April 1

The seven debates

Some of the most famous political debates in the United States, oddly enough, took place hundred of years ago. During the year of 1858, United States Senate candidates Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas participated in a number of debates. Thousands of people attended these high profile debates.

The seven debates were billed as The Little Giant versus Honest Abe. Abraham Lincoln had been raised in poverty and then began his political career when he was age 25. He was elected at that time as the Whig candidate to the Illinois State Legislature. By 1836, he had been admitted to the Illinois bar and was able to practice law in Springfield, Illinois. He was a straight shooter and always honest, hence the name Honest Abe. His humble beginnings impacted him for his entire life and he was always looking out for the little people. He was strongly opposed to any type of slavery, but being driven to please everyone, he often stayed in the middle of the issue, not strongly leaning publically or at least vocally to either side of slavery.

While serving in the US House of Representatives, Abraham Lincoln supported allowing California to obtain statehood as a free state. Stephen A. Douglas was against this act. Lincoln was strongly opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which had been promoted and introduced by rival Illinois lawmaker, and Illinois politician, Stephen A. Douglas. They always seemed to be rivals.

The two men were very much opposites in every way. Douglas was short in stature, a bit plumb, and very energetic. He had a loud voice and had endless amounts of energy. Douglas was from the South and his wife had inherited slaves though he did not own any slaves, and he was in favor of slavery. He was also a proponent of the annexation of Texas and also supported popular sovereignty as the cure to tensions in different regions, the North and the South. He was wealthy with railroad stakes in several different and prosperous companies.

Lincoln was tall and lanky. He was very conscious of his clothing and would place his speeches and pants’ pocket contents in his tall hats, as to not mess with the line of his trousers. When he was ready to speak, he would remove his hat and then take out his speech. He always put his hat back on. He was slow moving and quite slow at speaking.

Douglas needed the support of the north and Lincoln the support of the south. While the election was for a position in Illinois, the country as a whole paid attention to the proceedings as much as possible. Douglas won by a slight margin, but Lincoln could not be called a loser. He gained national attention and support that would one day propel him into the White House as the 16th President of the United States. Honest Abe with his fine suits, lanky body, and honest opinions would have many years of politics, and yes, struggles, ahead of him.

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April 1

In the early 1848

In early 1848, few had dared to venture to California to seek gold. In fact, few had traveled to California for any reason. Mexicans and Native Americans mostly occupied the lands. But then something funny happened; gold was found at John Sutter’s Sawmill in Sacramento, California. By the summer of 1848, the Gold Rush was in full swing. Over 80,000 people headed west to see if they could be the next person to find gold.

It is estimated that about half of the adventurers traveled west by foot on trails and the other half traveled by ship. If traveling by ship, you had to go around South America or sail through the Isthmus of Panama. They would then land in San Francisco and take the rest of the route via trails. One of these famous participants who traveled to the Yukon was the author Jack London. Unfortunately, he contracted scurvy and spent much of his time holed up in a cabin taking notes on the adventures others around him were having. His famous tale Call of the Wild was culled from his experience in the gold country.

Those seeking gold were called Forty-Niners. Even men from as far as Chinese heard of the Rush and traveled to California in order to make their fortune. Unfortunately, the Chinese were not welcomed with warm arms. The Chinese were often abused or chased off of their claim lands. Men from Peru and also from Chile came to the California and Yukon area in search of gold. In 1847, there were 14,000 California citizens, but after the Gold Rush in 1852, there were 225,000 people living in California.

The miners would first use picks, metal pans, and shovels as their tools. The act of scooping up sand and debris from the bottom of a stream and then shaking the pan to find gold was called placer mining. Very few people actually made it rich from placer mining for gold. Many people made more money from selling food, firewood, shelter, clothes, and land to those looking for gold. Levis Strauss and Wells Fargo Bank first began business during the Gold Rush time.

Later men began to develop more efficient ways to mine for gold. One method was to use a dam to divert streams and rivers and then seek gold in those waters. Hydraulic mining was also used for finding gold. This is when streams and jets of water wore away hills and then they ran into sluices in order to catch the flecks and bits of gold. This method was harsh on the environment.

