Skip to main content

tv   Kari Winter The Blind African Slave  CSPAN  May 30, 2022 5:30pm-7:01pm EDT

5:30 pm
engage in an almost global exchange of agricultural implements. org/history. like to welcome you to the third event in this year's read the revolution speakers series. i'm scott our light welcome you to the third event in this year's read the revelation speaker series. scott stevenson, the president and ceo of the museum of the american revolution. right down here in old historic philadelphia, at fern and chestnut street. it is so incredible to have a live audience back together. [applause] not only that but we
5:31 pm
are welcoming over 100 people who are tuning in online. they are tuning in from alabama, georgia, kentucky, california, texas, and wisconsin in addition to our usual friends along the east coast from new england, all the way down to virginia this evening. this is fabulous to be a hybrid event this evening. i'd like to start by thanking our sponsors for this evening, the had their forward trust company. they have been dear friends and sponsors since before the museum opened so our five year anniversary as an institution being open to the public is able 19th of this coming year and they go back even further than that. they have put in particular excellent partners in sponsoring the revolution series. it is a buy weekly email that you can sign up for with a curated excerpts from books
5:32 pm
about the american revolution. we have now done hundreds of these so if you go to the museum's website and sign up for read the revolution you will get a little brain food every other week. now, a hearty thanks to my friends from have a virtual here tonight. he is the president for business development, i can't see through the lights. and david parma, a frequent partner in crime here at the museum also vice president and portfolio manager. great to see you here this evening. for a quick commercial break now i'd like to pitch to those of you here tonight or those of you who are tuning online. if you can't get enough history and can really get enough of revolutionary history we have during the month of march on tuesday evening our am rev seminar in the revolutionary era. led by the ever affable doctor
5:33 pm
tyler putt man. not only is he erudite and intelligent but a very affable fellow. this will be a small group experience online with readings, with virtual tours using virtual resources from the museum, group discussions. so if you aren't ready to go out on tuesday evenings and march as we wait to see if it is a lion or lamb sign up for the seminar. i also want to pause to brag for a moment. you have heard of the prestigious web awards. this week the museum was honored with a silver anthem award from the web awards. 2500 submissions from 36 countries by the way. that was the silver award. that was for our interactive
5:34 pm
experience finding freedom. this originated, for those of you who have been to the museum, as an in gallery interactive experience that explores the lives and choices of five people of african descent who lived in virginia during the tumultuous year of 1781. with support from the alfred and green foundation we put that online. it has over half 1 million page views. teachers are using it around the country, indeed around the world and we are really pleased to be given this very prestigious award. this was also a week when philadelphia business journal awarded the museum a faces of land should be award for our partnership with comcast for our african american interpretive program. this is for black history month, this has been a pretty good month for recognition of all the work that the museum does all month severe.
5:35 pm
[applause] now finally, i'm very excited to be able to share with those of you in the audience in person and those online, you will see some imagery of a little tease of one of the museum's newest and most exciting acquisitions. we have just brought to the museum archives of nearly 200 original revolutionary war era documents that reflect the military service of men of african american indian descent in the continental army. there is a real intersection with a theme and story that you will be hearing about jeffrey this evening. in fact, there are several documents in his archive that with a little more research might actually prove to be documents that were relating to this individual. we are just in the process of getting that collection in. we plan to digitize it, we plan to develop teacher resources,
5:36 pm
have students learning to exercise their critical thinking to do research with primary sources and again to give proper recognition to men who served in the revolutionary war, who helped to establish american independence but whose lives did not include enjoying the fruits of those promises of the declaration of independence. so much more to come on that front. finally, to get the evening kicked off i'm so pleased to introduce a relatively new friend of the museum harry mott who is joining us from san francisco. he is the president and cofounder of a online organization called hiphoptv. he has developed new media platforms and has been a industry pioneer in this area to celebrate and amplify
5:37 pm
hip-hop culture. he is very deeply inspired by, and a real scholar in his own right, of african american history. he did his undergraduate studies at san diego state university with a b.a. in african studies. continuing to do some graduate work at ucla in african american history as well. he is always on the look for great stories and we have been pleased over the last couple of months to be talking with perry and his team hiphoptv to create an innovative partnership with the museum being a content divide provider to give programming that lift up some of these stories, particularly people of african descent. parry moss is always on the hunt for new stories, he just accidentally learned a couple of weeks ago that he was reading the blind african slave, the book that is the subject of our top tonight. we really couldn't pass up a chance to welcome perry to introduce this evening's program. perry, take it away please.
5:38 pm
>> the thank you scott for a great introduction. good evening everyone and good afternoon to everyone who is in the midwest or on the east coast. you might see me still having some sunlight here in san francisco. i want to say thank you to the museum of the american revolution for this read the revolution series. actually one of my colleagues in grad school was part of the series about a year ago, jessica. are you able to hear me? fantastic. thank you for all the work that you do for the community in philadelphia and the greater us and audiences around the world bringing democracy and great stories two bigger audiences.
5:39 pm
as scott mentioned, i've been working in hip-hop for over 20 years. he also mentioned that i went to grad school and i average we wanted to become a professor. i studied music and culture in the d aspirate in the u.s.. african american culture, intra list -- interestingly enough slave narratives were one of my focuses. i studied areas like ellen craft, harriet jacobs. the jeffrey narrative, it was usually a footnote or it was mentioned but it wasn't red and this is the mid 90s if you're wondering when. it was about the same time that doctor winter was reading that fragile copy of the blind african slave in the special collections of the university of vermont. personally, this has come full circle for me and i think it is pretty neat.
5:40 pm
now when the programs that we have on hiphoptv that we're trying to get off the ground is project 1865 to see the truth. what we do with that is we take a story and people from the past, we use contemporary voices to bring them into compensatory audiences today. that is one of the project we are working with the museum on. i think that's why they asked me to introduce dr. terri winter. i was honored and i am excited. once i accepted, i figure out how i'm going to introduce dr. kari winter. i've been in academia for over 20 years and i haven't worked in a museum in over 20 years either. i had a conversation with martha snyder from the museum to give me some good feedback. she said just a very, focus on the work because doctor winter did incredible work to bring jeffrey's story to contemporary
5:41 pm
audiences. i had lunch with one of my cousins, she is a historian in my family and we like to brag that we have a really good family. over 300 people at our union every summer. she takes the pictures of birth certificates, the death certificates, and everything else in between. she curates it and shares it with our family during family reunions and personal gatherings. it really reinforced all the work that she does. it reminded me of what martha mentioned, we focus on the work because that is really the gift that doctor kari winter has given us. just to give it some historical context, it also reminded me of alex haley. all the work he did to tell his family story. he was able to reconnect to his family in africa and obviously he wrote routes and became a huge movie in the 80s.
