Sideways review of “In Old Narragansett: Romances and Realities”

Read an interesting book about Narragansett. Through the ugly casual racism you can see some interesting stuff. I looked up a lot of details and learned a little about the history of Black Governors in New England and their elections. Written in 1898 with stories about people who lived 100 or so years before, another Alice Morse Earle book. And now for a random history walk through the interwebs!!!

I did find census records of some of the people mentioned including Cuddymonk, who is described as mixed Narragansett and Black (in the 1790 census as Cuddy Monk with 5 in his household; his wife Rosann is mentioned in the book but the census only lists heads of households). I looked him up since he had a distinctive name.

Anyway, the book has a bunch of stories from what is now Bonnet Shores (then Boston Neck) including a mention of the ridge where the Tower is built (The Tower is named after “Unfortunate Hannah” Robinson). (I know the area from (partly) growing up there, and the Tower was and is a really cool landmark.) In Earle’s story, Hannah is an abandoned, sickly, dying young girl returning home to reconcile with her stern, cruel father after eloping with a French dancing-master. In actual life, she had 9 children with him in Providence before she returned to her parents’ house, which kind of messes up the touching fable of her almost innocent girlhood!

Unfortunate Hannah Robinson’s dad was a rich slave-owning plantation owner in Boston Neck, who bought a woman he called Abigail. The local story as told by Earle (I can’t find any other source) is that she was a queen in Africa, and Robinson freed her so she could go back there and find her son and … bring him back to Rhode Island? OK, seems unlikely! Her son Prince Robinson became one of the Black Governors of the area. The Prince Robinson in the census in the 1800s who was a stonemason may be him or may be his son. I feel sure a bit of real research could tell. There was also a woman named Tuggie Bannock who was said to be Abigail’s daughter and who was a witch. I couldn’t find her in the census. Earle makes her sound ridiculous, which is very annoying.

As I was looking through the census I noticed the Champlins and Hazards were also slave owning plantation owners (You will recognize the names if you are from there). And also on the same page as Cuddymonk: a white governor of Rhode Island listed as Gov. Samuel Potter.

My interest is in adding dimension to the people mocked in racist fables and replacing the caricatures with something more respectful. For example the way that (what’s her name) re-wrote Sojourner Truth’s famous speech in southern plantation dialect when she did not talk that way in her life. Alice Morse Earle does the same thing to her “characters”. I think it is part of undoing white supremacy to make our histories and geography more ‘true’ and more known. Now what I mean by that could fill a book. Moving right along…..

It looked also, in my casual reading, like the Hazards and Robinsons intermarried a bunch and one of that family at least became an abolitionist and did some work to gain freedom for a guy from his town who was detained in the south assumed to be escaped slave and this led to around 100 people there getting out of “detention” ie either jail or slavery. His textile business, not unrelatedly, had to switch from cotton to wool consuming and producing since the Southerners wouldn’t deal with him anymore.

Basically over that 150 years or so, the rich white people intermarried and owned all the land, and the Narragansett and Niantic and Black people intermarried and didn’t. I notice it didn’t seem to occur to Rowland Hazard to give the land back to the still extant Narragansett people as a way of settling up.

Another Hazard that Earle refers to: Caroline Hazard who wrote essays, poetry, and biographies and who was the President of Wellesley College for 10 years. I might look for her books in the Internet Archive. Of course Earle casually mentions her as “Miss Hazard” and her incredibly famous writing. Perhaps they were friends.

It is sad that I am at least happy that Morse Earle includes people of color which leaves some clues and tiny bits of truth along with the garbage racist caricatures. Other books do much worse — for example a multi-volume set “The Early History of Narragansett” has hundreds of pages of detail of every (white) family in the area for a couple of hundred years and all their names including details from their wills but never mentions that they are slave owners leaving human beings to their children in their wills. The Black and Narragansett & Niantic people are just left out of the Early (White Supremacist) history completely. You have to work to do that kind of disappearing.

Another example: In the Narragansett Historical Society’s short description of the area’s overall history, there is no mention of the history of slavery, of black residents over the years, or of the ongoing history of the Narragansett tribe’s people.

