Sunday, February 26, 2012

In Honor of Nebraska's African Americans

February is Black History month. I've always been fascinated by ethnic experience different from my own, and so I spent a few minutes gleaning some of Nebraska's African American history for this post. The stories suggested by the facts get this writer's overactive imagination churning.

  • Nebraska City witnessed an auction on December 5, 1860, of "One Negro Man, and one Negro woman, known as Hercules and Martha." The next month the Nebraska Legislature passed an act to abolish slavery in the Territory of Nebraska. But I wonder about Hercules and Martha. 
  • According to a booklet published by the Nebraska Writers' Project, "escaped slaves followed the Underground Railroad into Nebraska from Albany, Kansas, continuing through Falls City, Little Nemaha, Camp Creek, and Nebraska City, where the fugitives crossed the Missouri River to Percival, Iowa. From there they were taken to Tabor, Iowa, and outfitted for the balance of their journey into Canada." The booklet mentions a broom-maker who was living in Omaha in 1913 who had escaped slavery via that route. While my history professor reminded me only last week that a very small percentage of slaves ever escaped via the Underground Railroad, one can't help but be drawn to the stories of that desperate journey and the courage it took to attempt it. If I lived in that era, would I have had the courage to help? If I had been a slave, would I have taken the risk? 
  • Photographs of pioneer African Americans in Nebraska are relatively few. I look at their faces and I want to hear their voices. What about the young woman pictured above? What was her role in this white family's sod house saga? How did she come to live with them? 
  • What about the young man named Moses mentioned in an early census record ... and said to be Native American? Explorers mentioned Africans living among Native Americans very early in western exploration. Their voices are forever silent. What stories would they have told? 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Day

I'm weird, but it's my children's fault. Valentine's Day is about birthdays for me, because my two daughters greeted the world on February 14 and February 15, respectively. Of course the nice thing about that is that the men in their lives can "kill two birds with one stone"--and they shouldn't have a bit of trouble remembering their wife's/girl friend's birthday!

Knowing what you folks already know about me, you won't be surprised that I'm sharing a bit of the women's history behind Valentine's day today. It resonates with me because of some parallels between Esther Howland's life and my own when it comes to entrepreneurship.