Teaching the Holocaust: a good idea, a bad bill

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Who would want to be accused of voting against teaching kids about the Holocaust?

Obviously not the members of the Oregon Senate. On March 12 they voted unanimously  for Senate Bill 664, which would require all of Oregon’s school districts to teach about the Holocaust and genocide beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. The bill is now in the House.

Claire Sarnowski, a freshman at Lake Oswego’s Lakeridge High School, came up with the idea of mandating Holocaust instruction after hearing Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener tell his story. Sarnowski approached state Sen. Rob Wagner, who agreed to introduce a bill.

It all sounds so simple and straightforward, but Senate Bill 664 is, in fact, an expansive progressive monstrosity that only a bureaucrat or lawyer could love. Like anti-terrorism laws, it’s a classic example of mission creep.

The 1338-word bill goes far beyond mandating that students be taught about the Holocaust and genocide. It declares, instead, that the instruction must address: the immorality of mass violence; respect for cultural diversity; the obligation to combat wrongdoing through resistance, including protest, and; the value of restorative justice.

Specifically, the bill says the instruction must be designed to:

(a) Prepare students to confront the immorality of the Holocaust, genocide and other acts of mass violence and to reflect on the causes of related historical events;

(b) Develop students’ respect for cultural diversity and help students gain insight into the importance of the protection of international human rights for all people;

(c) Promote students’ understanding of how the Holocaust contributed to the need for the term “genocide” and led to international legislation that recognized genocide as a crime;

(d) Stimulate students’ reflection on the roles and responsibilities of citizens in democratic societies to combat misinformation, indifference and discrimination through tools of resistance such as protest, reform and celebration;

(e) Provide students with opportunities to contextualize and analyze patterns of human behavior by individuals and groups who belong in one or more categories, including perpetrator, collaborator, bystander, victim and rescuer;

(f) Enable students to understand the ramifications of prejudice, racism and stereotyping;

(g) Preserve the memories of survivors of genocide and provide opportunities for students to discuss and honor survivors’ cultural legacies;

(h) Provide students with a foundation for examining the history of discrimination in this state; and

(i) Explore the various mechanisms of transitional and restorative justice that help humanity move forward in the aftermath of genocide.

Not only must Oregon schools tackle all this, but the State Board of Education, in consultation with a local organization that has the primary purpose of providing education about the Holocaust, is required to develop academic content standards for Holocaust and genocide studies that comply with the requirements of this section.

The bill is currently with the House Committee on Education which, hopefully will take a thorough look at it and narrow its mandate .

I doubt that Oregon’s already underfunded and overwhelmed teachers will welcome the addition of one more labor-intensive, complicated instructional mandate, no matter how well-intentioned.

And it’s hard to believe all this is what Claire Sarnowski had in mind.

 

 

 

 

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Rent control: and the beat goes on

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In early January, I argued that Oregon’s enactment of a statewide rent control law would be just the beginning (Rent control: another bad idea out of Salem). Pressure would build quickly to reduce the law’s annual rent increase limit of 7 percent plus inflation, currently totaling about 10 percent, I said.

No surprise, the push for tougher rules has already begun.

It began with a Feb. 1, 2019 editorial in Street Roots, a weekly street newspaper published in Portland that’s sold by members of the local homeless community.

“The profit motive has been allowed to triumph over the fact that housing is a fundamental human need to survive,” the editorial said. “For too many decades, the marketplace has been allowed to skew sharply toward money over humanity, and Oregon is just too attractive of a market to pass up. It’s time for the pendulum to swing the other way.”

The editorial highlighted the need for the prohibition on rent control action by local governments to be lifted and noted that rent increase limits elsewhere are much lower.

“Rent stabilization elsewhere in the country comes in at much lower percentage,” the editorial said. “Take Berkeley, where a different calculation regulates rent increases to no more than 3 or so percent. In New York, it’s approximately 1.5 percent.”

Mary King, a professor of economics emerita at Portland State University, followed up with a March 1, 2019 Street Roots commentary also arguing that the rent increase limit is too high.

Oregon’s new rent control law was “…designed to stop only extreme rent gouging and limit no-cause evictions” and prohibits cities from passing their own, stronger rent stabilization policies, King said.

Ten percent is just too high a limit, particularly when compared with some tighter limits set elsewhere, King wrote. “Capping annual increases at 10 percent would have only slightly limited the unaffordable growth in rents in Portland over the past five years,” she added.

Oregon’s rent control law represented only “…progress against the worst excesses,” King said. “However, if the state would allow it, Portland could pass a much stronger, more effective rent stabilization policy without harming the supply of housing. Our best next step would be to pass a second bill to lift pre-emption on cities hoping to set their own course – and get to work in Portland.”

The Legislature’s rent control bill was essential because it would establish a “better baseline,” the Street Roots editorial said, “but we expect them to keep fighting. We will too.”

Hang on landlords and tenants. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statewide rent control in Oregon: this is just the start of something

 

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Even as a child, you knew the mouse wouldn’t be happy with just a cookie.

