Thursday, February 22, 2018

From the Tennessee Supreme Court Case Files: Tempe Downs v. James C. Allen et al.

By Lindsay Hager

In 1883, the Supreme Court of Tennessee ruled that Temperance “Tempe” Downs, “a free woman of color,” was entitled to a dower (one-third) of her deceased husband’s estate. Her suit, sensationalized in the Daily American (Nashville Tennessean), was considered “one of the most noted cases in the jurisprudence of Tennessee.” However, Tempe Downs’ recorded struggle to emancipate herself, remain in Tennessee and later receive her rightful inheritance as the widower of William B. Downs started over 45 years earlier when she saved the money to purchase her freedom.

Before Emancipation in Tennessee, enslaved and free black residents navigated state and local laws and customs, challenging the institution of slavery and laws that enforced white supremacy. In 1837, Temperance Crutcher (Tempe Downs) petitioned the state Legislature to allow her to remain in Tennessee upon her emancipation. Since about 1835, Thomas Crutcher, who purchased Tempe from James Barrett, had permitted her to “act as a free person” with the understanding that she “refunded” him the price of her purchase.





1837 petition to the Legislature submitted on behalf of Temperance Crutcher for permission to remain in Tennessee upon her manumission. It contains the signatures of 17 white Tennesseans who knew Tempe and the request of her enslaver, Thomas Crutcher. Part of the legislative petition collection in Record Group 60, Tennessee State Library and Archives.


Tempe paid Crutcher from money she earned working as a chambermaid at the Nashville Inn. It was there she met her husband, William “Billy” B. Downs, a free black man, who moved from Brownsville to Nashville with James B. Ferguson around 1832 to work as the steward for the Inn. Mr. William B. Downs, the son of an enslaved woman and a white enslaver, purchased his freedom in 1830 from William P. Downs, who had inherited him from his Uncle James P. Downs.

Unable to legally marry, Tempe and Mr. Downs cohabitated as man and wife and in 1837, with the consent of Thomas Crutcher, were married by Methodist minister Reuben P. Graham, “a free man of color,” who had a barber shop below the Inn. According to William P. Anderson Cheatham, employed at the Inn, “Nearly every respectable servant about town and nearly all the old settlers were there.” A reception dinner took place at the Inn following the ceremony. It was reported that from then on, despite the State’s denial of their marriage, black and white persons in the community of Nashville treated them as man and wife.



Drawing of the courthouse in Nashville as it looked in 1832, including the Nashville Inn and the City Hotel. Tempe Downs lived at the Inn and tried her cases in the neighboring courthouse. Her 1837 legislative petition would also have been heard here before the construction of the Tennessee State Capitol.

Close-up of Nashville Inn, at the corner of Public Square and Second Avenue, where Tempe and William B. Downs lived and worked. The Inn was considered the gathering place for many Jackson Democrats. The image is a lithograph by T. Sinclairs announcing the leasing and refitting of the Nashville Inn by J. Mosher, late of Mammoth Cave.


Although she paid Crutcher her purchase price, an 1831 Tennessee Law required that all enslaved people leave the state upon their emancipation and any slaveholder intending to emancipate any person was required to provide bond for their hasty removal. Despite the requests of “a number of [white] ladies and gentlemen of the city of Nashville” to grant special permission to Temperance to remain in the state, the legislature denied her request, claiming they already rejected a bill that session on the subject and another could not be passed. In order to not “be driven from the home of her nativity kindred and friends, to seek a [sic] home in the land of strangers,” Tempe had to legally remain enslaved.



1838 response of Julian Frazier, Chairman of the Legislative Committee on Propositions and Grievances, to Temperance’s Dec. 2, 1837, petition to the state Legislature. Record Group 60, Tennessee State Library and Archives.



Tempe and William P. Downs lived and worked together at the Nashville Inn until the early 1840s when she started working as a chambermaid on the Steamer Nashville that traveled the rivers to New Orleans. The same year, Thomas Crutcher conveyed Tempe to John H. Eaton and James B. Ferguson (host of the Nashville Inn) in a trust that stated they set her free as soon as possible and until then, she was “to have and enjoy her own time and be subject to her own control without the interference of anyone.”

