Category Archives: American Slavery

Slave ‘Merchant City’

I’ve been working with Glasgow Museums on the ‘Hidden Legacies’ project and we spent an enjoyable afternoon taking a tour through imperial Glasgow exploring the city’s historical connections with New World slavery. The city’s imperial connections have been historically celebrated in George Square, home to many statues of imperialists as well as the City Chambers.City Chambers Built between 1882 and 1888, the City Chambers is civic demonstration of Glasgow’s claim to be the ‘Second City of Empire’. Looking closely at the triangular facade on the front of the City Chambers, Queen Victoria sits atop a series of native peoples bringing gifts: the subservient role of the colonies inscribed into the city’s architecture. Above the triangular façade celebrating imperial exploitation, three statues that symbolise truth, justice and liberty hint at the hypocrisy of the imperial mentalité. The City Chambers’ architecture, therefore, reflects Glasgow’s status as one of the most prominent port cities of the Second British Empire. The city was part of a wider imperial network – based on New World slavery – that connected North America and the Caribbean with Scotland at least from the 1620s to 1838. However, there has been no adequate explanation of the nation’s spectacular rise from one of the poorest nations in western Europe after Darien fiasco in the mid-1690s to nineteenth-century industrial powerhouse. Capital derived from exploitative and usurious activities in America, the West and East Indies all played a role. Although Scotland had limited involvement with direct slave trade voyages (known as the ‘triangular trade’) and there were only 31 recorded between 1706 and 1766, the merchants of Glasgow traded in slave-grown produce. In effect, the merchants cut out the Africa leg of the triangular trade and went directly to the plantations. In this way, Glasgow merchants came to monopolise the trade in tobacco and sugar, although the latter to a much lesser extent. This article examines the city’s connections with New World slavery through the urban heritage, focusing on the men who made it possible: Virginia merchants, known as ‘the Tobacco Lords’ and West India merchants, known as ‘the Sugar Aristocracy’.

From George Square we travel south-west into the ‘Merchant City’. The Cuninghame Mansion – now The Gallery of Modern Art – was built by William Cuninghame, one of the four main ‘Tobacco Lords’ during Glasgow’s ‘golden age of tobacco’, 1740-1790.GOMA Completed in 1778 and built in the Palladian style of architecture, it was described at the time as one of the most fantastic houses in the west of Scotland. The core of the mansion became the Royal Exchange in 1827-29. Across to Ingram Street and further south, we arrive at Tobacco Merchants House which is located at 42 Miller Street (laid out in the 1750s). Tobacco Merchants House illustrates the living conditions of a ‘Tobacco Laird’, a colonial merchant lower down the economic rung from the elite ‘Tobacco Lords’. TMHBuilt in a Palladian style and completed in 1775, Tobacco Merchants House is the oldest surviving building in the ‘Merchant City’ which also underlines little remains of Georgian Glasgow and the city centre is almost all Victoriana.

From the bottom of Miller street, we arrive onto the main thoroughfare, Argyle Street, and travel into the heart of mercantile Glasgow. Arriving at the Trongate (passing the site of two now demolished Palladian townhouses, the Shawfield and Virginia Mansions), the Tolboth Steeple is a reminder of the once bustling commercial centre. TolboothThis was the site of the Tontine Rooms (which sat next to the Tolbooth Steeple) which served as the social and commercial headquarters of mercantile Glasgow. The city’s first paved street was located outside the Tontine Rooms and this was where the ‘Tobacco Lords’ convened. Resplendent in their scarlet cloaks, scarlet cloaks and gold-tipped canes, these tobacco merchants bestowed upon themselves the regal sobriquets: ‘Princes of the Pavement’ and ‘Tobacco Lords’. Here they might have discussed the price of slaves in Africa, the growing conditions of tobacco in Virginia, the sugar crop in Jamaica and the tobacco market in France. This was the rise of early-modern capitalism in the west of Scotland based on the exploitation of enslaved labour. And make no mistake, the ‘Tobacco Lords’ were fearsome capitalist competitors who monopolised the trade in slave-grown tobacco from Virginia, which was shipped to Europe (especially France) via Glasgow. From the Trongate, we walk down to St Andrews in the Square. St Andrews in the SquarePresbyterian ‘Tobacco Lords’ attended to their spiritual needs and the Kirk was constructed between 1739-1756. The interior is an exemplar of mercantile splendour: the salubrious surroundings (now restored to their former glory) are enhanced by the mahogany imported from the Spanish West Indies. Further south, we arrive at St Andrews by the Green completed in 1751-2. This was the worshipping place of the Episcopalian faction of the ‘Tobacco Lords’: Presbyterians looked down on their mode of worship which involved organ-playing during services, which led to the pejorative nickname the ‘Whistling Kirk’ for St Andrews by the Green. StAndrewsbytheGreenThe establishment of the Whistling Kirk was inextricably associated with Richard and Alexander Oswald, Caithness merchants who established a mercantile dynasty in Glasgow from the 1710s.

