Preserving our Democracy: The Now Inescapable Mandate for Teaching Media Literacy in Elementary Social Studies Education

Preserving our Democracy: The Now Inescapable Mandate for Teaching Media Literacy in Elementary Social Studies Education

Kevin Sheehan, Emily Festa, Emily Sloan, KellyAnn Turton

Sam Wineberg’s latest treatise on the need for historical literacy, Why Learn History When It’s Already on Your Phone, could not have come at a more critical time in our history.  The inescapable truth is that the world is now sophisticated and instantaneous in providing information and insights on cell phones with a speed that truly boggles the mind. Although information is now instant, what cannot be overlooked is that our current digitally wired citizens lack the ability to accurately evaluate the reliability and credibility of this instantaneous information.

HBO’s frightening documentary, “The Social Dilemma,” points out the dangers for society in being fed our political information from social media sources. In an effort to gain our attention, social media is now able to digest our preferences and sensationalize our media feeds so that we only hear sources that support our previously demonstrated preferences. The reason behind the severity of this article’s title, Preserving our Democracy, is that the skills of media literacy are now, not only integral strategies in how we teach history, but are critical to our democracy’s survival.

The recent insurrection at our nation’s Capital and failure of much of the nation to accept our presidential election results should leave all of us with one underlying and unmistakable lesson. The ability to evaluate the validity of the information that we receive on our media platforms is now our most pressing mandate in social studies. On an almost daily basis, we suffer through the drama of surrounding claims and counterclaims on media sources of all types.

What should be painfully obvious to all of us in social studies education is an inescapable fact that currently seems invisible to the general public in the frenzy and passion of current political accusations on both sides. Regardless of which side was most harmed by the outside social media influences in our last election, more than at any time in our history, our electorate is dangerously vulnerable to cyber misinformation. This article attempts to provide a solution to how we as social studies educators might address this crisis.

Now that this Pandora’s Box of our inability to separate fact from fiction has been opened for the world to see, sanctions and even armed attack against aggressors will not be able to eliminate outside threats from using the invisible power of the Internet to influence our elections. The fact is that our recent elections have revealed that the American democratic process can now be manipulated with a laptop from anywhere in the world.  The growing awareness that our electoral process is vulnerable to foreign and internal interference puts our very democracy in peril.

Although the current state of our national politics seeks to find the culprits and punish those responsible, what is being missed in this drama that has both political sides attacking each other is who the real enemy is. In the words of the noted philosopher and long-ago comic strip superstar, Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” The truth is that no matter who interferes and who is to blame, the real question is why are we so vulnerable to obvious, and often ridiculous misinformation?

The fact is that the most preposterous claims can affect and determine the outcome of an election is clear proof that our electorate lacks the critical skill of determining what information is credible and that which is not. We have become so addicted to our social media that we unquestionably accept the credibility of information the minute it is provided.  Not only is this damaging in political arenas, but this misinformation can spread to every arena of our lives. The good news is that we have the power to do something about this if we are willing to rethink the way we deliver social studies education and the end goal of that instruction.

Moving beyond Jeopardy to the new basics of social studies, media literacy

My sad confession, after decades as social studies instructor and a New York State Regents test designer, is that too much of my professional involvement focused on preparing students to recall and employ the vital information that was considered essential to understanding our nation’s past and present.  Said in a less flattering way, a good deal of my life’s work in this subject involved preparing students to meet demands, not unlike that of a high stakes and challenging Jeopardy game. Although state and advanced placement assessment has never been confused with the fun and excitement of a Jeopardy game, the same basic skill of recall drove both.

Now that Google has made that skill of recall less relevant in the lives of the digital natives that we teach, we must face the fact that the new skill most needed is evaluating the continuing barrage of information that invades our lives on our electronic devices on a minute-by-minute basis. According to a new study by Roger Bon at the University of California-San Diego, we are bombarded daily by an equivalent of 34 Gb (gigabytes) of information every day.  This is enough to cripple our laptops. Imagine what this overload is doing to our brains.

Inspired by a presentation by social studies supervisor, Lorraine Lupinskie of the Half Hollows Central School District, at, the Long Island Council for Social Studies, my graduate and undergraduate students created online K-5 Inquiry Design Model units with the new basics of arming our students with the tools needed to deal with this information overload.  Media Literacy is a skill that is too critical to hold off until middle or high school social studies courses. These skills need to be cultivated in the earliest grades as our students inhabit the digital world from birth.

