tv The Civil War Children and the Civil War CSPAN March 17, 2018 6:00pm-6:51pm EDT
>> university of richmond professor lauranett lee talks about how children were impacted during the civil war era and how morees into current era children and refugees. it is cohosted by the library of , thenia in richmond university of virginia center for civil war history. >> many of you may know lauranett in her former capacity as curator at the virginia historical society where she x --ed over a dozen exhibitions. one of her best accompaniment was her role as historian for the digital genealogy project "unknown no longer: a database of virginia slave names."
throughout her career as a curator, historian, and consultant, lauranett has focused on the lives of people, primarily african-americans, in thee first enslaved colonies, to the war of emancipation, in the modern era. readers of the "richmond times-dispatch" also know her from the front page of monday's paper after she was honored on sunday with the john jasper trailblazer award at mount sinabung church. addition to late our panel and we are grateful to her for filling in for our scheduled speaker. i will say a few other short words about lauranett. she and i have been friends for -- long time.ord
probably at least 20 years. there are not a lot of women of color who pursue this work, and we find each other often. it is a matter of not only being able to share resources, learning, and knowledge, but it is a way for us to find our voices when, sometimes, the of not only the subject matter but also ourselves are muted. with that, i am delighted to have lauranett join our symposium to share her recent work as she talks about children in the civil war. [applause] thank you all so much for being here. thank you for your warm introduction. i certainly appreciate it. i am delighted to be able to share some of my thoughts about
the children who went through war, not only in the civil war, but children who are now living in war all around the world. often times, when we think about history, we think about a specific amount of time. but i encourage you to look beyond civil war, to look at the experiences that children endur now, the plight that they are suffering all around the world, to think about how the civil war really gives us an opportunity to open our minds and consider what they are going through now. we have come over a wave, tears not from theered, gloomy past, now, we stand at last, where our star is cast.
those words were written by james weldon johnson in the early 20th century, and it was part of the national negro anthem, but they speak poignantly to what was going on in the civil war, after the civil war, to what is going on now. often times, when we think about war, we think about those who are fighting, the adults. but what about the children? we do know that it is very difficult to talk about children and to think about then existing during the time when so much is thomas -- when tumult is everywhere. i encourage you to really look in their eyes. look at them. it is easy, and our lives, to bypass anything that is
difficult, hard, tragic. we go on, we're busy, we have things to do. but what about the children? when i was called and asked to be a part of the symposium, i realized quickly that it is children that i really wanted to focus on, so, as a virginian, our history means so very much to us, as dr. robinson has said. but it means so much more to those of us who have gone through something. african-americans, women, children are often left out of the narratives we hear about, so when we think about their experiences, we do not really know that much about them. as i began reading the literature, i was overcome with all that they experienced. in the middle of the night as i
am reading, i hear the anguish in their loss in trying to find family. i see the separation when they are looking for any family member. i read newspaper ads when they are asking people, help me find my family. i understand the trauma that they went through, not only after war, but during and before war. here in richmond, we know of a shockoe bottom, which was a major slave trading center, where so many of the children were separated from their parents. we know of the interviews that were taken of parents who spoke about seeing their children leaving. we know also of the bitterness that left many of them as they tried to find their families to
reconnect and reunite. we also know of the morning when they could not find family, when they were looking, when they oftentimes encountered someone who told him that a family member had died, the desperation in searching, and not really knowing where to go next, but still putting one foot in front of the other. being vulnerable. being in a position where they had very little help and not knowing where to go for help. the grief. the powerlessness. the shock. the sadness. confusion. agitation. depression. terror. uncertainty. pain. yearning. agony. fear. dislocation. anxiety.
hunger. nakedness. horror. disbelief. orphans. sorrow. dread. wandering. suffering. suicide. coping. and all of that, you wonder how is it that they made it through? how is it that these little beings were able to push forward and keep putting one foot in front of the other? and it is because in a large part, they held on to hope. hope unseen, but something kept them going. and oftentimes, it was the faith that had been instilled in them from their parents. when parents knew they would not
see their children again, they would tell them "always know that god is with you." reciting bible verses, "lo, i'm with you always, even until the ends of the world." and children would oftentimes keep repeating these bible verses and learning to pass these bible verses on to their children and the generations to come. their faith in god, their hope for a brighter day kept them going, and it is the shared color, acrossross time, across space that keeps children going. the shared experience of childhood. often times forgotten, oftentimes not having one. going through slavery, going
through the loss of family, and even experiencing the impact of not really knowing who family was. these shared experiences are human feelings during a tumultuous time. and it was during these times that these children began to see themselves beyond their current experiences. here in virginia, there were more deaths than in any other place because of the fighting. and so we have an opportunity to really dig deep and consider what it meant to be a child, not only in war, but before war. not only before and during war, but after war. and consider what it means for children living in war now, all over the world.
