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A student-led group project from HIST 246

Blog Post #12

April 20th, 2011 by Jocelyn


I’ve been doing research for a draft of a second podcast about St. Vincent’s Ceremony, discussing Dowling’s death and the fact that his grave remained unmarked for so many years. I’ve also been revising the first draft of the podcast about the statue. After finishing the drafts, I’ll meet with the group and we can talk about recording the podcast and how we want to go about doing that.



When answering Horowitz’s question, I’m reminded of Frederick Douglass in the speech we read in class Tuesday or what King said near the end of Horowitz’s essay: remember your ancestors, but also remember what they fought for and recognize it is wrong. It is possible for Southerners to honor their Confederate forbearers without insulting black Southerners, but only if they acknowledge the complexity of the issue and that, in the end, slavery was wrong. What makes monuments to the Confederacy or celebrations of Confederate heroes insulting to blacks is that they give the appearance that these Southerners wanted for slavery to continue. As another man cited in the Horowitz essay said, if you have to celebrate in secret, which many Confederates celebrating have to do today, then there’s probably something wrong with your cause. White men and women come to celebrations of Martin Luther King, but black men and women would never feel comfortable attending a tribute to the Confederacy.


While blacks will likely never feel comfortable attending these Confederate memorials, it is possible for white Southerners to honor their ancestors without insulting black Southerners. Instead of celebrating the cause for which they fought, or vilifying the North, white Southerners need to find positive aspects of their ancestor’s heritage and celebrate those. Horwitz posits that some white Southerners still celebrate the Confederacy because in some cases it’s all they have got going for them, as it was with the man who remarried and has worked in a factory all of his life. Tracing one’s ancestors and celebrating them provides a distraction from the monotony of their modern life. The glory days of the Confederacy and the antebellum south, as well as heroic war stories (such as, say, Dick Dowling’s!) give them something to be proud of when there is little else going on in their lives. It is precisely this romanticization of the antebellum south and the Confederacy that makes tributes to the Confederate cause problematic. There is nothing wrong with celebrating one’s ancestors or their heroic deeds, but blacks understandably find it insulting when white Southerners romanticize a time when blacks were oppressed.


It would be completely unreasonable to suggest that every white Southerner with a Confederate ancestor demonize that ancestor and become ashamed of their past; there are far too many Southerners with Confederate ancestors for this to even be realistic. Southerners can still take pride in their heritage and ancestry, but they need to separate celebrating a war hero from romanticizing a period when millions of men, women and children were enslaved. If Southerners can find a way to commemorate their ancestors while acknowledging that the cause for which they fought was wrong and outdated, then these might become celebrations that could take place beyond closed doors.

Small Window For Appropriate Confederate Celebration

April 19th, 2011 by Alex


-I am in the processing of editing the introductory script to better represent the slavery context of the battle of Sabine Pass (including information about the slaves who built the fort, the concentration of blacks along E. Texas, and the significance of the battle for slaves)

-I am researching information about the history of Tuam Street, Dowling Street, and Emancipation Park in order to create a podcast about how celebration of  confederate heroes can conflict with the importance of emancipation.

-I hope to complete both scripts by saturday to begin recording



As was cautioned with our discussion on reconstruction, it is important to avoid evaluating history using our anachronistic ideals and opinions. However, it is clear that the way in which we choose to remember history has a direct effect our current social relations and politic ideologies. For instance, if Southern children are not taught about the enduring negative effects of slavery alongside the sacrifice of their ancestors, how can we expect them to interpret the existing problems of racial inequality in any way other than in racially biased terms? In contrast, the perceptions of history are also largely shaped by the political and social interests of different groups. For example, if it is in the interests of white Southerners to maintain a dominant position over African Americans, they could do so by deemphasizing the historical importance of slavery in the Confederate cause. Because of these conditions, it is important that we take care in how we choose to celebrate, remember, or even forget the significance of the Civil War . Unfortunately, many Civil War historical societies, such the Sons of  Confederate Veterans, consistently downplay the tragic context of slavery when passing their history from one generation to the next. Although they claim only the benevolent intention of honoring the sacrifices of their kin, these groups are actually perpetuating a view of the Civil War that serves to deepen the divide of racial conflict. To appropriately honor their forbearers, Southerners need to come to terms with the racially supremacist actions and beliefs of the Confederacy. Because of the damaging nature of these values to Confederate heritage, it is unlikely that Southerners will ever celebrate the Confederacy in a way that is appropriate given the resilient negative impact of slavery.