These units, harnessing the magic of the storybooks, begin in grade one and run through grade five, can be accessed on this Molloy College website link (shorturl.at/estAM). These units, created by my Molloy College students and driven by compelling questions, deal with the key media literacy skills of sourcing, corroboration, purpose and point of view, differentiating fact from opinion, credibility and reliability, applying these constructs to their assigned curriculum.  Each unit is based on the Inquiry Design Unit Model and driven by an appropriate grade level children’s literature selection that breaks down the complicated skills of media literacy through story.  After the students absorb the media literacy skills, they are required to evaluate the credibility of the information that they receive, even from their own textbooks as well on the Internet.

Please feel free to borrow the units created by Molloy preservice students shared on our website, www.behindthecurtainsofhistory.weebly.com (K-5 Media Literacy Units—Beginning with Storybooks). The nature of this publication does not allow us to share in depth multiple examples of each unit, but in this the year of a truly controversial national political election, we share a snapshot of two of the units from the creators and implementers of those units as they impart the skills of sourcing, corroboration, purpose and point of view, differentiating fact from opinion, credibility and reliability, applying these constructs to their students.

Lessons from the Field: A Snapshot of our Second Grade Inquiry Design Model Unit: How Can We Elect a Good President?

Emily Festa and Kellyann Turton

Living in an era, where the concept of fake news and the misinterpretation of facts and ideas are prevalent, it is evident that we need to teach students the skills and techniques needed to be informed citizens, who will one day be called to effectively exercise their right to vote. Our second-grade unit, How Can We Elect a Good President, is made up of lessons that teach our youngest scholars how to identify credible sources and to corroborate those sources so that we can make effective decisions.

Our unit’s foundation begins with this question to engage students, “Have you ever heard a rumor about someone that wasn’t true?” To teach the concept of the credibility of rumors through story, we chose the marvelous book Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna. This book ignites a discussion and activity to identify the need for credible sources in the face of rumor. Through discovering how a person’s reputation can be ruined by an unsubstantiated and false rumor, spread by misinformed members of a community, students will be able to sort through and determine what are credible sources in follow up activities that links to their everyday lives.

After learning what makes sources credible, scholars will use their newly found knowledge to learn to corroborate facts that they hear. To teach corroboration, we chose to incorporate the book, I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff, in conjunction with a YouTube video, Six Insane Iguana Facts. Scholars will practice corroborating sources to see if the events covered in the story have sound corroborating evidence from the video. These skills will be then be harnessed to help our youngest citizens become informed citizens by participating in an election to determine a class ice cream election. This unit was made with the full intent to give our future voters the tools they will one day need to vote in actual elections by using literacy sources that teach underlying skills.

Lessons from the Field: A Snapshot of our Fourth Grade Inquiry Design Model Unit: How Do We Know What We Learned about the Inventors during Industrial Revolution is True? 

Emily R. Sledge

In our digital age, the introduction of media literacy in elementary education is no longer an add on but should be a necessity. How Do We Know What We Learned About the Inventors During the Industrial Revolution Is True? is a fourth-grade Inquiry Design Model (IDM) unit that consists of integrated media literacy based E.L.A. lessons and social studies lessons that address the importance of the media literacy through the skills of sourcing and corroboration. By utilizing these newly developed skills, students will be able to conclude whether or not the information from their textbook on inventors of the Industrial Revolution is credible.

To teach sourcing, we incorporated the book Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna as our introductory, media literacy based E.L.A. lesson. Although this book may have been used in previous grade levels, it was our belief that the same book could viewed through different lens at a different age.  This lesson laid the groundwork for students to learn to examine and scrutinize information from various sources. In contrast to the use of the book presented on the second-grade level, the book now established a mandate to evaluate a source on all information, even textbooks.

The book led to a discussion about the danger of spreading misinformation and the need to evaluate the sources of any and all information. It was our goal in this lesson for students to walk away with the understanding that informed citizens use sound evidence and facts to draw conclusions about the accuracy and credibility of a source. After the story, opened the unit with two key questions, “What is sourcing? and Why is it so important to check the sources of the information we hear?” The goal was to get students think about the need to investigate the author of a source and the motive for author in writing the source. Students completed an activity in which they practiced sourcing, using evidence and facts to determine whether information might credible, based on the sources.

