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A student-led group project from HIST 246

Progress Report 2

April 13th, 2011 by Courtney Svatek

This past week has brought about a lot of thought and work concerning the Map project. Much of it has already been written on previous blog posts, but this progress report will summarize my work:

I read through the entire Google Doc of transcriptions made for the first library project, looking for all the specific locations in Houston relevant to Dowling’s memory that I could find. The result was this post. Hopefully, we can mark all of these locations on our map, and have a list that links to the relevant documents I have cited for each location when the viewer hovers over, or clicks on, each pinpoint (as well as photos of the area, then and today, if possible).

Ross and I met this morning, and after working for a while, I revised the contract to fit Dr. McDaniel’s requests, as described here.

Next, I will be sorting through the Houston public library archives to see if I can find relevant documents there corresponding to each of our significant locations, as I did with the library project archive.

Contract Updates!

April 13th, 2011 by Courtney Svatek

After meeting with Ross this morning, I changed the contract to conform to Dr. McDaniel’s suggestions.

1.) Ross and I decided to leave the Sabine Pass portion by the wayside and concentrate fully on developing the Houston map. If we have time (ha) after finishing everything, we can try working with the animation for the battle of Sabine Pass. But considering how pressed we are right now, such a map would only divide our labor too much and cause us more trouble, we think.

Here is what I took out, in case for some reason we need it again: “We will make a separate map to show how the battle unfolded to show gaps between memory and reality of it. Also this map will show why Dowling won at the battle of Sabine Pass (for example show how many ships were involved and how they were deployed by union forces. Though we may not have time to complete both maps, we will definitely compile all of the information necessary for the completion of the maps.”

2.) I updated the division of labor for Ross and me according to what we’ve already done or plan to do, and I see Craig has done the same for himself. We can continue to update this as we take on other responsibilities. I also wrote that we will keep our main research notes here on the group blog. I don’t see how/why we would need our own Google Doc? We will be using the Dowling archive created by the class and linking to it on the interactive map.

3.) As we’re only working on the Houston map, we should be able to complete it.

Relevant Locations

April 12th, 2011 by Courtney Svatek

Ok, here is a rough and dirty guide to some locations I discovered while reading through our first library project transcripts. I cited the articles where I found the information, and we can consult them to hunt down who was responsible for the events, as well as link to them in our pinpoints.

Dowling Statue

1903 – Original plan for statue placement – the corner of Main Street and McKinney Avenue, near the First Presbyterian Church and Carnegie Library. Originally planned to be unveiled on Jefferson Davis’s birthday, as well: June 2, 1903. (DD0019)

1905 – the Dowling statue stood in Market Square at the corner of Preston Avenue and Travis Street (DD0002 – an account of the unveiling ceremonies.) (DD0003a/b – more about the unveiling ceremonies and the statue; reference for the original location) (DD0025 – another account of the unveiling, this time from a Galveston paper – describes in detail how funds and support were raised for the monument, and who was behind it all – especially useful for our purposes, I think!)

1939 – statue moved to Sam Houston Park, where it stood in front of the Noble Home until 1957 (DD0016 – describes the movement of the statue because the old City Hall was being converted into a bus station) In 1940, was dedicated at this site (DD0030 describes this ceremony, held by the United Confederate Veterans and the Daughters of the Confederacy)(about the Noble House: http://www.heritagesociety.org/knoble.html )

Original plan for statue’s location in Hermann Park: Where statue of Hermann now stands (DD0018)

Hermann Park – 1800 N. MacGregor Way. Moved here in 1958? Was only in storage for a year? (DD0008 – imagined interview with Dowling that mocks his current out-of-the-way location)(DD0015) (DD0017 – interesting article about Dowling’s sword being repeatedly stolen) (DD0026 – describes rededication ceremonies in 1997 in Hermann Park) (DD0031 – describes the historical marker to be placed there in 1966.)

http://hist246.blogs.rice.edu/2011/04/04/the-monument-restoration-movement/ <<About the monument’s restoration.

Dowling’s grave

St. Vincent’s cemetery, on Navigation Boulevard, the oldest cemetery in the city and home to the graves of various heroes and pioneers, adjacent to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church; in 1929, the cemetery was considered by Houston attorney and historian Ingham H. Roberts as another potential location for the statue, after City Hall was abandoned, as opposed to Sam Houston Park (DD0023 – source for the info in this paragraph, complains that there is currently nothing marking Dowling’s burial place and calls for a monument of some kind)

1899 – way back at this time, it appears the Dick Dowling Camp of the UCV was trying to raise money for a monument at Dowling’s grave, but it failed. (DD0039 – a call to veterans to contribute to building a monument directly, not through their camps. Apparently this ended up being ineffective too.)

1935 – a monument was finally placed. (DD0010a/b/c – describes the unveiling of the monument to Dowling in the cemetery. According to this article, the Max Autrey Post of the American Legion is responsible for this monument.)

Dowling Street/Emancipation Park

(DD0029 – mentions how over the past 20 years or so – going back from 1997 – “some blacks have periodically called for renaming Dowling Street, a major business thoroughfare in a predominantly black area east of downtown.”)

http://hist246.blogs.rice.edu/2011/03/29/more-on-emancipation-park/ <<<blog post we should read, and perhaps we can link to some of the references she used when we make our pinpoints

http://hist246.blogs.rice.edu/2011/02/07/emancipation-park/ <<<Another relevant blog post dealing with recent concerns for Emancipation Park


Main and Prairie – Dowling’s first saloon, “the Shades,” opens in 1857

Main and Congress – the Bank of Bacchus in 1860

(DD0035 for both of these)

Communications Post and Progress Report

April 12th, 2011 by Craig Labbate

Hey Guys,

From what has happened in the last few days, I think we can all agree that communication is key. This post is purely so that we can keep each other updated on our work. I hope that Dr. McDaniel has disabled moderation.

Today I stumbled upon a virtual treasure trove of old Houston maps. While we still need to find the pertinent data associated with the maps, I think these can definitely help either as the base of a map layer or at least the delineation of roads in the timeframes.

http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/arc/maps/images/map0436.jpg — 1935 — check out Jefferson Davis Hospital nearby the proposed Sam Houston State Park.

http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/arc/maps/images/map0435.jpg — 1913 — hopefully we can use ArcGIS to overlay the coords of this detailed street map onto a modern one.

http://historicaerials.com/ — Look at the 1957 view of Hermann Park. The Southeast corner of where the statue will be placed is on the border of a huge grassland!

Thus I think we can definitely shoot for four layers to the Houston aspect of the project: one for the planning and original monument, one to show the 1937 move to Sam Houston Park (which I argue is not a demotion but a linear move), one to show the 1958 move to Hermann Park (which was definitely a demotion) and finally a modern map that compiles and synthesizes the preceding maps.

I have sent an email to Professor Kleinberg in the Sociology department who has chaired Rice’s study of Houston’s population changes so as to find sources to analyze demographic localities in the past.

That’s all for now. Let me know how we can use these sources.


Also, all of these were found through  http://houstorian.wordpress.com/old-houston-maps/


Sharecropping, In line with the wants of Freedmen?

April 10th, 2011 by rjh4

For years a culture, established by the colonial powers of Europe, dominates the agricultural economic landscape of the entirety of the New World. In this system large plantations growing cash crops generated huge profits for planters, while exploiting Africans and Indians. In every one of these societies the institution of slavery came to an end in a different way. With the end of slavery new systems of producing the cash crops that were needed to support the economies of these regions. The solution in many places including the former Confederate States of America was often sharecropping. In the book “Nothing But Freedom,” author Eric Foner discusses the many issues and injustices that arose for the former slaves in this new system of sharecropping.

Two of the major ideas we discussed during this past week of class was “what did former slaves expect form emancipation?” and in turn “What did planters expect out of the former slaves in this new South?” Foner’s book addressed these questions and how they relate to the question of sharecropping. It was a trend in the American South, and in the Caribbean that freed slaves just wanted to have some time to manage their own lives and provide for their own families, while planters needed to get the agricultural economies biased on cash crops reestablished. Foner points to this sentiment held by the blacks stating: “The desire for land, sometimes judged “irrational” when viewed simply as a matter of dollars and cents, reflected the recognition that… land ownership ensured the freedman a degree of control over the time and labor of themselves and their families.” (43) This belief held by many freed blacks put the planters in a very difficult position because according to Foner “it was the necessity… of maintaining the plantation system that made labor such an obsession in the aftermath of emancipation.” (43) Because of these two opposing views of what southern society should be in the reconstruction years, there were many disputes over what labor blacks would do and how blacks were to be treated as laborers. (43)