5:42 pm
it also reminded me of the work that alex walker did to re-discover the great writer in the harlem renaissance but she was forgotten 50 years. alice walker rediscovered her grave in florida, we discovered all her work and now she is required reading in high schools and colleges in many languages around the world. doctor kari winter is an excellent company. her work on the blind african slave really is prodigious. from that first fragile copy that she read in the mid 90s at the special collection of the university of vermont, she began to work with other scholars, other teachers, she was awarded grants to dig deeper into reintroducing or figuring out how to reintroduce
5:43 pm
this person. she traveled to barbados, london, and libraries and collections in universities across the country. ultimately, she found jeffries family in vermont and that includes rhonda who is on the program tonight. doctor winters, she is a historian, she is a literary critic, she's a screenwriter. she is a professor of american studies in the department of global gender studies at the university of buffalo. she has also served as the director of gender studies institute. she completed her ph.d. in english at the university of minnesota. she has a b.a. in english and history at indiana university. you probably know that she has written books on slavery, gender, and history. she has published countless scholarly articles, reviews,
5:44 pm
keynote addresses. she has lectured across the country and you can tell we are really lucky to have it tonight. before i pass the mic to dr. winter, know that her work, it is not a historical body of work. it is so relative today as we confront corruption with books being burned, critical thought being washed away, and democracy literally and figuratively under siege. so, i'm going to clued and hand over everything to dr. winter by taking whatever quotes and sharing with you that i found on the eater page of the university of buffalo. when we study history we often find that art is on the side of the oppressor. the focus of my research and my work as an artist is to discover and create stories
5:45 pm
that are on the side of democracy and human liberation. everyone please join me in welcoming doctor kari winter. cott and everyo >> wow. thank you so much perry. thank you so much of scott and everyone. hannah, mike, everyone who has made this visit possible. i have really been blown away, as has rhonda, in touring the museum today. it was incredibly inspiring. and thank you all of you for coming, both online and those of you in the room today. in this tremendously important work you are doing here at the museum, it reminded me of this quotation from these caller wrote robert harrison, who observes, as human beings, we
5:46 pm
are born of the dead, of the regional ground they occupy, at the languages they inhabited, of the worlds they brought into being, of the many institutional, legal, cultural and psychological legacies that, through us, connect them to the unborn. a central tool of enslavers and other tyrants is to attempt to sever the oppressed from their ancestors and their descendants. for this reason, oppress people continue to be this honored and erased in death, just as they were in life. the struggle for public memory is integral to our ongoing struggle to realize a valence of dreams of the american revolution. how far we have to go, glimpse the fact that according to the washington post, as of october
5:47 pm
2021, a 5917 recorded monuments in the united states that mentioned the civil war, only 1% also mentioned slavery. as of 2011, -- sorry, what is on my screen looks different than what you are seeing. i'm not used to that, okay? as of 2011, less than 8% of public outdoor -- were of women. none of the 44 national memorials managed by the national park service, specifically focuses on women and their accomplishments. museums such as this one are crucial to the process of building democracy because of the deeply researched, creative, and inspiring ways in which you are conveying complex truths
5:48 pm
about where we have come from and helping to light a path forward. so, thank you. for the past many years, rhonda have been working with a group of descendants of 18th and 19th century anti racist rioters and activists to promote justice through public history. these remarkable women have forge connections with their ancestors in diverse ways. for example, suzie ryan, who is a descendant of -- smith, who published his life story in 1798, in connecticut, she is drawn to quilting and cooking. she tells the story, she has also traveled to west africa, in connecting with her and sisters stories. right there, in that picture you can see a very small quilt, which he worked with an anthropologist to find out what
5:49 pm
was the original land that venture smith-owned. that's a quilt representing the land in connecticut, which the family still visits. she's the president have sisters me -- president have sitters sisters and stages, which is an african american quilting guild, focused on storytelling. they also published a cookbook and tell stories through recipes. regina mason, a relentless researcher and gifted storyteller, as co-edited a book with william andrews, which is a new addition of her ancestors more, which was a first fugitive slave and narrative published, in 1825. she also managed, with no background and film, she managed to produce a major documentary about her ancestor
5:50 pm
and her quest to find him. lynn jackson, a descendant of dred scott, had the vision and persistence to commission and install a statue in st. louis, honoring her ancestors. and has worked tires late to foster justice through dialogue between descendants of enslavers and descendants of the enslaved. i hope that glimpsing their work and reflecting on the life of jeffrey brace jeffrey brace will inspire you to think about who you claim as your ancestors and why. ralph ellison observed, while one can do nothing about choosing one's relatives, one can, as artists, choose one's ancestors. in other words, the process of creation involves choice, intentionality. we stay claims to the past by selecting who and what to remember, to attend to, to dialogue with, to care about.
