Abstract

The latter decades of the nineteenth century witnessed the rise of historic sites as vacation and excursion destinations. Places such as Gettysburg and Mount Vernon, as other scholars have shown, welcomed steady streams of visitors throughout the summer months. At Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, African Americans similarly sought to fashion their own recreational and commemorative destination befitting a "rising race." Wealthy African Americans from nearby Baltimore and Washington purchased summer cottages in the sleepy village where John Brown waged his heroic assault on slavery. Excursion parties boarded the Baltimore & Ohio railroad to visit the famed federal armory where Brown made his last stand and picnic along the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers' shore. Storer College, an African American Normal School founded after the war, welcomed summer boarders to its dormitories. But hopes of transforming the war-torn town into a "Mecca of the colored American citizen" contended with local whites hostile to the growing numbers of black visitors and African Americans' ambivalence to the role of leisure in the fight for civil rights. As this essay shows, the politics of leisure bore more than an incidental relationship to growing class stratification among African Americans, and broader debates over the struggle against Jim Crow.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 57-77
Launched on MUSE
2008-09-17
Open Access
No
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