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Mo Cowan Of Massachusetts Is 6th Post-Reconstruction Black U.S. Senator

(Blogger’s Note 1/31/13—I update this post each time there is a new Black Senator. Today is such a time.)

There have been six Black United States Senators in post-reconstruction America.

Just six.

Here is a post on the three black post-reconstruction Governors.)

Here are the five Black Senators to date—

Ed Brooke (above) was a Republican elected from Massachusetts in 1966 and 1972.  He was defeated in 1978 by Paul Tsongas who went on to a notable career himself. Mr. Brooke was part of the moderate to liberal wing of the Republican party that does not so much exist anymore. The decline of moderate Republicanism is a big reason why Democrats are so strong in New England and New York state today.

Here is a Time Magazine article from 1971 pondering if President Richard Nixon would consider replacing Vice President Spiro Agnew on the ticket with Senator Brooke.

Carol Moseley Braun (Above) is the only Black woman to have served in the Senate. She represented Illinois. Ms. Moseley Braun defeated an incumbent Democrat Senator in a primary in 1992 and went on to win the General Election.

People had hopes for Carol Moseley Braun. For a variety of reasons, some maybe relating to her own mistakes and some maybe a product of unreasonable expectations, Ms. Moseley Braun lasted only one term.  This New York Times story from Ms. Moseley Braun’s 2004 run for President offers some perspective.

If Ms. Moseley Braun had been able to hold on, Barack Obama would most likely not have been elected to the Senate as the third post- Reconstruction black senator.   Mr. Obama won the seat once occupied by Ms. Moseley Braun. The Republican who defeated her in 1998, Peter Fitzgerald, did not run for reelection in 2004 against Mr. Obama in strongly Democratic Illinois.

Barack Obama of Illinois was elected to the Senate in 2004. He then went on to even bigger things.

The fourth Black U.S. Senator was Roland Burris (Above) of Illinois.  Mr. Burris was appointed by the Governor of Illinois to replace Barack Obama. His appointment was made under controversial circumstances as Governor Rod Blagojevich made the nomination while under indictment for a range of offenses including trying to sell the Obama Senate seat.

Mr. Burris was the first statewide elected Black in Illinois. He was elected as Comptroller of Illinois in 1979 and served in that post until 1991. In 1990 he was elected Attorney General of Illinois. He has also run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, Governor of Illinois, and Mayor of Chicago.

Here is a comprehensive profile of Mr. Burris.

Mr. Burris did not run for reelection in 2010.

Tim_Scott_official_photo

The fifth post-Reconstruction Black Senator was Tim Scott (Above) of South Carolina. Mr. Scott was designated in December, 2012 to replace Senator Jim DeMint who resigned his office.

Here is profile of Mr. Scott from the PBS News Hour.

Mr. Scott is the fIrst Black Republican Senator since Ed Brooke. He is expected to run to fill the seat on a permanent basis.

tim-scott425x320

The sixth post-reconstruction Black Senator is Mo Cowan (Above) of Massachusetts.

Mr. Cowan was appointed to the Senate by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to fill the vacancy caused by John Kerry being appointed Secretary of State.

Mr. Cowan is a well-connected attorney who has served as Governor Patrick’s Chief of Staff. Here is a profile of Mr. Cowan from the Boston Globe. 

Mr. Cowan will serve in the Senate until an election takes place on June 25. Mr. Cowan is not a candidate for the June election.

Why only six black senators in post-Reconstruction America?

Here are some reasons for the low number —

1. Jim Crow and racism long denied Black people the right to vote and to run for office.

2. Even given the (not always uncontested) right of Blacks to vote today, a large proportion of Blacks in America live in the South where whites are not always inclined to vote for Blacks. This is how George W. Bush or Mitt Romney easily carries Mississippi even though 30% of people in Mississippi are Black.

3. Many states have very few Black people and so Black candidates are less likely to emerge from these places. Though it must also be said there were not so many Black folks in Massachusetts to help elect Ed Brooke.

4. The overwhelming majority of Blacks are Democrats. As many Senators are Republicans, this limits the options for Black Republican Senators.

5. Since most Blacks are going to vote for Democrats no matter what, Democrats use this fact and do not push Blacks to run for the highest offices. If someone is going to do something for you anyway, why not take advantage of them?

6.  Since many Black office holders have safe majority-minority districts or serve in majority-Black cities, why take a chance on a tough statewide race?

7. Black politicians often have a terrible record of cultivating new people and young people for the tough battles ahead. It’s easy to sit in a safe seat and accumulate power . It is more difficult to help people and fight for people in a more constructive way.

(There have been a full total of seven black U.S. Senators in our history. The other two, from the Reconstruction Era were Hiram Revels a Republican from Mississippi who served in 1870 and 1871, and another Mississippi Republican, Blanche Bruce, who served from 1875 until 1881. Both of these men were appointed by the state legislature as was done for much of American history. Here is information about the 17th Amendment, ratified in 1913, that provided for direct election of Senators.

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Many Black U.S. Senators Have There Been?

There have been six Black United States Senators in post-reconstruction America.

Just six.

Here is a post on the three black post-reconstruction Governors.)

Here are the five Black Senators to date—

Ed Brooke (above) was a Republican elected from Massachusetts in 1966 and 1972.  He was defeated in 1978 by Paul Tsongas who went on to a notable career himself. Mr. Brooke was part of the moderate to liberal wing of the Republican party that does not so much exist anymore. The decline of moderate Republicanism is a big reason why Democrats are so strong in New England and New York state today.

Here is a Time Magazine article from 1971 pondering if President Richard Nixon would consider replacing Vice President Spiro Agnew on the ticket with Senator Brooke.

Carol Moseley Braun (Above) is the only Black woman to have served in the Senate. She represented Illinois. Ms. Moseley Braun defeated an incumbent Democrat Senator in a primary in 1992 and went on to win the General Election.

People had hopes for Carol Moseley Braun. For a variety of reasons, some maybe relating to her own mistakes and some maybe a product of unreasonable expectations, Ms. Moseley Braun lasted only one term.  This New York Times story from Ms. Moseley Braun’s 2004 run for President offers some perspective.

If Ms. Moseley Braun had been able to hold on, Barack Obama would most likely not have been elected to the Senate as the third post- Reconstruction black senator.   Mr. Obama won the seat once occupied by Ms. Moseley Braun. The Republican who defeated her in 1998, Peter Fitzgerald, did not run for reelection in 2004 against Mr. Obama in strongly Democratic Illinois.

Barack Obama of Illinois was elected to the Senate in 2004. He then went on to even bigger things.

The fourth Black U.S. Senator was Roland Burris (Above) of Illinois.  Mr. Burris was appointed by the Governor of Illinois to replace Barack Obama. His appointment was made under controversial circumstances as Governor Rod Blagojevich made the nomination while under indictment for a range of offenses including trying to sell the Obama Senate seat.

Mr. Burris was the first statewide elected Black in Illinois. He was elected as Comptroller of Illinois in 1979 and served in that post until 1991. In 1990 he was elected Attorney General of Illinois. He has also run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, Governor of Illinois, and Mayor of Chicago.

Here is a comprehensive profile of Mr. Burris.

Mr. Burris did not run for reelection in 2010.

Tim_Scott_official_photo

The fifth post-Reconstruction Black Senator was Tim Scott (Above) of South Carolina. Mr. Scott was designated in December, 2012 to replace Senator Jim DeMint who resigned his office.

Here is profile of Mr. Scott from the PBS News Hour.

Mr. Scott is the fIrst Black Republican Senator since Ed Brooke. He is expected to run to fill the seat on a permanent basis.

tim-scott425x320

The sixth post-reconstruction Black Senator is Mo Cowan (Above) of Massachusetts.

Mr. Cowan was appointed to the Senate by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to fill the vacancy caused by John Kerry being appointed Secretary of State.

Mr. Cowan is a well-connected attorney who has served as Governor Patrick’s Chief of Staff. Here is a profile of Mr. Cowan from the Boston Globe. 

Mr. Cowan will serve in the Senate until an election takes place on June 25. Mr. Cowan is not a candidate for the June election.

Why only six black senators in post-Reconstruction America?

Here are some reasons for the low number —

1. Jim Crow and racism long denied Black people the right to vote and to run for office.

2. Even given the (not always uncontested) right of Blacks to vote today, a large proportion of Blacks in America live in the South where whites are not always inclined to vote for Blacks. This is how George W. Bush or Mitt Romney easily carries Mississippi even though 30% of people in Mississippi are Black.

3. Many states have very few Black people and so Black candidates are less likely to emerge from these places. Though it must also be said there were not so many Black folks in Massachusetts to help elect Ed Brooke.

4. The overwhelming majority of Blacks are Democrats. As many Senators are Republicans, this limits the options for Black Republican Senators.

5. Since most Blacks are going to vote for Democrats no matter what, Democrats use this fact and do not push Blacks to run for the highest offices. If someone is going to do something for you anyway, why not take advantage of them?

6.  Since many Black office holders have safe majority-minority districts or serve in majority-Black cities, why take a chance on a tough statewide race?

7. Black politicians often have a terrible record of cultivating new people and young people for the tough battles ahead. It’s easy to sit in a safe seat and accumulate power . It is more difficult to help people and fight for people in a more constructive way.

(There have been a full total of seven black U.S. Senators in our history. The other two, from the Reconstruction Era were Hiram Revels a Republican from Mississippi who served in 1870 and 1871, and another Mississippi Republican, Blanche Bruce, who served from 1875 until 1881. Both of these men were appointed by the state legislature as was done for much of American history. Here is information about the 17th Amendment, ratified in 1913, that provided for direct election of Senators.

December 18, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Considering It All In Cincinnati

In Cincinnati, Ohio this week I’m taking a look at the big picture.

Here is Cincinnati yesterday from one of the many overlook parks in the city.

Cincinnati and the Ohio River Valley is a place of geological history and of human history both collective and for individuals.

All these histories are connected. Everything is connected

20120831-103943.jpg

August 31, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Fourth Of July Reading & Reference List

(Above–Black Americans observing the Fourth in 1939 in St. Helena Island, South Carolina.)

What books and resources would be helpful to learn more about the American Revolution and about America?

As I’ve said before, I don’t believe the Revolution was a liberal or conservative event in the sense we think about such things today.

Some of the Founding Fathers were religious. Others were not.  The Revolution had some aspects of a tax revolt. But who can know if folks in the early days of the nation would not have paid more taxes to get all the garbage out of the street or to prevent so many women from dying in childbirth?  Some of the founders believed in government being run from state capitols. Others supported a stronger national government.

Anybody who asserts that the American Revolution was a liberal or conservative victory in the modern sense is more concerned with today’s politics than with historical facts.

At the bottom line, it is up to you to know and understand our shared history. If you allow others to define your past, they will likely use that power to help bring about a future you don’t want.

(Below–1887 Fourth of July picnic in Custer County, Nebraska.)

Here are some suggestions for strong sources to learn about the life in North America before colonization, after colonization, at the time of the Revolution, and to learn about the full history of our nation.

1491–New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

There was a whole world here before 1492. 1492 is one marker in history. There is little understanding of who lived in the Americas before Columbus. American history did not begin in 1492 or  in 1620 when the Mayflower arrived.

Mayflower–A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick

There are starting points in American history other than the landing of the Mayflower. Yet learning the story of the Mayflower is basic to knowing our history.

Before The Mayflower—A History of Black America by Lerone Bennett.

In many ways, nothing is more central to the American experience than the history of black Americans. So much has turned on the decision to bring black people to America, and on how those unwilling immigrants responded to life in North America.

American Colonies–The Settlement of North America by Alan Taylor

This book is a good way to learn about the British colonies. It includes chapters about not just the 13 colonies we all know and love, but also has chapters on British Canada and about colonies in the Caribbean.

History of American Women–A blog.

This blog is a useful resource to know more about women of early American history.

The American wing of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The website has pictures and details of most of the pieces in the newly reopened.collection.

Patriots–The Men Who Started The American Revolution by A.J. Langguth

This book reads like a novel. It is an enjoyable and informative way to learn about the events and personalities of the Revolution.

The Penguin History Of  The United States by Hugh Brogan

The Penguin History is a one-volume non-ideological account of our nation that discusses the events of the Revolution and then goes on to provide the full context of American history. While I do sometimes read history books written from the left or the right, I find I’d rather have a balanced account that leaves ideological judgements up to the reader.

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

This is the definitive liberal history of the U.S.

As a liberal, I’m confident that an examination of the facts–In a way both comprehensive, and sympathetic to the strengths and weaknesses of our fellow men and women— will lead to a view that America is best when it is welcoming of people of all kinds, and that government has, in tandem with the hard-work of a free people, a role to play in providing a basic social safety net for its people.

In any case, it is your responsibility to learn your history and to consider what this history means in terms of your beliefs and actions in the world.

If you allow someone else to define your past, they will likely use that power to mess up your future.

Learn the past so you can be a hopeful and relevant part of the future.

(Below–How some see the Fourth of July. It is fine as far is it goes. But there is so much more. The painting–called The Spirit of ’76– is by Archibald Willard.)  

June 30, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

The Burning Of The Gaspee—A Good Thing As Far As I Am Concerned

(Blogger’s Note 6/27/12–I’m short on time today and I meant to run this post from last year a few weeks ago on the anniversary of the date of the burning of the Gaspee.  So I’m running it again today. Thanks for reading Texas Liberal.) 

June 9, 1772 was the date of the burning of the Gaspee in Narragansett Bay off the coast of Rhode Island.

(Above–An 1883 engraving depicting the burning of the Gaspee.)

The Gaspee was a British revenue schooner that helped make sure Rhode Islanders paid colonial taxes.