What came out of these disputes was the compromise of sharecropping. That said there were many problems with the institution, blacks wanted more control of their lives and southern planters wanted more control over the labor force. Foner writes: “sharecropping afforded laborers more control over their own time, labor and family arrangements, and more hope of economic advancement, than many other modes of labor organization.” (44) In this sense share cropping was beneficial to the blacks, but southern planters continually tried to manipulate the system to resemble slavery, “[preferring] a closely supervised labor force working for wages.” (44) The struggle between blacks and planters never came to a clear conclusion, but the introduction of sharecropping allowed blacks to keep some autonomy and allowed them to move towards emancipation.

I am not sure that the progress made during reconstruction would have been accomplished, if blacks would have been given land and total autonomy, or if planters had won out and instituted a total wage driven system of labor. I believe that we would have seen many more instances similar to what was described in “Reading A,” from Thursday’s class, that equated to pseudo-slavery under a wage based system. Foner believes that “blacks stubbornly clung to the measure of autonomy in day-to-day labor relations assured by share cropping.” (72) This is one of the reasons why I say that sharecropping benefited freedmen. The system of sharecropping was not ideal, but it was the best solution for the day. Sharecropping obviously was partially opposed to the interests of freedmen, but it allowed them to retain their dream, and eventually obtain it. Had blacks been allowed exactly what they wanted we would have seen a continuation of the social injustices that occurred during the period of reconstruction long past when blacks gained substantial rights under the sharecropping system. Also had planters been given what they wanted, I believe that no progress would have been made by freedmen as they would still be subjects of their masters under a system similar to slavery. This is why I believe that sharecropping was not totally in line with what freedmen wanted, but sharecropping was essential in securing and maintaining the ideals of the freedmen for posterity.

Question #3 Foner’s Nothing But Freedom

April 10th, 2011 by brb2

Eric Foner’s Nothing But Freedom spends some time addressing the practice of sharecropping following the end of the Civil War.  After emancipation, sharecropping was a labor system that developed where former slaves rented pieces of land from planters and grew sustenance and cash crops.  The rent was paid in the form of freedpeople giving a certain percentage of their cash crops to the landowner.  Ideally, most former slaves wanted to own their own land, but white planters had a vested interest in preventing this and many laws were passed to make it difficult or impossible for freedpeople to own land in some areas of the South (45, 49).  The reason freedpeople wanted their own land was because they desired control over their lives that they had no had under slavery (44).  Sharecropping, although not as good as owning land, was viewed by former slaves as an alternative that was much better than other labor systems that existed.  As a result, former slaves did not view sharecropping as wholly opposed to their interests.  As Foner says on page 45:

“Yet this later development should not obscure the fact that, in a comparative perspective, sharecropping afforded agricultural laborers more control over their own time, labor, and family arrangements, and more hope of economic advancement, than many other modes of labor organizations.  Sharecroppers were not “coolie” laborers, not directly supervised wage workers.”

Ultimately, sharecropping became a system that did not give freedpeople very many benefits or very much autonomy.  The Georgia court decision Appling v. Odum in 1872 was the first of several decisions that made sharecroppers into little more than wage workers with no power to make decisions about their rented land (61).  And eventually, credit systems created surf-like conditions for tenants (45).  Sharecropping was never the top choice for freed slaves.  Owning land was always preferable, but that was extremely difficult to achieve, so sharecropping was viewed as a compromise and better than many alternatives.  In practice, it provided little in the way of control and autonomy and it kept former slaves on plantations working for their former owners.  However, because it appeared better in theory, former slaves did not view it as opposed to their interests.

The Redeemers — attempted return to the status quo

April 10th, 2011 by Craig Labbate

Perhaps the most important distinction between the study of history and that of science is that history is cyclical. Eric Foner’s book “Nothing but Freedom” uses Marxist and comparative approaches to the American Reconstruction to argue that American blacks, after gaining immense politico-economic influence under Radical Reconstruction were left with nothing but their freedom at the end of Reconstruction in 1876.

Foner reiterates, in many ways, the key thesis of Crane Brinton in “The Anatomy of Revolution”: revolution necessarily prompts a conservative backlash that negates many of the radical changes undertaken during the original upheaval.  In the case of the post-Emancipation South, Foner argues that the Radical Reconstruction was both a legal and economic revolution that enfranchised ex-slaves. The Redemption governments, analogous to the Thermidorian Reaction in France or Jamaica’s forfeit of Home Rule in 1865, ended Reconstruction’s socio-economic gains for freedmen.  Redemption governments –the return of Democrats into the state executive and legislature — reversed many of the progressive legal decrees enacted during Reconstruction and returned the social balance-of-power to the white planters.

Foner highlights the main thrust of the Redemption governments as a “concerted legal offensive for the protection of the cotton planters”. (59)  After emancipation, planters and northerners alike wished to regain a docile and obedient labor source that was robbed of them during Reconstruction. The Redemption governments’ main goal was to restore white supremacy both socially and economically. These two sectors, however, highly overlapped. By forcing new freedmen back onto the plantation as wage laborers, the white planter class was guaranteed a labor source. Earlier during Reconstruction freedmen fled the plantation system to create small homesteads to engage in subsistence agriculture. During Redemption, states like Alabama passed laws that prohibited the sale of seed cotton and sometimes all agricultural products in black-belt counties and “limiting the economic alternatives available to them.” (61) Essentially it gave white planters a legal monopoly on cotton production. Redemption governments also passed a series of “fence laws”. These “fence laws” were designed to fence in plantations as to prevent black yeomen from grazing livestock on common ground. As corollaries to the fence laws, Redeemer governments revoked or enforced existing laws that restricted freedmen’s right to hunt and fish on private lands.  The cotton monopoly, fence laws, and hunting restrictions together “discouraged men…from getting ‘something to eat’ without plantation labor.” They forced the freedmen to become dependent on the planter class again for survival. (Foner, 67)

Furthermore, the Redeemer governments changed the tax codes to thrust freedmen into poverty. Foner writes “The parsimony of the Redeemer regimes is notorious.” (70) They sharply reduced taxes, but most importantly expenditures on public services. The Redeemers lowered property taxes on the large [white] landholders who did not pass these savings along to their black tenants. They also implemented highly regressive taxes. Foner writes “blacks now paid taxes on virtually every piece of property they owned…while while larger farmers had several thousand dollars exempted from levy.” (70)  Redeemer governments did all in their power to impoverish the black community whilst not violating the Constitution.  All of the actions outlined above, were all planned with the prevailing psychology that an impoverished working class will be docile and disciplined. As one Georgian wrote “The [Negro], when poverty stricken…will work for you—but as soon as he begins to be prosperous, he becomes impudent and unmanageable.”  (72)

Eric Foner ends his book with a case study of general strikes during Reconstruction in the Lowcountry rice plantations of South Carolina. In tracing the outcomes of these strikes, the true legacy of Redemption can be seen.  During Reconstruction, the government was keenly aware of the freedman’s vote and was reluctant to use state resources to put down the laborer’s strikes. The freedmen were able to use collective bargaining to gain better wages and escape the check àplantation store futile cycle. In some cases, arrested strike-leaders were let free without a trial. On the other hand, when Redeemer governments came to power, Foner writes, “the possibility of collective action by rural laborers was all but eliminated.” (106) These governments ruthlessly suppressed black labor agitation. In Louisiana, a strike for higher wages under a Redeemer gov. led to a massacre of over one hundred blacks but the white militia and vigilantes. Similarly, a strike in Arkansas ended in the lynching of nine freedmen without trial. (Foner, 106)

Although, Foner admits that the gains of Reconstruction were not completely erased by Redeemer governments, the brutality of these responses to black agitation clearly shows that the Redeemers’ greatest legacy was to reintroduce and enforce the antebellum societal structure to the South. Even though the laborers were now politically free, they lived in a society that had regained its racial stratification by suppressing freedmen’s economic freedom and forcing them back onto the plantation as sharecroppers or wage-laborers.

“Freedom” across nations

April 10th, 2011 by Courtney Svatek

In Nothing But Freedom, Eric Foner compares and contrasts the post-emancipation experience of the American South with that of several other societies. He claims that

A rigid social and political dichotomy between former master and former slave, an ideology of racism, a dependent labor force with limited economic opportunities – these and other patterns seem always to survive the end of slavery, leading some theorists to minimize the consequences of emancipation altogether, positing instead an unchanging plantation structure in which slavery appears as simply one among a number of alternative labor systems (37).

