It's a Book! Sunbury Press has set a release date of for Embattled Freedom, my history book about fugitive slaves and white allies in northeastern Pennsylvania. Because the story largely centers on Waverly, Pa., the Waverly Community House is kindly hosting my official book launch with an author talk afternoon, . I hope you can come, and please spread the word. Also, Sunbury has set up an order page where you can make advance orders. I'm putting an image of the book cover down at the bottom of this email. If your browser won't display it, just go to the order page for a glimpse.
The Southern "Bulldozers." In reading Retreat From Reconstruction, 1869-1879, the other day I was puzzled by a Virginia Republican's reference to Northerners abandoning him "to the tender mercies of the Ku Klux and 'Bulldozers.' " An internet search found several origins for the bulldozer term and one was dead-on relevant. During that woeful postwar period, black people across the South were plagued by gangs of murderous white terrorists. These goons, by using brutal violence like the "bull dose" a farmer might wield against an unruly bull, became known as bull-dosers or bulldozers. When the land-moving machine we're all familiar with was invented a few decades later, a machine of brute force, the name was applied.
"The Fountain of Sin." One shared value that probably helped Waverly's whites accept black newcomers was temperence--disdain for alcohol. Waverly briefly had a Temperence Hotel and its churches had teens sign personal temperence pledges. And the vigilance could never slacken, according to this July 1866 item in The Scranton Republican. "For several months past our village had been very orderly," wrote the Waverly correspondent, a teetotaling Methodist minister. "The former hotel keeper, for conscientious reasons, had abandoned the sale of intoxicating liquors, and as a result our community was almost entirely free from intemperance, and the good people of Waverly enjoyed a short Millennium. But the enemy has again been let loose upon us; a new proprietor has again opened the fountain of sin and misery… Many Abington mothers have wept, and others are destined to weep over the wreck of promising sons. Many such have hopelessly disappeared into the Maelstrom of intemperance."