August 8 is Emancipation Day. But not everywhere.

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 7, 2015

On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation declared that all slaves held in locations in conflict with the United States were henceforth free. Black communities in Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina have observed Emancipation Day on that day ever since. Not so elsewhere in Appalachia.

When Union soldiers took control of an area, they would, amongst other things, read the proclamation and enforce it. Because of this, various states, territories, and municipalities celebrate emancipation on the day when the law was enforced in their region.

Tennessee and Kentucky, for example, have long informally recognized August 8 as the day. As early as 1875, the African American community in the vicinity of Greene County, TN had begun to hold annual celebrations on August 8th, known as the “Eighth of August Celebration” according to local accounts in The Greeneville American. Last April Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen went a step further and signed House Bill No. 207 into law, officially recognizing August 8 as “Emancipation Day” in that state.

Emancipation Day parade in Jenkins, KY. August 8, 1924. Kentuckiana Digital Library/Kentucky Photographic Collection, 1911-1930

Emancipation Day parade in Jenkins, KY. August 8, 1924. Kentuckiana Digital Library/Kentucky Photographic Collection, 1911-1930

 

“… to honor and recognize the celebration of the action of Andrew Johnson, seventeenth president of the United States and then military governor of Tennessee, in freeing his personal slaves on August 8, 1863, and the significance of emancipation in the history of Tennessee.”

The Gallia County (Ohio) Emancipation Day Celebration, held September 22, claims itself to be the longest continuous running celebration of the kind. An Ohio Department of Development brochure provides more details: “Students were dismissed from school and people attended dressed in their very best clothes. It was conducted in a religious atmosphere. However, such fun activities as baseball, sack racing, hog calling and greasy pole climbing were also introduced to stimulate the interest and maintain the enthusiasm. Bands, famous orators, politicians, parades, dances and queen contests were also included in the celebration.”

West Virginia also recognized September 22. “At the fair grounds, ex-United States Senator B. K. Bruce, of Mississippi, will speak in the afternoon at two o’clock,” announced the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer in 1891. “Then will follow the singing by the states, forty-four girls and forty-four boys, Our Nation’s day, reading of the Proclamation by Queen of the Day, singing by William Turner’s quartette, thence to the general amusements of the day.”

In late nineteenth and early twentieth century Kentucky, Emancipation Day fairs (as in Tennessee, August 8th) were popular among the state’s black citizens. Cash prizes were awarded winners in categories from livestock and racing to music and floral display.

 

sources: www.odod.state.oh.us/cdd/ohcp/FairHousingHistory.pdf
www.kentucky.gov/kyhs/hmdb/MarkerSearch.aspx?mode=Subject&subject=3
wheeling.weirton.lib.wv.us/history/afr-am/EMAN91A.HTM

8 Responses

  • valerie morris says:

    Thank you for this article. I am a teacher in Chicago doing research on Juneteenth for a final class project. What I have been having trouble finding are sources to cite that the date the proclamation was read to the freed slaves came to different regions at different times. My family is Paducah, KY, and have always celebrated the 8th of August. A full picture must be presented, not just the final Juneteenth.
    Valerie Morris
    Educator

  • I’m from Ft, Wayne IN and I started working on a Docutmentary on Aug 8 VS Juneteeth about six months ago. June 19 is like the begnning of the company Story, you can’t pay so you can not leave,the story has two sides. I am from Paducah KY and we’ve been celebration the 8th of August for over 140 years. Can and enjoy the celebration with a Paducahians.

    James W. Johnson
    Fine Arts Director

  • […] August 8 is Emancipation Day. But not everywhere. […]

  • Marsha Boyd says:

    My family is from Princeton, KY and we have always celebrated the 8th of August as Emancipation Day as well as Dotson Day. Dotson was the once “Black” school before integration and the property was left to the “Bootsville” community. It is now a community park and holds these annual festivities with food, basketball tournaments, kiddie discos, adult dances, dedications to former outstanding citizens, and the key to the city is given. Beautiful, fun celebration and everyone who ever lived there comes home for that weekend. Thanks for clearing my confusion about the actual date of Emancipation Day. Your explanation makes perfect sense!

  • Tony Jean Dickerson says:

    My family is from Todd County, specifically Elkton and Allensville, KY. We went home to Elkton from Indianapolis each 8th of August for most of my childhood and I never knew why. As I began looking into my family history I googled a reason why and was pleasantly surprised to find similar information. This info is very concise and appreciated.

