I wanted to write this down for some reason. John Ridge, a leader of the Cherokee nation knew that there was no way to stop Indian removal. Though he knew it would mean his death, he signed an agreement with the Jackson administration, providing for 13,800,000 acres of land and $4,500,000 to fund schools for his people. He relocated his family from a location near Chattanooga, Tennessee, to a location near Van Buren, Arkansas (25 miles from where my parents now live). He was murdered in his home by members of his own tribe, in full view of his wife and sons, in 1839, the year photography was invented.
John Ridge senior was politically active and well off— he owned 18 slaves. John Rollin Ridge, his son, had been educated by a missionary woman, Sophia Sawyer, hired by his father. After his father was murdered, John Rollin Ridge decided that he’d had enough of tribal politics and immigrated to Sacramento, California (where my eldest brother died last year). He later became a writer for the California American, a leading newspaper for the “Know-Nothing” Party, a secret nativist organization of the 1850s.
While all this is totally unconnected with my current project, a couple of years ago I did an online edition of the Poems of John Rollin Ridge. I was thinking, as I reviewed my mentor Dr. James Parin’s biography of Ridge, that the rising tide of female school teachers in the early nineteenth century was largely responsible for the tide of activism in the following decades. Without these women educating the future crop of “muckracking” journalists, the nations history would have been far different.
More tangential bits: it was against the law in Georgia to educate slaves. The Cherokees didn’t see any harm in it, so they freely educated their slaves. Oh, and for those who have only seen Native Americans in old Western movies, the delegation responsible for the fat settlement (which was not honored) all wore suits, not loincloths and feathers. It seems interesting to me that these “savages” valued education so highly.
I’m currently knee deep in The House of the Seven Gables by Hawthorne. I’m beginning to think that it should be required reading for all historians— and photographers too. The way that Hawthorne describes the buildings is like an Evans photograph.