A Self-Guided Walking Tour of the Battle of Brooklyn Sites

A Self-Guided Walking Tour of the Battle of Brooklyn Sites

Marion Palm

Used by permission from the Brooklyn Eagle (Source: http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=27&id=35883)

Two scouts from the leading column of the Royal Marines and Tories and two companies of Long Island Tories were attracted to watermelons growing near the southwest corner of Green-Wood Cemetery. Riflemen fired on the would-be melon poachers.

The Old Stone House now at Fifth Avenue and Third Street in Park Slope, which has an interpretive center, was then named the Vechte Farmhouse, located south of Gowanus Creek. The event involving the retreat of the Americans says that Lord Stirling (he was on our side) gathered 2,000 men. These included troops from Delaware and Pennsylvania, along with an elite regiment from the First Maryland Regiment.

The Old Lyon Inn is now an American Legion Post near the IKEA on the point of Red Hook. The chance meeting at the watermelon patch became a major confrontation that stretched for a quarter of a mile and was responsible for convincing the Americans that the major attack would be on the Gowanus Road. With two sides confronting each other in regular battle formation, this was the first time the Americans, as an independent nation, faced the British in an open field. With no fortifications or stones to hide behind, only hedges and trees to face Grant, the commander of the British (not related to our former president General Grant) took on the fight.

The Brits, however, went east and linked up with the Hessians (paid German mercenaries) to seize high ground in what we now know as Battle-Hill in Green-Wood Cemetery.

The main body of the enemy came down through Flatbush to the intersection of Nostrand Avenue and Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy. (5). The British were very sneaky in this maneuver, as they swung around in a loop behind the Americans and attempted to capture them all. Howe, the British general ordered his men to cut off the American retreat to the Brooklyn forts on Brooklyn Heights. Most of the Americans survived, some were captured by the British, and others were bayoneted as they tried to surrender to the Hessians.

There is a monument to those who died in terrible conditions as prisoners of the British on ships in our harbor. An obelisk stands in Fort Greene Park that is a 150-foot tall Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument and crypt, which honors some 11,500 patriots who died aboard British prison ships during the American Revolution.

Washington’s headquarters, and he had many of them during the war, was at The Four Chimneys in a mansion overlooking the harbor from Brooklyn Heights. A small garden with a flagpole now marks this spot on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. There is also a small plaque with information about the house embedded into the stand that supports the flag. Washington held his war council there on August 29, 1776. The British, despite their clever advances, made a tactical error. They wasted time digging trenches. This decision took away the Brits’ opportunity to win the war in one stroke.

Lord Stirling managed to disengage from Grant and get around Cornwallis’s forces stationed around the Vechte farmhouse, blocking the Post Road, now First Street in Park Slope. Stirling ordered his troops to plunge into the marsh and go across Gowanus Creek on August 27, 1776.

On what can be seen now as a suicide mission, he staged a preemptive strike against Cornwallis in and around the Vechte farmhouse and its orchard. This sacrificial rearguard gave the bulk of the American wing a chance to escape across the marshes along Gowanus Creek.

A very dense fog drifted in and Washington and his men escaped from the Ferry Landing next to what is now the elegant River Cafe. Washington took the whole regiment by ferry to New York. The last man over received permission to go back for his horse and he and the volunteers were fired upon in what he said was a salute from the enemy with musketry that couldn’t reach them as they returned to safety.

General Howe was in Red Hook and his men were spread all the way to Hells Gate to keep the Americans guessing where he would attack, but he never crossed the East River to pursue them. Howe did succeed to take Brooklyn Heights and Governor’s Island, concealing his invasion flotilla in Newton’s Creek, the border between the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens at approximately 32nd Street.

General Howe is said to have dallied too long at the home of Robert Murray on a hot evening of September 15th when Mrs. Murray and her two daughters opened the wine cellar at the mansion and served cakes and Madeira to the British generals and Governor Tyron. Howe’s delay allowed the Americans to slip away again. There is a plaque to mark the mansion on Park Avenue and 37th Street in Manhattan.

Through a Critical Race Theory Lens: “How Enlightened was the Enlightenment in Europe?”

Through a Critical Race Theory Lens:

“How Enlightened was the European Enlightenment?”

by Alan Singer

            School districts across the United States are racing to report that they teach critical thinking, not Critical Race Theory. The Florida State Board of Education banned the teaching of Critical Race Theory because all topics taught in Florida schools must be “factual and objective” and Critical Race Theory argues “racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, an early contender for the 2024 Republican Party Presidential nomination denounced CRT for teaching children “the country is rotten and that our institutions are illegitimate.” Teaching CRT is also banned in Tennessee and Idaho.

The controversy erupted in Commack, New York when members of a group called the Loud Majority disrupted two public meetings, interrupting school board members and speakers from the audience, including students who were trying to explain how they felt slighted in a curriculum that ignored who they were. Instead of silencing the disrupters or requiring them to leave, board members and district officials kept trying to explain the curriculum to people who were not interested in listening.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, who teaches law at UCLA and Columbia University and was an early proponent of Critical Race Theory, describes it as “an approach to grappling with a history of White supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it.” It has roots in legal efforts during the 1970s to challenge segregation deeply entrenched in American law. In the 1990s, social scientists and educational researchers began to employ CRT as a lens to understand the persistence of race and racism. It became controversial when former President Trump denounced CRT as part of his response to the New York Times 1619 Project. In an effort to rally his supporters during his campaign for reelection, Trump declared, “Critical race theory is being forced into our children’s schools, it’s being imposed into workplace trainings, and it’s being deployed to rip apart friends, neighbors and families.”

As a teacher educator and former high school social studies teacher, I embrace the National Council for the Social Studies’ promotion of critical thinking based on an evaluation of evidence as a core component of social studies curriculum. I found Critical Race Theory is an important lens for engaging students as critical thinkers and helps teachers involve students in broader discussion.

For example, the European Enlightenment is often known as the Age of Reason because Enlightenment thinkers tried to apply scientific principles to understand human behavior and how societies work. Many of the earliest Enlightenment thinkers were from England, Scotland, and France but the idea of using reason and a scientific approach spread to other European countries and their colonies. In the United States, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are considered Enlightenment thinkers. While there are no firm dates, most historians argue that the European Enlightenment started in the mid-17th century building on the Scientific Revolution and continued until the mid-19th century. However, some historians, including me, point out that the Age of Reason in Europe was also the peak years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade when millions of Africans were transporting to the Americans as unfree labor on plantations. In the British North America colonies that became the United States, leading founders of the new nation that declared the “self-evident truth” and human equality, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry, were plantation owners and slaveholders.

When teachers introduce the European Enlightenment they have to decide which thinkers and documents to include. John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are pretty standard, but if we want students to understand and critically examine the limitations of Enlightenment thought we also should include Mary Wollstonecraft, who demanded human rights for women, and Immanuel Kant, who promoted a scientific basis for racism. Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was part of the European Enlightenment, but so were Jefferson’s racist comments in his Notes on the State of Virginia.

This lesson builds on earlier lessons on the Scientific Revolution and the trans-Atlantic slave trade establishes themes that reemerge in units on European Imperialism in Africa and Asia and lessons on Social Darwinism.

AIM: How enlightened was the European Enlightenment?

John Locke (1632-1704)

Do Now: The European Enlightenment is often known as the Age of Reason because Enlightenment thinkers tried to apply scientific principles to understand human behavior and how societies work. Many of the earliest Enlightenment thinkers were from England, Scotland, and France but the idea of using reason and a scientific approach spread to other European countries and their colonies. In the United States, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are considered Enlightenment thinkers. While there are no firm dates, most historians argue that the European Enlightenment started in the mid-17th century building on the Scientific Revolution and continued until the mid-19th century. Some historians have pointed out that the Age of Reason in Europe was also the peak years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade when millions of Africans were transporting to the Americans as unfree labor on plantations.

One of the first major European Enlightenment thinkers was John Locke of England. Read the excerpt from Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government, written in 1690, and answer questions 1-4.

John Locke: “Liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others . . . Good and evil, reward and punishment, are the only motives to a rational creature: these are the spur and reins whereby all mankind are set on work, and guided . . . Man . . . hath by nature a power . . . to preserve his property – that is, his life, liberty, and estate – against the injuries and attempts of other men . . . The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom . . . All mankind . . . being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.

Questions

  1. According to Locke, what is the most important human value?
  2. How does Locke believe this value is preserved?
  3. What document in United States history draws from Locke? Why do you select that document?
  4. In your opinion, why is John Locke considered a European Enlightenment thinker?

Activity: You will work with a team analyzing a quote from one of these European Enlightenment thinkers and answer the following questions. Select a representative to present your views to class. After presentations and discussion, you will complete an exit ticket answering the question, “How enlightened was the European Enlightenment?”

Questions

  1. Where is the author from? What year did they write this piece?
  2. What is the main topic of the excerpt?
  3. What does the author argue about the topic?
  4. Why is this author considered a European Enlightenment thinker?
  5. In your opinion, what do we learn about the European Enlightenment from this except?
  1. David Hume (Scotland, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779): “What truth so obvious, so certain, as the being of a God, which the most ignorant ages have acknowledged, for which the most refined geniuses have ambitiously striven to produce new proofs and arguments? What truth so important as this, which is the ground of all our hopes, the surest foundation of morality, the firmest support of society, and the only principle which ought never to be a moment absent from our thoughts and meditations? . . . Throw several pieces of steel together, without shape or form; they will never arrange themselves so as to compose a watch. Stone, and mortar, and wood, without an architect, never erect a house.
  2. Baron de Montesquieu (France, The Spirit of the Laws, 1748): “Political liberty in a citizen is that tranquility of spirit which comes from the opinion each one has of his security, and in order for him to have this liberty the government must be such that one citizen cannot fear another citizen. When the legislative power is united with the executive power in a single person or in a single body of the magistracy, there is no liberty, because one can fear that the same monarch or senate that makes tyrannical laws will execute them tyrannically. Nor is there liberty if the power of judging is not separate from legislative power and from executive power. If it were joined to legislative power, the power over life and liberty of the citizens would be arbitrary, for the judge would be the legislator. If it were joined to executive power, the judge could have the force of an oppressor. All would be lost if the same man or the same body of principal men, either of nobles or of the people exercised these three powers: that of making the laws, that of executing public resolutions, and that of judging the crimes or disputes of individuals.”
  3. Marquis de Lafayette (France, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789): “Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen:
  4. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
  5. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
  6. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.”
  1. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (France, Emile, or Education, 1762): “Women have ready tongues; they talk earlier, more easily, and more pleasantly than men. They are also said to talk more; this may be true, but I am prepared to reckon it to their credit; eyes and mouth are equally busy and for the same cause. A man says what he knows, a woman says what will please; the one needs knowledge, the other taste; utility should be the man’s object; the woman speaks to give pleasure. There should be nothing in common but truth . . . The earliest education is most important and it undoubtedly is woman’s work. If the author of nature had meant to assign it to men he would have given them milk to feed the child. Address your treatises on education to the women, for not only are they able to watch over it more closely than men, not only is their influence always predominant in education, its success concerns them more nearly, for most widows are at the mercy of their children, who show them very plainly whether their education was good or bad.
  2. Mary Wollstonecraft (England, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792): “Till women are more rationally educated, the progress in human virtue and improvement in knowledge must receive continual checks . . . The divine right of husbands, like the divine right of kings, may, it is to be hoped, in this enlightened age, be contested without danger . . . It would be an endless task to trace the variety of meannesses, cares, and sorrows, into which women are plunged by the prevailing opinion that they were created rather to feel than reason, and that all the power they obtain, must be obtained by their charms and weakness . . . It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world. . . . How many women thus waste life away the prey of discontent, who might have practiced as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility, that consumes the beauty to which it at first gave lustre.
  3. Immanuel Kant (Germany, 1761, quoted in Achieving Our Humanity): “All inhabitants of the hottest zones are, without exceptions, idle . . . In the hot countries the human being matures earlier in all ways but does not reach the perfection of the temperate zones. Humanity exists in its greatest perfection in the white race. The yellow Indians have a smaller amount of Talent. The Negroes are lower and the lowest are a part of the American peoples . . . The race of the Negroes, one could say, is completely the opposite of the Americans; they are full of affect and passion, very lively, talkative and vain. They can be educated but only as servants (slaves), that is they allow themselves to be trained. They have many motivating forces, are also sensitive, are afraid of blows and do much out of a sense of honor.”
  4. Thomas Jefferson (British North America, Preamble, Declaration of Independence, 1776): “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
  5. Thomas Jefferson (Virginia, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785): “The first difference which strikes us is that of colour. Whether the black of the negro resides in the reticular membrane between the skin and scarf-skin, or in the scarf-skin itself; whether it proceeds from the colour of the blood, the colour of the bile, or from that of some other secretion, the difference is fixed in nature, and is as real as if its seat and cause were better known to us. And is this difference of no importance? Is it not the foundation of a greater or less share of beauty in the two races? Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of colour in the one, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immovable veil of black which covers all the emotions of the other race? . . . Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection . . . Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.”

