“No founding father wrote more eloquently on behalf of liberty and human rights than Thomas Jefferson, and none has a more troubling record when it comes to the “peculiar institution” of slavery. At present, the popular understanding of Jefferson’s shilly-shallying on this issue doesn’t extend much deeper than knowing smirks about Sally Hemings and the (unacknowledged) children Jefferson fathered with her. We tend to assume that the dirtiest secrets of the past have to do with sex. But, as Henry Wiencek explains in his new book, “Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves,” the real filth is in the ledger books.”
Fifteen years ago, Alexander Street Press, in conjunction with the Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender at the State University of New York, Binghamton, launched Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600 – 2000, an online database edited by historians Kathryn Kish Sklar and Thomas Dublin.
If Digital History is “using new technologies to enhance research and teaching,” as the excellent website from the University of Houston puts it, then African American history is being well-served digitally. In honor of African American History month, I survey here one enormous and useful website that gives us all access to a very wide variety of materials.
In March 1865, the U. S. Congress created the Freedmen’s Bureau for Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands to ease the transition between slavery and freedom for 3.5 million newly liberated slaves. The bureau had three main functions—to distribute rations to Southerners who had been loyal to the Union during the Civil War, to establish public schools for black children and adults, and to oversee labor contracts between landowners and black workers.
In 1746 Dr. Andrés Arce y Miranda, a creole attorney from Puebla, Mexico, criticized a series of paintings known as the cuadros de castas or casta paintings. Offended by their depictions of racial mixtures of the inhabitants of Spain’s American colonies, Arce y Miranda feared the paintings would send back to Spain the damaging message that creoles, the Mexican-born children of Spanish parents, were of mixed blood.