History Monday #77

History is made with the 44th President on this day

Hopefully as the calendar has changed to a new month, you are excited for today’s #HistoryMonday entry. Today’s post deals with everyone’s favorite subject—politics. I’ll try to stay above the fray and address the historical implications for the United States and for African-Americans specifically.

On November 4, 2008, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois won the Presidential election over Senator John McCain of Arizona, becoming the 44th President of the United States.  President Obama’s election win marked the first African American elected to the presidency.

Born in 1961 in Hawaii to a white mother from Kansas and a Kenyan father, Obama graduated from Harvard Law School and was a law professor at the University of Chicago before launching his political career in 1996, when he was elected to the Illinois State Senate. Serving for 8 years in the Illinois State Senate, Obama was eventually elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004 and immediately gained national attention in Democratic political circles.

Pres. Obama was able to earn 365 electoral votes and nearly 53 percent of the popular vote, outpacing the late Sen. McCain who earned only 173 electoral votes and just a little over 45 percent of the popular vote. Pres. Obama chose Senator Joe Biden of Delaware to be his running mate, while McCain’s running mate was Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. Had Sen. McCain won, history would have been made with the election of the first female Vice President. So, the election had historic importance regardless of the outcome.

Campaign staff chose Springfield, Illinois as the site for then-Senator Obama’s officially announcement of his candidacy for president. An Iowa caucus victory in January 2008 propelled him through the primary season to be the nominee over Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Obama’s team built a grassroots strategy for the general election season appealing to voters with their candidate’s natural charisma, unique life story and inspiring message of hope and change. The team also focused on appealing to young and African-American voters who identified with Obama’s demographic similarities. To this end, the campaign took advantage of the Internet to organize fundraising and voter turnout efforts.

Candidate Obama campaigned on pledges to get the U.S. out of the war in Iraq and drastically expanding healthcare access. The 2008 Recession caused Obama and McCain to provide solutions to address the economic struggles resulting from the Recession

President-elect Obama accepted the election victory at Chicago’s Grant Park, acknowledging the historic significance of his victory stating, “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer… It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.”

fast forward

Pres. Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009 in Washington, D.C. according to the Constitutional process spelled out for the U.S. President. Pres. Obama would accomplish the campaign promise to expand health insurance coverage very shortly after with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” as an allusion to his efforts in the healthcare expansion.

After serving his first term, Pres. Obama was re-elected on November 6, 2012, defeating Republican Mitt Romney to win a second term in the White House. Pres. Obama completed his second term on January 20, 2017.

The election of Pres. Obama as the first African-American President is remarkable since governors, congressmen, and senators of African-American descent had been elected much earlier and often. Many of these political figures were elected within the first decade after the Civil War.

Pres. Obama’s presidency was also significant as mentioned for the historic expansion of health insurance coverage beyond private companies, establishing government agencies to oversee the administration of insurance.

Per his promise to end the Iraq War, Pres. Obama eventually withdrew troops from Iraq ending the almost decade-long conflict in the region. Pres. Obama did also accomplish a significant victory that had eluded his predecessor, by killing Osama bin Laden.

Pres. Obama’s progressive policies drew sharp criticism from conservatives just after his inauguration and saw Republican gains steadily each election cycle during his presidency. This also saw the rise of conservative media outlets that criticized those policies alleging the predominance of mainstream media outlets were amenable with Pres. Obama rather than maintaining independence. The reaction to these progressive policies also led to many voters electing Pres. Trump in 2016 who viewed the policies as unhelpful for the country and particularly divisive.

After leaving office, Pres. Obama has become a pseudo-celebrity appearing on Netflix specials and political conventions. Recently, Pres. Obama has also used his position to endorse candidates in 2018 and 2020. Just a few weeks ago, Pres. Obama endorsed Justin Trudeau for re-election as the Prime Minister of Canada. Surprisingly, Pres. Obama has yet to endorse a 2020 Presidential Candidate, which includes his Vice President Joe Biden, his former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, and fellow Hawaiian Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Do you think Pres. Obama will endorse anyone in the 2020 Presidential Election.

History Monday #72

Hotty Toddy! History is made in college admissions

History in the Civil Rights Movement is no stranger to the Hospitality State, and today’s #HistoryMonday is about less than hospitable conditions provided by the state’s flagship institution of higher learning. Let’s delve into the event and the results following.