  • A.Le says:

    I’m from Todd County, Elkton, Kentucky to be exact. I’m going on 30 and I’ve never missed the celebration since I can remember, as a culture, the Black community has came a very long way and I’m blessed to be able to attend another celebration in Russellville, Elkton, and Allensville, KY.

  • Robert Wayne says:

    I always thought their big deal was sometime in June.

  • William H. Turner, PhD says:

    I was born in Lynch, KY (Harlan County) in 1946. August 8 was celebrated throughout my youth, up until the early 1970s when the black population had dispersed; the schools integrated, the gatekeepers of such traditions having passed on. The August 8th Celebration was led by men and women of the Masonic lodges & Eastern Star, centered in two churches, mainly, Goode Temple AMEZ and Mt. Sinai. People came from nearby Benham, Cumberland, and Harlan.

Leave a Reply


+ 3 = 5

Sody Sallyratus

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 6, 2015

A long time ago there was an old woman and an old man and a little girl and a little boy and their pet squirrel sitting up on the fireplace. One day the old woman wanted to bake some biscuits but she needed some sody. So she sent the little boy to the store to buy some sody sallyraytus. The little boy went running down the road singing, “Sody, sody, sody sallyraytus.” He ran across the bridge and on to the store to get the sody sallyraytus. Then he went running back home. When he got to the bridge a mean old bear stuck out his head and said, “I’LL EAT YOU UP – YOU AND YOUR SODY SALLYRAYTUS!” And he swallowed the little boy – him and his sody sallyraytus.

DeLand's Saleratus Soda and Baking Powder trade card. No date. Collection Stuart A. Lassen Postcard Collection/Texas A&M University Libraries

DeLand’s Saleratus Soda and Baking Powder trade card. No date. Collection Stuart A. Lassen Postcard Collection/Texas A&M University Libraries

 

The old woman and the old man and the little girl and the pet squirrel waited and waited and waited but the little boy didn’t come back. Finally, the old woman asked the little girl to find the little boy and see what was taking him so long. The little girl went a’skipping down the road – a’skip a’skip a’askip. She skipped across the bridge and to the store. The storekeeper told her that the little boy had already been there and left, so she started a’skipping back home – a’skip a’skip a’skip. When she got to the bridge, the mean old bear stuck out his head and said, “I ATE A LITTLE BOY – HIM AND HIS SODY SALLYRAYTUS. AND I’LL EAT YOU TOO!” And she swallowed her down.

Well the old woman and the old man and the pet squirrel waited and waited and waited, but the children didn’t come back. Finally, the old woman asked the old man to go find the little boy and the little girl. He walked down the road – Karumpf! Karumpf! Karumpf! and across the bridge until he came to the store. The storekeeper told him that both the little boy and the little girl had already been there and left. “Hmmm….they must have stopped somewhere to play,” the old man thought. So he started a’walking back – Karumpf! Karumpf! Karumpf! When he got to the bridge, the mean old bear stuck out his head and said, “I ATE A LITTLE BOY – HIM AND HIS SODY SALLYRAYTUS. AND I ATE A LITTLE GIRL AND I’LL EAT YOU TOO!” And he swallowed him down.

Well, the old woman and the pet squirrel waited and waited and waited but the old man and the little boy and the little girl did not come back. So finally, the old woman went a’hunchety-hunching down the road – A’hunchety-hunchety-hunchety-hunch! She crossed the bridge and went into the store. The storekeeper told her that the old man and the little boy and the little girl had been there and left. So the old woman started back A’hunchety-hunchety-hunchety-hunch! When she got to the bridge, the mean old bear stuck out his head and said, “I ATE A LITTLE BOY – HIM AND HIS SODY SALLYRAYTUS. AND I ATE A LITTLE GIRL AND AN OLD MAN AND I’LL EAT YOU TOO!” And he swallowed her down.

1884 logo for the Arm & Hammer brand soda or saleratus. Saleratus appeared on the market in 1840, replacing pearlash as a baking ingredient to produce rising in dough. By the start of the 1860s baking soda in turn replaced it. For a short time some people called the new baking soda ‘saleratus.’ This story, then, probably dates from that period when both terms were used simultaneously: “soda/saleratus.”

1884 logo for the Arm & Hammer brand soda or saleratus. Saleratus appeared on the market in 1840, replacing pearlash as a baking ingredient to produce rising in dough. By the start of the 1860s baking soda in turn replaced it. For a short time some people called the new baking soda ‘saleratus.’ This story, then, probably dates from that period when both terms were used simultaneously: “soda/saleratus.”