Along with scurvy, other diseases such as cholera and dysentery ran rampant. Hundreds died from disease. In addition to illness, there was much crime with little presence of the law. Often miners acted as the judge, juror, sheriff, and executioner. Also many Mexicans and Native Americnas lost their land to white men seeking gold. While the Gold Rush was an important time in American history, it was no an excursion for the faint of heart.

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April 1

The three rich Kingdoms

The three rich kingdoms of Ancient West Africa were Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. Between AD 300 and 1500, these three rich kingdoms rose and fell one after the other. Their downfall eventually came as a result of invasion from exploring travelers from Europe, and from each other.

The earliest kingdom, in Ancient West Africa, Ghana expanded during the good times, from the Sahara Desert to the Gulf of Guinea and from the Niger River to the Atlantic Ocean. The vast kingdom was rich in salt, gold, and culture. The kingdom thrived with a hearty caravan trade with other African areas. This trade and exposure to other cultures, led the area to have a strong Muslim presence. By the 11th century, the region could boast as being the main supplier of gold to the Mediterranean areas.

The West African kingdom could boast of having big towns, artfully designed buildings, and a complex political system. However attacks from Mali and a decline in strong leadership resulted in Ghana falling into decline and eventually being conquered around AD 1200.

Mansa Musa was the progressive and strong leader of the West African kingdom known as Mali. Mali was able to conquer the mighty Ghana because the ruler was not strong. During the 1300s Mansa Musa expanded his territory, conquered neighboring areas, and strengthened the presence of Islam. But his greatest achievement was his emphasis on knowledge. His emphasis on Islam and Islamic education and teachings prompted him to create the successful Timbuktu University. Only his death, and no successive strong leader could cause the fall of Mail. This fall occurred around the 1400s.

Songhai then conquered Mali under the strong leader Askia Muhammad. After Mansa Mali died, Mali had no strong leaders. Askia Muhammad continued the teachings and education of Timbuktu University Center. His trade was strong and his kingdom became the most powerful in the area. The kingdom remained strong until Askia Muhammad died and the Portuguese explorers noticed its vast wealth. The Portuguese with the assistance of West African chiefs, began to trade in the area and increase their slave trade and their presence. They also brought to the area a thirst for wealth, disease, and the power to overthrow the West Africans. The Europeans brought the diseases cholera, bubonic plague, diphtheria, smallpox, and typhus. They then ruthlessly took thousands and thousands of West African slaves.

The first trading fort of the Portuguese was established in the West African area near Sierra Leone in 1482. It became a major gateway for slaves with 1,800 African slaves being purchased by Europeans by 1500. While some slaves were shipped to Europe, the majority of the West African ended up working on sugar plantations in the Azores Islands, Canary Islands, and Madeira. This brutal exploitation of West Africans eventually opens the door for slave trade across the Middle Passage. While they ruled and existed, the three West African kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai were strong, rich, smart, advanced, and on top of the world.

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April 1

The Gullahs

The Gullahs are a talented and culturally rich population who originally came from the West Africa area. Sometimes they are called the Gullah Geechee people. Large populations of Gullahs live on Sapelo Island watched over by the maternal leader, historian, and author Cornelia Walker Bailey.

The West Africans were moved from Bunce Island just off of the West African coast for processing then over to the islands of the Carribeans and Southern ports such as Charleston, South Carolina. The men were desired for their skill in growing rice and their ability to withstand heat and long hours of hard labor. Originally Southern plantations had tried to grow silk as a cash crop, but the experiment did not work. The slaves coming from the Sierra Leone West Africa area were skilled at cultivating the rice crops known as Gold Rice.

After the slaves were freed at the end of the Civil War, many of the Gullah remained in what is called the Sea Islands. These islands and coastal areas run from the northern part of South Carolina to the top of Florida. Penn Center on St. Helena in South Carolina is a center, which strives to preserve the traditions and stories of the Gullah. One of their events draws thousands of people; the Penn Center Heritage Days. Martin Luther King was a visitor to the Penn Center many years ago.

