Archive for the ‘America’ Category

Aside from reading all books Atlantic World oriented, I’ve been digging through the evidence for a murder from back in 1821.  Well at least it started out as a murder investigation.  It was like a CSI script in many ways.  A body washes up on shore, the man appears to have had his throat slit.  He was wrapped in a blanket that appeared to have been attached to several rocks to ensure the body wasn’t found.  Moreover, several witnesses reported that he was in possession of a large amount of cash and had been (quite stupidly) flaunting it.

The man boarded a ship to go from Virginia to Camden, North Carolina.  He never reached his destination and his body washed up on shore near Pasquotank County, North Carolina.  The local justices of the peace put out a warrant for his arrest and the story in the local paper about the “MURDER!” was published in over 15 papers from North Carolina to Maine. (more…)

I’ve been working on my first book for the last two years now.  I am trying to write it for a 6th to 8th grade level and in such a manner as to fit within a curriculum on runaway slaves in particular and slavery in general.  The story is inspired by real people- two slaves named Betsey and Welcome– although I have taken liberty with the facts (let us call it artistic license) to fill in large gaps in their story.  In many ways I’ve tried to include modern scholarship to show what the experience of an average slave was like.  However, such is near impossible for the average experience of a slave was quite different depending on where they lived (Mississippi vs. North Carolina), their job (field vs. house), their individual master (a whole gamut running from benevolent to malicious), and a host of other reasons.  Consequently, I decided on writing a story that would accurately reflect the conditions, choices, and struggles that many slaves faced during the antebellum period in the American South. 

I’ve tried to include as many aspects of slavery as possible- the well known and the not so well known.  Also the contradictions and the competing loyalties take center stage quite often as characters negotiate difficult relationships: friendships that exist within the boundaries of the slave system’s social order, a master who considers himself benevolent but learns otherwise when his authority is challenged, familial bonds that kept some slaves from running away while others who chose to runaway fought with and lived with the memories of family members left behind, and the pain of loss at the extreme cruelties of the slave system that led many to choose deprivation, hunger, and even death over a life of enslaved misery.  The story is difficult to read at times, but it is important to know and understand how the slave system impacted the lives of everyday men, women, and children.  Why?  Because it is easy to get lost in statistics.  As Joseph Stalin once said, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”  Through some odd quirk the death and suffering of many is easier to understand, process, and push aside than the death of one person.  Perhaps it isn’t an odd quirk though, since we usually come to know and understand the one person better.  We can hear about their life, their accomplishments, their dreams.  The million dead merge into one tangled mess that we often don’t have the time or energy to explain or understand.  Their dreams, hopes, accomplishments, and loves are lost with them.  Part of my goal in writing this story is to resurrect some small part of those great hopes and deep anguishes in a way that allows modern readers to connect with a slave girl who isn’t just a statistic.       

Let me know what you think in the comments section.  I haven’t done a lot of editing yet as I am still writing my way through the first draft.  So don’t be too surprised if you catch a typo or even a dozen.  I’ll post the first chapter on Monday.  Here is the Introduction which will hopefully catch your interest.  And be honest.  Most books gain or loss their reader’s interest in the first paragrpah or page, so let me know if you were left wanting more or not.  Thanks!

 

On Toward Freedom

Or

The Reluctant Rebel

 

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There used to be a day when you could fill out your tax forms and residency forms, hand them in, and things worked out perfectly fine.  However, now thanks to the Department of Homeland Security you MUST complete your I-9 form in front of a human resources representative.  I guess because human resources employees can somehow spot a terrorist?!

So thanks to homeland security, I now have to drive an hour and fifteen minutes round trip (almost a quarter tank of gas- $8 worth) for 2 minutes worth of paperwork.  Isn’t government bureaucracy grand?  NO!  And no, I can’t fill it out on my first day teaching because my class starts on Tuesday and the forms MUST be filled out on the first day of classes- Monday.  If you don’t do that the college can’t hire you.  It’s that convoluted…I mean…simple.

Oh, and by the way, we were told by a representative of the HR department that they ARE NOT allowed to tell us what documents we need to bring with us.  You heard that right. Stupid, isn’t it?  I guess this is like some kind of citizenship documents pop quiz.   I am going on the assumption they need my license and social security card- but I am not ruling out that they may want my birth certificate, blood sample, urine sample, and my D.N.A.

So if you wonder why I am only posting this non-weight loss related blog post today, now you know.  But hey, at least my employer will know I am not some crazy terrorist.

I think I will start a weekly post that links to several insightful articles. After all I read quite a few each day, and would like to share them with you. Not just because they are good articles, but because this blog is in many ways about personal disclosure- so I certainly won’t go out of my way to hide my political interests. [BTW: As of now I am considered an unaffiliated voter since the state of N.C. no longer recognizes the Libertarian party].

Criminal Charges for Flushing the Koran

This would be ridiculous if it weren’t true. In a nation where it isn’t illegal to burn the flag, where one can submerge a cross in urine (and get a federal grant), apparently you can’t put a Koran in the toilet. Making matters worse, noted statist Bill O’Reilly approved of the criminal charges.

I presume Bill is supporting these charges in an effort to appear even handed, since at heart he would probably like to be able to prosecute people who submerge crosses in urine or paint the Virgin Mary using dung. But I ask, what about the freedom to offend? This kind of thing gets my blood boiling. I would take my bar (if I had a spare $3,000 and three months to study non-stop) just to take this case to court.

Stanislav Shmulevich, you have my complete support. While your actions may have been at the least tacky, at the worst they were offensive. And causing offense is NEVER illegal, it is at the core of protected speech.

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I was reading the local paper online and came across this interesting story. Of about 21 foreign students (18 from Germany, and 3 from France) visiting the U.S. the one idea they all seemed to hold about Americans, was, well, I’ll let them speak for themselves:

“There are fat people in Germany…but not so many, and not so fat as here.”

And

“There are a lot of fat people in America[.]”

So, the one idea they seemed to all share was that we Americans are quite fat. But to illuminate and illustrate the quality of their assumptions and preconceptions, they also thought Americans:

  1. Own lots of pets (guilty as charged, I own four pets not counting fish).
  2. Live in “huge” houses (well does 1,300 square feet count as big?).
  3. Southerners were more open-minded than Northerners.
  4. Less stressed out.

So judge for yourself.

For my part, I think they have hit the nail on the head. They are observers with a fresh perspective, observers that- with child like candor- have shed light on our peculiar problem as a nation- obesity. What are we going to do about it?

Even as a boring researcher who spends days on end in dusty old archives, every now and again something shocks you. I came across this ad not long into my research regarding runaway slaves in Eastern North Carolina. [The full size image can be found below the page break].

Runaway Slave Ad

Why is an old advertisement so shocking and interesting? The above advertisement’s five simple (although surprisingly verbose) paragraphs are short hand for a much larger and even more interesting tale. Their story includes enslavement, betrayal, yearning for freedom, fatherhood, rebellion, courage, anger, and half a dozen other compelling emotional angles that should perk the ears and tug at the heart.

Beyond that, the characters are laid out in a detailed manner (considering the space allowed for an advertisement), but in such a way that you are left desiring to know more about them.

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I needed an outlet for my historical blogging needs so I opened a new blog here at WordPress at

http://thehistorydump.wordpress.com

I didn’t want to bore all those who check my blog for weight loss advice with long discussions of slavery and slave patrols.  So if you are interested swing on by  and leave a few comments.

Here is a copy of the inaugural post on my new blog…

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