5:51 pm
tony morrison, in her epigraph to beloved underscores ethical ramifications of our choices about who we identify with. quoting romans 9:25, morrison declares i will call them my people, which were not my people, and her beloved, which was not beloved. in the spirit of morrison's memorial to beloved, i invite you to remember jeffrey price, whose birth name was -- . on a sunny day, in 1758, -- he celebrated his 16th birthday by swimming in plain water sports with 13 of his friends in the niger river. when they sounded the riverbank to head home, a party of slave catchers with dogs sprang from the forest and grabbed the terrified voice. three managed to escape but the
5:52 pm
human traffickers secured in the other 11 with ropes, gag them and tossed them into a boat that sank of death and fish. after a four-day journey, they reach the atlantic ocean and transferred boys to a large slave ship. the traders spent several more weeks guyger gathering him in cargo -- the british colony of barbados. over the next 15 years, boyrereau brinch, renamed jeffrey brace, suffered the horse -- in the seven years'war. endured slavery in connecticut. fought in the american resolution. -- married and raise the family on his own farm, in vermont, and joined a regional mixed race network of anti slavery
5:53 pm
activists. in 1810, with the assistance of a young, white lawyer named benjamin franklin, and enterprising young printer named harry whitney, he published his life story until the title of the blind, african slave, or members of boyrereau brinch, nick named jeffrey brace. almost 190 years later, i picked up, as parry moss just said, a fragile copy of the blind african slave, and the special collection at the versatility of vermont. i was riveted. i had been studying slave narratives for over a decade and had not -- this extraordinary book. why, i wondered? the more's minds life people who remembered africa are exceedingly rare. as our first person accounts of black soldiers in the american resolution. love the autobiographical narratives in english recording the experience of enslaved
5:54 pm
people before 1810, only one, -- is longer than jeffrey brace's. how can we account for the disappearance of the blind african slave? in the past 25 years, i've traveled far and wide in an attempt to learn more about jeffrey brace and his world. i velour come to believe that his story of a central truths about american history that should be integral to our self understanding. born around 14 92 to a highly respected family in the region of west africa that is now called molly, boyrereau brinch's captured by slave traders through him into the ranks of millions of americans -- africans who were violently suffered from their families, cultures, and indeed, their entire known worlds. on the voyage to barbados, he -- no vestige of kindness, compassion, or morality. men who tortured, starved, and murdered children as well as
5:55 pm
adults. sexual abuse was ubiquitous. brace observes the captains and then -- at the young women, as they choose to sleep with them and introduced them into their several apartments. he continues, that to the horror of the scene the sailors were not provided with mistresses would force the women before the eyes of their husbands. sexual violence was a defining element of the trade, a practice that white officers, sailors, buyers, and sellers saw as a major benefit to their parcels participation in slavery, and a tool they used to subjugate and terrorize the people of the enslaved. conditions were so horrific that, as brace tells us, many enslaved people died from disease, mourned themselves to death, or starved. he says many of the children actually died from hunger. grief, depression, and ptsd were leading contributors to
5:56 pm
slave mortality. isaac wilson, a surgeon aboard an 18th century slave ship that lost 155 of 602 enslaved people during the middle passage was persuaded that two thirds of the deaths resulted from melancholy. closer to africa than any other west indian island, barbados was a central hub in the trend -- burgeoning transatlantic economy, and the first protocol for many english slave ships. seen by english monarchs as the greatest jewel in our crown of trade, the island sparkle like an emerald sets in blazing white santa against the aquamarine caribbean sea. its economic engine was violence, exploitation and death. when the traumatized young boyrereau brinch arrived, he and his fellow slaves were removed from slave ships and imprisoned in what he calls a
5:57 pm
large version, or a house of subject shun, where they were beaten and starved until all began to be subdued and to work according to their strength and abilities. among other atrocities brace recalls a slave driver who responded to a young girl's attempts to protect her six-year-old brother by whipping the girl to death in front of her brother's eyes. after she died, the driver turned on brace, and with a large tarred rope gave me about 50 stripes, which cut -- in every part of my body. brace also notes that sailors continued to rape women enrich, town as they had done aboard ship, in a matter that terrorize the witnesses, as well as the women, in prisons of all the assembly. he says fathers and mothers were eyewitnesses to their daughters being despoiled, husbands be held their wives in the hands of the beastly destroyers. children bore witness of the
5:58 pm
brutality practiced upon their mothers. in addition to committing rapes themselves, enslavers profited financially from enabling other men to commit rape. both male and female slave holders encouraged the prostitution's of the women the enslaved. after about three months in the sleigh breaking prison, i'm gonna take a moment there to show you some slides. it is really powerful. this is from the public record office in london. it's really powerful. these are the original reports from the logs from the port of the town of bridge town, where you have the commander's name, these are the slave ships, and a number of slaves that are on board of the ship. they are, the numbers go up to 602. -- it is number two.
5:59 pm
here is a number -- another list. you can see barbados, treasury return of new -- imported from the 9th of may 1757 to 9th of may 1758. then you can see the numbers. brace believes that we're about 300 survivors on his ship. there were many artistic representations of the violence. contemporaneous representations of the violence aboard ship. this is a record that shows just the casualty of what we call the triangular trade, from africa we import -- to the northern colonies. we export rum, et cetera, in return from maryland -- virginia, it's a trend. all the different products and human beings are just included as a product along with the
6:00 pm
others. this is a bridge down, i was just thank you mike, one of the astonishing things that i discovered that really blew me away and forced me to reorient my understanding of the world in the 18th century is that bridge town was a much more important port for the british empire in the 18th century than any of the cities that we consider so important like new york, philadelphia, boston. it was a really major transatlantic hub at the time. after about three months in prison, he was sold to a connecticut ship captain named isaac mills whose 44 gunned frigate was engaged by the british navy for the duration of the seven years'war. many of you will have seen a 44 gun frigate because this is what it looks like.
6:01 pm
because he had not yes learned english, mills placed him in the charge of a british officer who trained enslaved africans in military discipline by using a rudimentary sign language. within two or three months he found himself thrust into naval skirmishes with the spanish and french vessels. the british navy relied heavily on black labor and some naval yards, the majority of laborers were black and all of the colonial european powers featured black soldiers and sailors as essential to their military ambitions. in part because of the high mortality rate of white sailors. the seven years'war, which was also called the french and indian war, was in many ways the first world war. that is to say a global struggle between european powers who are vying for control of colonies around the
6:02 pm
world. the central rivalry was between france and england, but in 1762 the spanish allied with the french. during the last three years of the war, the period in which brace was impressed and disservice. the british shifted their military effort to the west indies laying siege to guadeloupe, and havana. odd by the spectacle of enormous navies, brace bore witness to the english capture of havana in the summer of 1762. a strategic port essential to the spanish power in the caribbean. havana was more strongly fortified than any other report in the americas. the british plan to attack it with the seaborne army of more than 20,000 men. including at least 500 free black men and 2000 enslaved men from jamaica. thus, brace joined thousands of men impressed into military service. early in 1762, captain mills
6:03 pm
vestal lost's sight of the guy ship and was fired upon by a spanish vessel. during the ensuing battle, he received five wounds and in the eyes of his captain showed great courage. after toeing the captured spanish vessel to savannah, georgia mills sailed again for have havana where the british assault began on june 8th. after a horrific siege in which hundreds of soldiers died from combat while thousands dialed from heat, yellow fever, malaria, gastrointestinal disorders, and scarcity of drinking water, the spanish commandant formally surrendered on august 14th. after the war, captain mills return to commerce sailing with his crew to dublin, ireland and too many north american ports including halifax nova scotia, st. augustine florida, new york city, newport, rhode island, and boston massachusetts.