Oregon Democrats won’t be satisfied with their first stab at statewide rent control either.

Senate Bill 608, moving swiftly through Oregon’s Democrat-controlled legislature, proposes to limit annual rent increases to 7% plus the change in the consumer price index, except when the dwelling has been certified for occupancy less than 15 years. Lawmakers in the Oregon Senate approved the bill 17-11 on Tuesday, Feb. 12. It now goes to the House.

In January 2019, Jim Straub, Legislative Director of the Oregon Rental Housing Association, signaled acceptance of, or resignation to, the inevitable, given that the Democrats have a supermajority in both chambers and occupy the governor’s chair. “There is a lot here for landlords to dislike, but more importantly we should recognize it for what it isn’t, an industry killer,” Straub said

He’s dead wrong.

Straub figures landlords can live with the bill because the annual rent increase limit is so high, leaving a lot of wiggle room. In 2018, the all items consumer price index increased 1.9 % before seasonal adjustment. Add 7% and the rent increase limit would be 8.9%.

Although annual rent increases can vary quite a bit in Portland, influenced by a building’s location, age, amenities, etc., annual rent growth in Portland overall averaged just 4.3% in 2017 and, largely due to record apartment construction, actually decreased 1.3% in 2018.

ECONorthwest, an economics consulting firm, has estimated that only 5% of buildings in Portland increased rents above what would be allowed by SB 608 in 2018.

But Oregon real estate interests are going to rue the day SB 608 becomes law.

That’s because once it is enacted, pressure to lower the rent increase limit in response to the pleas of tenant groups will accelerate. And government regulations will beget more government regulations.

In  January, Margot Black, founder and former leader of a renters’ rights group, Portland Tenants United, bitterly criticized the high cap on rent increases.

“If this is the version that passes, and if (Democrat Sen. Virginia) Burdick is the one championing it, then I’ll start my campaign to run against her the day after it passes,” said Black. “I will knock on every renter’s door in the district and let them know that their senator thinks they are no better than a used couch put out to the curb in the rain.”

According to the Oregon Rental Housing Association, some tenant groups have also already gone to the 2019 Legislature requesting that all future rent increases be limited to a maximum of around 2% every 12 months, even if a tenant moves out during  that period.

And don’t expect the Democrats to consider the rent increase limit set in stone.

Government is addicted to constant revision of the rules. The federal income tax began in 1913 with a combined tax rate of 1-2% for the middle class. The marginal tax rate for the middle class now is about 22%.

Oregon’s personal income tax has been all over the map since its inception. According to the Oregon Department of Revenue, in 1930, the maximum tax rate on “single and separate” and “Joint and head of household” was 5%. Only three years later, in 1933, it went up to 7% and by 1955 it had risen to 11.60%. It went back down to 9% in 1987, but jumped to 11% in 2009-2011, In 2018 its was 9.9%.

So, don’t be surprised if SB 608 is just the camel’s first move.

“It is the humble petition of the camel, who only asks that he may put his nose into the traveler’s tent. It is so pitiful, so modest, that we must needs relent and grant it.”

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Hijacking Oregon Justice

 

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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown

Former Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick was hired by  Gov. Kate Brown’s Oregon Department of Justice in June as a Special Assistant Attorney General (SAAG).

Sounds simple and straightforward. It’s not.

It’s just plan wrong and Brown and her Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum, shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

Oregon’s Cascade Policy Institute is pointing out that Novick’s entire salary is being paid by an out-of-state private source, New York University’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center, which is backed by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The Center is covering Novick’s legal fellowship with the aim of strengthening state attorney general offices in their crusade against the Trump administration’s environmental policies.

The unprecedented practice of providing external funding to state attorneys general to push a policy agenda ought to raise ethical concerns, the Cascade Policy Institute asserts, and justifiably so. As attorney Andrew Grossman put it: “What you’re talking about is law enforcement for hire….Really, what’s being done is circumventing our normal mode of government.”

In August 2018, Competitive Enterprise Institute published a report by Christopher Horner which details the roots and function of the SAAG program. Law Enforcement for Rent: How Special Interests Fund Climate Policy through State Attorneys General describes the genesis of the SAAG program as an informal coalition between states, spearheaded by former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

According to Justus Armstrong, a Research Associate at Cascade Policy Institute, a letter included in the report’s appendix from Schneiderman and Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum shows she was invited to a March 2016 meeting of this coalition. The letter describes the program as “an important part of the national effort to ensure the adoption of stronger federal climate and energy policies.” Correspondence between members of the coalition (also compiled by Horner) expresses a desire to collaborate on targeting companies in the energy industry with regulatory and enforcement tools.

This same environmental policy agenda drives NYU’s Center, as expressed in its communication with state attorneys general. Emails state that the “opportunity to potentially hire an NYU Fellow is open to all state attorneys general who demonstrate a need and commitment to defending environmental values and advancing progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions.” NYU’s website directs interested attorneys general to demonstrate a need for outside funding to pursue these legal positions.

