The Golden State’s Unpopular Pro-Slavery Governor

The First American Executive of California Was a Pioneering Man of the West—and the South

Peter Hardeman Burnett had probably the most impressive list of achievements of any leader in the early American West. He served on the supreme court of the Oregon Territory and became the first governor of California.

So why has he been forgotten?

Because sometimes history gets things right. Burnett’s stellar resume could not offset his blatant racism and inept leadership, which have denied him a prominent place in the region’s history.

Burnett is best remembered, if he is remembered at all, for his governorship of California, in 1849. He resigned in 1851, with …

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The “Little Giant” Who Thought That Backing Slavery Would Unite America

Stephen Douglas' Push to Allow Human Chattel in Nebraska Lit a Match to the Civil War

One of the most ambitious attempts to unite America ended up dividing it, and altering it forever.

At the opening of the 33rd Congress on December 5, 1853, Stephen A. Douglas, …

The Slave Gardener Who Turned the Pecan Into a Cash Crop

A Louisianan Known Only as Antoine Tamed a Wild Tree and Launched an Industry

Pecan trees, armored with scaly, gray bark and waving their green leaves in the breeze, grow in neat, uniform rows upon the Southern U.S. landscape and yield more than 300 …

The Civil War General Whose Godly “Mission” Went Astray

Oliver Otis "Uh Oh" Howard Was a Crusader for Ex-Slaves and a Scourge of Native Americans

When God first visited him in 1857, Oliver Otis Howard was a lonely army lieutenant battling clouds of mosquitoes in a backwater posting that he described as a “field …