This short trip ends at The People’s Palace in Glasgow Green. Glasgow Museums are currently working through how to better represent New World Slavery within their collections (a process stimulated by the important Georgian Glasgow exhibit in 2014). The People’s Palace already has some important exhibits.Collar,3 The slave collar owned by John Crawford reveals that Scots used instruments of subjugation (most likely worn by enslaved people) in Scotland. This was not a unique case and there are other records providing more detail. The People’s Palace also holds the Glassford Family portrait which was painted in 1767 by Archibald McLauchlan of the Foulis Academy (associated with Old College, now the University of Glasgow). It features John Glassford – one of the four main ‘Tobacco Lords’ in Glasgow – and his family located within The Shawfield Mansion, the prototype colonial townhouse in the ‘Merchant City’ which was built in 1711. GFPOn Glassford’s right hand shoulder, there is a young black child, evidently a page-boy who had been brought over the colonies. Given Glassford’s strong connections with Virginia (and his agent Neil Jamieson was involved with slave-trading in North America) we can make assumptions about the boy’s origins. However, we know little of his life. It was assumed until fairly recently that the young child had been painted out from the painting in the abolitionist period, although a restorative project in 2007 revealed the young child had not been painted out, but in fact dirt and grime built up over the years and partially obscuring the child from view. Glasgow’s full role in New World slavery can be viewed metaphorically in the painting: it has always been present, yet obscured from our view. Although the fate of the young black child in the Glassford painting is unknown, we have records for some others, many of whom ran away from their masters.

The Runaway Slaves project at the University of Glasgow is uncovering new details about the black population of Scotland and England during the period 1700-1780. In Scotland, there are only around 70-100 recorded black people during this period. Many ran away thus inadvertently generating details of their lives particularly through newspapers in which masters placed what were essentially lost property adverts. There are also three famous court cases: Jamie Montgomery (1756), David Spens (1769-1770) and Joseph Knight (1774-1778) which provide further details. Many resisted and rebelled against oppressive conditions in Scotland and flight was one means to do this.

This short tour through imperial Glasgow winded through the ‘Merchant City’. Exactly what is a ‘Merchant City’? No-one says ‘Slave Merchant City’, or ‘Slave produce Merchant City’ so it is important to keep in mind what a ‘Merchant City’ actually was. People MakeThis article has traced locations where the ‘Tobacco Lords’ and ‘Sugar Aristocracy’ worked, lived, worshipped, convened. Some were personal slaveowners and young children would have been brought here in the 1760s. As I thought over the concept of a ‘Slave Merchant City’, I stumbled on the city’s booster slogan ‘People Make Glasgow’. And I instantly agreed. Yes, yes they did.

Dr Stephen Mullen,

Postdoctoral Researcher on the project

Twitter: @DrStephenMullen

Fellowship experience at International Centre for Jefferson Studies

This short blog, covering Nelson’s experience as a Fellow of the International Centre for Jefferson Studies in Monticello, Virginia, might give you a very rough idea of what a fellowship entails, with a few pointers from his own experience. Click for hi-res photos, and if you have any questions you can always tweet @RunawaySlavesGB or @NelsonHistory

Once my application was accepted, a few weeks later I was in contacted by ICJS and told to start the application process for my B1 visa. This was fairly straight forward, but you need to visit an American Embassy to have a quick interview before they will admit you. Most people go to London to fulfill this, but I was advised that Belfast might be quicker, and cost just the same. It was, and I was over and back from Northern Ireland within 16 hours or so, with my passport with new American Visa reaching me in the post a few days later.

20160113_110007

The highlight of my Belfast trip – Ulster Museum.

Arrival

I arrived at Kenwood House, where ICJS is situated, tired of living out of my suitcase and desperate for a semi-permanent room. My previous ten or so days had seen me fit in some research in the Library of Congress in Washington DC, and attend and give a paper at the Eighteenth Century Scottish Studies Society/American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies conference in Pittsburgh. I had had a great time, but was looking forward to sleeping without being awoken by couples squabbling at 4am, or people practising the banjo at 2am (protip: definitely research all your AirBnb bookings). I was given the lovely garage flat just beside Kenwood House and the Jefferson Library, and it was my own space, with kitchen, great shower, excellent bed and a fairly luxurious living room/study. After a couple nights of auditory hallucinations (curse that banjo ‘player’) I settled in, soon growing used to the absolute peace and quiet, it was wonderful.

Kenwood Garage

Kenwood House (left) and the Garage Apartment (right).

Kenwood lunch

Lunch outside the Garage Apartment.

Staff

The first day there I attended the Fellow’s Coffee – bagels, cakes and coffee with a large helping of more coffee. And cakes. And bagels. Here I was introduced to the other fellows and met most of the staff. The staff at ICJS were fantastic. I was the latest in over 500 fellows that have worked with ICJS, and I would be surprised if the first was any more warmly greeted than me. Everyone is interested in your field of study, common connections (first rule of history club: there are always common connections), and you as a person. The expertise at ICJS was frankly stunning: Prof Andrew O’Shaughnessy, Dr Gaye Wilson, Dr Christa Dierksheide, Mary Scott Fleming, and of course there are staff from the Jefferson Library, people such as Foundation Librarian Jack Robertson, Associate Foundation Librarian Endrina Tay and Research Librarian Anna Berkes. And then there are those working on the Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series with editor Jeff Looney. This is not to mention the Archaeological staff, the behind-the-scenes staff, as well as many, many volunteers! Pinning it all together for us fellows was Whitney Pippin, who organised and pulled the strings while there to ensure we got to make the most of the experience. Apart from all being lovely, helpful people, they really are a wealth of information on all areas of Jefferson, Monticello and Revolutionary America.

Monticello (1)

Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s house. Fantastic interactive tour here.

TJ Band1

The U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corp band playing for Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, April 13th.

Other fellows

It was brilliant to meet other academics during my stay, and in a context completely different to any other. A bond grows between you as you all share the same experience, whether or not it’s the first time being a fellow. I was fortunate to meet academics who studied: 18th & 19th C gardens and woman; 18th & 19th C agricultural improvement in Virginia; and a retired academic who proved that you’re never really retired, studying Benjamin Latrobe and his relationship with Jefferson. These different topics became clearer over the course of the fellow’s lunches every week that ICJS organised, where we had a chance to sit down and discuss our findings, but also enjoy each other’s company. Personally, I found it just as captivating when they talked about themselves: their lives, their careers and their adventures, related to history or not.

It also meant we had people to share the experience of discovering a new country or area with. Dismayed at having no-one to grab and go “Will you look at that!” in Washington D.C., it was nice to share the experience of discovering Monticello and Virginia with others. We ended up going on road trips to places like Crabtree Falls, the Blue Ridge, and further afield to Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown. The last two are definitely worth visiting if you manage a Fellowship with ICJS, or find yourself in the general area. Some find the dressing up and accents a tad off putting, but I thought it added to the experience and tried to imagine how it would have looked without all us tourists.

