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M Stands for MASTER

Artwork from the book Uncle T and the Uppity Spy emphasizes that Thomas Stonewall Jackson was more than a courageous and skillful Confederate general; his service to the black community in his hometown in Virginia made him the apprentice of God, and he obeyed his internal moral calling to the end.

Dr. Martin Luther King stated that “a persistent civil war rages within all of our lives” between the good side of our personalities and the bad. Winning the great civil war that each of us fights within requires more heroism than swordsmanship, proficiency with a rifle, or strategic battlefield planning. Jim Lewis won that civil war. He was a good man. He was a good man in spite of negative circumstances. He won the inner battle between love and hatred toward others, and he chose love. He heroically fought the good fight that brings us all a little more light in the darkness. Raised in a system that hated and oppressed his kind, Jim obeyed the injunction that Dr. Martin Luther King expressed a hundred years later: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles between love and hatred in this manner: ”Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil and fights others all the time. The second dog is good and is respectful and even kind to others. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.”

When asked which dog wins, the elder reflected for a moment and replied, “The one I feed.”

Jim Lewis “fed” his better nature. He embodied the humble and noble spirit that dwells in the African American and is so rarely depicted in the news media or in entertainment, which seem to glorify people who represent the very opposite. Many times the power of religion, specifically Christianity, is ignored when describing the motives of people in history. While some might think Jim Lewis’s love for General Jackson indicated that Jim was a mindless “Uncle Tom,” in fact Jim Lewis acted out of agape love. Agape love is Christian love for all of one’s fellow human beings. Jim was an exemplary servant to his master, but he was a servant to all, sacrificing himself for the sake of others.

He and Stonewall Jackson were well-matched, as Stonewall Jackson believed so deeply in the godly nature of African Americans that he defied Virginia law to educate them in the Bible. Jackson, too, tried to extend agape love to his fellow man, even if that man was a slave.

Jim’s motto might have been John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” He risked his life being in the Confederate army with General Jackson.

I hope my community conceives of a desire to find Jim Lewis’s burial site and place there a grave site headstone to honor a man of virtue, valor, and victory. CLICK HERE to purchase a sign by artist Giclee 16″ x 20″ wall art print, The above text from the book Unlce T and the Uppity Spy is what inspired this painting:

The Black Confederate


Some black Confederate soldiers felt they were protecting their loved ones in the South by fighting for the Confederacy against a foe they did not know or understand.

Yankee commandants on the battlefield frequently complained about blacks’ assistance to the Confederacy. This is one of the reasons they suggested emancipating Southern black slaves. It was more of a military measure than to give blacks freedom and equal rights. It would eliminate the Confederacy's primary support system: millions of loyal Southern blacks. Emancipation would cause them to leave their homes and the plantations of their Southern oppressors.

In reality, it was not as simple as that. There are numerous stories of slaves who harbored no bitterness against their Southern masters before, during, and after the war. There were instances where the former masters of now free slaves were supplied with money and support by their former slaves in order to keep them from suffering.

A very touching example is the case on a large plantation in the deep South. A young white man, the son of the former owner of the estate, had become reduced in purse and self-control by reasons of addiction to alcohol, and had become a pitiful creature. In gestures that would have been incomprehensible to Northerners of the time, the black slaves who were still living on the plantation supplied this young man with the necessities of life for years. They gave him literally half of all they had, voluntarily, simply because his father before him had treated them with decency and respect.

This by no means justifies any system of involuntary servitude. It simply shows that even in an unjust system, some people–black and white–behave with kindness, compassion, and nobility and may form bonds of love and regard as Stonewall Jackson and Jim Lewis did. 

CLICK HERE to purchase a sign by artist Giclee 16" x 20" wall art print, The above text from the book Unlce T and the Uppity Spy is what inspired this painting:

Sister’s Know the Way

Sometimes messages were sent secretly, in the words of a particular song. If a slave were to sing “Steal Away to Jesus” for instance, other slaves would hear it, and know there was going to be a secret meeting in the woods that night. Certain songs warned of approaching danger; other songs meant it was safe to move forward.  

Communication was very important to the survival of the slave, and there were many ways slaves spoke to and informed each other. It was, however, imperative to be sure and not let the master or his men catch them as they sent and received information. If a slave went into town for the master’s mail, that slave could listen at the post office while white people spoke of the contents of the letters they had received. It was a good way to get news, but the chance that the overseer would discover them and mete out punishment remained an ever-present threat. 

The house slave would remain alert and attentive to any usable information as they worked in the big house. If it was heard that the slave-owner was having money troubles, that was grave news indeed, for it could mean that slaves might be sold to pay the debt. Many slaves chose to run away after finding out the master meant to sell them off. If a house slave could read, he or she could occasionally peek at a newspaper within their master’s house, but this was risky. Slaves caught reading, or even attempting to read, were severely punished and often sold away. 

Many whites enjoyed hearing slaves sing, and they would not be suspicious of a black woman like Harriet Tubman singing the day or night away. Tubman also used slave songs to relay other messages. For example, sometimes she had to leave a group she was leading north to get food or other needed items. She would tell them to hide and wait for her signal. If she came back and sang one song two times, they would know it was safe to come out of hiding. But if there was danger — slave catchers in the area, for example — she would sing another song.This would mean that the group had to stay in hiding until Tubman sang the “all clear” song. However, if you didn’t know the signal, you might think that Tubman was singing just to pass the time of day.

The spiritual side of black life impressed Thomas J. Jackson greatly, including the musical side. Southern perceptions of blacks included that they were passionately emotional, given to spiritual manifestations such as visions and forebodings, and endowed with a deep love for and a gift for music, which was especially clear during hymn-singing. Spontaneous expressions of joy during hymn-singing included both laughter and tears, as well as great exultation and affection toward one another, expressed in embracing fellowship. Perhaps because of witnessing such devotions, Jackson believed that black people had avenues to God unknown to whites and that their relationship with God should be encouraged.   CLICK HERE to purchase a sign by artist Giclee 16" x 20" wall art print, The above text from the book Unlce T and the Uppity Spy is what inspired this painting:

Stonewall Jackson’s Way

StoneWall on Horse back

Some find it surprising that one of the greatest generals of the Confederacy, Stonewall Jackson, exercised loving care toward blacks. In fact, Jackson felt it was his Christian duty to be kind and helpful toward those who were “held in bondage” and to nurture their souls, But did Jackson strong beliefs was also openly known for frequently exposing himself to danger.

There is always confusion on a battlefield advances and retreats, flanking motions, movements designed to confuse or fool the enemy happen all the time. Civil War battlefields were also full of smoke, and the armies had their share of bad weather and changing terrain to contend with too. When the Confederates broke his army’s line at Chancellorsville, General Hooker retreated and made a defensive formation with his men. Stonewall Jackson, contending with the changes of the battlefield and made his bold move.

Although Jackson’s gifts as a military commander are recognized in both the North and the South, his role as a seed-planter of African American churches is less well known. Orphaned as a child, Jackson was raised by Episcopalians until such time as he chose the Presbyterian Church as his own faith tradition in the 1850s. He became a dutiful and diligent tither and attendee. So strong was his faith, Jackson defied the social order (and the law) by starting a Sunday school for African Americans. As this Sunday school flourished, it outgrew its original location, which resulted in the seeding of other African American churches throughout the area. 

After the Civil War, some newly freed slaves who were educated in Jackson’s Sunday school took up the mantle of preaching, spreading their fervent faith far and wide.  CLICK HERE to purchase a sign by artist Giclee 16" x 20" wall art print, The above text from the book Unlce T and the Uppity Spy is what inspired this painting:

A Stands for Adam


The picture above depicts Tyler Lewis, fictional brother of Jim Lewis, who became a Union spy. Unlike Jim, Tyler let his hatred of the lash of slavery dominate his life and thoughts.

Frederick Douglass shed light on the work of the American black spy and spoke of the daring and bravery of black espionage agents. Some of these agents repeatedly crossed enemy lines, risking capture and being shot. Others stayed in place for the long term, hiding their sympathies behind a mask of subservience and taking the risks involved in transmitting information from the South to the North. The CIA reports that the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, unknowingly harbored two black Union spies in his home in Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy. These two Union spies had their fingers on the very pulse of the Confederacy. 

Many spies preferred to remain anonymous for reasons of personal safety, even once the hostilities had ended, or at least once the shooting war had stopped. This was true of some black espionage agents who still had to make their way in a prejudiced society that, unjustly, sometimes looked at them as the “cause” of the national upheaval. A tendency to under-value the contributions of blacks in America also factored into what little we know about America’s black espionage agents. What was more, the secrecy necessary for espionage meant that not much documentation was kept about any spy activities. Piecing things together, however, we know that the activities of black espionage agents made substantial contributions to the Union’s victory. 

Allan Pinkerton was well-versed in the usefulness of black spies. Any slaves liberated by the Northern army or who had run away were interviewed by him or by members of his intelligence network to discover what they knew and what they were willing and able to do to gain militarily significant information. Blacks’ lowly place in society at that time aided them in their spy activities, as talkative Southern whites sometimes saw them as humble, uneducated servants unable to comprehend or to use information they might have gathered about Southern military activities. Little did they know that the eyes and ears of humble, unassuming servants were to become, in a significant number of cases, the eyes and ears of the Union.   CLICK HERE to purchase a sign by artist Giclee 16" x 20" wall art print, The above text from the book Unlce T and the Uppity Spy is what inspired this painting:

Stonewall’s doubts


As historical fiction, Uncle T and the Uppity Spy speculates that while Stonewall Jackson fervently believed that God had crowned his military efforts with the victories he won, Jackson was a soul-searching man, and his doubts about the wisdom of human bondage could not be contained. Stonewall had even gone so far as to confide his misgivings about the righteousness of the “cause” to one of his staff. That was shortly to prove a very fatal mistake, and the book maintains that this fictional scenario made it possible Jackson had signed his own death warrant. The staff officer knew that if the South's greatest hero were to make known his reservations about slavery, it would plunge the Confederate army into turmoil. He also knew that Jackson fully deserved the name of Stonewall, for once the general had made up his mind about something, nothing could stop him. If the general were to turn against the “cause” in word or deed  it would be a serious morale conflict among the troops.

Although this is fictional speculation, it is historical fact that Stonewall Jackson had feelings of tender, loving care toward blacks. Although his duties as General Robert E. Lee’s “right arm” in the Confederate army were great, General Jackson remembered the Sunday school he had founded for blacks in Lexington, Virginia, and continued to contribute to it. 

This is evidenced by a letter sent by General Jackson to Pastor White: “My dear Pastor, in my tent last night, after a most fatiguing day of service, I remembered that I had failed to send to you my contribution for our colored Sunday school. Enclosed you will find a check for that object, which you will acknowledge at your earliest convenience. Yours faithfully, T.J. Jackson.” 

CLICK HERE to purchase a sign by artist Giclee 16" x 20" wall art print, The above text from the book Unlce T and the Uppity Spy is what inspired this painting:


Little Sorrel and Jim pay Tribute


General Thomas Stonewall Jackson’s amputated arm is buried in a separate grave from the rest of his body. It is ironic to this author that the same arm that handed Bibles to African American slaves, and broke the law by teaching them how to read and write, is separated from the rest of the general’s remains. 

The arm limb was buried several days before Jackson’s death, as he died of complications from the wound. The arm rested in Ellwood Manor on the Wilderness Battlefield. It has been dug up a few times in the past, but it has always made its way back into the ground. While the grave of Stonewall Jackson’s body is in Lexington, Virginia, and he died at what is now the Stonewall Jackson Shrine more than twenty miles away, his arm has remained separated.

To this author, this symbolizes the divide in understanding Jackson’s true legacy. Honored as a war hero, glamorized for his contributions to the violence of the battlefield, it was in fact the hand that extended compassion and education to African American slaves that is the real symbol of what Stonewall Jackson gave to America and who he was. 

Here is evidence of Stonewall Jackson's work: in 1870 a new Southern-based denomination, the Colored (now "Christian") Methodist Episcopal Church, was founded by indigenous Southern black leaders. The training Jackson gave to free blacks and slaves was a seed for a vibrant Southern black religious life. Defying the law to live out his Christian beliefs and impart them to others, Jackson was one of the foremost seed-spreaders of black Christian worship in the important and influential state of Virginia. 

CLICK HERE to purchase a sign by artist Giclee 16" x 20" wall art print, The above text from the book Unlce T and the Uppity Spy is what inspired this painting:

Tom the Adroit Politician


Uncle T and the Uppity Spy’s star character Jim Lewis stayed on the Confederate side of the war. Today Jim might be labeled an “Uncle Tom,” which is a reference to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe’s character “Uncle Tom” was a saintly black slave who died with such Christian grace at the hands of a cruel overseer that the overseer was immediately converted to Christianity. Tom also refused to run away, out of loyalty to his white master. Similarly, Jim Lewis never ran away from Stonewall Jackson, but served him with genuine loyalty and devotion until Jackson’s untimely death. Jim’s brother Tyler, on the other hand, was so outraged by his treatment under slavery that he was only too happy to go over to the Union side. 

In the above picture, Jim is pictured in his early years as a stylish and obedient servant to the household of Stonewall Jackson. The arrival of company at the Jackson household was an impressive event, awakening all of Jim’s energies and enthusiasm. No sight was more pleasing or welcome to Jim than a pile of traveling trunks out on the veranda, for it was then that he foresaw fine eating and the opportunity to play the violin, which made the missus Jackson mighty happy. Her fat sides would shake with merriment and the genuine pride of teaching such a learned student. It elevated her status as a humanitarian woman of great charity and generosity to have such an accomplished servant.

Our current day sees many racial injustices in spite of the fact that slavery has been illegal in the United States for more than one hundred years. Equality sometimes seems an elusive dream, and people grow angry and strident about its lack. Although injustice and prejudice are never justified, it is arguable that the good character of a person like Jim Lewis might have swayed white opinion far more than defiance and accusation ever could. It is historical fact that, upon Stonewall Jackson’s death, Jim Lewis was chosen to be one of the pallbearers. Indeed, the missus Jackson was worried that Jim’s genuine sorrow over the loss of Jackson might drive him mad, he was so aggrieved.

Even in a system of injustice, there may be human feeling, compassion, and even love. Jim Lewis was an exemplar of love, and he generated love and respect in the hearts of his oppressors.    CLICK HERE to purchase a sign by artist Giclee 16" x 20" wall art print, The above text from the book Unlce T and the Uppity Spy is what inspired this painting:

Coon Huntin


The gospel song “Wade in the Water” is often sung today at baptisms. However, in the era of slavery, the song contained covert guidance for escaping. Since bloodhounds could not trace human scent through water, escaping slaves were told through the song that they should cross through water to hide the scent of their tracks. 

“Coon dogs” are dogs trained to hunt raccoon, but these dogs were also trained to hunt human beings. “Coon” became a derogatory name for black people, and “coon hunting” is when people set dogs on black people to hunt them down and hurt them. Unfortunately, the term and the concept are not dead in our day. In his 911 call, George Zimmerman, who shot down young black Trayvon Martin in cold blood, made a reference to hating “coons.” 

There were regular patrol people called “Patterollers” who chased down escaping blacks with coon hounds. Again, there are modern-day echoes of these despicable practices.

At times whites engaged in the horrible “sport” of “coon huntin.’” By this they meant chasing down innocent blacks who were already free and apprehending them to sell them as slaves at 100% profit. Whites both North and South engaged in this despicable practice, terrorizing blacks and prohibiting their freedom of movement as they feared being captured, beaten, and perhaps killed. Sometimes “coon huntin’” involved going to black neighborhoods and simply making trouble for any black who happened to be walking around. Such terrible racist behavior occurred in both the North and the South.    CLICK HERE to purchase a sign by artist Giclee 16" x 20" wall art print, The above text from the book Unlce T and the Uppity Spy is what inspired this painting: