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Black Churches and Politics
South Carolina's Post-Civil War Constitution
Love is in the Air This Week
Kudos to a Company Who Gets Customer Service Right
"Yankee Reconstructed"--The Pinterest Connection

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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Black Churches and Politics

Another aspect of South Carolina politics often misunderstood is the relationship between black churches and political action. This, too, had its roots in Reconstruction. In the passage below, Hector Moreau, a former slave turned political activist, tries to explain it to Jonathan, who sees politics as a matter to be handled by education. The setting is upper South Carolina in 1870.


   Hector, too, had listened carefully when Robert Smalls outlined what Jonathan could do within the schools to make sure  new black citizens became effective voters. He realized that black churches could perform much the same role. Under his direction, the small African-American church he had helped to establish in Aiken became a center for adult education and for the effective exercise of voting rights. 
   When the Grenvilles returned to the Aiken farm for the summer, Hector was eager to meet with Jonathan again and discuss what he had accomplished.  
   “Our little AME church has become the center of the black community,” he began. “I suggested we start a kind of political club to keep our members informed of what the Republican Party was doing.  The idea went over well, and it soon became a group that also offered social events. Wednesday night suppers proved popular and greatly increased our attendance. And now the gathering also provides assurance that members will help one another in times of crisis such as illness or the death of family members.”
   “That sounds like an interesting progression. I wish my school classes on voting were that effective.”
   “I think the real key is that the lines that separate religion from political action have begun to blur. Our people see voting as one of the obligations they owe to one another and to their faith. What begins as a political rally can turn seamlessly into a revival meeting, and our worship services frequently end with a call to political action. ”
   Once again, Jonathan was not prepared to follow Hector’s lead. “But the United States was founded on the principle of separation of church and state. It sounds to me as if you may be treading dangerous ground by combining the two.”
   “It’s who we are, Jonathan. In the minds of my people, political action is a religious duty.  I can’t even imagine how you can separate the two.”


Read more in Yankee Reconstructed -- available through Valentine's Day in Kindle Book Store for only ninety-nine cents.

South Carolina's Post-Civil War Constitution

This is particularly for those of you who are following the up-coming South Carolina primaries.  This excerpt from "Yankee Reconstructed" comes from Chapter 16.  In it Jonathan Grenville has just returned home from hearing the reading of the newly adopted South Carolina state constitution on April 18, 1868. He is describing the major provisions to his wife, Susan:

   "The new constitution completely supports the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It establishes three branches of government for both the state and local political organizations. It provides universal male suffrage — and don’t wrinkle your nose at me. You know how big a concession that is. It’s much more important to give blacks the vote than to let women have their say right now.”
   “So say you from your side of the house!”
   “I won’t argue that point with you. I’m much too excited by the rest of the provisions — equality regardless of race, both in matters of privilege and of punishments, welfare for the poor and disabled, state-run orphanages and mental hospitals, but no more debtors’ prisons, and no more property qualifications to hold office.” 
   Jonathan leaped to his feet, as if the chair were suddenly too small to hold him and his enthusiasm. “But the best part, Susan, the best part is the provision for state-supported education! Benjamin Randolph really did it! There will be boards of education at both state and local levels, and every local district will be required to provide at least one free school open to all students, black and white.” 
   “Paid for by . . . ?”
   “Both a property tax and a poll tax.”
   “A poll tax? Won’t that disenfranchise a whole lot of people, particularly ex-slaves?”
   “No. It’s a tax on each individual, but the law specifically says that no man can lose his right to vote if he cannot or does not pay the poll tax. And it goes even further. Each state-supported school is required to stay open for six months of every year, and all children between the ages of six and sixteen are required to complete 24 months of instruction. Oh, and there’s no separation of races, either. Every school must be open to all, regardless of skin color. And the provisions disallow any religious control or doctrinal instruction, too. So much for the missionaries who have taken over some of the schools, like the one Dr. Porter financed for black children. Just imagine what that means.” 
   “It sounds like a much-needed change, Jonathan. But how will there be enough teachers for all those schools?"
   “They’ll be in short supply for a while, but this new constitution even provides for that. It calls for a state supported university within five years, along with an agricultural college and a normal school for teachers. It’s one of the most forward-thinking documents I’ve ever heard of.”

Unfortunately, Jonathan's optimism was short-lived.  He spent ten years helping to organize and develop schools that served the needs of black children in Charleston.  But by 1878, white supremacists had managed to gain control of South Carolina's government:

  " In South Carolina, both parties claimed to have won the race for the governorship. Hampton showed a winning margin of about 1100 votes across the state, but Republicans argued that the black vote had been suppressed by the illegal activities of the Red Shirts, particularly in the Upcountry. For nearly six months, Governor Chamberlain refused to vacate the governor’s office, and could not be forcibly removed because of a twenty-four-hour-a-day guard posted by federal troops. When President Hayes completed the withdrawal of all federal troops in 1877, Chamberlain fled the state, leaving South Carolina in the clever hands of Wade Hampton, who had, indeed, “waded to victory,” just as one of his campaign slogans had promised.
   “That’s it.” Jonathan proclaimed. “Ten years of work destroyed. Thousands of blacks disenfranchised. Madmen in charge of the insane asylum.”
   “What will you do?” Susan asked.
   “Hampton has promised to support public education, not that I believe him, and he can’t break that promise immediately. Besides, our schools are already open. We’ve paid the leases for our buildings and our supplies and books are in stock. Most of our teachers are funded by private corporations. We should be fine for the rest of this year. But after that? No one knows. I fear that public schools for Negroes will have disappeared before the next election.”

