union-general

150 years ago today 150,000 slaves in Texas were finally freed.

It’s 1865. You’re a slave in Texas, it’s been three years since President Abraham Lincoln declared all slaves emancipated. But your life hasn’t changed; things are still terrible. In fact, hordes of slave owners from Louisiana, Alabama and elsewhere have decided they aren’t letting their slaves go without a fight, and dragged more than 150,000 of them to the Lone Star state and put them to work right next to you.

Then, on June 19 — 150 years ago Friday, in fact — it happens: Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army issues General Orders No. 3, declaring all slaves freed in the state of Texas. And thus was born Juneteenth — the most widely recognized (yet undervalued) commemoration of the end of American slavery. Everyone in the U.S. should celebrate Juneteenth.

Portrait of Union general Cadwallader C. Washburn (sitting at far right) and his staff during the American Civil War, c. 1860′s.

buzzfeed.com
Hundreds Of Thousands Of Workers Will Strike May 1, Organizers Say
A major union local and a coalition of worker centers have voted to strike on International Workers Day, calling for others to join.
By Cora Lewis

Almost 350,000 service workers plan to strike on May 1, a traditional day for labor activism across the world, in the most direct attempt yet by organized labor to capture the energy from a resurgent wave of activism across the country since the election of Donald Trump.

Tens of thousands of members of a powerful California branch of the Service Employees International Union will participate in the strike, according to David Huerta, the president of the chapter.

“We understand that there’s risk involved in that,” Huerta told BuzzFeed News, “but we’re willing to take that risk in order to be able to move forward in this moment, while the most marginalized are in the crosshairs of this administration.”

Since Donald Trump’s election, there has been no shortage of wildcat strikes by groups disproportionately affected by his administration’s policies. But this time around, organized labor is driving the effort. According to a coalition of groups leading the strike, more than 300,000 food chain workers and 40,000 unionized service workers have said they will walk off the job so far.

Huerta’s union chapter represents tens of thousands of workers, including janitors, security officers and airport staff, while the Food Chain Workers Alliance, which represents workers throughout the food industry, says hundreds of thousands of its non-unionized members have committed to striking.

“We are a workforce made up mostly of immigrants, women, African Americans, and indigenous people….Without workers, who does Trump think will harvest the crops, craft the food, transport it to market, stock the shelves, cook in kitchens, and serve the meals?”

It’s on!

Photo:  Juneteenth celebration in Texas, 1900. 

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, following the end of the Civil War, Union General Gordon Grander issued General Order No. 3 to free the remaining enslaved people in the United States  — two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln.

The order said: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

Juneteenth celebrations are held to reflect, celebrate, and remember the continued contributions of African Americans to the United States.

One widely publicized incident during the American Civil War was is attributed to a Union soldier as related to Brig. Gen. A. L. Long of the Confederacy and Brigadier General Marcus Wright of the Federal Army,

I was at the Battle of Gettysburg myself, and an incident occurred there which largely changed my views of the Southern people. I had been a most bitter anti-South man, and fought and cursed the Confederacy desperately. I could see nothing good in any of them. The lost day of the fight I was badly wounded. A ball shattered my left leg. I lay on the ground not far from Cemetery Ridge, and as Gen. Lee ordered his retreat he and his officers rode near me.

As they came along I recognized him, and, though faint from exposure and loss of blood, I raised up my hands, looked Lee in the face, and shouted as loud as I could, ‘Hurrah for the Union!’ The general heard me, looked, stopped his horse, dismounted, and came toward me. I must confess that I at first thought he mean’t to kill me. But as he came up he looked at me with such a sad expression on his face that all fear left me, and I wondered what he was about. He extended his hand to me, grasping mine firmly, and looking right into my eyes said, ‘My son, I hope you will soon be well.’

If I live a thousand years I shall never forget the expression on Lee’s face. There he was defeated, retiring from the field that had cost him and his cause almost their last hope, and yet he stopped to say words like those to a wounded soldier of the opposition who had taunted him as he passed by! As soon as the general had left me I cried myself to sleep there upon the bloody ground.”

