Posts tagged History.

Confederate Ghosts

I don’t believe in the existence of wandering and detached spirits, looking for a home among the corporeal or begging help of our living.

Here, at least in the South, we’re all ghosts enough.

Legacy is the failure of our bullheaded belligerency and the tens of thousands of poor, uneducated farmers and family men who died protecting the money of slave owners.  Whether racist or not, they were often led into believing they were protecting their home when, in reality, they were just paying for the expenses of capitalism at home and abroad.

We’re all ghosts enough.

Ghosts of textile mill owners’ ambition.  Ghosts of mills run away.  Ghosts of tobacco or cotton or sharecropping.

A confederacy of ghosts isn’t enough.  We see the benefits of strong federation now.

Heat and hurt is our collective inheritance and we need to learn to share it.

06.22.12 ♥ 0
"The history of the world isn’t the history of throngs of evil people with glowing red eyes doing evil things, it’s the history of throngs of average people, out of touch with their own faults, betraying themselves and others by heading up the wrong set of stairs - usually with the help of a handful of truly bad people."

— Subnormality

06.09.12 ♥ 8

Family history, whether known or unknown, informs the life of each one of us. The lives our ancestors led directly impact who we are, where we live, who we know, and what we believe. Learning about these important people can be a tremendous experience that gives life a new and deeper meaning.

Our aim is to make that learning possible.

05.30.12 ♥ 0

A Facebook for those of us who are more comfortable socializing with the dead than with the living.

04.30.12 ♥ 7

Around 1,500 BCE, a student in ancient Babylon inscribed six riddles on a tablet. 3,500 years later, these proto-jokes lose a lot in the translation, but one thing’s for sure: the Babylonians are saying something about your mother.

The tablet in question was first discovered back in 1976 by an archaeologist named J.J. van Dijk during excavations in present-day Iraq. Sadly, the tablet itself has since disappeared, but van Dijk left behind a copy of what the tablet had to say, as well as the delightfully pissy assertion that the tablet featured “very careless writing” and so was obviously the work of a student.

The tablet features a half-dozen riddles, which researchers Nathan Wasserman and Michael Streck recently analyzed for the journal Iraq. Though they call the tablet an example of “wisdom literature,” meaning these the riddles were metaphors meant to impart pithy little truths. And while there’s definitely an aspect of that, at least a few of the riddles sound like some very early stabs at comedy. Take this one for example:

In your mouth and your teeth, constantly stared at you, the measuring vessel of your lord. What is it?


Would it make that riddle any funnier if I told you an alternate translation for “your teeth” is “your urine”? Maybe not. Well, how about this bawdy joke about deflowered women?

The deflowered girl did not become pregnant. The undeflowered girl became pregnant. What is it?

Auxiliary forces.

Admittedly, that one is a bit conceptual. It’s also possible that we’ve discovered the ancient Babylonian answer to Andy Kaufman. Either way, I want to see “auxiliary forces” as everybody’s go-to punchline starting…NOW. Next up, a cutting bit of political humor:

He gouged out the eye. It is not the fate of a dead man. He cut the throat: A dead man. Who is it?

A governor.

The translation across 35 centuries does the riddle no favors, but to be fair - I can at least see how that has the structure of something we might call a joke, in that it describes the punitive powers of a governor in less than flattering terms. But enough with these warm-up acts - let’s get to the headliner, the ancient Babylonian “yo mama” joke. Here it is…or what’s left of it, anyway:

…of your mother is by the one who has intercourse with her. What/who is it?

[No answer]

Yes, tragically, this no doubt devastating takedown of somebody’s mother’s sexual proclivities has been lost to history. Though I do appreciate Wasserman and Streck leaving it ambiguous whether the word is “who” or "what" the mother is having sex with - even in ancient Babylon, you just can’t rule anything out when talking about one’s mother. Or perhaps the original answer wasn’t lost at all, and maybe the whole point is that nothing human or otherwise would ever deign to have ancient Babylonian sex with this poor unfortunate’s mother. We may never know, but I feel confident saying this is the single most important question facing modern archaeology.

Incidentally, the oldest known joke is - and it makes me very proud of humanity to be able to say this - a fart joke. Here’s a 3,900 year old zinger from Sumer:

"Something which has never occurred since time immemorial - a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap."

Well, it’s certainly about farts, although I suppose the “joke” bit is debatable. Then again, I shudder to think what people are going to make of what we considered comedy in the year 5,500. Except Parks and Recreation, of course - the brilliance of Ron Swanson transcends all known boundaries of space and time.

02.03.12 ♥ 0

Leadership and Occupation

From the outset, in our education as Americans, we are taught about leaders.

George Washington. Father of America. The first President and a great war hero.

Lincoln. Savior of the Republic. Stoic and stern-faced. Heavy brow and stare.

Grant. Both Roosevelts. Pershing. McArthur. Eisenhower. Kennedy. Reagan.

We are taught to admire “leadership” - the person who can take the world onto his (I’m not going to even pretend that American education values female leaders) shoulders and guide it through an odyssey of hardship and, usually in the case of our nation, war.

In schools, character education programs are geared toward leadership. JROTC programs are focused on the quality of leadership. The National Honor Society, in all its oligarchic grandeur, values leadership.

That’s what we need in our great country. Leadership. Leaders of corporations and of battalions of police and of regiments of military. Great orators and leaders of men. Each generation a new group of Charlton Heston-chiseled manly men who can scoff in the face of danger and say, “There America, go there,” grabbing the Statue of Liberty by her hair and riding her through the darkness.

Now we have the Occupy movement.

Legend has it, and yes the movement is special enough to have its own tales now, that when the NYPD asked, in the early days of the movement, to speak to the leader of OWS – the NYPD was informed that there was no leader. Legend has it that this caused great consternation on the part of the NYPD.

No leader?

None. Not a figurehead or a spokesperson. No starry-eyed, sweet-dimpled activist for Fox News to smear or for Newsweek to applaud.

Just the people.

In Denver, when the mayor pressed the Occupy Denver movement to elect a leader for purposes of communication and negotiation, Occupy Denver elected a three-year-old border collie named Shelby.

For the Occupy movement, in all of its cities, across the world, there is no leader.

Perhaps this stems from the beginnings of the movement, when the group Anonymous was the main driver of the protests – at least insofar as encouragement and message was concerned. Anonymous, with the creed, “Because none of us are as cruel as all of us”.

Even the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s had leaders in Dr. King and Malcolm X – but those were different movements, with different aims – though just as noble.

Let’s allow ourselves to be baffled, befuddled, and downright noodle-itching at the prospect of a movement of this size – leaderless.

It may be one of the greatest things to ever happen to the idea of leadership.

11.15.11 ♥ 0


“Although Columbus Day, commemorating his first landfall in the New World, somewhere in the Bahamas—the precise location remains disputed—seems a quintessentially American holiday, it is a recent invention, established by FDR in 1937. And it has a fairly muddled heritage: Columbus, of course,…

10.10.11 ♥ 35

William B Cushman
circa 1900
Barnwell County, South Carolina
My gr-gr-grandfather
Poster’s Note: What a swell beard.  Much props to gr-gr-grandpa.

09.27.11 ♥ 0

Permanent Damages

The second-class citizen, or lower, status of women throughout American history specifically is damaging not only to our national heritage but to our familial heritage.

Women who lived lives that spanned decades of memories are often only listed by their first name, their maiden name having been obliterated from recorded history by virtue of their marriage.  This makes them next to impossible to trace.  It’s as though their entire being, their genetic history and their life before marriage, became irrelevant.

The United States census prior to 1850 only listed heads of household, with any other people living within the home being marked by tally (gender and age range).  In this way, women become even more difficult to trace.  One-half of a person’s direct ancestral heritage is obfuscated by the short-sightedness of misogyny.

These are merely frustrations, and there are many more of them simply related to this issue alone, that I experience as I try to expand my understanding of who I am.

09.24.11 ♥ 1

I’ve tried transcribing this half a dozen times - I know what some of it says but need fresh eyes.  If you won’t let me physically borrow your eyes, can someone at least use theirs to give it a shot?

A bit of context:

- it is in English, believe it or not
- it’s a deed from Stokes County, North Carolina, 1831
- it seems to deal with my 7th great grandfather, John James, and a Mary Winston.  I think that perhaps Mary was related to John’s wife, Hannah.
- most of the James’ who’ve signed the document are John’s children
- John is thought to have died in 1821(ish)

09.16.11 ♥ 3

Genealogy Goals

Four things are more frustratingly elusive than all others, insofar as my work on family genealogy is concerned.  These are four things that I must resolve in order to really put my ancestors in their place — and move on to find other frustrating mysteries:

  1. Which generation of the James family was the first to arrive in North America? (I know, you’d think I’d have gotten that one by now)
  2. Was my gr-gr-gr grandfather Joseph Harden James actually murdered and, if not, what the heck did happen to him?
  3. My gr-gr grandfather, Isaac Henry Sizemore, was the result of an “illegitimate” union - just who was his father?
  4. Did the parents of my gr-gr-gr grandfather William D Burckhalter actually exist and, if so, why can’t I find them?

There are other questions but these are my prime motivators at the moment.  Not that I expect anything to come of me discussing them on my blog.

09.16.11 ♥ 0

Propaganda posters, historic buildings, photographs of Americans across the ages, and more.  Say what you like about los federales but the Library of Congress is one of the best things they’ve ever funded.

09.15.11 ♥ 0


by Joshua

it’s retro
she says
no, not here, not yet
mouthful of shag carpet
retro sex, swinging hard
tanking, grinding like gasoline

it’s retro
he says
no, moving backwards!
flapper-tassels jangle
over the arch of the lowerspine
moving down white humpbacks,
he notices several red bumps

it’s retro
she says
catching cholera
you’ve got to reap that shit
but wait until morning, cottonboy
for now let me yank your chain
you can yank my lace

it’s retro
he says
spit on his hands, oh Sodom
me and you and He, spitting

His own shit from the sky

God’s judgment gets me gets me there

07.30.11 ♥ 1

Story of the Snow Brothers

Abner Lee Snow joined the Confederate Army in August of 1862 as had his brothers: Thomas, Byrd, Frost, and James.  James, being a bit older, finished the war serving with the Home Guard.  Tommy mustered out in August of 1862.  Byrd, Abner, and Frost would serve in Company C of the 21st North Carolina Regiment.

Frost was wounded, though not enough to put him out of service, at Second Manassas on 28 August 1862.  Frost, now age 23, was wounded again on 3 May 1863 at Chancellorsville and died on 5 June 1863 at a hospital in Richmond, Virginia.  Byrd, now 31, was also wounded on 3 May at Chancellorsville, having been shot in the arm.

Byrd was not fatally hurt but his arm would have to be amputated.  This left Abner, age 19 and the youngest child in the family, alone to prepare Frost’s body for the return trip home to Mt. Airy, North Carolina.  Abner retrieved his brother’s corpse from Richmond, packed Frost’s body in sawdust and placed him in a pinewood box.  It is not clear whether he was able to escort his brother’s body home or whether he had it shipped.

Byrd returned to service after the successful amputation to remove his arm.

On 6 February 1865, months before the end of the war, Byrd and Abner found themselves at Hatcher’s Run, Virginia.  Byrd, having been promoted to Captain, was killed at Hatcher’s Run while serving alongside his brother, Abner.

Abner survived the war and returned to Surry County, North Carolina where he married Rosanna Jones in December 1865.  Abner and Rosanna would have ten children, all of whom would survive into adulthood.  They named their firstborn Richard and he would become my great-grandfather.

Abner died at age 53 in 1896.  Rosanna was left to raise their five youngest children, one only a year old, on her own.

07.25.11 ♥ 5