With the money they earned, Mr. Downs purchased several lots in Nashville, including one on College Street where they planned to retire. Betsy Craighead, Tempe’s friend since childhood, testified she had planted evergreen trees on the lot “at Billy’s request.” Tragically, in 1846, shortly before the completion of their new home, he was stricken with smallpox. Downs died within a few days and was buried in the Nashville City Cemetery. The State did not legally recognize their marriage or the life they built together. Therefore, Tempe’s right to his estate and status in Tennessee were equally untenable.

Not until after the Civil War and the amendment of the state constitution in 1865 was Tempe legally emancipated and free to personally file suit against James C. Allen et al., the heirs of William P. Downs, to recover the estate of her husband. In 1866, she first filed her suit with the Freedmen’s Bureau but their court dissolved leading her to refile in the state court in 1868. Tempe testified that she was paid the $550 with the threat from William P. Downs that any further claims to her husband’s estate through her legal emancipation would be met with her expulsion to Liberia.




Newspaper excerpts about the case of Tempe Downs v. James C. Allen et al from the Daily American, July 18, 1879, and March 6, 1883, respectively. Complete article for “Tempe’s Trouble” available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives.



Though the laws at the time of the case entitled her to all the property of her husband, the law at the time of his death limited her to a claim of dower, despite her more than fifty-percent contribution to the estate. The Supreme Court of Tennessee declared that since she was functionally not “imprisoned,” though technically enslaved, before Emancipation, the statute of limitations barred her from collecting the entire estate.





Cover, cases style and parties of Tempe Downs v. James C. Allen et al. in the Tennessee Supreme Court Case files at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Check out our growing database: http://supreme-court-cases.tennsos.org/



In 1887, the last known record of Tempe places her at 502 Melvina [Malvina] Street (now 10th Avenue) between Gleaves and Division Streets. Tempe Downs v. James C. Allen et al., detailed in the Library and Archives historic Supreme Court holdings and Tennessee Reports, spanned from 1868 to 1883 and offers valuable insight into the lives of the Downs, other local persons and places and the legal history of Tennessee. Her story illustrates the strength and persistence of enslaved and free black men and women to build their lives in Tennessee despite state-sanctioned slavery and oppression.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Black Combat Units of World War I

By Allison Griffey

During World War I, options were limited for black men who enlisted or were conscripted into the military. The Army was segregated; only white men were allowed to serve in the Marines; and the Navy and Coast Guard offered only low level, unskilled positions to black men. The majority of African American men in the military served in non-combat positions such as stevedores, and some of these men were regularly exposed to the dangers of the front lines despite the fact that they were unarmed.

“Our Colored Heroes” was published in 1918 to celebrate the bravery of Sgt. Henry Johnson and Pvt. Needham Roberts of the 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division who defended themselves against at least 12 German soldiers during a raid. Sgt. Johnson managed to defend himself and save Pvt. Roberts using hand-to-hand combat and a knife and saved both men from becoming prisoners of war. Sgt. Johnson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for this courageous act in 2015.
Source: http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15138coll18/id/2332/rec/1


The only combat divisions for black men at the time were the 92nd and 93rd Divisions. The 92nd Division, also known as the “Buffalo Soldiers Division,” was composed of drafted men from all over the United States. Most of the men in the 93rd Division were members of National Guard units in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts New York, Ohio and Tennessee or men drafted from South Carolina.

Service abstract of Pvt. John Tender of Union City, TN. He was a member of Co D, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division was severely wounded in action around October 20, 1918. The men of the 369th Infantry Regiment are famously known as the “Harlem Hellfighters” because the majority of the men in this regiment came from the militarized New York National Guard 15th New York Infantry Regiment.
Source: http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15138coll38/id/6026/show/5991/rec/7


Black men in these combat divisions, like Sgt. Henry Johnson and Pvt. Needham Roberts of the 93rd Division, were initially celebrated for their heroic feats, but their fame faded quickly. A century later, these men are two of the most famous servicemen to fight in World War I. At this time, only two African American men have been awarded the Medal of Honor for their World War I service: Cpl. Freddie Stowers and Sgt. Henry Johnson, both of the 93rd Division. There are doubtless many other black servicemen whose stories of bravery are waiting to be told.