6:04 pm
thus, jeffrey became, through your choice of his own, a world traveler and cultural hybrid. he likes to boston where he was allowed to rest for about two months while recovering from multiple wounds. he encountered a community of, in his words, free african descendants who appeared to be well contented and their situation. they showered him with questions and attention and brace found himself extremely anxious to remain in boston. a hub of both the slave trade and anti slavery agitation, boston had a brown community that included many politically active freed women and men as well as slaves and fugitives. brace may have met many impressive boston eons. this is how boston harbour look at the time. this is boston market.
6:05 pm
brace may have met many impressive black boston's including a young girl named phyllis who had been sold at the age of eight to john weekly about a year before braces arrival. weekly was a prominent merchant and taylor whose clientele included the wealthiest man in boston, john hancock who was also a slave holder. phyllis likely helped so hancock -- this is a portrait of him. this is his wife and this is a portrait we have of phyllis weekly, who as you know becomes one of the mothers of african american literature. in jeffries work, titled black jacks, african american seamen in the age of sale.
6:06 pm
he has a portrait of how some black sailors looked. brace refers twice to the clothes he was given and he, his clothes probably looked more like this. he says captain melas closed him in a say this jacket and kilt, and a new white shirt. he had no shoes. although brace desperately wanted to remain in boston, in the fall of 1773 he was transported to new haven connecticut and's he was sold to a yankee puritan from milford. mills's hometown. compared to the bustling international ports brace had visited, new haven was a small conservative town on long island. the village proper was organized around the town where race would've seen three churches, for yale college buildings, courthouse, jill, and grammar school. the population of new england
6:07 pm
it was only about 2% black whereas barbados was 85% black. all of new england colonies legalized slavery between the years 16 41, massachusetts, and 1714 in new hampshire. codify it as an inherited racial status. although impoverished white locals and immigrants were routinely -- although slavery did not flourish in england as it did in the southern colonies, impoverished immigrants were routinely sold into indentured servitude and africans into slavery in new haven. a typical announcement in the connecticut gazette stated, samuel willis of mill town will sell salary can african boys and girls. the lack of denigrating language and the simple announcement that boys and girls were for sale testifies to a society well versed in the exploitation of children as well as africans. in the months following
6:08 pm
embraces arrival, the connecticut gazette announced the sale of quote, a negro wench and child on june 15th 1763. the binding out of poor whites and children on july 4th, 1763. and the sale of quote, a partial of irish servants just imported from dublin, both men and women to be sold cheap. as a historian, racial distinctions in america were less pronounced then they would become. this was not because early america had a high regard for black bondsmen, but rather because many whites were also in bondage. recruited from the british laura classes, frequently the irish, whites held in various forms of servitude often lived lives that were little different than those of the black slaves.
6:09 pm
indentured services, practices, and cement work at the same occupations that slaves did, we're sold on auction blocks alongside imported africans, and were flogged and maimed for many of the same offenses for which blacks were punished. newspapers and colonial america often cared, carried advertisements for runaway blacks and runway whites. wives and sons were also frequent runaways from the severe violence of the patriarchal family structure. in connecticut, brace encountered white attitudes that range from pro slavery to abolitionist. from rapidly racist to mildly egalitarians. he describes in a plainspoken manner the statistic treatment he received at the hands of yankees. suffering from multiple wounds sustained in battle and during work, race was sold by captain
6:10 pm
mills to john burr well of milford. a village on a long island -- taken from the native peoples. the land was fertile, game was plentiful, and the sound in the east river abounded with clams, oysters, blue crabs, lobsters, and many varieties of fish. at the time of races arrival in a frosty october, milford featured two churches. this is rendering of one of them, it still stands. the town featured two churches, three taverns, two small church run libraries, and for schools as well as many houses and businesses. shipbuilding was an important industry. many ocean going vessels, including slave ships, were
6:11 pm
built in milford shipyards which were located on the well protected harbor that was navigable for vessels which tied up at the wharf to load and unload. merchants prosper by exchanging horses, cattle, pork, beef, mountain, flower, corn meal, and furs obtained in indian trade. for sugar rum and molasses from the west indies, manufactured goods from england, and winds from france. almost one in ten residents of milford was enslaved. although the overwhelming majority of connecticut residents over 95% were not slave owners at any given time, 70% of connecticut's wealthy merchants owned slaves in the 18th century, as did 50% of wealthy farmers, justices, officers, captain's, deputies, ministers, and deacons. in short, slavery was created
6:12 pm
by and for the ruling class, the same elite that exploded the labor of white indentured servants. in the household of john, race was forced to sleep on a bare hurt without so much as a blanket. encountering snow for the first time he had nothing to wear but his thin linen jacket and sailors kilts. given no shoes, he was forced to work outdoors in bare feet. the wounds he had received at sea broke out newly-and he almost perished with cold and hunger. brace describes burrow as a professed puritan who would read the bible and pray both at night and morning for all mankind while starving, beating, and torturing the man he held in bondage. braces juxtaposition of his religious piety with his savage in anticipates the motif of christian hypocrisy that would become central to the
6:13 pm
antebellum slave narrative. the congregational church to which the borrell family belonged was the's official church and as much, it collected taxes from all tax players regardless of their religious persuasion. like whites, blacks in 18 century connecticut were required to attend church. most churches, the seeding and the church reflected the social hierarchy. the social elite occupy the prominent seats, blacks were assigned to the corners or cues which were set in the back or in balconies. he abused brace so horrific lee that one of his own relatives captain samuel told him that such abuse was inhuman and on christian. he was so outraged that he rescued brace and brought him to his own home where he nursed him back to health. but as soon as brace was able to work again he was sold again,
6:14 pm
this time to peter, another sadist who whipped him for crying at night. brace found himself passed from one exceedingly cool master to another until september 17th 1960 -- he was purchased by a widow of woodbury. a nearby town. in the two brief paragraphs that he devotes to the 16 years he was enslaved by the family, he asserts that the years he spent with mary were quote a glorious era in my life. widows styles was one of the finest women in the world. she possessed every christian virtue. mary styles won his affection by teaching him to read, helping him improve his english speaking skills, and treating him with a modicum of grand motherly affection. the south brewery, this is a sync nature from harry -- the paris well she lived and
6:15 pm
proximity to her children and grandchildren was situated in a fertile landscape. the main street built over an old indian trail featured a congregational church, school, some stores, and so on. the styles home property outlined by a stone fence was across the street from a cemetery built over an ancient burial ground. bruce's recollections of his right life with styles represented -- he was largely confined to the families circle of domesticity, agriculture, and aaron's. in woodbury, brace lived in near dozens of people of african descent. white people often pretended that indians had vanished but in fact several families were neighbors of mary styles. racist laws required all blacks, enslaved or free, to carry a pass from the authorities or masters when they left home.