Well, the pet squirrel waited and waited and waited. He was running back and forth on the fire place mantel and he was getting hungrier and hungrier. Finally, he jumped down off the fireplace and onto the floor. He shook out his tail and went a’frisking down the road – A’frisk a’frisk a’frisk a’frisk! He frisked across the bridge and into the store.

He stood up tall on his hind legs and asked the storekeeper if he had seen the little boy or the little girl or the old man or the old woman. “Yes – they’ve all been here. Surely they didn’t all stop to play.” So the squirrel stretched his tail out behind him and frisked back. When he got to the bridge, the mean old bear stuck out his head and said, ” I ATE A LITTLE BOY – HIM AND HIS SODY SALLYRAYTUS. AND I ATE A LITTLE GIRL AND AN OLD MAN AND AN OLD WOMAN AND I’LL EAT YOU TOO!”

The pet squirrel stuck his tail up in the air and chirred at the bear. By the time the mean old bear lunged at him, the pet squirrel was already halfway up a tree. The mean old bear went clamoring after him. The squirrel scurried out on a limb and the mean old bear started after him. Then the squirrel jumped onto a limb in the next tree. “SURELY IF YOU CAN MAKE IT THAT FAR ON YOUR LITTLE LEGS, I CAN MAKE IT ON MY BIG LEGS!” the bear bellowed. The mean old bear tried to jump but he didn’t quite make it. He tumbled down down down and hit the ground with a thud! As soon as he hit the ground, out came the old woman, the old man, the little girl and the little boy. The old woman looked at the little boy and said, “Well, where’s my sody sallyraytus?” “Here,” said the little boy and handed it to her.

So they all walked back to the house singing, “Sody, sody, sody sallyraytus.” When they got back, the pet squirrel climbed back up on the fireplace mantel and curled his tail around him while he watched the old woman until she took the biscuits out of the oven. They each had a biscuit – the little boy, the little girl, the old man and the old woman. The old woman broke off a piece of a biscuit and handed it to the pet squirrel. He turned it over and over in his paws and nibbled until it was gone. Then he chirred for more. He was so hungry that the old woman had to feed him pieces until he’d eaten almost two whole biscuits!

source: “Grandfather Tales,” by Richard Chase, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Additional versions of the tale, see “Sody Sallyratus” or “The Bad Bear,” Appalachian Folktales and Legends, Ferrum College. Online at http://www.ferrum.edu/applit/bibs/tales/sodysal.htm

One Response

  • Linda Pack says:

    Hello Mr. Tabler,

    Your website is a treasure and I always enjoy my journeys through your various pages. I am currently writing my second Appalachian children’s book for University Press of Kentucky and I would like to use the Sody Sallyratus story in it. Would you please give me permission to do that? Naturally, I will acknowledge you and your website in the book.

    I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your kind consideration.

    Linda Pack

Leave a Reply


6 − = 2

White livered widders

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 5, 2015

People with an abnormally strong sex drive were said to suffer from white liver. The folk medicine record contains scant information on this folk illness, because openly talking about sex was taboo in the past. The earliest and most complete description of white liver comes from Vance Randolph’s study of folk culture in the Ozarks: “When a lively, buxom, good-looking woman loses several husbands by death, it is often said that her inordinate passion has ‘killed ‘em off,’ and she is referred to as a white-livered widder.

Sexy woman reclining on rocksUsually it is only a figure of speech, but there are people who actually believe that a ‘high nature’ is correlated with white spots on the liver, and that this condition has often been revealed by post-mortem examination.” A belief in North Carolina has it “that if a person married three times, his liver would automatically turn white,” but no contextual information is provided.

A recent study by the author found that the term white liver was, and to a lesser extent still is, as Randolph observed, used as a figure of speech in Southern Appalachia to jokingly or disparagingly identify someone as sexually deviant, but for some the term also referred to a genuine sexual disorder.

Informants interviewed for the study described individuals with white liver as having an abnormally powerful sexual drive that incapacitates or kills a spouse or significant other by literally draining them of their vitality through incessant coitus. A related belief conveyed by some informants was that those afflicted with white liver not only had an insatiable sexual appetite but also had bad blood and transmitted a fatal infection to others.

A social worker shared a story about his first encounter with white liver while working for the Department of Public Welfare in Wise County, VA in the late 1950s. A woman came into his office one day seeking help for her daughter, who had just recently married.