If this sounds questionable, imagine a similar practice being used to serve other political agendas. If a nonprofit backed by Charles and David Koch offered to fund a position in a state to provide legal assistance on regulatory matters, would it be considered a conflict of interest? If the National Rifle Association were bankrolling state employees to serve as a “resource” on gun law enforcement, would it raise red flags? This isn’t simply about protecting the environment versus not. It’s a question of impropriety and corruption. NYU states in its agreements that fellows owe their loyalty solely to the state attorney general once they’re assigned there, but SAAGs like Novick are still being paid by an outside source while working on behalf of the state.

It appears that Rosenblum was anxious about the ethical gray areas of this arrangement from the start. Emails from within the DOJ show that Rosenblum instructed the DOJ not to use the word “volunteer” to describe Novick’s position in his hiring paperwork. The obfuscating language of the hiring process is notable: In reality, Novick isn’t working as a “volunteer” or a “research fellow,” but as an environmental lawyer, as he has been for years. Rosenblum also showed apprehension about the potential media attention the unprecedented arrangement could draw, as one email states:

“We need to be sure we are prepared to explain his position to the media, who, no doubt, will be interested. (Because he is being paid by an outside entity—which is quite unusual I think)….”

As Armstrong notes, Novick’s position is quite unusual indeed, and Oregonians deserve an explanation. Regardless of one’s views on Novick, Rosenblum, or Bloomberg’s environmental policy agenda, embedding privately funded legal counsel in our justice department is a conflict of interest. The Attorney General’s office should be loyal to Oregon citizens, not out-of-state donors, and should uphold the law rather than push a legislative agenda.

 

 

 

California Democrats are worried: Counting illegal immigrants

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California could lose a seat in the House of Representatives and some Congressional districts could lose population if the millions of illegal immigrants living in the state, which has the largest number of illegal immigrants by far, aren’t counted in the 2020 census.

Oddly enough, California could improve its chances of holding onto that seat if more illegal immigrants come to the state and are counted in the census. Maybe that plays a part in California’s decision to be a Sanctuary State.

The U.S. Census Bureau attempts to count all persons in the U.S. living in residential structures, including prisons, dormitories and similar “group quarters” in the official decennial census. People counted must include citizens, legal immigrants, non-citizen long-term visitors and illegal (or undocumented) immigrants.

This approach was endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2016 in EVENWEL ET AL. v. ABBOTT, GOVERNOR OF TEXAS, ET AL, where the Court rejected counting just eligible voters in determining legislative districts.

Efforts in Congress to change this approach have failed to date.

Accordingly, a low number of illegal immigrants counted by the Census in one state may result in that state losing some representation in Congress while high illegal immigration into another state that is counted in the Census can enlarge that state’s representation.

A research report by Election Data Services released Dec. 26, 2017, concluded, “…California is very close to actually losing a congressional seat in 2020, the first time that state will have lost a seat in its nearly 160-year history.” It could lose the seat because “for the last several decades California’s population growth has been relatively flat when compared to other states.”

That makes it even more important to Democrats that everybody is counted. Democrats are worried that if foreign immigration into California slows under Trump, and legal and illegal immigrants don’t step up in the 2020 census, that could hold down the state’s total population count and the count in individual Congressional districts.

Oregon could gain a seat

The Election Data Services report also concluded that, based on new Census Bureau population estimates for 2017 released on Dec. 26, 2017, 12 states clearly will be affected by changes in their congressional delegation if the new numbers were used for apportionment today.

New York, West Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania are projected to lose a seat in Congress using the new data.

On the other hand, Oregon is projected to gain a House seat, as well as Colorado, Florida and North Carolina. Texas will gain two seats based on the new data.

Since 1941, by law the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives has been capped at 435, so if a given state gains a House seat then another state must lose one.

 

NOTE: For more discussion on counting illegal immigrants in the U.S. Census, see Constitutionality of Excluding Aliens from the Census for Apportionment and Redistricting Purposes, Congressional Research Service Report.

 

 

 

Slavery in Connecticut: facing buried truths

  In Connecticut and elsewhere in New England, “All the best families owned ‘captives.”   Anne Farrow, author

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A Hartford (CT) Courant notice of 24 May, 1773, concerning the availability for sale of a 28-year old mother and her two sons.

———-

As Oregon has been coming to terms with its racist past*, I’ve found myself wondering whether Connecticut, where I grew up before moving to Oregon in 1984, shared some of that history.

Ahh, colonial Connecticut. Hardy Yankee farmers, white clapboard churches with tall tapering steeples, networks of grey stone walls, one-room schoolhouses….

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Ye olde Connecticut village

…and slaves.

Before the Civil War, nearly 4 million black slaves toiled in the American South. That’s the story we all learned in school, that slavery, with all its brutality, abuse and inhumanity, meant the South.

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That’s what I was told when I grew up in the Connecticut town of Wallingford, settled in 1670, 50 years after the Mayflower’s 102 pilgrims landed at Plymouth.