6:16 pm
blacks and indians were banned from engaging in trade or hooks during. economic activity that enabled some people to get a bigger share of the economy in places like barbados. slaves in connecticut were subjected to a 9:00 curfew and could be publicly whipped if they were convicted of being in the street without special permits from their masters or mistresses. it was illegal for white families to entertain blacks, models, or indians unless they were sent on business. you can see here the undermining of any kind of solidarity and friendship across racial lines. furthermore, license shopkeepers and camp keepers were forbidden to entertain quote, any man's son, apprentice, servant, or negros without any drink without special order or allowance from
6:17 pm
a suspected parents and masters. if people of color were convicted of crime, they received punishments exceeding those given to whites. for example, when convicted for selling or receiving a stolen property whites received 20 lashes whereas blacks received 30. braces memorize suggests that what he valued most during his woodbury years was a mary style's determination to educate him. she sent him to the local school along with her grandchildren. the school master reacted to brace with hostility and violence. the scene took an unusual twist when brace decided not to accept a whipping and walked out instead of sitting down. he tells us, i had expected he would follow me and had determined in my own mind to give him the one thing as i barely believed the task would be easy. anger prompted me to this determination but he did not follow me. a tall muscular young man
6:18 pm
intimidated the school master. race assumes intellectual and moral, as well as physical superiority. noting quote, prudence kept him from a following me and vengeance melted me into pity for i pitted his want of discernment and just judgments. despite this type of sort, brace was so overcome with disappointment and pain that he sat down and wept. he may have been familiar with one of the most outrageous pieces racist legislation in connecticut, the 17 await defamation act which stated if any negro or and a lot of slave disturb the peace or shall offered to strike any white person convicted such slave will be punished by whipping. in 1730, this law was strengthened to make it illegal for any black, motto, or
6:19 pm
indians to publish speak. thus why people could taunt, threaten, and attack black people and indians with impunity. knowing that any black or indian person who defended him or herself was at the risk of violent punishment. bruce was comforted when widow styles decided to teach him herself. part of a significant minority of christian ministry says who were willing to break social convention and even the law in order to teach enslaved people to read, mary style saw this as her religious duty to enable her slave to read the bible. the congregational church expected women to remain silent in church and forbade them from preaching. thus, teaching brace and discussing theology gave marry a rare opportunity to exercise her intelligence and display her knowledge. brace observes she was unable to fatigue --
6:20 pm
after mary's death in 1773, brace descended like real estate to her son benjamin. she probably had little control over this inheritance because unless she had obtained a prenuptial agreement, which was extremely rare in those days, a wife could neither own nor acquire property nor could she enter into a contract or write a will. thus, race was forced to enter a new period of enslavement in the household of benjamin and ruth styles and their nine children. benjamin styles was a lawyer and legislator who served several terms as representative of woodbury in connecticut's general assembly. in 1774 styles reputation began to falter. i'm not going to go into all the ideas but basically he was suspected of corruption and sympathies. as the sentiment towards the
6:21 pm
revolution began to build, in 1777 to of benjamin styles sons nathan and david ages 18 and 26 enlisted in the continental army and jeffrey brace joined them. he was not slow to recognize the irony of fighting for american freedom. quote, i also entered the banners of freedom alas, poor african slaves to liberate freemen, my tyrants. in this observation brace highlights the fact that not all definitions of freedom were created equal. the harvard sociologist orlando patterson who has written monumental studies of the constituent elements of both slavery and freedom as they evolve over millennia and civilizations over the globe has demonstrated that concepts of freedom emerged historically in a closed style dialectical
6:22 pm
relationship with slavery. in the late 18th century the authors of our most cherished documents failed to extricate their revolutionary values of freedom, equality, and democracy from their economic and ideological, emotional reliance on racialized patriarchal structures of slavery. we continue to retain us undermining of democracy today in the ways that the trump freedom is deployed to justify the perpetuation of misogyny, racism, and rapacious economics. patterson observe that freedom has three central definitions. personal freedom involves the ability to pursue ones desires without coercion or restraint. but within the limits of other persons desire to do the same. this freedom is the power to act as one pleases regardless of the wishes of others. this is the definition that the
6:23 pm
founders attacked, and if you saw the exhibit working george statue has been toppled, that's why. they don't like this idea of freedom, sovereign freedom, the freedom of the sovereign to do whatever he wanted. in the declaration of independence, they came out in complete opposition to that notion. our founding documents asserted vision a civic freedom. that is the capacity of adult members of a community to participate in its life and governance. a person feels free in a sense to the degree that he or she belongs to the community, has a recognize place and it, and is involved in some way in the way it is governed. the existence of civic freedom amplifies a political community of some sort with clearly defined rights and obligations for every single person -- we must reject the reduction of
6:24 pm
freedom to soften notions that narcissistic lee lead nation states and transnational corporations that they have the right to do as they please regardless of the harms they inflict. to return to the story, which i don't have a whole lot left. african american soldiers, sailors, labor, spies, and guides played a significant role in the revolutionary war. comprising possibly as much as 25% of george washington's army, they enlisted for a variety of reasons. the motives of free blacks range from economic necessity to a political conviction and desire for adventure. in slave men were motivated primarily by promises of ammunition. some black man were hired or forced to service substitutes for their masters. during and after the war their fates varied widely. a contemporary observer noted,
6:25 pm
a blank space is left on historical markers between black soldiers and white. in genuine keeping with the negro pew distinction set blow all the others abide by themselves even after that. it is difficult to say why they were not the last in the fight. historical records indicate that 25 enslaved man from woodbury enlisted at various periods of the war and made good soldiers. again, this is a quote from a contemporary source. fighting valiantly for the liberties of the country. many enslaved men from milford and other towns throughout new england also enlisted. bray spent much of the war racially integrated but. there were some black and people of color units where he might have spent time. while he remained in service
6:26 pm
for five years, benjamin style sons nathan and david performed cursory duty. they arrived in camp together on august 16th 1777 and entered the captain's company in the 13th regiment of militia from the state of connecticut commanded by benjamin. kept -- the captain was their cousin and the colonel was their uncle which may explain why their military service amounted to the nearest token. nathan was discharged after only 29 days which included ten days for travel and david was just charged after one month and seven days which included ten days for travel. brace did not serve alongside the styles boys, rather he served of a private in companies of infantry for the duration of war. in contrast to his somber and awestruck treatment of the seven years'war, braces representation of the revolution is irreverent and sometimes even comic.