To appropriately remember their Confederate past, Southerners must acknowledge that slavery played a large role in Confederate secession, as well as soldier ideology during the war. Yet, Tony Horwitz found that many Southerners view the Confederate cause in a far different perspective. Because Tarlton, one of Horwitz’s interviewees, knew his soldiering ancestors did not own any slaves, he assumed that they fought the Union because they “felt oppressed by the government” and to preserve “their honor as men” (Horwitz 35). Although, many soldiers did fight for Southern honor and individual rights, Chandra Manning provides evidence that “the most powerful motivator” for Southerners to fight was the “certainty that they must fight to prevent the abolition of slavery” (Manning 138). However, the reason many Southerners fail to accept this view of the Civil War is because it presents the Southern effort as malevolent rather than honorable. Confederate heritage groups try hard to combat this malevolent image because it could serve to damage their interest in maintaining white southern status. For example, if “Color Sergeant” Mike Hawkins was forced to acknowledge that slavery was the mainstay of the Confederate cause, it would be morally questionable for him “salute the Confederate flag with…undying devotion to the cause for which it stands” (Horwitz 23-24). An appropriate celebration of Confederate heritage should focus on the sacrifices that Southerners made to support a cause that they believed in, but should concede that the cause does not align with the modern value of liberty for all.

Additionally, Southerners should recognize the importance of the Civil War as a means to an end for slavery. By acting like the Civil War is still in “half-time” (Horwitz 22), Confederate heritage groups are ignoring the most important outcome of the Civil War, emancipation. It is inappropriate to celebrate the Confederacy without acknowledging that its victory would have meant a prolonged enslavement for millions of blacks. Additionally, heritage societies need to recognize the violently oppressive actions of their “Confederate Heroes.” Instead of quizing followers as to “how many horses did Nathan Bedford forest have shot from under him”  (Horwitz 25) during SCV trivia night, a more appropriate trivia question should be, “which terrorist organization did Forest lead to violently oppress black liberty following emancipation?”  The reason these heritage groups have to constantly defend themselves by saying “I’m not prejudice” (Horwitz 39) or have to meet in secret (Horwitz 43) is because the Confederate effort to prolong slavery is directly in contrast with modern society’s strong disapproval of slavery. Therefore, Southerners who wish to celebrate the Civil War can discuss the bravery and sacrifice of their forbearers; they must also address how a Confederate victory would have been detrimental for millions of black slaves.

Because of the damaging effects of slavery, the tragically racialized context of our society and the South’s role in oppressing blacks, there is a very small window in which the Confederate effort should be positively celebrated. However, this is not to undermine the incredible human sacrifice that Southerners put into doing what they believed was right. Although most of the hundreds of thousands of Confederate soldiers fought to preserve slavery, many also fought for Southern values that are still held with importance today. Those Confederate values should be celebrated, but not outside of the context of slavery in which they existed. We must take caution to address the context of slavery in the Civil War; the ramifications of not doing  so would entail more than just offending political correctness, they can also have very real effects on race relations in the future.


GoogleDoc for Podcast Group Script Texts

April 18th, 2011 by Jocelyn

The texts are all currently drafts, but here is the link you can use to view and edit and make comments on these drafts:

Podcast Group Update

April 14th, 2011 by Elizabeth Shulman

So I have been working on researching and writing a podcast for Houston Market Square, the original site of Dick Dowling’s statue. I figure the key elements to put in this podcast is the reasons why different groups within Houston wanted to build a statue commemorating Dowling around 1905, the dedication of the statue itself in 1905, and why this location was significant to the memory of Dowling and Houston.

