The Durham DA has dropped all charges for the remaining vandals who pulled down a Confederate statue.

District Attorney Roger Echols did not take questions after a terse statement in which he essentially said it did not make sense to pursue charges against the remaining suspects given that District Court Judge Frederick S. Battaglia Jr. on Monday found one suspect not guilty and dismissed charges against two others.

“I do believe the evidence supported the misdemeanor charges, and we proceeded on those charges,” Echols said. “Acts of vandalism, regardless of noble intent, are still violations of law.”

But Echols added that it would not be productive to pursue charges against the remaining five defendants given that prosecutors’ evidence for them was similar to that presented during Monday’s trials. The remaining defendants had been scheduled to return to court in April for their day in court.

“For my office to continue to take these cases to trial based on the same evidence would be a misuse of state resources,” Echols said. “For that reason, I will dismiss the remaining charges against the remaining defendants.”

On Monday, Battaglia dismissed charges against Dante Emmanuel Strobino, 35, and Peter Hull Gilbert, 39, saying prosecutors had not proven that they were among those involved in knocking the statue over. Another defendant, Raul Jimenez, was acquitted after a trial that lasted several hours and stretched into the evening.

Not unexpected but surprising, especially given that the woman who climbed the statue, Takiyah Thompson, was readily identifiable and has admitted it. Unfortunately, this leads to a culture of impunity and will simply encourage more vandalism. The statue was not of some Confederate dignitary but of an anonymous Confederate soldier.

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Cotton Pickin’ and Black Geography

by Fred Ray on February 18, 2018 · 0 comments

Two recent articles are worth a look, one on the changing geography of Black America and another on how mechanization took over cotton farming.

Mona Chalabi maps black populations in the US for the last 118 years, but unfortunately does not go back to the 1850s. However, the distribution in 1900 was probably not that different. The animated gif will give you an idea of what happened i.e. the gradual outmigration from the South, accelerating in the 1940s and 50s as African-Americans went North and West in search of jobs and opportunities. With the conquest of tropical maladies like Yellow Fever and hookworm, and the widespread introduction of air conditioning in the 50s, there was a substantial white migration to what had become “The Sun Belt.”

Chalabi has a more detailed look at the numbers here.

Virginia Postrel takes a look at one of those unheralded things that changed the South, mechanized cotton picking. Most of us have heard how the cotton gin changed the game in the 1850s by allowing the mechanized extraction of seeds from the cotton boll, vastly increasing cotton production. The actual picking, however, still had to be done by hand and required a large labor force.

Hoeing weeds and picking cotton is brutally hard work, and in the American South an oppressive racial caste system kept many black laborers tied to the land. Mechanized cotton harvesting played a major role in breaking that system.

The most adaptable farmworkers moved on to better lives, as exemplified by Dorothy Ngongang, the retired Charlotte schoolteacher whose extended family recently bought the land on which her parents were sharecroppers. As children, she and her nine siblings had to leave school for months at a time to work in the fields. “They are on the land where they used to pick cotton,” her son Decker, whose tweets about the purchase went viral, told the Washington Post. “I recognize the significance of that, they recognize the significance of that.”

Share cropping was oppressive to both black and white, and kept many people bound in a system of debt peonage that went on for generations. Mechanization in this case played a large part in ending that system.

Update: The city of Elk Grove, California, has in effect banned a Revolutionary War re-enactment because of their gun laws.

The reenactment was to include firing black powder muskets as a part of the history lesson, but the group was told that’s against the rules.

According to a city law which says you cannot “Use, maintain, possess, fire, or discharge any firearm.”

“There’s no firing guns in a park, but there’s exceptions for each one of the ordinances,” which he adds the exceptions have been made in the past and can’t understand why no now.

“They actually asked us if we can use wooden sticks, and can you see 12 men in full regalia and another 12 charging with wooden sticks saying ‘Bang bang!’ It just doesn’t have the same effect,” he said.

Under Federal law black powder muzzle loaders are not considered firearms, but apparently this is no the case in Elk Grove. Silly.




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Short Takes

by Fred Ray February 4, 2018

What is old is new again. Who would have thought that John C. Calhoun, in spite of having his named purged from a school, would be the most influential thinker in the liberal West? Yet nullification (okay, they call it resistance) and even secession (Calexit) are the issues of the day. It even extends to […]

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Finding the Clotilda, America’s Last Slave Ship

by Fred Ray January 27, 2018

Led by a local reporter, archeologists think they may have found the wreck of the Clotilda, the last ship reasonably documented as transporting slaves to North America. What’s left of the ship lies partially buried in mud alongside an island in the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta, a few miles north of the city of Mobile. The […]

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Shooting the Sharps Rifle

by Fred Ray January 17, 2018

The breech-loading Sharps rifle was one of the most advanced firearms used in the war. Although used by infantry and sharpshooters, it was used most extensively by Federal cavalry as a carbine, and was an important factor in their superiority in the second half of the war. Three models figured in the fracas, the 1852 […]

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Historical Cleansing Update

by Fred Ray January 13, 2018

Dollywood has renamed the Dixie Stampede. Now it’s just a Stampede. Dolly says it “streamlines the name of the show, will remove any confusion or concern about it, and will help efforts to bring the show into new cities.” I agree with Knox County mayor Tim Burchell. Well, like everybody else, I love Dolly, and […]

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Some Fun With An Original P56 Enfield

by Fred Ray December 29, 2017

Wonder why the Confederate sharpshooters (and I mean here the light infantry battalions) were so feared? Cap and Ball will show you with an original P56 two-band Enfield rifle, which shoots very well indeed. And, he’s in the correct uniform.

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