I’m a descendent of one of the town’s original settlers, Samuel Hall, and of one of its most famous residents, Lyman Hall, a signer of the Declaration of Independence who was born and raised in Wallingford. So you’d think I’d be well versed in Connecticut’s history.

But I wasn’t told during my schooling there that although the underground railroad helped escaping southern slaves in Connecticut, slavery flourished there at the same time. In other words, colonial Connecticut was hardly a citadel of racially progressive thought and practice. For many Africans, it was a citadel of broken dreams.

History of Slavery in Connecticut, published in 1863, pointed out that the earliest slavery in Connecticut wasn’t of blacks from Africa, but Native Americans captured in battle and sold as slaves. I don’t recall that being highlighted in my classes either.

In fact, the Articles of Confederation of the United New England Colonies, signed by representatives of the Plymouth, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven colonies, even stipulated that the signatories would equally distribute any “ persons,” lands, and goods “ taken as the spoils of war.”

In 1637, Connecticut colonial leaders, together with their Narragansett native allies, massacred the largest Pequot village at Misistuck on the Mystic River in present-day Connecticut, destroying it and killing an estimated 700 Pequots, including many women and children. Another 180 Pequots were killed when they were found hiding in a swamp near today’s Fairfield, CT. Many of the Pequots were captured and sold as slaves, leading to the near annihilation of the tribe.

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The Pequot War

In 1638, one year after the Pequot village massacre, black history in New Haven, CT began when an African woman, Lucretia, arrived as a servant with 250 men, women, children and servants at Quinnipiac Bay, which was to become the colony of New Haven. According to Ann Garrett Robinson, a professor emeritus of psychology at Gateway Community College in  New Haven, the group came to establish a Christian utopia.

Lucretia was the first member of this group registered as a slave, Robinson reported in a New Haven Register newspaper Forum. Her freedom papers were held by Theophilus Eaton, who was to become the first governor of New Haven Colony.

After the Pequot slaughter, blacks from Africa soon surpassed Natives as slaves in America, although North America was a bit player in the overall slave trade, according to researchers at Slate, a daily web magazine. “From the trade’s beginning in the 16th century to its conclusion in the 19th, slave merchants brought the vast majority of enslaved Africans to two places: the Caribbean and Brazil,” Slate reported.

Less than 5 percent of the Africans brought to the Western Hemisphere came directly to North America, according to Slate. Most went, instead, to Spanish Central America, Brazil and British, French, Dutch, and Danish holdings in the Caribbean.

In New England, Connecticut became the second colony after Massachusetts to recognize slavery as a legal institution in 1650. According to a History of Wallingford, Conn., some of the town’s slaves were brought directly from Africa or from the West Indies. In 1680, thirty slaves were brought from Barbados, the history said.  The History said even some whites also fell into slavery.  “By an old colonial law, white men some sometimes sold into slavery for intemperance, theft, idleness, etc.”

Theophilus Jones, Jr. (1723-1815), whose father built a house on Cook Hill in the southwest corner of Wallingford in 1740, was a slave owner. The house, which is still standing, is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Theophilus Jones house, Wallingford, CT

Another slave-owner’s house still standing in Wallingford is the John Barker House, built in 1756.

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John Barker house, Wallingford, CT

Slaves were brought into New England throughout the colonial period through multiple port cities:

  • Portsmouth, NH
  • Salem, MA
  • Boston, MA
  • New Bedford, MA
  • Providence, RI
  • Bristol, RI
  • Newport, RI
  • Middletown, CT
  • New London, CT

Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island ended up having the largest slave populations. If you’ve ever visited the historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston, you may be surprised to learn that Peter Faneuil, who donated the site to the city, accumulated much of his substantial wealth from the slave trade.

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Faneuil Hall, Boston

Similarly, John Easton’s family in Middletown, CT were leading slave merchants.

In “The Logbooks: Connecticut’s Slave Ships and Human Memory,” Anne Farrow wrote about the ship Africa, with John Easton as its captain, sailing out of New London, CT in 1757 bound for West Africa. It crossed the Atlantic Ocean, sailed up the Sierra Leone River on the west side of the continent, docked at tiny Bunce Island and loaded a cargo of slaves to be sold principally on England’s colonial islands in the Caribbean. Some of the “human cargo” probably stayed on board to be brought to Connecticut, where they were sold and owned by residents there, Farrow said.

According to the Hartford Courant, when John Easton died in 1774 his will contained 20-page inventory of his property, which included two Negro men, Accrow, valued at 100 pounds, and Gambo, valued at 25 pounds.

One of the few first-hand written accounts of an African being enslaved and shipped to the New World is Venture Smith’s A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa: But Resident above Sixty Years in the United States of America. Related by Himself, published in New London, CT in 1798.

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Smith (His African name had been Broteer, 8-year-old son of Saungm Furro, Prince of the Tribe of Dukandarra in Guinea) was taken captive in West Africa around 1730 and taken to the coastal slave-trading center Anomabo (in present-day Ghana) for sale. Broteer later recalled that an officer on a Rhode Island slave ship purchased him for “four gallons of rum and piece of calico cloth.”  Most of the captives were later sold in Barbados, but Smith went on to Newport, RI and spent the next three decades as a slave in New York and Connecticut.

