When the original 13 colonies declared their independence from England the Continental Congress decided it needed a document of governance. So in 1777, they approved our first constitution, the Articles of Confederation After several years of debate the Articles were ratified and became the law of the land on March 1, 1781.
The new nation was called the United States of America but there wasn’t much united about it. The national government has almost zero power because the individual states reserved power for themselves. What America really was was a very loose association of independent nation-states. If you remember anything from government or civics you may recall that each state coined its own money, formed its own militia, and discounted the problems of other states unless those problems threatened them somehow.
Think back to September of 2005 when thousands of New Orleans were trapped in football stadiums or atop their flooded homes without food, safe water, or the slightest creature comforts. President Bush flew over in Air Force One and then disappeared over the horizon leaving the desperate in the hands of Brownie and FEMA.
Finally, a ruff and rugged old US Army general named Russell E. Honorè rolled into town and took charge. Where Brownie and others were doing it by the numbers and not getting it done, Honore′ said, screw the numbers, get in that helicopter and fly those pallets of water to the roof of that convention center. Take those amphibious vehicles and haul food to the people trapped on that freeway overpass. Honore′ was exactly the person needed for Katrina and someone like him is what’s needed in this Covid-19.
In the last week, many traditional gatherings have been canceled or postponed, and with strong historical justification. Not everyone knows about the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-1919 but there are many lessons there that could apply to today.
A major flu-related tragedy took place in Philadelphia in September of 1918. It was during the midst of World War One and over 200,000 people gathered in the city’s streets to observe a huge war bond rally and parade.
Ultimately there were thirty-nine white, mostly educated, mostly wealthy, and mostly propertied men who signed the US Constitution in 1787. In spite of this commonality they differed in many ways, one of which was how much power the typical American citizen should have.
How trustworthy was the common man when it came to making correct political choices for the nation? Should each man’s vote count the same as another man’s vote? The answer to this question is what gave us this thing we call the Electoral College.
For this final day of Black History Month, I went to blackfacts.com looking for a topic. I quickly noticed that Hattie McDaniel became the first black actor to win an Academy Award on this day in 1940. McDaniel won the Oscar for her performance of Mammy in Gone With the Wind.
As I began writing about her the names of other black performers who’d became famous playing racially stereotypical characters came to mind and I went to YouTube and watched some videos of Stepin Fetchit, Pigmeat Markum, Moms Mabley, and Eddie Anderson. I’m old enough to remember when these people performed on radio and in the movies and that I remember them as really being funny. Such is not the case today. I think with age and education our awareness and sensitivity have been attuned to what was behind it all and how offensive it must have been for those who were forced to make their livings from playing these parts.
It could be argued that the modern desegregation movement began with the 1954 Supreme Court decision in the case of Brown v. Topeka. A decision in which the court ordered public schools to desegregate with, “all deliberate speed.” The immediate problem became, not everyone was on the same page about the meaning of all deliberate speed.
Sixty-six years after Brown racial segregation still exists throughout America and many will argue that the conservative segregationist crowd is taking us backward with the widespread use of educational vouchers.
The following is from the Associated Press, February 24, 2020, by BEN FINLEY
“Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who calculated rocket trajectories and earth orbits for NASA’s early space missions and was later portrayed in the 2016 hit film “Hidden Figures,” about pioneering black female aerospace workers, has died. She was 101.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Twitter that she died Monday morning. No cause was given.
Bridenstine tweeted that the NASA family “will never forget Katherine Johnson’s courage and the milestones we could not have reached without her. Her story and her grace continue to inspire the world.”
With all the talk about the Coronavirus, I couldn’t help but think about the world’s greatest pandemic, the 1918 H1N1 Spanish Flu outbreak. The flu pandemic struck close to home in that the World War One military post at Camp Sherman outside Chillicothe was hard struck by the flue. I did some Googling and found this brief but informative article from the National Park Service’s website. I might add that of the many building used as makeshift morgues and hospitals a woolen mill on Barrett’s Mill Rd., outside Rainsboro was used as a hospital to treat victims of the pandemic.
I was attracted to the following video for several reasons. First, YouTube’s lead-in tag implied that knowledge of Black History was as important for white people just as it was for blacks.
Second, the line had meaning because of something that happened last week in a Facebook group where I’d been posting lead-ins to my CGS Black History Month stories. The main administrator of that site notified me that several members had complained about my posts and told me, I had been forewarned.
The following was reprinted from library pages found at Berea College, KY
Mary E. Britton
“Mary E. Britton (1855-1925) was a student at Berea College from c1870-1874. A public school teacher and activist, Britton later earned a medical degree and became the first African-American female doctor in the state of Kentucky, practicing in Lexington.
Mary was born in Kentucky, on Mills Street in what is now Lexington’s Grazt Park Historic District. Her parents, Laura Marshall and Henry Harrison Britton were both free African Americans living in the slave state of Kentucky. Her mother, Laura Marshall, was a freed slave of a biracial ancestry whose father was the well-known Kentucky public official Thomas F. Marshall. Laura Marshall was a well-educated, intelligent woman and a talented singer and musician. Laura encouraged and instilled a love for education, music and public service in both of her daughters. In short, her family was well respected, honored and trustworthy within the circle of prominent and affluent Kentucky families.
There have been many court cases that involved the civil rights of African Americans. Most people have heard of Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 case that declared segregated public schools to be unconstitutional. A case you may not be aware of is Edwards v. South Carolina which was decided on February 23, 1963.
“The Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. South Carolina that the Fourteenth Amendment does not permit the State “to make criminal the peaceful expression of unpopular views.” Civil disobedience is declared a legal act performed by citizens of the state to express their grievances.”¹
Someplace along life’s journey I heard the story of Robert Smalls and jotted him down as one of life’s true heroes. I found this story at www.blackfacts.com.
“Robert Smalls was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, on April 5, 1839 and worked as a house slave until the age of 12. At that point his owner, John K. McKee, sent him to Charleston to work as a waiter, ship rigger, and sailor, with all earnings going to McKee. This arrangement continued until Smalls was 18 when he negotiated to keep all but $15 of his monthly pay, a deal which allowed Smalls to begin saving money. The savings that he accumulated were later used to purchase his wife and daughter from their owner for a sum of $800. Their son was born a few years later.
You may have difficulty pronouncing El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. You may have difficulty spelling El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. You may have never even heard the name, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. But you could say it, spell it, and you likely have heard the name. El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz was more commonly known as Malcolm X and on this day, February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was shot to death at the Audubon Ballroom in NYC.
I would have been 23 years old and living in California. The civil rights movement was going on all around me and I, like so many white Americans, was struggling to understand what it all meant. Also, like so many whites I accepted the idea that Malcolm was a violent person and belonged to a violent religion that was led by a violent and dictatorial leader, Elijah Muhammad. I also assumed that Malcolm had died as he had lived, violently, and got what he deserved.
Below is an article I copied from Wikipedia about the Civil Rights Act of 1957. You can read the entire piece if you wish but the one thing I wanted to point how is what this article has to say about changes in our political parties.
Please note the voting that passed this bill into law.
Strom Thurman, the Democratic Senator from South Carolina made history by speaking against voting rights for African Americans for 24 hours and 18 minutes.
Notice the documents he read. The very documents that guarantee in some way the individual rights and equal protection of all American citizens
Look at the wide margin of Republican support in the House and the narrow Democratic support.
Very similar margins of support occurred in the Senate.
What you see with the passing of this bill is that America’s political parties were still what they had been since prior to the Civil War. Until the Civil Rights legislation of the 1950s and 1960s, it was the Democrats who had been major supporters of segregation and the racial status quo, especially in the South. That changed, however, when Thurmond and so many other conservative Democrats fled the party during the Lyndon Johnson years and became Republicans. Suddenly the conservative ranks of the GOP swelled and Republican politicians like Nixon and Goldwater employed what became known as the “southern strategy” to win elections.
From then to now it has been the Democrats who are most likely to support racial equality efforts and the Republicans the opposite. The positions of the two parties essentially did a racial flip flop.
It should be noted that Republicans routinely deny the existence of a Southern Strategy or that their party is less open to equal representation than the Democrats. While there may be some degree of truth in this, as a rather progressive historian I believe there is ample evidence indicating that American minorities feel more protected and included with Democrats than with Republicans.
The question is up for debate and for you to do your research and decide for yourself.
“The Civil Rights Act of 1957, Pub.L. 85–315, 71 Stat. 634, enacted September 9, 1957, primarily a voting rights bill, was the first federal civil rights legislation passed by the United States Congress since the Civil Rights Act of 1875. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was also Congress’s show of support for the Supreme Court’s Brown decisions, the Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which had eventually led to the integration, also called desegregation, of public schools. Following the Supreme Court ruling, Southern whites in Virginia began a “Massive Resistance.” Violence against blacks rose there and in other states, as in Little Rock, Arkansas where that year President Dwight D. Eisenhower had ordered in federal troops to protect nine children integrating into a public school, the first time the federal government had sent troops to the South since the Reconstruction era. There had been continued physical assaults against suspected activists and bombings of schools and churches in the South. The administration of Eisenhower proposed legislation to protect the right to vote by African Americans.
Democratic Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, an ardent segregationist, sustained the longest one-person filibuster in history in an attempt to keep the bill from becoming law. His one-man filibuster lasted 24 hours and 18 minutes; he began with readings of every state’s election laws in alphabetical order. Thurmond later read from the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and George Washington”s Farewell Address. His speech set the record for a Senate filibuster. The bill passed the House with a vote of 285 to 126 (Republicans 167–19 for, Democrats 118–107 for) and the Senate 72 to 18 (Republicans 43–0 for, Democrats 29–18 for). [clarification needed] President Eisenhower signed it on September 9, 1957.”
Last month the US Navy announced a break with tradition by naming of its next aircraft carrier after an African American enlisted man who became a hero during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The following appeared in the Navy Times Magazine.
“During an emotional Monday ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly honored the legacy of World War II hero Doris Miller by bestowing his name on a future aircraft carrier.
It marks the first time a flattop has paid homage to an African American, a Navy Cross recipient and an enlisted service member. And it was decreed on a day set aside to remember the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his lifelong crusade to end racial discrimination across the United States.