6:27 pm
tongue and cheek, he describes an occasion when he pulled the wall over his commanding officer. brace recalls a group of soldiers left, led by samuel, a brave soldier but as complete a petty thief as ever grace the camp. he stole a pick from a tory farmer. the hostility between the patriots and loyalists randy. most of the stories we're from the upper class and most of the, they often saw the patriots as rebel. they brought the stolen pig back to the camp and the toy farmer was furious. the colonel questioned the troops to figure out how they obtain the tag. brace claimed that the owner had brought it for sale but he was suspected of being a tory spy and so they determined to keep the pick until the officers. he relates, my fellow soldiers were grad of the opportunity of
6:28 pm
confirming the truth of my assertion which completely satisfy the colonel of our innocence. in addition to showcasing his sense of humor, this incident reveals a sense of camaraderie he felt with his fellow soldiers. in the summer of 1783 brace was given an honorable discharge with a badge of merit. samuel, lieutenant who knew him later swore in a deposition that quote, jeffrey brace was a faithful soldier and there was no better soldier in the army. brace return to woodbury where he lived with benjamin styles for mom more year intel styles finally consented that he might go where he pleased and seek his fortune. hundreds of white folk from connecticut were heading to vermont and race joined them, having heard flattering accounts of this new state. the flattering accounts
6:29 pm
included the fact that for montrose the first day to abolish slavery, which it did in 1777 constitution. from a wide perspective, vermont was a frontier wilderness but brace found it rich. i do have a few more pages but i want to get to ronda and the conversation. i'll try to be a little quick here. while working at a tavern in dorset, saving money to start a farm, jeffrey met an african widow named suzannah dublin. who he says possessed a reciprocal abhorrence to slavery. when she agreed to marry him, he was thrilled by, this would bring enjoy being united to a per virtuous, patient, and prudent women so late in his life. he was in his early 40s.
6:30 pm
through hard work and persistence, jeffrey and suzannah achieved many successes. they also suffered tremendously. the most horrific thing that happened to them was too powerful white people forced suzannah's children into indentured servitude. jeffrey and suzannah were not able to prevent that from happening. in my introduction in the book i go into a lot more detail. anyway, they start a farm in southern vermont. after seven years of harassment from a racist neighbor, they ended up needing to sell. once the racist neighbor threatened to indenture the children they had together, brace said over my dead body. they sold their farm and moved to northern vermont and started over.
6:31 pm
things started going well for them. they were able to buy another farm and started it. at this point, they had an extended family, including adults. they had and -- in 1804 they had their first grandson. and then in 1807, suzannah suddenly got ill and died seven days later. a severe blow. jeffrey said, short was the warning but heavy the blow. i was left without an earthly companion to linger out the remainder of my day's. but he did not give up. despite suffering from buying in this, age, and poverty, brace threw himself into anti slavery activism. in his late 60s he narrated his life story to benjamin prentice, a white anti slavery lawyer. brace explain his determination
6:32 pm
to narrate his story as the rising primarily out of his sentence -- my duty to myself, to all africans who can read, to the church, and in short to all mankind, tennis publish these my memoirs that all may see how poor africans have been and perhaps now are abused by a christian and enlightened to people. the book was really extraordinary, it was the first book ever published in a small town of -- vermont, near the canadian border. not many books have been published there since. it had a big impact. but it did not so much. he was still really financially struggling. there was a surprising number, however, of african american activists and preachers in vermont. in 1852, a black church elder named beautifully john lewis,
6:33 pm
described brother jeffrey brace as a man of remarkable influence and a bible scholar whose influence helped to revolutionize public sentiment of this state against the abomination of american slavery, and to destroy prejudice against color. by the mid 19th century, vermont became the most anti-slavery state in the union. john lewis asserted, i am acquainted with several brethren whose hearts were planted the scene of abolitionism by the simple tale of the men's wrongs, inflicted by the cruel slave power. late in his life, brace -- congress passed an act to provide pensions for surviving soldiers from the revolution. brace applied for one. and it took three years. eventually, he did obtain it. he was given the pension with
6:34 pm
the rear, which totaled $328 in arrears, which was a lot of money then. that was enough to make the last six years of his life materially comfortable. jeffrey brace died in georgia, vermont, an april 20th, 1827. he was memorialized in his hometown of possibly, or the local newspaper had a young teenage apprentice norm named a horse greely -- published a long a bitter worry probably written by maurice, praising brace's mental powers and the powers of his memory. by mid century, the power of brace's memory had achieved legendary status within four months abolitionist community. john lewis asserted that brace's noble pai's character
6:35 pm
had a powerful influence on the public mind in vermont. he had a powerful and wonderful memory. and although for many years, during the latter part of his life, he was perfectly blind, he had the bible so completely committed to his memory that he could repeat it chapter and verse, from genesis to revelations. within accuracy truly an astonishing. it has been set of him that if the bible was lost and not a copy to be found on earth, if a good writer would sit down with him, he could repeat it from memory so that a complete copy could again be produced. he goes on like that and concludes, brother jeffrey brace, who in life was youthful and in-depth is happy, it may truly be set of him, his record is on high. fortunately for us, his record is also on earth. both in the farm of his precious memories and in the lives of his physical and
6:36 pm
spiritual descendants. the story continues with them. four great grandsons survived. jeffrey brace moved to springfield massachusetts, where his descendants still live, including rhonda. this is his gravestone in vermont. peter brace fought for the union during the civil war, in the first black regiment, the massachusetts 54th. he survived the war and lived hunter 1913. was named after his african great grandfather -- and he married alan de, a woman -- who loved to garden. after they divorced, allen de
6:37 pm
married the youngest brace brother, even. the man on the right there, dick frances, is a descendants of ellen de, who he remembered and who he inherited his love of gardening. on the left is tina saint francis brace, from the st. francis band of -- who is married to jim brace, who is the age of rhonda and i. the brace have into married with the -- for probably 200 years. this is a photo from the 1970s. a portrait of the brace family that is still in st. all bins. -- just mentioned, is the second from the left, on the top. you can see -- i don't know if you can see in the photo -- they range from blond and blue to quite dark.
