Freedom Summit: Spartanburg’s Heritage 150 Years Ago and Today

September 14, 2015 at 10:22 am
Dr. Andrew Myers

Dr. Andrew Myers

The University of South Carolina Upstate and Spartanburg County Public Libraries present a two-day event featuring a panel discussion and lecture by John W. Franklin, senior manager, Office of the Deputy Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The Freedom Summit was made possible in part by the research of Dr. Andrew Myers, professor of American Studies and History at USC Upstate, who has been working on a book about Union Army Captain Norris Crossman using the officer’s diary and personal letters. Captain Crossman commanded the first federal occupation forces in Spartanburg. Dr. Myers uncovered the story of an American flag that was flown during a parade through town that took place on September 22, 1865. The banner was sewn by a local African-American woman who is said to have used one of her petticoats for the fabric. Captain Crossman was presented with the flag following the parade. He carried it home with him and later gave it to one of his daughters.

The flag, which has been preserved by the Whittier Museum in California, will be on display at the Spartanburg County Public Library Headquarters from September 14 – 30 as part of “Our Flags, Our Fathers: Spartanburg in the Summer of 1865.” The exhibit also will include original labor contracts made between area planters and formerly enslaved persons. These documents are on loan from the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston. In addition, Captain Crossman’s great-grandson Arthur Morse has shared photographs and other artifacts related to his ancestor.

Several special events will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the parade:

  • September 22, 7:00 p.m. — “September 22, 1865: Different Perspectives of the War’s End in Spartanburg” — A panel featuring Dr. Andrew Myers of USC Upstate, Dr. Diane Vecchio of Furman University, and Dr. Melissa Walker of Converse College will discuss life at the conclusion of the war from the viewpoints of Union soldiers, formerly enslaved African-American people, and others in Spartanburg County. Following the discussion, a book-signing will be held for Recovering the Piedmont Past, which contains chapters by all three panelists. Books will be available for purchase. Special guests this evening will include Arthur Morse, Captain Crossman’s great grandson.
  • September 23, 4:00 p.m. — Meet and Greet with John W. Franklin, senior manager, Office of the Deputy Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • September 23, 4:30 p.m. — “Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture” — John W. Franklin will highlight the development of the Museum and the importance of preserving cultural history and heritage in our communities.

Dr. Myers’ research was funded by a grant from the Advanced Support Program for Innovative Research Excellence (ASPIRE).

“The ASPIRE grant I received to transcribe a Union officer’s diary launched me into an unexpected, but marvelous trajectory,” Myers said. “While trying to establish the provenance of the diary, I discovered a trove of additional papers and letters written by the diarist. Thanks to the diarist’s great-grandson, who had the originals shipped to me by Federal Express during August, I spent the fall scanning and  transcribing the documents as well as researching period newspapers, manuscript census, and other materials. In addition, I wrote a draft narrative of the diarist’s life after the Civil War.  The end product is going to be a biography.”

Myers received $10,902 for work on the biography, “Norris Crossman: A Yankee Soldier in the South Carolina Upcountry.”