.

.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Discussion question from reading for Wednesday

Post your paragraph-long questions by noon on Wednesday, January 18. Remember to include some context to connect your question directly to the reading: 

15 comments:

  1. I was personally unaware of the true extent of slavery in Kentucky’s history. Astor’s article talks a lot about the different forms of slavery that were common in Kentucky prior to the American Civil War such as the domestic/household slaves seen primarily in cities as well as the frequent use of slave hiring. How did Kentucky’s political and geographical position as a border state impact the extent and prevalence of slavery at the time? I was also unfamiliar with how Kentucky’s political stance was considered to be moderate since I’ve always heard of Kentucky as a more conservative state as a whole. Astor discusses the moderate political climate of Kentucky in relation to the general consensus of the North and South. How did the fact Kentucky was a border state contribute to the reasoning behind what is selected and what is left out of the common education curriculum of Kentucky students about slavery in Kentucky? Why is there often such a disconnect between true/recorded history and the history taught in schools in general when it is so important in understanding the world we are living in today?

    ReplyDelete
  2. In the second paragraph on page 300 Astor states that the North and the South both felt it was important for whites to maintain supremacy over blacks and that the two regions simply took different approaches to achieve the same goal. Northern states tried to exclude blacks altogether while Southern states chose to maintain slave holding. How may these practices have affected race relations among future generations?

    ReplyDelete
  3. At the risk of sounding naive, I had not truly understood how entrenched in racism and white supremacy this country has been ever since its inception until I read this article. Astor points out on page 300 that “most white Northerners and Southerners agreed with this racial order,” (referring to white supremacy) though each group tended to take a different approach to upholding the order. Typically, the Union is painted as morally opposed to slavery, though historically, we know this not to be entirely true. Years later, these attitudes still exist, but what methods reinforce these ideas? As this article illustrates, there are many, many factors and complex narratives that led to the Civil War, yet why is this significant time in this nation’s history boiled down to simple ideas, particularly in schools? Why not be more honest about the attitudes and actions of the people before us?

    ReplyDelete
  4. One thing I know I'm guilty of is a small moment of surprise anytime actual, specific, physical locations that I recognize are sited in historical accounts/analyses. This happened for me in this reading on pages 296 and 297 when Astor references the percentages in Woodford County and Fayette County of enslaved people. Obviously there are a lot of specific cities and counties mentioned throughout but this was the first instance in the reading that struck me. Anytime places I recognize, even if it is larger areas like entire counties, I am forced to reckon with spaces I am familiar with being a part of this history. Which is a good thing, as far as my own personal education goes. But I think this shock isn't a good thing in general. Because obviously the spaces I am familiar with have histories like this, and having a moment of "oh right" is a privilege that not everyone is afforded. I do wonder, however, if I am alone in this completely. Was this lack of association an educational, systemic fail or is this a personal educational failing? Are there ways we can have a more active relationship be present with the spaces we enter and the history of that space?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Astor discusses how the practice of slave hiring "played a critical role in balancing the social order defined by slavery" (299) but does not spend much time outlining the details of this "social order." We can imagine what some of the social order looked like and there are a few accounts in the article of how it was manifest at the time. What are the ways this same social order manifests today? Some are the legacies of acts like selling women slaves of child-bearing age to break up and destabilize families. Other manifestations of this social order that still remain inform our language just as the writer for the "Frankfort Commonwealth" used language to reference the social order when saying "now that the excitement of the moment has passed, the strong undercurrent of genuine Northern patriotism is beginning to be felt."(308) I was surprised to see "patriotism" used in this way--where a "patriot" is someone committed to preserving slavery and the social order that came with it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. One element of the article that I found interesting was that Astor discusses cities in Kentucky, one of which is home to our university, and gives us information about the history of slavery in them. I feel like, when studying history in general, our geographical locations are not often emphasized, and I was wondering if there are ways to get a conversation started on how to convey the history of slavery in this state to its citizens.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Growing up in Kentucky, I could always sense the feeling of pride expressed by my elementary school teachers after learning that Kentucky did not secede from the Union. While our state was technically neutral and contained divided support leading up to and during the Civil War, it seemed like the few thousand more soldiers sent to the Union put Kentucky on "the right side of history." However, since reading about the complicated Unionism that existed in mid-century Kentucky, that claim seems like an odd fit. All these years later, can the state truly claim that it was in the right for staying in the Union despite the prevalence of slave-holding and -hiring, racial violence, and harmful attitudes towards former slaves? Is being a border state worthy of retroactive praise?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Being from Tennessee I was always taught that every state that had slavery seceded I never once thought about border states and we did not touch upon them at all. It never occurred to me that Kentucky had been a border state and never really left the union. To be fair I know very little about my states post war society. How well is this history passed in schools? I feel like this is an important document that should be adapted for schools to read and know more.

    ReplyDelete
  9. There is so much about this article that is new knowledge for me and that raises this central question: Why is the history we are taught so simplified and so different from the complex historical processes that took place? One of the things this article does really well is emphasize the agency of those who were enslaved. Despite stereotypical ideas about slaves as utterly powerless, this article insists that they played a key role in their own emancipation. For instance, on p.314 Astor writes “Not subject to the Emancipation Proclamation, the slave population of Kentucky and that of the other border states and Tennessee launched one of the great social revolutions in modern history. First in a trickle, then in a flood, a sizeable portion of the slave population of Kentucky escaped to Federal encampments.” We are all too used to the narrative of President Lincoln freeing the slaves, of well-meaning whites being involved with the Underground Railroad. I believe we’ve overlooked the tremendous agency of the enslaved and all that they accomplished themselves on the road to freedom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You stole my comment! But I agree---this was the most striking feature of the article and a narrative to which I have not been previously exposed. Too often, in American history as well as contemporary American politics, the greatest degree of agency regarding the reversal (or removal) of systemic racism is granted to white men, who are shown using their privilege to "help" people of color. And while these accounts are important and perhaps deserve to be celebrated, they perpetuate the concept of communities of color being "lesser than" and/or requiring the help of white people.

      Delete
  10. Throughout my experience with growing up within the Kentucky public school system my first thing I can remember about learning about slavery was our teachers made our class lie down side by side under our desks. We did this in order to emulate what it was like on the slave ships. Going to a school called Veterans Park you could probably guess that the schools sense of national pride was through the roof, and this was also the same with the schools pride in our state. We were only ever taught how terrible slavery was in the south. Although they did include that Kentucky was a border state, and how it acted as kind of a hybrid state, I never knew that our state had such huge involvement in slave trade. With the article came new clarity about Kentucky's history with slavery, and how our involvement pushed racism that has continued through this day. I know that many of my classmates are asking the similar question, but I think that means that it is a really important one. So why is what we are taught in schools so skewed away from what exists in the article, and is the public school system currently attempting to alter/broaden what they have been teaching?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Like many comments posted thus far, I admit as well that I was not aware that Kentuckians who were pro-Union did not necessarily mean that they were abolitionists. However, the majority of the population in Kentucky, especially in the bluegrass region, considered themselves a conservative Unionist, one who wanted Kentucky to remain in the Union for reasons of lineage, strong connections to northern states, and the differences of slavery compared to the dominant cotton agriculture of the Deep South. Growing up in Lexington and attending public school, and also an avid history buff of Kentucky, reading this essay informed me of this history, which is well articulated in this article, that I was never taught or landed on in individual google searches. Even the copper landmarks around Lexington, even the one at Cheapside, fail to share the information of how pro-slavery Kentucky was despite the fact they were pro-Union. Kentuckians were as afraid of losing their way of life just as those in the Deep South. All of this history, especially learning about the underground trade and the power of black churches, needs to be brought to light, and we need to find a way to show the "courage patience, and above all, inclusive intelligence" of the slaves of the Bluegrass region. Reading through this article and also being aware that we are using this history to inform elementary students, I wondered if we were aware of the intellect, the bravery of the slaves in Lexington at a younger age, if we would have generated empathy and a desire for more of an understanding, of why the cruelty of slaves was in our past, in our own hometown, eventually allowing us to understand the importance of representation and memorials to those whose lives were not given the freedom that is present (yet still struggles) today.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Media and journalism are at the center of a contemporary debate on misinformation, bias, and trust, with some factions of the political spectrum delegitimizing the "Fourth Estate" to defend the truth. Throughout the article, Astor depicts white fears being calmed by the press, which often minimized the efforts of abolitionists and condemned and/or quieted the sensationalism of slave revolts. I have two questions regarding this phenomenon: 1) To what degree were newspapers "censored" or directed in such a way that subverted the fears (and perhaps "blinded") Kentuckians to the momentum of abolitionism in the North and the potential for slave revolt? And 2) to what degree did formerly enslaved populations counter whitewashed media in the Reconstruction Era, given that they had formed substantial networks of "underground" communication prior to the Civil War?

    ReplyDelete
  13. When beginning this class, the assignment of "Flowers of Remembrance" seemed beautiful in every way except for the location. The realization that Cheapsite was a slave market in the middle of Kentucky was very hard to swallow. I wanted to believe that Kentucky was home to peace and equality, and that my ancestors could have never “owned” anyone. Due to my somewhat limited stereotypically knowledge of slavery amongst America, one comment in the article stood out to me greatly. “While some slaves were hired out to other slaveholders looking to expand their labor force for seasonal demand, most hirers were nonslaveholders who needed one or two extra hands to help with domestic work or in small shops run by carpenters, blacksmiths, and other skilled craftsmen.” (Astor, 299) Although I was uncomfortable with knowing that such a great amount of slave trade occurred in Kentucky, the thought of them not occupying the traditional cotton fields and farms I always turned to offered some peace of mind.

    ReplyDelete