Venture Smith died in 1805. He was buried in the graveyard of the First Congregational Church in East Haddam, CT, along with his wife, Meg, and other members of their family. Smith’s gravestone can be seen there to this day.

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“Sacred to the memory of Venture Smith, an African. Tho the son of a King he was kidnapped and sold as a slave but by his industry he acquired Money to Purchase his Freedom.” Venture Smith gravestone.

William Grimes, who arrived just after 1800, was among the first runaway slaves from the South to reach Connecticut and New Haven. Grimes later published “Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave,”an autobiographical account of slavery in the South and the treatment of African Americans in the North during his lifetime.

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In Sept. 2018, he was inducted to the Connecticut Freedom Trail location at New Haven’s Grove Street Cemetery , where he is buried, for his pioneering contribution to U.S. history. Grimes’ great-great-great-granddaughter, Regina Mason, was a speaker at the event.

For nearly two hundred years New England maintained a slave regime that some historians used to claim was quite different from in the South.

Instead of slaves performing mainly agricultural labor, as in the South, the Medford (MA) Historical Society and Museum says New England’s slaves performed more varied jobs. “Owned mostly by ministers, doctors, and the merchant elite, enslaved men and women in the North often performed household duties in addition to skilled jobs,” the Society says. “They worked as carpenters, shipwrights, sailmakers, printers, tailors, shoemakers, coopers, blacksmiths, bakers, weavers, and goldsmiths. Many became so talented in the crafts that the free white workers lost jobs to them.”

But the idea that New England slaves were not situated on large agricultural properties has been refuted by other historians.

A 1764 inventory of “living creatures” on a 3000 acre plantation in Pomfret, CT listed 80 cows, 45 oxen, 30 steers, 59 young cattle, six horses, 600 sheep, 180 goats, 150 hogs and 27 Negroes, in that order.

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Slaves working on a New England farm

And in 2015, Central Connecticut State University archeologists uncovered in Salem, CT the remnants of a large plantation that was worked by as many as 60 slave families in the years before the American Revolution.

According to research by the Hartford Courant, the creation of that plantation began in 1718 when Col. Samuel Browne, a wealthy Salem, MA merchant, began amassing land. He rented out some tracts, retaining about 4,000 acres for himself. That passed to his son and then to his grandson.

In 1690 there were only an estimated 200 black slaves in Connecticut; by 1774, that had grown to 5,100.

“The effects of the New England slave trade were momentous,” wrote Lorenzo Johnston Greene in The Negro in Colonial New England, 1620-1776. “It was one of the foundations of New England’s economic structure; it created a wealthy class of slave-trading merchants…”

Harvard Professor Bernard Bailyn, in an essay on how New Englanders had achieved such a high standard of living by the time of the revolution, wrote, “The most important underlying fact in this whole story, the key dynamic force, unlikely as it may seem, was slavery.”

That was only about 3.4 percent of the state’s population, “But it was slavery, nevertheless, that made the commercial economy of 18th-century New England possible and drove it forward,” Bailyn wrote. “The dynamic element in the region’s economy was the profits from the Atlantic trade, and they rested almost entirely, directly or indirectly, on the flow of New England’s products to the slave plantations and the sugar and tobacco industries they serviced.”

As the Black slave population increased, Connecticut’s lawmakers enacted more and more laws to control it, according to David L. Parsons of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute.

The so-called Black Code, a series of laws passed between 1690 and 1730, described the rights and responsibilities of slave and master.

The Black Code formalized slavery in Connecticut. There were no laws specifically forbidding slavery, and custom and the laws controlling it combined to give slavery legal standing in Connecticut, according to Parsons. The early Capital Law of 1642, which prohibited stealing “man or mankind” was interpreted to mean only white mankind.

Parsons wrote of how black servants were required to carry passes outside of town or be treated as runaways. Sellers of liquor were not allowed to serve Blacks without permission from their master. It is not clear what was done to Blacks who drank without permission. Blacks were not allowed to sell items without proof of ownership or written permission from the owner. Blacks were liable to whippings for disturbing the peace or “offering to strike a white person.” Blacks found outside after 9:00 p.m. without a pass could be whipped. Whipping was also the punishment for slaves who used unseemly language.

In In 1769, a man named Bishop built the Oakdale Tavern in Wallingford to serve travelers between Boston and New York. “On the hillside in the rear of of the tavern were several cabins where slaves employed on the place dwelt,” wrote a local historian, Bill Stevens. (Source: “Bill Stevens Relates,” Meriden Re3cord, April 8, 1954) 

As late as 1774, the Connecticut Journal justified the subordinate status of blacks, stating baldly that “God formed [blacks] … in common with horses, oxygen, dogs etc. for the white people alone, to be used by them either for pleasure or to labor with other beasts.”

