Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ex-slave Mary Ann Patterson, Texas, Remembers 19C America

Mary Ann remembered, "I helped wid de work in de "loom room". I had to do "five cuts a day", but I was fast enough to make eight cuts a day. I made five cuts fo' de white folks and three fo' myself...Now, let me tell you about de cooks. Mawster Burleson had a cook fo' de big house and he had a cook fo' de slaves. Dah was a kitchen in de big house fo' de white folks, and dah was a kitchen and long table fo' de hands. We had putty good vittles. I remembah we had so much hog meat dat we'd throw de hogs' head and feet away. Mawster Burleson raised his own hogs. Everythin' dat ole mawster et, we had it too. Sometimes we et deer meat and dah was times when we had bear meat and honey. Mawster Burleson had his own bees."

Photos and quotes of former slaves used in these blog posts come from the Slave Narratives. This collection contains over 20,000 pages of typewritten interviews with more than 3,500 former slaves, collected over a ten-year period. In 1929, both Fisk University in Tennessee and Southern University in Louisiana began to document the life stories of former American slaves. Kentucky State College continued the work in 1934. In the midst of the Depression between 1936 and 1939, these narratives continued to be collected as part of the Federal Writers' Project of the WPA, the Works Progress Administration. They were assembled and microfilmed in 1941, as the 17-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. The collection includes photos of the interviewees taken in the 1930s as well as their full interviews. Those whose voices are included in the collection ranged in age from 1 to 50 at the time of emancipation in 1865; more than 2/3 were over 80 when they were interviewed.

The problem that I have with these interviews is the language as reported by the interviewers. The Library of Congress explains on their website, "The narratives usually involve some attempt by the interviewers to reproduce in writing the spoken language of those interviewed...The interviewers were writers, not professionals trained in the phonetic transcription of the 1930s, when the interviews took place, white representations of black speech already had an ugly history of entrenched stereotype dating back at least to the early 19C." What most white interviewers assumed to be "the usual" patterns of their informants' speech was unavoidably influenced by the 1930s preconceptions and stereotypes of the interviewers themselves. "The result, as the historian Lawrence W. Levine wrote, "is a mélange of accuracy and fantasy, of sensitivity and stereotype, of empathy and racism" that may sometimes be offensive to today's readers. Yet whatever else they may be, the representations of speech in the narratives are a pervasive and forceful reminder that these documents are not only a record of a time that was already history when they were created: they are themselves irreducibly historical, the products of a particular time and particular places."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pro-Slavery - Caroline Lee Whiting Heintz 1800-1856

Born in 1800 – Caroline Lee Whiting Hentz,  American author, known for opposing the abolitionist movement  & her rebuttal to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the pro-slavery novel The Planter’s Northern Bride.
American writer Caroline Lee Hentz The Female Prose Writers of America Published by E.H. Butler, Philadelphia, 1852

Caroline Lee Hentz (1800-1856) was Alabama's 1st best-selling writer & one of the most popular women writers in antebellum America, who specialized women's domestic, romantic fiction. Although she was born in the North & lived in 7 different states, Hentz spent 14 years in Alabama (1834-1848) with her husband & 4 children. Most of her fiction is set in the South, the region she adopted as home & fiercely defended from northern criticism. 

Born Caroline Lee Whiting in Lancaster, Massachusetts, Hentz was the youngest of John  & Orpah Whiting's 8 children. At age 17, she began teaching at the Lancaster Common School.  In 1824, Caroline married Nicholas Marcellus Hentz, a native of France, who had immigrated to America in 1816. An entomologist, novelist,  & artist, Hentz was intellectually gifted but prone to depression & uncontrollable fits of jealousy. 

At the time of their marriage, Nicholas was teaching French at George Bancroft's Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts. After the family's initial move to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1826, Caroline began writing drama. In 1830, the Hentzes moved to Covington, Kentucky, where Nicholas served as headmaster at a female academy & where Caroline completed De Lara, which won a prize offered by Boston actor & manager William Pelby. De Lara was produced, to favorable reviews, at the Tremont Theater in Boston & the Arch Street Theater in Philadelphia. The following year, 2 more of her plays were produced, Constance of Werdenberg, or The Forest League, at the Park Theater in New York, & Lamorah, or the Western Wild, in Cincinnati, where the couple had moved in 1832, to oversee another school for girls.

Caroline Lee Hentz (1800-1856) 

In Cincinnati, Caroline joined a literary & social group to which Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) also belonged. Twenty years later, Stowe's enormously popular antislavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), would inspire Hentz to defend slavery & the South by writing a pro-slavery novel, The Planter's Northern Bride (1854). While in Ohio, Hentz published her 1st novel, Lovell's Folly (1833), which included unfavorable portraits of recognizable northern citizens. Fearing libel charges, the publisher quickly withdrew the book from circulation.

In 1834, the couple left Cincinnati following an incident in which Nicholas slapped a man who had sent Caroline a note after a party. The Hentzes moved to the frontier town of Florence, Alabama, where they established the Locust Dell Academy. During the next 14 years, the Hentzes operated girls' schools in Florence (1834-43), Tuscaloosa (1843-45),  & Tuskegee (1845-48). Caroline continued to publish, but most of her time was spent assisting her husband at school, cooking meals for the students, & tending to her own children.

In 1848, the Hentzes moved to Columbus, Georgia, to open yet another school, but Nicholas's rapidly deteriorating mental state prompted them to close the school in 1849. Two years later, the Hentzes moved to Marianna, Florida, where Caroline spent her remaining years caring for her husband & writing at a feverish pace to support her family. She rapidly became one of America's most popular writers. Between 1850 & 1853, Hentz's books sold more than 93,000 copies; & as late as 1872, the Boston Public Library listed her as one of the 3 most popular authors of the day.

The Hentzes did not live long to enjoy her success, however. When Nicholas's health grew worse, he moved to St. Andrews, Florida, to live with their daughter Julia. Caroline stayed in Marianna, traveling to St. Andrews occasionally to tend to her husband. She contracted pneumonia & died on February 11, 1856. Her husband died 9 months later, in November.  Both are buried in Marianna, Florida. 

Selected Works by Caroline Lee Hentz  

Lamorah; or, the Western Wild (play, 1832)

Constance of Werdenberg., or, The Forest League (play, 1832)

Lovell's Folly (1833)

De Lara; or, The Moorish Bride (1843)

Human and Divine Philosophy: A Poem Written for the Erosophic Society of the University of Alabama (1844)

Linda; or, The Young Pilot of the Belle Creole (1850)

Rena; or, The Snow Bird (1851)

Eoline; or, Magnolia Vale; or, The Heiress of Glenmore (1852)

Marcus Warland; or, The Long Moss Spring (1852)

The Banished Son and Other Stories of the Heart (1852)

The Victim of Excitement, The Bosom Serpent, etc. (1853)

Wild Jack; or, The Stolen Child, and Other Stories (1853)

The Planter's Northern Bride (1854)

Courtship and Marriage; or, The Joys and Sorrows of American Life (1856)

The Lost Daughter and Other Stories of the Heart (1857) 

Information in this posting from the Encyclopedia of Alabama