LA Story

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 3.30.38 PMGreetings all – today I have been doing a good deal of reading about my most favorite city and adopted hometown, Los Angeles. This  metropolis, the City of Angeles, emerged, grew, and prospered in the most unlikely of ways. As part of my web-course series, I am in the beginning stages of organizing themes and a narrative that will tackle the history of this great city for a world of viewers…and perhaps offer something instructive for the thousands who move here each month. These few words, penned by writer Morris Markey in 1932, struck me as good a starting place as any:

As I wandered about Los Angeles, looking for the basic meaning of the place, the fundamental source of its wealth and its economic identity, I found myself quite at sea. The Chamber of Commerce people told me about the concentration of fruit, the shipping, the Western branch factories put up by concerns in the East. But none of these things seemed the cause of a city. They seemed rather the effect, rising from an inexplicable accumulation of people – just as the immense dealings in second-hand automobiles and the great turnover of real estate were an effect. It struck me as an odd thing that here, alone of all the cities in America, there was no plausible answer to the question, “Why did a town spring up here and why has it grown so big?”

Big indeed…and incessantly, inexorably  growing. Traffic alone will attest to that. As it were, I have made a three-picture study of LA traffic on Instagram today…just for the visual recognition that the issue seems to have been with us for some time now. At any rate, I believe there is an answer to the riddle of Los Angeles, and I am thus putting together the skeletal framework for the web-course City of Angeles: A History of Los Angeles as I finish production of my American Civil War course. The flesh is on deck…and those of you who are part of the crew will get the first crack at it.

With compliments,

Keith

PS – if you want to get a head start, here are a couple of books worth reading.

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The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles, 1850-1930 by Robert M. Fogelson

 

 

 

 

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Southern California: An Island on the Land by Carey McWilliams

Just a Reminder…

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 8.03.37 PMAll things considered…this may be wishful thinking.

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

A. Lincoln, March 1, 1861

With compliments,

Keith

Video Clips – Send ’em In!

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 6.58.10 PMHi all – as you most certainly know, I offer a number of web-courses on United States history – you can check them out HERE. So far, the reviews have been very good…whether you are a buff or a student of history, I am sure you will get a lot out of them. At any rate…I am currently putting together a comprehensive course on the American Civil War and I need your help. Along with historical images, I am including video footage – trees, rivers, landscape vistas, battlefields – to enhance the narrative and bring the history to life.

Here’s the trouble – I live in Hollywood and the scenery around here is not particularly evocative when it comes to visualizing Civil War history. So I ask that you send in a 10-15 second video clip(s) of scenery…whatever you think looks cool. I am especially interested in videos showing southern-esque landscapes (Pennsylvania and Kentucky would be great too), without anything modern in the frame.

For your efforts, I offer to give you the course at no charge when it launches in early May. All I ask is that the camera is held steady – either stationary or panning – and you can see some sort of movement…such as leaves blowing in the wind or flowing water. Don’t concern yourself with the sound – I am dropping that out to add my own effects. You can send your videos HERE in an attachment.

Now’s your chance to go full Spielberg…and I will be forever grateful. Here’s a couple of examples for inspiration:

Thanks again!

With compliments,

Keith

A Letter from a Freedman to his Former Master

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 9.05.56 AMI was looking through my Reconstruction Era documents this morning and came across this one – a letter dictated by Tennessee freedman Jourdon Anderson to his former master. I find the candor most fascinating, and the power dynamic renegotiation is unmistakable. Have a look…your comments are welcome.

Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865

To my old Master, Colonel P. H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee.

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams’s Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson.

I wonder if he ever got the money he demanded….I have my suspicions. At any rate – I discuss folks like Anderson and others who asserted their freedom in my web-course on Reconstruction HERE.

With compliments,

Keith

Was the Battle of Gettysburg the Turning Point of the Civil War?

Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 10.48.41 AMI got an email recently from a Battle of Gettysburg  student (Mike B.) asking me to clarify something I said about the battle on the Interwebs.

I mentioned something along the lines of “Gettysburg is not as important as you might think it is.” Thanks for the note, Mike – lets see if I can clear things up a bit.

When analyzing history from the vantage point of the present (as I have warned people not to do), one could surmise that the battle was indeed the turning point. The Confederates never again could claim a decisive victory along the lines of Chancellorsville or Fredericksburg. But the Union victory here was not by any means the stepping off point towards guaranteed victory.

The participants and citizens of their respective countries certainly didn’t think so. Just read a newspaper from the period. The Confederates, with Lee at the helm the Army of Northern Virginia, still firmly believed that victory was within their grasp – Gettysburg or not. The Union Army was bogged down in Virginia, the northern civilian population was growing increasingly weary of the war, and even Abraham Lincoln thought he was going to lose the election of 1864 and perhaps the war along with it.

Sure as shit – the letters home from the Confederate Army indicated that morale was up. I have read them myself…tons of these letters are housed at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. Go there yourself and check them out if you don’t believe me.

So all this “High Tide of the Confederacy” stuff is a postwar creation. Sure, the citizens of the North and South thought the battle was important to be sure, but perhaps for different reasons than many Americans believe today.

And…if you read all the way to the end of this post I have a got a surprise for you – you can get the super-uber-deep- discount on my Gettysburg web-course HERE. You’re welcome 🙂

With compliments,

Keith