6:38 pm
i feel like this is the american family, is how i think of this. despite the fact that they are sons and daughters of the american revolution, when leo brace joined the american army in world war ii, he had to fight in a racially segregated unit. in 2008, 60 defendants of the brace family gathered from around new england for the unveiling of the historical marker, honoring their ancestor near the site of the brace farm, in southern vermont. the brace family also has produced other kinds of patriots. this is rhonda's nephew, ron, who unfortunately died at the
6:39 pm
age of 29. but he was in the new england patriots. i would say that the story i have recounted today is the story of one american family. but it is also the story of the united states, and of the modern world. i was walking down the street in prague, czech republic, and i was astounded to come across this statue, over 200 years old. it depicted african men and change upholding the foundation. it is now the romanian embassy in prague. there is no commentary about the horror of this image. i just want to emphasize, this is not just an american story. this is a story of the modern
6:40 pm
world and modern economy. this is rhonda's brother on the left, ronald jeffrey brace ii. he is the father of ron brace, in the new england patriots. and jeffrey brace, jeffrey sylvester brace the third. this is a name that stayed in the family since long before they knew anything about them at more. this is jeffrey brace, her uncle, and his son, jeffrey brace. her uncle jeffrey, is the original progenitor, he was six foot three. so, her uncle looks a lot like the original jeffrey brace most likely looked. one of the most spiritual, powerful moments of my life was when i met him after the book
6:41 pm
came out and they invited me. when we shook hands, i honestly felt like a bolt of lightning coming through. that is the end of what i -- honestly, i started out with 60 pages and try to cut it down, but i could talk to you easily for hours. there are so much i want everybody to know about this story. thank you so much for listening. [applause] so, rhonda brace it's going to join me. scott for a conversation with you all.
6:42 pm
>> i feel like i have to let that story sort of rest for a minute. >> rest indeed. >> i think we are on. >> okay. awesome. awesome. first, can i say something first? i would like to thank you kari so much. it is because of her that we have our history. she spent a lot of time, a lot of hours, and she continues to be passionate about the jeffrey brace story. i'm so glad we connected and that we have the opportunity to continue the legacy, continue the story. because, as she said, it's not only an american story, it's an international story, it's all of our legacy. i think that is very important for all of us to embrace it. i also wanted to mention that last picture with my uncle and his son, that was also the row
6:43 pm
that led to where jeffrey brace's homestead would've been in vermont. we had the opportunity to make that track there. [applause] >> there are so many remarkable moments in the story of just bringing the story to life. one of the things i reflect on a lot, kari, it is when you started working on trying to edit and annotate your research, there were two known copies of this meant more. i think now there are four known copies. how close the story came to being lost completely. this is not a story, rhonda, you grew up knowing. can you say a little bit about what you on the. and then we will fill in -- >> certainly. i did know that my family came
6:44 pm
from saint albums, vermont. when people asked my father or my father's family was from, where are the brace family from, oh, we're from vermont. people were like, blacks in vermont? yes, blacks and vermont. that's where my family came from. we had no idea -- no bibles with history. family lineage of any sorts. the only thing we had, birth certificates of jeffrey sylvester brace, the great grandson of the jeffrey we are speaking of, who is also my -- my grandfather was jeffrey sylvester brace, he was his grandfather. we had the records indicating his birth, mayorship difficult it's, things of that nature and knew that it was -- vermont that our family originated from. it wasn't until maybe 2004 or five, the same uncle, jeffrey
6:45 pm
brace, a friend of his provided an article from the redlined herald in newspaper that spoke of a professor who had done some research on a book in this special collection section of the library. and in reading that article, my uncle knew that my dad and him had very great conversations just wondering about their lineage. know my uncle' s like obecause of his name bei, that's why the gentlemen brought the paper to him because he said you have to look at this. my uncle is like, i'll read it later, that kind of thing. he ended up reading it, thought it was comical, brought it to my dad, they would call my father bag. hey babe, i want you to take a look at this. he is cropping up, thinking it is hilarious, thinking it is money. my father reads it and finds it interesting but the beauty of it all is that my father had been praying to learn more
6:46 pm
about his family lineage and so when this came across. they're just reading it and i'm saying to myself, i read it and i said jeffrey brace, that is a family name. this has been going for generations upon generations. st. all burrs vermont is where i know our family came from. too much of a coincidence. i thought about the documents that we had with dates on them and reading some of the dates with curry as far as jeffrey brace. i said, it is too coincidental, i think we're just missing a couple of generations. i'm going to make an attempt and i looked up her information, i contacted cory and i gave her the lineage that i had. she intern replied and told me that jeffrey brace was my descendant, she was able to give me the two missing links that i was missing.