Duke of Gloucester Street, Colonial Williamsburg

Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg.

Pocahontas Governor's Palace

Pocahontas Statue from Historic Jamestowne; Governor’s Palace from Colonial Williamsburg.

My research

My PhD thesis, Race, Ethnicity and Otherness in the North British Press, 1740-1800 will examine the newspapers and periodicals of the time to try and ascertain how the press informed its readers of ‘others’, and how this contributed to their own ideas of identity. While other scholars have examined Scottish Enlightenment thought and philosophy with regard to race and identity, nobody has examined how the newspapers and periodical press articulated such ideas to broader audiences. From my fellowship with ICJS I wanted to research the output of Scots who had travelled to America and printed or published newspapers during the same period.

I had lots of questions I wanted to answer: Was there a distinct and recognizable Scottish way of describing and writing about ‘others’ which survived the journey across the Atlantic, or was it diluted and ‘Americanized’ as Scots published for a different but similar audience? If the latter, did this result in Scots abroad sending ‘Americanized’ ideas about race, otherness and identity back to Scotland, and did these help shape changes in Scottish representations and understandings in its own press?

First, I had to determine who the main Scottish newspapermen in America were. The Jefferson Library provided digitized versions of many newspapers of the colonies and Early Republic, but all too few were edited or published by Scots. I referred to Isaiah Thomas’ The History of Printing in America (1810) and Clarence S. Brigham’s meticulous 19 piece bibliography for the American Antiquarian Society (1913-1961) to try and track down a few of these men. Once I had my targets I was then able to search digitized versions of their newspapers and other published works, using keyword searches to locate articles that refer to race, ethnicity and identity. Unfortunately, the database interface is too clunky and inefficient to allow me to read the pages front to back, as I do with the Scottish newspapers, but keyword searching still provides a good coverage. While the work is still ongoing, it was great to make a good start in on this area, and I hope to do the same with Scots in the Caribbean in my third year.

Nelson forum1

My Fellow’s Forum presentation in my last week.

Some pointers

I am only on my first fellowship, so there will be blogs out there with more experience, but these are a few tips from my own time with Monticello:

  • Research

Research, research, research. Like the old Carnegie Hall joke (“practice”), if one word sums up a fellowship it could arguably be “research”. So, do some looking up on the staff at your destination, find out a little about the other fellows and their fields of interest, determine where the nearest grocery and, depending on your sensibilities, liquor stores are. These small things will make your trip feel not quite as daunting as being relocated somewhere new for a month and being completely unfamiliar with everything (can you guess who didn’t do enough research on grocery stores beforehand?).

  • Don’t live in a bubble

The fellowship experience should also be about your interactions with the world outside your own research. This sounds rather grandiose, but I just mean make sure you enjoy the experiences out-with your research. You will be in a new part of the country, or, if you’re lucky, a new country altogether, and this experience is about helping you grow as a person, by broadening your cultural horizons, gaining new perspectives on how people envisage things, and. Think about how these local contexts may have influenced local academics’ writings, locals’ opinions of politics and culture, and if and how it will influence your own writing.

  • Don’t take too much work with you

We all have too much work to do, and if we stay in academia this will never change. But try not to bring any more than the absolute “have to’s” – you don’t want to be spending your time stuck in your residence marking papers that aren’t due for ages, nor organising events that can be done when you return (and it can be tempting, with the lack of interruptions). Sure, keep your eye on the ball with emails, and doing some work for your institution will always be necessary, but ensure you aren’t keeping yourself away from the real reason you’re on the fellowship.

  • On returning

It was my first time away from Scotland, for that length (six weeks) and by myself. When I came back, it felt very surreal for the first couple of days, the five hour time difference really made everything seem a bit topsy-turvy (and it was sunny, which added to the feeling of being in a bizarro world!). This will get better as I travel more, but it’s worth giving yourself a couple of days to catch up with life and sort yourself out for work – clothes washing, food shopping, routine for work. I came back feeling rejuvenated and eager to get stuck in, but was glad I had laid out a fairly strict timetable for the first two weeks after the initial rest.

  • Enjoy it

It is, I have found, too easy to worry about time slipping away and the mound of work you have to do, the feelings of guilt at not being harried and harassed like your colleagues back home, but you are (as they will rightly remind you) in a very lucky position. You are here to research and write about your own work – this fellowship is about you. I had to stop myself a few times, take a few slow, deep breaths and remind myself that I’m in a very fortunate position. How many people will get to experience this? Surrounded by passionate people, immersed in history, free from day-to-day distractions and more coffee and bagels than you can shake a stick at. Some of the relationships you forge here, I’m told, will last a lifetime, for professional or personal reasons, there’s something quite lovely about that.

Finally…

Finally, remember that the experience doesn’t start from when you arrive, it starts from when you send off that application. Everything along the way should help you grow as an academic and as a person, and I’ve certainly come back a bit more confident about my place in the academic world and where I see myself going in the future, with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work.

 

A version of this blog also exists on my PhD blog: https://peculiaritiesinthepress.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/the-fellowship-experience-at-icjs/

John Witherspoon, Princeton University and Runaway Slaves

A few hundred yards from the bustling centre of the New Jersey college town of Princeton is the town’s two-hundred-and-fifty-year old cemetery.

Princeton Cemetery, N.J.
Princeton Cemetery, N.J.

It is a quiet resting place for everyone from the theologian Jonathan Edwards to Vice President Aaron Burr, the man who shot and killed Alexander Hamilton. Not far from these graves lies the simple tomb of John Witherspoon, who died and was laid to rest here in November 1794, seventy-one years and over three thousand miles from his birthplace in the small village of Gifford, some fifteen miles east of Edinburgh.

John Knox Witherspoon lived a remarkable life. A Presbyterian minister and theologian, he had opposed the Jacobite rising in 1745-46, and he was briefly imprisoned at Doune Castle following the Jacobite victory at the Battle of Falkirk.

Witherspoon St., Princeton, N.J.
Witherspoon St., Princeton, N.J.

Witherspoon’s first ministry was in Beith, Ayrshire (1745-58). Beith was a small market town of some 700 ‘examinable persons’ who were eligible for church membership, including farmers, labourers, and skilled craftsmen including masons, saddlers, shoemakers, smiths, coopers and carpenters. Amongst these was a young boy named Jamie, an apprentice joiner living and working under the supervision of a carpenter named Robert Morrice. Jamie approached Witherspoon and asked to be instructed in Christianity and then baptized and admitted to church membership.

Jamie had been born in Virginia, and he was an enslaved African American, the property of Robert Shedden, Morrice’s brother-in-law. Jamie’s race and status did not prevent Witherspoon from instructing the young man, and eventually baptizing him.

John Witherspoon's burial plot.
John Witherspoon’s burial plot.

Jamie assumed a Scottish surname, Montgomery: perhaps he took the surname from Elizabeth Montgomery, Witherspoon’s wife. Jamie’s owner apparently opposed the young boy’s baptism because of ‘the Fancies of Freedom which it might instill into his Slave.’ Shedden insisted that although Witherspoon had instructed Jamie, the minister had been careful to tell the young enslaved man ‘over and over again’ that baptism ‘by no means freed him from his Servitude.’

But perhaps Witherspoon had been less certain. He gave Jamie a certificate of good Christian conduct, a kind of religious passport which would enable him to worship and take communion in other churches. Such documents were usually given to people who expected to travel and live elsewhere, and shortly after receiving this certificate Jamie ran away from his master, eventually settling in Edinburgh where he worked as a joiner and perhaps even worshipped at a church in the city, until he was captured and imprisoned, where he died.

This was not to be the first time that Witherspoon would encounter enslaved African Americans. In 1768 he accepted an invitation to become president of the small Presbyterian College of New Jersey (Princeton University).DSC06774-Easy-Resize Witherspoon did much to make a success of the small and struggling college, and he is commemorated as one of the university’s most important leaders. His achievements reached far beyond the small college. Arriving in the colonies immediately after the Stamp Act crisis, Witherspoon became a leading Patriot, and was elected to represent New Jersey in the Second Continental Congress. A signer of the Declaration of Independence and an active revolutionary, Witherspoon was forced to evacuate the College of New Jersey when the British army captured the town late in 1776. He supervised the repairs of Nassau Hall thereafter, and in the summer of 1783 the college briefly served as the capital of the new American republic.

Slave ownership was common in New Jersey, and pervasive in the Southern colonies. Witherspoon supported himself and his family with a small New Jersey farm, but much of the labour on the farm was furnished by enslaved men and women who he owned. At his death Witherspoon’s estate included two enslaved people, human property that he willed to his heirs. Indeed, in 1790 Witherspoon voted against a plan for the gradual abolition of slavery in New Jersey, although this may have been because he thought the plan ill-conceived rather than because he opposed the freeing of slaves.

John Witherspoon provides a good example of the complexity of slavery in eighteenth-century Britain and America. An educational reformer, and an exponent of Scottish moral sense philosophy, Witherspoon may well have felt a natural opposition to slavery. As a young minister, he may have been heartened by Jamie Montgomery’s Christianisation: it was surely the first time that he had helped a heathen, as he would have seen the young man, become a God-fearing Christian. Perhaps, too, Witherspoon knew that he was helping the young Jamie prepare to seize his own freedom.

Yet in America Witherspoon would himself own slaves, and he did not become a vocal opponent of the institution. Did this mean that he had become as pro-slavery, and perhaps even as racist as many white Americans? Perhaps, and it is hard to reconcile his slave-ownership with his earlier interactions with Jamie Montgomery. But we do not know the nature of Witherspoon’s relationship with the African Americans he owned. Did he instruct them in Christianity, and did he foresee an eventual life of freedom for them and their descendants? It is all but impossible to know what Witherspoon really thought about African Americans and about the institution of slavery.

Not far from John Witherspoon’s grave in Princeton Cemetery is the last resting place of James Collins, who died in 1902. James_Johnson_AC67_BoxMP4Johnson was born a slave in Maryland in 1816, but he ran away in about 1843 and changed his name to James Johnson, making his way to Princeton where he made a living working in the university. However, he was recognised and his master alerted, who promptly instituted a law suit to recover his escaped property. The Fugitive Slave Act would have required Johnson’s return to slavery in Maryland, but a wealthy Princeton resident named Theodosia Prevost intervened and purchased Johnson’s freedom. Grateful to his benefactor, Johnson slowly repaid her with the price of his purchase, and he continued making a living as a janitor and used clothing salesman, before securing the right to sell food and drink to students on the college campus. For the rest of his life he sold food and drink from a barrow to Princeton students, including at college football games. When he died, after more than sixty years of living in Princeton, university students clubbed together to purchase a memorial stone which lies atop his grave to this day, commemorating him as ‘the students’ friend’.

In the 1750s as a young minister John Witherspoon had befriended a young enslaved man in the middle of Ayrshire, welcoming him into the minister’s congregation, and whether intentionally or not, helping the young man in his plan to run away and secure his freedom. Today, more than two centuries later, Witherspoon lies at rest only yards from the grave of another runaway slave, a man who was supported in his escape by the students of the college Witherspoon had done so much to develop. As with so many British Americans, Witherspoon’s relationship with and attitudes toward slavery is complicated, and it is in these complexities and contradictions that we can come closer to understanding how and why racial slavery existed as it did in America and Britain more than two centuries ago.

Simon P. Newman

Final image credits: James Johnson and unknown young man, c.1890. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC67), Box MP4. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University.