Exit ticket: “How enlightened was the European Enlightenment?”

Adopting a Politics of Love and Liberation in Our Schools Can Save Our Democracy

Adopting a Politics of Love and Liberation in Our Schools Can Save Our Democracy

Teresa Ann Willis

On January 6, 2021, mobs of mostly white Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol building armed with weapons, outrage and what they believed to be the truth about a Donald Trump victory in the November 2020 presidential election. Despite election results that recorded a 306 to 232 electoral college win for Biden, many who backed the president believed, without any evidence to support their beliefs, the election was stolen and President Trump should serve another four-year term. Two weeks later, Trump’s 1776 Commission released its report on the teaching of U.S. history in schools — a report widely criticized for its poor scholarship and blatant lies. Trump ushered the commission into existence the day before the November election, he said, to restore patriotic education and eradicate “decades of left-wing indoctrination.”

In September 2020, then-presidential candidate, Joe Biden, also weighed in on the teaching of history. Speaking at a Kenosha, Wis. town hall held in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake and the civil unrest that followed, Biden asked, “Why aren’t we teaching history in history classes?” then proceeded to extol the accomplishments of African Americans routinely left out of the curriculum.

Both Trump and Biden understand education’s role in shaping our understanding of who we are as Americans, and thus, our democracy. Though Biden revoked Trump’s 1776 Commission during his first week in office, neither approach to teaching history will help us become a healthy democratic nation.

President Biden correctly understands U.S. history hasn’t been taught with the complexity and nuance needed for students to become informed voters and citizens. But if we want to prevent today’s students from becoming tomorrow’s insurrectionists, we can’t just change what is taught, we’ve got to change how we teach, and doing so will require restructuring teacher education programs. Teacher candidates must be trained in teaching historical thinking skills — skills that equip students to critically analyze and evaluate history by reviewing primary sources from multiple perspectives, thereby enabling them to make intelligent, evidence-based arguments.

Trained in historical thinking, students will determine for themselves the validity of claims like, “there was no Holocaust” or “slavery wasn’t really that bad for African Americans” or “the election was stolen.”

Interrogating primary sources will push students to confront what James Baldwin rightly called a history that is “longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” Liberated from corporate textbook versions of American history, students will be compelled to confront historical narratives with their eyes wide open. Classrooms will come alive with students engaged in robust inquiry and thoughtful meaning-making. Under the guidance of competently trained teachers, they’ll also practice being civil and respectful in the face of sometimes extreme dissonance and discomfort — skills sorely lacking in our body politic.

That our public education system has always been political (even though we pretend otherwise) is an understatement. Before the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Americans were educated in segregated schools. It’s true, schools populated by Black children, teachers and staff were grossly underfunded. Often ignored is that some of those schools had an abundance of what is necessary to produce informed, courageous citizens, perfectly positioned to create a healthy representative democracy.

In the best schools, Black children were educated by teachers who loved on them just as hard as their parents loved on them. These teachers affirmed their Black students and as a result the children in these schools knew they mattered. They believed they were worthy human beings despite dominant cultural narratives that screamed otherwise.

They also were held to the highest academic standards. In her book, Their Highest Potential, Vanessa Siddle Walker, professor of African American Educational Studies at Emory University, spotlights one school, the former Caswell County Training School (CCTS) in Yanceyville, North Carolina. CCTS was the only accredited school in that county when court mandated desegregation took root: “Ironically, then, at the end of segregation, black students left their accredited high school to be desegregated into a white school that was not accredited,” Walker wrote. Teachers at CCTS recalled pushing students to their highest potential because they knew “giving other children what you would want for your own was the basis of good teaching and of a good school program.”

In other segregated schools, children were taught how to vote through elaborate election simulations even though their parents and teachers were barred from voting. The teachers and students who populated some of these Jim Crow-era schools became our Civil Rights Movement sheroes and heroes. The staff, teachers, students and parents of these segregated Black schools serve as models for what’s needed today.

It’s true more history teachers are using primary source documents to teach history. It’s also true many lament that because they weren’t adequately taught American history, they feel neither confident nor comfortable teaching it. If we’re going to begin teaching in a way we’ve never before taught, we will have to become comfortable being uncomfortable — until we find our sweet spot.

As a first step, we must acknowledge and understand our own relationship to American history. The question, “In the history of the United States, where were my ancestors and how are my people connected to past events?” may not be the most comfortable place to begin but begin teachers must. That some educators also cling to ignorant notions about our history speaks to the urgency of overhauling teacher education programs. After a classroom discussion in a 2016 professional development institute I attended on slavery and abolitionism, one tenured teacher remarked about enslaved people, “Well they had food and shelter.”

Similarly, the furor over Nikole Hannah-Jones’s 1619 Project speaks to why we’ve got to come to terms with our history and with who we are as a nation. Premiering in the New York Times Magazine in 2019, the series reframes America’s historical narrative by “placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of African Americans at the very center” of our story. As a nation, we will never be able to love other people’s children like they are our own until we first reconcile who we’ve been to each other, how we’ve treated each other and why.

Walker stated that the teachers who trained Black children for democratic citizenship were engaging in subversive acts. Training all students for democratic citizenship, arming them with critical thinking skills and liberating them from the myths, lies, omissions and erasures of American history may still be considered subversive, but it is no less essential.

It would be naïve to think our education system is the only one requiring systemic change if America is to become her best and highest self. It would be equally naïve to think teachers are singularly responsible for the task at hand. Creating schools that become sites of liberation and love will require a commitment from all stakeholders — politicians, power brokers, education administrators, teachers, parents, everyone. America, will you commit? Will you love our children and make real our democracy?

Learning and Teaching about Service Learning: A Model Project about Freedom Seekers

Learning and Teaching about Service Learning: A Model Project about Freedom Seekers

Dana Faye Serure and Michael Broccolo

The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards advocate civic engagement in which students take informed action as “both a means of learning and applying social studies knowledge” in order to prepare for civic life living in a democracy (National Council for the Social Studies, 2013, p. 59). Civic engagement is also an aspirational learning goal of the New York State K-12 Social Studies Framework (2015). That said, preparing pre-service social studies teachers who are equipped with teaching civic engagement can be challenging especially in our current times with increased political polarization (Hess & McAvoy, 2014), fakenews vs. fact-checkers (Breakstone, McGrew, Smith, Ortega, & Wineburg, 2018; Journell, 2021; McGrew, 2020), and the continued social studies wars – recently evident by President Trump’s “1776 Commission” and The New York Times “1619 Project” debate (Davis, 2020; Evans, 2004; Evans & Passe, 2007; Kendi, 2016).

This manuscript details the process of pre-service secondary social studies education candidates learning “how to teach” as well as learning “how to teach service learning” during a required course project. In addition, pre-service teachers examined social justice from the perspective of Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance). The authors are the course instructor and the educational specialist with the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center (hereafter referenced as UGRR or Heritage Center) who offer insight on this topic. The course instructor is a newer assistant professor in the field of teacher education, and previously served as a social studies instructional specialist and classroom teacher. The educational specialist is a social studies education graduate from Institution_insert. He/she began working at UGRR in 2018 as a Visitor Experience Guide, and recently promoted to develop UGRR educational resources.

Being mindful that teaching “how to teach” and learning and teaching “how to teach service learning” with social justice in mind can be a daunting task for any educator. A meta-ethnography of social studies education research pinpoints an un-even score card of pre-service social studies teachers’ capability to internalize democratic education  concepts, such as civic action, equality and equity, and social justice (Tannebaum, 2015). While many social studies teacher educators address these topics and issues, Tannebaum (2015) indicates that pre-service teachers demonstrate a developing competency to apply theory into instructional practice. As expressed by Bickmore (2008) teaching social studies methods compares to making “soup” and all of its “ingredients” with a sprinkle of hope that pre-service teachers will learn to be/become civic-minded, social justice teachers.

Hence, the course instructor believes that the initial methods and materials course prepares pre-service teachers for “doing social studies,” in other words, to develop their social studies purpose similar to a teacher’s creed (Author, YYYY; LaMorte, 2017; Ross, 2015). “Doing social studies”extends beyond content, skills, and literacy; it leads with civics which “enables students not only to study how others participate, but also to practice participating and taking informed action themselves” (National Council for the Social Studies, 2000, p. 31) as critical for pre-service teachers to learn during their preparation programming.

What is service learning with social justice in mind?

According to the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), service learning connects meaningful service in the school or community with academic learning and civic responsibility (NCSS, 2000). Service learning is distinguished from community service or volunteerism in two ways: 1) the service activity is integrated with academic skills and content; and 2) students engage in structured reflection activities about their service experiences. Service learning seeks “to equally benefit the provider and the receipt of the service,” distinguished from traditional service learning as charity work (Furco, 1996, p. 12). One’s service intention should avoid the deficit perspective which dis-empowers the community partner, and instead advocate an asset perspective which aligns with “social justice” or “justice orientated” civic engagement principles(Bringle & Hatcher, 1996; Ho & Barton, 2020; Tinkler, Hannah, Tinkler, & Miller, 2014; Wade, 2000). This approach, social justice service-learning, is encouraged by NAME_INSTITUTION for service learning, credit-bearing courses, which is the future goal for this teacher educator to become a service learning instructor.

Social Justice. For teacher educators implementing the National Standards for the Preparation of Social Studies Teachers (NCSS, 2017) social justice is defined as “(1) a goal for improving access to equity for all individuals in a society who face any type of marginalization; and (2) the process by which individuals work toward realizing this goal” (Adams, Bell, & Griffin, 2007 as cited in Cuenca, 2017, p. 373). With civic responsibility at the core of service learning, and taking informed action to demonstrate civic engagement, pre-service teachers also need to self-reflect on their social justice knowledge. It begins with self-awareness of one’s own intersectionality, such as gender, race, ethnicity, social-economic status, and etc.

In developing the ability to teach and learn about social justice, the instructor and students examined the “Social Justice Standards: The Teaching Tolerance Anti-bias Framework” (Learning for Justice, 2018). The social justice standards include: identity, diversity, justice, and action; and were explored by four online learning modules that the course instructor adapted from the professional development resources by Learning for Justice. Additional class lessons supported student’s online learning experiences by viewing model lesson plans and participating in class discussions.

Overview: High School Methods Course and Service Learning Project. The high school methods and materials course introduces pre-service social studies teachers to social justice and service learning concepts in the first of two required methods and materials courses. At the course onset, explicit instruction centered on the NYS Social Studies Framework (NYSED, 2015), and an array of social studies teaching methods, such as historical thinking, social justice standards (identity, diversity, justice, and action by Learning for Justice), cultural-relevant sustaining pedagogy, taking informed action as advocated by the C3 Framework, as well as pedagogical skills (i.e., lesson plans, assessments, etc.).

In brief, the service learning project assessed a multi-step culminated learning process in which pre-service teachers either developedan action plan to coordinate a service learning experience with a future community partner or created a unit of study (sequenced lesson plans) to support the education platform of a community partner. Figure 1 outlines the development of the service learning course project over the last two years.

Figure 1: Service Learning Course Project

Due to various circumstances each semester (a total of four semesters over two years), the course project took on slightly different versions. Year One was split between a pre-coronavirus semester and a semester that included an extended spring break plus full remote instruction. During the second year only one semester of pre-service teachers completed the project who participated in a model service learning experience with the Heritage Center. This unique opportunity offered students a social justice lens to develop lesson plans that met UGRR’s value of freedom seekers. In seeking a reciprocal action students’ lesson plans were reviewed by the course instructor, UGRR’s education specialist, and collaborated upon to create a single inquiry which applied the Inquiry Design Method (Swan, Lee, & Grant, 2018), and formatted like the NYS Toolkit Project (for examples visit EngageNY – NYS K-12 Social Studies Resource Toolkit, 2015).

Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

Niagara Falls, New York served as an impactful geographic place in the story of freedom seekers. The transportation routes afforded by the Niagara Falls region aided abolitionists, free African Americans, and enslaved people who crossed the International Suspension Bridge (located in the former village of Suspension Bridge) and/or the Niagara River into Canada (Wellman, 2012).

The public opening of the Heritage Center took place in May of 2018 after of decade of planning by the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Commission. The museum is attached to the Niagara Falls Amtrak Station and housed in the former 1863 U.S. Custom House. The mission includes a desire “to inspire visitors to recognize modern injustices that stem from slavery and take action toward an equitable society” (UGRR, Mission, n.d.). As adopted by the board of directors, UGRR vision is:  

To be at the forefront of Underground Railroad interpretation by encouraging visitors to take action for civil and human rights and creating global change that begins in the Niagara Falls community (Bacon, 2018).

The Heritage Center’s perspective advocates for social justice, such as “identity” and “action” by the language usage and teaching local history. The rethinking of language by the Heritage Center allows us to consider how words and images make us think and feel as demonstrated by exhibits of “freedom seekers” and “enslaved people” who achieved self-emancipation; some aided by others while many sought freedom unaided (National Parks Service, What is the Underground Railroad, 2020;Wellman, 2012).

Niagara Falls was not the only Underground Railroad passageway yet served as a predominant crossing point known as “one more river to cross” and a permanent exhibit at the Heritage Center (UGRR, One More River to Cross, 2020; Wellman, 2012). The grassy space of the museum and remnants of the Suspension bridge is called the Harriet Tubman Plaza, a sacred place where freedom seekers crossed into Canada for their freedom (UGRR, On Site – Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge, 2021). Equally important, the Heritage Center is dedicated to the heroic efforts of many unknown everyday heroes who accomplished extraordinary things. UGRR prides itself in telling freedom seekers stories, for example John Morrison, Nancy Berry, Cecilia Reynolds, and Patrick Sneed (UGRR, n.d.; Wellman, 2012).

Service Learning: Course Project for a High School Methods and Materials Course

As pre-service social studies teachers learn “how to teach,” the aim of this teacher educator is to develop their ability to be “democratic social justice” leaders (Bickmore, 2008). As previously noted this endeavor can be a challenging task as pre-service teachers may be novices to civic engagement and civic responsibility themselves (Ho & Barton, 2020; Tannebaum, 2015; Wade, 2000, 1995).

Project Description and Process

Pre-service social studies teachers enrolled at INSTITUTION_NAME, an urban-engaged campus, prioritizes social justice and service learning at the collegiate level. The college’s Social Studies Education Department is also refining its program to enhance alignment with the National Standards for the Preparation of Social Studies Teachers (NCSS, 2017), specifically social justice and service learning experiences. That said, the instructor addressed these learning intentions by exploring the Learning for Justicesocial justice standards and collaborating with the campus organization, CCE (as previously outlined in Figure 1).

The service learning project was inspired by a fifth grade classroom project called Civic Zines (Kawai & Cody, 2015) and Project Citizen protocols (Center for Civic Education, 1996).

Learning civic action for elementary students took the form of creating an individual current events magazine based on a topic or issue that was civically important to them (Kawai & Cody, 2015). For pre-service teachers, they followed a similar structure to inquire about social justice issues in the community and to connect with a community partner in order to develop a service learning experience. During this segment of learning, course readings included articles about the Inquiry Design Model (IDM) by Kathy Swan, John Lee, and S.G. Grant (2018) and viewing videos on the c3teachers.org website. Each of these resources connected with explicit instruction in the classroom which established the foundational “ingredients” to prepare students for the culminating project.

The initial step to implement the course project was the “What is service learning?” presentation facilitated by CCE specialists and included a class discussion about social justice issues important to students. The process continued with the following tasks: students conducted their own research seeking out an issue important to them, researched potential community partners to collaborate with, and reviewed NYS Social Studies Framework (NYSED, 2015) for instructional alignment with a grades 9-12 social studies course. The instructor reviewed students’ drafts and provided feedback as students focused on writing either a structured action plan detailing the logistics of a service learning experience for their future students or creating an unit design with a sequence of lesson plans for a potential service learning project relevant to high school social studies students. One criteria of the assignment that demonstrated exemplary performance compared with developing performance was planning for social justice beyond the act of charity, or volunteerism (Furco, 1996; NCSS, 2000). Last, pre-service teachers reflected upon service learning as a pedagogical approach in fulfilling their social studies purpose.

Even though the instructor intended to implement a class service learning experiential model as he/she transitioned from year one to year two, some limitations were encountered including the coronavirus pandemic. Collaborating with the CCE specialist, INSERT_NAME, and a former student, INSERT_NAME who serves as the educational specialist with the Heritage Center, a virtual partner was coordinated. The course project took on new meaning as the class experienced service learning through the eyes of a “student” and a “teacher.” The updated service learning project entailed a virtual tour of the heritage site, detailed learning about how language matters with an emphasis on Freedom Seekers, a walking and driving tour of local historical sites, and the option for additional research to develop lesson plans for UGRR. Three out of twelve students created lesson plans which are currently being vetted with the intent to be published on the Heritage Center’s website.

Assessment and Students’ Self-reflection. Pre-service teachers were assessed by four dimensions: 1) Research, 2) Learning Experience, 3) Reflection, and 4) Elements of Writing, see Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: Rubric Dimensions

Student reflections provide insight for the teacher educator and potential next steps in re-designing the course’s learning objectives. In year one, two students (whose names have been changed to protect their identity) expressed the following:

  • Firstly, I like the fact that service learning allows for learning outside of the classroom. I also like the fact that this type of learning shows empathy toward one’s community (Ed).
  • I learned about what goes into planning and organizing a service-learning project…like research to find a reputable place that fits your classroom with relevant issues. Then, how will this learning experience impact the students. I would like to assume that if students understand the problems existing in their backyard…that they would be willing to make a difference and take-action (Rachel).

Both students reflect on the importance of community awareness and empathy as a civic action Second, these pre-service social studies education candidates recognize the potential impact on student learning that service learning can have on their own future students. In year two, this cohort participated in the virtual service learning experience with UGRR, and one student who developed lesson plans reflected on his learning experience as

This semester we had a chance to interact with the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Museum; I found it an enriching and meaningful experience. For my final project, I created lesson plans to focus on using language and imagery, and how they affect how we think, view, and feel about a historical topic, specifically the Underground Railroad. The museum encourages visitors to rethink how we use language and imagery. Some of the lesson plan resources that I used included documents and videos from the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Museum (Don).

The reciprocal deed is reflected upon in this student’s statement as he expressed his own learning from UGRR resources and desired to create lesson plans which aligned with the Heritage Center’s belief system of freedom seekers.

According to the educational specialist, connecting history to the present is a paramount goal of the Heritage Center. He/she explained the impact of conversations between UGRR specialists and visitors, like students, can have when “learners make their own connections with history while UGRR staff help to deepen their understanding and probe more challenging questions” during a Heritage Center experience. Similarly, UGRR specialists, like teachers, aim to engage participants in discourse in order to enhance their learning experience, especially when seeking to take action about social justice.

Next Steps and Conclusion

            To meet and exceed the new NCSS teaching standards (2017), social studies education programs must provide purposeful learning experiences about social justice and service learning in order to develop civically, and social justice mindful educators. In attaining this goal, one potential next step is re-designing the methods course and formalizing it as a service learning course, which would entail:

a credit-bearing educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of the course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996, p. 222).

Even though not yet an official service learning course, another student’s reflection statement demonstrates that some of these attributes are already in place with the course project. She stated:

During the research stage I learned that there are many organizations trying to help those in need, and a service-learning project would impact high school students in a positive way. I never had the chance to do a project like this and I wish I did (Yvonne).

Yvonne recognizes the impact service learning can have on her future students; thus, indicating the course project’s learning intention were met.

Another next step is a continued community partnership with UGRR. As expressed by Michael Broccolo, “the museum is always looking to make connections with schools and educational institutions; collaborating with service learners offers UGRR an exciting role in sharing its mission and continued advocacy for modern day freedom seekers.” Ultimately, the participants, including the pre-service teachers, instructor, and community partner, found the social justice, service learning project worthwhile.

