Dec 13, 2018
This week at In The Past Lane, the American History podcast, we take a close look at a long forgotten chapter in US history – the story of tens of thousands of African Americans who, in the 70 years before the Civil War and the end of slavery, settled on what was then the western frontier and today we know as the Midwest. They established successful farms and created thriving communities of black families. But intensifying racism in these antebellum years meant that these African Americans also faced efforts by white Americans in states like Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois to deprive them of their citizenship, land, and opportunities to get ahead. To dig into this story, I speak with historian Anna-Lisa Cox. She’s the author of a new book, The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America’s Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality.
In the course of our conversation, Anna-Lisa Cox explains:
How the Northwest Territory -- what is now much of the Midwest – was established by Congress in 1787 and constituted the largest territory established in the New World that prohibited slavery.
How thousands of free African Americans migrated to this territory to establish farms and small businesses. And how many of them thrived and became prosperous – and a few quite rich.
How many enslaved African Americans worked extra hours for wages to gradually buy their freedom and the freedom of loved ones.
How these migrants initially enjoyed full rights of citizenship, including voting rights and freedom from racist laws limiting their civil rights.
How over time, however, as larger numbers of white settlers arrived and states like Ohio and Indiana were established, they succeeded in passing racist laws that prevented black migration or made it financially very difficult.
How white violence, as exemplified by the so-called Cincinnati Race War of 1829, challenged African American freedom and their right to economic opportunity.
And how in the early 20th century, long-established communities of black farmers began to disappear due to economic hardship and the rise of organizations like the Ku Klux Klan.
Anna-Lisa Cox, The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America’s Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality (Public Affairs, 2018).
More info about Anna-Lisa Cox - website
Follow In The Past Lane on
Related ITPL podcast episodes:
068 featuring my conversation with Ed Ayers about his book, The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America
074 where I speak with Linda Gordon about the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 20th century.
077 where I speak with Patricia Limerick about the New Western History
Music for This Episode
Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)
Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)
Andy Cohen, “Trophy Endorphins” (Free Music Archive)
Andy Cohen, “Bathed in Finest Dust” (Free Music Archive)
Jon Luc Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)
The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)
Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer
Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson
Podcasting Consultant: Dave Jackson of the School of Podcasting
Podcast Editing: Wildstyle Media
Photographer: John Buckingham
Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci
Website by: ERI Design
Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too
Social Media management: The Pony Express
Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates
Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight
© In The Past Lane, 2018
Recommended History Podcasts
Ben Franklin’s World with Liz Covart @LizCovart
The Age of Jackson Podcast @AgeofJacksonPod
Backstory podcast – the history behind today’s headlines @BackstoryRadio
Past Present podcast with Nicole Hemmer, Neil J. Young, and Natalia Petrzela @PastPresentPod
99 Percent Invisible with Roman Mars @99piorg
Slow Burn podcast about Watergate with @leoncrawl
The Memory Palace – with Nate DiMeo, story teller extraordinaire @thememorypalace
The Conspirators – creepy true crime stories from the American past @Conspiratorcast
The History Chicks podcast @Thehistorychix
My History Can Beat Up Your Politics @myhist
Professor Buzzkill podcast – Prof B takes on myths about the past @buzzkillprof
Footnoting History podcast @HistoryFootnote
The History Author Show podcast @HistoryDean
More Perfect podcast - the history of key US Supreme Court cases @Radiolab
Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell @Gladwell
Radio Diaries with Joe Richman @RadioDiaries
DIG history podcast @dig_history
The Story Behind – the hidden histories of everyday things @StoryBehindPod
Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen – specifically its American Icons series @Studio360show
Uncivil podcast – fascinating takes on the legacy of the Civil War in contemporary US @uncivilshow
Stuff You Missed in History Class @MissedinHistory
The Whiskey Rebellion – two historians discuss topics from today’s news @WhiskeyRebelPod
American History Tellers @ahtellers
The Way of Improvement Leads Home with historian John Fea @JohnFea1
The Bowery Boys podcast – all things NYC history @BoweryBoys
Ridiculous History @RidiculousHSW
The Rogue Historian podcast with historian @MKeithHarris
The Road To Now podcast @Road_To_Now
Retropod with @mikerosenwald