they too experience sickness, the diarrhea, the jaundice, the lice, hunger, lack of clothing, homelessness, and in spite of all of that, they kept going. children today keep going. the friends orphan asylum here in richmond was founded immediately after the civil war, and those papers are in the valentine museum. lucy brooks was a major leader in that, because there were so many homeless children wandering the streets, not knowing where to go. and we began to see small groups of women all over the south, particularly here in virginia, starting these friends asylums to help the children. s bureauthe freedmen agents did what they could, but we have to recognize that labor was still an issue, and so there
contractsticeship fraught with issues indentured , contracts as well, where parents tried to keep their children free from the bureau. former slave owners wanted to hold onto those children, too, for the labor they could provide. so we see the tension between parents and the freedmen's bureau agents, and, in the middle were these children, caught in the cycle. we know about boy soldiers who fought, both black and white, union and confederate. and these are areas that need further explanations, further exploration. what were their experiences as children? oftentimes, many of the officials did not want to have children in contraband camps, nor did they want to have women. they saw them is a strange species that would weigh upon them.
but yet, and still, the women and children cap coming. keptd children cap -- coming. and where they could, they worked, even the little ones, three and four years old. if you can imagine now a three or four-year-old working, and working to the best of their ability, it gives you some idea of what these children were going through. help me find my people, they often asked people. help me find my people. do you know where my people are? and they would wander as far as they could. we often hear people talking about walking miles and miles. these children did walk miles and miles. and even when they could not find their families, they made families wherever they could. they reconnected with those who call themselves family during
slavery. and when they could, they created new families. they took in children. they banded together and created new communities. when we think about child slavery and the enforced exploitation of children, think about what it meant to finally be able to claim your own labor, to finally be able to claim your own children. these two parents who had not -- these parents who had not been able to do that, whose children had been sold away from them, even infants, really began to try to be the family that they always wanted. when we explore the impact of war on diverse groups of people and narrate the stories of individuals who have navigated the challenges and opportunities of war, how do we include children in that?
there have been oral interviews done, particularly during the 1930's with the works progress administration, and oftentimes people want to discount those oral interviews. they say they could not have really remembered all of that. but who are we to say? these are their experiences, and their experiences are real to them. during the civil war and in its aftermath, children, both black and white, endured hardships, similar to the hardships enduringed by children war today. evidence of widespread social and cultural demoralization is something that we really don't want to face.
we turn away from it. but it is all around us, just as it was all around them at that time. the behavior of former slaves between 1861 and 1867 allows us to examine the relationship between latent slave beliefs and manifest slave behavior. who are we to say what these experiences were, but to look at their words and to consider what it meant to find family again. we know the abusive apprenticeships, where oftentimes parents would enter into contracts, sometimes with former slave owners, other times with neighboring whites, and specify that their children should be educated, that they should have clothing and be fed. and oftentimes, when they visited their children, they
found just the opposite. the children were in abusive relationships. and as parents tried to reclaim their children and get them out of their contracts, they understood the legal system had caught them in a way they could not move. when i worked at the virginia historical society, now called the virginia museum of history and culture, i was fortunate to be part of the creation of the database, the database of virginia slave names. it was in those records that i really began to think about the children. it is difficult on a daily basis to pull those documents, now crumbling, ink fading.
the writing almost illegible, and reading the words of slaveholders who sold children, sometimes to buy a horse, sometimes to give money to a relative, and not to consider what that meant for the family, for those children, to be sold away so easily. that is the kind of thing that stays with you past 5:00. you go home and you wonder what happened to them? where did they go? it is the remnants that we have now and that we try to reconstruct. in many ways, we are not able to. but the memory of reading those documents still stays with me. oftentimes, i would wake up from nightmares, scratches on me, like i had run through the fields.
because to read that every day wears on the spirit. i remember talking with my aunt dora, who died last year. she was 100. i would tell her about the work i was doing and how difficult it was, and said, i do not know how i'm going to get through this. she would say, you are not living it. your calling is to tell us about it. and so i encourage you to go to that website, www.unknownnolonger.org, and look at the documents, just as you are looking at the eyes of the children here, and begin to think about what it means to have lived through such a difficult time. and it is not only the black children, the enslaved children, what about white children, who themselves were growing up in this institution of slavery?
