There were numerous Freedmen's Aid Societies formed at various times during the Civil War. By 1869 it was estimated that over 9,000 teachers, mostly from the North, were serving in freedmen's schools in the South funded by these societies. These groups also worked closely with the Congressionally established Freedmen's Bureau (1865-1872). Some Freedmen's Aid Societies lasted only a few years. Others lasted much longer.
The Freedmen's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1866. The Society provided teachers and support in the establishment of schools and colleges for former slaves in the South. The Society also worked toward the educational training of young men for the ministry. In an article appearing in the New York Times dated November 7, 1885 marking the eighteenth anniversary of the founding of the Society, Bishop W.F. Mallalieu of New Orleans stated "The curse of that sum of all villainies, slavery, would remain a curse for generations, and that the Nation seemed indifferent to the consequences". This Society remained in existence until 1920 when it was reorganized into a new church entity.
The button shown here is from about 1910, depicts Abraham Lincoln, and was given to contributors to the Society as a token of thanks.
On March 25, 1931 nine black teenagers allegedly gang raped two white girls on a freight train of the Southern Railroad. Although the trial of The Scottsboro (Alabama) Boys began within just two weeks after their arrest, it would be almost two decades of additional trials, appeals, and confinement before the last of the Scottsboro Boys was finally paroled or pardoned. Oddly enough, it was not the NAACP, but rather the Communist Party which came to the defense of the boys. This was probably because rape was a very serious matter and if the boys were guilty the NAACP's reputation could be damaged. As for the Communists, they saw this as a way to garner support among southern blacks. The "Scottsboro Boys" characterize much of the legal injustices prevalent in the South during this period. The red "Save the Scottsboro Boys" button was issued by the International Labor Defense (ILD), which was the legal division of the Communist Party and which led the legal defense of the teenagers. The other button was given to contributors to their defense fund and was sponsored by the "Scottsboro United Front Defense." Both buttons are from the early to mid-1930s.
The National Negro Congress (NNC) was founded in 1935 at Howard University. It held its first national conference in Chicago on February 14, 1936 with over 800 delegates in attendance. The stated purpose at that time was to pressure the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt on issues pertaining to civil rights and labor. The Congress also worked against discrimination in housing and employment and helped in the union organization of labor in Chicago area steel mills and packing houses. The NNC had been initially organized in part by the Communist Party. With the ending of World War II and the coming of the Cold War, it would eventually disband in the late 1940s. The NNC button depicted here is from the 1936 meeting and depicts Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), a former slave born in Talbot County, Maryland who became an abolitionist, newspaper publisher (The North Star), and orator.
The National Negro Congress (NNC), founded in 1935, issued the small “Death Blow To Jim Crow” button shown here. One of its original goals was to pressure the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt on issues pertaining to civil rights and labor. The Congress also worked against discrimination in housing and employment and helped in the union organization of labor in Chicago area steel mills and packing houses. Initially organized in part by the Communist Party, the NNC would with the end of World War II and the coming of the Cold War eventually disband in the late 1940s, about 1948. The “Jim Crow” button depicted here pertains to the name given to laws throughout the country that had as their purpose the continued segregation of public schools, restrooms, restaurants, transportation, and other public venues. Though enacted under the premise of “separate but equal” these laws were in reality aimed at keeping blacks as second-class citizens and providing them with inferior facilities and resources. Enacted primarily between the years 1876 and the early sixties, these laws eventually ended with the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Decision (basically said state laws establishing “separate but equal” schools for black and white students were unequal), 1964 Civil Rights Act, and Voting Rights Act of 1965. The name, “Jim Crow”, comes from an 1828 song entitled, “Jump Jim Crow”, that was sung by a white entertainer in blackface.
During the latter part of the Nineteenth Century and into the early part of the Twentieth African-Americans began to organize and assert their right to teach in public schools. Pursuant to this many state "colored teachers" professional associations were formed. One of the earliest of these was in Maryland in 1886. The Tennessee State Association of Teachers in Colored Schools, represented by the button on this page, was founded in 1923 on the campus of the Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State Normal School for Negroes. It would not be until 1966 that this "colored" teachers organization merged with its white counterpart. Tennessee A&I had opened in 1912, and it educated and trained students for teacher certification. Located in Nashville, it became Tennessee State University in 1968.
The National Association of Colored Teachers was founded in Nashville, Tennessee in 1904. In 1907 the name was changed to the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools. This group later became known as the American Teachers Association and merged with the National Education Association (NEA) in 1966.
In 1915, Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson (1875-1950) founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). Woodson was an educator and teacher who is considered to be the, "Father of Black History". In 1926 he established the first Negro History Week. In the early 1970's the ASNLH officially changed its name to the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH) and in 1976 officially transformed Negro History Week to Black History Month. Dr. Woodson managed ASALH operations from his home in Washington, DC until the day he died, and the organization he founded exists today to promote black history and education. This 1961 ASNLH buttons depicts Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, and Harriet Tubman (circa 1820-1913) the former slave from Dorchester County, Maryland who would go on to lead almost 300 slaves north to freedom via the Underground Railroad.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. “Founding Sponsor” lapel pin was given out to those who made a donation to the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. The memorial seeks to commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968). The memorial was officially dedicated on October 16, 2011.
Buttons from the collection of Albert and Angela Feldstein
Text from over forty years of notes, newspaper and magazine clippings, flyers, and other sources associated with the collecting of buttons and used in the research of the 2003 political history poster entitled, "Buttons of the Cause, 1960-2003: The Events, The People, The Organizations, The Issues".
Allegany County, Maryland
African Americans, History; Allegany County (Md.), History.
Allegany County (Md.), 1890-2008