My research has taken me to the Houston Public library archives, and our classes’ archive of articles about Dowling.  Within the HPL archives, I mainly was looking at the secretary notes taken by the committee for the building of the statue.  This includes the arguments the committee had with the builder of the statue over costs and how the monument should be made.  The biggest challenge there has been being able to read the handwriting of the secretaries.

Within our archive, I have looked at articles about the placement of the monument and the fanfare that went on surrounding its placement in Houston Market Square, in front of the old City Hall.  What I feel should be covered here is the importance of the monument to the people of Houston and the soldiers the Davis Guards in 1905.  While his name and memory have somewhat been lost to Houstonians in recent times, Dowling was the largest Civil War hero to the citizens of Houston.  This will be reflected in my draft for this podcast.

Like Jocelyn, one of my struggles has been figuring out how to limit myself to about three minutes of dialogue.  The other seems to be the overlapping information with Jocelyn.  I think some of this information is important the general history of the statue and I don’t want to be redundant in my own podcast.  Our listeners will want something short and wasting some of my three minutes repeating facts that have already been stated is not a good use of my time.  However, I do believe that some of that information is important to a podcast that takes the listeners to Houston Market Square.

While my draft is not finished yet, it will be ready to be added to our GoogleDoc on Saturday.

Introductory Podcast Script (rough draft)

April 12th, 2011 by Alex

Here is my initial take on the intro podcast. I left some information blank (like battle numbers) so we could verify with the other groups. Let me know what you think!

Dowling Introduction Script

(Musical introduction bagpipe, fife, snare drum mashup?)

A: Hello and welcome to the Dick Dowling tour of Houston podcast series.

J: My name is Jocelyn

E: My name is Elizabeth

A: and my name is Alex,

You are currently listening to the Dick Dowling introductory podcast—the first of five podcasts discussing the life and legacy of Houston’s own Lt. Dick Dowling. The purpose of this podcast series is not to provide an exhaustive history on Dowling and his memory—for a more comprehensive account of Dowling, we invite you to peruse our websites’ extensive databases—in contrast, the purpose of these recordings is to educate as well as to provide a more unique perspective on the way Houstonians and people across the country have chosen to remember Dowling. It is clear that many of the prevailing views on Dowling’s life and legacy, were, and are continually shaped by the competing, and sometimes collaborative, interests of many different groups. In these podcasts, we will take you on a tour of many different sites celebrating Dowling, while at the same time illuminating the ways in which different perspectives have shaped the creation of these sites. By the end of this podcast, we hope you will not only learn a couple things about Dowling and the battle of Sabine Pass, but we hope you will understand many of the influential perspectives and interests surrounding Dowling and his physical and non-physical memory. Although Dick Dowling’s bust may be permanently etched in stone at the outskirts of Houston’s Hermann, the content of his actions and the importance of his legacy have been a subject of contention and consensus since his death in 1867.

Musical interlude

J: For those of you completely new to Dowling or need a refresher course on the man and his legacy, we will provide a very brief outline of Dowling’s life and his physical monuments.