Photograph from the Gold Star Record of Pvt. Jim Granberry of Mt. Pleasant, TN. He was a member of Co L, 368th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Division was killed in action on September 29, 1918, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Due to strictly enforced segregation during training and military official rivalries, the 92nd Division was given little to prepare them for their role in this offensive, especially the men of the 368th Infantry Regiment.
Source: http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15138coll26/id/4860/rec/2


The Library and Archives holds gold star records for black servicemen who died during the war, as well as service abstracts for black Tennesseans who served during the war.



The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Obion River Regional Library Hosts 2018 Legislative Day

Representatives from nine West Tennessee counties gathered in Martin Feb. 2 to discuss a range of issues affecting the state’s public libraries. The event was organized by the Obion River Regional Library, which is part of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Attendees included Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson) as well as many county and city mayors from across the region.

The meeting included a briefing by Tennessee State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill about the need for the continuation of state dollars for the completion of a new Library and Archives building in Nashville. The modern facility will be co-located with the Tennessee State Museum on the Bicentennial Mall creating synergies for visitors and school groups.

“I think this was a very productive meeting. Each year, the Tennessee Library Association hosts Library Legislative Day in Nashville while the General Assembly is in session. This year’s event is scheduled for March 14. While Library Legislative Day helps secure important library support from the state, most public library funding comes from counties and cities,” Sherrill said. “Holding events like these in the communities served by our local libraries get to the heart of what makes libraries important anchor institutions. I hope everyone who attended this event took away some useful information.”

The meeting also included a discussion of the importance of providing broadband internet access at libraries and the funding requirements city and county governments must meet in order to keep their libraries in compliance with state standards. The “Return on Investment” for each library was also highlighted as just one means of assessing the impact of public libraries on the communities they serve.

Photo Lineup - 2018 Library Legislative Breakfast


Benton County -- Left to right: Don Farmer, Chairman, Obion River Regional Library Board; Mary Lou Marks, Benton County Library Board; Alvin Smothers, Benton County Library Board; Senator Ed Jackson, District 27; Chuck Sherrill, Tennessee State Librarian & Archivist.

Carroll County -- Back row left to right: Don Farmer, Chairman, Obion River Regional Library Board; Jean Alexander, Director, McKenzie Memorial Library; Reggie Lawrence, Obion River Regional Library Board; Senator Ed Jackson, District 27; Chuck Sherrill, Tennessee State Librarian & Archivist. Front row left to right: Beverly Miller, McKenzie Memorial Library; Nikki Cunningham, Director, Carroll County Public Library; Mona Batchelor, Obion River Regional Library Board.

Dyer County -- Left to right: Robert Ell Hurt, Obion River Regional Library Board; Don Farmer, Chairman, Obion River Regional Library Board; Sylvia Palmer, Obion River Regional Library Board; Kathryn McBride, Director, McIver’s Grant Public Library; Lee Weakley, President, McIver’s Grant Public Library Board; Senator Ed Jackson, District 27; Chuck Sherrill, Tennessee State Librarian & Archivist.
 
Gibson County -- Back row left to right: Don Farmer, Chairman, Obion River Regional Library Board; Lindsey Ingram, Director, Gibson County Memorial Library; Dr. Beverly Youree, Obion River Regional Library Board; Senator Ed Jackson, District 27; Chuck Sherrill, Tennessee State Librarian & Archivist. Front row left to right: Kay Pounds, President, Gibson County Memorial Library Board; Missy Blakely, Director, Mildred G. Fields Memorial Library; Alderwoman Tammy Wade, Milan.

Henry County -- Left to right: Don Farmer, Chairman, Obion River Regional Library Board; Mayor Brent Greer, Paris; Connie McSwain, Director, W.G. Rhea Public Library; Susan Pemberton, Obion River Regional Library Board; Senator Ed Jackson, District 27; Chuck Sherrill, Tennessee State Librarian & Archivist.

Lake County -- Left to right: Don Farmer, Chairman, Obion River Regional Library Board; Dr. Robert Shull, Obion River Regional Library Board; Senator Ed Jackson, District 27; Mayor Denny Johnson, Lake County; Chuck Sherrill, Tennessee State Librarian & Archivist.
 
Obion County -- Back row left to right: David Searcy, Obion County Public Library Board; Mayor Benny McGuire, Obion County; Senator Ed Jackson, District 27; Chuck Sherrill, Tennessee State Librarian & Archivist.

Front row left to right: Don Farmer, Chairman, Obion River Regional Library Board; Ellarine Moses, Obion River Regional Library Board; Carolina Conner, Assistant Director, Obion County Public Library; LeEllen Smith, Obion County Public Library Board; Michele Barnes, Director, Obion County Public Library; Mike Cox, Obion River Regional Library Board.

Weakley County -- Back row left to right: Deena Smith, Director, Sharon Public Library; Joyce Haworth, Sharon Public Library Board; Jerry Swaim, Dr. Nathan Porter Memorial Library Board; Senator Ed Jackson, District 27; Chuck Sherrill, Tennessee State Librarian & Archivist.

Middle row left to right: Don Farmer, Chairman, Obion River Regional Library Board; Mary Ellen Harris, Sharon Public Library Board; Faye Kendall, Sharon Public Library Board; Lynn Alexander, C.E. Weldon Public Library Board; Mayor Cindy McAdams, Greenfield; The Honorable Tommy Moore, Obion River Regional Library Board; David McAlpin, Ned R. McWherter Weakley County Public Library Board; Jim Phelps, Gleason Public Library Board.

Front Row left to right: Nancy Hinds, Obion River Regional Library Board; Candy McAdams, Director, Ned R. McWherter Weakley County Public Library Board; Mike Rea, C.E. Weldon Public Library Board; Judy Paschall, Director, Gleason Public Library Board; Mayor Diane Poole, Gleason; Patsy Ezell, Gleason Public Library.
 
Library Directors -- Back row left to right: Don Farmer, Chairman, Obion River Regional Library; Deena Smith, Sharon Public Library; Candy McAdams, Ned R. McWherter Weakley County Public Library; Lindsey Ingram, Gibson County Memorial Library; Senator Ed Jackson, District 27; Chuck Sherrill, Tennessee State Librarian & Archivist; Michele Barnes, Obion County Public Library.

Front row left to right: Kathryn McBride, McIver’s Grant Public Library; Jean Alexander, McKenzie Memorial Library; Connie McSwain, W.G. Rhea Public Library; Missy Blakely, Mildred G. Fields Memorial Library; Nikki Cunningham, Carroll County Public Library.
 
Obion River Regional Board -- Back row left to right: Don Farmer, Chairman, Obion River Regional Library; Alvin Smothers, Benton County; Robert Ell Hurt, Dyer County; Reggie Lawrence, Carroll County; Dr. Beverly Youree, Gibson County; Senator Ed Jackson; Chuck Sherrill, Tennessee State Librarian & Archivist; The Honorable Tommy Moore, Weakley County; Dr. Robert Shull, Lake County; Sylvia Palmer, Dyer County; Mike Cox, Obion County.

Front row: Nancy Hinds, Weakley County; Mona Batchelor, Carroll County; Mary Lou Marks, Benton County; Susan Pemberton, Henry County; Ellarine Moses, Obion County; Mary Carpenter, Director, Obion River Regional Library.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Friday, February 2, 2018

Tennessee State Legislative Records shed historical light on Reconstruction

By Caleb Knies

The U.S.’ Reconstruction Era following the Civil War (1860-1865) is a historical quandary; black Americans experienced freedom from enslavement, opportunities for economic and social growth, but white insecurity over this freedom saw the development of de facto and de jure Jim Crowism, creation of the KKK and start of a new chapter in the nation’s painful and complicated race relations. So many opportunities opened and explored, yet so much violence and hate; it is easy to understand why there is much debate over this important, but melancholy era in American history. The social and cultural atmosphere of the era was abuzz with excitement tinged with fears and memories of violence, and at the center of it all, at least for a while, was Tennessee’s General Assembly.

Horace H. Harrison used this ticket to vote for the abolition of slavery Feb. 22, 1865. A handwritten note on the back reads: "Copy of a ticket I voted on the 22nd of Febry 1865 to ratify the amendment to the state constitution abolishing slavery in the State of Tennessee. Horace H. Harrison."
Joseph Branch O’Bryan Papers, Tennessee State Library and Archives


After abolishing slavery, by adopting the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, Tennessee’s state legislature set the stage, both locally and nationally, for the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War. State Congressional sessions are quite common-place, yet few maintain the historical gravity of Tennessee’s 34th General Assembly. To begin there are two distinct 34th General Assemblies in Tennessee, the 34th Assembly under Confederate rule (1861-1862) and another one, stemming from the first postwar elections in 1865, under Union control.

