COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION (9)

By: Chenjerai Kumanyika
November 18, 2017

One in a series of posts featuring writing, music, and podcasting by HILOBROW friend Chenjerai Kumanyika.

UNCIVIL is a history podcast, hosted by Chenjerai and journalist Jack Hitt, which goes back to the time our divisions turned into a war, and brings us stories left out of the official history. The episode featured here, “The Soldiers” is about this topic: “A woman discovers a secret that the government long tried to keep hidden: a secret about who exactly fought in the Civil War.”

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE.

Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Pvt. Lyons Wakeman. One of the women discussed in this episode of UNCIVIL.

Transcript excerpt:

Chenjerai Kumanyika: Which brings us to this one last woman from the Civil War we learned about who took passing as a white guy to a whole other level. I heard about her from a woman named Yvette Blake, a retired US Army soldier.

Yvette Blake: I’m a reenactor with the 23rd United States Colored Troops. I portray a female portraying a male.

CK: The woman she told us about was named Maria Lewis.

YB: Maria Lewis was a slave in Virginia, she was about 17 years old, and she escaped to the Union Army. And she went and disguised herself as a man and joined the 8th New York Cavalry, which was a white unit.

CK: I just want to make sure you caught that. Maria Lewis escaped from slavery. As a teenager. She put on a uniform, and fought in the Union cavalry for almost two years, as a white man.

YB: She rode a horse and carried a sword and carbine just like a man. And she went by the name of George Harris.

JH: Maria’s plan was to spend only a short time disguised as a man in the Army, to use enlisting as a way to escape to the North and true freedom. But that turned out to be harder than she expected. And then she realized she kicked ass as a soldier. And kinda liked it.

CK: In one battle, her unit took 500 prisoners and captured 17 flags and when a few soldiers were selected to present them to the Secretary of War, George Harris aka Maria Lewis was among them.

CK: For Yvette, learning about Maria changed the way she thought the role of black women in the Civil War.

YB: I mean, I’m just, just just to know that these women existed and did these things. You know, they helped free themselves. And that’s what’s important to me

Jack Hitt: Like all reenactors, Yvette wants us to see the authentic version of the Civil War, only this version includes women like Maria.

YB: I want people to know, I want my grandkids to know these women, who they were.

***

CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE by Significant Objects | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE by Significant Objects | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE AGAIN by Significant Objects | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators

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