Life in the Jim Crow South

Life in the Jim Crow South

Behind the Veil is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in life in the south as experienced by African-Americans struggling to make a life for themselves under unfair and repressive laws.

Behind the Veil

The Behind the Veil Oral History Project was undertaken by Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies from 1993 to 1995. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the primary purpose of this documentary project was to record and preserve the living memory of African-American life during the age of legal segregation in the American South, from the 1890s to the 1950s.

Herbert Block, 1958

Herbert Block, 1958

Over the span of three summers, teams of researchers conducted oral history interviews with more than one thousand elderly black southerners who remembered that period of legal segregation. The tapes and selected transcripts of the 1,260 interviews in this collection capture the vivid personalities, poignant personal stories, and behind-the-scenes decision-making that bring to life the African-American experience in the South during the late-19th to mid-20th century. It is the largest single collection of Jim Crow oral histories in the world.

Four hundred and ten of the 1,260 interviews have been digitized and made available on this site totaling about 725 hours of recorded audio. One hundred and sixty five of the interviews include transcripts comprising more than 15,000 pages of text.

Source: About – Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South – Duke Libraries

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Sunday School Tracts: The Deadly Cigarette

Sunday School Tracts: The Deadly Cigarette

Sunday schools began in England around 1780 to provide a basic education to the children of the poor on their day off. By 1810 Sunday schools and Sunday school societies were springing up in the Eastern United States. To reinforce the lessons taught on Sunday, many of the Sunday schools created libraries full of the “right kind” of books to improve the morals of the children.

The use of alcohol and tobacco were widely considered vices in the United States in the 19th century. Sunday school lessons often included commentary on those evils such as the small pamphlet, The Deadly Cigarette. In this tract, directed at boys, smoking is portrayed as a gateway habit to drinking and drinking was depicted as one of the greatest moral and cultural dangers of the era.

Influencing the behavior of kids by scaring the hell out them has a long history in America as you can see here:

The Deadly Cigarette

“Let’s see what auntie says.” Presently two little boys came in.

The Deadly Cigarette“Please, Aunt Sarah,” asked James, “has anyone ever been known to be injured by cigarette smoking? We have learned,” he went on, “what the text-book says, and the teacher tells us it is ruinous; but some of the boys do smoke them, and say it doesn’t hurt at all.”

Aunt Sarah looked lovingly into the earnest faces upturned to hers, as she replied:

“Yes, my dears, I do know of boys ruined by cigarettes, ‘harmless’ ones, too, the dealer called them.”

“During the summer vacation three boys but little older than you, began smoking them. Before the fall term of school ended two were obliged to leave, Charlie having convulsions, and Edward, sore throat, both caused by tobacco poisoning, the doctors said. A few weeks later Charlie died; while Edward, in spite of the most skillful care and nursing that love and money could supply only lingered till early spring.”

“And the other boy, Auntie,” asked Harry, “what of him?”

“Well,” resumed Aunt Sarah, “he says ‘Tobacco never hurt me,’ but from being at the head of his class he has dropped down near the foot. Instead of being the industrious, ambitious, wide-awake boy of one year ago, he is now idle, careless, apathetic, enjoying nothing as much as what he calls a good smoke with some one as dull as himself.”

Nicotine poisoning shows itself in many forms, and often is not so quickly visible as in the cases I have mentioned; but you may be sure it is a viper that never forgets to bite. Like the alcohol curse there is no safety save in total abstinence from tobacco using. Avoid it as you would a deadly reptile.

–Word and Work

Should Girls All Dress Alike?

Should Girls All Dress Alike?

The question: Should Students Have to Wear School Uniforms? is alive and well in America today.  The adoption of uniforms by public schools is on the rise in many parts of the United States.

Schools with a student body consisting of 50% or more non-white kids are four times more likely to require uniform dress than schools with a minority base of 20-49% and twenty-four times more likely than a school with a white student population of 81-95%.

By 2008, 22 states had laws in place allowing local schools to decide on the issue of uniforms for students.

Early in 1913 this question was being debated in the city of Seattle, Washington – but only for girls.

Dress School Girls All Alike?

Shall Seattle put its high school girls a uniform dress?

Miss Ruth Shank thinks her simple dress should be adopted by all high school girls.

Miss Ruth Shank thinks her simple dress should be adopted by all high school girls.

A retiring the school board recently proposed it. The Federated women’s club has taken the matter up in discussion. Teachers in the schools favor the idea. Mothers have varying opinions.

In our grandmothers day it was not actually understood that the matter of dress might have a good deal of effect on the work of a high school girl or that it in any way affected her morals. Neither was understood that adenoids, removable by a simple and almost painless operation, made a dunce of a really smart child, or that scientific ventilation facilitated the work of students.

Ruth Shank, a pupil at Lincoln high school, is a disciple of simplicity in dress.

“I believe,” she said, “high school girls are trying to be more simple in their dress. They don’t wear loud or flashy clothes any more. But I think they should be even more simple. A uniform dress might be just the thing.”

An investigation in the New York schools have revealed the fact that many pupils are retarded to their studies because of petty jealousies aroused in matters of dress. Boys too, they say, pay too much attention to gaily the dressed girls.

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Have you met Uncle Sam, MD?

Have you met Uncle Sam, MD?

In the early 1920’s the United States Public Health Service section on Public Health Education supplied a daily health column, “Uncle Sam, M. D.,” for publication in newspapers throughout the country.

Combined with a system of questions and answers; the column supplied news on health matters two or three times a week to 10,000 newspapers, periodicals, and organizations. It also supplied health articles to the Foreign Information Bureau and produced motion-picture films to build a stereopticon loan library.

It was mostly newspapers in the west that carried the column.  The easiest to find are The Bismark Tribune and The Ogden Standard-Examiner.

One of the longest installments is one of my favorites.  It appeared in April 1920.

Public health

If you want better health, pay the price. Money spent in protecting the health and the likes the people is the best of all investments. Don’t be too eager to pass more health laws; provide sufficient means enforce those already on the statute books.

It is a well-known axiom that public health is, within certain limits, a purchasable commodity, and that each community practically fixes by its sanitary policy its sickness and disease rates from such preventable diseases as typhoid fever, malaria, tuberculosis, smallpox, etc. The best indication of the adequate or inadequacy with which a community is handling his health problems is shown in the ability of the existing health organization to lessen the prevalence of sickness.

In the interests of economy and efficiency, for instance, all sanitary work, be it child hygiene, industrial sanitation, school hygiene, milk control, etc, should be centralized and coordinated under properly equipped departments of health. Local health administration must be strengthened by the employment of health officers giving their entire time to their duty and fully responsible to the state department of health. The public health service holds that at least 2% of the public revenue should be spent for sanitary work, since for no other expenditures is so much profit ultimately derived.

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The Art of War Gardening

The Art of War Gardening

War Gardens or Victory Gardens were planted at private residences and public parks during both world wars. They were promoted as a way to reduce pressure on the public food supply and also as “morale boosters.” Gardeners could feel their contribution of labor helped the war effort in addition to rewarding them with the produce they grew. They were adopted in Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand in addition to here in the United States.

Demonstration Garden, Bryant Park, NYC

Demonstration Garden, Bryant Park, NYC

Charles Lathrop Pack organized the US National War Garden Commission in March 1917. Pack, a third-generation timberman, was one of the five wealthiest men in America prior to World War I. He came up with the idea to increase the food supply without increasing the “use of land already cultivated, of labor already engaged in agricultural work, of time devoted to other necessary occupations, and of transportation facilities which were already inadequate to the demands made upon them.”

The commission publicized the gardens with pamphlets, printed material for newspaper distribution, and colorful posters. The Commission claimed that the majority of the 30,000,000 WWI soldiers had been farmers before they went to war. The reduction in farm labor here and in Europe along with farmland devastated by warfare had many people worried about food supplies.

In addition to home gardens, the Commission also helped with the United States Bureau of Education’s mobilization of school children in the food production effort. Through the United States School Garden Army program, millions of children were taught the value of gardening as a patriotic effort during war-time. They learned the importance of food production through practical work in school based gardens.

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