Gullahs are known for their story telling, sense of awareness concerning their heritage and preservation of this storied heritage, spiritual beliefs, and their fine basket weavings. A Gullah breadbasket can cost upwards of $ 10,000.00. Cornelia Walker Bailey grew up on Sapelo Island when the island was under control of the Reynolds’s family of North Carolina. Her childhood was at one time rich and beautiful and simultaneously horrible as the Reynolds’s family treated the Gullah denizens like slaves. An attempt to take Gullah land, one of many, was tried by the family and many others seeking the rich lands of the coast.

Her book, God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man explores her childhood, her heritage, Gullah superstitions and traditions, and the many stories and tales she knows of the Gullah past. She has been responsible for helping the Gullah to hold their coastal lands when developers were salivating at the prospect of having the valuable lands situated on the coast.

Sapelo Island is 16,5000 acres big, many which are wild and quite rustic with boars and deer ambling about on it. The Wallows Lodge on the island was built and is also operated by Cornelia Walker Bailey and Julius Bailey. Hog Hammock on the island, holds celebrations put on by the Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society. The idea is to preserve the mighty and rich heritage of the Gullah people. The National Endowment of the Arts offers a summer one week long class to teachers working in the United States where they can study the Gullah culture and pass on the word concerning these this strong and beautiful culture.

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April 1

The first people to live in the Americas are referred to as Paleo

The first people to live in the Americas are referred to as Paleo-Indians. There are two viable theories on how these people ended up in the North America area. Both theories have scientific findings to support them, and it is entirely true both cases occurred many, many years ago.

The first theory states that a group of people traversed from what we now know as Siberia. The world was experiencing the Ice Age, which lasted for thousands of years. As a result of the Ice Age, the seas near the Bering Strait were frozen in ice caps. Consequently, the sea level had dropped almost 400 feet below the sea level and a natural land bridge was revealed situauted between Siberia and the Alaska region in the Bering Strait. Fossils discovered and carbon dating shows that hunters in search of mastodons, mammoths, and bison crossed over the land bridge to the Americas. The time frame for this theory indicates the Paleo-Indians arrival came about 15,000 years ago.

This theory has the hunters moving south to eventually form the nations of the Aztec, the Incas, and the Mayas. The Mayas were settled along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico such as at Chichen Itza, the Aztecs settled in central Mexico near what we now know as Mexico City, and the Incan villages were placed high in the mountains of Mexico and the Yucatan areas.

The second theory for people coming to the Americas is the coastal theory. The voyagers were thought to have arrived in small boats and landed along the shore areas. These people hunted whales, seals, and gathered shellfish along the ocean areas. There are found relics and dating as well to support this theory. These people came from Asia and landed on the coastal areas from Washington, California, and Mexico. They eventually worked their way to the west and down the coastlines of South and North America. It is thought that this migration happened about 40,000 years ago.

It is entirely possible that both scholarly theories are correct. The scholarly evidence certainly indicates this possibility. And what scholars are sure of is that 12,000 to 9,000 years ago the Ice Age ended as the climate began to warm. The combined warmer weather and influx of Paleo-Indian killed off the mammoths and other large mammals. The grasslands tended to shrink in land size as the wooded areas increased in size. With the extinction of the large animals, the hunters killed less and gathered more. The Paleo-Indians also began to develop skills of racking and hunting smaller animals. These style changes in survival and food gathering created an expansion through the North and South Americans.

The lands became more diverse, people scattered and explored in different areas, and the America’s became a group of 375 different spoken languages by 1492. All of these events occurred due to a land bridge trek and coastal voyages and landings many, many years ago.

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April 1

Frederick Douglas

Frederick Douglass was born a slave who had little to no time with his mother as a child, and was removed from the love of his grandmother at around age six. His first experience on his new planation at age six, was to witness a house slave being whipped to near death as he hid in the recesses of an adjoining store room. He never forgot that experience and often spoke about it. Douglass taught himself to read by watching the white children and the books they used as they learned to read.

