September 2023 (vol. 13, no. 3)

September 2023 (vol. 13, no. 3)

Volume 13, Number 3
September 2023

Editors’ Note
Kate Masur and Gregory Downs

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Sarah Barringer Gordon

Staying in Place: Southern Methodists, the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, and Postwar Battles for Control of Church Property

Late in the Civil War, northern missionaries from African Methodist denominations flooded into Kentucky and across the upper South, where they sought new members, especially among Black Methodist congregations. But they encountered resistance from an unexpected foe—the law of church property. White southern Methodists had prided themselves on their “Mission to the Negroes,” and white churchmen used litigation to ensure that Black churches remained in the hands of the proslavery church, even after emancipation. This article recovers an otherwise unknown series of Kentucky court decisions on questions of race and church property. Other jurisdictions followed Kentucky’s lead, frustrating shifts in allegiance to Black northern denominations. These cases give new context to the formation of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (CME) in 1870, which tied Black congregations firmly to the southern church. By taking law into account, the role of sacred space, church property and financial wealth, and the use of state power all emerge as key elements of the story. The legal history of CME’s founding and its early growth highlight a reconstituted white supremacy, which imposed a strict requirement that the new denomination avoid all politics and yet could not prevent the emergence of a vibrant and longstanding spiritual community.

Keywords: African, Black, Church, Colored, Court, Law, Litigation, Methodist, Missionary, Property, Race, Sacred, Schism, Space, Spiritual, Union, War, Wealth, White

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Nicole Viglini

“She Is a Very Smart Woman and a Great Trader”: Enslaved and Free Black Women’s Property Claims and Entrepreneurship in the Antebellum South

This article examines Black women’s relationships to personal property in the antebellum era via the claims for compensation they submitted to the Southern Claims Commission. Formed by Congress in 1871, this commission was instituted to reimburse Unionist southerners in seceded states for property confiscated and appropriated by the United States Army during the Civil War. These records not only reveal that Black women possessed considerable property before the Civil War, but also how they used credit as a survival strategy during the height of the domestic slave trade. They forged relationships of trust which were fundamental to the southern economy, and their communities and families recognized their sole ownership of the property that they earned through their skilled domestic labor. Leveraging their reputations as credible economic actors, they employed their property and entrepreneurial expertise to achieve a modicum of security. This helped them assert they had a stable place within southern communities, even if those communities were defined by Black bondage and white capital accumulation.

Keywords: Black women’s claims to property, coverture, family, credit, networks

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Adam H. Domby and Karen L. Cox

Monuments and Memory: Civil War Statuary, Public-Facing Scholarship, and the Future of Memory Studies

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s 2020 murder, there was renewed focus on Confederate monuments within ongoing debates and protests about racial justice and racist violence. Civil War historians are constantly asked about monuments regardless of whether they study them. In part, this roundtable seeks to help all those scholars feel comfortable engaging with these questions while also considering where the field of Civil War memory studies is and where it goes next. Bringing together eight scholars and history practitioners, the roundtable covers a range of topics including discussion about northern monuments, African American commemorations of the war, the impact of a commemorative landscape filled almost exclusively with statues of white men, whether protests have shaped historians’ views of Confederate monuments, how to understand more recent Civil War memorials, the role of historians in public debate, the role of “presentism” in history, and the future of Civil War memory studies.

Keywords: Monuments, memorials, memory, presentism, public history

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Jennifer Oast

Forgotten No Longer: Universities and Slavery in Twenty-First Century Scholarship and Memory

Just twenty years ago, little was known about the connections between universities and slavery – that universities had been founded and funded by slave owners and others who made their fortunes through the transatlantic slave trade.  This essay examines several excellent books and articles on slavery and universities that have created a new subfield within the historiography of American slavery.   This new body of work has focused on three main themes: the economic benefit enjoyed by universities from the donations of men who profited from slavery, the role of universities in promoting pro-slavery ideology, and the use of slaves by universities to work on their campuses and fund their educational missions.  This research has led to calls for institutional apologies for slavery, for memorialization of slaves who worked on campuses, and for reparations for the descendants of these slaves; it is literally reshaping the physical and ideological landscape of many American universities.

Keywords: Slavery, Universities, Pro-slavery Ideology, Slavery Memorials, Reparations, Historiography

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