Sitting Together at the Table of Sisterhood–Victorian Style

“But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a believer that “nonviolence is the strongest approach.” In his Montgomery, Alabama 1957 sermon titled “Loving Your Enemies,” Dr. King preached “Discover the element of good in [your] enemy, and everytime you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points.” Then he continued to say, “When we forgive, we forget in the sense that the evil deed is no longer a mental block impeding a new relationship.”

A 19th Century Soldier's Flag

A 19th Century
Soldier’s Flag

Thus, I surround myself with those who likewise believe in nonviolence, love, and the capacity to forgive. Nonviolence, love, and forgiveness coupled with the dream component of image are ingredients to Dr. King’s dream for “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners [to] be able to sit together at the table of Brotherhood.”

Even though some in very high places have dubbed me as a Neo-Confederate for The Lost Cause, nonetheless, I am committed to remembering African-Americans who served in various capacities with the Confederate States Army because they too earned recognition as United States Military Veterans. Therefore, I remind my oppressors of Dr. King’s dream of Brotherhood/Sisterhood and his words on how I am to respond in regards to nonviolent resistance. Dr. King said, “Nonviolent resistance does resist. It is dynamically active. It is passive physically, but it is active spiritually.”

In this humble spirit, I sit at the table with the descendants of Confederate Soldiers. Thus, on this day of remembrance, I am actively living Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream.

Highlighting the good in humanity,
Ann DeWitt

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Quote On Forgiveness

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s
Quote on Forgiveness
Courtesy of thebridgewebsite.com

Remembering That People Matter–Victorian Style

As I was reading the book called Women In Atlanta by Staci Catron-Sullivan and Susan Neill, I came across this featured photograph of a 19th Century black woman wearing an embellished Victorian Dress.  Staci and Susan draw the eyes to the young lady’s hand which appears to be covering a necklace charm.  They state, “The sitter appears to shield an object and may be concealing a slave hire badge. . . . If hired-out slaves were found without the proper badge, they were arrested, and their masters were forced to pay fines for their return.”

1848 Free Slave TagAtlanta, Georgia City HallCourtesy: Africanafrican.com

1848 Free Slave Tag
Atlanta, Georgia City Hall
Courtesy: Africanafrican.com

Then I remembered the Labor Behind the Veil tour in Milledgeville, Georgia.  Often slaves were arrested and their legal tags were taken from them by the captors.  As a result, many slaves and free people of color were then taken to the auction block and resold to new slave owners.  Either circumstance, shielding one’s identity was critical to survival during the era of slavery.  If you are following the story of Lavinia Flagg, she and Wilkes were sold back into slavery after leaving the state of Georgia and returning.

Because someone knew that Wilkes and Lavinia mattered as human beings, the Wilkes family freedom was reestablished after $750 in fines were paid. Historians tend to focus on the peculiar institution of slavery.  However, many rarely look at slavery from the slave or free person of color’s perspective.  This is why the masses have lost interest in Civil War history which has become primarily about the Generals, the Battlefields, and the progression of the Industrial Revolution.

I don’t want the Wilkes’ love story and similar Civil War stories to be hidden within hundreds of pages of books.  As the authors of Women in Atlanta point out, these stories are about people, not property; and their life experiences deserve to be shared globally.  Love, Faith, and Hope are relevant in 2013. This is why its important to remember that people will always matter.

Highlighting the good in humanity,
Ann DeWitt

Walking Behind the Veil–Victorian Style

Deitrah Taylor, Old Governor's Mansion Resident Expert

Deitrah Taylor
Resident Expert
Old Governors Mansion
Courtesy: Georgia College

History cannot be constricted behind a classroom desk or a computer screen.  To really understand the essence of historical events, one must seek out the resident experts on the subject matter. Hence, I sought after the Milledgeville, Georgia gurus on my Living Historian persona, Lavinia Flagg.

As I ventured out to find more information about Lavinia Flagg, Resident Expert Deitrah Taylor was my tour guide for the Labor Behind the Veil tour at Georgia’s Old Governor’s Mansion. Because slaves were to labor behind the scenes and not be seen by the public, the opportunity for me to walk in their footsteps behind the veil was quite phenomenal.

Not only did I gain insight about Georgia’s free people of color such as Wilkes and Lavinia Flagg, but also I learned about slaves such as Jim, Celia, Virginia, Emma, and Cornelius.  One witnessed Lavinia from both perspectives–slave and free–because she was indeed both at different times and locations during her lifetime behind and in front of the veil.

Also, the tour clarified several aspects which can be easily misconstrued from articles on the internet.  As an example, Lavinia was known as a personal female confidant of Georgia’s First Lady Mary Ann Cobb, wife of former Governor Howell Cobb.  To understand the dynamics, step into the shoes of a public figure who could not share intimate information with anyone else in the State of Georgia.  Somehow, Lavinia earned the trust and confidence of Mary Ann Cobb.

Because more information is readily available on Wilkes Flagg, I will have to continue to draw inspiration from other sources during the Civil War period about Lavinia.  What I do know is that the Flaggs were unlikely employed at Georgia’s Old Governor’s Mansion during the Civil War.  History reveals the Wilkes were preparing for a future which included 1,100 acres of homeland for former slaves of Milledgeville.

Now, I better understand why former Governor Howell Cobb proclaimed Wilkes Flagg as a “miserable creature for stirring up labor unrest among freed people.”  After all, Wilkes was once the maître d’hôtel for former Governor Cobb.  Wilke’s post-Civil War master plan was personal and no longer political.  Thus, Wilkes and Lavinia serve today as role models because there comes a time when doing what is right overrules doing what’s politically correct.

Special thanks to Curator Matt Davis and Resident Expert Deitrah Taylor for taking me back in time through the Labor Behind the Veil.  The featured photograph is the only known drawing or photograph of Lavinia Flagg.