Virginia is for Obama (Proud to be a Virginian – 11:07pm)

Abraham_obama  Yeswecan

(artist – Ron English)

The exit polls are very revealing.  I was surprised by the split when it came to income brackets.  People making less than $50,000 went with Obama, but even in the higher brackets McCain failed to capitalize on the socialist rhetoric.  It's comforting to know that Americans were not so easily duped by this language.  I wonder what this means for "Joe the Plumber" recording career?  Ten-percent of the electorate who took part in yesterday's election voted for the first time.  I spoke with an employee in our cafeteria who must be in her 60s and who had never voted before.  She went to the polls with her entire family and I can't wait to talk to her about the experience.  Some will attribute this to Obama's "star" quality, but I attribute it to the ability to inspire and rally.  And isn't this what we want in a democracy?
It's already a cliche to say that this election is historic.  It was a very emotional experience watching the tears stream down the face of Jesse Jackson as well as the excitement of the young students at Spelman College.  We just finished discussing King's assassination in class yesterday and at one point I showed the class the famous photograph of the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, which included Jackson.  Congressman Lewis's commentary was also very moving.  We've been discussing Lewis's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement as well and the courage he displayed on more than one battlefield.  I am so happy for him this morning and the thousands of Americans who risked everything to combat injustice and racism.  These are the people – both black and white – who paved the way for this election. 
That said, if we are to appreciate Obama's claim that he represents the most "unlikely candidate" than we must look beyond race.  It is the appreciation of his overall profile, including his age, personal story, and profile that give meaning to his words.  There are two facts of his life that give me reason to be optimistic.  First, this is a man who wrote openly about drug use in his memoir as well as other mistakes of youth.  Second, his election to the position of editor of the Harvard Law Review was made possible by the support of members fo the Federalist Society.  The first example points to a certain level of opennness and honesty, while the second suggests that he will, in fact, try to be a president for all Americans.   
I know this sounds just a little sappy, but you know what, I don't care.  For the moment I am happy and proud of my country.

Latest Volume from Freedmen and Southern Society Project Released

On Saturday I received an advanced copy of Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867 [Series 3: Volume I: Land and Labor, 1865].  This is a hefty volume, running just under 1,100 pages and coming with a price tag of $85.  I assume most of the sales of this volume will come through libraries, but if you work in the area of Reconstruction or related field, and can afford the price, it is no doubt worth owning.  I've already picked out a few documents from the Freedmen's Bureau that will work well in my classes.  Here is the book description:

Land and Labor, 1865 examines the transition from slavery to free labor during the tumultuous first months after the Civil War.
Letters and testimony by the participants–former slaves, former
slaveholders, Freedmen's Bureau agents, and others–reveal the
connection between developments in workplaces across the South and an
intensifying political contest over the meaning of freedom and the
terms of national reunification. Essays by the editors place the
documents in interpretive context and illuminate the major themes.

the tense and often violent aftermath of emancipation, former slaves
seeking to ground their liberty in economic independence came into
conflict with former owners determined to keep them dependent and
subordinate. Overseeing that conflict were northern officials with
their own notions of freedom, labor, and social order. This volume of Freedom
depicts the dramatic events that ensued–the eradication of bondage and
the contest over restoring land to ex-Confederates; the introduction of
labor contracts and the day-to-day struggles that engulfed the region's
plantations, farms, and other workplaces; the achievements of those
freedpeople who attained a measure of independence; and rumors of a
year-end insurrection in which ex-slaves would seize the land they had
been denied and exact revenge for past oppression.

Happy Anniversary

On this day in 1862 United States forces under the command of General George B. McClellan and Confederate forces under the command of General Robert E. Lee fought to a standstill along Antietam Creek outside of Sharpsburg, Maryland.  McClellan failed to take advantage of an opportunity to destroy his enemy and perhaps end the war while Lee's performance capped off a brilliant string of victories, which moved the focus of combat from the gates of Richmond to U.S. territory.  In doing so, Lee arguably saved the Confederacy from imminent collapse. 

Fifty years ago this week Virginia Governor Lindsay Almond ordered Charlottesville's public schools to close their doors rather than follow a court order to integrate their classrooms.  Both Venable and Lane schools closed and hundreds of local children were without a public school classroom
for five months, until those schools reopened on February 4, 1959.  Parents mobilized and formed The Charlottesville Education Foundation and promptly opened two all-white schools, one of which they named Robert E. Lee Elementary.

On September 19 at 4pm there will be a "Massive Resistance" remembrance on the east end of the Downtown Mall by the Free Speech Wall.  Organizers plan on including music and a wreath to honor the Jefferson and Burley students who
attempted to integrate white schools here in Charlottesville.