‘Forever free,’ with caveats

first_imgScholars from three continents gathered at Harvard recently to parse the Emancipation Proclamation, the earthshaking 1863 executive order from the Lincoln White House that proclaimed all slaves in the rebellious South “forever free.” It helped break the back of the Confederacy, gave the war its moral center, and rejuvenated federal forces starved for new regiments. (By the end of the war, about 180,000 black soldiers had served — 10 percent of the Union army.)But for a century afterward, the proclamation also represented a historical irony: Until the 1960s, arguably, generations of American blacks were re-enslaved socially and economically by a recalcitrant South and a forgetful North.On May 2-4, “Freedom Rising” expanded the celebration of this epic moment 150 years ago. It grappled with the facts of African-American service during the Civil War. It also explored the emotional antecedents of that service in what is now called the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). (Led by Toussaint Louverture, that conflict created the hemisphere’s first black state. It also inspired a cascade of 19th-century slave rebellions.)Among the sponsors of “Freedom Rising” were Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, and the National Park Service’s Boston African American National Historic Site.Stars in the firmament of Civil War scholarship were drawn to the event. Eric Foner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian from Columbia University, delivered “Lincoln, Emancipation, and African-American Soldiers,” the May 2 keynote address, at the Museum of African American History on Joy Street in Boston.The African Meeting House there, built in 1806, was the site of the founding of the New England Anti-Slavery Society in 1832. By 1863, it was also the main recruiting site for the storied 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, which was among the first black units assembled during the Civil War.On May 3, Yale University’s David Blight delivered remarks at a public symposium. Blight’s “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory” (2001) is regarded as a classic study of the war’s aftermath — which included, he wrote, “the attempted erasure of emancipation from the national narrative.”A detail of an image of Nonice Wilkinson, who was a soldier in the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). The revolution inspired a cascade of 19th-century slave rebellions. Courtesy of Houghton Library/Harvard UniversityThe symposium filled the Radcliffe Gymnasium nearly to capacity. Its points of focus: the impact of Lincoln’s proclamation on the rest of the world (dramatic) and the recruitment of black soldiers during the war (triumphal and — given the collapse of Reconstruction — poignant).On the conference’s final day, actor Danny Glover participated in a pageant that was part of “Roots of Liberty: The Haitian Revolution and the American Civil War.” The setting was the Tremont Temple Baptist Church, where the proclamation was first read in Boston.The spirit of the conference will live on in an exhibit, “Boston’s Crusade Against Slavery,” at Houghton Library through Aug. 23. It is the work of students in a two-semester course on Boston and emancipation, taught by John Stauffer, chair of the History of American Civilization Program.Stauffer anchored a conference panel on the art and music of emancipation. Karen C.C. Dalton, editor of the Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive at the Du Bois Institute, looked at three works that expressed the arc of the document itself, from hope for freed slaves, to despair, and back to hope again. A sentimental magazine illustration from 1863 showed the history of slavery. Its violent past ends with the centrality of a happy black household. By 1868, as shown in an illustration by Thomas Nast, a black soldier rests atop a monument, but behind him is a backdrop of violence; by then, Reconstruction was crumbling.Then she showed an 1872 statute of a muscular and triumphant freed slave. It was made in Europe, where the joy of the proclamation still appealed to audiences. But in America by 1873, when the statue was displayed in Philadelphia, the triumphant freed man no longer embodied an appealing sentiment, said Dalton.It took until 1897 for an artistic counterpart of that triumphal European image to appear in the United States, said Dalton: the dedication of the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston Common. The bronze relief sculpture celebrates the 54th Massachusetts, with Shaw on horseback leading a troop of black soldiers. Panelist and Duke University art historian Richard J. Powell called the work, by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, “an anomaly … a shimmering envoy from the fated past.”The relief was radical in its day. It conveyed African-Americans as dignified, soldierly, and strong, in an era when representations of black Americans were starting to sink into the morass of minstrel-show blackface. Powell called the sculpture a “nondenominational American altar piece” that compressed into one work the “alchemy of moral imperative” in American race relations that had gone suddenly absent by 1897.New York University’s Deborah Willis guided the audience through photography that represented blacks in time — and how such images, in the