6:47 pm
[applause] the author -- when i contacted her, she called me back to say this is winter's, you are a descendant of jeffrey brace and by extension number is 12:27. 12:27 is my birthday. i can find out that curries base -- it is the date of the original publication of the memoir. i like connecting those things. >> got any numbers for the power ball tonight? [laughs] >> let's see, ten, 15, 47, 12. >> we're going to invite you all in the audience and those online to ask a few questions
6:48 pm
as well but i would love to hear the story of your family field trip to connecticut. >> so, i had the opportunity, she mentioned mary styles and i had the opportunity to be in contact with benjamin styles who was a descendant of mary styles. in that conversation, my contact with him, i think the first time i contacted him i questioned whether or not we could meet. at that time his mom was not doing well. anyways, we ended up connecting again, had the opportunity to take a trip to what is now south very, it was woodbury at the time, south korea when we went in 2015. i met then styles, he and i talked. he wondered if i had papers or information. i wondered if he had papers and information. neither one of us had anything
6:49 pm
but the unique experience about that journey is that his wife said, then why don't you take them down to the seller. and so my mom would go but my dad and i went. what is known is that that room in the cellar where the quarters were jeffrey brace would've lived as a slave. my dad and i, as we are walking down the stairs very eerie, thank smell. you could see the fireplace had the cast iron fans from cooking. we just kind of surveyed and went around the room. you could almost, it could feel like there is a presence of jeffrey brace. the floors were the same rickety floors. as we, it was an eerie feeling.
6:50 pm
the other thing i regret is not having the video camera with me at the time to be able to take video of it. i did have the opportunity to take some pictures. one day i hope to show those pictures. we came back upstairs and happened to walk back into the kitchen and look back into a room and saw an elderly woman sitting there who was the current mother of ben styles. it put me into the mind of mary styles and the whole experience made me think about, first of all the greatness of her, mary styles, taking the time to make sure that jeffrey learned, was able to read, was able to write. how phenomenal was that? just to be in the presence of where he once laid his head.
6:51 pm
so currently, that particular location, they sell maple syrup and christmas trees when we were there. it was a wonderful experience, i'm hoping to make my way back there again. i try to get a bus trip to the family but they weren't ready for that. thank you. >> we are so delighted to have such an important person. we are little short on time but everyone in the room has a great advantage of being able to engage with them over the books on cable. we are going to throw just one question to our friends on zoom and scott is going to get the last one. we all have all night to hang out and talk here in real life museum. i just wanted to give a quick shout out, we have some great gina logical love coming in through our online guests. we have a denise dennis online who i understand you guys got
6:52 pm
to see prince. kathy overton is online who is a descendant of a different member of connecticut. a soldier who served alongside jeffrey rice. a really exciting reunion in the room. i think the question we'd like to ask both of you is, this book has been out for about a decade and a half, it has been published 15 years ago. do you care to offer any reflections on how the conversations you had with students, researchers, family, have evolved and changed in the last 15 years? >> for me, i think back to the experience that we had in oxford. being part of, being part of a conference where that was the first time slave narratives were discussed. myself, curry, and regina mason were there and i think for that
6:53 pm
to occur i thought was a phenomenal feat because it was the first type of conference that we were featured in but it helped to broaden the knowledge of jeffrey brace a new england. i thought that was phenomenal. i know cory works a lot with students and i'm certainly sure that in her experience she has some experience as far as the students were concerned with that. >> it was really a phenomenal thing, a really phenomenal thing. the unique thing about that conference at oxford university was that it brought scholars from all over the world who also were studying slavery in different countries, different historical contexts. the most impressive comment i thought was that there was a woman from nigeria who is
6:54 pm
studying slavery and she came up afterwards and said to rhonda and gina, it never occurred to me that people could be proud of their enslaved ancestors. i'm like, wow. but anyway, they were incredibly powerful. i would say that the story has never seemed more relevant than it seems today. the urgency of studying african american history is so powerfully present. i continue doing research, i've published more articles, gone into more depth about the different aspects. his experiences in barbados, experiences in connecticut, in vermont, and so on. currently, i am working on, i'm
6:55 pm
hoping to have a four parts tv program about his life because i really wanted to get a larger audience in the public. i've been working on that for a while. the other thing that rhonda and i both have been working on is to create a network of, it is so powerful that the descendants of 18th and 19th century african american activists in arthur's are still alive. it just brings the history so close and so, just to see the activism from generation to generation. i've been doing a lot of work under what i would call reclaiming our ancestors. gina calls it inspired by courage. we really showcase the work and
6:56 pm
the continuity of history the way, as faulkner said, the past is not dead and gone, it is not even passed. i guess those are a few thoughts in response to that question. >> i'm not sure, i want your this also because oftentimes for me i know that i was surprised to find out that there was slavery in new england. we all saw often think about the enslaved being from southern states. my mother came from alabama but i don't know of any of her family who enslaved. the whole thought of slavery for me was one that i always thought about as being in the south, never in the new england area. when this piece of work was introduced, it also introduced to me the idea that, or the knowledge that there is slavery in new england. we often hear the term, being
6:57 pm
african american. as a young person, two things, first of all i never like history. when i was in high school that was not my great subject. we fixed you, right? >> you fix me, yes. you talk about the revelations, the civil war, i don't see myself in any of those things. i didn't have any interest in that. the thought that here i am now faced with someone, members of my family will learn more about jeffrey bass. it makes sense for us to grasp, we should never be ashamed of our history, we should never be ashamed of who shoulder we stand on. we shouldn't be ashamed, we should embrace it and should share it because knowledge is power. the more we know, the more we take a hold of it and the more
6:58 pm
we move forward ourselves. i don't think that we should ever just let it die, we should let it continue. [applause] >> and rhonda, those are the final words tonight. >> what? i'm not going to disneyland. [laughs] >> thank you all. >> thank you very much.
6:59 pm
7:00 pm
since c-span was founded in 1979, historian and author, douglas brilliantly has participated many of the network's programs, forums, comments, and special products, as well as appearing on book tv in american tv history. c-span sat down with him for nearly six hours to get his insights on american history, popular culture, good books and more. up


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on