“Free at last,” Yes: But Blacks were Affluent Well before Then

Blanche Kelso Bruce by Simmie Lee Knox from the United States Senate Website

I thought I would take this Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday to come out of my gratefully self-imposed vacation to talk about Black Americans. As a black American attorney by trade I have a complete understanding as to the benefits that have be conferred upon me by Mr. King Jr. and all the countless others (blacks, whites, &c…) who made such harrowing sacrifices on their behalf, mine, and others to come. However, I have to admit it is also during this day that I get more than annoyed with the lack of education afforded to me and  others in my youth and culturally and socially about what blacks had achieved prior to desegregation. I labor under no illusions of equality absent the ratification of the 13th Amendment and then some. Neither will I fain ignorance of the my cultural ancestors accomplishments prior to Mr. King Jr. For example, Mr. Blanche Kelso Bruce pictured above was an ex-slave turned United States Senator for the State of Mississippi in the late 1800s. While, I was able to learn of these black historical accomplishments early in my 20’s (unfortunately not from my own family or private prep school) the Edwardian Promenade can tell you more about the colored aristocracy or the black elite in america. I do have to say I love the Edwardian Promenade not just for these posts I suggested but also for my love of this time period…so the blog is worth viewing for a number of different reasons. Let me conclude by saying this. In my view Mr. King Jr. did something more than force a nation to pay attention and adhere to the human dignities that were afforded to all , regardless of race. Rather, he showed a people their inherent capabilities to overcome despite their circumstances.



Filed under African American History, MLK day

8 responses to ““Free at last,” Yes: But Blacks were Affluent Well before Then

  1. Hi Danielle,

    Thanks for mentioning my posts! When I began blogging, it was with the intention of focusing on Edwardian Britain, but I slowly began to discover the many, many amazing stories of African-Americans of the period who made things happen despite–or in spite of–Jim Crow and other legalized forms of racism. As a result, I realized that what we’re fed in school: slavery–>Jim Crow–>Rosa Parks/MLK Jr/Civil Rights Act, really shortchanged black history and actually dismisses our contributions to pre-1960s society and worse, our multitude of accomplishments in the face of adversity. Because of my frustration when I see comments such as “black people weren’t there” or “black people didn’t/couldn’t do this” from people of any ethnicity, I make an effort to blog regularly about black life between 1880 and 1915, because there were a lot of awesome people who lived during that time and deserve their time in the spotlight.

    • Danielle Shelton


      I was more then happy to mention your posts. I’m so glad for your site not just for the information regarding black history but also your love the period and Downton Abbey on PBS right now. Keep up the good work. Since finding your blog and you on Twitter, I will be a reoccurring visitor.

  2. Yolanda


    Just discovered your blog and catching up on the many wonderful posts including the incredible review of my friend, Helene’s blog The Luxe Chronicles. I’ve interviewed her twice on my blog and agree 100% with your assessment. I also love this post on the black elite and appreciate being introduced to another incredible blogger Edwardian Promenade.

    As a young girl growing up in Mississippi I can tell you that I was taught the supplemental aspects of black history and learned of the pre-1960s contributions of African Americans through fantastic teachers who wanted their students to have the whole truth, which has led to my continued fascination and study of them. And lastly, on another note, I, too am a fan of Downton Abbey!

    When you have time, please drop by my blog and say hello. You are always welcome!

    • Danielle Shelton


      As you an tell I am way behind on this blog thing lately…as I’m attempting to get another started. So sorry for the late reply. But I’ve started looking at your blog. It’s http://zavvirodaine.com no? It’s bookmarked. I like it a lot!!!

  3. Great post! Check out the book, Black Society by Gerri Major (Geraldyn Hodges-Dismond). A very fascinating read about affluent Blacks in America. The Amazon.com description: Answering questions about black society from the 1700s to the mid 1970s, this chronicle was written from the point of view of a woman who spent 50 years documenting the activities of the often alluded to but largely unknown class of black Americans. It describes the significant roles and contributions of the black upper class within the historical context of the past 200 years of American history. http://www.amazon.com/Black-Society-Gerri-Major/dp/0874850754

    • Danielle Shelton

      Thank you so much for the reference and link. I will check it out! And thank you for visiting.

      • I second the recommendation for Gerri Major’s book. I’d also recommend Stephen Birmingham’s Certain People: America’s Black Elite. Birmingham is white, but he’s built his reputation on writing books about America’s upper classes, and because he pulls no punches on race, colorism, status, etc within the black community of the 1940s-1970s, the book is very eye-opening.

      • Danielle Shelton

        I’ll put this on my list too! I’m so fortunate to get such good recommendations from other bloggers and readers. The power of blogging!!!!

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