Archive | January, 2014

Photos of Segregation in the South

17 Jan

I was reading one of my favorite blogs and came across an article on Gordon Parks. Gordon Parks was a nationally known photographer most known for capturing images related to American life. He was also the first African American hired as a staff photographer and writer for Life Magazine. I came across an article written about how some photos of his that were previously thought to be lost had been found. It turns out some of these photos had actually been published in Life Magazine as part of a series on segregation. These particular photos are from Mobile, Alabama and were taken in 1956. Although they are not photos related to our favorite West Tennessee towns they are photos depicting what life was like under segregation. Many of the scenes depicted are scenes that our parents, grand parents and others would have witnessed and experienced.

Some of the quotes in the Life Magazine article stood out to me. A few are below.

“Although the Thorntons are thoughtful, and in private, articulate, they do not make many direct statements about segregation. This is because they face yet another restraint – the constant fear of publicly speaking their minds”

“Mr. Causey does not vote. He has never been able to master the reading of The Bill of Rights in the constitution, which all Negroes in his county must do before they are permitted to register.”

“They must tell their children, for example, that they cannot play in a nearby playground for whites but must use a “seperate but equal” one for Negroes. The children do not grasp the logic of this and view the white playground as a special, wonderful place from which they are being deliberately excluded.”

You can view some of the photos and read the backstory featured in The New York Times here:

NY Times

You can view the original Life Magazine article here:

The Restraints: Open and Hidden

You can view more on Gordon Parks and his work here:

http://www.gordonparksfoundation.org/

 

– Tiffany

Sources: The New York Times, Life Magazine September 24, 1956 issue, Gordon Parks Foundation

The Night the Stars Fell

16 Jan

If you have had the chance to read any of the WPA Slave Narratives you might have come across stories from slaves recalling what is known as the Night the Stars Fell. I’ve been fascinated by this night because often times it has been used by genealogists to guesstimate the ages of those who did not know their age, but who had witnessed the event. The Night the Stars Fell is formally known as The Leonid Meteor Shower and it occured on the night of November 12 – 13, 1833. I’ve always been drawn to this story and the way that former slaves spoke of their experiences that night. Some stories I have read have indicated that slave owners came out of their homes to “make things right” with their slaves by telling them their history, where their parents had been sold to etc. because they thought it was the end of the world. I came across the telling of this night by Sidney Green, a former slave of Lauderdale County. He recalled that,

“One night they witnessed a biblical historical night, when the stars fell from the heavens”

Sidney Green belonged to Judge Green and lived on what was known as the Walker Farm. Judge Green had come to Lauderdale County from Virginia that same year. I decided to do a search on Sidney Green and discovered that he was born about 1828 – 1830 in Virginia. I am going to go with 1828 since he had memories of the Night the Stars Fell. It is also possible that he had memories of what he had been told by his parents or others about this night.

 

Have you all heard stories of the Night the Stars Fell?

-Tiffany

Source – Kate Johnston Peters “Lauderdale County from Earliest Times” page 254.

Questions and Answers

16 Jan

Hello everyone,

From time to time I get emailed questions or when I tell people about my blog I get asked a lot of questions. I decided that I would try to answer a few and that I would introduce myself to all my new followers and the readers of the blog.

Q1. Who are you and what is your connection to Ripley?

A. I am a full time student, mother of 2, and wife. I married a Ripley, TN native and when we would visit his grandmother I would always look through her pictures. She began to tell me stories about people and events and then I started doing genealogy on that side of my family. It was nice to put the pictures I was seeing of people with records. What always stuck with me was that when I went to the Lauderdale County library there was not much written about the African American experience. I decided I would try my best to fill that void.

Q2. Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?

A. It really comes from everywhere. It could be a note that I wrote down during a conversation with my husband’s grandmother or I could be browsing census records and find something abnormal. I review the search terms that lead people to the site for story ideas. Also, because I am a student who studies African American history I sometimes use what I am studying in class and relate it to life in Ripley. It really is a labor of love because I have to find these stories and research them for accuracy, so sometimes it takes longer to produce the stories than I would like.

Q3. Do you do genealogy lookups?

A. I try, but due to my schedule I am not always able to assist or I am not always able to fully assist like I would like to. It is one of the things on my list that I would like to spend more time on because I like to make connections with people and hear their stories. I do volunteer at the Alex Haley Museum and Interpretive Center on some Saturdays doing genealogy, so you can always find me there if you need assistance.

Q4. Why Ripley?

A. I was really drawn to Ripley because I like to study African American neighborhoods and small towns, plus the family connection. With Ripley I like that some of the same families that lived there as slaves still live there. I am from Memphis and that is not something you see in urban areas often. I do realize that I have more stories on the blog about Ripley and the website is called Black Ripley, but I try to include Dyersburg, Covington, Henning, Halls etc. as much as I can.

Q5. What do you study in school?

I have a BS in Political Science with a minor in history. I am currently working on a 2nd degree in African and African American studies. My interests are of course African American history – specifically from slavery to about 1930, museums and public engagement, the interpretation of history, and saving and preserving history for future generations. I also have a love for cemetery preservation and spend a lot of time in cemeteries.

Q6. Where do you see your work going?

The way this website started was so organic. I did not really have a plan. I just got online one day and made a site, so really I can move in any direction at any time. I do have some plans for the future. I’ve been spending a lot of my time pondering ways to make the website more interactive, more informative, and more engaging, so stay tuned.

Q7. What is your favorite memory of Ripley?

One of my favorite memories was going down to “The Bottoms” on a summer day, parking on the side of the road, and taking in the scenery. It was so peaceful.

Q8. What inspires you?

The preservation of stories really inspires me. People matter and their experiences help make up local history and they help shape our communities and who we are. I don’t want them to be forgotten or lost to history, so that motivates me to keep digging up stories, good or bad.

Q9. Have you ever gotten “flack” about the site being geared toward African Americans?

I have, but only from someone who it turns out had never been to my site. They heard the name of it and thought it was something that its not. Although my site focuses on African American history there are stories here for all of us.

And there you have it. A quick little run down about me. If you have any other questions for me feel free as always to email me or leave questions in the comments section.

 

– Tiffany