James Meredith, accompanied by U.S. Marshals while entering the University of Mississippi

On this day in 1962, James H. Meredith attempts to enroll at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) along with U.S. Marshals. Federal reinforcements in the form of the U.S. Marshalls had become necessary after resistance from university officials and the state’s governor blocked Meredith’s enrollment at Ole Miss.

A former serviceman in the U.S. Air Force, Meredith applied and was accepted to the University of Mississippi in 1962, but when the registrar discovered his race the admission was rescinded. Meredith was still determined to gain admission.

Meredith had previously tried without success in to enroll at the university. After the second refusal by the university, Meredith filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, alleging that the university had rejected him only because of his race. Eventually, after a series of appeals that ruled the state had no right to refuse Meredith’s enrollment, the state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court uphold the lower courts’ rulings and ordered Ole Miss to admit James Meredith. The District Court ordered the Board of Trustees for Ole Miss to admit Meredith on September 13, 1962.

Facing a potential election loss in November of that year, Gov. Ross Barnett boasted, “no school will be integrated in Mississippi while I am your governor.” Barnett along with the state legislature had already been planning to prevent Meredith’s enrollment by falsifying claims of voter fraud against Meredith. The criminal charges of these voter fraud would prevent Meredith from enrolling based on this alleged criminal activity.

Barnett, and his Lieutenant Governor both faced federal criminal charges of contempt on September 28 for their actions to prevent Meredith from enrolling. If they refused to comply by October 2, they could be arrested and pay $10,000 and $5,000 a day, respectively.

In hopes to expedite Meredith’s admission and avoid the fines, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Pres. Kennedy conducted calls with Barnett to secretly admit Meredith but allow Barnett to appear unflappable in the public.

Attorney Gen. Kennedy ordered 500 U.S. Marshalls to Oxford, MS to assist Meredith with his enrollment. The Marshalls’ presence would help perpetuate an appearance of Federal overreach which the Governor would have to necessarily comply with.

Unfortunately, this appearance of the Marshalls in Oxford was not dissimilar to Civil War troops marching through the South. Residents unhappy that Ole Miss was being desegregated and Federal troops were invading the South and its way of life began to riot. Two men were killed in the midst of this violence. In addition to Marshalls, another 3,000 federal soldiers were dispatched by Pres. Kennedy to end the rioting. The next day on October 1, 1962, after troops took control, Meredith became the first African-American student to enroll at the University of Mississippi.

fast forward

The admission of James Meredith is regarded as a pivotal moment in the history of Civil Rights in the United States. Compared to other Civil Rights pioneers like Rosa Parks, Meredith helped other African-Americans take courage to desegregate other universities in the South. The Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka had inspired Meredith to pursue desegregation as the Supreme Court had overruled the Plessy v. Ferguson case that promoted separate but equal facilities.

Meredith graduated from Ole Miss in 1963 with a degree in political science. As part of his activism at Ole Miss, Meredith would go on to help protests through the Sixties partnering with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael.

Anniversaries of this date have been held in 2002 and 2012. During the 40th anniversary, officials erected a statue of Meredith in the Lyceum-The Circle Historic District at the center of the campus. The district was designated as a National Historic Landmark for these events in October of 2008.

Ole Miss continues to rehabilitate its image and its conduct towards African-Americans. The school’s mascot while named the Rebels commemorates the Confederate forces during the Civil War. Attempts have been made to remove the mascot, Col. Reb and replace it with Rebel Black Bear and Tony Landshark, but fans are reluctant to embrace the new mascots. Additionally, the school band’s playing of Dixie has also elicited negative responses from critics as well. Due to the historical significance of the song in minstrel shows, these critics argued it should be removed from the band’s repertoire. Use of the “Battle Flag” by fans and students at ball games has also been banned for similar reasons.

Hopefully, Mississippi will eventually move forward and live up to its Hospitality State nickname and overcome much of its historic resistance to African-American equality. Ole Miss has even elected its first African-American Student Body President a few years ago which bodes well for the University to make such steps. Heritage Tourism efforts in the state to commemorate Civil Rights challenges along with the popularity of HGTV’s Home Town in Laurel are also drawing renewed travel to Mississippi.

Will Mississippi ever shed its negative reputation towards African-Americans?      

Current Event Friday #73

Incidents of racism are making the rounds in the news

There’s only one race, and that’s the human race. We all like to believe that this is true and so many others believe that in our country. While it’s true that at our founding as a nation we had an untenable relationship between White Europeans and people of color, but we have progressed since that time. Sadly, some insensitive people have proven we could do better. Three such incidents of racism in the news recently are today’s topic of #CurrentEventFriday.