Source: My Brother’s Keeper; Union and Confederate Acts of Mercy During the Civil War.

Park Avenue and 57th Street looking south, shortly before Christmas, 1963. The First National City Bank Building (Carson & Lundin-Kahn & Jacobs, 1961) are on foreground, left, with the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (Schultze & Weaver, 1931) and the new 50-story Chemical Bank New York Trust Building (Emery Roth & Sons, 1964) under construction at background. Union Carbide (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1960), ITT (Emery Roth & Sons, 1961) and Manufacturers Hanover Trust (Emery Roth & Sons, 1961) buildings are at right. The Pan Am (Walter Gropius-Emery Roth & Sons, Pietro Belluschi, 1963) and New York General (Warren & Wetmore, 1929) are at center.

Photo: Victor Laredo.

Source: Victor Laredo, Thomas Reilly. “New York City: A Photographic Portrait” (New York, Dover, 1973).

While we’re talking about Ulysses, because it’s that kind of night: we know he named himself after the Union general, not the mythical Greek hero, but did Caesar know that? Ulysses S. Grant was a Union general. Anyone as knowledgeable about history as Ulysses and Caesar must have known that the Union fought against slavery– the very foundation of the Legion.

I might be reading too much into things, but remember that Ulysses took his name before he found the Dam and learned of the NCR:

Long ago, I crossed the Colorado, the first among the Legion to see Hoover Dam in all its glory… an Old World wall, yet bridging two sides. And beyond it, a symbol of a two-headed Bear, an idea great enough to challenge Caesar himself.

So the speeches he gives about turning two flags into one couldn’t have been his original reason for choosing his name. And given what happened to Ulysses’ tribe… I can’t help seeing it as a quiet, covert act of rebellion.

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Whitworth target rifle

Designed in 1858, manufactured in Birmingham, United Kingdom c.1863.
.451(bore)/.475(rifling), hexagonal lead bullet, caplock, single shot.

One of the most sough-after long-distance rifle in both side of the American Civil War, one such rifle was used by a Confederate sniper at the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse to land a hit just below Union Major General John “Uncle John” Sedgwick’s left eye, who himself probably gave us the best last word ever uttered :

“What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? Why are you dodging like this? They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”

Another Whitworth rifle fitted with a William Malcolm scope.

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The grave/memorial of Clara Barton. She was an incredible figure in history, a woman very far ahead of her times. Originally a teacher, it was in 1861 that victims of the “Baltimore Riot” were transported to Washington DC, her home at the time. She decided to go to the railway station to help the victims as they came in. It was then that she decided she would help take care of the wounded Union soldiers during the Civil War. She was soon on the front lines helping to take care of the wounded from such battles as Cold Harbor, Fredericksburg and Antietam among many,many others. She cleaned the field hospitals, dressed the wounds of the soldiers, organized and helped distribute the supplies needed by the wounded veterans. She gained the nicknames “American Nightingale” and “Angel of the Battlefield.” She would read to the soldiers and helped them write letters to their loved ones. In 1864 the Union General Butler appointed her “the lady in charge” of all field hospitals on the Union front. At the end of the Civil War there were thousands of unanswered letters addressed to soldiers who were missing or unaccounted for. Clara contacted President Lincoln who gave her permission to start the “The search for missing men.” She spent the summer of 1865 helping to identify and properly bury 13,000 bodies of Union soldiers who had died at the notorious Confederate prison camp Andersonville. She worked at this task for 4 more years, eventually identifying and burying 20,000 more Union soldiers. Clara Barton later went on to found the American Red Cross. Her last Red Cross operation was helping the victims of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. This short sketch of her history is by no means complete. What a courageous and remarkable woman she was. Her house, now a museum, is also located in this town.