end, gave them a means to “self-emancipation” through dignified portrayals.But first there were representations of American blacks as commodities. One showed a poster advertising a reward of $50 for Dolly, an escaped slave who was “rather good looking … with a fine set of teeth.”A poster featured a $50 reward for Dolly, an escaped slave who was “rather good looking … with a fine set of teeth.”Then came representations of violence, in images intended to make the case for abolition. One ex-slave modeled torture instruments; another showed his bare back, crisscrossed with silvery scars from the lash. Then there were images of triumph, as in a series of before-and-after pictures. One showed a black man in rags, and then in a smart Union army uniform. The images, said Willis, showed “the promise of emancipation through photographs.”Stauffer ended the panel on a musical note, delivering a compressed version of his newest book, due in June: “The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song that Marches On.” It was a song whose easily memorized tune originated as a camp spiritual among black slaves; was revived as “John Brown’s Body,” a Union army marching song popularized by the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Massachusetts Militia; and appeared again as Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” whose lyrics she wrote in November 1861. Her version was said to be Lincoln’s favorite song, said Stauffer — a tune that made him weep and, on one occasion, stand up and shout, “Sing it again!”“Battle Hymn of the Republic” remained popular well beyond the Civil War, and took on the stature of a national anthem. By 1880, said Stauffer, even Southerners had embraced the song as a musical emblem of national reconciliation. It lived far into the future too, he said — “one of the legacies of the abolitionist movement.” Martin Luther King Jr. took it up as a freedom song during the Civil Rights Movement. That was an era, said Stauffer, that some scholars call “second Reconstruction.”Blight, the specialist in how the Civil War is remembered, agreed that the Civil Rights era was a moment of triumph, and that it seemed to right the injustices of the century following the Emancipation Proclamation. But he added a warning, by way of a Ralph Ellison essay. “Even in our greatest moments of triumph … watch out. History is getting ready to come at us again.”A detail from a bronze relief sculpture in the Boston Common that celebrates the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The relief was radical in its day because it conveyed African-Americans as dignified, soldierly, and strong.last_img read more

Vermont General Fund, Education Fund revenues exceed targets, Transportation lags

first_imgThese targets reflect the revised Fiscal Year 2011 Consensus Revenue Forecast approved by the Emergency Board at their January 14, 2011 meeting.  Statutorily, the State is required to revise the Consensus Revenue Forecast two times per year, in January and July; the Emergency Board may schedule interim revisions if deemed necessary.    The consumption taxes both showed above target results for March: Sales & Use Tax receipts of $16.80 million exceeded the monthly target by +$1.03 million (+6.52%); Rooms & Meals Tax receipts of $12.76 million were above target by +$0.73 million (+6.07%).  On a year to date basis, both consumption taxes remain slightly below target: Sales & Use Tax, $165.23 million (-0.15%); Meals & Room Tax, $96.38 million (-0.05%).    Vermont Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding delivered good good news on tax revenues Tuesday as the General Fund and Education Fund both exceed targets for the month of MArch. The Transportation Fund, however, fell below its anticipated mark.   Individual Transportation Fund revenue receipts components for March were: Gasoline Tax, $5.31 million or -3.17% behind target; Diesel Tax, $1.03 million or -33.76% short of target; Motor Vehicle Purchase & Use Tax, $4.04 million or +4.04% above target; Motor Vehicle Fees, $6.75 million or +0.18% ahead of target; and Other Fees, $1.71 million or -11.27% below the monthly target.  The March year to date Transportation Fund revenue results were: Gasoline Tax, $46.35 million or -0.52% short of target, Diesel Tax, $11.24 million or +0.25% above target; Motor Vehicle Purchase & Use Tax, $34.81 million or +1.86% ahead of target; Motor Vehicle Fees, $49.26 million or -0.50% behind target; and Other Fees, $12.89 million or +1.34% above target.  Personal Income Tax (PI) receipts are the largest single state revenue source, and are reported Net-ofPersonal Income Tax refunds.  Net Personal Income Tax is comprised of PI Withholding Tax, PI Estimated Payments, PI Refunds Paid, and PI Other; with PI Withholdings less PI Refunds accounting for more than 60% of the annual net Personal Income Tax receipts.  Strong net PI Receipts for March were recorded at $15.61 million, +$6.29 million or +67.60% ahead of the monthly target of $9.31 million.  Year to date PI receipts were $353.67 million, or +0.42% above target.  Education Fund The ‘non-Property Tax’ Education Fund revenues (which constitute approximately 11.9% of the total Education Fund sources) were released today by Secretary Spaulding.  The non-Property Tax Education Fund receipts for March totaled $11.96 million, or +$0.43 million (+3.70%) ahead of the $11.54 million target for the month.  