Richard William Dowling was said to have been born in Taum, County Galway, Ireland in 1838. During the period of the Great Famine in Ireland, and at the age of 19, he immigrated to Houston, Texas. However, the first actual record of Dowling’s existence comes from his marriage to Annie Elizabeth Odlum in 1857, another Irish Catholic. While in Houston, Dowling became a very successful bar owner and businessman. In 1859, he became the first resident in Houston to install gas lighting, furnishing his home as well as his saloon, known as “the shades,” with this uncommon technology. This a major display of successfulness for any entrepreneur at the time. Much of Dowling’s business success came from his shrewd ability to get newspapers to write good reviews about his establishments by alluring journalists and ciritcs with free drinks. Very exceptional to other Irish immigrants in the South, and most likely due to his great achievements in the Houston community, Dowling was granted U.S. citizenship. At the Lone Star Hall, the location of Dowling’s saloon, members from the local community, including Dowling, formed the Houston Hook and Latter Company No. 1. Afterword, in 1859, the Houston Light Infantry chose Dowling’s Lone Star Hall as the site for their armory. After this chance occurrence, Dowling began his military service as a private in the local unit. During his early beginnings in the infantry, Dowling opened his most popular saloon, known widely as the Bank of Bacchus. However, as tensions between the north and the south grew hot in the summer of 1860, Dowling decided to join the Davis Guard, a mostly Irish immigrant group commanded by Frederick Odlum under Cook’s regiment. It was under this post where he gained the honorable distinction of first lieutenant. Additionally, it was in this Davis Guard that Dowling would come to fight at the famous battle of Sabine Pass; a role which would cement Dowling as an important Houstonian and Confederate soldier.

(Gun Shot noises, battle sounds)

Although the actual importance of the Battle of Sabine Pass is disputed, it is clear that many confederates viewed it as a battle of epic proportions. Even Confederate president Jefferson Davis described the battle as “one of the most heroic and brilliant achievements of this war.”In short, the Battle of Sabine Pass involved the encounter of Union forces trying to access Texas through the Sabine river with Confederate forces stationed in Fort Griffin, an effective fort along Sabine River. Under the apt military skill of Lt. Dowling, the small confederate artillery force of (number#) was able to turn away a Union fleet of (number#) gunboats, (number#) transport boats with a potential of landing (number#) union troops. Although the battle did not stop the inevitable surrender of the confederacy, it was looked upon as a high point of resiliency and bravery by many confederates. As will be discussed at length, the number of troops presents, the magnitude of the confederate victory, and the role Dowling played in the battle have been major points of contention in the creation of Dowling’s legacy. After the well fought battle, Dowling promptly returned to his Houston based entrepreneurship , re-opening the Bank of Bacchus and starting an oil company in Houston. He unfortunately died of yellow fever in 1867 and is currently buried in St. Vincent’s Cemetery.

(funeral bagpipes!!???!!?!)

Not long after his death, various groups such as an Irish society called the Ancient Order of the Hibernians and the United Confederate Veterans sought to create a statue in Dowling’s honor. After a long, drawn-out process, the final bust of Dowling was completed in 1905 and placed was placed at City Hall on Market square. It was formally dedicated on St. Patrick’s Day of that year, in front of a sizeable crowd of Irishmen, Civil War enthusiasts, and Houstonians. In 1939 the statue was moved to Sam Houston Park, and in 1958 it was relocated to its current resting place in the outskirts of Hermann Park. Also in dedication to Dick Dowling is Dowling Street which is now the hub of the Third Ward, one of Houston’s notable black communities. Intersecting Dowling Street is Taum Street, the alleged birthplace of Dowling. Interestingly, the two streets meet on what was to become, and what is now today, Emancipation Park.

For more in-depth information about Richard Dowling, the Battle of Sabine Pass, his physical monuments, or his collective memory, please visit the Dowling website at (url address)

Musical interlude

E: Despite our increasing understanding of the life of Dick Dowling, much of his different legacies as a Civil War hero, an Irish immigrant, a Confederate sympathizer, a shrewd businessman, and a proud Houstonian are still shrouded in relative obscurity. This obscurity is precisely the reason why the story of Dick Dowling has come to mean so many different things for so many different people. If you have lived in Houston or have ever visited Houston, you have probably run into, whether you realized it or not, many different sites holding some piece of Dowling’s legacy: whether it be the statue in Hermann Park, the gravestone in St. Vincent’s cemetery, the two original sites of the statue at Houston Market Square or Sam Houston Park, Dick Dowling Street, or even Dowling Middle School. No matter how you feel about Dowling, or how he should be remembered (even if not at all), it is clear that he has left many marks on the city of Houston.