Oxford MA 5/24/17

Louise Otto-Peters (1819-1895) was a German author, journalist, and activist, widely seen as the initiator of the women’s movement in her home country. She began writing fiction in order to support herself financially, but ended up getting involved in social and political issues, inspired by the revolutionary ideas of her time.

She founded the newspaper Frauen-Zeitung (Women’s News) in 1848, which led to the formation of several women’s circles around Germany. In 1865 she co-founded the General Union of German Women, an organization that grew to more than 11,000 members in a matter of years.

Portrait of general Winfield Scott, c. 1860′s. Probably one of the last photographs taken of him shortly before his death in 1866.

Source: Library of Congress.

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June 19th 1865: Juneteenth

On this day in 1865, the abolition of slavery was formally proclaimed in Texas, in an event which has been celebrated as ‘Juneteenth’ (a contraction of ‘June 19th’). President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in rebelling Confederate states not under Union occupation, on January 1st 1863. However, the proclamation had little effect in areas like Texas which were not under Union control. It was two years later, in June 1865, when Union troops under Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, that abolition came to the state. The Union contingent brought the news that the American Civil War was over, following the surrender of Robert E. Lee in April. Upon his arrival, General Granger read General Order Number 3 declaring slavery abolished, leading thousands of former slaves to leave the state to seek employment or to find their families. Slavery was formally abolished throughout the entire United States with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in December 1865. Juneteenth was one of the first celebrations commemorating the abolition of slavery in the United States, and served as a poignant time for the black community in Texas and elsewhere to come together in solidarity as they endured the hardship of Jim Crow which followed emancipation. The celebration of Juneteenth waned during the early twentieth century, largely due to financial concerns, but resurged with the onset of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas, making it the first state-recognised emancipation celebration. Now, Juneteenth is spreading beyond Texas, and has become a day for celebrating African-American achievement, and remembering the legacy of slavery.

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free”
- General Order Number 3, read by General Granger June 19th 1865

Track record of European Social Democracy viz. the Global South

”At the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in Moscow (July through September 1928), Social Democracy was high on the agenda. There Ercoli – Palmiro Togliatti, late head of the Italian Communist Party – made his detailed report on “Social Democracy and the Colonial Question”, to which reference has already been made…

“Most instructive is Togliatti’s documentation of Social Democracy’s specific record in, and policy toward, colonies. A summary of his documentation is essential context for all the discussion which follows:

“IN SYRIA, whose “complete independence” the Second International had once demanded, the French Socialist Party voted for the war appropriations for imperialist expeditions, during which French generals massacred the populations of Damascus and other towns.

“IN INDONESIA, the Dutch Socialists warned “their” government that a revolt was coming; and once it came, not only did they “not defend in parliament this bloody revolt”, they severely condemned the spirit of the revolt “whether it originated in Moscow or Canton”. When mass death sentences brutally suppressed the revolt, Dutch Socialists boasted of disapproving only death sentences “merely for propaganda”. That is, they approved death for workers and peasants who “gave cause”, i.e., who revolted.

“IN AFRICA, the record of British Social Democracy is too long to be covered in less than a book. The specific story of the Clement Atlee Labour Government from 1945 to 1951 has, however, been given in detail by Jack Woddis:

“IN SUDAN, the Labour Government sent warships to terrorize the population, instructing British authorities to “do everything necessary to maintain order”.

“IN KENYA, the Atlee Government record by itself is enough to damn Social Democracy once and for all. At Mombasa in 1947, the African Workers’ Federation and the Railway Staff Union called a general strike for higher wages and lower house rents. They were joined by hotel, shop and domestic workers. And what happened?

The Colonial Office under the Labour Government acted with the same ruthlessness as under any Tory Government. Police and troops were called in, the strike was suppressed, and the President of the African Workers’ Federation, Chege Kibachia, was banished without trial to a remote village in Northern Kenya.

“At Uplands Bacon Factory in September 1947, when another strike broke out the police were again called in. They fired on the workers; 3 dead, 22 arrested, including 20 sentenced to two years at hard labour.