In conclusion, the notion of doing social studies begins with better equipping future social studies teachers with service learning experiences, including social justice mindfulness. It is imperative that teacher educators continue to focus on developing future teachers as “democratic social justice” leaders(Bickmore, 2008, p. 155; Tannebaum, 2015) in order to achieve the endeavor of fostering adolescents’ civic mindfulness for democratic social justice.

References

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Bacon, C. (2018). Interpretive Plan. Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center.

Breakstone, J., McGrew, S., Smith, M., Ortega, T., & Wineburg, S. (2018). Teaching students to

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Bickmore, K. (2008). Social justice and the social studies. In L.S. Levstik, & C.A. Tyson (Eds.), Handbook of research in social studies education. (pp. 155-171). Routledge.

Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (1996). Implementing service learning in higher education. The Journal of Higher Education67(2), 221-239.

Center for Civic Education. (1996). In Project Citizen. Retrieved from www.new.civiced.org/programs/project-citizen

Cuenca, A. (2017). Preparing Teachers for a New Generation of Social Studies Learners: Introducing the National Standards for the Preparation of Social Studies Teachers. Social Education81(6), 370-375.

Davis, K. C. (2020). The American contradiction: Conceived in liberty, born in

shackles. Social Education84(2), 76-82.

Evans, R. W. (2004). The social studies wars: What should we teach the children?. New York: Teachers College Press.

Evans, R., & Passe, J. (2007). Dare We Make Peace: A Dialogue on the Social Studies Wars. The Social Studies98(6), 251–256. https://doi.org/10.3200/TSSS.98.6.251-256

Furco, A. (1996). Service-learning: A balanced approach to experiential education. In B. Taylor (Ed.), Expanding boundaries: Serving and learning (pp. 2–6). Washington,

DC: Corporation for National Service.

Hess, D. E., & McAvoy, P. (2014). The political classroom: Evidence and ethics in democratic education. New York: Routledge.

Ho, L. C., & Barton, K. C. (2020). Preparation for civil society: A necessary element of curriculum for social justice. Theory & Research in Social Education48(4), 471-491.

Journell, W. (2021). Taking a reasoned stance against misinformation. Phi Delta Kappan102(5), 12–17.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0031721721992559

Kawai, R., & Cody, J. (2015). Civic zines: Writing, discussing, and doing citizenship. Social Studies and the Young Learner28(2), 22-25.

Kendi, I. X. (2016). Stamped from the beginning: The definitive history of racist ideas in America. New York: Nation Books.

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National Council for the Social Studies. (2017). National standards for the preparation of social studies teachers.Washington, DC: National Council for Social Studies.

National Council for the Social Studies. (2013). The college, career, and civic life (C3) framework for social studies state standards: Guiding for enhancing the rigor of K-12 civics, economics, geography, and history. Washington, DC: National Council for Social Studies.

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Modern Monetary Theory for Social Studies Educators: A New Perspective on an Old System

Modern Monetary Theory for Social Studies Educators: A New Perspective on an Old System

Erin C. Adams
 

Economics is a discourse built on figurative language, metaphors and folksy sayings (McCloskey, 1983). Former U.S. Representative Jack Kingston (Republican, GA) repeated one of the field’s best known sayings when he suggested that K-12 students should “pay a dime, pay a nickel” or better yet “sweep the floor of the cafeteria” in order to learn “there is in fact no such thing as a free lunch” (Kim, 2013). Although many economists, economics teachers and politicians are apt to repeat this popular metaphor, Modern Monetary Theorists would claim that such a sentiment is simply untrue. According to them, current federal programs like the National School Lunch Program, Social Security, Medicare, and the Postal Service can actually be fully funded in ways that have little to nothing to do with tax revenues. Economist Stephanie Kelton (2020) argues that these funding issues are more political than they are financial or economic and derive from a mixture of ignorance about how money actually works and voter pressure.  

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) “has achieved something quite rare for heterodox economics: it was in the headlines all over the world and in quick succession first denounced by all respectable policymakers, politicians and economists and then suddenly embraced as the necessary response to a global pandemic” (Wray, 2020, p. 3).  The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted discussions about issues that concern MMT; deficit spending, job guarantees, the availability of currency and the government’s role in aiding the public. These ideas “may be the economy’s only hope to get through the pandemic… a final test of MMT will come when the current pandemic ends, and the U.S. economy begins returning to normal” (Pressman, 2020, n.p.). Thus, it may be too late for the federal government to pursue any other course of action other than the deficit spending and other policies that MMT economists promote.

It has been said of Modern Monetary Theory that “once you get it you never see things quite the same way again (Kelton, 2020, p. 31). This is because MMT upends everything we think we know about how the economy works. In this article, I consider the contributions Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) can make to the fostering of the informed citizenry promoted by social studies education. MMT offers a new lens through which social studies educators and their students can view economics, politics and current events (Author, 2020). The goal of this article is not to convert or proselytize or to create MMT acolytes MMT, but to consider how MMT can prompt new and different ways to think about the economy. I highlight the way MMT can illuminate a current issue, the payroll tax deferral and the future of social security and other federally funded institutions.

Modern Monetary Theory: A Short Introduction

Modern Monetary Theory, a “once fringe idea” has suddenly “vaulted into the national conversation” (Bryan, 2019, n.p.). Although developed in the mid-1990s, Modern Monetary Theory, or MMT, gained a following when U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed it as a financial solution for the Green New Deal (Horsley, 2019 see also Seitz and Krutka, 2020).  In fact, although it is called a “theory” MMT “isn’t ‘theory’ at all” but “an accurate description of the monetary system that has already been operating in the United States and other sovereign nations with sovereign fiat currencies for decades” (Svetlik, 2019).In other words, MMT describes the system already in place and seeks to debunk myths about how money actually works. Thus, economists who promote MMT say that it is not an effort to change the financial system but to provide the public a more accurate picture of how it works.

Modern Monetary Theory was developed by University of Missouri-Kansas City economist Warren Mosler in the 1970s with the publication of the essay “Soft Currency Economics.” Bill Mitchell, who runs the Center of Full Employment and Equity at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia is credited with the term “Modern Monetary Theory.” Mosler and Mitchell’s ideas are drawn from the chartalism movement which originated in Germany in 1905. Chartalism means “ticket or token” “items that may be accepted as payment, but which do not have intrinsic value” (Hayes, 2021). This is an accurate description for modern United States currency. Since the United States went off of the gold standard in 1971, money is not backed by anything tangible and only functions because it is an agreed-upon currency backed by the sovereignty of the state.

Think like a currency issuer

You and I are currency-users. For that reason, we think like currency users. We have to access the national currency because we cannot print our own money. Unlike currency-issuers, we have to find ways to obtain the currency we need to buy the things we need and want and, most importantly, to pay taxes. Usually, this means we work to obtain the currency we need to participate in the economy. We also have to balance our budgets. This also means when we do not have enough money to pay for something we need or want, we must take out a loan and we must save money for things we want and need in the future. Budgeting, saving, borrowing and working in order to spend are very familiar concepts in K-12 economics education and comprise the crux of financial literacy. From a very early age, children are taught to make personal budgets, to make choices because they cannot have everything they want and to spend and save. The following quiz tests readers’ knowledge of everyday monetary “truths.”

Table 1. Monetary Policy Quiz

BeforeQuestion After
T/FThe purpose of taxes is to pay for government expendituresT/F
T/FSocial security, the United States Postal System and other federal programs can run out of moneyT/F
T/FGovernments introduce(d) currency as a way to make trade easier [than barter]T/F
T/FHouseholds, states and the Federal government must maintain    balanced budgets T/F
T/FTaxes must precede government spending (i.e. governments must collect money before they can spend it). T/F
T/FThat dollar in your pocket is yours T/F
T/FThe Federal government should reduce spending during recessionsT/F

Most people would answer true for most, if not all, of the questions. MMT, however, offers a different point of view, that of the currency-issuer.  Thinking like a currency-issuer means flipping everything we think we know about how the monetary system works, making all of the quiz answers false.

The issues with this curriculum have been noted (e.g. Sonu & Marri, 2018). However, some knowledge of how a person or household can manage their money may service currency-users fairly well, but it does little to help students develop into informed citizens who understand how their government makes decisions.  Kelton (2020) argues that this singular currency-user perspective is the key to Americans’ misinformation and to a continued state of needless austerity. One of these pervasive misunderstandings, and a “fundamental rule” taught to children, is that “money doesn’t grow on trees.” Thinking as a currency issuer is key to understanding both Modern Monetary Theory and U.S. monetary policy. This is because currency-issuers, play by entirely different rules than the currency-user rules taught in financial education. For example, using a currency-issuer’s point of view, MMT argues that the federal government can never actually run out of money despite “going broke” narratives thrown around by politicians. It cannot go bankrupt because “that would mean it ran out of dollars to pay creditors; but it can’t run out of dollars, because it is the only agency allowed to create dollars. It would be like a bowling alley running out of points to give players” (Matthews, 2019). This is a fact corroborated by Alan Greenspan in 2005 testimony before Congress regarding social security “there’s nothing to prevent the federal government from creating as much money as it wants and paying it to somebody” (Kelton, 2020, p. 256).

Taxes

In the United States, any talk of taxes is going to spark heated debate and strong feelings. Tax policies are at the center of any politician’s platform and the “taxpayer…is at the center of the monetary universe because of the belief that the government has no money of its own” and therefore needs ours (Kelton, 2020, p. 2). Taxes and taxpayers are indeed at the center of the monetary universe, but not for the reasons we may think.

The federal government doesn’t actually need to take our money from us, physically. Warren Mosler (2010) put it this way:

What happens if you were to go to your local IRS office to pay your taxes with actual cash? First, you would hand over your pile of currency to the person on duty as payment. Next, he’d count it, give you a receipt and, hopefully, a thank you for helping to pay for social security, interest on the national debt, and the Iraq war. Then, after you, the tax payer, left the room, he’d take that hard-earned cash you just forked over and throw it in a shredder. Yes, it gets thrown it away. Destroyed! Why? There’s no further use for it. Just like a ticket to the Super Bowl. After you enter the stadium and hand the attendant a ticket that was worth maybe $1000, he tears it up and discards it.

The story above demonstrates how the federal government doesn’t actually take in “our” tax money because we pay our taxes in the dollars that it prints. It is simply a matter of pluses and minuses on a spreadsheet. MMT stresses that the government doesn’t need our money, we need its money. 

However, this does not mean that taxes do not matter. In MMT, taxes play more of a social, rather than revenue-raising role. Ideally, taxation should serve not necessarily as a redistribution of wealth but as a tempering mechanism that curbs outsized wealth accumulation. Thought about this way, tax paying is more of a civic duty for the health of the economy rather than as something to avoid or that is “taken.” Taxes, then, are part of a socio-economic contract that has to do with, among other things, creating feelings of entitlement-creating a demand for government and gov’t spending as well as tending to the health of the economy by curbing inflation and, ideally, rebalancing distribution of wealth and income (Kelton, 2020, p. 71).

The main thing, though, is that taxes create a demand for currency.  This notion is based on money usage in ancient Egypt and Greece. These origins are evidence that taxation and social relations, not a replacement for barter, was the real origin of money. In Egypt, the deben (value of goods and labor services) was paid as a tax to fund the public and public works. Bookkeeping was developed as a way to keep track of these debts and obligations (Semenova & Wray, 2015). Basically, the theory is that people must find a way to earn currency in order to pay their taxes. The government, in turn, gets a population that is employed and engaged in public works but that is also reliant upon the government for currency. This is just like a token economy in classrooms. A teacher introduces a currency, offers tangibles to create demand and outlines a way to obtain it. The teacher does this not because she needs pieces of paper to return to her (they are worthless) but because she needs their compliance and their work.

Creating a supply and demand for currency is a classic colonizing tactic; “currency-issuing colonial governments did not need tax payments for revenue but imposed them to force Natives into the wage relation; tax-driven money was a colonial governance mechanism that enabled the mobilization [of currency]” (Feinig, 2020, p. 2).  Although the Tea and Stamp Acts are well-known in American history, the Currency Act of 1764 is not. The Currency Act is essential to understanding the more famous tax acts. A colonizing strategy is for the colonizing nation to impose taxes for the same reason all governments impose taxes-to create a demand for currency. The Currency Act banned the colonies’ practice of printing their own paper money. The tax not only helped Britain locate offenders, but forced Americans to pay their debts to British merchants and to the Crown in pound sterling (see Murphy, 2017 and Office of the Historian, n.d.). Thus, the issue was perhaps not so much the taxes as the currency with which those taxes were to be paid.

 Teachers can lead students in a reconsideration of the role of currency in the colonies and investigate current-day iterations. For example, students can investigate the current anti-CFA movement (see Konkobo, 2017). The CFA Franc, established by France for its colonies and now tied to the Euro, is used by fourteen African nations. Proponents say it stabilizes the nations’ currencies. Opponents say it robs these nations of say over monetary decisions and funnels more money to Europe than received in aid.

Payroll Taxes and Social Security

On August 8, President Trump signed an Executive Order, Deferring Payroll Tax Obligations in Light of the Ongoing COVID-19 Disaster, which deferred the employee portion of Social Security payroll taxes for certain individual. To many Americans, this measure seemed strange and unnecessary. For one, it only deferred, not forgave, payroll taxes. Second, it only “helped” those who pay payroll taxes. Third, the amount of money seemed insignificant, especially when Americans were expecting relief checks, not tax breaks.

With this measure, though, President Trump introduced a tactic to defund social security. However, without knowing the history of social security, this agenda would not be obvious. No President, especially one up for re-election and courting the elderly vote, would threaten social security outright. After all, the program was designed to be defund-proof, as Franklin Roosevelt famously stated, “no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.” This is because FDR designed a funding scheme built upon a little psychological trick that played on the public’s currency-issuer mindset.

Seeing is believing [that you earned it]

In response to the payroll tax deferral, House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John B. Larson acknowledged this defunding scheme in his “Save our Social Security Now” hearing on September 24, 2020, stating “and so, when some on the other side of the aisle talk about ‘terminating’ Social Security’s payroll contributions, they are threatening the very existence of this bedrock program.” What does a payroll tax deferral have to do with dismantling social security? The answer has to do with the power of perception.

            Today, 59 million Americans receive retirement, disability and/or survivors’ benefits. Social Security was signed into being by Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 as a measure to alleviate poverty. The history of social security and the debates surrounding it are demonstrated in this EconEdLink lesson, which can be a useful supplement to this inquiry.

FDR knew that the federal government could fund social security. This has since been corroborated by Alan Greenspan (see Norman, 2016).  Instead, he needed to ensure the public demanded this funding (supply and demand). FDR knew the power of perception. Even though the federal government could fund social security without personal contributions, a payroll tax ensures workers see their contributions to social security leave their checks each pay period; “We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.” Basically, FDR wanted to foster a sense of entitlement among workers who paid into the system in order to destroy what he saw as a “relief attitude” or the working person’s resistance to accepting charity. Those who felt they earned their social security payments would not only demand those payments but would hold politicians to ensuring their continuation.

Politics all the way through

“Entitlement” has undergone a transformation in connotation since the Reagan administration. In FDR’s time, the term was “earned entitlement.” “Earned” was then dropped, and, with it, the reminder that social security is something owed to people because they meet the qualifications for receiving it, to be able to live a dignified life in old age and because it is owed to them for not only what they paid in but also for working.

FDR’s “trick” is expressed in a 1941 memorandum from Luther Gulick. In the memo, Gulick proposes the institution of a sales tax as opposed to the payroll tax. In the memo’s last paragraph, Gulick stated “I raised the question of the ultimate abandonment [of] the pay roll taxes in connections with old age security and unemployment relief in the event of another period of depression.” This is a notable parallel to the economic situation in 2020. To this proposal, FDR is reported to have responded that the economics “are politics all the way through.”

To begin the lesson, teachers can have students examine a paycheck stub, asking them to notice the various taxes paid by the worker. Today, with the popularity of direct deposit options, workers may pay less attention to these numbers than in the past. Teachers and students should discuss the psychological effect of these taxes. Likely strong feelings will be elicited. Teachers can use this emotion as an example of “earned entitlement.” Although “entitlement” is often used pejoratively today, it was originally meant to signify someone’s right to collect on what has been promised, or owed, to them. Then, teachers can introduce Social Security, guiding students through the final paragraph of the Gulick letter. Students can consider whether or not FDR’s decision to “fund” social security through payroll tax made the program successful. Finally, discuss the September 2020 CARES Act, specifically the intricacies of the payroll tax deferral. Students can compare the stated aims of this measure, which in reality would make little substantial difference to the average worker to its longer-term effects. Students can analyze H.R. 8171, the “Save our Social Security Now” Act. The document outlines 17 “findings” related to the efficacy and purpose of social security. The final three, numbers 15-17, specifically cite the deferment of payroll taxes as “the first step in his announced plan to entirely defund Social Security by eliminating payroll contributions altogether beginning in 2021.” Primary sources related to Social Security can be found at http://www.sa.gov/history. Students can conclude the lesson by considering whether or not FDR’s “funding” scheme was a mistake, in that “entitlements have fared especially badly…partly because of early decisions that were intended to protect them” (Kelton, 2002, p. 158).

Conclusion: What to do in times of economic downturn?

Once we realize that the federal government’s role is to provide currency not-collect to it, our whole perspective changes. For example, it reminds us that federal institutions like the U.S. Postal Service and Social Security aren’t intended to be profit-generating, but to serve the public. MMT, and the currency-issuer’s perspective help us consider the Federal government’s responsibility to its people, especially in times of economic downturn. Proponents of MMT suggest that “since the government imposes the tax that causes people to look for wages to earn currency, the government should make sure there is always a way to earn currency” (Kelton, p. 65). Currency comes from the Federal government, therefore it is the Federal government’s job to ensure people have a way to obtain it. As Kelton further argues, without a jobs guarantee, minimum wage is not actually $7.25/hour but $0.

The ability to see through these initiatives and to critically read economic policy is a crucial component of economic literacy (Author, 2021). MMT, and the perspectives it fosters, help develop citizens’ ability to understand the political agendas being enacted through economic and monetary policies by taking a currency-issuer’s perspective. The United States doesn’t need our money, we need its. We, in turn, provision the government through circulating currency and engaging in public works. MMT reminds us that we are entitled, and that entitled is not a bad word.

References

Bryan, B. (13, March 2019). A new survey shows that zero top U.S. economists agreed with the basic principles of an economic theory supported by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Business Insider. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/economist-survey-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-modern-monetary-theory-2019-3

Feinig, J. (2020). Toward a moral economy of money? Money as a creature of democracy. Journal of Cultural Economy. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/17530350.2020.1729223

Greenspan, A. (2005). Testimony: Future of the Social Security program and economics of retirement. Retrieved from https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/testimony/2005/20050315/default.htm

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Kelton, S. (2020). The deficit myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the birth of the people’s economy. PublicAffairs

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Konkobo, L. (2017). African protests over the CFA ‘colonial currency’. BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-41094094

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Local History: Jacob Wynkoop and Black New Paltz

Local History: Jacob Wynkoop and Black New Paltz

Reprinted with permission from https://www.huguenotstreet.org/exhibits

Jacob Wynkoop (1829-1912) was born in New Paltz two years after slavery was legally abolished in New York State. Jacob had an exceptional and varied life for any man of his time, black or white. Among the first African Americans to buy land in the community, he also served in the Union Army during the Civil War, organized politically on behalf of black citizens in town, and built a series of homes that today still define a neighborhood in the village of New Paltz. Unlike countless other Africans and African Americans from the dawn of European colonization through the 19th century and beyond, Jacob’s story is fairly well documented in the historical record. This exhibit, curated by Josephine Bloodgood, Director of Curatorial and Preservation Affairs, was originally installed in the DuBois Fort Visitor Center in 2019, but has been expanded online.

Huguenot Street is proud to offer a new walking tour app titled “Jacob Wynkoop: Building a Free Black Neighborhood,” narrated by Chaundre Hall-Broomfield, a Newburgh native and performer known for his dual roles as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison in the national tour of “Hamilton” with the Angelica company. This new addition to the app (available now at the App Store and Google Play) takes visitors on a guided tour of the Broadhead-Church-Mulberry neighborhood of New Paltz, highlighting the houses built by 19th-century Black carpenter and Civil War veteran Jacob Wynkoop (https://www.huguenotstreet.org/app).

The Historic Huguenot Street Walking Tour app provides succinct narratives for each of the historic buildings on the street with information about the architecture, past residents, and multicultural history of New Paltz. While using the app, you can view archival photos, images of the buildings’ interiors, and the collections pieces within. The tour features the Crispell Memorial French Church, the replica Esopus Munsee wigwam, and all seven historic house museums. Development of the app was made possible in part through support from the County of Ulster’s Ulster County Cultural Services & Promotion Fund administrated by Arts Mid-Hudson. Narration by Grace Angela Henry.

Local History – Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson

Source: http://friendsofhinchliffestadium.net/FriendsII/HInchliffe_Overview.html

Hinchcliffe Stadium – Paterson, NJ

Hinchliffe Stadium near the Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey, was placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2004. It has a permanent niche in the nation’s sports and social history as one of a handful of surviving stadiums that were home to professional black sports during the “Jim Crow” era. At a time when baseball was an indisputable game of greats, Hinchliffe featured some of the greatest ballplayers in America, players who ironically had no access to the major leagues

Hinchliffe was built by public funds at the start of the Great Depression. It was meant as a sports haven for a generation of working-class kids struggling through hard times in a city dependent on industry. But financial reality demanded it also be a “paying investment,” and the City made it one. Its 10,000-seat capacity (more with temporary bleacher seating) proved an instant draw not just for baseball but for a wide range of sports: football, boxing, auto-racing, and major track and field meets, plus star-studded musical and entertainment events. The stadium’s heyday lasted well into the 1950s.

Local History – Underground Railroad in New York

Source: https://parks.ny.gov/historic-preservation/heritage-trails/underground-railroad/default.aspx

Journey to the North Exhibit

The Journey to the North is a six-panel traveling exhibit about the Underground Railroad. The exhibit uses the story of one fictitious character to convey real events experienced by freedom seekers during their journey to freedom. Much of the narrative is told from the point of view of Sarah, a fifteen-year-old fictional escaped slave. As students read the text they are encouraged to imagine themselves in her situation and faced with her decisions. Each of the 6 panels are 84”h x 40”w. with an approximate overall Footprint of 18’ in length.

The exhibition was developed for the New York State Historical Association by the Cooperstown Graduate Program in History Museum Studies.  Generous support for the exhibition came from the NY Council for the Humanities and Heritage New York. 

New York State was at the forefront of the Underground Railroad movement. It was a major destination for freedom-seekers for four main reasons:

  • Destination & Gateway: New York was a gateway to liberation for freedom-seekers (often referred to as escaped slaves). Its prime location, with access to Canada and major water routes, made it the destination of choice for many Africans fleeing slavery along the eastern seaboard.
  • Safe Haven: Freedom-seekers knew they would be protected in New York’s many black communities as well as Quaker and other progressive white and mixed race communities. A large and vocal free black population was present after the manumission (freeing) of slaves in New York State in 1827.
  • Powerful Anti-Slavery Movement: Anti-slavery organizations were abundant in New York State – more than any other state. The reform politics and the progressive nature of the state gave rise to many active anti-slavery organizations.
  • Strong Underground Railroad Leaders: Many nationally-known and locally influential black and white abolitionists chose to make their homes in New York. Among them were: Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Gerrit Smith, Henry Ward Beecher, Sojourner Truth and John Brown.

The “Journey to the North: New York’s Freedom Trail” exhibit is available for loan to not-for-profit educational institutions. Those interested must meet the loan requirements. For exhibit details and a loan application please contact Cordell Reaves at Cordell.Reaves@oprhp.state.ny.us.

Documenting New Jersey’s Overlooked Black History

Documenting New Jersey’s Overlooked Black History

Jennifer Schuessler

Reprinted with permission from The New York Times, December 23, 2020 (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/22/arts/black-cemetery-new-jersey-history.html)

Photograph from the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum

History can seem thick on the ground in Hopewell, a quaint, prosperous town of 2,000 in semirural central New Jersey, not far from where Washington crossed the Delaware. A cemetery on the main street holds a grand obelisk honoring John Hart, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Next to it stands a monument topped by a stone on which another patriot stood to give a fiery speech supporting the cause of liberty. But one afternoon in late summer, a group from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia drove right past those landmarks, and followed a winding road up to a burial ground with a different story to tell.

Stoutsburg Cemetery, tucked in a clearing about halfway up Sourland Mountain, is one of the state’s oldest African-American burial grounds. It may also be one of its best chronicled, thanks to Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills, two self-described ordinary small-town, middle-aged women turned “history detectives” who have spent more than a dozen years combing through wills, property deeds, tax records and other documents to recover the area’s overlooked Black history. Plenty of people research their genealogy, or undertake local history projects. But few create their own museum, as Ms. Buck and Ms. Mills did when they founded the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum, which opened in 2018 in a one-room 19th-century African Methodist church not far from the cemetery. The museum may seem to tell just one hyperlocal story, but it’s part of a broader effort to paint a fuller, more accurate picture of early America. And notably, at Sourland, the story is being told by descendants themselves.

In the 19th century, Sourland Mountain — named, some say, for the poor quality of its soil — had a reputation as a remote, hardscrabble, even dangerous place. And its Black settlements did not go unnoted by white chroniclers, who sometimes peddled exaggerated stories. In 1883, a white doctor and local historian published an oral biography of Sylvia Dubois, a formerly enslaved woman who ran a rough-and-tumble tavern on the mountain (and who was said to have lived to the age of 115). A few years earlier, in 1880, a correspondent from The New York Times had come through. He was there to cover a sensational murder trial, but ended up filing a long dispatch under the blaring headline “A REMARKABLE COLONY OF BARBARIANS IN THE MIDST OF CIVILIZATION.” The article traced the settlement’s origins to William Stives, a “mulatto” Revolutionary War veteran who had married a Native American woman and built a cabin in the “bleak and uninhabited” hills. But it mostly expressed horror at the inhabitants’ “lawless character” and their reputation for rampant “miscegenation,” as evidenced by the appearance of many couples he saw. “That one really got to me,” Ms. Buck, whose husband’s aunt is a descendant of Stives, said of the article. “They’re calling my in-laws barbarians?”

Ms. Buck and Ms. Mills never located Stives’s grave, as they had hoped. But they did find records of his military pension application and his discharge papers — signed, they were stunned to see, by George Washington. They also uncovered the story of another pioneer, Friday Truehart, Mills’s fourth-great-grandfather, who arrived from Charleston, S.C., in 1780 at age 13 with his enslaver, a minister named Oliver Hart. A 19th-century newspaper article said Truehart had been born in Africa, and named for Friday in “Robinson Crusoe” by a ship’s captain. But then Ms. Mills found Hart’s transcribed diary, which included an entry noting the purchase of 4-year-old Friday and his mother, Dinah, along with the child’s precise birth date — Friday, May 29, 1767. Ms. Mills calls learning how Truehart (who was freed in 1802) arrived in Hopewell “one of the most exciting discoveries of my life.”

Through their research, the two women have connected with white people whose history is intertwined with the cemetery. Among them is Ted Blew, the fifth-great-grandson of the man who enslaved Tom Blew, whose son Moses is buried at Stoutsburg. Mr. Blew met Ms. Buck and Ms. Mills in 2018, when they spoke at a Blew family reunion. He had known from wills that his ancestors owned slaves. But until he visited Stoutsburg, he said, that fact was just “words on a page.” “The cemetery has really opened our eyes to this part of our family history,” he said.

When the Museum of the American Revolution sent Ms. Buck and Ms. Mills the 1801 poll list with Hagerman’s name, the two women immediately spotted Tom Blew’s name, along with that of another Black man from the community. And the researchers are still puzzling over how to read a third name. Is it “Isaac Blew”? Or “Jude Blew” — as Tom’s wife, Judith, who is also buried at Stoutsburg, was referred to in other documents? If so, it would be an anomaly. Under the law at the time, only widows and unmarried women could vote. And in 1801 Tom Blew was still alive.

John Dewey’s Century-Old Thoughts on Anti-Asian Bigotry

John Dewey’s Century-Old Thoughts on Anti-Asian Bigotry

Charles F. Howlett

(Reprinted with permission from the History News Network, https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/179923)

Whether or not one agrees with Pulitzer-prize winning historian Richard Hofstadter’s observation that the famous philosopher John Dewey’s “style is suggestive of the cannonading of distant armies: one concludes that something portentous is going on at a remote and inaccessible distance, but one cannot determine just what it is” or the noted Harvard pragmatist, William James, who opined that his writings are “damnable; you might even say God-damnable,” it remains hard to ignore Dewey’s social and political views regarding American attitudes toward Asian Americans. After all, Dewey was more commentator than philosopher in many respects.  The organization Stop AAPI Hate identifies 3,800 reported events of anti-Asian hate incidents in the US over the past 12 months (a total that represents a fraction of all such events).

A century ago, John Dewey commented on the issue of race prejudice in the wake of another global crisis — the aftereffects of World War I. Today, we are experiencing another world crisis, COVID-19, and there are similar parallels when it comes to how we are treating our Asian American citizens.  The global pandemic that has consumed and overtaken our lives has led to a fresh wave of hatred against those of Asian descent but particularly Chinese Americans. The recent attacks at massage parlors in Atlanta and random assaults on the streets of New York and other cities are stark reminders of what can happen when people feel confined, angry, and compelled to blame someone else for their own current predicament. Scholars at Cal State San Bernardino estimate that in 2020, attacks against Asian Americans increased by one hundred and fifty percent from the previous year, a trend which seems to be intensifying in 2021.

The current spate of hate crimes and prejudice against those of Asian descent is particularly worrisome but should not come as a complete surprise. We have a long history of nativist resentment towards those who do not look Western European. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the 1885 killing of twenty-eight Chinese coal miners by a white mob in Rock Springs, Wyoming, The Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907, and most famously, the establishment of Internment Camps during World War II, which witnessed Japanese American citizens being torn from their homes and jobs on the West Coast under the pretext of national security (measures not imposed on Germans or Italians in other parts of the country), are just some examples of how Asian ethnic groups have become targets at moments of national tension.

As he was America’s most noted philosopher of the day, Dewey’s post-World War I trip to Asia remains instructive.  Fresh from a two-year sabbatical to the Far East from 1919 to1921, Dewey returned to resume his duties at Columbia prior to his retirement in 1930. He had been battered and intellectually bruised by his former student, Randolph Bourne, who soundly criticized him for supporting America’s entry into the war without carefully thinking about its associated consequences. Indeed, the resulting petty bickering at the Treaty of Versailles and failures to implement all of Wilson’s Fourteen Points resulted in Dewey issuing his own public apologia, “The Discrediting of Idealism.” He heartily welcomed this needed hiatus when invited to the Far East by a number of his former Chinese students at Teachers College—he was encouraged, especially by Hu Shih, to present his ideas on progressive education to coincide with the wave of nationalism and modernization as China emerged from its feudalistic past.  

The two years he spent, first lecturing in Japan for six weeks and then teaching and lecturing at the University of Nanking and other colleges in China while traveling about the countryside during the remainder of his sabbatical, gave Dewey a newfound appreciation for the Chinese and their culture. While he found Chinese thinking difficult to penetrate he was uplifted by their willingness to entertain certain aspects of Western democracy and industrialization.  

But what he did not count upon when he arrived back in his own homeland was the virulent xenophobic nationalism that had surged in his absence. Symptoms included the Red Scare of 1919, the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, rural suspicions of expanding urban centers, and growing calls for a stricter immigration bill. The pinnacle of white Anglo-Saxon nativism was the 1924 National Origins Act, which imposed strict quotas to restrict immigration by those not from Northern Europe. The historian John Higham neatly captures the reasons for this nativist hostility in his excellent work, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism.

Naturally, Dewey had hoped that upon his return to the United States attitudes would be different. Unfortunately, it was not to be the case. Perhaps he should have seen this coming as a result of the war hysteria and anti-German feelings exhibited between 1914-1918. Although the war had discredited his own idealism, he still found it very difficult to understand why his own nation not only refused to abandon its wartime intolerance but focused it on new enemies; he viewed with dismay and disappointment the nativist mind-set sweeping across the American landscape in the new decade.

Determined to speak out and challenge Americans to try and understand their reasons for treating Asian Americans the way that they did, as well as satisfy Chinese doubts about the sincerity of Western intentions, he presented a powerful and moving speech in 1921. He then fine-tuned it with force and conviction for his American readership. It appeared in a 1922 issue of the Chinese Social and Political Science Review appropriatelytitled, “Race Prejudice and Friction.”

What is most interesting about this speech and why it needs retelling today is how Dewey defined race and prejudice. In this article he insisted that racial prejudice is a social disease, one that comes before judgment; it cuts short our thinking, relies simply on desire or emotion thereby forcing people to see things only in one light and slanting one’s beliefs. What is shocking to our customary habits, Dewey observed, is the manufactured creation of a mentality that nurtures intolerance and hatred.

The anti-foreign sentiment Dewey experienced upon his return led to his further exploration of the nature of the causes for such attitudes. In re-reading this essay I decided to dig deeper into the philosopher’s thinking only to find out to my surprise that he hit upon the obvious: what leads to such reaction is a current crisis. In our case, today, it is the pandemic; what exacerbates the attitudes we are witnessing currently against Asian Americans have been fanned by those who chose political expediency and blame rather than accepting responsibility for their own inactions from the very beginning of this crisis here in the United States.

Perhaps a good way to frame Dewey’s line of thinking and applying it to our present situation is based upon the principle of post hoc, ergo propter hoc, a fallacious determination that, in Dewey’s own words, “since one thing happens after another it happens because of it.” Since things did not go well once the pandemic hit, Asian Americans have now become objects of blame, contempt, and anger. The same analogy can be applied to Muslim-Americans in the wake of 9/11. Indeed, the anti-foreign animus, which Dewey experienced after World War I, continues to resonate within a certain element of Americans who see only Darth Vader among those U.S. citizens of a different color skin, religion, and physical appearance. We can even make the same argument when it comes to immigration from south of our border. We doubt, however, that there would be the same reaction if a bunch of French-speaking Canadians crossed the St. Lawrence River, and invaded Maine; they might even encounter a friendly moose or two as they set up camp.

For Dewey race is an abstract idea and in terms of science is primarily a “mythical idea.” What we, as Americans, must learn from Dewey’s own words is that race “in its popular usage is merely a name given to a large number of phenomena which strike attention because they are different.” We must consider those factors complicating the relationships in our “melting pot” while paying close attention to those cultural aspects found in our “salad bowl.” When and if understanding of the mythical nature of race becomes common, it may counteract the tendency to regard ethnic Americans as strange, unwelcome, or threatening. More importantly, it may allow the embrace of Asian Americans as equal participants in Dewey’s ideal of democracy as a way of life, rather than a mere political construct.

And speaking of political realities, perhaps the most important lesson Dewey gave us in this speech and later published is that race, unfortunately, has been tied too closely to the notion of nationalism, which in turn has “become almost exclusively political fact.” Let Dewey’s words speak for themselves. “The political factor,” he wrote, “works in two ways. In the first place, the fact of political domination creates the belief in superiority on one side and inferiority on the other. It changes race prejudice into racial discrimination.” The second aspect, he argued, is one that engenders a “psychological effect of rule upon the dominant political group”—one that inevitably fosters arrogance and contempt. Seeking cover for its own missteps, certain public officials made all those of Asian nationality responsible for America’s misfortune—it was a calculated-driven attempt based on a tone of self-righteous superiority and indignation.

In reading Dewey’s words we can only wonder if anything has really changed about the true nature of American nativism: “The same man who is sure of the inherent superiority of the white race will for example hold forth on the Yellow Peril in a style which would make one believe that he believed in the inherent inferiority of the white race, though he usually tries to save himself by attributing fear to superiority in numbers.” Race prejudice, Dewey maintained throughout his life, is nothing more than an instinctive dislike and dread of what is different. It is a prejudice “converted into discrimination and friction by accidental physical features, and by cultural differences of language, religion, and, especially at the present time, by an intermixture of political and economic forces [just think today of the political and economic consequences of our current pandemic].” Need Dewey to have said more?

Yet Dewey’s philosophy was not so much about ideas in and of themselves but how they could work out our common social problems. Civic or public involvement captures his philosophical view of democracy in action. A democracy is only as good as the people who make it, apart from the political structure in place, he once proclaimed in The Public and Its Problems. What he sought to do in his writings and speeches was offer a method of inquiry for revising those ideas preventing people from understanding exactly which social and political problems required thought and action, which were necessary for remediation and correction. He was truly a public philosopher whose works were aimed for audiences outside of the academy—an important virtue that has rapidly declined over the years.

By applying his own method of inquiry upon his return to America, he recognized the critical importance of getting at the root of racial prejudice and, in his case, how we treat Asian Americans. What needed correction, then and now, is how those “who have claimed racial superiority and who instigated and used race prejudice to maintain their state of superiority” were allowed to get away with it and why education in schools lost sight of its democratic/civic purpose. How is it possible, Dewey asked, to separate the governing constructs of democracy from the social and cultural patterns of the way we live?

So, what did Dewey suggest? Dewey argued that the nation needed to do a better job to promote a clear understanding of foreign cultures. Despite global communication networks available to encourage understanding, we still remain ill-informed and even less willing to work on this proposition individually. Many of us receive information passively with the goal of being given certainty of knowledge and guidance on how to act on it, or selectively with the goal of confirming pre-existing prejudice (problems Dewey certainly recognized). What still persists is an ongoing reluctance to examine critically and question vigorously what needs to be understood for overcoming long-held misconceptions and built-in biases regarding cultural differences.

But perhaps more importantly, Dewey did provide a vital clue in his own time that continues to resonate and make sense. What society has never fully come to grips with is dealing with the problem of what he called, “acute nationalism.” To solve animosity toward those of non-Western European heritage, we need in Dewey’s words a “degree of political internationalism.” In other words, what he argued a century ago was that the biggest obstacle to cultural assimilation is actually not one of race but a reluctance to adjust to different types of culture. This can only occur when a new state of mind is created that is favorably inclined to encourage fundamental changes in political and economic relationships—one which breaks down those cultural barriers currently steering many white or native-born Americans to blame and anger over a supposed “Chinese virus” instead of the embrace of shared humanity in fighting the global pandemic. An appreciation and willingness, Dewey insisted, which would forego nationalistic predilections by entrenched political systems existing solely for the preservation of the status quo. Indeed, in his concluding words, he warned his readers that “the problem of the mutual adjustment to one another of distinct cultures each having its roots deep in the past is not an easy one at the best. It is not a task to be approached in either an off-hand or a querulous mood. At the present moment the situation is not at its best; we may hope in fact that it is at its worst.” Unfortunately, despite what he observed and what he encouraged a century ago, the way we are treating our Asian American citizens today would not make Dewey very happy. His message still remains unheeded.    

A Graveyard’s Link to the “Most Photographed Slave Child in History”

A Graveyard’s Link to the “Most Photographed Slave Child in History”

Chris Connell

Piedmont Journalism Foundation

Reprinted with permission from https://www.fauquier.com/lifestyles/a-rectortown-graveyard-s-link-to-the-most-photographed-slave-child-in-history/article_2deb32d8-9716-11eb-a138-c310ca021a59.html

A fallen tombstone in an old cemetery on a farm outside Rectortown, Virginia marks the grave of a man who killed a neighbor in 1859 and set in motion events that made a little blue-eyed, flaxen-haired enslaved girl a poster child for abolition during the Civil War. In 1863, when Fannie Lawrence was 5, a famed abolitionist preacher in New York had her pose Shirley Temple-like in fancy dresses, then the photos were sold to raise money from sympathizers of the movement. The Library of Congress has an online exhibit on Fannie Lawrence. And her tale is detailed in a 2015 account, “A Sad Story of Redemption,” written by Page Johnson, editor of a newsletter for Historic Fairfax City, a group dedicated to preserving local heritage.

Johnson drew largely on the 1893 autobiography of Catherine S. Lawrence, an ardent anti-slavery and temperance crusader from upstate New York who had come to Virginia to nurse Union soldiers at a tent hospital on the grounds of the Episcopal Seminary in Alexandria. Fannie and two older sisters, Viana and Sally, were among several children of three enslaved women who had been impregnated by their owner, Charles Rufus Ayres. He was a wealthy young Virginian, who studied at Yale and the University of Virginia to practice law, but instead owned a mill and farmed 500 acres outside Rectortown with at least 12 enslaved workers. Despite his dependency on slavery, he was “a Union man,” Johnson wrote, and in his will, the 32-year-old Ayres promised the three women their freedom and money for them to move north and to pay for their children’s education when he died.

The 1857 will came into force sooner than Ayres could have imagined. A bitter quarrel with a neighbor, William Wesley Phillips, over a gate ended in an exchange of gun fire on Nov. 11, 1859. Ayres – whose shot missed – was mortally wounded by Phillips and his 18-year-old son, Samuel. Father and son were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to three years in the state penitentiary in Richmond, which was soon to be the capital of the Confederacy.

Ayres’ testamentary wishes did not go to plan. The women – including Fannie’s mother, Mary Fletcher, who had still-enslaved children in the area – at first forsook freedom and elected to remain in Virginia, living with Ayres’ kindly mother. When she died, Fannie, Viana, Sallie and many others escaped Rectortown, eluded Confederate patrols and wild hogs for more than 40 miles, and made it safely behind Union lines to Fort Williams in Alexandria near the seminary.

According to Lawrence’s autobiography, Viana, at 10 or 12 the eldest sister, pleaded for her to adopt 4-year-old Fannie. The nurse agreed to temporarily take the “beautiful child and I soon became very much attached to her.”

Lawrence wound up keeping her and taking her to New York, where she had Fannie christened at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Beecher paraded the “redeemed slave child,” as he called her, before his congregation, baptized her as Fannie Virginia Casseopia Lawrence and took up a collection reportedly of $1,200, although Lawrence said she never received any of the money. He warned that her light skin put her in danger of being abused by slave-masters or sold into prostitution.  “Look upon this child,” the preacher urged. “Tell me, have you ever seen a fairer, sweeter face? This is a sample of the slavery which absorbs into itself everything fair and attractive. The loveliness of this child would only make her so much more valuable as a chattel.”

Fannie Virginia Casseopia Lawrence

He sent Fannie to the studio of a Brooklyn photographer to pose in formal dresses, sometimes with her adoptive mother. The daguerreotypes, photographs developed on special silvered plates, were mounted on “cartes de visite,” calling cards that were popular in that era, and sold to abolitionist sympathizers. Fannie posed at least 17 times in Brooklyn and elsewhere. The cards “were wildly popular in the North, making Fanny the most photographed slave child in history,” Johnson wrote in “A Sad Story of Redemption.” Lawrence took Fannie on tours to sing at churches and may have profited herself from sales of the cards.

The story has no happy ending for Fannie or her sisters. Lawrence went back to Virginia to retrieve Viana and Sallie with the idea of placing them in “good Christian families” in New York who promised to educate them.

Instead, they used them as servants. Sallie died of consumption in 1867. Viana lived just four years more. Fannie reached adulthood, but against her adoptive mother’s wishes “married one whom I opposed, knowing his reckless life rendered him wholly unfit for her,” Lawrence said. The husband abandoned Fannie with an infant daughter, leaving them to destitution. When Fannie died, her “double orphan” child was left “unprotected and unprovided for, only as far as the small savings of her mother’s hard labor will go.” “My three Southern children are all laid away, for which I thank my heavenly Father,” Lawrence wrote in the autobiography, titled “Sketch of the Life and Labors of Miss Catherine S. Lawrence, Who in Early Life Distinguished Herself as a Bitter Opponent of Slavery and Intemperance.” The Civil War nurse died at 84 in 1904. It is not known how or when Fannie died or where she is buried.

African American Cemeteries on Long Island

African American Cemeteries on Long Island

Debra Willett

Although there are references to free blacks on Long Island as early as 1657 most of the African Americans on Long Island were enslaved until after the Revolution. However, slavery on Long Island was both less widespread and shorter-lived than that of the South. Day workers, journeymen, or family help were more typical. New York State had enacted legislation to abolish slavery in 1799. The new constitution of the State of New York was enacted in 1821. Under its terms, black males who owned $250 in taxable property were eligible to vote. However, emancipation was neither immediate nor universal. Instead, the terms of the statute called for male slaves to be freed when they attained the age of 28; females, when they reached 25. This resulted in a gradual emancipation that was not complete until 1827, when the last child born into slavery had reached the age of freedom.

After the emancipation, many of the newly freed Blacks established communities of their own around the Island. Some of the early free black communities included the communities of Success and Spinney Hill in the Lake Success/Manhasset area. Freemen also settled in Sag Harbor, New Cassel, Roslyn Heights, Amityville, Glen Cove, Setauket, and Bridgehampton. In the twentieth century, black suburbs were established from east to west along the Island. Many of these, like Gordon Heights and North Amityville, were built especially for a black population. Others evolved into predominantly black communities after World War II, when working-class whites abandoned older areas and settled in the newly constructed, but racially restricted GI Bill communities. At the same time the older communities they were vacating experienced an influx of the emerging African-American homeowner class. By the 1960s, communities such as Hempstead, Freeport, Roosevelt, and Wyandanch had become home to a growing black middle class.

Centuries of spiritual tradition, dating back to their time in Africa, had supported the black community in slavery and in freedom. After the African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in Philadelphia at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the AME church became a strong center for the freemen of Long Island. By the time of the Civil War there were over thirty African-American churches on Long Island, of which twenty-seven were of the AME denomination. In addition, there are several black churches within the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Congregational denominations. Many of these early churches remain strong centers of social and religious life in the African-American communities of Long Island.

Until the 1950s, about 90 percent of all public cemeteries in the U.S. employed a variety of racial restrictions. Until recently, to enter a cemetery was to experience, as a University of Pennsylvania geography professor put it, the “spatial segregation of the American dead.” Even when a religious cemetery was not entirely race restricted, different races were buried in separate parts of the cemetery, with whites usually getting the more attractive plots.

In most cases Long Island followed the de facto cemetery racial segregation that most of America followed until the 1900s. Most African American cemeteries were adjacent to a church that owned and maintained them. Unfortunately, when the communities disappeared so did the cemeteries. The thriving community of Freetown in East Hampton that had its foundation in 1800’s made up of free African Americans and former slaves encompassed a cemetery. This cemetery appears in a 1916 Suffolk County atlas, but by 1930the community and its cemetery had disappeared due to a form of “suburban renewal”. In the few instances of a racially mixed cemetery the African Americans were buried in their own section without markings or a marker that denotes their importance to a specific family. In the McCoun Cemetery on Sandy Hill Rd and Agnes St, Oyster Bay there is a marker that states “Sophia Moore born a Slave.” Most African Americans historically were buried with a marker or a very simple one unless they were part of the military.

Prominent African Americans Buried in Long Island Cemeteries

Flushing Cemetery, Queens County, New York: This cemetery opened in 1853. At the time Queens was mainly rural with a population of less than 20,000 people. The original site was 20 acres, and in 1875 an additional 50 acres was added from an adjacent farm. Flushing Cemetery added a Quaker section in 1860 and was always one of the few non-segregated cemeteries. Several prominent African Americans are buried there. They include musicians Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Hodges and Hazel Scott. World War I pioneer aviator Eugene Bullard and the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Sr. are also interred there.

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong (1901-1971):

Louis Armstrong

Armstrong, a trumpeter and singer, was one of the most popular and influential musicians in America in the 20th century.

He was born in New Orleans and had only a 5th grade education. While working for a local family, Armstrong purchased his first cornet. After an arrest, he was placed in a home for boys where he learned how to play and eventually became the leader of the Waif’s Home Brass Band. Armstrong was released in 1914 and found work as an entertainer on Mississippi riverboats with Joseph “King” Oliver.

After World War I, Armstrong migrated to Chicago with Oliver’s band where he eventually formed his own band, Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven. In the 1950s and 1960s, Armstrong was an active supporter of the Civil Rights movement. He was an early “cross-over” star appearing on live television. Louis Armstrong’s house in Corona, Queens is now a public museum and Queens College houses a research collection bearing his name.

Johnny Hodges (1906-1970): Cornelius “Johnny” Hodges was a jazz alto sax player and a soloist in the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Hodges was considered to be second only to the legendary Charlie Parker as a jazz great.

Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. (1865-1953): Powell was an American minister and father to the late Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. He was born in Virginia to formerly enslaved parents. He entered the ministry in 1892 and in 1908 became pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York. He often preached against discrimination and was a member of the NAACP and National Urban League.

John “Dizzy” Gillespie (1917-1993): Gillespie was American trumpet player, bandleader, and singer. He helped make the “bebop” genre of jazz popular. Gillespie influenced many other musicians including Miles Davis and Chuck Mangione. His grave is unmarked.

Eugene Bullard (1894-1961): 

Eugene Bullard

Bullard was an American who flew for French forces as a member of the Lafayette Flying Corps during World War I. He was wounded 3 times and earned a Croix de Guerre. Bullard was known for flying with a pet rhesus monkey named Jimmy. After the war, Bullard remained in Europe and fought during World War II in the French Army. Bullard escaped from occupied France and returned to the U.S. where he settled in Harlem and worked briefly as an interpreter for Louis Armstrong. In 1954 President Charles de Gaulle invited him to Paris to re-light the flame of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe. The French government honored Bullard again 1959 by making him a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur. When he died Bullard was buried in the uniform of a French Foreign Legionnaire. President Bill Clinton posthumously promoted Bullard to U.S.A.F. 2nd lieutenant.

Hazel Scott: (1920-1989): 

Hazel Scott

Scott was a world-renown pianist and singer known as the “Darling of Café Society” for her interpretations of classical masterpieces. She was born in Trinidad and raised in Harlem where she met jazz greats Fats Waller and Lester Young. While still in high school she hosted her own radio show, broke sales records with her recordings, and soloed at Carnegie Hall. Scott was very vocal about racial discrimination. She refused to play for segregated audiences, would not act in any movie that depicted her in a role she considered demeaning, and demanded the same pay as white actresses. Scott was the first African American performer to have her own national television show, but was blacklisted after she was named as a Communist sympathizer by the House Un-American Activities Committee. She left the U.S. for Europe and did not return and resume her career here until 1967.

Long Island National Cemetery: This cemetery is located in Farmingdale, N.Y. It was established in 1936 because the Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn was almost filled to capacity.

 Sgt. Leander Willett (1895-1956): Willet was born in Oyster Bay, NY and was a member of the World War 1 all-African American 369th Infantry unit known as the “Harlem Hellfighters.” The unit spent 191 days on the front lines in France, more than any other regiment. 169 men won individual war crosses and two soldiers were the first Americans to received the French Croix de Guerre. Sgt. Willett was wounded in the Argonne Forest offensive when he was bayoneted and gassed.

William Thompson (1927-1950): Thompson served in the Korean Conflict and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. On August 6, 1950, Thompson’s unit was hit with a surprise attack at night. He set-up his machine gun in the path of the enemy combatants and pinned them down to allow his platoon to withdraw and re-group in a more favorable position. Although hit with grenade and bullet fragments, Thompson remained at his post until he was killed by a grenade.

John Coltrane (1926-1967):  Coltrane was born in North Carolina and served in the U.S. Navy where he was stationed in the Manana Barracks in Pearl Harbor where he unofficially played with Navy band. Because the band was all-white Coltrane could not be listed as a member and was referred to as a guest performer. During his career, Coltrane played with Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Hodges, McCoy Tyner, and Charlie Parker. His former home in Philadelphia was designated a National Historic Landmark and his last home in Dix Hills N.Y. is on the National Register of Historic Places. Posthumously Coltrane was awarded a lifetime Grammy Achievement Award, and the U.S. Post office issued a commemorative stamp. His wife, Alice Coltrane (1937-2007), also was a musician and composer.

Henry Dumas (1934-1968): Dumas was a writer and poet. Her was born in Arkansas but grew up in Harlem and attended both C.U.N.Y and Rutgers University. After serving in the Air Force, he took a position at Southern Illinois University. Dumas was shoot and killed by a New York City Transit Policeman in the 125th St. and Lenox Ave. subway station. His death was ruled a case of mistaken identity. 

Capt. Lewis Cunningham Broadus (1877-1961): Broadus started his military life as a Buffalo Soldier at Fort Custer, Montana. With the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Capt. Broadus saw action in Cuba at the Battle of El Caney. Broadus requested a promotion based in his service, but was denied because African-Americans were not permitted to be commissioned officers. Broadus saw action in the Philippines and was awarded a Certificate of Merit by President Theodore Roosevelt for bravery. During WWI, Broadus was stationed in Hawaii along with several thousand African-American recruits, and his request for promotion was honored. He completed officer’s training at the Reserves Office Training Camp at Fort Des Moines Iowa.

Holy Rood Cemetery Holy Rood Cemetery: This cemetery is located in Westbury, New York and is part of the Rockville Centre Diocese. People buried at Holy Rood include Commissioner William J Willett (1931-2003) of Glen Cove N.Y. native. Willett served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean Conflict. After the war, Willett joined the Nassau County police force and was one of the first African-American “beat” cops in Nassau County. In 2000 Willett was named Police Commissioner of Nassau County, one of the largest police departments in the United States.

Calverton National Cemetery: Calverton is located in eastern Long Island between the towns of Manorville and Riverhead in Suffolk County. Calverton National Cemetery features a memorial pathway lined with a variety of memorials that honor America’s veterans. As of 2009, there are 23 memorials here, most commemorating soldiers of 20th century wars. African American service men buried at Calverton include Isaac Woodard (1919-1992). Sergeant Woodard served in the Pacific Theater of World War II and was honorably discharged in 1946. In uniform, he boarded a bus for home and, enroute, was brutally attacked and blinded. Woodard was one of many black servicemen who experienced discrimination and violence, but his case sparked a national outcry. The NAACP sought justice, musicians immortalized the travesty, and Orson Welles unmasked Woodard’s attacker – police chief Lynwood Shull – on his radio show. No charges were filed until President Harry Truman ordered an investigation, but an all-white jury acquitted Shull in less than a half hour. In response, Truman established a Civil Rights Commission and desegregated the military.