What post-emancipation societies, at least Haiti, the British Caribbean, and the American South, all had in common, was an extreme opposition to redefining the region’s traditional economic structure. In all of these societies, the plantation system had been the norm, and those in power after emancipation refused to adapt and change it, even in the face of labor shortages, choosing instead to devise ways to coerce the new population of freedmen into conditions as similar to pre-existing systems of slavery as they could manage, or importing indentured servants, or “coolies,” from overseas.

In Haiti, emancipation was accomplished not through externally-imposed legislation, but through revolution by the blacks themselves. Yet after emancipation, black leader Toussaint L’Ouverture, “fearing the freedmen would not labor voluntarily on the estates where they had been held in bondage… imposed a rigid system of forced labor, annulling previous sales of land to field laborers and subjecting plantation workers to military discipline,” all because he “viewed the plantation as key to the island’s prosperity” (11). This adherence to the old economic system, which seemed incompatible with the new population of freedmen, was recognized as a mistake by republicans attempting to learn lessons from Haiti when debating emancipation and Reconstruction:

Even Toussant now came in for censure, for what Lydia Marie Child calls “his favorite project of conciliating the old planters.” Toussaint’s mistake, Child believed, lay in “a hurry to reconstruct, to restore outward prosperity,” rather than attempting radically to transform his society on the basis of free labor principles (42).

In the British Caribbean, as opposed to Haiti, emancipation was imposed by the British Government, which was often at odds with the local government ruling the colonies themselves. Yet “on one crucial matter, British authorities and Caribbean planters agreed: the postemancipation sugar colonies should continue to be organized around the production of staple crops for export rather than self-sufficient peasant farming” (15). This conviction led to the importation of indentured laborers, and various restrictions which prevented the freedmen from achieving economic independence to various degrees depending on factors, like the amount of unclaimed or uncultivated land, specific to each colony.

The same unwillingness to change the plantation status quo ruled the American South. As Foner explains,

The plantation system never dominated the entire South as it did in the islands, yet both before and after emancipation, it helped define the quality of race relations and the nature of economic enterprise in the region as a whole. It was in the plantation black belt that the majority of the emancipated slaves lived, and it was the necessity, as perceived by whites, of maintaining the plantation system, that made labor such an obsession in the aftermath of emancipation (44).

In all of these societies, a wealthy class that had amassed its riches and power through the plantation system could not, or did not want to, conceive a different economic system for the societies in which they lived, one that would be more compatible with making emancipation a reality, not just a hollow word.

Group contract

April 5th, 2011 by Caleb McDaniel

I’ve posted the draft that we made today for your group contract on Writeboard. Use the same password we’ve been using for the other Writeboards in the class. You can either edit the contract directly (being sure to enter your name at the bottom before saving changes), or add comments to discuss with other group members what you think should be changed. If you’d like to look at an example group project from another class at another University, look here for some ideas about how to draft your contract.

Considering mission

April 4th, 2011 by Caleb McDaniel

You guys have gotten a great start on this project, and I’m glad that it sounds like the visit to the GIS/Data center prompted a lot of good ideas!

One sense I get from your post is that you’re still sorting out what could be done technically. As you plan, my main recommendation is this: don’t base your “next actions” as a group just on the technical possibilities of the software. You want your “next actions” to be guided by “the view from 50,000 feet”–that is, by some sense of your mission or purpose as a group. What is it that you want a viewer of your map to learn or understand that only a map can really show them?

As you think about that question, it might be useful to think back to earlier discussions we’ve had in the semester that involved geography or maps.

For example, when we walked to the statue the very first day, was your impression of the statue at all shaped by its surroundings and placement in the Medical Center? Would your impression have been different if it had been placed in the location were the statue to Hermann stands now (since this was the original site considered for it, according to document DD0006)?

In class, we also have looked at maps of the streets named to Dowling and their location near Emancipation Park, and discussed the possible implications of that. Whether you put those particular locations on the map or not, are there issues raised by that discussion that relate to your map?

One of the other salient examples of a map we have looked at in class was the animated map showing “the Civil War in four minutes,” which demonstrated the shifting zones of emancipation during the Civil War. This was a map that combined “pin” locations (the battles that flashed on) with “layers,” so thinking about it and what the map itself taught you as a viewer may help you make decisions about what to include on your map.

My main point, though, is to urge you to consider your mission and even try to give it a statement. I’ll be asking you to do that for your contract as a group.