The woman said she was concerned about her daughter’s husband losing his job, adding that he had missed a lot of work because her daughter was “wearing him out.” Unsure of what she was talking about, he pressed further, and the woman told him that her daughter had the white liver. He eventually surmised that the woman was talking indirectly about her daughter having a voracious sexual appetite. Flummoxed about what to do, he sheepishly recommended cold shower therapy and consultation with a physician.

Attributing the death of a man to an oversexed wife raises several questions about sexual mores in the past. Were women labeled ill by others because they openly admitted to enjoying sex with their husbands during a time when sex was not to be enjoyed? Were these women, and perhaps women in general, viewed as sexual predators, either by men or by other women?

 

source: Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia, by Anthony P. Cavender, UNC Press, 2003

One Response

  • Spencer says:

    I think I can speak for most men and say that I can only hope my wife will develop white liver before I die. It is rare to find a white livered, beauty these days it seems. As long as her white liver doesn’t cause her to be unfaithful.

Leave a Reply


6 − = 4

From then on my cousin and this pig understood each other

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 4, 2015

One of our cousins had a fight once with a fertilizer spreader, with an inanimate machine. He was pouring fertilizer into cotton rows with this spreader, a brand new expensive labor saving device, and he could not get it to spread the proper amount. It dropped too much, it dropped too little. He worked for two hours on the adjustments; then in a sudden tempestuous frenzy of temper he picked up a rock and beat the thing to bits. Throwing the broken pieces over the pasture fence, he yelled: “You dirty low-down evil contraption, stay there!” and going to the barn, he got out the old cow horn and from then on spread fertilizer as his father and grandfather had spread it.

This same cousin also had a row with a pig. This pig refused to eat when he came down to feed it. It pawed the ground and ran to the other side of the sty. “All right, said our cousin, “you either get some manners and eat when I feed you or you’ll perish to death.”

He came to the sty the second day with a bucket full of buttermilk mash, and again the pig pawed and ran away. On the third day he said to the pig: “All right, damn you, you can just perish.” On the fourth day, however, the pig ate ravenously as soon as my cousin put the bucket down, and from then on my cousin and this pig understood each other.

We slopped the pigs; we spread fertilizer and mixed fertilizer; and about us were the cotton fields and the fine blue hills, and on the walls of our houses were shotguns.

We drove into town to swap butter and eggs for coffee and sugar and black pepper; we swapped smoked hams for tobacco and cloth. We wasted opportunity, we wasted chance, but we held on to an attitude of living that some people had lost who did not waste opportunity and chance. We weighed and balanced many intangible things. We made up our minds about how we wanted things and where we wanted them.

I remember once my Uncle Wade saying to us he had decided when he was twenty-one years of age that he didn’t choose to live more than two days’ drive from the Southern Railroad – he didn’t intend to live any farther south than Greenwood nor any farther north than Pickens.

And I remember a great-uncle who started off to Texas and then returned, saying he found out in Mississippi that old Mr. No Account was moving right along with him, and he decided if old No Account had to hang on to him, he had rather deal with the scoundrel in South Carolina than ‘way out in Texas. We talked about great rains and great winds and great droughts — about all kinds of wonders. Once I remember Mary telling us she had seen an infidel. He was a Georgian, a fine-looking man, and he did not believe in God. Mary said to us Georgia was a wild place —preachers drank whisky in Georgia.

We discussed ultimate destinies — the asylum, the poorhouse, the graveyard, the jail. We considered chance and the power of faith over chance, and how strange and hidden was chance. We were caught by it like fish in nets and like birds snared in traps. And the race in our valley no more went to the swift than it had in Ecclesiastes, nor did the battle go to the strong, nor did riches come to men of understanding. When our time would arrive, it would arrive.

Red Hills and Cotton, an Upcountry Memory, by Ben Robertson, University of South Carolina Press, 1943

Leave a Reply


3 + = 7

Jean Thomas: Kentucky’s Traipsin’ Woman

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 3, 2015

She had hosted Susan Steele Sampson, wife of Kentucky’s governor, the previous year at her first American Folk Song Festival, held at the Traipsin’ Woman Cabin. Now, in August 1931, Jean Thomas found herself invited to the Governor’s mansion in Frankfort to discuss the creation of an American Folk Song Society and an annual festival open to the public. How did Thomas get to this point, and why did she call herself the “Traipsin’ Woman?”