That same year the April edition of The Connecticut Journal reported that a slave, Lemon, was “taken to the gaol in New Haven for abusing an Indian girl.” (Source: Clipping, “Tales of Other Days,” by Lavinia, Meriden  Record, undated)

On the eve of the American Revolution, Connecticut had 6,464 slaves, the most of any state in New England, according to one historian. The number of whites in the state that same year was 191,372, the state’s governor reported.

During the American Revolution (1765 – 1783), when at least 820 free and enslaved African Americans from Connecticut served on the Patriots side, some Connecticut slaves gained their freedom in exchange for service (The National Mall Liberty Fund  has collected a list of Enslaved and free blacks from Wallingford, CT who served on the patriot side during the Revolutionary War.).

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Other slaves purchased their freedom. Wallingford’s archives include an April 2, 1776 note about a local man, Mr. Elisha Brackett, freeing his “Negro Wench Slave named Nancy” in return for her paying him “32 Pounds Lawful money.”

Connecticut’s Gradual Emancipation Act of 1784 halted the importation of slaves and declared that children of black slaves born after March 1, 1784 were to be freed after turning 25. No current slaves were freed by the Act, however, and slaves born before 1784 remained slaves for life.

Not only that, but the act had a pernicious effect in that it encouraged some slaveholders to sell slaves and their children to residents of other states before the children reached 25, an action not prohibited by the law, where they would again be slaves for life.

One man affected by the Gradual Emancipation Act was James Mars, a slave in Connecticut until age 25, who wrote a memoir published in several editions between 1864-1876. “When I had got it written, as it made more writing than I was willing to undertake to give each of them one, I thought I would have it printed, and perhaps I might sell enough to pay the expenses, as many of the people now on the stage of life do not know that slavery ever lived in Connecticut,” Mars wrote.

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One man affected by the Gradual Emancipation Act was James Mars, a slave in Connecticut until age 25, who wrote a memoir published in several editions between 1864-1876. “When I had got it written, as it made more writing than I was willing to undertake to give each of them one, I thought I would have it printed, and perhaps I might sell enough to pay the expenses, as many of the people now on the stage of life do not know that slavery ever lived in Connecticut,” Mars wrote

Documenting the American South, a collection of American slave narratives, tells of how, with the help of white citizens of Norfolk, CT,  Mars evaded his owner’s attempts to take him to Virginia where he would have been denied the emancipation guaranteed him at age twenty-five under Connecticut law. Born in 1790, Mars lived until 1880.

Some historical writing on American history downplays the maintenance of slavery in Connecticut after the American Revolution and the Gradual Abolition Act.

In Hope of Liberty, James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton wrote, “ [m]any slaves were freed by the gradual emancipation laws in the North, and in a relatively short time (relative to the existence of the institution of slavery) slavery was abolished in the free states.”).  Similarly, in Black Odyssey: The African-American Ordeal in Slavery, Nathan Irvin  Huggins wrote, “…after the Revolutionary War] [t]hose states of New England, where there was a slight investment in slave property, were rather quick to disavow the institution.”

But other historians have challenged that view. In a 2001 Yale Law Journal article, Abolition Without Deliverance: The Law of Connecticut Slavery 1784-1848 , David Menschel presented evidence that the Gradual Abolition Act did not remove slavery from the state in a prompt and orderly fashion at all. Instead, he said, slavery’s termination was protracted because, “Legislators feared that uncivilized and uneducated blacks, emerging en masse from bondage into freedom, would endanger the fragile workings of Connecticut’s new republic.”

“In fact, though the number of slaves in the North declined after the Revolutionary War, slavery continued to exist there well into the nineteenth century,” Menschel said.

Even the State of Connecticut itself seemed to endorse continued slavery when, in 1784, it seized the estate of a William Brown, which included a number of slave children. An administrator of the estate petitioned the Legislature to free the children, but it rejected the petition and ordered that the children be bound out for the District of Norwich.

“In addition to protecting the state coffers from the costs of caring for such dependents, the Assembly also seems to have believed that Brown’s former slaves would benefit from bondage, as this would ensure that the slave children would be ‘well governed and educated,’ ” Menschel said.

In 1787, Oliver Ellsworth, a Connecticut delegate at the Constitutional Convention, predicted that “slavery in  time will not be a speck in our country,” but “in time” proved to be long-lived, with slavery not ending across the United States for another 78 years.

It wasn’t until 1788 that legislation outlawed the slave trade in Connecticut, prohibiting the import of Africans and the export of Africans for sale, but in 1794 the state legislature firmly rejected a bill that would have abolished slavery in the state the following year.

In 1790, the first Federal Census showed there were 3,763 people held in bondage throughout New England, including  2,648 in Connecticut. A 1797 act changed the emancipation age under the Gradual Abolition Act age to 21, but still didn’t abolish slavery.

Evidence of continued slavery in Connecticut showed up in Probate Court records of Wallingford, CT following the death of a Dr. William Hart. According to the records, among the items Hart left to his wife, Catherine Vallet Hart, were “a Negro boy named Titan and a Negro girl of five years.”  (Source: Clipping, “Tales of Other Days,” by Lavinia, Meriden  Record, undated)

By 1800, 83 percent of Connecticut’s Blacks were free, leaving 951 enslaved, but these were still being held onto vigorously, as the 1803 runaway slave ad below shows.