The goal of the final lessons of the unit was for students to utilize the skills of sourcing and corroboration to answer our essential question, “How Do We Know What We Learned About the Inventors During the Industrial Revolution Is True?”  To evaluate the sources that had driven our unit, we created a tool for students to put each source under the microscope. This tool we created was named, USER, (Understand, Source, Elaborate, Reliable).  On a large oak tag sheet with a different source in the middle of the poster, each group of four students was required to move around the source in the center to determine the credibility of the source by providing answers called for under each letter.

Students first collaborated under a large U, and on the bottom of the poster, wrote down what their understanding of the information that the source conveyed.  Moving the next side of the poster, they then filled in everything that they could learn about the source and the author of the source under the large S. The next letter, E, elaborate, asked students to elaborate on what they thought about the credibility of the information based on what was said (The U) and the source’s author (The S). The final letter, R, asked student if the information seemed reliable, did what they learned based on what they had learned in analyzing the source support what was in their textbook.

Groups of four evaluated different primary sources in collaborative units and shared their information with the  whole class as experts on their document.  After hearing all of the documents, our youngest student citizens were now armed with primary source evidence to answer the question of whether what their textbook taught about the inventors of the Industrial Revolution was true, based on this in-depth class corroboration exercise.

It is our hope that lessons focusing on media literacy will establish positive and integral habits that our students can take into the future. Media literacy is an essential skill that we must all be equipped with going forward if our democracy is to survive and thrive. In a technological age, when information is a click away, teaching primary and intermediate grade students the importance of evaluating the credibility of sources will ensure that our students are responsible, literate individuals who will not accept what is delivered to them on social media at face value.

(Full lesson plans, Inquiry Design Unit Plans, Unit PowerPoints, and supporting materials for the units above are available on the website http://www.behindthecurtainsofhistory.weebly.com)

References

Bohn, R., & Short, J. (2012). Measuring Consumer Information. International Journal of Communication, 6, 980-1000. Retrieved from https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/1566/743

Coombe, D., J., Orlowski, & Curtis, V. (Writers), & Orlowski, J. (Director). (2020, September 9). The Social Dilemma [Television series episode]. In The Social Dilemma. HBO.

Festa, E., Radburn, L., Spaulding, M., Turton, K. (Writers). (2019) Behind the curtains of history: FINDING STUDENT voice in HISTORY NCSS: Inquiry Design Unit plans. Retrieved February, 2021, from http://www.behindthecurtainsofhistory.weebly.com/

Kelly, W. (1971). Pogo [Cartoon].

Madonna; Long, L. (2003). Mr Peabody’s Apples, London: Puffin Books.

Smithsonian National Museum of American History Kenneth E.Behring Center. Engaging Students with Primary Sources. (n.d.).

Wineburg, S. S. (2018). Why learn history (when it’s already on your phone). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

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

Hayes, A. Chartalism. Investopedia. Retrieved from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/chartalism.asp

Horsley, S. (2019). This economic theory could be used to pay for the Green New Deal.” NPR Morning Edition. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2019/07/17/742255158/this-economic-theory-could-be-used-to-pay-for-the-green-new-deal.

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

Kim, C. (19, December 2013). Poor kids should sweep the floors for school lunches, says GOP Rep. MSNBC. Retrieved from https://www.msnbc.com/the-last-word/gop-rep-poor-kids-should-sweep-school-floors-msna234371

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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McCloskey, D. N. (1983). The rhetoric of economics. Journal of Economic Literature, 21(2), 481-517.

Mosler, W. (2010). Seven deadly innocent frauds of economic policy. Valance Co., Inc. Retrieved from http://moslereconomics.com/wp-content/powerpoints/7DIF.pdf

Mosler, W. (2018). Soft currency economics. Retrieved from http://moslereconomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Soft-Curency-Economics-paper.pdf

Murphy, S.A. (2017). Early American colonists had a cash problem. Here’s how they solved it. Time. Retrieved from https://time.com/4675303/money-colonial-america-currency-history/

Norman, M. (20, July 2016). Social Security: If it ain’t broke…and it ain’t, and it never will be. Real Money. Retrieved from https://realmoney.thestreet.com/articles/07/20/2016/social-security-if-it-aint-broke-…-and-it-aint-and-it-never-will-be

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Seitz, Z & Krutka, D.G. (2020). Can the Green New Deal save us? An interdisciplinary inquiry. The Social Studies, 111(2), 74-85.

