King Cotton

King Cotton was a slogan used by southerners to support secession from the union by claiming that cotton exports would make a self-governing Confederacy flourish economically.   The slogan was effective: by February 1861, the seven states whose economies were based on cotton plantations had all seceded and formed the Confederacy.  Cotton had been so important to the south in fact, that with this cotton boom, the demand for labor (and cheap labor) had skyrocketed, and thus, slavery.  According to “there were approximately 650,000 slaves in the southern states, many working on rice, tobacco, and indigo plantations. By 1850, there were 3.2 million slaves of whom 1.8 million were used to cultivate cotton.”  One can see that as cotton began to become a major cash crop, the number of slaves in the south boomed.  One can argue that this cash crop promoted slavery, as almost 2 million slaves were picking cotton by 1850.  This cotton ultimately led to the demise of the confederacy as well.  During the civil war, the union blockaded the confederacy and prevented them from selling their cotton, which slowly and surely strangled the South’s economy to a grinding halt, and the Confederacy used all available resources they had until they finally ran out and the union won the war. It is hard to believe that one export can have such a major impact on American history.




Flood of 1927

Levee breach at Mounds Landing, Mississippi

Considered one of the most powerful disaster of the 1900’s, the flood of 1927 resulted in a vast amount of damage, costing about 5 billion dollars today.  The flooding Mississippi River covered approximately 27,000 squares miles, or the size of the New England states, when on April 21 the levee at Mounds Landing, Mississippi failed.  The flood displaced about 700,000 people and killed 246 people.

Read more about the flood at: or


Sherman’s March Through Atlanta


William Sherman, a general for the Union Army, was ordered to make a march that would basically end the war. He started off in Atlanta and finished in Savanah, Georgia, burning everything in site. The troops destroyed all the crops, livestock, and took any supplies that they could. They also tore up over 300 miles of railroad, which was the south’s main way of transporting supplies By them doing this they forced the south into a surrender by General Joseph E. Johnston on April 26, 1865

The American Civil War: Louisiana Native Guards

The Louisiana Native Guards were the first black regiments to ever fight in a war. They were also the only unit to have both black and white officials. Most of the Native Guards were men from New Orleans whose families had been given their freedom from the Federal government.

The breakout of the Civil War led to many free black men wanting to volunteer for the military service. Their courage and honor was praised by the public, but their praise did not always lead to acceptance. Southern officials believed that blacks were inferior to whites, so enrolling them at the same level as the white men would go against their beliefs.

Eventually, the blacks were allowed to join the military. The ex-slaves were treated very poorly, did not get paid, and received very little training, but they did not give up. When asked to express their feelings about joining the army, many would say they want to show the world that they are equal to any soldier. It was a long, hard fight for the Louisiana Native Guard regiments. After knowing the history about them, you can make connections to the title and some of Natasha Trethewey’s poems in Native Guard.

To read more about the Native Guards, check out:


Miscegenation: marriage or cohabitation between a man and woman ofdifferent races, especially, in the U.S., between a black anda white person.

Anti-miscegenation laws forbade interracial marriage.These laws have been apart of America since the 1600’s and some where rewritten early in the 20th century. Virginia’s racial integrity act of 1924 was one of the most influential laws. This law clearly defined colored persons and Indians. The law also prohibited intermarriage and leaving the state to evade the law. Anyone who broke the law and got married was to be guilty of a felony.

John Powell and Walter Plecker were key proponents in laws of this type. Powell was a founder of a white supremacist group and Plecker was in charge of enforcing the law from the 1920’s through the 1940’s. They used marriage licenses, birth certificates, tax records, and gossip to determine who was white.

Trouble came when their were great inconsistencies in these laws concerning marriage. For example: In Mississippi, Mongolian-white marriages were illegal and void, but in North Carolina they are permitted. Also, in Arkansas, a negro is defined as anyone who has blood in their veins, but in Florida, one is not considered a negro unless they have at least  one eighth of negro blood.  Continue reading

Emancipation Proclamation

Abraham Lincoln gave his “Emancipation Proclamation” speech on January 1st, 1863. It is presumed by the American public that this order given by the president freed all slaves, but those who were freed were those under confederate control. Lincoln’s Secretary of State, WIlliam Seward, said in reply to Lincoln’s address, “We show our symapthy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach.” Although not all states were considered free, ex-slaves who were given their freedom saw hope in the union and their fight to abolish slavery. The proclamation allowed blacks to fight for union as well. Many ex-slaves took this chance to fight against slavery as a whole and to abolish it from the nation. About 200,000 black soldiers fought for the union in the attempt to end slavery completely. To this day, the Emancipation Proclamation is considered one of the best examples of freedom in the United States.

These links will give you more information about Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation as well as images of the document:

The Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was founded in 1865, and extended into almost every southern state by 1870. They named this Klan after the Greek word kuklos which means “circle”. The name means “Circle of Brothers”. There were three different Klans. In the first Klan there was no organizational structure for this group.The group sought out to restore white supremacy by threats and violence. This included murder against black and white Republicans. In 1870 and 1871, the government passed the Force Acts which were used to prosecute the Klan’s crimes. The second Klan was founded in Georgia in 1915. It grew very rapidly throughout the Midwest and West out of the South. This Klan preached “One Hundred Percent Americanism”. It was a very formal fraternal organization. The third Klan was mainly used for opposing the Civil Rights Movement and desegregation. Today, researchers estimate that there is approximately 150 Klan chapters with upwards of 5,000 members nationwide. In 1999, the city council of Charleston, South Carolina passed a resolution declaring the Klan to be a terrorist organization. To read more on this information, click here.