Throw it on Your Back, Your Bed and Your Floor but Don’t Forget Where it Came From

President Donald Trump has brought a lot of attention to the Civil War this week. Making scholars remind us of the truth about that war, maybe even confusing us. History buffs will let you know that the Civil War wasn’t all about freeing slaves. It was also about preserving the Union. Ouch. That hurts.

Dividing the United States of America was unthinkable to the North. America’s economy was in crisis. At the beginning of the Civil War, the price of cotton started to increase, obviously because the north was shut off from the south but in 1865, when Robert E. Lee surrendered, the price dropped.

Fortunes were made on the backs of slaves who labored in the sun-drenched cotton fields. People died out in those hot fields. And today, we forget all about that. We take our cotton for granted. We throw it on our beds, onto our backs, onto our floors and into our mattresses. We dry off with it and lay on top of it at the beach. We make balls of it to swab our skin and make strips of it to use as bandages and slings. Tents, tarps, you name it, we’ve made it from cotton. How many of us think of the history behind cotton? It’s hard to understand all the politics surrounding the Civil War but the next time you put your hands on cotton, think of all the history behind it. And be grateful that it is behind us.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the series, Civil War Era Romances. Available here:

Book One, Black Pansy: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1484900278

Book Two, Blue Violet: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018ZWX0R4

Book Three, Black Lilac: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EKJMTKA

Book Four, Ellie: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LWVNCTS

Book Five, Rose Thorn: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X1GN58T

Book Six, Mississippi Wild Blue: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072L2WWMR

Southern History… The Legend of Dixie or was it Manhattan?

Most Americans have heard the song about Dixieland. And in the history books, we’re taught about the Mason and Dixon’s Line, a survey boundary line that was used to designate free states from slave states. So, it’s easy to see how people assume that Dixieland is somehow related. But there is another story and it is one far removed from the South, in Manhattan no less. The story goes that in the early 1800’s, a man named Dixie had a plantation on Manhattan Island. He had many slaves. When slavery was outlawed in the Northern United States, Dixie sold them into slavery to Southern plantations. The Manhattan Dixie story has him treating his slaves so well, they longed to return to his “paradise,” Dixie’s land. Slavery was not paradise. Occasionally, white “masters” treated their slaves well but my research shows that by and large, American plantation owners were unkind (that’s putting it mildly) to their slaves. Yet even in captivity, people by nature will find things to appreciate.

Life is beautiful. Especially when you’re free. In the last half of the twentieth century, African Americans returned to the South in great numbers. Not because it was paradise but because they had history there. And maybe they wanted to enjoy some of the fruits of their labor. After all, those beautiful plantations were built upon their backs.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the Civil War Era romance, Rose Thorn. Available here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X1GN58T

Black Like Me

Black PansyYears ago there was a white author who darkened his face and went into the world to see if he would be treated differently. He was and he wrote a book about it, “Black Like Me.” A white person can never really know what obstacles African Americans have overcome in the decades post Civil War, but they can read about it. And often the books are free, either in the library or as an Amazon free Kindle classic. In the Kindle search field, type “free history books.” Two of my favorites are, “Up From Slavery: An Autobiography,” by Booker T. Washington and “The Underground Railroad,” by William Still.BLOG Size FRONT Canva Cover Secret Genealogy V

My father was from the Old South. When I was a child, he told me stories about his experiences and friendships with African Americans.  As an adult, somehow I stumbled onto writing romances with ethnic conflicts. I’ve read about the history of the “Negro Church,” and the above two mentioned books, and have immersed myself in research on ancient slavery and black genealogy. Sometimes when I pull my head out of one of these books, I have a sense of what it feels like to have been persecuted and oppressed because of the color of my skin and I am impressed with the fortitude and optimism that African Americans have shown, considering the obstacles that were put upon them.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the Civil War Era Historic Romance, Black Pansy: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Pansy-Suellen-Ocean/dp/1484900278

and Secret Genealogy V- Black, White and Hamite; Ancestors of Color in Our Family Trees:https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-Hamite-Ancestors-Family/dp/153518972X

 

 

Mixed-Race Love Affairs Throughout History…

BlackPansyKindleCoverI’m an author and a blogger. I write about a wide variety of issues and many of the historical things I write about are not pleasant but that does not make me shy away. But there’s one issue that I keep avoiding. I think it’s because I can’t believe it. After the Civil War, Mississippi accepted that former slaves lived together and had families. The children became legitimate and the marriages became legal. That must have brought relief. But at the same time, Mississippi condemned mixed-race marriage partners to… life in prison. Life in prison? Because two people love each other and they don’t happen to have the same skin color? Are you kidding me? Wow. That was only a-hundred-and-fifty-years ago. Life in prison? Unbelievable. There must be more to it.

What’s interesting is that during the middle ages in Spain, mixed race marriages were no big deal. It was not uncommon for affluent women to take black lovers. On the other hand, back in 1724 when the French were in charge of the Louisiana territory, which Mississippi was a part of, they too forbade mixed race marriages and cohabitation. The French said, “We forbid our white subjects, of both sexes, to marry with the blacks…” When white masters took advantage of their female slaves the master was fined and deprived of the slave and the children but the slave who was forced into the relationship and the children arising from it were “… forever incapable of being set free.”

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Millions of people, black and white, live in America today and their DNA tells us unequivocally that the Louisiana Code Noir, the Slave Code, did not stop people from inter-racial relationships. Nor did the harsh penalty of life in prison after the Civil War. And let’s be clear. There were plenty of instances of deep love that crossed the color lines. Here is one of those I ran across in my research:

Peter, 27, stout fellow. The negro lived with Stephen Townsend of Charlestown, South Carolina that near 2 years ago married Mr. Townsend’s daughter when his master gave him to her.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the series, Civil War Era Romances. Available here:

Book One, Black Pansy: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Pansy-Suellen-Ocean/dp/1484900278

Book Two, Blue Violet: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018ZWX0R4

White Slaves… Black Slaves… Freedom

BlackPansyKindleCoverThousands of slaves became fugitives after the Civil War broke out in 1861. They went north where they hoped to find shelter under the protection of the Union Army. Out of a Southern population of nine million, there were three-and-a-half million slaves. Even though there was a Fugitive Slave Law in place, requiring free states to return slaves to their “masters,” it was not always enforced by the Northerners. Eventually, Congress defined fugitive slaves as free and that brought thousands of fresh black troops to fight within Yankee regiments.

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In Canada, decades before the Civil War, white servants of European descent were so abundant, lower than average income families had at least one, most likely a woman who too often found herself, like her black counterparts, a victim of her employer’s sexual advances. But during the Civil War, laws regarding servitude had changed and Canada was an important safe haven for fugitive slaves.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the series, Civil War Era Romances. Available here:

Book One, Black Pansy: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Pansy-Suellen-Ocean/dp/1484900278

Book Two, Blue Violet: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018ZWX0R4

Slaves… Not Even Promises

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Back in 1724, in an attempt to “regulate” relationships between slaves and colonists, Louisiana enacted new rules. These rules were based on those created about forty years earlier for French Caribbean slaves. Article XXII of The Black Code of Louisiana, informs everyone that slaves have no right to own property and if they obtain it, through hard work or as a gift, it is not theirs but belongs to their “masters.” Article XXII makes it very clear. It even mentions promises. In other words, if an enslaved man made a promise to someone, it was null and void. The Louisiana Code noir was in effect until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Suellen Ocean is the author of the series, Civil War Era Romances. Available here:

Book One, Black Pansy: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Pansy-Suellen-Ocean/dp/1484900278

Book Two, Blue Violet: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018ZWX0R4

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Genealogy… Secret Southern Bi-Racial Babies

People usually keep things secret to avoid the danger involved in exposing themselves. Quite often, the person with the secret is doing nothing wrong but something that others don’t approve of. Throughout history, having babies out of wedlock was certainly one of those secrets. Having a bi-racial baby was an even bigger secret.

For centuries bi-racial marriages in America were forbidden. The Slave Code of Louisiana (1724-1803) prohibited “white subjects, of both sexes, to marry with the blacks…” and forbade “all our white subjects, and even the manumitted or free-born blacks, to live in a state of concubinage with blacks.” If there was an “issue” that arose from one of these “forbidden” relationships, the issue being a child born, that child was to be “adjudged to the hospital of the locality, and said slaves shall be forever incapable of being set free.” Wow, pretty heavy punishment. But guess what, those forbidden relationships still happened and look at us today. Bi-racial couples are everywhere, including on mainstream television.

If you’re working on your southern family history and you suspect there’s a secret, good luck trying to get the older relatives to speak up. As far as they’re concerned, that secret was buried and will stay buried. And those of us who want to uncover the truth? I think some of these old timers think… shame on us.

No one has ever given me reason to believe that my family history has one of these secrets but I suspect it does. I have questions that are unanswered. There are a lot of people in a three-hundred-year-old family tree and undoubtedly a lot of secrets. My hope is that southern hospitals are digitizing their old records because as the Slave Code of Louisiana tells us, look to the hospitals.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the Civil War Era Historic Romance, Black Pansy.

Available Here:

http://www.amazon.com/Black-Pansy-Suellen-Ocean/dp/1484900278

eBooks and computer downloads available through Smashwords:

http://smashwords.com/b/313643

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