the combatants was just and emphasizing their heroism.

Read how one bigot testified at a South Carolina Senate hearing urging adoption of legislation restricting resettlement of Syrian refugees in South Carolina:

I find it curious that Syrian men of fighting age have abandoned their country in a time of crisis; American men did no such things during our bloody Civil War.

Read more of this witness’s testimony and my rebuttal of some of its points.