A Black American In The Paris Salon

In an age when the best black artists were lucky to exhibit their work at state fairs, Henry Ossawa Tanner was accepted by the most selective jury in France

Dr. Philip Bellefleur had been headmaster of the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf for about three years when he found the painting in 1970. He and a housekeeper had opened the door to a large storage closet, one that hadn’t been opened in five years, perhaps more. Inside they saw scores of dusty boxes and a half-dozen paintings stacked against the wall. After a quick look Bellefleur concluded that maybe two of the six pictures were valuable—one because it was so large, nine by twelve feet, and the other because it gave him goose bumps. Read more »

The Man Who Changed His Skin

Thirty years ago John Howard Griffin, a white Texan, became an itinerant Southern black for four weeks. His account of the experience galvanized the nation.

On a sunny November day in 1959, a tall, brown-haired Texan entered the home of a New Orleans friend. Five days later an unemployed, bald black man walked out. The name of both was John Howard Griffin, and the journey he began that Louisiana evening was to take him to a country farther than any he had ever been in, one bordered only by the shade of its citizens’ skin. Read more »

“We Will Not Do Duty Any Longer for Seven Dollars per Month”

The United States had promised black soldiers that they would be paid as much as whites. Sergeant Walker believed that promise.

This is in honor of Sgt. William Walker, of the 3d South Carolina Infantry Regiment, a young black soldier who believed in the United States government’s promises of equal rights. This is in honor of Sgt. William Walker, who was brave enough to act on his belief in his rights. This is in honor of Sgt. William Walker, who died in disgrace, executed by the United States government for acting on his belief in its promise of equal rights. Read more »

101 More Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History

You Asked for It

When American Heritage suggested last year that I put together the article that became “101 Things Every College Graduate Should Know about American History,” I accepted the assignment eagerly. None of the many articles I have published in this magazine over the years have attracted half so much attention, and I became so absorbed in thinking of items to include that I soon had far more than could fit into an article. I therefore decided to gather still more.Read more »

101 Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History

This is not a test. It’s the real thing.

How precise is the educated American’s understanding of the history of our country? I don’t mean exact knowledge of minor dates, or small details about the terms of laws, or questions like “Who was secretary of war in 1851?” ( Answer: Charles M. Conrad.) But just how well does the average person remember the important facts—the laws, treaties, people, and events that should be familiar to everyone? Read more »

The Black Vote: A New Era

Twenty years ago blacks were virtually disenfranchised throughout the South. Now their votes may elect our next President.

JESSE JACKSON’S impressive performance during the long primary season of 1984 has made one thing absolutely clear: If the Democratic candidate hopes to unseat Ronald Reagan in November, he will have to count heavily on black votes. The political arithmetic underscores the point. In 1982 the number of unregistered blacks of voting age exceeded Reagan’s 1980 margin of victory in nine states—Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New York.Read more »

The New View Of Reconstruction

Whatever you were taught or thought you knew about the post-Civil War era is probably wrong in the light of recent study

IN THE PAST twenty years, no period of American history has been the subject of a more thoroughgoing réévaluation than Reconstruction—the violent, dramatic, and still controversial era following the Civil War. Race relations, politics, social life, and economic change during Reconstruction have all been reinterpreted in the light of changed attitudes toward the place of blacks within American society.Read more »

The Strange Fate Of The Black Loyalists

Thousands of them sided with Great Britain, only to become the wandering children of the American Revolution

IN THE EARLY summer of 1775 the rebeb of Virginia evicted their royalist governor, John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, from his capital at Williamsburg and drove him to refuge aboard a British warship. With only three hundred Royal Marines at his disposal, Dunmore lit upon a controversial recruiting stratagem.Read more »

The Week The World Watched Selma

A century after passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, many Southern blacks still were denied the vote. In 1965 Martin Luther King, Jr, set out to change that—by marching through the heart of Alabama.

From the frozen steps of Brown Chapel they could see the car moving toward them down Sylvan Street, past the clapboard homes and bleak, red-brick apartments that dotted the Negro section of Selma, Alabama. In a moment it pulled up at the chapel, a brick building with twin steeples, and the people on the steps sent word inside, where a mass meeting of local blacks was under way. He was here. It was Dr. King. They had waited for him much of the afternoon, singing freedom songs and clapping and swaying to the music.Read more »

Southern Women & The Indispensable Myth

How the mistress of the plantation became a slave

“WE’RE USED to living around ‘em. You Northerners aren’t. You don’t know anything about ‘em.” This is or was the allpurpose utterance of white Southerners about blacks. Everybody from Jefferson Davis to Strom Thurmond has said it, in some version, at one time or another. Turned on its obverse, the old saw means, “You can’t know how bad they are.Read more »