Wednesday, April 24, 2013

To Be Fair...

To be fair to Savannah, the mammies were in the gift shop, but markers to African American history are growing in the landscape in Savannah.

This is a monument to the Haitian volunteers in the American Revolution. Of course, true to monument form of glossing over complications, the text on the base reminds visitors that many black men fought in the Revolution. That the majority of those men fought on the side of the British because the British offered greater opportunity for freedom makes a story that can be used to question the Americaness of African Americans and, more importantly, question the myths of the American Revolution.:

Of course, explaining those complications would result in an essay that might not fit on the base of the statue after explaining to visitors that Haiti was called San Domingue, that it was a French colony populated primarily by slaves, and that the participation of black men from the colony in the American Revolution led to their own demands for independence and freedom.
In the background, you can see one of the first black churches in Georgia.
This is a marker to the founder of another of the first black churches. Actually, I think it was one  congregation that split into two at a later date over theological issues -- I'm not really strong in either religious or Georgia history. In any case, this marker is across the street from a different church with a more recent structure. The church is about three blocks past the above church and located in a housing project which is also designated as a historic site.

Not exactly black history, but related is this marker. Sherman slept here, after invading through the rest of Georgia.:

What I find funny about the story on this marker is my own knowledge of another story associated with the invasion. As the Union Army prepared to invade Savannah but the city surrendered to prevent a repeat of the incidents in Atlanta, across the river, the white women in the household of Langdon Cheves,  Jr., fled the plantation to escape the invasion. They went to the home of Cheves's sister in Columbia, S.C.. Her very large house (now subdivided into four large apartments) sat just off the campus of South Carolina College (now University of South Carolina). When the Union Army invaded Columbia, Gen. O.O. Howard took the house as his headquarters. The city also burned, but through the usual accidents, not military torches.
Meanwhile, back in Savannah, Sherman issued Special Field Orders No. 15, which granted forty-acres of confiscated Confederate plantation property to each freedperson. This is the marker in the square across the street from Sherman's Headquarters.:
I like that they also imply that this act would pave the way for African American "economic independence," but that the Freedman's Bureau backed off of land redistribution and that Andrew Johnson -- the rat bastard and probably one of the top three worst presidents of the United States -- revoked the order. I sense an appropriate retreat from the faux neutrality that often infects historic markers while at the same time,  remaining true to the facts. As an old friend used to say, you don't have to editorialize. Just let the evidence do the work for you.

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