who, in many ways, debased their childhood friends because they could, because of the color of their skin, because this is what they saw all around them. two also think about the implications of what that means today. i am fortunate to be teaching in the university of richmond leadership school and also in public history, and i engage my students in the process of thinking about the past. and its connections with our present. we can see that all around us, with the inequities in health care, education, housing, employment, and so many areas. we need to remember that it is out of this institution of slavery that so many of the people are still having to live.
and we also understand that this history is not an easy thing to do. just a couple of weeks ago, teaching tolerance came out with a report about teaching the hard history of slavery, and we also met at montpelier in a summit with 50 other scholars to discuss ways that we can think about how we teach this hard history. when we consider how it is being taught now and the children are being taught to test, they have no understanding of what it meant to be living in such a difficult time. consequently, they have no empathy. they have no compassion. they do not connect. but by showing children what other children went through
during the civil war, in the wars that we are now living through, perhaps they will begin to get a glimpse of what it meant to live through a difficult time, and how the inequities in our society, the disparities we see all around us, is born out of that. and perhaps we begin to , needtand how race, too to be discussed and looked at very minutely, and the ways that this nuanced understanding can better inform our lives and encourage us to be all that we were meant to be as a nation, as humans. and the ways that humanities is really something that is at the core of all of us. one of the documents i came across while working on the database is a list created in
august 9, 1865 in buckingham county. he lists 53 names. when you look at the names, you can look at the family relationships. you are able to look at their ages, what they did as laborers, and to consider how easily it was for slaveholders to break up families, and oftentimes did on a whim. and to consider that these families may never see each other again. the 1860's, 1865, the carrington family in charlotte county listed all of the enslaved people that they owned. and that is where my family is from.
when i look at that document, when i transcribe it, i was looking for my family. and i did not find them. think about what that means, when we look for family and we can't find them. think about what it meant for the children living during that time, who did not have technology, who oftentimes could not read or write, who had to get someone to tell them what they were reading. think about how that impacted their lives and how hope kept them going. in charles city county, there was a list made by john stelton plantation, a
plantation that we can go visit today. he listed the children of phyllis, a 34-year-old. she had a 14-year-old daughter named margaret, a one-year-old daughter named patsy. edmund was one-year-old, and there was one person listed as a girl, this one-year-old. they had run off to the union army, and this man recorded their names. imagine what it would be during war to leave all that you had known, the plantation where you had lived and worked and tried to raise your family, to go follow the union army, not knowing what to expect and oftentimes being turned away, not having enough to eat. working where you could, trying to keep your family together.
this is what the mother, phyllis, did when she left with her children, and this is what so many other mothers and fathers did. oftentimes fathers went ahead of the mothers to work in contraband camps, and when they could, they got back word to their families that they had made it, and they would send for them. we know, in a later wave, the women and the elderly would leave and bring with them the children. those contraband camps became overwhelmed with women and children. and even when they experienced harsh treatment from officials, they kept coming. they kept coming, putting one
foot in front of the other. often times ragged, hungry, dealing with lice, diarrhea, jaundice, all of the diseases that we heard about. and yet they kept coming, having hope that one day they too would be free. and would be reunited with their families. i read an account book created by richard epps in hopewell, only about 25 miles from here. he was at appomattox manor and he spoke about his enslaved workforce, and his valet, which traveled with him. he was very different from many slaveholders, because after the war, he kept the formally enslaved groups together and paid them wages for their work. and many of the family members are still in hopewell and remember that history and pass
it on to their children. there is an inventory in 1860, in arbor morrow county -- abermarle county, and he spoke about louisa, 12 years old, and selling her. there are so many stories like this. and these children, not knowing oftentimes that they were being sent to richmond to be sold, would have a note pinned to them for the slave trader to read. because they could not read, they did not know. and it was in getting to richmond, and being in shockoe totom, which is close enough walk to, which is when they
begun to understand what that meant. when they heard references to being sold down south, they know that it was reference to something worse than they had ever known before. it was at that time that they were sold down south that they, oftentimes, they would be worked until they died. that was harder work, they did not have those familial ties. they were in strange country, and they made to do -- and they made do the best they could. why? they kept the faith, they had hope. when we think about the fact that it was so many times that these children, not knowing what they were going to go through, would reach out to the former slaveowners or the slaveowners that still owned them, and begged them to keep them. mothers would pay the slaveowner
to keep their family together. , there pleaseng would fall on deaf ears. still, these children, these families had hoped that one day they would be reunited. we know that not many of them were you reunited, but the few that were would oftentimes tell others of their experience. they would pass this down to their family members. it is the memories they keep alive in families and that we know of today. and we know that many times, these memories, though they may change over time, there is a nugget of truth in them. that truth is what keeps families together. we know also that in the 1880's, when we began to see fewer black
people owning land, those who did would always encourage their children to hold onto the land, to come back and be a part of the family that is holding onto something that they had not had before. these are the children that they believed would make a better way, not only for them, but for future generations. and so, as they began to make a better way, moving into the 20th century, they understood the legacy of slavery was still with them. lynching occurred on a greater scale than it ever had before. and the horrors that we know of during the lowest point for african-americans was worse than anything they had ever known in slavery. this is the hard history that we do not want to face.
we talk of war, and often times we glorify it. but there is nothing glorious about war, especially when we think of the least of these, the children, who through no fault of their own had to endure more than any child should. as children today still are in wars all over the world. i was reminded of a quote by a man, who, when he found his family, reunited here in richmond, and he told them, "i ain't going to be a stranger no more." because he would do everything he could to keep his family together. so many roads to be trod, yes, with a steady beat, have not our weary feet. come to the place of which our fathers and mothers died.
we would like to think that we have come to that place, but when we look around us and see the disparities in our society, when we look at the wars around the world and consider what children are going through, we have to ask ourselves, what can we do to move people forward toward that star? toward that northstar that so many of the enslaved people struggled to reach. how can we help make a difference to the children living today? what can we do? it is good to think about the past, it is good to know the past, but think about the implications of today, of what the past can tell us, how it can inform us about how we move forward today.
we have a lot to do before us, and when we think about why history matters, it matters because we have a lot to learn from, and we have a long way to go. remembering slavery is a difficult thing. we do not want to do it, oftentimes. we prefer to think of how we rose up, out of the past into something really beyond slavery, but have we really moved beyond slavery? have we really, when you look into the eyes of the children, you know that there is something more that needs to be done. the shared experience between black and white children, it tells us that those experiences, those memories of childhood, of family, are something that really should not be ever
forgotten. we must move past it. so i encourage you to think about the past and its implications for today. think about the consequences of what war means and how the least of these suffer still. thank you. [applause] i am happy to take questions, comments, your concerns. >> thank you, dr., very much for your wonderful talk. my question is in thinking about strategies for students and how to overcome, how to get their empathy and understanding on this topic. i see the obstacles to understanding the plight of
children in the 19th century. we hear their voices. , the verythe contacts definition of childhood is very different in the mid-19th century, indeed the idea of children is different. and i think that is reflected in attitudes to child labor and so on. thirdly, it was a very different society demographically. , as is almost a counterpart a proportion of the population, and many more people. it transformed the way society was at that time, and i would be interested to hear your thoughts about how to engage students when we are dealing with such a different time and context? thank you. dr. lee: i think it is extremely
important to engage students with primary sources. and we certainly do have plenty of them. that is why our museums are so vitally important and can provide that help not only to the teachers, but the students as well. oftentimes, we are finding now that the school systems do not have the budget to have students come to museums, but with digital initiative, we can get these documents to the children, to the students. and to the teachers, teachers institutes as well. to help teachers grapple with how to bring this into their classrooms and give them an opportunity to interact with other teachers and talk about the ways that they are introducing the subject through their classrooms. one of the things i would encourage teachers to do is to use these documents, these
primary sources as the foundation to engage children in understanding and appreciating history. you start with the facts that are in these documents, and encourage children to use the facts to build the story around a particular named person in the document, and perhaps create non-fiction with the facts as the foundation. in that way, they can see how history can come alive. it's not just us on the pages. that is one way i see. when we think about contexts also, particularly here in virginia, we are fortunate that we are surrounded by history. we walk on history. we have the opportunity to visit battlefields, memorials, visible
places. and sometimes, invisible places. this is the time for parents to get out with their children and actually engage in learning about history from the ground up. here in richmond, there are so many different places you can go. all of virginia, really. one of the boards i serve on is the state review board of historic resources. we read nominations for historic properties that then go onto the national level. you are able to go on to the website to actually look at these nominations yourself. they are beautifully written, very detailed and meticulously researched. it gives you the opportunity to look at how scholarship is created, but to go to these places and engage with history
through a very personal experience. we also have the historic highway markers which you can see dotting the landscape. virginia length away in historic highway marker programs. we have the largest historic highway marker database. i am a virginian, and i am very proud of that. i also recognize the warts in our history. there is a hard history that we overlook. we tend to push it aside. in engaging the primary sources and actually going to these places, we can grapple with history from a different perspective. though it is difficult, we can push through and put one foot in front of the other, and hope we can make a better virginia for the generations that are coming.
i don't know if i answered your questions. i do as historians do and go on a rant. >> thank you. you said primary sources. that is always very useful. you mentioned the valentine museum for homeless children after the war? dr. lee: it was called the friends orphan asylum. it was founded by lucy brooks. highway a historic marker for the friends asylum. it was to help the children. sources say at least 30% of the population were children who were without parents. a sewing group of women
who decided to do something about that. that association -- >> thank you's much for your wonderful talk. so much for your wonderful talk. it was very powerful. especially the images. i found your call to us as a difficult topic. do you have thoughts or suggestions about how we can child andt raising a its relationship to capitalism? also, maybe consider how capitalism today continues to create dependent forms of labor. my question to you is how should we think about slavery and the american job?
how should we think about the destruction of slavery as forms of labor appear and how does capitalism relate to that? capitalism and slavery -- capitalism was the foundation of slavery from america's founding. we cannot separate it. when we look at our society today, look at the prison industrial system. look at the business of incarcerating people. look at the justice system. look at the inequities in the justice system. look at the ways in which our schools are disproportionately resourced. the ways that housing, and the neighborhoods have been created and gerrymandered. we see capitalism in every aspect of our lives.
it is so prevalent that we almost overlook it. in our busy lives, we go along with what we have to do. but it is all around us. when we talk about crime in urban areas, what is the basis of that? where does that come from? where does that poverty come from? how can we eliminate that poverty? how can we distribute resources more equitably? when we think about capitalism, we have to consider the ways that at its core there has always been a hierarchy of those who have and those who have not. often times that is based on race, gender, class, and these
are the things that we cannot ignore. in that way, i would encourage you to look at capitalism from a more intersectional perspective. >> the highest rates of slavery today are in central africa and india. where is the highest concentration of slavery today? dr. lee: i looked earlier this morning. there are 15 areas where there are wars around the world. it is in those areas that we see the highest amounts of slavery. africa is one. somalia in particular. but also when we look at india, myanmar, the united states, i would encourage us to look at
slavery in a more nuanced way. when you think about the old crowded urban areas and the way that people are held down from moving ahead, think about how that is in many ways similar to slavery. when we talk about prison pipeline where children are often times shuttled into prison pipeline at earlier ages, think about how that enslaves them and enslaves whole communities. in that way, we began to look at slavery from a much more nuanced kind of way. we generally do not like to think that we, as americans here in the south, that we have
gotten over that or moved on. you cannot get over it until you deal with it. and we have not really dealt with it. you send a valentine museum is a place that we can go that to the children. are there other places you can in virginia to talk about the children? dr. lee: those records at the virginia museum of history is a very rich resource. there were 8 million unprocessed documents. when i left in 2016, we had 15,000 names in the database itself. that is just a small, a very
small percentage of what is in the larger elections. those documents folder names of children and families. it provides more information about the makeup of families, the ages and work that they did, how much they were bought for, how much they were sold for. sometimes where they were sold and sometimes why. thank you so much. announcer: this weekend, the debut of our 1968 america in turmoil. for nine weeks, we will look back 50 years to that turbulent time marked with war, political sf nation and the space race. women's rights, a fractious
political -- presidential election. this sunday, the vietnam war. through the undoing of lyndon b. guests's presidency with . countryir i heard my calling. also, the author of the book "they marched into sunlight." livesamerica in turmoil, sunday at 8:30 a.m. eastern on c-span's washington journal and on american history tv on c-span3. resident lyndon b. johnson signed the public broadcasting act in 1967, establishing the corporation for public broadcasting and later the creation of pbs.
marks the 50th anniversary of the act are discussing the educational uses of public broadcasting, including the thoughts on the origins of sesame street. they explore how these programs can be viewed as historical artifacts. and theary of congress tv htv posted -- wtbh posted. the person who, during most of my tenure, held the purse strings. she had the most important programming job in those two institutions, not simultaneously. jennifer lawson was the