Year to date Education Fund revenues were $114.57 million or -0.01% behind the year to date target of $114.58 million.    General Fund March is the ninth month of fiscal year (FY) 2011. General Fund revenues totaled $74.87 million for March 2011, and were +$5.98 million or 8.68% above the $68.90 million consensus revenue forecast for the month.  The monthly results closed the February year to date shortfall and pushed March year to date results slightly above target.  March year to date revenues were $813.33 million or +$1.65 million or +0.20% ahead of target.  Compared to the same period for the prior fiscal year, FY 2011 GF results are 8.67% ahead of FY 2010, but remain below the pre-recession FY 2008 results by -2.70%.   ConclusionSecretary Spaulding concluded, ‘Just as the national economy was beginning to brighten, energy prices have begun to climb and the US Congress is cutting the federal budget.  Concerns about the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, and rising energy prices have brought consumer confidence down slightly and could well be a drag on the recovery.  Vermont’s modest unemployment rate reduction and continued positive vehicle sales are offset by another stall in the housing market.’  The Secretary also reported on the results for the Transportation Infrastructure Bond Fund (’TIB’).  TIB Fund Gas receipts for March were $1.41 million or -5.15% below target; year to date receipts of $12.20 million were -1.20% short of target.  TIB Fund Diesel receipts were $0.12 million or -38.00% behind the monthly target; year to date TIB Diesel receipts were $1.34 million or -1.00% short of target.  TIB Fund receipts are noted below the following table:   Secretary Spaulding said, ‘The Transportation Fund overall is still on target, albeit certain components seems a bit erratic; up one month and down the next.’   Secretary Spaulding noted that, ‘We will be watching the individual and corporate tax filing results for the next two critical weeks in the hopes that we will regain some of the below target results in net corporate tax.  Overall, General Fund receipts are just slightly above target; we are hopeful that we will be able to maintain these results through the final quarter of FY 2011.’   Corporate Income Taxes for March are also reported net-of refunds.  The March receipts were disappointing at $13.75 million, or -$1.68 million or -10.90% below the monthly target of $15.43 million.  Year to date Corporate Income Tax receipts of $62.41 million fell below the target by -1.11%.  ‘Net Corporate Income tax performed below expectations for March,’ said Secretary Spaulding.   Of the four corporate tax components, two were above and two were below the targets for March.  The most notable underperformance occurred in the Corporate Paid Returns component, which finished -$6.0 million and -50.41% below the target for the month.  Secretary Spaulding said, ‘It is not a good sign that March has fallen -50.41% short for the month; March is normally the largest single month for Corporate Paid return receipts.’    Transportation FundSecretary Spaulding also reported on the results for the non-dedicated Transportation Fund Revenue for March.  Total non-dedicated Transportation Fund receipts of $18.85 million for the month fell below target by -$0.75 million (-3.81%), against the monthly target of $19.60 million.  The year to date non-dedicated Transportation revenue was $154.56 million versus the target of $154.22 million (+$0.34 million, +0.22%).    The remaining non-major tax components include Insurance, Inheritance & Estate Tax, Real Property Transfer Tax, and ‘Other’ (which includes: Bank Franchise Tax, Telephone Tax, Liquor Tax, Beverage Tax, Fees, and Other Taxes).  The results for the month of March were as follows: Insurance Tax, $7.02 million (+3.06%); Estate Tax, $0.80 million (-25.51%); Property Transfer Tax, $0.52 million (-1.80%); and ‘Other’, $7.61 million (-4.02%).  Year to date results for these categories were: Insurance Tax, $47.49 million (+1.05%); Estate Tax, $20.74 million (+4.57%); Property Transfer Tax, $6.23 million (+7.41%); and ‘Other’, $61.19 million (+2.73%).  ‘Overall, our revenues are basically on target through the first three quarters of FY 11.  It is heartening to see personal income receipts recover nicely in March after two below target months in a row, and to know that General fund revenues are up almost 9% compared to last year.  However, we must be cautious going forward because the run-up in fuel prices, numerous global hotspots, and government spending reductions have the potential to be a drag on continued economic and revenue trends,’ explained Secretary Spaulding.  The individual Education Fund revenue component results for March were: Sales & Use Tax, $8.40 million, or +6.52% ahead of target; Motor Vehicle Purchase & Use Tax, $2.02 million or +4.04%; Lottery Transfer, $1.54 million or -9.69%; and Education Fund Interest, under $0.01 million against a target of $0.01 million (-15.49%).  Year to date results were: Sales & Use Tax, $82.61 million or -0.15%; Motor Vehicle Purchase & Use Tax, $17.41 million or +1.86%; Lottery Transfer, $14.51 million or -1.11%; and Education Fund Interest, $0.04 against a target of $0.08 million (-51.01%).  Source: State of Vermont Agency of Administration. 4.12.2011last_img read more