 

 

Harriet Tubman and Andrew Jackson

In 2020 the United States Treasury will begin issuing new $20 bills, and on 20 April 2016 Jacob L. Lew, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, announced that Harriet Tubman would replace President Andrew Jackson on the front of these new notes. Jackson’s image will be relegated to the reverse side of the new currency. $20 noteTubman will be the first American woman to appear on U.S. paper currency in more than a century (Martha Washington and Pocahontas appeared on American paper currency in the late nineteenth century).

It is a momentous decision, for a runaway slave woman will be replacing a slave-holding president.runaway advertisement Jackson was a planter who owned hundreds of slaves, and when one of these slaves ran away in 1804 Jackson was clearly angered that his human property had eloped. Approximately thirty years-old and over six feet tall, the man had contrived to secure forged papers which would enable him to pass as a free man. Angrily Jackson promised that any person who captured the runaway outside of Tennessee would receive not only the reward of fifty dollars, but a further reward of ‘ten dollars extra, for every hundred lashes any person will give him, to the amount of three hundred.’

If Jackson was angry at his own eloped slave, a runaway like Harriet Tubman would have enraged him. Born into slavery in Maryland in about 1822, Tubman was beaten and whipped as a child and young woman, and one of these injuries impaired her with seizures for the rest of her life.Tubman advertisement In 1849 when her owner’s death threatened the sale and break-up of her family, Tubman decided to escape. A first attempt prompted her master to place his own advertisement in a local newspaper, eager to reclaim this valuable woman. She soon tried again, and this time made it the almost hundred miles to Pennsylvania, and she recalled that on crossing onto free soil ‘I felt like I was in Heaven.’

Having secured her own freedom, Tubman chose to return to Maryland at least ten times, acting as a conductor of the Underground Railroad, and guiding approximately three hundred enslaved men, women and children to freedom, including members of her own family.Harriet Tubman This was incredibly dangerous work, and had she been captured Tubman would quite likely have lost her life. Frederick Douglass, another runaway slave who was campaigning against slavery throughout the American North and the British Isles, had nothing but admiration for Tubman. He wrote to her acknowledging that he had ‘wrought in the day – you in the night’. While Douglass had been campaigning, Tubman had been risking her life to rescue people from slavery. ‘I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have,’ Douglass concluded. Small wonder that Tubman was affectionately known as ‘Moses.’

The Federal Reserve website reports that in 2015 there were more than 8.6 billion $20 bills in circulation. In a few year’s time Harriet Tubman’s face will be on all of those twenty dollar bills, and her’s will have become one of the most widely printed, disseminated and recognized female faces in the United States. A runaway slave will have become one of the foremost faces of America.

Simon P. Newman

Images:

(1) Current US $20 note

(2) Runaway Slave Advertisement placed by Andrew Jackson in the Tennessee Gazette, and Mero District Advertiser (Nashville), 26 September 1804. The advertisement was reprinted at least four and perhaps as many as seven times over the following two months. See Robert P. Hay, ‘“And Ten Dollars Extra, for Every Hundred Lashes Any Person Will Give Him, to the Amount of Three Hundred,”’ Tennessee Historical Quarterly, 36, 4 (1977), 468-78.

(3)Runaway slave advertisement for Harriet Tubman (named as Minty), Cambridge Democrat (Dorchester, Maryland), 3 October 1849.

(4) Harriet Tubman (photograph by H.B. Lindsley, ca. 1860-75, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-7816

Project Team: United States Research/Symposium Trip, April 2016

This article summarises a University of Glasgow research/symposium trip to the United States of America in April 2016. Professor Simon Newman, Dr. Stephen Mullen, Mr Nelson Mundell, Dr Felicity Donohoe and postgraduate researchers Debra Burnett and Marenka Odlum-Thompson made the trip across the Atlantic which was centred around a symposium at the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville, VA, on 11-15 April 2016.

Staff and students from Glasgow and Edinburgh at UVA
Staff and students from Glasgow and Edinburgh at UVA

The trip was made in collaboration with scholars from the University of Edinburgh, led by Professor Frank Cogliano. For nine years, there has been a monthly transatlantic videoconference (held at the University of Edinburgh and UVA) attended by staff and postgraduate students at Virginia, Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities: the trip connected friends and colleagues who have been in regular collegiate discussion for almost a decade. The participation of Glasgow staff, postdocs and Ph.D students was made possible by a grant from the Chancellor’s Fund of the University of Glasgow, as well as an award from the Embassy of the United States. Additional support came from the University of Edinburgh.

George Washington Monument
George Washington Monument

Several of the Glasgow team took advantage of the trip to look at archive holdings related to their personal research. Due to generous assistance from the University of Glasgow History Research Support Fund, Stephen Mullen spent some time in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C and Princeton University. Nelson Mundell is on an extended fellowship (blog to follow!) at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies (ICJS).

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

And academics get a day off too! Allowing for some time for a little sight-seeing of famous landmarks: United States Capitol Building, Independence Avenue (with many museums), The Washington Monument and The White House.

The real work began on Tuesday 12 April 2016 at the University of Virginia. At UVA, we were provided with a tour of Harrison Institute and Small Special Collections Library including a museum exhibit of material related to the American War of Independence. There was also a tour of the Digital Production Group and their work, including digitisation the letters of Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson bust, Harrison Institute, UVA
Thomas Jefferson bust, Harrison Institute, UVA

The Edinburgh/Glasgow team were allowed a special viewing of Thomas Jefferson materials by Edward Gaynor, Librarian for Virginia and University Archives. Edward discussed Jefferson’s role in establishing the University of Virginia in 1819 including his preference for English, Irish and Scottish Professors over Germans in the early days (although a German Professor was employed in any case)! The Postdocs from both Edinburgh and Glasgow met with Professor Alan Taylor of UVA for a useful discussion. Simultaneously, postgraduate students attended Max Edelson’s Graduate Seminar in Nau Hall, UVA. On the evening, Glasgow, Edinburgh and UVA staff and students attended the Early American Seminar at ICJS to hear Edinburgh Ph.D student Ryan McGuiness’ paper on ‘The Barbadian Import and Export Trade, 1680-1700’.

The project team were present at Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s slave plantation in Charlottesville) on 13 April 2016, which was Jefferson’s 273rd birthday.

Thomas Jefferson statue, Monticello
Thomas Jefferson statue, Monticello

There was a short ceremony – with the US Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corp – for Jefferson’s birthday and Founders Day which was followed by an acceptance speech by Marian Wright Edelman, who was awarded the 2016 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Citizen Leadership.

U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corp
U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corp

The team were treated to a bespoke tour of Jefferson’s Monticello by Liz Marshall. Back at UVA in the afternoon many attended the Cross Lecture by Professor Gary Gallagher entitled: ‘All About US: Projection, Wishful Thinking, and Anachronism in Recent Civil War Scholarship’. Thursday 14 April was workshop day centred on career development on both sides of the Atlantic: Professors Frank Cogliano, Max Edelson, Simon Newman and Alan Taylor were joined in discussion with Head of UVA Press, Dick Holway. Postgraduates enjoyed a dissertation workshop in the afternoon, presenting short outlines of their ongoing research projects. There was a concluding dinner in Charlottesville in the evening.

Some of the team made their way back to Washington D.C. on Friday 15 April. Others stayed on. I (Stephen Mullen) made my way to Princeton University in New Jersey to look at archive holdings in Special Collections.

Nassau Hall, Princeton University
Nassau Hall, Princeton University

Princeton has strong connections with Scotland and the Scottish Enlightenment and is Professor Simon Newman’s alma mater. A Scots Minister, John Witherspoon was President of Princeton (1768-1794) during the revolutionary period and was the only college president to sign the Declaration of Independence. It was a great experience to be researching in an Ivy League University with such strong Scottish connections. In all, this was an illuminating multifaceted trip: many gained important professional experience, met new friends, undertook research or delivered presentations on their work. The Glasgow team were sad to leave and we hope to see our friends in Edinburgh and at UVA in the near future.