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Black Facts for May 31st

Literature Facts

1910 - The Formation of the Union of South Africa

The politicking behind the scenes for the formation of the Union of South Africa allowed the foundations of apartheid to be laid. On May 31, 1910, the Union of South Africa was formed under British dominion. It was exactly eight years after the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging, which had brought the Second Anglo-Boer War to an end. 

Each of the four unified states was allowed to keep its existing franchise qualifications, and Cape Colony was the only one which permitted voting by (property owning) non-whites.

While is it argued that Britain hoped that the "non-racial" franchise contained in the Constitution courtesy of the Cape would eventually be extended to the whole of the Union, it is hardly likely that this was truly believed possible. A delegation of white and black liberals traveled to London, under the leadership of the former Cape prime minister William Schreiner, to protest against the color bar enshrined in the new constitution.

The British government was far more interested in creating a unified country within its Empire; one which could support and defend itself. A union, rather than a federalized country, was more agreeable to the Afrikaner electorate since it would give the country a greater freedom from Britain. Louis Botha and Jan Christiaan Smuts, both highly influential within the Afrikaner community, were closely involved in the development of the new constitution.

It was necessary to have Afrikaner and English working together, especially following the slightly acrimonious end to the war, and the satisfactory compromise had taken the last eight years to reach. Written into the new constitution, however, was a requirement that a two-thirds majority of Parliament would be necessary to make any changes.

The British High Commission Territories of Basutoland (now Lesotho), Bechuanaland (now Botswana), and Swaziland were excluded from the Union precisely because the British government was worried about the status of the indigenous populations under the new constitution. It was hoped that, at

1883 - Rapier, James Thomas (1837-1883)

James Thomas Rapier was a Republican representative from the state of Alabama elected to the 43rd United States Congress. Rapier was born on November 13, 1837 in Florence, Alabama and attended high school in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1856 at the age of 19 he traveled to attend the King School in Buxton, Ontario, Canada, an experimental black community. There, along with his education he experienced a religious conversion and decided to devote his life to helping southern blacks. Rapier also attended the University of Glasgow and Franklin College in Nashville before receiving a teaching certificate in 1863.

Rapier moved to Maury County, Tennessee and in 1865 started campaigning for African American suffrage. He delivered the keynote address at the Tennessee Negro Suffrage Convention in Nashville that same year. When the movement saw no success he took up cotton farming in his home town of Florence, Alabama and became successful.

After the U.S. Congress passed the Reconstruction Acts in 1867, Rapier was elected a delegate to the first Republican state convention in Montgomery, Alabama and helped draft the Party’s platform. Rapier adopted a moderate political stance, which earned him respect from many Republicans. To some white southern Democrats, however, his engagement in politics at all was considered unacceptable.  In 1868 Rapier was driven from his home by the Ku Klux Klan and remained in seclusion for almost a year.

In 1870 he resumed his public life when he became the Republican nominee to be Secretary of State in Alabama.  Rapier was the first African American to run for statewide office, but was defeated. In 1871 he was appointed Assessor of Internal Revenue in the Montgomery district.

Rapier meanwhile sought to build a political base of support.  He joined the emerging black labor union movement and attended three national Negro Labor Conventions between 1869 and 1872. In 1870 he was elected vice president of the National Negro Labor Union and started the Southern branch of the NNLU in Alabama –

1902 - Pretoria, South Africa (1855- )

Pretoria, home to the Union Buildings where the office of the President is located, is one of three capital cities in South Africa.  The others are Cape Town and Bloemfontein. The city was first called Pretoriusdorp after Voortrekker (Afrikaans for “pioneer”) leader Andries Pretorius, though it was later changed to its current form. Its nickname is “Jacaranda City” thanks to the multitude of the purple-flowering trees of the same name within its borders.  The city’s population in 2011 was over 2.9 million people, 42% of whom are black African, 1.9% Indian/Asian, 2.5% mixed, 52.5% white, and 1.2% from other heritages.

Pretoria lies in the Gauteng province on the eastern side of the country and serves as the executive branch and de facto national capital. It is home to the numerous embassies, second only to Washington, D.C. It’s also considered the center of the South African National Defence Force with many branches of the S.A. military within its city boundaries. Church Street is the largest street in Pretoria, as well as its main thoroughfare. It also has the distinction of being one of the longest straight streets in the world.

Home to many important South African cultural, political, and educational institutions including the South African State Theatre, The Oliver Tambo Building (headquarters to The Department of International Relations), and the University of Pretoria and University of South Africa.  It is also home to the country’s largest research and development institution, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.  Additionally Pretoria is a hub for industry and commercial interests. Its main industries are iron and steel works, copper casting, and the manufacture of automobiles, railway carriages, and heavy machinery.

Pretoria has been a Boer stronghold for over 160 years though it was originally populated by the Sotho and Ndebele peoples. The Matabele people arrived around 1820 and the three groups struggled among themselves to control the region.  In 1837 Voortrekkers (Boers) arrived and

1911 - The Quest for Land and Freedom on Canada's Western Prairies: Black Oklahomans in Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1905-1912

Many Canadians feel pride about their country’s role in the operation of the Underground Railroad, a well known part of racial history in North America. The secret anti-slavery network helped nearly fifteen thousand African Americans flee their bondage in the United States for freedom in Eastern Canada.

A lesser known African American migration occurred in the early decades of the 20th century, from Oklahoma to the Canadian prairies. During this period of time approximately one thousand black men, women and children attempted to build new lives for themselves in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Although black settlers actually came to Alberta and Saskatchewan in relatively small numbers, their history in the provinces is a unique and courageous one.

Between 1897 and 1911, Clifford Sifton, Canadian Minister of the Interior, actively promoted immigration to Western Canada. When he offered land to prospective immigrants from Europe and the United States, African Americans from Oklahoma enthusiastically responded. Sifton advertised that an immigrant farmer would be given title to a quarter section of land (160 acres) for just $10, if he stayed on the land for three years and improved it by clearing, planting and building a house. This offer was a powerful incentive for the Oklahoma blacks, who at the time were suffering racial discriminatory policies in Oklahoma and were often unable to purchase farms.

This chronicle of migration to Western Canada begins in the years following the Civil War, when Southern whites stepped up their campaign of brutality against newly freed blacks. Desperate to flee the south many African Americans headed west to the new Indian Territory, an area that would later become the State of Oklahoma. All Black towns grew in Indian Territory when the former slaves settled together to live free from the prejudices and brutality they had suffered in the South. All-black settlements also offered the advantage of being able to depend on neighbours for assistance and the beginning of economic advancement,

The Green Book Pt I