“In September 1948, Makhan Singh, Secretary of the Labour Trade Union of East Africa, organised a Cost of Living Conference. Delegations came from more than 16 trade unions and associations, representing more then 10,000 African and Asian workers. The Labour “leaders” of Britain arrested Singh and deported him.

“During 1949 and 1950, new legislation was introduced into Kenya, of which the following six were typical:

1) A Wage-Freezing Bill, “The Compulsory Trade Testing and Wage Fixing Scheme”;

2) A Trade Union Registration Ordinance;

3) A “Slave Labour” Bill, introducing forced labour at starvation wages;

4) A Deportation Ordinance, giving Government increased power to deport;

5) A law banning strikes in “essential services”: all the Governor had to do to make any strike illegal was to add its industry to “essential services”;

6) The already-existing Emergency Powers Ordinance was amended to increase the Governor’s powers.

“The result, Woddis declared, was a series of attacks on Kenya’s trade unions, including the arrest of leaders of the East African Workers’ Federation, of the East African T.U.C., and an eventual ban on the latter on pretext that “it was not registered”.

“IN NIGERIA, official Social Democratic policy resulted in the shooting of coal miners at Enugu in 1949. 7,500 miners had struck for higher pay, allegedly a common Social Democratic demand. Outcome? 231 dead, 50 wounded. In the ensuing mass counter-demonstrations, further repressions and wholesale arrests took place.

“IN TANGANYIKA, strikes occurred in 1948 at Port Tanga, and in 1950 at Dar-es-Salaam, the latter involving the Dock Workers’ Union. The Labour Government promptly outlawed the union, confiscating all its funds and property, and arrested and imprisoned its leaders, During the same period, the leadership of African Cooks’ and Washermans’ Union of Tanganyika was removed as “unsatisfactory”.

“IN GHANA, a demonstration of unemployed ex-servicemen ended when police fired on it, killing three, In 1949 and 1950, a general strike as last push to independence saw mass arrests, including Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and others later part of Ghana’s first African Government.

“The colonial record of Harold Wilson’s Labour Government since 1964 is written in the names of countries it betrayed: Congo Kinshasa, Aden, Malaysia, British Guiana, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Southwest Africa, Bechuanaland – and on and on.

“Furthermore, these examples form a pattern by which Social Democracy in power fully reveals its real colonial policy: as in Wilson’s present Government, it does all in its power to make a mockery of such political independence as colonial countries had achieved despite all interference.

“Brutality, both economic and military, is the major weapon of Social Democracy’s colonialism, exactly the same – if not worse than – ANY imperialist government…

“Actually, brutal measures by Social Democracy against colonial peoples are quite logical considering what they accomplish for the metropolitan labor aristocracies whom Social Democracy represents. Precisely because the Labour Government had destroyed all attempts by colonial workers to improve their living standards, it could be recorded that

The economic position in Britain improved in 1952 because there was a world-wide fall in the price of food and raw materials which benefited the British economy.

“What the author neglected to add was that colonial economies depend heavily for their incomes precisely on “the price of food and raw materials”, and the benefit to the British economy resulted because colonial economies had been rendered more lopsided than before.

“SUCH brutality never seems to upset the Western Left nearly as much as the selfsame instrument turned against “its own” workers in the streets “at home”, when for some reason or other the colonial cushion has either been removed by military defeat or not attained because of later arrival by the specific ruling class on the capitalist world scene.

“Yet, surely it must be clear by now that Social Democracy will use brutality as one effective modus operandi whenever necessary to ensure continued super-profits. Even though new forms of colonialism have had to be devised to meet the advance of the Liberation movement throughout the subjugated areas of the world, the casualties go on; brutality escalates.”

– From Labor Aristocracy: Mass Base of Social Democracy by H.W. Edwards (1978)

Portrait of Union patients posing in front of a building at Lovell General Hospital in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, during the American Civil War.

Source: Rhode Island Historical Society.