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Locally, the most obvious incident was the Ku Klux Klan’s Labor Day Kookout in Madison, IN. A quaint little small town famous for the Independence Day regatta attracts several dozen Klansmen who dare to proclaim the superiority of the white race. As the group has waned in influence, the numbers have dwindled while the counter-protestors have grown significantly. This is a promising sign that more are opposed to racism and refuting it. Madison overlooks Trimble County, KY so there is at least some historical tendencies of ‘copperheads’ in the area. During the Civil War, ‘copperheads’ were Southern loyalists living in Union states in the North. Hopefully there will come a time when the Kookout gets cancelled from lack of interest.

Not as local, but somewhat nearby is an arrest of a University of Illinois student. The alleged perpetrator is a sophomore at the campus. After this student and another left a noose in an elevator in a residence hall, the other student came forward and confessed that their friend had indeed placed a noose in the elevator. After the student was arrested and charged with a hate crime for leaving the noose, the university dismissed the student. A similar story occurred during my own undergrad when parts of a pig carcass were found near an African-American fraternity house because another fraternity discarded the carcass carelessly after a hog roast. No hate crime charges were filed since no malicious intent was able to be assigned to the guilty parties.

I posted a short blurb and a news story that followed on my Facebook earlier in the week, but it’s still worth discussing. A couple in Mississippi looked into renting an outdoor event space for their wedding but were refused as the groom was African-American while the bride is white. When the owners of the event space were questioned about the refusal, they argued that both gay marriages and interracial marriages were against their Christian race, or Christian belief. As word broke about the event space and Social Media critics attacked the ratings of the venue and commented on the Facebook page, the owners quickly deleted the business page. I know that gay marriage is a hot-button issue and religious freedom bills allow business owners not to violate their conscience, the argument for these bills is seemingly about endorsing behavior not natural traits. That’s at least my interpretation of homosexuality, and I would suspect many others. Sadly, the argument about a Christian Race alludes to rhetoric of Klansmen that the White Christian Race is under attack. It’s also not completely surprising that Mississippi is still struggling with racism. The site of the Emmitt Till Murder as well as the 1963 Civil Rights murders the state is seemingly the poster child for racism. The state is making at least some progress as the mayor and town council in the town where the venue is located condemned the venue and distanced themselves with the racist undertones. Yet, the state representative for the district including the town of Boonville where the venue is located has not issued a statement. This same representative co-sponsored the latest religious freedom act in Mississippi that protects business owners from being penalized for refusing gay marriage ceremonies. Pretty safe to assume that pressure will be brought to bear on the state representative, and he’ll have to make some sort of statement.

I for one think that we have made progress as a nation since the Civil Rights Era, but we are still divided by race. Electing an African-American man as president not once but twice is to me fruit of diversity appreciation in our country following the tumultuous Civil Rights Era. Seemingly, groups like Black Lives Matter that notice a racist devil around every corner tend to undermine progress while alt-right and White pride folks also give fuel to those determined to promote unity of will with diversity of thought and race.

Hopefully, as everyone can recognize actual acts of racism perpetrated with evil intent rather than naivete about race relations that leads to misunderstanding will move us where we should be as a country. If we are a nation where all people are created equal regardless of race, gender, age, or religion then we need to be able to agree on what is prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination. Even more hopefully acts of racism also fade away and we do become the nation we aspired to be from our founding.

Are we improving with race relations in America?

History Monday #49

Before Eddie Murphy’s Mr. Robinson, baseball had their own.

Here’s to you Mr. Robinson, baseball loves you more than you will know. Today in history, an important event in baseball and civil rights. Of course, the temptation when seeing Robinson and historical significance with baseball, you think Jackie. Yet, today’s #HistoryMonday is an entirely different Robinson playing baseball.

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Frank Robinson of the Cleveland Indians

On this day, in 1975 the Cleveland Indians baseball team named Frank Robinson as player-manager. Like the aforementioned Jackie Robinson, this made Frank Robinson the first African-American in his position.

Robinson had been traded the season before from the California Angels. He had been hoping for a managing job as he observed a decline in his playing time and abilities in the later years. Robinson was a 14x All-Star, including the 1974 season prior to his trade to the Indians in order to facilitate his desire to be a manager. Robinson is the only player to have won the MVP award in both the National & American League.

Robinson continued to play and manage until 1976 when he retired from playing. Along with his retirement in 1976, Hank Aaron also retired. For what it’s worth, Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record on April 8, 1974. So almost coincidentally both men are linked for their contributions to baseball on the same day.

Frank Robinson would continue to compile a 186-189 record in three years with the Indians before being fired as manager after a dismal start to the 1977 campaign. Robinson would also manage for the San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, and Washington Nationals.

fast forward

After Robinson’s hiring as the first African-American manager in Major League Baseball, several other former players were given chances and produced success. Among those are: Dusty Baker, Don Baylor, Cito Gaston, Ron Washington, and Dave Roberts.

To date, only four African Americans have managed a World Series team—Cito Gaston, Dusty Baker, Ron Washington, and Dave Roberts. Cito Gaston is the only African American manager to win a World Series, managing the Toronto Blue Jays to the championship in 1992 and 1993. Along with Gaston, Ron Washington and Dave Roberts have managed their teams to multiple World Series appearances with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively.

Frank Robinson was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 9, 2005 by Pres. George W. Bush and on April 13, 2007, Robinson was awarded the first Jackie Robinson Society Community Recognition Award. In 1982, during his managerial tenure with the Orioles, Robinson was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame being tied to the Orioles at this election.

Robinson was also named to important front-office positions with Major League Baseball and assisting Bud Selig with day-to-day concerns of baseball and serving as an honorary executive for the Commissioner’s office.

Frank Robinson’s number 20 is retired by the Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles, and Cleveland Indians. The retirement by the Reds is entirely for Robinson’s contributions as a player only. The retirement by the Orioles and Indians is thanks to his contributions as player and manager alike. The teams also erected statues with Robinson’s likeness in addition to the retired jersey numbers.

Sadly, Frank Robinson passed away from cancer complications earlier this year on 7 February. He was 83 at the time of his passing.

What do you remember about Frank Robinson?

History Monday #43

In addition to my birthday, it’s also an important day in Black History Month

Today is a bonus for historical events on this day for #HistoryMonday. First, from a purely self-indulgent point of view I was born on this day 34 years ago. Of course, I view this as significant but I know other far-reaching events are more worthy of mention. As part of Black History Month, it is worth celebrating Hiram Rhodes Revels on this day.
In Hiram Rhodes Revels, a Republican from Natchez, Mississippi, is sworn into the U.S. Senate, becoming the first African American Senator to serve in the Congress. Sen. Revels was sworn in two days after Mississippi was readmitted to statehood in the Union after Secession.
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Sen. Hiram Rhodes Revels
On January 20, 1870, the Mississippi legislature elected Revels to fill the Senate seat once held by Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy. The swearing in ceremony was the last step in the election process.
Revels attended Beech Grove Quaker Seminary in Indiana and Darke County Seminary in Ohio in 1844. Although his education was incomplete, he was ordained into the African Methodist Episcopal Church, at Allen Chapel, Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1845. Worth mentioning, the Church still stands and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I first remember learning about Revels and his connection to Allen Chapel while in African-American Studies class at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. Props to Rev. Terry Clark and his approach to teaching African-American Studies.
Revels was appointed to preach to congregations after his stint in Terre Haute. Revels made stops in Illinois, Ohio, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee as a pastor. Revels was arrested and imprisoned in Missouri in 1854, “for preaching to negroes.”
Revels spent much of the Civil War helping form African American army regiments for the Union cause. He also plied his trade as a chaplain for the Union army given his theological training. After the War ended, Revels was assigned to Mississippi and became active in Reconstruction-era Southern politics.
Revels served one year in the Senate and accepted a position as the first president of Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Alcorn State University), a historically black college located in Mississippi.
fast forward
Sen. Revels along with other African-Americans during the Reconstruction Era were able to make progress in the House and Senate but never came close to proportional representation compared to the percentage of African-American population determined by census records. African-Americans elected to Congress in the South during the early days of the Ku Klux Klan and poll taxes was still counter to the culture. A few years after Sen. Revels left for Alcorn State University, Blanche Bruce became the first African-American Senator to serve a full term. Sen. Bruce was also from Mississippi. While many of us may consider The Magnolia State as lagging in terms of race relations, at one point it was a leader in positive race relations.
Even in modern times, only 10 African-Americans have served in the Senate—6 Democrat & 4 Republican. Included in this list of Senators is Pres. Obama and 2020 Presidential hopefuls Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. The House has had some more success than the Senate with 153 members.
Have you ever heard about Sen. Hiram Rhodes Revels?

History Monday #38

Today Samuel Clemens’s first successful novel is published about a mischievous protagonist

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure.”