Jean Thomas poses at her desk in her long black "Narrator" costume from the American Folk Song Festival. Three of her publications ["The Singin' Fiddler of Lost Hope Hollow" "Devil's Ditties" and "The Traipsin' Woman"] are displayed on the desk. She was being filmed by Jack Jacumski of Georgetown, OH.

Jean Thomas poses at her desk in her long black “Narrator” costume from the American Folk Song Festival. Three of her publications [“The Singin’ Fiddler of Lost Hope Hollow” “Devil’s Ditties” and “The Traipsin’ Woman”] are displayed on the desk. She was being filmed by Jack Jacumski of Georgetown, OH.

Jean Thomas was born Jeanette Mary Francis de Assisi Aloysius Marcissum Garfield Bell in Ashland, Kentucky in 1881. She earned the nickname “Traipsin’ Woman” when, as a teenager in the 1890s, she defied convention to attend business school, learn stenography, and become a court reporter, traveling by jolt wagon to courts in the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

Using money saved from her court reporter wages, Thomas moved to New York, where she attended Hunter College and the Pulitzer School of Journalism. She married accountant Albert Thomas in 1913, a marriage which lasted only one year. She then held a variety of jobs, including work as a script girl for Cecil B. de Mille’s The Ten Commandments, as secretary to the owner of the Columbus Senators of the National League and as press agent for Ruby “Texas” Guinan, the notorious entertainer and owner of prohibition-era speakeasies.

In 1926 Jean Thomas met William Day, a blind fiddler from Rowan County. Using the skills she had acquired as press agent and manager, she changed his name to Jilson Settles, secured recording contracts and booked him (as the “Singin Fiddler from Lost Hope Hollow”) in theaters. Day eventually played in London’s Royal Albert Hall. He was the subject of Thomas’ first book, Devil’s Ditties (1931). Thomas went on to author another seven books including the semi-autobiographical The Traipsin’ Woman (1933), The Singing Fiddler of Lost Hollow (1938), and The Sun Shines Bright (1940).

The first American Folk Song Festival was held in 1932 in Jean Thomas’ home town of Ashland, and featured 18 acts. During the early years of the American Folk Song Festival, Jean Thomas carried a camera wherever she went as she sought out musicians who would perform at the annual event.

At the 8th festival, TIME magazine (June 30, 1938) noted with amusement that the musicians were presenting not only “ballads and hymns that can be traced to Elizabethan England,” but also “ballads from yesterday’s newspaper headlines.” One such example, titled “Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Brave Engineer (to the tune of Casey Jones)” [musician not cited in article]:

Now some folks kick, say he didn’t cut his pay
Remember, he’s not fishing, he’s working every day
He gave the Republicans a mighty slam
He didn’t take twelve years to start the Coal Creek Dam

He sent word to foreign countries, both near and far
Just what to expect if they started to war
He put the mills to working under the N. R. A.
Which means shorter hours, and much more pay

He’s made his stand, and you know he’s tried
He’s made many friends on the Republican side
He’s balanced the budget with revenue
He’s brought back whiskey and the three point two

With the exception of the years 1943-1948, the American Folk Song Festival was held annually until failing health forced Thomas to retire in 1972.

Sources: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,788725,00.html

http://digital.library.louisville.edu/collections/jthom/

Jean+Thomas Ashland+KY American+Folk+Song+Festival Traipsin+Woman appalachia Appalachian+ballads appalachian+culture appalachian+history history+of+appalachia appalachia+history

3 Responses

  • Sean Collins says:

    I had the pleasure to get to know this woman in the last years of her life. She was in a care facility in the Ashland area where my great-grandmother lived. I would spend hours listening to her talk of days gone by, her mind was going fast at that time. Still she is one of the people I have met that I will never forget—even though she was in her 90s.
    Sean Collins

  • Lara says:

    My great-great-grandmother (known as “Aunt Polly”) played dulcimer in Catlettsburg, Ky., and was “discovered” by Jean Thomas.

  • Ken and Ken says:

    My friend Ken and I were hitchhiking thru Eastern Ky with his guitar and my harmonica. We had a wonderful time meeting the Folks down there. I was from Louisville and Ken was from Charleston, WVA. So we was city folk. Finaaly we somehow got to Traipsin Woman’s cabin. What a delight. She talked our heads off.

Leave a Reply


8 + = 16

↑ Back to top

This collection is copyright ©2006-2015 by Dave Tabler. All visuals are used in accordance with the Fair Use Law (Per Title 17—United States Code—Section 107) and remain the property of copyright owners. Site Design by Amaru Interactive