U.S. History

Ruth Coker Burks, the cemetery angel
In the darkest hour of the AIDS epidemic, Ruth Coker Burks cared for hundreds of people whose families had abandoned them. Courage, love and the 30-year secret of one little graveyard in Hot Springs.

Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman Among Finalists to be on $20 Bill

Women on 20s is pushing to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with a woman, and online voting from the pool of more-than-worthy candidates has narrowed down the field to four women.

The final cut of Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Wilma Mankiller were selected by more than 250,000 voters from a field of 15 famous American women.

“We believe this simple, symbolic and long-overdue change could be an important stepping stone for other initiatives promoting gender equality,” the group says on its website. “Our money does say something about us, about what we value.”

The group, which also goes by W20, is lobbying to put one of these women on the $20 bill by 2020, the 100th anniversary off the ratification of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

There are still no women on U.S. paper currency and W20 is petitioning the president and Congress to change that.

Read more here

All four of these women are amazing, and I would be perfectly happy with any one of the choices except for Eleanor Roosevelt, who is a HERO of mine so I don’t say this lightly.

With all three other choices, we get racial representation and “normalization, not ‘diversity’” as Shonda Rhimes put it. Adding a white woman to the money mix reinforces white superiority and “white as normal, color as ‘other’” even while it STARTS to address male superiority and “male as normal, female and non-conforming as ‘other’.

My vote is for Harriet Tubman. Rosa Parks’ role is modern civil rights is undeniable, but Tubman has been justly compared to Moses.

Considered by many the “Moses” of her time, escaped slave Harriet Tubman became one of the country’s leading abolitionists before the Civil War. She returned to the South an estimated 19 times to rescue her family and others from bondage as a “conductor” on what was known as the Underground Railroad, an elaborate secret network of safe houses leading to freedom in the North. Later, with her intimate knowledge of the geography and transportation systems of the South, she became a valuable asset to the Union army as a spy and scout. Her Herculean accomplishments were attributed to extraordinary courage, shrewdness and determination. The Quaker Thomas Garrett said of her, “If she had been a white woman, she would have been heralded as the greatest woman of her age.” (Source)

Vote here: Womenon20s.org 


Halloween in the Victorian Era

Halloween was originally perceived as a rustic, country holiday, especially during the U.S. Victorian period, about 1840 to 1900. Overwhelmed by the fallout of industrialization, Victorians sought out a simpler time where people were more connected to the land and the natural world.

Most U.S. civic and private organizations in the first half of the 20th century hosted Halloween parties for children. It was partly an attempt to keep children busy on Halloween, so as to cut down on some of the mischief that happened at night.

Halloween in the U.S. was mainly a celebration for children until the premiere of the 1978 slasher flick Halloween, when the holiday became paired with contemporary horror.

This new association with bloody violence—and the attendant gory costumes and decorations—opened up the holiday for adults and older children to celebrate, and made it more popular.

Bayard Rustin Was Here
Before Martin Luther King, Jr., there was Bayard Rustin, an openly gay black man fighting for equality in a society steeped in institutionalized racism and homophobia.

Despite orchestrating the 1963 March on Washington, and being personally embraced by King and his family, Rustin’s sexuality saw him relegated to the margins of history — largely forgotten and, for too long, uncelebrated. While he died long before the mainstream embrace of LGBT rights, recent social shifts have allowed for his memory to be revived. In 2013 he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom; Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black is currently working on a biopic of the civil rights icon with HBO; and now, his longtime New York residence has been recommended to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.  

Following the recognition of the Stonewall Inn as a historic landmark, LGBT history is finally stepping out into the light. With his home’s landmark status in the works, we look back in photos at the man who so many will meet over the years to come.

…“Most of the rapes that northern soldiers committed were of black women,” and Murphy writes that “most states had laws stating that no crime of rape against slave women existed,” leaving them even less recourse to seek justice…..

Even if it was an upper-class white woman, who was more likely to believed, sometimes judges would dismiss it because they would feel, “Oh, [if she were really a lady] she would have been too ashamed to actually come forward.” So everything was stacked against the woman.

That’s the other thing: both the North and the South rarely thought it was rape when it was a black woman. It wasn’t until the Civil War when black women were actually able to come forward and call it rape. Before that time, even in the North, they would make it a lesser charge [for black women], if at all. I do have at least one record where a black woman was able to testify about a sexual assault in New York or someplace like that, but that was very rare. For the most part, black women’s voices went unheard…



Gender, Race, and Rape During the Civil War

Slavery, the value of chastity, and laws that favored men all made it difficult for women to find justice during the chaos of war.
Every year white people add 100 years to how long ago slavery was. I’ve heard educated white people say, ‘slavery was 400 years ago.’ No it very wasn’t. It was 140 years ago; that’s two 70-year-old ladies living and dying back to back. That’s how recently you could buy a guy.
—  Louis CK explains the necessity of historical context to Jay Leno.
The Monster of Monticello

THOMAS JEFFERSON is in the news again, nearly 200 years after his death — alongside a high-profile biography by the journalist Jon Meacham comes a damning portrait of the third president by the independent scholar Henry Wiencek.

We are endlessly fascinated with Jefferson, in part because we seem unable to reconcile the rhetoric of liberty in his writing with the reality of his slave owning and his lifetime support for slavery. Time and again, we play down the latter in favor of the former, or write off the paradox as somehow indicative of his complex depths.

Neither Mr. Meacham, who mostly ignores Jefferson’s slave ownership, nor Mr. Wiencek, who sees him as a sort of fallen angel who comes to slavery only after discovering how profitable it could be, seem willing to confront the ugly truth: the third president was a creepy, brutal hypocrite.

Contrary to Mr. Wiencek’s depiction, Jefferson was always deeply committed to slavery, and even more deeply hostile to the welfare of blacks, slave or free. His proslavery views were shaped not only by money and status but also by his deeply racist views, which he tried to justify through pseudoscience.

There is, it is true, a compelling paradox about Jefferson: when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, announcing the “self-evident” truth that all men are “created equal,” he owned some 175 slaves. Too often, scholars and readers use those facts as a crutch, to write off Jefferson’s inconvenient views as products of the time and the complexities of the human condition.

But while many of his contemporaries, including George Washington, freed their slaves during and after the revolution — inspired, perhaps, by the words of the Declaration — Jefferson did not. Over the subsequent 50 years, a period of extraordinary public service, Jefferson remained the master of Monticello, and a buyer and seller of human beings.

Rather than encouraging his countrymen to liberate their slaves, he opposed both private manumission and public emancipation. Even at his death, Jefferson failed to fulfill the promise of his rhetoric: his will emancipated only five slaves, all relatives of his mistress Sally Hemings, and condemned nearly 200 others to the auction block. Even Hemings remained a slave, though her children by Jefferson went free.

Nor was Jefferson a particularly kind master. He sometimes punished slaves by selling them away from their families and friends, a retaliation that was incomprehensibly cruel even at the time. A proponent of humane criminal codes for whites, he advocated harsh, almost barbaric, punishments for slaves and free blacks. Known for expansive views of citizenship, he proposed legislation to make emancipated blacks “outlaws” in America, the land of their birth. Opposed to the idea of royal or noble blood, he proposed expelling from Virginia the children of white women and black men.

Jefferson also dodged opportunities to undermine slavery or promote racial equality. As a state legislator he blocked consideration of a law that might have eventually ended slavery in the state.

As president he acquired the Louisiana Territory but did nothing to stop the spread of slavery into that vast “empire of liberty.” Jefferson told his neighbor Edward Coles not to emancipate his own slaves, because free blacks were “pests in society” who were “as incapable as children of taking care of themselves.” And while he wrote a friend that he sold slaves only as punishment or to unite families, he sold at least 85 humans in a 10-year period to raise cash to buy wine, art and other luxury goods.

Destroying families didn’t bother Jefferson, because he believed blacks lacked basic human emotions. “Their griefs are transient,” he wrote, and their love lacked “a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation.”

Jefferson claimed he had “never seen an elementary trait of painting or sculpture” or poetry among blacks and argued that blacks’ ability to “reason” was “much inferior” to whites’, while “in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.” He conceded that blacks were brave, but this was because of “a want of fore-thought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be present.”

A scientist, Jefferson nevertheless speculated that blackness might come “from the color of the blood” and concluded that blacks were “inferior to the whites in the endowments of body and mind.”

Jefferson did worry about the future of slavery, but not out of moral qualms. After reading about the slave revolts in Haiti, Jefferson wrote to a friend that “if something is not done and soon done, we shall be the murderers of our own children.” But he never said what that “something” should be.

In 1820 Jefferson was shocked by the heated arguments over slavery during the debate over the Missouri Compromise. He believed that by opposing the spread of slavery in the West, the children of the revolution were about to “perpetrate” an “act of suicide on themselves, and of treason against the hopes of the world.”

If there was “treason against the hopes of the world,” it was perpetrated by the founding generation, which failed to place the nation on the road to liberty for all. No one bore a greater responsibility for that failure than the master of Monticello.

Paul Finkelman, a visiting professor in legal history at Duke Law School, is a professor at Albany Law School and the author of “Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson.”

  1. White and American are NOT synonyms.
  2. There is NO official language of the United States of America. So, remember that when you press “1” for English.
  3. English is NOT American, that’s why it’s called English… Like England. They were ENGLISH settlers. You worthless prats.
  4. European “settlers” colonized the Americas by force. It was England’s wayward folk who ended up in North America.
  5. White people were the original immigrants of the Americas (refer to #4 and #7).
  6. If we’re going to have an official language, it would have to be one of the thousands of languages of the Native peoples (misnomer “Indians”).
  7. Technically, it’s incorrect to say “America/American,” seeing as how there are TWO Americas. Conversely, White people are indigenous to NEITHER (refer to #4 and #5).
  8. Anyone who is a citizen of the United States of America, is an American citizen, or “an American.” Whether that person be Muslim, Christian, atheist, Jewish, gay, straight, Black, White, Chinese, Mexican, etc…
  9. There is no default or standard for being “American.” There is no particular way or mode of being.
  10. There is NO “state religion,” or official religion of the U.S. This is NOT a theocracy. Keep your religions to yourselves!

And finally, there is no “American culture.” There are Americans WITH culture (and these cultures vary greatly), but “we” don’t really have a culture, in my opinion… Unless you consider the ungraceful clashing and mixing of hundreds of different cultures, religions, and traditions a culture.