This quote is among several uttered or penned by celebrated American satirist and novelist Mark Twain, the author of today’s #HistoryMonday topic—Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. For what it’s worth, the quote above is from one of Twain’s notebooks and not the book in question.

On this day in 1884, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in the United Kingdom and Canada. It would be published a couple months later in the United States. The book is known for its usage of vernacular English from the American South. The usage of ‘improper’ English was uncommon at the time of publication.

The novel was Twain’s first successful novel. While it’s predecessor The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is famous and has become part of American culture, it was initially a commercial failure for Twain. It was only after Twain became regarded for his short stories in various magazines that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer would become profitable.

Both novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn while being read by generations of Americans for pleasure or as part of academic requirements are not without controversy. While Twain included the dialect of American Southern English in the books, this also included the use of the infamous African-American slur ‘n****r’ as part of the dialogue. While the usage of the slur in Southern society at the time of its publishing, critics have made attempts to prohibit the books from being read or eliminating the word in more appropriate versions.

fast forward

The novel made Twain famous as an American novelist and still paints a picture of the antebellum South. Twain’s goal of the novel was to satirize the attitudes and actions of moral Christians in the South who owned slaves and treated them harshly. This hypocrisy is lampooned by Twain by including a runaway slave named Jim who is kindhearted, intelligent, and moral. Twain hope to contrast the attitudes of polite Southern Christian Whites who believed African slaves to be savage, immoral, and lacking intellect. Many of the other White characters embody the supposed personality trains that are put upon the African slaves.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has also spawned multiple film and television adaptations, a Broadway musical, and homage novels that act as sequels to the original.

How many of Twain’s works have you read?

History Monday #10

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Time for another #HistoryMonday post. Hope you enjoy the new and improved image for these posts. We’re talking about a historical event I had to write about for my continuing education classes last year, so I’m somewhat more familiar with it rather than the usual gathering and interpreting the important information as I plan and write the posts each week.

Rev. Martin Luther King’s mugshot after his arrest for his efforts with the Birmingham Campaign

Fifty-five years ago, on Good Friday, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama after a joint effort by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to draw attention to injustices in Alabama and its segregationist laws.

King and those who joined in the nonviolent campaign were warned of the legal consequences of their civil disobedience after a Circuit Judge issued an injunction against King and the supporters for their protests. In response to the legal tactic to intimidate King and his supporters, the supporters chose to defy the injunction and continue their protests as they believed they would be vindicated in the just nature of their protests. While in jail, King began to author one of his more famous works that would be published on this date in 1963.

King composed “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as described in his own words, “Begun on the margins of the newspaper in which the statement appeared while I was in jail, the letter was continued on scraps of writing paper supplied by a friendly black trusty and concluded on a pad my attorneys were eventually permitted to leave me.”

The impetus for King’s writing was an article in the newspaper he used to write the letter. The article of importance tiled “A Call for Unity” was written and signed by local clergy, who agreed there were social injustices but encouraged legal actions to undo the racial segregation problems.

King penned the Letter to respond to the fellow clergy addressing concerns King had with the condemnation and criticism of the Civil Rights movement made by these church leaders.

Among the issues that King points out, The Church should not stand on the sidelines and be complacent about social justice allowing protesters and government to try and solve injustice. King bemoans so many Christians are moderate and indifferent regarding social justice. King warned White apathy could encourage capitulation by those suffering injustices or strengthens the anger by the oppressed to seek hateful and violent means to overcome the injustices. King insists that so many of the stories in scripture glorify the radical citing Jesus, Amos, and Paul as examples.

Most importantly, King wants partners in the fight against injustice. To that end, the Church should not remain silent when confronted with evidence of injustice and should seek to remedy the failings in society. The church has stayed silent and sometimes counter to true injustice and must repent and stand with those who have been or are currently facing true oppression.

Due to the popularity of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” it was added to a book featuring a compilation of King’s works titled Why We Can’t Wait. It was from this book that I first encountered the letter for my class last year.1200px-Forward_font_awesome.svg[1]

Today, we see many of King’s complaints being made towards the Church and Whites today. Many of those protesting loudest are members of Black Lives Matter. This organization has drawn attention for their more radical means of protesting and their extreme language towards the oppressor.

Several Church leaders gathered around the nation to march recently to remember Martin Luther King’s legacy on the Fiftieth Anniversary of his assassination.  The symbolic marching demonstrates that Christians should continue to renounce racism and bigotry and strive to follow Christ’s command of love.