Born in approximately 1818, Douglass spent about twenty years working on a Maryland plantation before his escape in around 1838. He had headed north with the help of his soon to be wife, Anna Murray. Anna was a freedman. He boarded a Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore train to meet her. His first stop was in New York City, but it was short as bounties filled the city looking for runaway slaves. The couple stayed in New York City for about a week and a half. They eventually settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts and then later back in New York State.

Douglass befriended William Lloyd Garrison the owner of the abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator. While with Garrison one time, he was asked to give an extemporaneous speech to a group of fellow anti-slavery supporters. Many in the group, had never seen a slave and certainly never heard one speak of the atrocities he had endured.

After that impromptu speech, Douglass became a regular speaker at abolitionist events. He was a feature presenter at the American Anti-Slavery Society’s Hundred Convention project. In 1845, his autobiography, Narrative of Frederick Douglass was published. In his life, he eventually published three different versions of his autobiography. He belonged to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which also had Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth as members.

During the Civil War, Douglass was a valued advisor to President Abraham Lincoln. He was able to convince President Lincoln to allow freedman from the North to fight for the Union side. Douglass was also a strong supported for Women’s Rights. During his lifetime, this former slave was also able to travel to Ireland and to Britain to speak about his various causes. In 1951, he debuted the newspaper Frederick Douglass Paper, which ran until 1860. He later formed another newspaper called The New Era.

When Anna Murray Frederickson died in 1882, Douglass soon married an abolitionist named Helen Pitts. Pitt was white and about 20 years younger than Douglass. This marriage cause quite a stir and more than one attempt on Douglass’ life. In 1877, Frederick Douglass and Helen moved to a sprawling home in Washington, D.C.

While living in Washington, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed him as a United States Marshal for The District of Columbia. On February 20, 1895 shortly after Douglass had spoken at the Washington, DC National Council of Women, he died of a massive heart attack. His funeral was held at the Metropolitan African Episcopal Church and he is buried in the same cemetery as Susan B. Anthony, Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York.

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April 1

Revivalists in the US

The Second Great Awakening in America during the 1800s brought forth an immense desire and pushes to reform and revive religions. It was thought that the country had fallen into an abyss of great and perverse sin and moral corruption. The Mormons, AME Church, Unitarian Church, and Shakers were all religions established in America during this time period. One of the greatest religious movements of that particular time in American history was that of the Revivalists.

The Revivalist Group, led by Reverend Charles Grandison Finney, began to preach firey sermons in an evangelical style packed with drama and emotion. Other preachers such as Reverend Lyman Beecher would travel from town to town to spread the word of the Bible. The charismatic Yale educated pastor was known for his booming voice and dramatic sermons. However, the predominant platform for these sermons was the Camp Meeting. Thousands would flock to one and two weeklong camp meetings held deep in the woods all over the United States. The camp meetings first began in Kentucky, but quickly spread north and south in the country as the word of God was delivered in a way never heard from before this time.

The meetings would become mini-villages for a week or two where families would set up tents and small cabins. There would be singing circles, religious classes, and then the night sermons where people would faint at the thrill of being filled with the spirit. Public shaming and a shame bench were fixtures at the meeting. The pastor would preach from a platform above the crowd and give lengthy messages and sermons to the large crowd.

A sinner might be called upon by name to receive prayers from the entire congregation for his transgressions. Those transgressions were always named and greatly detailed. If the group felt the sinner was not remiss or the sin was particularly egregious, then the sinner would be moved to the front shame bench for more intense attention. The women involved in the life of the sinners were asked to give detailed testimonials of the actions and impact on them from the sinner. It was felt that with the help of the community the person who had fallen from grace would have a strong support system to keep him or her from slipping again.

The basic foundations of this intense time in American religion still have roots deeply imbedded in the countryside’s of the South today. For example, in Denver, North Carolina, the August Rock Springs Camp Meeting is a deep and honored event. This camp meeting, just about 40 minutes from bustling Charlotte, North Carolina, was first established in 1794. The cabins to stay in during the worship week are in such high demand that they are willed from generation to generation. Food, worships, religious education, and singing fill the Camp Meeting much like the ones from Charles Grandison Finney, minus the public shaming and the shame bench. In 2014, parts of the 1800 Revivalist tradition still live on in America.

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