Here is another interesting collection of info from 1700s and early 1800s on people of color in Rhode Island mentioned in letters and manuscripts: http://www.rihs.org/mssinv/PeopleofColorweb.htm

In case you were wondering about Bonnet Shores, it was mostly Wesquage Farm and Bonnet Point before the mid 19th century, thought to be called that because the shape of the Point looked a bit like the bonnet of a ship’s jib (a small sail at the bottom of the jib).

bonnet point aerial view

OK…. sometimes this is what I do with my evenings… to relax…..

Related posts:

Racism in the (white supremacist) women’s suffrage movement (and some history)

A couple of years ago I wrote a little zine called Heterodoxy to Marie. Not even sure how I got onto the subject, but in looking up Marie Jenney Howe I got pissed off that she didn’t even rate a Wikipedia article but had a paragraph in her husband’s article. She was part of a group of radical women in New York City who called themselves Heterodoxy. I want to touch on that but in order to lead to the Alpha Suffrage Club in Chicago, and another group, the Delta Sigma Theta sorority from Howard, along with Ida B. Wells.

You can download Heterodoxy to Marie here, it’s a fairly small PDF. Print it double sided, & cut and fold, for a tiny 8 page book.

In one sprawling tentacle of my reading I ended up with descriptions of the 1913 Suffrage Parade (or Procession, or March) in Washington, D.C. with Inez Mulholland at the head on a white horse and hundreds of women marching behind in fancy sashes and amazing hats. There were contingents of representatives from many U.S. states. The atmosphere in DC at their near daily protests was brutal. People would crowd around and assault the picketers and marchers. My impression is that there was an attempt to create a spectacle of dignity and legitimacy in this march.

Anyway, part of the story of the march is that Ida B. Wells was there from Chicago, and was told not to march with the delegates from Illinois, but to go to the back of the march. Wells then sprung out from the crowd and joined the Illinois delegation anyway, flanked by two of her (white) comrades. This is the photo that shows up to illustrate the story, showing Wells with a starry sash, turban-like starry hat, and flag and one that says “Illinois” in front of a banner that reads Women’s Party, Cook County.

Ida Wells at 1913 march in sash

That story varies from source to source, and even varies when told by the same people at different times. I found it a worthy subject of investigation. One telling is that Alice Paul (or “her organization”) found out about Wells’ participation at the last minute, and that some of the southern state delegates objected, saying they’d pull out from the march if Wells was allowed to appear with the Illinois women. Other stories spin it differently, naming various other women in NAWSA who put the black women at the back of the march flanked by white Quaker men for their protection. There are a lot of small variants, and it would take serious work to straighten them out. That’s why I haven’t written about this yet: I was making a small zine about Wells to follow up on the one about Marie Jenney.

It is in some ways lovely to picture Wells bursting into the Illinois delegates and in other ways so perturbing. She would have had to struggle through an extremely hostile crowd just to get to the edge of the march. At least a hundred women were hospitalized after the DC march. How did she fight her way through that crowd? How would it feel, I have some inklings of how it would feel, to proudly march with her sash on, in her elegant hat, amidst the banners, knowing the extra armor you would have to wear inside your soul. She is a compelling hero.

I think of how bad ass Wells-Barnett was in general. If you have not read her 1895 book The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States, you should really give it a try. It’s very grim and horrifying. She also tears into Frances Willard’s racist poisonous remarks on lynching and “dark-faced mobs”… So you can see right in Wells’ work that it’s not like feminist activists in Britain weren’t aware of what was up. You can be all like “oh they were just ‘of their time’…” since we know there were awesome anti racist activists among the super gross white supremacist feminist ones like Willard.

One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap.” — Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Another dimension to the miniscule zine on Jenney is that I read some of her propaganda, including a play called Telling the Truth at the White House (1917) in which two white suffragists go to jail and then to court. Their adventure with the law is framed by two drunk black women providing comic relief, and then having the vote consdescendingly explained to them. They are presented as incapable of understanding anything about suffrage movement, but agreeing that surely they would trust these nice white ladies to go ahead and vote. This little play is truly, truly vile. And it isn’t alone, if you poke around in the propaganda fiction, plays, and speeches of white suffragists there are many examples where white women point out, mock, and revile the ignorance of black men and women, as a deliberate counterpoint to white women being denied the vote. It was part of many white suffragists’ strategy to appeal to racism. This filled me with cold fury as I thought of the many African American women who were their contemporaries who were fighting for their rights. It is such a blatant disrepect, that they rhetorically make the black women and men disappear from the public debate except as unworthy of participating in political life. If you think to Frederick Douglass’s deep involvement and the entire abolition movement’s years of being intertwined with suffrage movement across the U.S. and England (look it up… I can’t write a dissertation here… ) it is such a cruel and repeated slap in the face by the white women, I can’t even. It’s not even just stupid and ignorant like those tshirts; it looks very deliberate. They are trading on the currency of white supremacy to scrabble for a scrap of power. Like I said, vile.

Have a look at the books “Treasonous Texts” and “On to Victory: Propaganda Plays of the Women Suffrage Movement” for some interesting food for thought.

Back to Wells and the 1913 March and the complicated story. Some stories say Wells fundraised with her black women’s club in Chicago, the Alpha Suffrage Club. Some say that 35 or so members of the Alpha Suffrage Club went to DC and marched. (But where? At the back?) I’ve seen descriptions that say Wells was the only black woman at the march, a lone hero bursting in…. Refusing to stay (or go at all) to the back of the march, supported and protected by white women friends from her home town. Then, I read that the National Association of Colored Women sent several delegations to the march, joining the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. I’ve also seen claims that the Delta Sigma Thetans were the only black women at the march, or that Wells was part of their sorority group. IN short, history is confusing, and people write terrible little summaries of “what happened”. Another tantalizing detail: the staging area for the black women was separate from the main march’s staging area. I can find no description of them marching or their position, and no photos.

If you think of demonstrations or marches you have been part of, try to imagine reconstructing how it was planned, what actually happened, and so on! Very difficult! A big event happens in many dimensions. Alice Paul didn’t “plan” the 1913 march, it was organized by

There is very good stuff in the book “African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850–1920”. You can get it used online very cheap.

Both the ASC and Delta Sigma Theta are said to be formed just before the march, in order to support sending its members as a group.

I feel sure that there is more info out there about the Alpha Suffrage Club and its members, and their participation in the 1913 march. The ASC held regular meetings in Bridewell Prison and I believe it included some white women, or at least had some local white suffrage activists as allies.

There is more readily available information on the sorority from Howard though. They formed in January 1913, with 22 founding members; going to the march together was their first public act. I enjoyed looking at the photos of the founders. Their names are listed here and there is an awesome photo of them at http://www.sopalmbeachdst.com/spbcac/national-history/

Founderscrisp1

Here are their names: (First Row): Winona Cargile Alexander, Madree Penn White, Wertie Blackwell Weaver, 
Vashti Turley Murphy, Ethel Cuff Black, Frederica Chase Dodd; 
(Second Row): Osceola Macarthy Adams, Pauline Oberdorfer Minor, Edna Brown Coleman, 
Edith Mott Young, Marguerite Young Alexander, Naomi Sewell Richardson, Eliza P. Shippen;
(Third Row): Zephyr Chisom Carter, Myra Davis Hemmings, Mamie Reddy Rose, Bertha Pitts Campbell, 
Florence Letcher Toms, Olive Jones, Jessie McGuire Dent, Jimmie Bugg Middleton, Ethel Carr Watson.

Anyway, I have a point besides throwing a little perspective on some small specific ways the U.S. white women’s suffrage movement expressed white supremacy and racism. That point is that white women suffragists’ oppression by the police and state didn’t stop quite a few of them from being horrible racists. So let’s not forget that.

But my other point is that in the story telling and history making about Wells as hero we should not lose sight of the 22 young women from Howard who also marched, and Mary Church Terrell along with all the women from the National Association of Colored Women and their different delegations, who also marched.

People came from many countries to march in DC for women’s suffrage, and I don’t know the details there but it would be neat to find out more. I don’t like when a complicated story, even of one incident in one day a hundred years ago, is simplified beyond all possibility.

Related posts:

SXSWi: Ending Racism with Social Media

Thank you again to Nalo Hopkinson for fixing up my very, very rough transcript! (Nalo I can’t believe you just did that.) And thanks to all the panelists and participants for a great SXSWi session.

******

Can Social Media End Racism?

LaToya Peterson (Racialicious), Kety Esquivel (CrossLeft, NCLR), Phil Hu (Angry Asian Man), Jay Smooth (Ill Doctrine)

The Postville Raid. AbUSed. May 12 raid “many women were terrorized and were saying what about my children, what about my children?” their kids s were with babysitters. ICE migra raids on .

Kety Esquivel new media manager for NCLR, National Council for Latino Rights. The Sanctuary, online forum. Megan La Mala, kyle, manny, duke, others who were critical in getting this off the ground. As progressive Christian I work for social justice and a radical message. All of us from different blogs in the pro-migrant movement, united. Stop the hate: http://wecanstopthehate.org

Jay Smooth. Ill doctrine radio show.

Phil Yu. angryasianman.com

Latoya: This discussion is intermediate level, not Racism101 We don’t want to talk about whether racism exists. not interested in that. It’s about our experiences with social media.

We were going to ask, What was your favorite racist moment online? All of us found that actually it all blends together, there’s so much of it.

Kety: Wecanstopthehate.com Hate mail. Case prosecuted, death threats , FBI. We had some problems with Sean Hannity. He made an accusation against NCLR. It was a lie. I’m not going to repeat it. We are going to all come together and do some activism and mobilize. There’s cards on your chair. Everyone on panel will participate.

Jay Smooth. Each one is like a snowflake, all beautiful. And YouTube is like a blizzard. Social media is useful to show how racism exists, though it doesn’t show institutional racism. Through anonymity you can show your racism better. People really know what you’re thinking.

Jay: How to tell people they sound racist. video . It was posted 15 months ago, but 5 seconds ago as you see, someone felt it necessary to go on and post a comment that says “i hate spics”.

*laughter from audience*

Latoya: The world online was eyeopening, to see how many people and how much they hate people of color, they feel online space is only for them, it’s a white space and a US space. I thought Racialcious blogging would end that because it would be my community. But you find people like to attack community and discussions of race. Also just communities of color! links we got, sheer number of links from hate and white supremacist sites. People would leave wrong detailed emails of why black people were different from white, and footnotes to studies of how black men rape more than white men (which is false) People bring their prejudices there . people talking about African American community, can be very hateful towards Latino, Muslims, Arabs, Persians, biracial identity, transgender community within African American community, every time something new comes up there’s a fresh wave of hate. We’re mostly women, 7 of 8 of us experienced racialized sexism. Comments about our vaginas, our sexuality, we find them more amusing than offensive. We got one that was like, “this person is so angry at the world because SHE HAS A BIG VAGINA.” Carmen was like “that’s why i carry my laptop in it.”

*laughter*

Phil: People tell me, “I’ve never *seen* such anger in an Asian before !” My attitude is, fuck comments! I don’t allow them. i don’t have the time to deal with that. I’ve received over 8 years a lot of hate mail. it blends together to the point where i posted this thing the anatomy of a hate mail. check off, racial slurs, stop bitching about racism, go back to where you came from, start speaking fucking English. Which? I mean, “motherfucker!” That’s English. You write to me in English, how am I supposed to read it?

Smooth: people are likely to react to my words and the substance of what I’m saying rather than just comments about my appearance so i benefit from some gender privilege there.

Kety: we allow for comments and community posts.

Kety: New space. New media is a new world, we’re building it together, we can’t ignore history, but it’s global and it’s iterated in many ways, we can acknowledge the opportunity, we can stop in and say he what are we going to do to support engagement, expression, Go into it with our eyes open. If we don’t do something different we get more of the same. Hope and possibility fight the good fight.

spread Knowledge
create refuge
mobilize to action

1) spread knowledge. talk radio without just being “controversial” for ratings. blog as information warehouse.

phil: writing for my community, for Asian American community. I’m trying to convince members of my own community that racism exists. information about issues that are affecting us. Asian Americans have reputation that we are largely apathetic about things going on. hard to get people to realize, this movie’s wack, racist depiction, this guy on radio. shouldn’t go unchecked. hate crimes in our community. so many people, criticism I’ve encountered is often from other Asians, saying don’t rock the boat, why are you doing this?

Latoya: can you talk about your tagline, “That’s racist!

Phil: put a zinger on it. in italics . get the point across. it should be obvious, but it’s not to a lot of people.

Smooth: base to articulate what your principles on. web video , go viral, use that medium, clever, but with substantive ideas.
(We watch the video)

Latoya: Nez, Nezua, The Unapologetic Mexican. Actually you can do to much toothbrushing which erodes the gums of racism. LOL

Creating a refuge: it’s tiring to have the same conversation over and over again. It’s not our responsibility to explain to every single person to their satisfaction. At Racialicious we are a heavily moderated space. we moderate every comment by hand.

Iris Network !!! Chromatic. gamers of color! Don’t have to explain that racism exists there, we can just talk about what we want to talk about.

Kety: Network of bloggers, we all have day jobs. Not always monetized. We had some conference calls, the online/offline combination is good. Where do we go, what do we do, how to leverage who we all are individually to make a collective that can help us make a difference. We made a questionnaire for all the presidential candidates. behind closed doors in private they say oh we’re pro immigration but that doesn’t get translated out of Spanish. we need these people to go on record, say what your policies are? McCain, Obama, we reached out equally. Up to that point in time among republicans McCain had a pretty good position then he did a huge pivot. We got ignored, and ignored. These questions are something they can respond to. we finally got a call from CNN. Marisa Treviño, Latina Lista, phenomenal blogger out of texas. helped us out. Went on CNN, grass roots groups of bloggers, not even being paid, i had the honor of representing our collective on CNN and saying why it is crucial to speak to the Latino community. the candidates needed to be straight with us. I’m a political independent, I’m committed to social justice, as a Latina and as a Christian

Latoya: Mobilizing. mainstream media. bloggers fight to get attention of mainstream media. ICE raids, what’s happening. Avatar the last Airbender. finally they casted an Asian actor but as the villain. sometimes we hustle it so much we hustle it backwards.

The Tsunami Song on hot 97. communities working together cross culturally changed lyrics to mock the victims of the Tsunami. amazed this would represent hip hop and it was so racist. i asked are we as a hip hop nation are we going to tolerate this, do we think this is cool? no! people got on board, going from my blog post, next morning, enough noise, hot 97 posted an apology half hearted apology that made people more angry, 100s of thousands of views, 2 weeks after that blog post i was at city hall with activist and government and bloggers figuring out some way to hold them accountable.

Phil: i would never be exposed to that from hot 97 in los Angeles, i was appalled, i did what i did which was post the address of everyone at hot 97 and all their advertisers to get the ball rolling. get people on board speaking out. Such a hard thing to do, the Internet has made that a lot easier J posted the audio clip rather than just reading the lyrics.

J: bringing global attention to a local problem. it’s easy to spread when there is a piece of compelling media around it. but media provocation is not always the most useful thing. Imus is off the air, nice but he’s an interchangeable cog in the wheel. we need to use compelling media to build interest around other issues, not just about something someone said in the media.

Q: which comment to axe and which to keep?

A: (It varies)

Latoya and Kety, populist caucus . people of color not represented, not invited, didn’t know, not in same circles, be very assertive in your outreach

Q: danah boyd: history of racism online, cross country, racism has different roots in different countries. cross nation, cross culture racism, how you get people talking, they don’t know the history and roots played out.

Latoya: very hard question, good question, complicated.

J: define your terms. it is hard, even in the US we don’t agree what “racism” means. On the international level, what is race! people have a completely different idea in Brazil than in the UK. defining terms is a good first step.

Phil: I can only agree, that is complicated. Asian American, very huge, Asian and pacific, nationalities, cultures, generations, it’s impossible to be all on the same page on any one issue. That’s a whole other panel!

Latoya; thank you for asking that question danah I’ll open up a thread on it on racialicious.com UK, Australia, India, we should open that up and cross post.

Kety: panel for next year for sxswi. critical for each of our communities. assumption, indigenous assumption everyone is white.

Q: Don , what’s going on now in Austin. new media has a heavy influence. last question good, perspectives on what is racism. allowing people to come to you, you are leaders , for me racism always involves economic policy and politics. bigoted, tied to what is racism. what true racism technically was. you guys have got to start to consider, explaining. proper way to channel the images, so the real important factors in racism don’t get lost and lumped together,

Latoya: the proper way to do something in terms of racism. which I’m going to say there isn’t one. Racialicious focuses on media images and pop culture and people of color. why don’t we talk about this why don’t we talk about something else. people only talk about something quantifiable to them. racism for some people is a question of representation. blacks not in sitcoms, how come? how come black people can’t front their own sitcoms? no jobs, no roles, no black actors, it’s economic. i don’t think there will ever be one strict definition of what racism is.

Kety: it’s important we’ve been having this conversation, it’s huge, there are several different chunks and pieces. continue conversations More representation in these conversations is important!!! In leading these conversations.

J: No one way, but important to keep in mind racism is not just in sentiment and feelings. Even in Obama’s speech he talked about feelings, objective realization of centuries of institutional racism. it takes more than conversation to address that! we can all be Twitter friends with each other but that would be most useful if we follow that up with ways to act on these institutional issues.

Latoya: The color of Wealth, good book.

Q: André Brock, University of Iowa. comment. questions. retention of grad studentss of color. thread here is central. universal ethos of promoting diversity efforts, anti racism. it’s often left to the individuals, with very little institutional support.. I do race online. Artifact of practice and belief. what are the practices, what can we encourage others to do? adopting beliefs and strategies, build cadre,. the idea of building cadre. Individual efforts, micro and macro aggressions. it burns people out. Cadre. Evangelists, activist, enlightened participants, avoid having that one person sitting up on the podium burning out. Mechanics to silence voices of dissent. Disemvowelling. consider other tech. Steve Gilliard, news blog. censure. He would post an egregious comment, he’d post it and let his community address it, shame the people and put them on blast, let people know those people exist.

Latoya: for colleges talk with Carmen. she does work with colleges and universities. Creating best practices! Encouraging a cadre, i really like that

Shakesville, emptying the ocean with a teaspoon. solidarity with other communities, go into gaming space. social justice in video games. What would resident evil 5 look like if it had an anti colonialist viewpoint? what if you’re playing as one of the leaders from whatever nation and the forces coming to exterminate them? humanizing these characters, make it not perfect, but complex!

Kety: diverse group, I’d love to see it grow. It can’t be one voice in isolation.

Related posts:

all the poets, they studied rules of verse….

It’s not the first time I’ve noticed but I’m annoyed this morning at how Spain is apparently not part of “European poetry”. It must take a lot of effort to keep doing the Spain Is Invisible Dance.

You know a lot about medieval French verse forms? Great! I love you! Bring it on! But you don’t know everything, so don’t act all like, You Are Europe. (Note the sidebar.) And Spain, how is that Not-Europe? All the Germanic languages? Everything else? (Oh… we meant only the most important and influential European forms.)

Of course we all know what it is. It’s paternity anxiety, cultural inheritance, and the geneological tree – in that model, it goes Greece- Rome – Italians – France. Potency, real virility, can only reside in one cultural empire at a time, in the head of the household. Bastards aren’t so important in that family tree and in fact might even be embarrassing. And there is room for only one tree. The whole rest of the world is bastards.

Is it too much to hope for, that the AAP might just mention Uncle Garcilaso or Uncle de Leon?

Leaving aside the bigger questions of the poetic forms of the entire rest of the world which also might… just might… have “influenced” someone.

“… and the ladies, they rolled their eyes.”

Related posts: