Tag Archives: HISTORY

Rosenwald, Sears & Roebuck, and Booker T. Washington

Chances are that you’ve all heard of the Sears  Roebuck Company and Booker T. Washington. But, there’s a greater chance you’ve never heard of Julius Rosenwald, a Chicago businessman born to German-Jewish immigrants.

Rosenwald was a businessman with a concern for the education of Black children in America, especially those in the segregated South. He was both the president of Sears and a member of the Board of Trustees of Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute. In 1912 Booker T. Washington approached him with the idea of building schools in which to educate Black children.

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La Amistad – July 1839

In July of 1839, a ship known as La Amistad left Africa with a load of black slaves, bound for Cuba. Somewhere near the coast of America the slaves rebelled, gained control of the ship, killed the captain, and ordered the surviving crew to return them to Africa.

Instead, the ship’s navigator charted a course north skirting the coastline of America. Off Long Island, they were intercepted and taken by an American warship and ordered to port at New Haven, Connecticut. The fifty-three slaves, known as the Mende, were interned awaiting a decision as to their ownership.

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Field Hollers & Work Chants

When I was a kid and visiting South Carolina relatives in the 1950s it was a common thing to see chain gangs working along the roads. These gangs were mostly made up of African Americans who were often arrested for no other reason than the local road commissioner needed cheap labor to cut weeds or dig ditches.

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Strange Fruit – Reprised

NOTE: This is a reprisal of a piece I published in 2012 and while it remains informative and accurate it astounds me how positive I sounded eight years ago and how pessimistic I feel today. Eight years ago we had the hope that arrived with our first African American president. Today we have a president who wouldn’t hesitate to fertilize the seeds of strange fruit if he thought it would advance his fortune and fame.


I’ve been a student of American History for most of my life. The thing that draws me to history is the constant challenge it presents to one’s perception of reality. We all live in a comfort zone and make assumptions that everyone is experiencing what we are and that things have always been as they are. Studying history never stops pulling the rug out from under one’s feet. Just when I thought I couldn’t be shocked, bam!, I’m laying on the floor!

Yesterday I began watching a new DVD on the history of Chicago’s Maxwell Street. In the middle of explaining the black exodus from the South during WWI the front page of a Louisiana newspaper, the New Orleans States, popped up and shocked me. Continue reading Strange Fruit – Reprised

Jessye Mae Norman

Jessye Norman was a force in the world of opera. My knowledge of her is limited and came from watching a PBS special about the history of the song, Amazing Grace. She helped tell the story of John Newton, an English slave trader who sought redemption by, in part, authoring what may be Christianity’s most popular and well-known hymn. During the program, Norman and others performed various renditions of the song.

I later watched a PBS recital of operatic music performed by Norman and was enthralled.

Jessye Mae Norman died in September of 2019 at the age of 74.

America’s Black Cowboys

I’ve known that there were many blacks who lived and worked in the American West during the 1800s. What I didn’t know until very recently was the huge percentage. I was surprised to learn that estimates of twenty-five to thirty-three percent of all western cowboys were black.

Last month, NBC Nightly News ran a piece about a modern-day black rodeo circuit. An organization founded in the ’80s and named after the black cowboy, Bill Pickett, who is credited with inventing the cowboy technique called, bulldogging.

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Alice Allison Dunnigan

Blacks, and especially black women, have been and remain a rare commodity in the White House Press Corps. April Ryan, who was awarded the 2019 Freedom of the Press Award, is one of the few and maybe the only black woman to currently hold a seat in the White House briefing room.

One often hears people explain their success by saying they stand on the shoulders of those who went before. Well, in the case of black journalists in the White House one of those sets of shoulders today’s black journalist stand on belonged to Alice Allison Dunnigan from Russelville, Kentucky.

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Alex Haley’s Roots, the final night – February 3, 1977

Alex Haley’s book, Roots, was probably the first time I ever heard the term mini-series. It appeared for eight consecutive nights on ABC in 1977 and its final episode aired on February 7 of that year.

That episode earned the highest ever ratings for a single program and to my knowledge that distinction still stands.

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Where was Dershowitz when Hitler Needed Him?

Alan Dershowitz

Alan Dershowitz is a well-known attorney who is currently representing Trump in his Senate impeachment trial. Though he is now trying to walk back one of his arguments, he and other Trump attornies have put forward the argument that the president can do anything he wishes and cannot be held accountable for it because he’s the president and doesn’t have time to deal with doing bad things. In fact, they have an appeal of their argument waiting for a decision by the SCOTUS.

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The Greensboro Four – 60 Years Ago

The Greensboro Four – It’s ironic that a black can work behind the counter but not sit at the counter.

The Civil Rights Movement of my memory began in the 1950s and as an ignorant and complacent white teenager from Ohio, it took me some time to figure out what was happening. I don’t know how many events or which particular one jolted me out of my stupor but one that I remember took place at a Five and Dime lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, sixty years ago February 1, 1960.

Many larger communities of that time had an F.W. Woolworth variety store and most of those had lunch counters. While blacks were permitted to shop for everyday goods they were not welcomed at the segregated lunch counters.

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America’s Greatest Irony

America’s founding document is not the Articles of Confederation, it is not the US Constitution, and it not the Gettysburg Address or any of those other documents and speeches you heard about in 6th grade. Our founding document is quite simply, the Declaration of Independence. The brilliant and concise paper that Thomas Jefferson authored in June of 1776.

Famously signed into an agreement on July 4, 1776, it declared that “People have certain Inalienable Rights including Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. All Men are created equal. Individuals have a civic duty to defend these rights for themselves and others.”

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In-N-Out and McDonald’s

I’ve never eaten in an In-N-Out burger joint but frequently hear others raving about how good their food is. Anthony Bourdain once said that he never left Los Angeles without stopping for at an In-N-Out on the way to the airport.

While surfing around YouTube I came across the video below and in watching it a lot of my last two years of college were brought to mind. During most of that time, I was a swing manager at a McDonald’s in Whittier, CA. The restaurant was a corporate-owned store and that’s where I learned that the real name of McDonald’s was Franchise Realty Corporation with offices in downtown LA.

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Some Random Photos Of The 1999 All-Class Reunion

I’m really not sure but I think these photos are from the first McClain All-Class Reunion that was held during the summer of 1999. The Clyburns permitted the temporary conversion of their restaurant into a make-shift Penny’s and it quickly became a major gathering place during the weekend. The Penn family loaned the

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It’s Still The Economy and You May Still Be Stupid!

Over the holidays I watched the Netflix documentary, The American Factory. It’s about the closure of a GM factory in Dayton and its subsequent purchase by a Chines billionaire. His company invested lots of money, got lots of tax abatements, and created hundreds of jobs. They brought in an army of Chinese managers and tried to convince American workers they should succumb to Chinese work ethics and blind loyalty to the company.

It wasn’t long before an attempt to organize arose and not much longer before that attempt was crushed and those responsible were shown the door. When it was a GM plant the wage was $29 an hour plus benefits. After a couple of years, the starting wage under the Chinese was still only $14 an hour with far fewer benefits. The workers are mostly overworked, under-paid, underrepresented, and safety-wise, under-protected.

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A Needed Vocabulary Lesson

With the very volatile situation that now exists between the United States and Iran, it’s necessary that we all have some mastery over certain words. Here’s a basic list that will help you understand the things that may become realities for us:

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Purveyor of Fact, Fiction, Opinion and Rumor. Not responsible for lost children, pets, or souls. Read at your own risk!

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