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Wright, Frances (1795-1852)

Frances Wright was the first woman in America to act publicly against slavery: in 1825 she bought a tract of land twenty miles outside a little Mississippi River trading post named Memphis, and there she established a commune she called Nashoba. Its purpose was to discover and then to demonstrate how slaves could be responsibly educated and then freed without undue cost to their owners. (To impose a disproportionate burden on one part of the nation when the institution of slavery plagued and disgraced us all seemed to Fanny Wright both unfair and politically unwise. Her political sense, such as it was, deserted her, however, when she published an article about Nashoba claiming that sexual passion was “the strongest and…the noblest of the human passions,” the basis of “the best joys of our existence,” and “the best source of human happiness.” This at a time when allowing an ankle to show in public doomed a woman’s reputation.)Continue Reading »

Sampson, Deborah (1760-1827)

For over two years, Deborah’s true sex had escaped detection. She had had close calls with both discovery and death: fainting on that first march to West Point, lying that she had had smallpox when the soldiers were culled for vaccination in the winter of 1782, receiving a revealing wound in June of 1781, and nearly drowning in the Croton River in December of that year. In the first half of 1783, she had taken a perilous trip through the snow to the frontiers of upstate New York, had been attacked by robbers, and had avoided bathing in the Hudson River with the rest of the troops. All this and more she had successfully navigated. She knew that unconsciousness was her greatest danger because then she could not rely on quick thinking to get her out of trouble. She also feared being in a hospital where she could be subjected to the unwanted probing of the doctor. Now both things that she had dreaded the most, even more than the prospect of death, had happened. Dr. Benjamin Binney did discover her secret, which he eventually made known in a letter to General Peterson on Deborah’s return to the army.Continue Reading »

Prince Edward County, VA School Closings

Written by Joan Lowe. “In 1959 Shirley turned 6 years old. Her excitement grew as fall approached because she would be going to school for the first time. What she didn’t understand was that 1959 was to be different. The US Federal Court had ordered Prince Edward County, Virginia, where Shirley lived, to desegregate its schools. And the county school board, rather than integrate their system as ordered, closed all the public schools.”Continue Reading »

Roosevelt, Eleanor and the AFSC

Written by Jack Sutters, former AFSC archivist. “Eleanor Roosevelt’s association with the AFSC began before Franklin Roosevelt’s inauguration in March 1933.”Continue Reading »

AFSC and the Mountaineer’s Craftsmen Cooperative Association

In 1932, Herbert Hoover asked the AFSC if it would take money left over from the American Relief Administration Children’s Fund and start a feeding program in the mining districts once again. The Service Committee agreed to do this, but it soon became apparent to those carrying out the project that more than just feeding needed to be done. It appeared the mining industry might never fully recover from the economic collapse of the time. Miners were underemployed, if employed at all. Most knew only mining and felt inadequate in attempting any other form of employment. For many reasons miners and their families were reluctant to leave the place where they were born and had lived all their lives.Continue Reading »

Federal Government and Negro Workers Under Woodrow Wilson – J. MacLaury

Paper written by Judson MacLaury, U.S. Department of Labor Historian, and delivered at the Annual Meeting for the Society for History in the Federal Government. It reflects another step in the evolution of the civil rights movement and a graphic description of some of the political and governmental obstacles the African-American community faced in becoming an integral part of American society. Continue Reading »

Black Studies in the Department of Labor, 1897-1907

By Jonathan Grossman. “At the dawn of the 20th century, when 8.5 million blacks constituted about 12 percent of the population of the United States…not a single first‑grade college in America undertook to give any considerable scientific attention to the American Negro.”Continue Reading »

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in 1909 by W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, and Mary White Ovington and is recognized as the United States’ oldest civil rights organizationContinue Reading »

Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)

The Congress of Racial Equality pioneered direct nonviolent action in the 1940s before playing a major part in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Founded by an interracial group of pacifists at the University of Chicago in 1942, CORE used nonviolent tactics to challenge segregation in Northern cities during the 1940s. Continue Reading »

Civil Rights Act of 1964

In the 1960s, Americans who knew only the potential of “equal protection of the laws” expected the president, the Congress, and the courts to fulfill the promise of the 14th Amendment. In response, all three branches of the federal government–as well as the public at large–debated a fundamental constitutional question: Does the Constitution’s prohibition of denying equal protection always ban the use of racial, ethnic, or gender criteria in an attempt to bring social justice and social benefits? Continue Reading »

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