Fife playing?

E: In this podcast series we will be taking you on a tour of various sites of Dowling’s memory around Houston. You can follow along by driving to these spots, walking on foot around these locations, or just using the provided Google street view and online images to get a closer view. In all, the podcast series is broken up into 5 audio files—including this introductory podcast. Whether you wish to take a virtual or physical tour, be sure to download the podcasts that correspond to the various sites you wish to visit.

Exitlude music playing (snare drum?)

A (said over the music): Thank you for joining us, and we hope you have a wonderful time on the Dick Dowling Tour of Houston.


Podcast status report

April 12th, 2011 by Jocelyn

Last week, we worked on figuring out our contract and what specifically we wanted to do with our podcast. We decided to focus our work on contests over different groups regarding Dowling’s memory at various sites around Houston. This week, I’m working on drafting the script for the podcast about the Dowling statue. I discovered that it is possible to view the statue from Google street maps, which will make it easy to imagine directing the viewer around the statue to view different aspects of the marker and Dowling’s life, although I also plan to visit the site again to further refresh my memory.

I think the biggest challenge with writing the podcast has been trying to figure out what exactly to include when talking about the staute. The statue can encompass a great deal of things, and I want to make sure to include all elements at the site, including the marker. Given people’s short attention spans, we’re aiming to keep all the podcasts at about 3 minutes, so that’s not too much time to give a comprehensive account of everything that’s taken place!

Based on the research I’ve done of the HPL archive and newspaper articles so far, I’m thinking I will focus on the initial construction of the statue and the groups involved in its creation in and around 1905. I will discuss the statue’s significance not just as a Civil War marker, but as Houston’s first statue. I will then use the compromises and conflicts between the UCV, Irish herritage groups and other groups involved in the statue’s creation to segway into the discussion of the marker and the statue’s rededication ceremony in 1997. If I find it’s impossible to include information about both the initial construction of the statue and the marker, then perhaps we can consider as a group making an additional podcast about the marker that discusses the 1997 ceremony in more detail.

All of this is really a long way of saying I’m still researching and thinking it through, and will have something substantial (i.e. a first draft of a podcast on the statue) posted on GoogleDocs Saturday.

Podcast Group Contract

April 12th, 2011 by Caleb McDaniel

[[NOTE: Please see comments section for follow-up questions by Dr. McDaniel.]]


Our mission is to make audio files about the statue, Houston’s Market Square, St. Vicent’s Cemetery, Sam Houston Park, and Emancipation Park that will serve as walking/driving tour guides. Our goal is to inform listeners about contests between different groups over Dowling’s memory and the facts of his life and the battle of Sabine Pass, as well as collaboration between different groups. The narratives of the podcasts would highlight how those differences have shaped changes to the sites over time. At one of the sites, we also want to provide additional context to the battle of Sabine Pass, including neglected dimensions like the relationship of the battle to the history of slavery in the Civil War.


We will each be responsible for writing two podcasts, and for recording at least one of the podcasts that we write. When we write the podcasts, we will consult items from the Library Assignments and the HPL archive. Time permitting, we will also try to find or suggest music, sound or audio clips for each of the podcasts, and edit the recordings to include these effects.

(List any online services or software tools you will use, and provide specific information about the accounts that created them and/or where resources you are generating as a group will be located.)

– We will use Google Docs to draft and comment on the scripts for the podcasts. All Docs will be shared with each group member and Dr. McDaniel.
– GarageBand
– Recording materials from DMC

4/8: Complete working draft of contract
Week of 4/10: Each person will work on script for first podcast.
4/15: Each person will complete script for first podcast. Over the weekend, we will review the drafts on Google Docs, make suggestions, and decide, based on the experiences writing the podcasts, if the rest of the things we outlined in our objectives and mission statement are possible.
4/18: Make any necessary adjustments to finalize contract, share with Dr. McDaniel for approval.
(At this point, we will outline how much more time we will have to edit the first script, record, and any other things we’d like to do with the podcast. All tasks will be completed by May 4th.)