From the Rhode Island Historical Society-

“The first open act of aggression toward Great Britain leading up to the American Revolution took place in Warwick on June 10, 1772.  The British revenue schooner, the Gaspee, ran aground in Narragansett Bay.  Before the ship could be set afloat, it was boarded by a battalion of men, led by Samuel Whipple and John Brown, and burned.”

As a school kid in Rhode Island at the time of the American Bicentennial, I was told that the burning of the Gaspee was a good thing. I recall we even once had a school play that recreated the burning.

While I’m doubtful about many things that I learned from my teachers, I still very much hold to the idea that the burning of the Gaspee was a good thing.

Here is an excellent collection of links to learn more about the Gaspee incident. 

Here is the link for the Gaspee Days that are held each year in Rhode Island to mark the great event.

It is up to each individual to learn our shared history.

American history is complicated. Events that took place in the 1770’s are not clear guideposts for what we should think and do today.

If somebody broke the law to impede the collection of taxes today, I would demand that they go to jail.

What is the difference between the burning of the Gaspee in 1772 and such an act today?

I can’t imagine there is much difference except my own view of British rule of the American colonies 230 years after the fact, in comparison to my support today of a federal government able to help everyday citizens and able to administer the day-to-day functions of the nation.

Figure stuff out for yourself.

Don’t let other people define your past, and then seek to shape your future while you stand idly by.

June 27, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

2012 Fourth Of July Events For Houston, Galveston, Fort Bend & College Station—Fourth Of July Reading List

There are many events planned to mark Independence Day for 2012 in the Houston area. The Fourth falls on a Wednesday this year.

(Above—Fireworks over Houston.)

In addition to the events listed in this post, there ways you can observe the Fourth in a patriotic fashion on your own. We don’t have to wait for somebody to put on a fireworks show.

We can express patriotism by treating each other kindly, by treating our fellow working people well, by being accepting of all people, and by learning our shared history instead of being ignorant.

At the end of this post is my Fourth of July Reading and Reference list which has some good resources to learn about our nation’s history.

Patriotism is an everyday affair and is well-expressed by being a good fellow citizen to the everyday people who make our nation–for better and for worse–what it is.

A worthwhile thing to do before the fireworks is to attend the Bayou Bend Fourth of July celebration.

Here are some details about the Fourth at Bayou Bend—

“Celebrate Independence Day at Houston’s home for American decorative arts and paintings. The annual 4th of July blowout at Bayou Bend offers up an extravaganza of Americana: performers, crafts, activities, refreshments, and more. Don’t forget to sign the giant Declaration of Independence before you leave!”

Bayou Bend, run by the Houston Museum of Fine Arts is a great year round  place to learn about early American history.

The big fireworks show in the Houston area is the Freedom over Texas festival that is held on the Fourth.  This event will take place in Eleanor Tinsley Park. There will be a lot of people at this festival and it will be very hot.

Please note this reminder from the City of Houston on the Freedom Over Texas webpage—

 “The Houston Parks & Recreation Department regulations prohibit dogs, amphibians, reptiles and snakes that are considered dangerous. Therefore, we require the ban of all such animals…”

I’m not certain which amphibians and reptiles are viewed as dangerous and which are not.

Another big event is the Houston Symphony’s Star Spangled Salute which is held on the Fourth at the Miller Theater in Hermann Park beginning at 8:30 PM.

Red, Hot & Blue is the fireworks event to be held in The Woodlands on the evening of the Fourth. Fireworks is a fine way for The Woodlands to note the Fourth. Getting it right for the Fourth is a sharp contrast to the inappropriately celebratory manner in which The Woodlands noted Memorial Day 2012. You’ll have to decide for yourself if a place that sees Memorial Day as just another time to shop is the right place for an expression of loyalty to our nation.

In Galveston there will be fireworks at 37th and Seawall at 9:15 PM. I bet the fireworks are nice along the ocean.

The Galveston County Daily News usually does a good job listing holiday events in Galveston County.

Sugar Land promises “an 18-minute spectacular fireworks show that will color the sky with magic and majesty.”  Here are the details.  

Rosenberg in Fort Bend County has an event planned for the Fourth.

The George H.W. Bush Library in College Station has the “I Love America celebration all day on the Fourth.  There will be fireworks at the end of the night.

I’m not being sarcastic when I tell you that I would go to the Bush Library for the Fourth if my schedule allowed. The Bush Library event would be my first pick.

Here is a list of some Houston area fireworks shows from the Houston Chronicle.

I’m certain I’ve left off many events on this list, If you have something you’d like me to add to this list, please leave a comment and I will add your event.

Here is my Fourth of July Reading & Reference list—-  

(Above–Black Americans observing the Fourth in 1939 in St. Helena Island, South Carolina.)

What books and resources would be helpful to learn more about the American Revolution and about America?

As I’ve said before, I don’t believe the Revolution was a liberal or conservative event in the sense we think about such things today.
Continue reading

June 23, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

May 4 Is Rhode Island Independence Day

May 4 is Rhode Island Independence Day.

On May 4, 1776 Rhode Island declared independence from Great Britain. It was the first of the soon-to-be former colonies to take this step.

If you were a school kid in Rhode Island in 1976, you got the day off as a holiday as part of Bicentennial observances that year.

I recall that as a good day. I lived in Rhode Island between 1968 and 1980.

(Below—The Rose Island lighthouse in Narragansett Bay)

Here is some history on Rhode Island ( Click here for the full link) —

Rhode Island was a leader in the American Revolutionary movement. Having the greatest degree of self-rule, it had the most to lose from the efforts of England after 1763 to increase her supervision and control over her American colonies. In addition, Rhode Island had a long tradition of evading the poorly enforced navigation acts, and smuggling was commonplace.

Beginning with strong opposition in Newport to the Sugar Act (1764), with its restrictions on the molasses trade, the colony engaged in repeated measures of open defiance, such as the scuttling and torching of the British customs sloop Liberty in Newport harbor in July 1769, the burning of British revenue schooner Gaspee on Warwick’s Namquit Point in 1772, and Providence’s own “Tea Party” in March 1775. Gradually the factions of Ward and Hopkins put aside their local differences and united by endorsing a series of political responses to alleged British injustices. On May 17, 1774, after parliamentary passage of the Coercive Acts (Americans called them “Intolerable”), the Providence Town Meeting became the first governmental assemblage to issue a call for a general congress of colonies to resist British policy. On June 15 the General Assembly made the colony the first to appoint delegates (Ward and Hopkins) to the anticipated Continental Congress.

In April 1775, a week after the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord, the colonial legislature authorized raising a 1,500-man ”army of observation” with Nathanael Greene as its commander. Finally, on May 4, 1776, Rhode Island became the first colony to renounce allegiance to King George III. Ten weeks later, on July 18, the Assembly ratified the Declaration of Independence.

(Below–The flag of Rhode Island along with a Revolutionary-era U.S. flag. This is a picture I took last summer in Newport, Rhode Island.)   

Here are some basic facts about Rhode Island.

Here is information on visiting Rhode Island. 

A great book to learn about the American colonies is American Colonies by Alan Taylor.  

Below is a picture I took in 2008 of the famous Independent Man statue found on the top of the Rhode Island State Capitol.

May 3, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life Is Many Things At Once—Creation May Or May Not Be Worth The Violence And Disruption It Involves

Above is a picture I took in January of 2011 of Pioneer Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Cincinnati is one of my home towns.

One thing I like about this cemetery is that it contains the remains of the Revolutionary War soldiers who were among the first wave of white settlers in Cincinnati.

Also here are the remains of the women who made everyday life work.

When we expand our view of history, we are most likely to get the all the facts right. We are most likely to include all that merit inclusion.

In this cemetery, I like the juxtaposition of the settlement of a newer America beyond the Appalachians with the men and women of an older time.

Yesterday I ran on the blog a picture of the big industrial Houston Ship Channel which had in it a number of nice colorful flowers.

Everything is more than one thing at once.

These multiple qualities can be living things, industry, conceptions of the past, conceptions about places, confluences of time, the living and the dead themselves, and whatever else that sails your ship.

I’m very mindful that a Native American population was present in Southwestern Ohio before the white man arrived.

There is violence and disruption with every act of creation.

It is not clear to me that every act of creation is worth the violence and disruption that helps make it possible.

May 2, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

March 15 Is The Ides Of March—A Great Day To Learn About Rome And Caesar

Tomorrow, March 15, is the Ides of March.

Here is an explanation of what the term Ides of March means.

(Above–The Death of Caesar. This work was painted in 1798 by Vincenzo Camuccini.)

Here are two accessible book to learn about the events surrounding the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of Julius Caesar.

Rubicon–The Last Years of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland.

A quality biography is Caesar–Life Of A Colossus by Adam Goldsworthy.

Though these events took place a long time ago, the impact of the rise of Caesar and the history of Rome is still recalled today.

Here is a comprehensive timeline of Ancient Roman history.

Here are some essays Ancient Rome from the BBC.

(Below—Whoopee! It is Cleopatra and Caesar as painted by Jean-Leon Gerome in 1866.)

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Fourth Of July Reading List—It Is Up To You To Learn Your Past

The Fourth of July will be here soon.

(Above–Black Americans observing the Fourth in 1939 in St. Helena Island, South Carolina.)

What books would be helpful to learn more about the American Revolution and about America?

As I’ve said before, I don’t believe the Revolution was a liberal or conservative event in the sense we think about such things today.

Some of the Founding Fathers were religious. Others were not.  The Revolution had some aspects of a tax revolt. But who can know if folks in the early days of the nation would not have paid more taxes to get all the garbage out of the street or to prevent so many women from dying in childbirth?  Some of the founders believed in government being run from state capitols. Others supported a stronger national government.

Anybody who asserts that the American Revolution was a liberal or conservative victory in the modern sense is more concerned with today’s politics than with historical facts.

At the bottom line, it is up to you to know and understand our shared history. If you allow others to define your past, they will likely use that power to help bring about a future you don’t want.

(Below–1887 Fourth of July picnic in Custer County, Nebraska.)

Here are six book suggestions and a history blog suggestion that are strong sources to learn about the life in North America before colonization, after colonization, at the time of the Revolution, and to learn about the full history of our nation.

* 1491–New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

There was a whole world here before 1492. 1492 is one marker in history. There is little understanding of who lived in the Americas before Columbus. American history did not begin in 1492 or  in 1620 when the Mayflower arrived.

* Mayflower–A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick

There are starting points in American history other than the landing of the Mayflower. Yet learning the story of the Mayflower is basic to knowing our history.

Before The Mayflower—A History of Black America by Lerone Bennett.

In many ways, nothing is more central to the American experience than the history of black Americans. So much has turned on the decision to bring black people to America, and on how those unwilling immigrants responded to life in North America.

* American Colonies–The Settlement of North America by Alan Taylor

This book is a good way to learn about the British colonies. It includes chapters about not just the 13 colonies we all know and love, but also has chapters on British Canada and about colonies in the Caribbean.

History of American Women–A blog.

This blog is a useful resource to know more about women of early American history.

* Patriots–The Men Who Started The American Revolution by A.J. Langguth

This book reads like a novel. It is an enjoyable and informative way to learn about the events and personalities of the Revolution.

The Penguin History Of  The United States by Hugh Brogan

The Penguin History is a one-volume non-ideological account of our nation that discusses the events of the Revolution and then goes on to provide the full context of American history. While I do sometimes read history books written from the left or the right, I find I’d rather have a balanced account that leaves ideological judgements up to the reader.

As a liberal, I’m confident that an examination of the facts–In a way both comprehensive, and sympathetic to the strengths and weaknesses of our fellow men and women— will lead to a view that America is best when it is welcoming of people of all kinds, and that government has, in tandem with the hard-work of a free people, a role to play in providing a basic social safety net for its people.

In any case, it is your responsibility to learn your history and to consider what this history means in terms of your beliefs and actions in the world.

Learn the past so you can be a hopeful and relevant part of the future.

(Below–How some see the Fourth of July. It is fine as far is it goes. But there is so much more. The painting–called The Spirit of ’76– is by Archibald Willard.)  

June 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

De Gaulle’s Famous Speech Of June 18, 1940

File:De-gaulle-radio.jpg

June 18, 1940 is the day that General Charles De Gaulle made the speech on the BBC from London that began French resistance to Nazi occupation. It is a great speech that is still recalled in France and in all places where the great events of World War II are remembered.

(Above–De Gaulle speaking on the BBC during World War II.)

De Gaulle left France in 1940 as an exile and came back four years later to lead France.

France and De Gaulle appeared to have been defeated in 1940. But they were not defeated.

A great two-volume of De Gaulle was written by Jean Lacouture. The first volume is called De Gaulle–The Rebel, 1890-1944Here is a review of that book. The second volume is De Gaulle–The Ruler, 1945-1970.

A good one-volume biography is The Last Great Frenchman–A Life of Charles De Gaulle by Charles Williams.

De Gaulle’s war memoirs are justly well-regarded.

(Below–The great speech in French. Photo by Semnoz.)

Here is some biographical information about Charles De Gaulle.

Here is a BBC biography of De Gaulle.

De Gaulle was neither a figure of the political left or right. His loyalty was to France and, sometimes, to the idea of putting on a grand performance on the world stage.  He was often serious and absurd at the same time

What could have been more absurd than the notion of one lone general banished to London after the Nazi overrun of France coming back within a few years as the political master of France?

Charles De Gaulle is a subject that merits your further study. In studying the life of De Gaulle you will learn about French history, World War II, European and Cold War politics of the 1950’s and 60’s, and the bloody battle for Algerian Independence.

You’ll also learn about fighting and winning a fight that seemed at first to be hopeless.

Here is the great speech I referenced above. It is also called the Appeal of June 18—

The leaders who, for many years, were at the head of French armies, have formed a government. This government, alleging our armies to be undone, agreed with the enemy to stop fighting. Of course, we were subdued by the mechanical, ground and air forces of the enemy. Infinitely more than their number, it was the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans which made us retreat. It was the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans that surprised our leaders to the point to bring them there where they are today.

But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!

Believe me, I speak to you with full knowledge of the facts and tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us to a day of victory. For France is not alone! She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. She can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of United States.

This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not finished by the battle of France. This war is a world-wide war. All the faults, all the delays, all the suffering, do not prevent there to be, in the world, all the necessary means to one day crush our enemies. Vanquished today by mechanical force, we will be able to overcome in the future by a superior mechanical force.

The destiny of the world is here. I, General of Gaulle, currently in London, invite the officers and the French soldiers who are located in British territory or who would come there, with their weapons or without their weapons, I invite the engineers and the special workers of armament industries who are located in British territory or who would come there, to put themselves in contact with me.

Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance not must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished. Tomorrow, as today, I will speak on Radio London.

June 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Learn About Paul Revere And His Ride For Yourself—You Are Crazy To Let Others Define Your Past

Due to recent comments by Sarah Palin, Paul Revere’s Ride is in the news.

When important events in American history find their way back into the news, that is a good time to take your own initiative to learn the real facts.

Above is John Singleton Copley’s 1768 painting of Paul Revere.

Here is how this painting is described by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Revere, a silversmith, is seen here as both a working person and as a thinker.

Every working person has the ability to understand complex things if he or she is willing to make the effort.

An excellent book about Paul Revere and the Boston he knew is Paul Revere And The World He Lived In by Esther Forbes.

A book about the famous ride that got strong reviews is Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer.  I have not read this title.

If you have the good fortune to be able to visit Boston, you can tour the home where Paul Revere and his family lived.

Here are facts about the Midnight Ride from the Revere Home. 

Below is a picture of the Revere home that I took in 2008.

In Boston you can also visit the famous Old North Church. 

This is the church where the lanterns were hung on the night of Paul Revere’s ride.

Below is a picture I took from inside the Old North Church in 2008.

Please allow me to be clear—You don’t need to go to Boston to learn about Paul Revere and his ride. All the information you need is at the library, the bookstore, and on the internet.

The things you need to learn about yourself and your world are all around you. These things are accessible with effort and imagination.

You are crazy if you allow other people to tell you about your past.

If you allow other people define your past—and by extension to define the person you are—you will lose control of your future.

June 7, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Burning Of British Ship Gaspee in 1772 Was A Good Thing—You Might See It A Different Way

June 9 will mark the 239th anniversary of the 1772 burning of the Gaspee in Narragansett Bay off the coast of Rhode Island.

(Above–An 1883 engraving depicting the burning of the Gaspee.)

The Gaspee was a British revenue schooner that helped make sure Rhode Islanders paid colonial taxes.

From the Rhode Island Historical Society-

“The first open act of aggression toward Great Britain leading up to the American Revolution took place in Warwick on June 10, 1772.  The British revenue schooner, the Gaspee, ran aground in Narragansett Bay.  Before the ship could be set afloat, it was boarded by a battalion of men, led by Samuel Whipple and John Brown, and burned.”

As a school kid in Rhode Island at the time of the American Bicentennial, I was told that the burning of the Gaspee was a good thing. I recall we even once had a school play that recreated the burning.

While I’m doubtful about many things that I learned from my teachers, I still very much hold to the idea that the burning of the Gaspee was a good thing.

Here is an excellent collection of links to learn more about the Gaspee incident. 

Here is the link for the Gaspee Days that are held each year in Rhode Island to mark the great event.

It is up to each individual to learn our shared history.

American history is complicated. Events that took place in the 1770’s are not clear guideposts for what we should think and do today.

If somebody broke the law to impede the collection of taxes today, I would demand that they go to jail.

What is the difference between the burning of the Gaspee in 1772 and such an act today?

I can’t imagine there is much difference except my own view of British rule of the American colonies 230 years after the fact, in comparison to my support today of a federal government able to help everyday citizens and administer the day-to-day functions of the nation.

Figure stuff out for yourself.

Don’t let other people define your past, and then seek to shape your future while you stand idly by.

June 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Facts About Juneteenth—The Freedom Of All People Is Connected

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is the celebration to mark the end of slavery in the United States.

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger, landing at Galveston, Texas, made the announcement that the Civil War was over and that slaves were free.

(Above–Ashton Villa. It was from the balcony of this house that the Emancipation Proclamation was read in the event now known as Juneteenth. Photo by Nick Saum  www.nicksaumphotography.com)

Juneteenth for 2011 will be observed on Sunday, June 19.

It is important that we all be aware of Juneteenth. The freedom of all people is connected. If any group of Americans does not have all their rights, than we are all denied our rights.

Here is information on Juneteenth from the very useful Handbook of Texas Online.

From the Handbook—

“On June 19 (“Juneteenth”), 1865, Union general Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, thus belatedly bringing about the freeing of 250,000 slaves in Texas. The tidings of freedom reached slaves gradually as individual plantation owners read the proclamation to their bondsmen over the months following the end of the war. The news elicited an array of personal celebrations, some of which have been described in The Slave Narratives of Texas (1974). The first broader celebrations of Juneteenth were used as political rallies and to teach freed African-Americans about their voting rights. Within a short time, however, Juneteenth was marked by festivities throughout the state, some of which were organized by official Juneteenth committees.”

Though the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in 1863, it took time for word to get around that slavery was over. People went around for two years not knowing they were free.

After Juneteenth came the failure of Reconstruction and over 100 years of Jim Crow. Many people had their lives wasted in these years due to the racist beliefs of political leaders and of many everyday citizens.

Here is a history of Reconstruction.

Here is a history of Jim Crow.

Here is a collection of links that form a history of slavery in the United States.

These folks think Juneteenth should be a holiday.

Here is a list on Juneteenth events in Houston for 2011.

( I’ve also written the best Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List on the web. Please click here to see the list.)

Below is a picture of a man who was a slave and who was whipped many times.

File:Cicatrices de flagellation sur un esclave.jpg

The man in the picture above had no choice about his fate in life.

Even today we remain not in full control of our fates. Circumstance and chance play a role in life.

Sometimes our freedom is restricted by our self-imposed limits of imagination. Other times our freedom is challenged by the greed of the wealthy and powerful.

In any case, we must always press ahead towards freedom and emancipation. There is always progress to be made and great victories to be won.

June 4, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Events Of American Revolution Do Not Offer Clear Answers For Today’s Issues—Everybody Is Welcome At Our Great Historical Sites

With the Fourth of July just over a month away, it’s time we take back our history from the right-wing Tea Party extremists who have been allowed to commandeer some portion of our past. The so-called Tea Party wants to use our shared American history in the service of the very un-American ideals of exclusion, and of benefiting the rich over the working man and woman.

One such Tea Party cell here in Texas is called the King Street Patriots. This Houston-based Tea Party outfit takes its name from the street in Boston where the Boston Massacre took place.

King Street is now known as State Street in Boston.

The effort to define our past is about finding justification for political positions in today’s debates. If we can prove that our viewpoints and actions in the present day match the intent of the folks who led the American Revolution, then we can claim that these viewpoints and actions have a special validity and are true to our founding ideals.

The picture above is of the Old Massachusetts State House on the former King Street. I took this picture while visiting Boston in 2008. The Boston Massacre occurred pretty much at the location from where I took the picture. The yellow balcony is the place where the Declaration of Independence was first proclaimed in Boston in 1776.

All people are free to visit this historic location. You can stand at the spot where the Massacre took place. You can tour the Old State House. People of all political beliefs are welcome. People of all nationalities are welcome.  There are no immigration checkpoints to see if people have the proper papers. People of all religions are welcomed. Nobody feels compelled to offer a prayer at this great and important site that favors one religion over other religions.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be writing about some aspects of early American history, and suggesting books and websites for people who would like to learn more.

The first book I’m recommending is Patriots–The Men Who Started the American Revolution by A.J. Langguth. Patriots is an accessible and detailed account of events leading up to the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War.

Good luck in finding a clear ideological lesson for today in the events describes in Patriots or in any serious account of our independence.

Yes–In many ways the American Revolution was a tax revolt. At the same time, the streets of colonial Boston were covered with garbage and animal waste. Women were always pregnant and many died in childbirth. Many children died before reaching adulthood. Folks drank rum and beer all day long in part because clean water could be hard to find.

Would people back in colonial times have paid more taxes for better sanitation, better public health, and for clean water?

Who knows? Those folks are long dead and we live in a very different nation and world.

There is plenty to learn and understand from studying our past. We’ve got to know who we are and where we come from. But nobody can take events from more than 200 years ago, and feel that they now have all the answers to today’s public policy debates.

At least nobody who has any idea what they are talking about has this ability.

Don’t learn your history from this blog. And be certain that you don’t learn your history from far-right fanatics who glorify states rights and who want to return to the injustices of the past.

A clear example of why not to listen to representatives the far-right when they attempt to define our history can be found in this video clip of Sarah Palin talking about Paul Revere’s Ride. She simply has no idea what she is talking about.

Here are some actual facts about Paul Revere’s Ride.

Figure stuff out for yourself.

Don’t let other people define your past, and then seek to shape your future while you stand idly by.

June 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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