Monday, April 03, 2017


The Pacific Northwestern city of Seattle started with Native American human beings. During the last glacial period (from 8,000 to 10,000 years ago), Native Americans were in the area. They worked, ate food, and gathered resources to grow their civilizations. By the mid 1850’s, the Coast Salish peoples (or now called the Duwamish Tribe and the Suquamish) including other groups plus tribes lived in 13 villages in present day city limits of Seattle. There has been continuous human habitation of a village site within the city limits dating back to the 6th century A.D. This existed in the modern day Port of Seattle Terminal 107 site, which is located on the Western bank of the Duwamish River. The site was abandoned in ca. 1800 because of unknown reasons.   Many village site include the birthplace of Chief Seattle, which is located near the current footprint of the King Street Station. George Vancouver was the first European to visit the Seattle area in May of 1792 during his 1791-92 expedition to chart the Pacific Northwest. Many people date the founding of Seattle from the arrival of the Denny Party scouts in September 25, 1851. Yet, Luther Collins, Henry Van Asselt, and the Maple family founded a farming settlement on what is currently the Seattle neighborhood of Georgetown in September 27, 1851. The Denny party’s original site was an unfinished cabin. It didn’t have a roof and it had a camp site. It was located in Alki Point, in West Seattle. The Collins party settlement was improved with permanent structures, and was soon producing produce and meat for sale and barter. In April 1852, Arthur A. Denny abandoned the original site at Alki in favor of a better protected site on Elliott Bay that is now part of downtown Seattle. Arthur A. Denny and Luther Collins were the first commissioners of King County after its creation in 1852. Around the same time, David Swinson "Doc" Maynard began settling the land immediately south of Denny's.

During the early decades of the city of Seattle, it relied on the timber industry. It shipped logs (and later milled timber) to San Francisco. Back then, forests with trees up to 1, 000 to 2,000 years old and as high as almost 400 ft. covered much of Seattle. Today, none of those trees in that size remain in the city. Seattle would dominate the lumber industry. This came when Henry Yesler brought the first steam sawmill to the region. He picked the location on the waterfront where Maynard and Denny’s plats met. Charlie Terry sold out Alki (which, after his departure barely held on as a settlement). He moved to Seattle and began acquiring land. He either owned or partially owned Seattle's first timber ships. He eventually gave a land grant to the University of the Territory of Washington (later University of Washington), and was instrumental in the politics to establish an urban infrastructure. Seattle evolved from a logging town to a small city. It was founded officially by the Methodists of the Denny Party. Seattle back then had a reputation of being a haven for prostitution, liquor, and gambling. Loggers continued to come into Seattle. According to real estate records, nearly all of Seattle’s first 60 businesses were on or immediately adjacent to Maynard’s plat. Also, this occurred in the midst of many white settlers having a rocky relationship (to put it lightly) with local Native Americans. There was the Battle of Seattle during January 25, 1856. Seattle was incorporated as a town in January 14, 1865. That charter was voided in January 18, 1867. This was in response to questionable activities of the town's elected leaders. Seattle was re-incorporated December 2, 1869. At the times of incorporations, the population was approximately 350 and 1,000, respectively. In 1867, there was a young French Canadian Catholic priest named Francis X. Prefontaine. He arrived in Seattle and formed a parish there. Few Catholics lived there. The first Catholic church was opened in 1869 in Seattle. Later, its railroad system developed and grew.

The African American Civil Rights Movement from 1877 to 1900 was filled with huge challenges and a fighting spirit among black people. During this time, Reconstruction ended. The white racist backlash against black people increased. Many black people decided that enough was enough. Some decided to fight back in the South. Others decided to leave the South and travel into the North, the Midwest, and the West Coast. The Exodus movement existed during the late 1870’s and early 1880’s, which was about many black families (as many as 40,000 black people) leaving the South in order for them to settle in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Colorado. This was the first major migration of African Americans after the Civil War. Many black people bought more than 20,000 acres of land in Kansas. Settlements were developed like Nicodemus, Kansas which was founded in 1877). Black churches in St. Louis along with Western philanthropists created the Colored Relief Board. There was the Kansas Freedmen’s Aid Society instituted in order to help those stranded in St. Louis to reach Kansas. One particular group was the Kansas Fever Exodus, which consisted of six thousand blacks who moved from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas to Kansas. Many in Louisiana were inspired to leave the state when the 1879 Louisiana Constitutional Convention decided that voting rights were a matter for the state, not federal, government, thereby clearing the way for the disenfranchisement of Louisiana's black population. Frederick Douglas disagreed with the Kansas Exodus movement, because he felt that it was ill timed and poorly organized. During these times, political and economic development existed in the black community. Black ministers advanced civil rights. Back then, the majority of black people in America in the South were farmers. Some were tenant farmers, sharecroppers, or agricultural laborers. There were also black people in the South, who owned their own farms and were independent of direct white economic control.
In Memphis, thousands of black people came into the city, because the Army during the Civil War occupied the city early on. One of the great leaders of Memphis during this time was Robert Reed Church (1839-1912). He was the South’s first black millionaire. He worked in city real estate. Also, he created Memphis’ first black owned bank called Solvent Savings Bank. He wanted loans to come to the black community, so black businesses would grow. He worked in the Republican Party locally and nationally. His son was a major politician in Memphis. He worked hard for black people. In Atlanta, Georgia, black people worked heavily in education and other fields. It was a center of black education. The faculty and students provided a supportive environment for civil rights discussions and activism. Atlanta University was established in 1865. The forerunner of Morehouse College opened in 1867, Clark University opened in 1869. What is now Spelman College opened in 1881, and Morris Brown College in 1885. This would be one of several factors aiding the establishment of one of the nation's oldest and best-established African American elite in Atlanta. Atlanta would be one large black cultural center of the African American community.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was one of the largest cities of the North. It was filled with civil rights activists. WEB DuBois wrote about the city in his pioneering sociological study The Philadelphia Negro (1899). It was a work that undermined the stereotypes with experimental evidence. He shaped his approach to segregation and its negative impact on black lives and reputations. The results led Du Bois to realize that racial integration was the key to democratic equality in American cities. During the era of Reconstruction, the Freedmen's Bureau opened 1,000 schools across the South for black children using federal funds. Enrollments were high and enthusiastic. Overall, the Bureau spent $5 million to set up schools for blacks and by the end of 1865, more than 90,000 Freedmen were enrolled as students in public schools. The school curriculum resembled that of schools in the north. By the end of Reconstruction, however, state funding for black schools was minimal, and facilities were quite poor. Fisk University in Nashville, Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, and other colleges helped the lives of so many black people. Congress expanded the land grant plan to use federal support for state sponsored colleges all over the South in 1890. It required southern states with segregated systems to establish black colleges as land-grant institutions so that all students would have an opportunity to study at such places. Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute was of national importance because it set the standards for industrial education. Of even greater influence was Tuskegee Normal School for Colored Teachers, founded in 1881 by the state of Alabama and led by Hampton alumnus Booker T. Washington until his death in 1915. Although I disagree with Booker T. Washington's Atlanta Compromise and on other issues (like on labor and immigration issues), he was right to say that economic development including vocational skills are important to advance in the black community. Elsewhere, in 1900 there were few black students enrolled in college-level work. Historically, the Oberlin College in Ohio was a pioneer in graduating black men and black women throughout the 19th century. Philanthropic foundations would fund black colleges, churches, and other institutions. Rich Northerners funded many things. One such foundation was the Peabody Education Fund. The vast majority of the African American population during the late 19th century were Methodists and Baptists. Methodists had bishops while Baptists were spread out in a more independent fashion. The church was conduit in the black community to organize rallies, to set up programs, and to execute political activism. AME Bishop Henry McNeal Turner was an outspoken advocate for justice and equality. He worked in Georgia and he fought Jim Crow laws. Turner was the leader of Black Nationalism and promoted emigration of blacks to Africa. He believed in separation of human beings of different races. He started a back-to-Africa movement in support of the black American colony in Liberia. Turner built black pride by proclaiming "God is a Negro.” For religious black people, the end of the Civil War brought freedom to black people and the fight for justice continues.

Jim Crow laws strengthened during the 1880’s. Segregation of public transportation existed. Tennessee segregated railroad cars, followed by Florida (1887), Mississippi (1888), Texas (1889), Louisiana (1890), Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Georgia (1891), South Carolina (1898), North Carolina (1899), Virginia (1900), Maryland (1904), and Oklahoma (1907). Southern states prevented the majority of black Americans from voting.  These restrictions included literacy requirements, voter-registration laws, and poll taxes. In 1881, Booker T. Washington opened the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (HBCU) in Tuskegee, Alabama. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1896 ruled in favor of Jim Crow in the case of Plessy vs. Ferguson, declaring that "separate but equal" facilities for blacks were legal under the 14th Amendment. Obviously, that is a disgraceful decision, because human beings have the right to live in where they want without the state discriminating against them. Jim Crow would exist until 1965 overtly. The new Jim Crow relate to the prison industrial complex as written about eloquently by Sister Michelle Alexander. Lynchings of black people grew as well during this time. The perpetrators were rarely or never arrested or convicted. Nearly 3,500 African Americans and 1,300 whites were lynched in the United States, mostly from 1882 to 1901. The peak year was 1892. A great fighter against lynching was Sister Ida B. Wells (1862-1931). She was a civil rights activist, a newspaper editor, and a hero. Her newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee attacked lynching. Racists threatened her life. So, she came into Chicago by 1892 to fight for justice. Ida B. Wells published her pamphlet "Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases." Ida B. Wells was a black women filled with courage and strength. In 1893,  Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass, Irvine Garland Penn, and Ferdinand Lee Barnett published, "The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not At the World's Columbian Exposition" and they protested black exclusion from the Chicago World's Fair. W. E. B. Du Bois was the first African American to be awarded a Ph.D. by Harvard University in 1895. W.E.B. DuBois was one of the greatest intellectual, revolutionary voices of the black community. By 1896, Wright Cuney was unseated as the chairman of the Texas Republican Party. Booker T. Washington promoted black entrepreneurship. He worked with many Western capitalists in funding his Institute. Before he passed away, Booker T. Washington would increasingly fight against Jim Crow policies behind the scenes. WEB DuBois was also strongly in favor of racial equality and social justice. Black men and Black women continued to make contributions in society. There were leaders like James T. Rapier, Aaron Alpeoria Bradley and John Mercer Langston. Anna J. Cooper was a black woman who fought racism and stood up for women’s rights. She wrote words in favor of Black feminism. She published her 1892 book entitled, "A Voice from the South: By a Woman from the South.” She wanted African American women to be uplifted via education and other avenues. Frederick Douglas (1818-1895) continued to speak out as well during the late 1800’s. He was an abolitionist, publisher, diplomat, and lecturer. He supported racial equality, gender equality, and he was against capital punishment. He wanted peace and he continued to advocate for agitation. Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin was an editor, organizer, suffragist, and founder of the Woman’s Era (which is the first newspaper by and for African American women). Sojourner Truth spoke out as well. Timothy Thomas Fortune was the founder of the National Afro-American League. After the 1896 decision of Plessy v. Ferguson, many people questioned whether America would live up to the principles of equality of and liberty. The next century of the 20th century would be as DuBois has said the century of the color line. That century would once again show the courage and human excellence of black Americans.

By Timothy

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