Monday, November 14, 2016

History nuggets …

Hello, history mate.
As rancorous as last week's big election was, let me tell you about a truly ugly election that happened 150 years ago in my home state of Pennsylvania. I cover it in Embattled Freedom, my forthcoming book about the Underground Railroad and 19th century race relations in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
"The White Race Alone Is Entitled."  The year was 1866 and the governor's seat was up for grabs. Union veterans had poured back home, including thousands of black men who had served with distinction. My little hometown of Waverly, Pa., had 13 black war vets, only three of whom returned from combat unscathed. Black leaders formed the new Equal Rights League to press boldly for greater rights including the vote. Spokesman Jonathan Jasper Wright of Wilkes-Barre challenged whites to "act as though they believed in their own Declaration of Independence, and especially in its assertion that all men are created equal." But the Republicans went limp on their support for black aspirations, seeing few votes to gain on the issue. Meanwhile, the state's Democrats, angry foes of Lincoln and abolitionism, whipped out the white-supremacy card and whipped up racial fears to help nominee Hiester Clymer (see below and here). The Clymer platform was explicit: “The white race alone is entitled to the control of the government of the Republic, and we are unwilling to grant to negroes the right to vote.” The Democratic newspaper in Scranton warned that a vote for the Republican, John Geary, is a vote for "negro suffrage, negro equality, high taxation, amalgamation, disunion, another war, and all the evils that abolition fanaticism can inflict upon our country and race."  Republican vets in Waverly and elsewhere formed "Boys in Blue" clubs to get out the vote for Geary, to mixed results. Geary won narrowly statewide but was trounced in the county. And Waverly? It went for the Democrat, Clymer. It is a confounding fact that Waverly, despite having many GOP Boys in Blue and hosting its own fugitive-slave settlement, would remain in the camp of the race-baiting Democrats for another twenty years.
The two platforms
Book News. Sunbury Press is about to assign an editor to my Embattled Freedom manuscript. The release date hasn't been set yet, but the book should be out in time for my first talk in Scranton in February. Meanwhile, I'm recording audio and video segments for the related website. And I've been having some nice correspondence with a descendant of one of Waverly's original fugitives. She's planning a trip east this spring--and hopes to visit Waverly for the first time and see the little home her ancestor built, which still exists. What an experience that should be!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds goog.

    For those who'd like some info about the author, here's a link: