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The Story of How a Towel Made by Slaves Made It Into The American Civil War Museum

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
February 8, 2024 3:00 am

The Story of How a Towel Made by Slaves Made It Into The American Civil War Museum

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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February 8, 2024 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Chris Graham of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia tells the story of a seemingly ordinary cloth that has an amazing story behind it.

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At go dot TCL dot com slash TCL Roku TV. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories and we tell stories about everything here on this show including your send them to Our American Stories dot com. They're some of our favorites. Up next a story from the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia about an ordinary object that has an extraordinary story behind it that many didn't know until recently. Here is Chris Graham curator of exhibitions at the museum with a story. It's a white cloth. It looks like a towel folded up. It's not dyed. It's roughly woven. Be honest with you not much to look at and you wouldn't think too much about it because you know it's not a gun.

It's not a uniform. You know it's not a sword but this one very plain artifact witnessed so much during its time. The people that donated this artifact in the early 19th century I think about 1905, 1907 gave it to the museum and said this is a piece of cloth that was woven by the negroes on our plantation. And so to the people that donated this object it is a object that demonstrates that the material shortages in the confederate states were so bad that we had to weave our own cloth. This is how bad it got for us.

This is how bad we suffered. Also by identifying it as something that was made by one of their enslaved people they could say that yes they were in it with us in the same way that we were in it. They didn't see runaways. They didn't see self-emancipators and what that means is that over the course of the 20th century as those people wrote about defined what counts as Civil War history that part of the experience was left out but we see that now. It was made on a plantation in Darlington County, South Carolina. It was made by an enslaved person who was enslaved by a man named Mitchell King.

Mitchell King was a Scottish immigrant to the United States but you know he came over in 1812 or something I don't remember but established himself in Charleston. He became a lawyer, a judge, very well respected, an extremely wealthy man who owned multiple plantations from Georgia to North Carolina growing chiefly rice. So he had a plantation near Savannah near to where the United States Army was encroaching on the sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia early in the in the war and wherever the United States Army goes enslaved people take what chance they can get to escape to it.

Enslavers knew this. They knew it and they took measures to move their enslaved populations out of the way and so wherever you see the United States Army going you see enslaved people running to the army but you also see slave owners taking their populations and moving them further inland. This great movement of essentially refugees from freedom you might say that are going inland and so Mitchell King moved his the population of his rice plantation near Savannah to Darlington, South Carolina to grow cotton. He purchased a plantation there called Witherspoon Island that had formerly been owned by a man who died and his widow was killed by one of her enslaved people. Occasionally enslaved people will kill their masters and so they're already moving into a into a fraught landscape. The Witherspoon population of enslaved people were sold off, families broken up, distributed to the people, and so they're already moving into a into a fraught family's broken up distributed amongst the Witherspoon heirs somewhere else. The Mitchell King family moved their people, about 205 people, 205 people moved from Savannah to Darlington, South Carolina to grow a crop they didn't know how to grow to be in a place where they didn't know anyone around them and to kind of be secure from the temptation to escape to freedom in the United States Army.

And so it's in this context that one of these people wove this piece of cloth. At the end of the war this population was still on Witherspoon Island plantation. It wasn't actually an island it was just a plant the name of the plantation. Mitchell King died during the war old age but his son still owned the the plantation.

He didn't dispute emancipation. He wanted his people to continue working on that plantation and so he used the Freedmen's Bureau, an agent from the Freedmen's Bureau, to negotiate a contract with his formerly enslaved population that were now free on the property. And so they worked out a contract for them to work through the rest of the year in 1865 farming cotton in Darlington County.

And so this is you know perhaps I don't know the the conditions under which they negotiated a contract but certainly it was maybe the first time in a corporate way that that these enslaved people were able to kind of negotiate from a position of freedom on matters and terms that free people negotiate things for contracts for work labor pay. At the end of 1865 an interesting thing happens though the Freedmen's Bureau agent comes back and he looks around and he says these people you have working for you they know how to grow rice they don't know how to grow cotton this place looks shabby you should send them back to Savannah and that's actually what happened. The population of this plantation up and moved back to Savannah and the owner of the plantation had to kind of scramble to find laborers from the existing population around him and so the there's some unknown questions in that. Was this a choice that they made? Were they forced to go back to Savannah? Did they choose on their own to go back to Savannah? Was it because they would rather grow rice than cotton?

I don't know. Was it because they knew people in Savannah they probably had family on other farms that they knew back there that was a place that they called home maybe they wanted to be there maybe they didn't give a damn about whether they could grow cotton or rice maybe they wanted to go home and now they had this opportunity you know whereas in 1862 they were forced to migrate elsewhere but now maybe they had I like to think that they had the choice to migrate again but on their own terms this time. And a special thanks to Monty Montgomery for the production and Chris Graham at the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia. The story of a white cloth, the story of so much more including the sovereignty of the individual to live free in this great country and the story of America's original sin slavery all of it here on Our American Story.

Folks if you love the stories we tell about this great country and especially the stories of America's rich past know that all of our stories about American history from war to innovation culture and faith are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College a place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life and all the things that are good in life and if you can't get to Hillsdale Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses go to to learn more. Okay round two name something that's not boring. Laundry oh a book club computer solitaire huh ah sorry we were looking for Chumba casino. That's right Chumba has over 100 casino style games. Join today and play for free for your chance to redeem some serious prizes. From kickoff to touchdown TCL Roku TVs are the best way to stream your favorite live sports with all the biggest sports channels a sports zone with all the available games in one place and apps like iHeartRadio with sports podcasts such as the herd with Colin Cowherd that launch in a snap cheering on your favorite team has never been easier a big screen TCL Roku TV offers premium picture and sound quality so you'll feel like you're right in the action find the perfect TCL Roku TV for you today at slash TCL Roku TV. Hey hey it's Malcolm Gladwell host of revisionist history eBay motors is here for the ride your elbow grease fresh installs and a whole lot of love transformed a hundred thousand miles and a body full of rust into a drive entirely its own brake kits led headlights whatever you need eBay motors has it and with eBay guaranteed fit it's guaranteed to fit your ride the first time every time or your money back plus at these prices you're burning rubber not cash keep your ride or die live at eBay eligible items only exclusions apply.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-08 04:25:08 / 2024-02-08 04:29:20 / 4

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