 

SlaveryRunAwayBroadside-e1338480755324

In the early 1800s, George Washington Stanley completed a census of Wallingford, CT at the request of Yale professor Benjamin Silliman. Stanley’s report said the village had 2,325 inhabitants, including “1,152 white males, 1,147 white females , 22 (people) of color and four slaves…” (Source: Clipping, “Tales of Other Days,” by Lavinia, Meriden  Record, Feb. 1953)  

In 1810, the number of slaves in Connecticut had gone down to 310 and by 1820 the census put the number at 97.

The 1840 Census showed 17 African-Americans still enslaved in Connecticut, but anti-slavery attitudes were prominent.

Even free blacks began to speak up. The words of one free black man, Peter Osborne, are preserved in “An oration delivered before the people of color of New Haven, assembled at Wallingford on the eighth of July, to celebrate the fourth.”

In vivid, forceful language, Osborne applauded the displays of patriotism on the 4th of July 1845, but castigated white Americans for not sharing the freedom the American Revolution produced.

“The heroes of the revolution were gallant and terrible to establish and secure a government for the peace and happiness of the descendants of Europe, but they were not the less so to deprive the descendants of Africa of its protection,” Osborne said. He called upon all blacks to “…like a Roman army, invade prejudice, storm the castle of expediency, — to annihilate the inhuman trade of transportation–the deluded scheme of Colonization,  the scourge and curse of slavery.”

Connecticut finally abolished slavery entirely in 1848, when there were just six slaves left in the state, making it the last state in New England to fully abolish slavery. The last slave in Wallingford was owned by J. Parker of Pond Hill, according to A History of Wallingford 1669-1935.

Connecticut finally abolished slavery entirely in 1848, when there were just six slaves left in the state, making it the last state in New England to fully abolish slavery. The last slave in Wallingford was owned by J. Parker of Pond Hill, according to A History of Wallingford 1669-1935..

We should know these things.

As Holocaust survivor and scholar Dr. Dori Laub has written, we must face our buried truths in order to live our lives.

 

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  1. With so many years gone by since the 13th amendment was ratified in 1865, you might think that it has to  be impossible to hear a former slave talk about the experience.  But amazingly you still can by going to Voices from the Days of Slavery: Former Slaves tell their Stories – a collection on file at the Library of Congress and available online . Here individuals give firsthand accounts of life during slavery. Hearing the voices of those who were enslaved is more powerful than what could ever be captured in a textbook.

2.  Recommended readings about Oregon’s racist past:

Breaking Chains – Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory by R. Gregory Nokes

Tells the story of the only slavery case ever adjudicated in Oregon courts—Holmes v. Ford. Drawing on the court record of this landmark case, Nokes offers an intimate account of the relationship between a slave and his master from the slave’s point of view. He also explores the experiences of other slaves in early Oregon, examining attitudes toward race and revealing contradictions in the state’s history.

When Portland banned blacks: Oregon’s shameful history as an ‘all-white’ state, Washington Post, June 7, 2017

Few people are aware of Oregon’s history of blatant racism, including its refusal to ratify the 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution.

Oregon Racial Laws and Events, 1844-1959

Oregon’s Provisional Government passed the first Exclusion Law in the Oregon Country in 1848. It made it unlawful for any Negro or Mulatto (of mixed ethnic heritage) to reside in Oregon Territory.

Oregon’s Civil War – The Troubled Legacy of Emancipation in the Pacific Northwest by Stacey L. Smith

The persistent myth that Oregon was a free land where white unity against slavery made free-state status nearly inevitable often obscures the prominence of the slavery question in provisional, territorial, and state politics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will the sky fall for charities under the new tax law?

tax-form-gifts-to-charity_573x300

Charities and much of the media are screaming bloody murder about the potential negative impacts of the new 503-page tax reform legislation.

“The tax code is now poised to de-incentivize the heart of civic action in America,” Dan Cardinali, president of Independent Sector, which represents charities, told the Washington Post.

“The GOP tax reform will devastate charitable giving,” shrieked the Los Angeles Times.

Stacy Palmer, Editor of “The Chronicle of Philanthropy,” said on Public Television’s Newshour that as much as $20 billion might not be given in 2018 next year because of the tax law change. An Indiana university study estimated the reduction would be $13 billion.

This apocalyptic vision fits in nicely with the attempt by Democrats to demonize the tax reform law and the Republicans who voted for it in hopes of reaping benefits in the 2018 elections.

But is charitable giving really going to implode? I think not.

The primary concern among the nattering negative cadre appears to be that the number of Americans who qualify for the charitable tax deduction will drop sharply now that the standard deduction has been doubled to $12,000 for an individual, $24,000 for couples. This will result in fewer people itemizing their deductions, and you can only deduct donations if you itemize, a key factor motivating charitable giving, according to the doomsayers.