Love is in the Air This Week




I don’t often  write love stories, but there’s a good one in my new book, Yankee Reconstructed. And I’d love for you to read it.
 
So my Valentine’s Day gift to you is a Kindle copy of the book for less than a dollar. Yes, you can get it, this week only, for  $.99, which is as low as Amazon will let me set the price. Click on the cat below to order.




I’m hoping you say “I love you” back by supporting me and my book. Here’s how you can do that:
  • Visit my website and sign up for my newsletter, so you don’t miss the latest announcements about what I’m writing.
  • Buy the book – a copy for yourself or to pass along to someone you love.
  • Tell your friends about the book. Leave a comment on Facebook or Twitter, or comment on my blog.
  • Talk to your local librarian or bookstore owner about the book.
  • Write a short review and post it on Amazon and Goodreads, so that other readers can read about how much you loved it.
  • Send an email and tell me what you have done to help spread the word. I'd love to hear from you.

Kudos to a Company Who Gets Customer Service Right

We hear so many complaints these days on Facebook and other sites that negative attitudes build up quickly. It seems only fair that at least once in a while we also report the good things that happen.   Here's what happened to me today.

We have used Cook's Pest Control in Memphis for years. They come by four times a year and treat for bug infestations--everything from tiny ants to wasp nests to spider webs are quickly and efficiently taken care of. But they have one device to discover what kind of pests are around that I loathe. They uses sticky pads, black, about 6 inches by 3 inches and coated with the world's most tenacious goop. So far, they have not caught anything larger than a good-sized wolf spider, although I'm sure they could also permanently disable a good-sized mouse (but I have cats for that!)

But I have to modify that statement. They haven't caught much that was ALIVE! My garbage can was a different story.  One of those pads was placed underneath the can, so that when I attempted to roll it to the curb, a wheel went over the sticky pad, and we stopped dead. It was more effective than those wheel blocks the cops use to disable a car with too many parking tickets.  I eventually managed to pry the pad loose, but it took hours of toil and sweat equity to dissolve the connections between wheel and pad.   I chalked that up to my own failure to look carefully before I moved the can.

However, yesterday, with the sun out and temperatures in the 70s, I decided to sweep my front porch.  Off I went to the garage to find my brand new corn-straw broom. I found it all right. It wasn't going anywhere. It was standing upright, every straw fiber planted firmly in another one of those sticky pads. How many fibers does it take to make up a standard-sized broom? I certainly don't know, but there's no way I'm cleaning goop off of every one of those strands. The broom is a goner.

So today, I decided to inform the company of what I thought about their sticky pads. Actually, I think I was fairly polite about it, and all I suggested was that they ask their technicians to seek permission before placing those pads where an unsuspecting customer (or broom) might fall victim to them. 

Now, here's the good news.  Within a hour after I posted my little diatribe to the company website, my phone rang. It was a Cook's representative, calling to apologize for the inconvenience and telling me that they would be taking $15.00 off my bill so that I could purchase a new broom.  I am impressed!  The gesture cost them $15.00, but the good will it engendered was priceless.  Wouldn't it be nice if every company had such customer service?  That's too much to ask for, I suppose, but it's a good object lesson for all of us in our dealings with others.






"Yankee Reconstructed"--The Pinterest Connection



I have spent this weekend putting together two Pinterest boards to provide a visual element for my newest book, Yankee Reconstructed. One of them contains some random images of various topics that arise in the unravelling of the story. Among them are political cartoons and pictures of early Ku Klux Klanners, a map of the Low Country, pictures of the Marsh Tackies being raised by two of the characters, some odd pieces of 1870's furniture from the Charleston Museum, and several views of the Old Sheldon Church whose ruins play a crucial part in the story.

The other board is set up to help you imagine what the characters might have looked like. Some of them, of course, are real people: Robert Smalls, Wade Hampton, Laura Towne, and Rufus Saxton all have their own portraits here. The other characters are fictional, but I found it useful to have concrete images in mind. So as I wrote, I looked for pictures of real people from the same time period -- people who looked the way I thought my characters might look. Their clothing and hairstyles are authentic. Some of them even bear a slight family resemblance to one another. They are as close as I can come to bringing my fictional characters to life.

I hope you'll enjoy taking a virtual trip into the setting of Yankee Reconstructed. Click on the button below to be whisked to the Pinterest boards.