Foner #2

April 10th, 2011 by Jocelyn

The American emancipation experience, according to Foner, was very different from the way emancipation took place in Haiti or the British West Indies.  Since the experiences in the West Indies and Haiti occurred long before emancipation in the United States, American politicians and abolitionists were able to both learn from the mistakes made in these previous scenarios and be inspired by the revolutions’ success.

The most immediate and obvious difference is that unlike in Haiti or the British West Indies, freed slaves were given full political rights. While this may seem insignificant to present-day eyes, this level of political rights for other races was completely unprecedented, since in the case of Haiti or the British West Indies, not even all white males were considered entitled to basic political rights. Therefore the freedom given to slaves in the states following emancipation was not just freedom from enslavement, but also the right to practice the same basic political rights any male American citizen could enjoy. As Froner says, “What made the American experience distinct was that the polity as well as the field became an area of confrontation between former master and former slave” (45). As the legacy of Jim Crowe laws, black codes and poll taxes has shown, freedmen were not always able to exercise these political rights, nevertheless the fact that the right to vote was Constitutionally guaranteed for freedpeople was revolutionary when compared to the British West Indies or Haiti.

In the wake of emancipation in all three areas, planters were still in need of cheap labor that would cultivate their crops. In the United States, though, thanks to the political rights afforded to them, blacks were much more successfully able to oppose the import of immigrant labor to replace the work that they did. Southern whites were strong advocates of immigration, particularly Irish immigration, in the hopes that they would be more willing to work the fields in the plantations. Unfortunately for Southerners, though, the vast majority of immigrants who came in through checkpoints such as Ellis Island in the North found jobs in the North and rarely made it down to the South. Therefore, blacks continued to work on plantations without the threat of being replaced by cheaper, more willing labor.

Froner closes Nothing But Freedom with the story of blacks working in the rice fields in South Carolina. While he acknowledges that this story is unconventional and uniquely suited to the particular conditions surrounding rice cultivation and South Carolina, the events that took place there are still significant in indicating the distinctive aspects of American emancipation when compared to other nations. In South Carolina, slaves had already enjoyed a great deal of freedom, due to the nature of the way rice was cultivated. In the wake of emancipation, most of the slaves were able to remain in control as they were still the ones best suited to cultivate the rice crop and planters had become dependent on them. Despite planters’ efforts to negotiate with the slaves, in most cases immediately following the Civil War, they had enough leverage that they were able to continue living in their communities on the plantations, cultivating their own crops and making wages from the work they did on the plantations. When this sharecropping system changed to more heavily favor the farmers, riots and marches broke out to ensure that blacks were still given fair treatment. This type of political organization and mobilization would have been unheard of in the West Indies or Haiti, however, the unique situation of the United states facilitated this.


Question #3

April 10th, 2011 by Alex

In Nothing But Freedom, author Eric Foner discusses the consequences of emancipation in regards to the two parties most affected by it: the freedmen and the planter class. Although there were many widespread social repercussions for those outside the institution of slavery, Foner focuses much of his essay discussing the competing economic, political, and social interests of the freedmen and the planter class. Unlike the relationship of a typical employer and employee, where mutual interests are often linked through interdependent economic objectives, the relationships that developed between the freedmen and their previous owners were much more strained due to the freedmen’s recent memory of slavery and the planter’s desperate need for cheap plantation labor. As Foner explains, freedmen in the Carribean (37), as well as freed blacks in the United States understood that “their aspirations were incompatible with those of their former owners” (71).  However, out of a desperate need for a large labor class, many former slave owners recognized the need to reconcile their interests with black aspirations in order to preserve at least some of their antebellum status. This attempt to bring together the interests of blacks and planters resulted in the large scale formation of sharecropping enterprises. As Foner describes, the sharecropping system was advertised as a “way station” between the independent farming interests of the freed blacks and the “wage labor preferences of the planters” (45). In this blog post, I will synthesize the majority interests of the freed blacks and explain how sharecropping was not wholly opposed to those aspirations in its theoretical practice. However, I will also demonstrate how many of the bitter realities of sharecropping did, in fact, contradict the interests of the freedmen.