J. C. Buttre engraving of Governor William G. Brownlow, Governor of Tennessee 1865-1869.
Photograph Collection, Tennessee State Library and Archives


Governor Brownlow called multiple special sessions from 1866-1867, one in July 1866 to ratify the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution making Tennessee eligible for readmittance to the Union, well before the rest of the former Confederate states. The 14th Amendment redefined citizenship, included the Equal Protection Clause - that no state shall deny equal protection of the laws to its citizens, applied the Due Process Clause to states - granting equal legal process to all citizens, and included a now-dormant Privileges or Immunities Clause - preventing states from making and enforcing laws which abridge the privileges and/or immunities of citizens of the United States. However, issues arose when so few Representatives showed up that quorum was not reached and the Senate adjourned until attendance minimums were met. It also helped that before adjourning, the Senate gave the OK to Governor Brownlow to issue arrest warrants for absent Representatives. After reaching a quorum, the General Assembly passed the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and dismissed July 24, 1866; just in time to be recognized by the federal Congressional session which opened July 26, 1866.

Excerpt from House Bill 138, June 5, 1865: A bill to limit the elective franchise.
Record Group 60, Tennessee State Legislative Records, Tennessee State Library and Archives



 Another significant issue facing Tennessee’s 34th Union General Assembly was the matter of dismantling the Confederate political machinery, namely through the passage of franchise law amendments, attempts to “grant voting privileges to some and remove it from others.” While the wording is vague, it seems the intent of the General Assembly was to grant black male Tennesseans the right to vote, while denying the voting privileges of those who supported and fought for the Confederate States of America. There are two-years of materials in our Legislative Records Collection (known as RG60) from this state legislature concerning the right to vote - known as the elective franchise. The first, a bill from the 34th Union Assembly in 1865 which limited the vote to loyal citizens; to the last, a resolution in 1867 still tweaking the verbiage of the new voting laws. Toward the end of the third session, a four-part resolution was passed that faced little challenge in remaining weeks. House Joint Resolution 349 took a four-step approach to ensuring black males were allowed to vote and hold office in Tennessee. HJR349 eliminated the word “white” from the voting sections and changed other discriminatory sections of the state constitution, struck the state’s Franchise Law, and forced the refinement and publication of the new Constitution, this one featuring voting rights for African-American men, two years before federal Franchise Laws.

An illustration from the Nov. 16, 1867, edition of Harper’s Weekly depicting a queue of African-American men waiting to cast their vote while the first man is voting.
Manuscripts Oversize Files, Tennessee State Library and Archives


Foreshadowing some of the violence that would continue well-after Reconstruction, there was a murder during the winter break of the 34th Assembly. Hon. Dr. Almon Case, Senator from Obion Co., was shot in the road outside of his home in the middle of January 1867. Still grieving the murder of his son a few days prior, Case was shot and killed by Frank Ferris, Confederate loyalist. Newspapers of the day highlighted the growing split between Unionists and those still loyal to the Confederate cause; the Nashville Press & Times focused on Cases’ Unionist reputation as motivation for murder, while the Conservative (i.e., Confederate-loyal) Memphis Daily Avalanche cited Farris’ motivation was retaliation for the death of his brother during the war. Either way, it was clear, the emotions, pain, and violence of the war would continue. Ironically, before his death, Dr. Case pushed the state for universal amnesty and enfranchisement and had helped the Ferris family before the war.

Senate Resolution 20, Jan. 24, 1867: “we have heard with deep regret of the untimely death of the Hon. Almon Case, a Member of this Body, Therefore Be it Resolved by the Senate that a Committee of three be appointed by the Speaker of the Senate to draft Suitable Resolutions expressive of our high regard for the Deceased and Sympathy with his family.”
Record Group 60, Tennessee State Legislative Records, Tennessee State Library and Archives


Rarely does one session of a state Congress get to handle so many hot-button topics, but when the impetus is to reunite a nation and reorganize a state, there are no topics too controversial or too challenging to be faced. The whole focus of Tennessee’s 34th General Assembly was to re-establish a functional, working government that sought to create freedoms for its people. If you are interested in researching legislation from the 34th General Assembly, check out our online index here: http://tnsos.net/TSLA/rg60/



The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett