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Detroit’s First Race Riot & Toronto’s First Cab Company

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 Thornton and Lucie Blackburn fled from enslavement in Kentucky in 1831. They fled north to Detroit, MI and became beloved members of the local community. Their former master attempted to apprehend them from Detroit in 1833. The Blackburn’s were jailed for violating the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. A day before they were scheduled to be returned to slavery, the actions of several brave African American men and women secured their escape to permanent freedom. Continue reading “Detroit’s First Race Riot & Toronto’s First Cab Company”

Hush Harbors: The Secret and Sacred Worship of The Enslaved

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The religious gatherings of enslaved Africans involved both formal worship organized and overseen by slave masters, as well as secret, clandestine meetings held under the cover of darkness. Those enslaved risked being beaten or even killed if caught attending these secret worship assemblies.
Continue reading “Hush Harbors: The Secret and Sacred Worship of The Enslaved”

13 HONEST, Books About Slavery To Share With Your Children (Courtesy of Huffington Post)

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Huffington Post writer Claire Fallon shares recommendations on 13 books for children that discuss slavery with age appropriate candor and honesty.  With Scholastic Publishers recently pulling a children’s book that misrepresented slavery, this list is very timely.  It’s very likely that the issue of slavery is not being fully unpacked at many schools. These books could be a great resource for discussion.

As parents we are our children’s first teachers!  Click here  to view the list of books.

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“Indeed, The Interests Of The Oppressors Lie In Changing The Consciousness Of The Oppressed, NOT THE SITUATION THAT OPPRESSES THEM. -Paulo Freire


Cake Mix Controversy: Scholastic Pulls George Washington Book Due To Its Depiction of Slaves

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“A Birthday Cake For George Washington” was released to the public on January 5, 2016. Since it’s release it has received much criticism for its characterization of Washington’s slave cook, Hercules, and his daughter Delia. Scholastic is now saying that the book may give a “false impression” of slave life and is pulling the book from publication.  In a statement, Scholastic said, “While we have great respect for the integrity and scholarship of the author, illustrator and editor, we believe that, without more historical background on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn.” Continue reading “Cake Mix Controversy: Scholastic Pulls George Washington Book Due To Its Depiction of Slaves”

The History & Origin Of The New Year’s Eve “Watch Night” Service

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In the Christian community, “Watch Night” refers to worship services held on New Year’s Eve. Watch Night services have been celebrated since the 1700’s. Watch Night took on a special meaning, when on December 31, 1862, also known as, “Freedom’s Eve”, slaves were eagerly awaiting the Emancipation Proclamation which would go into effect on January 1, 1863. Continue reading “The History & Origin Of The New Year’s Eve “Watch Night” Service”

Are You Free?

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slave quote

Continue reading “Are You Free?”

Oliver Gordon: The Man Behind The Image

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

Oliver Gordon
Oliver Gordon

Many have seen this picture of a male slave exposing the horrific scarring on his back. To many the image is a disturbing reminder of the brutal and inhumane treatment of blacks during slavery.  However, few people know the name of the man pictured in the image.    Oliver Gordon is the man pictured in the image.  Gordon received the scars from being beaten in the fall of 1862. The beating was so severe that it left him with welts across his back. It took him 2 months to recuperate from his injuries. During his recuperation, Gordon decided to attempt an escape.

He ran away in March 1863. After discovering Gordon’s escape, his master began to pursue him. Bloodhounds were used to track him down. Figuring that his master would try to recapture him, Gordon rubbed onions on his body to throw off the dogs scent. Gordon made it successfully to a Union Army camp in Baton Rouge 10 days on the run. His journey was approximately 80 miles.

The scarring on his back was discovered and photographed when Union Army medical personnel examined him when he enlisted in the Union Army after his escape.  He was asked to have his back photographed to highlight the cruel treatment of slavery.  The photo was mass produced and widely sold and distributed.  Little is known about his life after enlistment in the Union Army.

With the image being widely sold and distributed, it would be interesting to know if Gordon was ever compensated for the use of his image?

Did you miss yesterday’s post? Click here to view!

Andre Reboucas: Inventor Of The Torpedo

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Andre Reboucas
Andre Reboucas

Andre Reboucas was born in 1838 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was the son of a former slave and a Portuguese tailor. Reboucas was educated at the Military School of Rio de Janeiro and became an engineer after completing studies in Europe. He became famous in Rio de Janeiro for improving water supply to the city, bringing it from fountain heads outside the town. In 1864, Reboucas was named a lieutenant during the Paraguayan War. Naval warfare played a significant role in this military conflict. Reboucas designed an immersible device which could be projected under water, causing an explosion with any ship it hit. The device became known as the torpedo.

After his military service Reboucas began teaching at the Polytechnical School in Rio de Janeiro. He became very wealthy and used his finances to aid in the Brazilian abolition movement to end slavery there. He eventually moved to Funchal Madeira off the coast of Africa. He died there in 1898.

Lily Ann Granderson: Started “Midnight School” To Educate Slaves

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Lily Ann Granderson also known as MIlla Granson, was born a slave in 1816 in Virginia. She was moved to Kentucky as a child, where she was taught to read by the children of her owner, even though it was illegal to educate slaves. She then organized a clandestine school, eventually educating hundreds of slaves. She carried on this secret project first in Kentucky and then in Mississippi for seven years, helping many slaves to write freedom passes that allowed them to escape North. The school was finally discovered by authorities in Kentucky, becoming the subject of lengthy debate in the state legislature. After much deliberation, they passed a bill making it possible for slaves to teach other slaves.

When her master died she was sold to a Mississippi slave owner and worked in the cotton fields. She soon, however, began to work in the main house where she started a “midnight school”. Laws in Mississippi prevented slaves from becoming taught how to read and write by their owners. So teaching had to be done in secret.   Punishment would have been severe if she was discovered. Granson taught hundreds of slaves how to read and write between 11pm to 2am at night.

She generally had about 12 students in her class at a time. When missionaries arrived in 1863 to set up schools for black children in the wake of the civil war, they were surprised to learn about Granderson’s “moonlight” school that was already in operation. As a free woman, Granderson was hired as a teacher by the American Missionary Association. Last reported records regarding Granson indicated that she was 54 years old in 1880, still teaching and married.  The date of death is uncertain.


Did you miss yesterday’s post about the “Wailing Wall” in Detroit?  Click the link below to learn about how the wall was used to facilitate housing discrimination.

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