Although the interests of freed people are unique to their specific location, experience with slavery, and personal needs, there are many definite trends in the aspirations of post-emancipated blacks. In general, the greatest aspirations of freed blacks were to acquire land, become self-sufficient, and “labor under the circumstances of their own choosing” (21). As is evident with the experience of the low-country blacks of United States, as well as the black peasants of the Caribbean, many freed people  saw owning land, perhaps only a handful of acres, as a much better alternative to wage labor. As Foner describes, peasants in Haiti “understood that self sufficient agriculture, no matter how impoverished, was preferable to peonage on foreign owned sugar estates” (13). In similar regards, wage earners in British Guiana complained that labor conditions under the new system were worse than slavery because, as freed people, they were not provided any clothes or food rations (19). Although ownership of land, especially with high personal property taxes, lack of available credit, access markets, seed and fertilizer, was not the cure-all for freed blacks’ financial problems (34), blacks certainly saw ownership of land and self sufficiency as in their best interest, given the other alternatives. Although provision farming might not have been the economically rational choice—when compared dollar for dollar to wage labor on plantations, freed blacks and some white planters understood the high psychological cost of returning to slave-like wage labor. As Alexis de Tocqueville recognized, the only way to reconcile black interests, in order to get them back on the plantations, was to “destroy every relation which existed between master and slave” (29). This idea of removing the slave connotation from plantation labor laid the basis for the creation of the sharecropping system.

As Foner explains, the theoretical practice of sharecropping allowed for the productive labor of blacks on white owned plantations, while at the same time giving blacks autonomy over their time, labor, family arrangements, and economic advancement (45). Although this system did not allow blacks complete control over themselves and their actions, Foner points out that, in comparison with other manners of labor structure, the theoretical practice of sharecropping did not wholly contradict the freedmen’s aspirations of personal autonomy and socio-economic advancement (45). In fact, if one views the interests of the former slaves and the planter class on opposite sides of a spectrum, many planters criticized sharecropping as giving too great of a concession to black laborers (45). In order to get more blacks working on the plantations, many white critics of sharecropping would have probably liked to have seen an increase in the detrimental enforcement of small property taxation (68), vagrancy laws (22), hunting and fishing laws (65), and free-grazing laws (63). In all, sharecropping presented a unique opportunity for white planters to reconcile their needs with the interests of blacks black laborers.

However, in many places in the South, the bitter realities of sharecropping hindered the growth of mutualism between blacks and their employers. As radical reconstruction broke down, the distinction between sharecropping, debt peonage, and wage labor became blurred. In 1872, the Georgia court case of Appling v. Odum defined the sharecropper as having “no control over the land during the term of his lease” (61). This, in effect, completely contradicted the freedman’s aspiration to own and control his own land. In addition, landlords in North Carolina were legally allowed to hold on to the sharecroppers’ production until the landlord arbitrarily decided that the tenant had fulfilled his obligation (61). In this instance, alienating the black farmer from his crop goes utterly against the freedmen’s basic interest of, as a group of black ministers put it, living to “reap the fruit of [their] own labor” (55). In conclusion, sharecropping in theory did not wholly infringe upon the interests of the freed people; however, its increasingly constricting practices of debt peonage and black separation from the means of production greatly reduced the blacks’ interest in autonomy and reaping the benefit of their hard-work.


Group contract

April 6th, 2011 by Caleb McDaniel

I’ve posted the draft that we made today for your group contract on Writeboard. Use the same password we’ve been using for the other Writeboards in the class. You can either edit the contract directly (being sure to enter your name at the bottom before saving changes), or add comments to discuss with other group members what you think should be changed. If you’d like to look at an example group project from another class at another University, look here for some ideas about how to draft your contract.