By teaching our students to think, care, and act, we empower them to build a peaceful future.


Welcome to Think, Care, Act, where teachers and students can find rationales and resources to infuse required curricula with peace, character, global, and multicultural concepts throughout the year.

To act in a world whose problems seem overwhelming requires being able to use the powers of critical and creative thinking and compassionate and inclusive care. Employing these tools, adults and youth alike can work effectively and conscientiously to solve problems big and small, global and local.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

DIVERSITY BOOK CLUB #4: FIT FOR FREEDOM, NOT FOR FRIENDSHIP: QUAKERS, AFRICAN AMERICANS, AND THE MYTH OF RACIAL JUSTICE

“If emancipation is only a byproduct of saving the Union, the hate of the colored race will still continue, and the poison of that wickedness will destroy us as a nation.”
-Quaker abolitionist Abby Kelly Foster, 1862

“It becomes increasingly clear that the existing social-economic-political-legal-military system—the framework within which the white establishment operates—simply cannot be patched up in such a way as to end exploitation and degradation.  We must be prepared to discover how much we ourselves, sharing in and profiting from the operating of the system, are contributing to the power which maintains the very practices we are fighting against.”
-Friends National Conference on Race Relations,
Black Mountain, North Carolina, 1967

I saw how the static, frozen image of guilty white oppressor versus angry victim of color tends to keep everyone stuck playing the same old tune….
We do not have to stay stuck and hopeless….”
-Quaker Melanie Sax, 2002


Let’s resume our virtual Diversity Book Club.  In previous and upcoming posts, I summarize books and provide classroom applications and resources for teachers interested in building welcoming and inclusive environments in their classrooms and schools.  We continue with Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice, by Donna McDaniel and Vanessa Julye (Quaker Press of Friends General Conference, Philadelphia, 2009).

In this meticulously researched book, the authors provide a balanced analysis to counter the myth that Quakers consistently championed abolition and rights for African Americans throughout American history.  While many Quakers did effectively and committedly undertake this work—especially after 1760, there are also many instances of Quakers participating actively in the slave trade and ownership of enslaved people.

The book begins with the Colonial era and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  Subsequent chapters concern post-Civil-War eras, formation of Quaker schools, integration of Quaker meetings, and the lack of real interaction between European and African Americans in the Quaker communities in which they worship presently.

The authors help us see that even when there is authentic work for racial equality (and there is much evidence of such work in Quaker history), there also must be authentic work for closeness and sincere relationships among people of diverse backgrounds to overcome an “us and them” mentality depicted in the title.

Epilogue First

For history teachers, students of history, and members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), the book (and this detailed blog post) will be particularly interesting.  However, I want to offer casual readers the payoff at the outset.  In her epilogue, African American co-author Vanessa Julye gives these recommendations to European American Quakers. 

Readers, let’s start with these key points and work our way together to better relations among all people:

a.    “Stop taking whiteness for granted.  Make whiteness visible…. Acknowledge that whiteness does not symbolize normality and that it is associated with unearned privilege….
b.    “Acknowledge and dispel stereotypes about African Americans…. Let go of those fears and negative feelings, and replace stereotypes with realistic information.
c.    “Participate in workshops, discussions, conferences and other activities that promote racial justice.
d.    “Widen your circle of friends. Get to know people of African descent….
e.    “Talk about racism, but know that addressing the issue is highly emotional and difficult.  Listen to each other….
f.     “Promote racially inclusive collaboration within your community… Take action in addressing racial reconciliation at all levels of society and government….” (Read her full set of recommendations on pages 396-397.)

Book Summary

Many readers will enjoy diving into the extensive detail of the book, as I did.  Quaker meetings and history teachers will find much to discuss and research here, as well.  Below, I offer a guided tour through the chapters.

Quakers and Slavery: 1600s through 1800s
·      Initially, Quakers—and other groups—employed indentured servants, poor immigrants from Europe, as laborers.  Eventually, Quakers and others began enslaving Africans.
·      Scholars agree on these numbers: between 1600 and 1899, 10 or 11 million Africans were transported to the Americas alive.  This number does not count those who died along the way.
·      About 6% (600,000 to 650,000) were brought to what is now the United States.
·      By 1810, the population of people of African descent in the U.S. was about 120,000.
·      At the same time William Penn was establishing the colony of Pennsylvania, in 1680, it is believed a Quaker named William Frampton was first to bring Africans to Philadelphia for the purpose of enslavement. 
·      Most slave-trading Quakers lived in Rhode Island, especially Newport, Providence, and Bristol.
·      Newport traders transported about 70% of enslaved Africans, and also had a large population of wealthy Quaker families.  Estimates state that 50% of wealthy Newport residents were connected with the slave trade.
·      Quaker families owned West Indian plantations.
·      Abraham Redwood, a Quaker, enslaved more Africans or people of African decent (around 238) than any other European American slave holder in New England in 1766.
·      Estimates indicate that half of all Pennsylvania enslaved people were “owned” by Quakers, and about 1000 enslaved persons resided in Philadelphia from 1767-1775.
·      William Penn, champion of religious freedom, enslaved Africans.
·      1755: in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, one enslaved person-to-four European American persons resided and engaged in building the seacoast-city economies.
·      In 1700s, in New York City, 40% of households owned enslaved people.
·      In the South, from 1790 to 1830, about 25% of European Americans enslaved Africans.
·      Many poor European American Southerners feared freedom for enslaved Africans, because they believed the formerly enslaved would take their jobs and/or work for lower wages.
·      1700, 12% of enslavers were tobacco planters (Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland), and rice and indigo planters (South Carolina), with 30-60 enslaved people per plantation. 



Quakers’ Inaction, Action, and Conflict about Slavery
·      1700s American Friends took one of four positions:  accepting slavery, doing nothing, thinking enslaved people should be treated kindly and educated in Christianity, and against enslavement as a non-Christian thing to do.
·      Geography played a part: Western Shore, MD tobacco-planting Quakers actively purchased new enslaved persons, while Eastern Shore, MD Quakers began freeing enslaved people, in 1685.
·      “Even by the early 1700s, northern trading and commercial interests, including those of Quakers, were more and more intertwined with the enslavement economy of the South” (p. 9).  Think about rum and the Triangular Trade.
·      Thus, the quandary between Quaker principles of “loving thy neighbor” became complicated by the economic concerns of many Quakers.  Also, meetings that were to run on consensus processes could not take action if it divided the meeting.
·      1676 William Edmunson writes that enslaving Africans is “unchristian.”  He had seen slave plantations’ barbarity in Barbados. He questioned why Native American enslavement had been banned, but African enslavement continued.
·      1688 Germantown Friends Meeting (Philadelphia) members wrote a formal letter to their meeting: “There is a saying that we shall doe to all men like as we will be done ourselves….  To bring men hither, or to rob and sell them against their will, we stand against” (p. 16).
·      Numerous other appeals were put before meetings, but fear of disunity, fear of making judgments on the livelihood of others, and seeming lack of authority of individual meetings led to inaction or censure of petitioners.
·      Friends such as Elihu Coleman used the following arguments;
o   Enslavement was violence, and Quakers were supposed to be nonviolent, enslavement was theft and it also controverted the Golden Rule and the bible, and slaveholding led to laziness in families of those who benefitted from the labor of others.  Friends should free the enslaved and reimburse them for their service.
·      1716, Nantucket, MA meeting urged Friends to free enslaved people after one term as indentured servants.
·      “Radical” reformers did not fear censure of their meetings and openly sowed discord.  Examples are Ralph Sandiford and Benjamin Lay (and others) who wrote that slavery is a notorious sin.”  In the 1730s, Lay utilized confrontation: standing in bare feet in the snow or kidnapping Quaker children, for example, to demonstrate to Quakers the horrors of slavery.
·      John Woolman used less radical methods, but was considered effective in arguing through print for the end of enslavement.   He referred to enslaved people as “captives of war.”  Similarly, Anthony Benezet published pamphlets that made anti-slavery arguments understandable to many people.  (See pages 24-30 for more.)  In 1754, Woolman influenced Quaker congregations in Philadelphia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia, and Benezet influenced British as well as American governing bodies.  (Both Lay and Benezet asserted that persons of African descent should live elsewhere from those of European descent, however.  See pages 56-60 for a discussion of colonization.)
·      Women traveled and preached against enslavement as well, such as Rebecca Jones, Patience Brayton (a former enslaver), and Sarah Harrison. 
·      Estimates from Pennsylvania indicate Quakers “manumitted” (freed from enslavement) 3500 to 5000 from 1685 to 1827.   



Highlights of Quaker Action: Anti-slavery, Abolition
·      Before and after the American Revolutionary War, Quaker groups helped form anti-slavery societies, formed free produce societies (for boycotts of slave-labor goods) and influenced colonial and then state governments to adopt anti-importation and/or anti-slavery measures.  (Read more on pages 45-50.)
·      1780s: Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) becomes the first religious denomination to proclaim itself free of enslaving Africans.
·      British Parliament passed the Abolition of Slavery Act in 1833, freeing all those enslaved in the British Empire after a five-year apprenticeship.
·      One-third of the delegates to the organizing convention of the American Anti-Slavery Society, formed in 1833 by African and European Americans, were Quaker.   While the organization did not treat its African American members equally in terms of power and pay, it did call for immediate abolition of slavery in its Declaration of Sentiments, alongside a commitment to nonviolence.
·      An estimated 60% of members of anti-slavery organizations were women.  Such Quaker women as Lucretia Mott were active and spoke at the convention.  The Female Anti-Slavery Society of Philadelphia, formed by African and European American women included such leaders as Sarah Mapps Douglass, an African American woman who attended Quaker meetings. 
o   In 1838, Pennsylvania Hall was burned by a mob in Philadelphia, angered by the fact that people of African and European descent were congregating together and that women were giving speeches.  (Read more o pages 77-79.)
·      The Underground Railroad was not “run” by Quakers, contrary to popular belief, although many Quakers did participate and in larger percentages than may have been expected from their numbers in American society.  Frederick Douglass wrote of Quaker assistance, the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin referred to a Quaker couple as rescuers, and the fact that the Railroad ran through Chester, Pennsylvania, inhabited by many Quaker families contributed to the idea.  Levi Coffin of Cincinnati, and Thomas Garrett, of Wilmington, Delaware, stand out.  
o   Garrett worked closely with African Americans Harriet Tubman and William Still.  He claimed to have helped 2,322 escapees between 1825 and 1863.
o   In New Jersey, Isaac Hopper assisted 1000 African escapees in Philadelphia.
o   While much of the Quaker community was ambivalent, men and women alike were actively working on the Underground Railroad.
·      Quakers were the only denomination to offer compensation to newly freed persons.
·      Quakers in North Carolina and other regions supported newly freed African Americans who wanted to resettle in free areas.  Many Quaker communities were deemed hospitable by newly arrived African Americans.  (See pages 114-120 for more on this migration period.)


 

The Civil War Dilemma
·      Quakers generally supported the aim of emancipating enslaved people but were torn on the use of military force.  Some Quaker men enlisted, some were drafted, and some performed alternative service, protested service, or paid fees to be used for nonviolent uses.
·      After the war, many Quaker congregations sent money and people to the South to work on relief activities and educational efforts in African American communities of newly emancipated people.



Great Migration to the Present
Chapters continue to the present day, including: the 1880s Great Migration to the North of people of African descent, W. E. B. Du Bois and the Niagara Movement in 1905 (which led to the formation in 1909 of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP]), and the 1911 founding of the National Urban League.  Quakers were involved in these organizations formed to improve the safety, rights, and economic conditions of African Americans.  In 1917, the American Friends Service Committee was formed to work for national and international peace, relief, and interracial equality.  Its Nobel Peace Prize-winning work to promote racial understanding is ongoing from the 1920s to the present.

While we think of Quakers as being pro or even active in the Civil Rights struggle, the authors document Quaker membership in branches of the Ku Klux Klan, even among faculty and students at Quaker Earlham College.  For the most part, however, Quaker were actively fighting to stop lynching and promote the Civil Rights struggle.   Quakers founded the Nobel Peace Prize-wining Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom [WILPF] in 1946, and Friends Committee on National Legislation [FCNL].  Known for their anti-war work, these organizations also fought for anti-lynching legislation in the 1940s.



Classroom/School Applications
1.    Students can research policies and actions of other denominations in various Colonial regions regarding enslavement of Africans in the 1600s-1800s and compare and contrast with Quaker history.

2.    Research the upstate NY land grants of non-Quaker Gerrit Smith in 1846-47.  Smith gave away 120,000 acres to 3000 African American New Yorkers in hopes of helping them start new lives on farms, increase their wealth, and overcome the denial of voting rights established by the New York State Assembly in 1821.  Legislation denied the vote to African Americans by setting what was then an unreachable barrier: ownership of $250 worth of real property.  Students can established his affiliation with abolitionist John Brown.  They can research Frederick Douglass’s relationship with Brown and Smith.  It would be interesting to compare Brown’s violent uprising at Harper’s Ferry with the Quaker dilemma about non-violence as the Civil War approached.  Compare Smith’s land grants with Quaker land grants during Reconstruction. (See pages 163-173.)  Visit the website http://www.adkhistorycenter.org/edu/dot.html  to learn more and consider booking the touring exhibit Dreaming of Timbuctoo, on display at the John brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid, NY. 

3.    Research the ability of African Americans to join congregations of various denominations and compare these histories to those of Quaker congregations in the US.   Visit USHistory.org website: http://www.ushistory.org/tour/arch-street-friends.htm to learn about Arch Street Friends or African American Richard Allen’s formation of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal [A.M.E.] Church, for example.    

4.    Use techniques with your classes described in the book as used by Quaker groups and based on the work of psychologist Gordon Allport who indicated that encouraging people to share their own cultures and common experiences would “strengthen our solidarity with others” (p. 226). Note: Quote is taken from his forward to the 1963 book: The Art of Group Conversation: A New Breakthrough in Social Communication, by DuBois and Li.
·       Try employing the “Circles of Culture” Lesson: How can we build caring classroom environments in which students feel safe to tackle unsafe topics? To make our class environment a caring place for daring conversations I use the “Circles of Culture” exercise explained in my blog.  Taking time to create a caring place for daring conversations makes all the difference in the student (and teacher) experience and forges our bonds as a community of readers, writers, and upstanders, ready to build a welcoming and inclusive community in and out of school…. This is relevant teaching and learning: today and every day. (Sample questions: In which of your circles of culture do you find safety/refuge?  Why?  In which of your circles of culture do you find discomfort or lack of safety?  Why?)  Read more: http://thinkcareact.blogspot.com/2016/07/creating-caring-classroom-community_6.html

5.    Research the economic history of slavery.  The slave trade benefitted many Americans.  How could European American “Christians” treat enslaved Africans so cruelly?  Follow the money.  Why didn’t people of conscience stop it sooner?  Follow the money.  Among other resources, find “Key Distinctions for Understanding Race and Racism” at The Tracing Center www.tracingcenter.org developed by filmmaker Katrina Browne. Browne made the film in response to learning about her White, Episcopalian, Rhode Island family’s deep involvement in America’s trans-Atlantic slave trade.  She has uncovered the connections between her family history and her White privileges compared to families of enslaved Africans, for example. (Have her speak at your school, show her film, and visit classrooms.  Her yarn-web exercise demonstrating a small town and all craftspeople and gardeners supplying slave ships clarifies the economic web of involvement in the slave trade.)

6.    Research with students the federal and local regulations that led to housing inequality, such as “redlining” and the National Housing Act of 1934.  Ask students to read and analyze the Economic Policy Institute’s October 2014 paper: “The Making of Ferguson: Public Policies at the Root of its Troubles,” found here: http://www.epi.org/publication/making-ferguson/.

7.    Research the integrated efforts of such labor leaders as A. Philip Randolph with Quaker Bayard Rustin (both African Americans) and A.J. Muste, European American in the 1940s, and the work of the AFSC alongside the Southern Christian Leadership Conference [SCLC] to promote non-violent work for racial equality in the Civil Rights struggle and Poor People’s Campaign of the 1960s.

8.    Debate the issue of reparations, as did many Quaker meetings.  The authors state: “Based on available records, it seems many Friends accepted the notion that they, and people of European descent in general, did indeed owe African Americans a debt.  Whether the benefits enjoyed by European American were expressed in historical terms connected to the enslavement of Africans or in the more contemporary term of ‘white privilege,’ few questioned the underlying obligation” (p. 280).  What do your students think?  Visit such pro/con websites as Opposing Viewpoints to find support material for each side of the debate.

9.    Investigate the meaning of this statement from the 1967 Friends National Conference on Race Relations, held in Black Mountain, NC: “It becomes increasingly clear that the existing social-economic-political-legal-military system—the framework within which the white establishment operates—simply cannot be patched up in such a way as to end exploitation and degradation.  We must be prepared to discover how much we ourselves, sharing in and profiting from the operating of the system, are contributing to the power which maintains the very practices we are fighting against” (p. 288).  How do your students perceive this statement?

10.Research Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence philosophy or research Quaker Bayard Rustin’s civil rights and peace work.
 
11.Investigate the social programs of the Black Panthers in the 1960s and ‘70s and the cooperation that existed between the AFSC, various Quaker meetings, and the Panthers.  (See pages 310-316 for details.)  View the film The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and research the systematic attacks on Black Panthers by law enforcement officials. Find links here: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/videos/the-black-panthers-vanguard-of-the-revolution-trailer/.

12.Research the histories of such notable Quaker schools as The George School, Westtown Friends, Media Friends School, Sidwell Friends, and others, and compare their integration histories.  (Start with information on pages 319-340.)

13.Similarly, research the integration histories of Quaker colleges, such as Haverford, Swarthmore, Earlham, and Guildford, and learn about African American students’ experiences in such colleges.  (See pages 341-359.)

14.What about integration in Quaker congregations today?  And, what about integration and feelings of welcome and inclusive community in congregations of other denominations, or professional groups, sports clubs, and other social organizations? 
·      At a Pendle Hill Forum in 2002 African American historian Emma Lapsansky said, “I think that if we… can regularly examine ourselves and continue to follow our spiritual Light, can keep an eye on where we’ve been as well as on where we need to go… and open ourselves to a wide variety of ways and places where we might meet others where they are, not where we have stuck them in our imaginations; if we can remember that social justice is a bit like housework—no matter how well you do it, it just has to be done again; and perhaps most important, if we can keep our sense of humor, then we have a good chance to be carried over those places where it seems God has abandoned us” (p. 393). 
·      In response, European American Quaker Melanie Sax wrote, “I saw how the static, frozen image of guilty white oppressor versus angry victim of color tends to keep everyone stuck playing the same old tune…. We do not have to stay stuck and hopeless.  We can be empowered to co-create together what happens next to continue bring forth Light into the world’s family” (p. 394).
·      How do you and your students interpret these remarks? and
·      What do they discern as the actions to which they might lead in your classroom, school, and community?

17.In her epilogue, African American co-author Vanessa Julye gives these recommendations for European Americans Quakers.  What do your students think of these excerpts?  How might they apply in your school/community?
a.    “Stop taking whiteness for granted.  Make whiteness visible…. Acknowledge that whiteness does not symbolize normality and that it is associated with unearned privilege….
b.    “Acknowledge and dispel stereotypes about African Americans…. Let go of those fears and negative feelings, and replace stereotypes with realistic information.
c.    “Participate in workshops, discussions, conferences and other activities that promote racial justice.
d.    “Widen your circle of friends. Get to know people of African descent….
e.    “Talk about racism, but know that addressing the issue is highly emotional and difficult.  Listen to each other….
f.     “Promote racially inclusive collaboration within your community… Take action in addressing racial reconciliation at all levels of society and government….” (Read her full set of recommendations on pages 396-397.)

For Quakers and non-Quakers, for students and teachers, and for people of all backgrounds, there is much to learn from and much work to do.  Let’s get started, using the resources of this book.

-Susan Gelber Cannon, April 2017



No comments:

Post a Comment