But this ignores the fact that an awful lot of people already give generously from the heart without claiming a charitable deduction. According to the most recent IRS data, 68.5 percent of households chose to take the standard deduction under the old system, leaving them unable to claim a charitable deduction, but a lot of them made donations anyway. In 2016, the largest source of charitable giving was individuals at $281.86 billion, with two thirds of households giving money to non-profits.

It is estimated that under the new tax law, the share of people itemizing deductions could drop to as few as 5 percent.

It seems highly unlikely that individuals who haven’t been itemizing or those who won’t itemize under the new tax system will decrease their charitable giving when the standard deduction is doubled. In other words, the vast middle class will still probably give, though charities may want to ramp up their appeals.

What looks considerably more threatening for charities is changes in the estate tax under tax reform.

gravedigger_observations2

Before the tax reform law, the estate tax applied only to estates worth at least $5.49 million for individuals and $10.98 million for married couples. The estate tax applied a 40 percent tax rate to estates worth more than those amounts.

In other words, the wealthy have been encouraged to make charitable donations because these donations were not taxed. If their money was left to heirs instead, the estate would pay taxes on amounts greater than about $5.5 million dollars for an individual or $11 million for a couple.

The new tax law tax doubles the annual exclusion amount (the exemption) for estate taxes to $10 million. Couples who do proper planning could double that exemption.

Only 0.2% of all estates ended up being hit with the estate tax under the old formula. The Tax Policy Center estimates that some 11,310 individuals dying in 2017 will leave estates large enough to require filing an estate tax return.

Under the new law, it’s likely that fewer than 1,000 estate tax returns will be filed per year with a tax due. In other words, just 10,000 individuals may be less likely to make charitable donations to avoid estate taxes.

But those individuals control a lot of wealth and many may be people who were previously motivated to give by a desire to avoid estate taxes.

According to the National Committee for Responsive philanthropy (NCRP), study after study shows that tax policy matters in charitable giving and that the estate tax is one of the most important motivators for those at the top of the income distribution. “Rather than see a sizable portion of their estates subject to taxation, wealthy families give while living to reduce the size of their estates; and they also give in the form of bequests upon their death, “ the NCRP says.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has compiled detailed data on publicly reported charitable gifts of $1 million or more in each state. The largest recipients include private and community foundations, colleges and universities, healthcare programs, the arts, museums and libraries. The Chronicle assumes that a large proportion of those donations is motivated by estate tax planning.

So Oregon charities relying on big gifts may be in for a harder struggle going forward.

The Chronicle data shows the following significant gifts of $1 million or more to Oregon institutions just in 2017 and 2016:

2017

Donor Recipient Gift Value
Anonymous U. of Oregon (Eugene) $50,000,000
Anonymous Oregon State U. at Corvallis $25,000,000
Robert W. Franz Providence Health and Services (Portland, Ore.) $20,000,000
Michael and Arlette Nelson U. of Portland (Ore.) $10,000,000
Anonymous Oregon State U. at Cascades (Bend) $5,000,000
Fariborz Maseeh Portland State U. (Ore.) $5,000,000
Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation (Jordan Schnitzer) Portland State U. (Ore.) $5,000,000
Anonymous U. of Oregon, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (Eugene) $2,250,000
Keith and Julie Thomson U. of Oregon (Eugene) $2,000,000
Tim and Mary Boyle Providence Foundations of Oregon (Lake Oswego) $2,000,000
Tykeson Family Foundation (Don Tykeson) Oregon State U. at Cascades (Bend) $1,000,000
Robert W. Franz Blanchet House of Hospitality (Portland, Ore.) $1,000,000
Charles McGrath Oregon State U. at Cascades (Bend) $1,000,000

Note: Most of the bequests listed in this database are estimates. In many cases, donors’ bequests are announced long before their wills are settled.

 

2016

 

Donor Recipient Gift Value
Philip H. and Penelope Knight U. of Oregon (Eugene) $500,000,000
Gary and Christine Rood Oregon Health & Science U. (Portland) $12,000,000
Charles and Gwendolyn Lillis U. of Oregon (Eugene) $10,000,000
Philip H. and Penelope Knight Fanconi Anemia Research Fund (Eugene, Ore.) $10,000,000
Tim and Mary Boyle U. of Oregon (Eugene) $10,000,000
Allyn C. and Cheryl Ramberg Ford U. of Oregon (Eugene) $7,000,000
Edward and Cynthia Maletis U. of Oregon (Eugene) $5,000,000
Roberta Buffett and David Elliott Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Ashland) $5,000,000
Don and Willie Tykeson John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts (Eugene, Ore.) $2,000,000
Tim and Mary Boyle Reed College (Portland, Ore.) $2,000,000
David and Anne Myers Columbia River Maritime Museum (Astoria, Ore.) $1,000,000

 

Note: Most of the bequests listed in this database are estimates. In many cases, donors’ bequests are announced long before their wills are settled.

Source: Philanthropy.com; http://bit.ly/2lljb8m

 

 

 

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