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GUEST,Azizi Folklore: The KEMP Family Minstrels from Maine (19) RE: Folklore: The KEMP Family Minstrels from Maine 18 Jul 11

As a result of some online research, I found two posts about George Washington Kemp in Maine which I will re-post here in their entirety (as far as references to George Washington Kemp goes). I do so to help ensure that those posts will be preserved.

Note: the Southern Heritage website from which these excerpts are taken is very supportive of the (US civil war confederacy.
Northern Racism and Abolitionist Legends

From: _Bernha-@att.net_ (

"General Otis O. Howard was a Leeds, Maine abolitionist who ended the war as the head of the infamous Freedmen's Bureau. His mother, who remarried a man named Gilmore, did not hold the same antislavery convictions as her son. Like many Northern officers during the war, Howard had black contraband servants, one named Washington Kemp, and the story below reminds one of the "devout Puritans" trying to make the poor Africans on the Amistad into properly dressed and fed New Englanders while awaiting the verdict of the trial. While the Puritans were not looking, the Africans shed the strange clothing to appear more like they wished. Howard tried to fit Kemp into a mold of New England farming which he was not suited for, and must have forgotten the New England (and his mother's) brand of racism that could sustain the profitable old slave trade, but not want black residents living among them.

The second quote shows the lack of respect for ex-slaves displayed by Northern soldiers, and that Howard was mindful of his postwar antislavery credentials as were Northern abolitionists who preened themselves for higher office by exaggerating their role in the legendary "underground railroad." As author Larry Gara (The Liberty Line, 1961, page 18) points out, "the great bulk of material on the underground railroad appeared after the war. In reminiscences and histories, elderly abolitionists told of the institution and their part in it. They tended to enlarge its scope and exaggerate its importance, and thus contributed much to one of America's best known but least examined legends."

Howard was no different in his Autobiography."

[same link as given above]

Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402
_www.CFHI.net_ (

Northern Racism and Abolitionist Legends:

"The Howard brothers' mother was once again a widow. Alone she had moved back to their father's old farm and was trying to manage it with the help of hired hands. Otis, whose career had carried him so far away from her that they had little to say and seldom wrote to each other, sent (Washington) Kemp to Leeds in the spring of 1865. He was to learn how to manage the farm, and Mrs. Gilmore would in time move from Leeds to be with one of her sons. (Otis' brother) Charles arranged for the mortgage on the farm to be amended so that the farm could be rented to "Wash"....(and) would begin buying it over a long period of time. If all worked out, a freedman would own the Howard homestead.

But Eliza Gilmore neither shared Otis' desire to see Kemp become a freeholder nor understood the symbolic worth of his succeeding in the opportunity Howard had given him. She did not treat Wash as a prospective equal of an Otis or a Howard....She complained of his incompetence and rudeness and wanted him to leave. She deprived Howard of the chance to point to his own family and Washington Kemp as a New England example to follow. The Kemps...left the Howard farm and bought a much simpler farm (possibly with the General's help) and kept a cow, a horse and some chickens. He became a subsistence farmer, but it was as a minstrel...that Washington Kemp and his daughters toured county fairs in Maine as "The Kemp Family from the Old Sunny South."

"Otis" mentioned in this post is General Oliver Otis Howard.

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