On Christmas Eve 1855, Barnaby Grigsby and his Mary Elizabeth, Emily Foster and her intended Frank Wazner, along with two other slaves, took their masters best team of horses and his carriage, packed it knives and guns, and fled slavery. Grigsby and Elizabeth were married. Wazner and Foster were engaged.
The party suffered from hunger and exposure during the journey and were, by William Still's lights, in ill humor when they found themselves set upon by a group of patrollers:
The spokesman amongst the fugitives, affecting no ordinary amount of dignity, told their assailants plainly, that "no gentleman would interfere with persons riding along civilly"--not allowing it to be supposed that they were slaves, of course. These "gentlemen," however, were not willing to accept this account of the travelers, as their very decided steps indicated. Having the law on their side, they were for compelling the fugitives to surrender without further parley.
At this juncture, the fugitives verily believing that the time had arrived for the practical use of their pistols and dirks, pulled them out of their concealment--the young women as well as the young men--and declared they would not be "taken!" One of the white men raised his gun, pointing the muzzle directly towards one of the young women, with the threat that he would "shoot," etc.
"Shoot! shoot!! shoot!!!" she exclaimed, with a double barrelled pistol in one hand and a long dirk knife in the other, utterly unterrified and fully ready for a death struggle. The male leader of the fugitives by this time had "pulled back the hammers" of his "pistols," and was about to fire! Their adversaries seeing the weapons, and the unflinching determination on the part of the runaways to stand their ground, "spill blood, kill, or die," rather than be "taken," very prudently "sidled over to the other side of the road," leaving at least four of the victors to travel on their way.
At this moment the four in the carriage lost sight of the two on horseback. Soon after the separation they heard firing, but what the result was, they knew not. They were fearful, however, that their companions had been captured....
The two were indeed captured. I encourage you to read through Still's files as he girds his own account of the escape with newspaper articles. But I also want to focus on the result of the young lady leaping from the wagon "with a double barrelled pistol in one hand and long dirk in the other" daring the patroller to shoot her down:
In Syracuse, Frank (the leader), who was engaged to Emily, concluded that the knot might as well be tied on the U.G.R.R., although penniless, as to delay the matter a single day longer. Doubtless, the bravery, struggles, and trials of Emily throughout the journey, had, in his estimation, added not a little to her charms. Thus after consulting with her on the matter, her approval was soon obtained, she being too prudent and wise to refuse the hand of one who had proved himself so true a friend to Freedom, as well as so devoted to her. The twain were accordingly made one at the U.G.R.R. Station, in Syracuse, by Superintendent--Rev. J.W. Loguen. After this joyful event, they proceeded to Toronto, and were there gladly received by the Ladies' Society for aiding colored refugees.
Sharp-eyed readers will note the presence of J.W. Loguen--our old friend Jarm Logue. I want to emphasize that it is not uncommon to see black women in this sort of aggressive, violent and self-assertive role. The first thing is that slavery was, itself, violent, gender regardless. There are numerous reports of slave-mistresses inflicting terrible brutality on their charges (especially children.) So there's no real reason to expect black women, whatever the 19th century mores might be, to be much different in their willingness to go for the guns, then men.
And there's also this--undermined "traditional" gender roles. It's very hard to claim to "the man of the house" when you are not. This creates room for broader agency among black women. So its nothing to hear about Harriet Tubman threatening to shoot black men who are scared to finish the journey to freedom. It make sense to hear William Parker's wife, in the midst of the Christiana rebellion, grabbing a corn-cutter and threatening to "cut off the head of the first one who should attempt to give up." There's no real "ladyhood" under slavery. And I bet that even after slavery, the ladyhood that emerges is something different. I don't think it's a mistake that Harriet Tubman is the first woman--of any color--credited with leading an American military raid
I need to be clear here--slavery no more "ended" black male chauvinism, than the integration of the military ended racism in the Army. But as with the military, the presence of death tends to turn bigotries into expensive luxuries. And even after the immediate danger fades something remains--so much that Frank Wazner would find himself attracted to a woman who willingly acted within the sphere of male power.
*The above drawing, depicting the Maryland encounter, accompanied the publication of William Still's mammoth compendium of primary sources, The Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narrative, Letters etc.
Joe Moran’s book Shrinking Violets is a sweeping history that doubles as a (quiet) defense of timidity.
The Heimlich maneuver, in the nearly 50 years since Dr. Henry Heimlich established its protocol, has been credited with saving many lives. But not, perhaps, as many as it might have. The maneuver, otherwise so wonderfully simple to execute, has a marked flaw: It requires that choking victims, before anything can be done to help them, first alert other people to the fact that they are choking. And some people, it turns out, are extremely reluctant to do so. “Sometimes,” Dr. Heimlich noted, bemoaning how easily human nature can become a threat to human life, “a victim of choking becomes embarrassed by his predicament and succeeds in getting up and leaving the area unnoticed.” If no one happens upon him, “he will die or suffer permanent brain damage within seconds.”
Experts on Turkish politics say the use of that term misunderstands what it means in Turkey—and the ways that such allegations can be used to enable political repression.
Over the last week, the idea of a “deep state” in the United States has become a hot concept in American politics. The idea is not new, but a combination of leaks about President Trump and speculation that bureaucrats might try to slow-walk or undermine his agenda have given it fresh currency. A story in Friday’s New York Times, for example, reports, “As Leaks Multiply, Fears of a ‘Deep State’ in America.”
It’s an idea that I touched on in discussing the leaks. While there are various examples of activity that has been labeled as originating from a “deep state,” from Latin America to Egypt, the most prominent example is Turkey, where state institutions contain a core of diehard adherents to the secular nationalism of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which is increasingly being eroded by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has seen a series of coups, stretching back to 1960, as well as other activity attributed to a deep state.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like” Trump’s approach to national security, says a former counterterrorism adviser to three presidents.
Monday marks one week since the resignation of National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn—a full week in which the National Security Council has not had a permanent head. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has made national security a centerpiece of his agenda, justifying policies ranging from a travel ban to close relations with Russia. But the United States is now more vulnerable to attack than it was before Trump took office, according to the man who served as George W. Bush’s crisis manager on 9/11.
“In terms of a major terrorist attack in the United States or on U.S. facilities, I think we’re significantly less ready than we were on January 19,” said Richard Clarke, who served on the National Security Council in the George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations. “I think our readiness is extremely low and dangerously low. Certainly [government] agencies at a professional level will respond [to an attack], but having a coordinated interagency response is unlikely given the current cast of characters [in the administration] and their experience.”
Trump’s branding of the press as an "enemy" seems less an attempt to influence coverage than an invitation to repression and even violence.
At the dawn of a turbulent era in American history, an inexperienced but media-savvy President, early in his first term, was obsessing about negative press.
John F. Kennedy, who had grown accustomed to compliant coverage, was running up against the limits of his power to control the public narrative when neither the world nor the press would read from his script. Halfway around the globe, a small band of foreign correspondents were undercutting the White House with stories that showed the United States becoming more deeply involved (and less successfully) than the government acknowledged in what would become the Vietnam War.
Relations between the Saigon press corps and the United States Embassy had deteriorated into "a mutual standoff of cold fury and hot shouts––Liar! Traitor! Scoundrel! Fool!––with an American foreign policy teetering precariously in the void between," wrote William Prochnau in Once Upon a Distant War, an under-appreciated account of fraught relations between the government and the press.
Lip service to the crucial function of the Fourth Estate is not enough to sustain it.
It’s not that Mark Zuckerberg set out to dismantle the news business when he founded Facebook 13 years ago. Yet news organizations are perhaps the biggest casualty of the world Zuckerberg built.
There’s reason to believe things are going to get worse.
A sprawling new manifesto by Zuckerberg, published to Facebook on Thursday, should set off new alarm bells for journalists, and heighten news organizations’ sense of urgency about how they—and their industry—can survive in a Facebook-dominated world.
Facebook’s existing threat to journalism is well established. It is, at its core, about the flow of the advertising dollars that news organizations once counted on. In this way, Facebook’s role is a continuation of what began in 1995, when Craigslist was founded. Its founder, Craig Newmark, didn’t actively aim to decimate newspapers, but Craigslist still eviscerated a crucial revenue stream for print when people stopped buying newspaper classifieds ads.
The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.
It’s 2021, and President Donald Trump will shortly be sworn in for his second term. The 45th president has visibly aged over the past four years. He rests heavily on his daughter Ivanka’s arm during his infrequent public appearances.
Fortunately for him, he did not need to campaign hard for reelection. His has been a popular presidency: Big tax cuts, big spending, and big deficits have worked their familiar expansive magic. Wages have grown strongly in the Trump years, especially for men without a college degree, even if rising inflation is beginning to bite into the gains. The president’s supporters credit his restrictive immigration policies and his TrumpWorks infrastructure program.
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People working in ministry, music, and nonprofit advocacy are facing pressure for their political beliefs.
Earlier this month, Jonathan Martin jotted off a sad tweet. “I’ve lost count of the number of people who say they’ve had ministry jobs threatened/been fired for speaking out in some way in this season,” the Christian author and speaker wrote. Confirmation rolled in: one story from a church planter in California, another from a former worship leader in Indiana. These are “not people who would historically self-identify as progressives, at all,” Martin told me later. They’re “people who see themselves as being very faithful evangelicals.”
Donald Trump has divided conservative Christian communities. Most white Christians support Trump, or at least voted for him. Some who have spoken out against his presidency or his policies, though, have encountered backlash. For a small group of people working in Christian ministry, music, and nonprofit advocacy, the consequences have been tangible: They’ve faced pressure from their employers, seen funds withdrawn from their mission work, or lost performing gigs because of their political beliefs.
In 1800, a newspaper report incensed supporters of President John Adams—and sparked the nation’s first major leak investigation.
An administration in turmoil. A president sometimes “absolutely out of his senses.” Panic over foreign terror; a lurch toward war; rumors of immigrant roundups; foreign meddling in American politics. Fear and despair over the American Republic, once seemingly favored of Heaven, now teetering on the verge of dictatorship or chaos.
The year: 1800.
The case: America’s first great leak investigation.
President Donald Trump claims public concern about possible Russian intervention in the U.S. presidential election is a “ruse” concocted by Democrats smarting over their defeat in the election last year. “The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy,” he tweeted February 15. “Very un-American!”
When my wife was struck by mysterious, debilitating symptoms, our trip to the ER revealed the sexism inherent in emergency treatment.
Early on a Wednesday morning, I heard an anguished cry—then silence.
I rushed into the bedroom and watched my wife, Rachel, stumble from the bathroom, doubled over, hugging herself in pain.
“Something’s wrong,” she gasped.
This scared me. Rachel’s not the type to sound the alarm over every pinch or twinge. She cut her finger badly once, when we lived in Iowa City, and joked all the way to Mercy Hospital as the rag wrapped around the wound reddened with her blood. Once, hobbled by a training injury in the days before a marathon, she limped across the finish line anyway.
So when I saw Rachel collapse on our bed, her hands grasping and ungrasping like an infant’s, I called the ambulance. I gave the dispatcher our address, then helped my wife to the bathroom to vomit.