GDG- NPS & slavery

CWMHTours at CWMHTours at
Wed Jan 4 11:14:53 CST 2012

OK Al-
YOU tell me about the 200 slaves living at  Arlington Cemetery.
If you want to be an expert and complain then you step up to  the plate and 
tell me all about the 200 slaves.
I only know about two of them specifically.  One whose  name, I think, was 
Selena was a "house  slave".  A servant of Mary C  Lee.  She stayed behind 
when Mary went south and tried to keep the Yankees  from destroying the 
mansion when they occupied the place.  Oddly enough, I  haven't heard of where 
she is buried.  Haven't heard that she is buried in  the cemetery.
The other is a slave named, I think, John.  He was born  on the plantation 
and is buried in it.  Over by the Seneca Creek sandstone  wall next to Ft 
Myer where there is no gravel road.
That's about all I know.
What can you tell us?  Do you have a true anecdote I can  use next time I 
take a tour group there?
The slaves at Arlington, like slaves all over this country,  have a story 
that is, for the most part, LOST.
I am not aware of anyone writing a book on the story of the  slaves at Arl 
And if you care so much then how many times have you walked  through the 
section of 500 Freedmen buried in their segregated  section?
How many times have you taken groups of African-Americans,  adults and 
students, through Arlington Cem and explained their own history to  them?  You 
try it if you want to criticize me.
Why don't you tell  us the story of the Freedmans Village  that used to be 
on the Cem.  It was at sect 10 & 25 but it was  moved.  Tell us why.
What happened to the Village?  What is the relationship  between the 
Village and the cem section?  What happened at the  Village?  Where did the people 
go when it was shut down and they were  evicted?
I know all that stuff.  But you tell us about  it.
I've done 100s of African-American tours.  I talk a lot  about the slaves 
in the Cem when I have black groups.  I point the two  Gen B O Davis's from 
Tuskeegee and Chappie James.  I walk them through the  Buffalo Soldier 
section.  Do you even know where that is?
My complaint, if you had comprehended it correctly, is  that in 1992 when I 
worked for the NPS/Tourmobile  the NPS had  a deliberate program of 
over-emphasizing African-Americans and slavery  over other topics that were even 
morre important.
Are you getting that?  If there is a scale of  "importance" in terms of the 
people buried  there then many people who were  not African-American were 
not mentioned because the NPS MANDATED that  we talk about the lesser 
important Blacks.  We were  REPRIMANDED if we didn't talk about Chappie James and 
instead talked about Bull  Halsey and Charles Wilkes.
And the same program appears to be going on at the Gettysburg  V.C.
200 people?  Yes- that sounds important to me.  That  they were slaves?  
Yes, that should be talked about.  
How about the other 250,000-300,000?  Aren't they  important too?  Tell us 
who Michael Blassie is and what happened to  him.  Tell us about Commander 
Bruce Van Voorhees.  What did he do to  earn the Congressional Medal of Honor?
We would be reprimanded if we did not mention the new black  woman who got 
on the Tomb Guard for the Unknown.  But talk about Van  Voorhees?  NPS 
didn't care.  Bruce Van Voorhees was a REAL AMERICAN  HERO who sacrificed himself 
to save others.  I'd rather tell his story  than the first black female 
Tomb Guard.  They should have made a movie  about him.
There was nothing in their script about, Asians, Latinos and  American 
Indians.  I think the story of Ira Hayes is great.   
But not in the NPS manual.  Why?
Yes, 200 people were slaves.  Do you think we should  spend the WHOLE TIME 
talking about them at the deletion of the  others?
If so, good for you.  Because that is the NPS program at  Arlington.
200 slaves have their place.  They should be talked about  and pointed out.
I think it borders on rascism when the NPS MANDATES that you  talk about 
slaves and "relatively obscure" African-Americans in way that takes  up time 
you could be using to talk about MORE IMPORTANT PEOPLE.
Yes, I think Bull Halsey, Charles Wilkes, and Bruce Van  Voorhees are more 
significant than the first black female Tomb Guard.  I'd  rather talk about 
Why wasn't it MANDATED that we also talk about American  Indians, like Ira 
Hayes, Latinos and Asians?
You have to getting the message I hope.
Is it finally sinking in?  The NPS places a higher  PRIORITY on slavery and 
African-Americans at the expense of other races and  topics.
Dig that?  I've seen it.

In a message dated 1/4/2012 11:00:15 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
amills at writes:

Esteemed  GDG Member Contributes:

I have to admit, this is an excellent  point that I found myself failing 
despite having what I consider to be a very  liberal and modern view on race.  
I never considered myself to be a  racist or bigot, but this showed me that 
my eyes were not as opened as I  thought.    

I only considered the owners and the "white"  people and gave no 
consideration to the slave population that also called  Arlington "home."  

I am in part embarrassed and also now  understand how little of this 
history has been taught and why it needs to be  told, even at places I normally 
didn't felt it shouldn't be told.  I used  to be in the "Slavery needs to be 
told, but Gettysburg should focus on the  battle and Lincoln's address and 
slavery should be the focus of places like  the National Civil War Museum in 
Harrisburg", but realizing something about  myself, I don't want my children 
growing up ignorant of this history as well  as I truly feel it is the core 
story of America that still resonates to this  day.  

I just want to personally thank you.  This one email  has opened my eyes to 
why this story needs to be told at any appropriate place  more than 
anything I have seen, read or heard previously.  I am now fully  in the camp that 
the slave story needs to be a key part of the Gettysburg  story and not just 
the story of why two white armies decided to fight on those  fields 
(although I still think the military story and the actions of those  three days 
needs to be told as well).  It sounds a little cliché, but I  realized something 
about myself from this one email and something I need to  correct.  


-----Original Message-----
From:  gettysburg-bounces at [mailto:gettysburg-bounces at] 
On Behalf  Of ATMackeyJr at
Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2012 11:48 PM
To:  gettysburg at
Subject: Re: GDG- NPS & slavery

Esteemed  GDG Member Contributes:
Interesting you don't seem to consider almost 200  human beings to be 
people  living at Arlington.  When asked who  lived there, you only give the 
owners  and their families.  Nobody  else matters to you.

I'll let others decide what that says.

Best  Regards,
Al  Mackey

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