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Global Citizenship Education and Liberal Democracy

Global Citizenship Education and Liberal Democracy

Evan Saperstein and Daniel Saperstein

In recent decades, a growing number of organizations, scholars, educators, and practitioners have advanced the idea of “global citizenship” (Carter, 2001; Diaz et al., 1999; Noddings, 2005; Oxfam, 2015; Reysen & Katzarska-Miller, 2013; UNICEF, 2013; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2015). The premise behind this concept is simple—there are, or at least should be, a set of universally recognized values and priorities that bind peoples and nations in common cause (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2015). It is through such unity of purpose that countries (and their citizens) can come together to solve problems which transcend the nation-state and require a sustained, international response (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2014). This includes addressing poverty, education, climate change, equality, peace, and several other pressing prerogatives recently articulated by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly (2015) in its 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs).                                                                                                   

The UN, and a number of other governmental and nongovernmental institutions, have taken steps to address these SDGs and promote the goals of global-minded citizens (detailed further below). As the notion of global citizenship has gained interest and acceptance in institutional and scholarly circles alike, it has spurred a nascent discipline aptly known as global citizenship education (Brigham, 2011; Fernekes, 2016). Through this emergent area of study, a small, but growing, number of countries have sought to develop and incorporate global citizenship education into school curricula (Bickmore, 2014; Brown et al., 2009; Chong, 2015; Davies et al., 2005; Evans et al., 2009; Motani, 2007; Myers, 2020).     

How the term global citizenship is defined will affect how global citizenship-related course content develops. Several leading organizations (including UNESCO, UNICEF, and Oxfam), as well as a number of scholars, have defined and (through such definitions) helped to set the priorities of global citizenship (Carter, 2001; Diaz et al., 1999; Noddings, 2005; Oxfam, 2015; Reysen & Katzarska-Miller, 2013; UNICEF, 2013; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2015). While these definitions have varied, they generally highlight commitment to diversity, the environment, conflict resolution, social justice, and the responsibility to act. These are indeed critical global issues that require ongoing focus and action. At the same time, there is a notable omission from too many definitions of global citizenship—the commitment to liberal democratic values. Indeed, too often, there has been too little focus on key freedoms and rights that undergird liberal democratic society—from due process, to equality, to the freedom of speech, religion, and the press.       

This is at a time when democracy is under acute strain around the world (Repucci & Slipowitz, 2021). Earlier this year, the world saw the shocking revolt against the citadel of American democracy, the U.S. Capitol, by thousands of insurrectionists seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election (Mascaro et al., 2021). Additionally, there have been several challenges to democracies across Asia (e.g., Hong Kong, Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand) this past year, resulting in a wave of pro-democracy protests and the formation of an online solidarity movement (Milk Tea Alliance) (Frayer & Suliman, 2021). Over the last few years, the world also has witnessed democracy in retreat in growing parts of Europe, ranging from Austria to Hungary to Poland (Repucci, 2020). At the same time, authoritarian states have actively sought to undermine democracy around the world by intervening in elections and spreading disinformation (Repucci, 2020).  

Recent studies and surveys are further evidence of these troubling anti-democratic trends.  In the most recent report from The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (2021) Democracy Index, only 23 of 167 countries were deemed “full democracies.” In fact, a Freedom House report issued this year indicated that political rights and civil liberties have been on the decline for the past decade and a half (Repucci & Slipowitz, 2021). Other studies have shown democracy losing favor with popular opinion. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Democracy found that the next generation of leaders (millennials) have less faith in democracy and are more open to non-democratic ideas (Foa & Mounk, 2016). In a 2019 Pew Research Center survey of 27 countries, a majority of the individuals surveyed were dissatisfied with the workings of their democracy (Wike et al., 2019). And, in a Democracy Perception Index (DPI) study conducted by the Alliance of Democracies (2021) and Latana, thousands of survey respondents across 53 nations considered economic inequality and Big Tech companies (e.g., Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft) as grave threats to democracy.  

These trends have not been lost on leading international figures. In former U.S. President Barack Obama’s (2016) final address to the UN General Assembly, he urged the need for democratic leaders to “make the case for democracy.” In 2018, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres (2018) cautioned that “[d]emocratic principles are under siege, and the rule of law is being undermined.” That year, French President Emmanuel Macron (2018) also bemoaned the “attacks on democracies through the rise of illiberalism.” Earlier this year, President Joe Biden (2021a) forewarned that “your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded: autocracy or democracy.” And during his address to a joint session of Congress, Biden (2021b) elaborated: “We have to prove democracy still works — that our government still works and we can deliver for our people. . . . If we do that, we will meet the center challenge of the age by proving that democracy is durable.”       

Yet, the purpose of global citizenship is to forge common bonds and identities (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2014; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2015). Given that most countries are not liberal democracies, the exclusion of non- or anti-democratic countries could (or would) serve to divide the global community and impede work on important issues such as climate change and trade. It is indeed true that, since the turn of the 21st century, democratic and undemocratic countries alike have worked together to achieve notable global agreements and breakthroughs. For example, in 2001, many members of the international community signed the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Halewood, 2013). Additionally, in 2015, nearly two hundred nations representing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change entered into the Paris Agreement (Streck et al., 2016).                       

It is also true that liberal democratic governance has its flaws, and can and should be subject to criticism. Too often such societies fail to live up to their promise, and too often minorities do not enjoy the same privileges as the majority. From socio-economic disadvantage to discrimination, there is much to be done to right the wrongs that still exist in liberal democratic countries. But this is a debate that democracy allows. There is only so much that can be improved or achieved under autocratic governments which, by their very nature, stifle dissent and deny basic rights and freedoms. 

Those who define the agenda of global citizenship should examine, if not recognize, the importance of liberal democratic governance and principles to achieve the goals of global citizenship. According to a 2018 report from The Economist, the growing tide of semi- or anti-democratic governments has led to: “declining popular participation in elections and politics”; “weaknesses in the functioning of government”; “declining trust in institutions”; “dwindling appeal of mainstream representative parties”; “growing influence of unelected, unaccountable institutions and expert bodies”; “widening gap between political elites and electorates”; “decline in media freedoms”; and “erosion of civil liberties, including curbs on free speech” (The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2018, p. 3). Whatever one’s views on liberal democracy, such governance does more than any other form of government to advance the agenda of human and civil rights (Strege, 1994).  

When global citizenship is taught in the classroom and elsewhere, such instruction should explore the role of liberal democracy in promoting global citizenship. We cannot lose sight of the effects of systemic, cross-national deprivation of human and civil rights. It is hard to see how we can achieve all of the aspirations of global citizenship—including diversity, non-discrimination, and social justice (to name a few)—without the success and acceptance of core liberal democratic values for generations to come.         

References

Alliance of Democracies (2021). Democracy Perception Index 2021. Retrieved from https://www.allianceofdemocracies.org/initiatives/the-copenhagen-democracy-summit/dpi-2021/

Bickmore, K. (2014). Citizenship education in Canada: ‘Democratic’ engagement with

differences, conflicts and equity issues? Citizenship Teaching & Learning, 9(3), 257-278. 

Biden, J. (2021a). Remarks by President Biden in press conference [Transcript]. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/03/25/remarks-by-president-biden-in-press-conference/

Biden, J. (2021b). Remarks by President Biden in Address to a Joint Session of Congress [Transcript]. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/04/29/remarks-by-president-biden-in-address-to-a-joint-session-of-congress/

Brigham, M. (2011). Creating a global citizen and assessing outcomes. Journal of Global Citizenship & Equity Education, 1(1), 15-43. 

Brown, E. J., Morgan, W. J., & McGrath, S. (2009). Education, citizenship and new public diplomacy in the UK: What is their relationship? Citizenship, Social and Economics Education, 8(2), 73-83.  

Carter, A. (2001). The political theory of global citizenship. Routledge.

Chong, E. K. M. (2015). Global citizenship education and Hong Kong’s secondary school curriculum guidelines. Asian Education and Development Studies, 4(2), 221-247.     

Davies, I., Evans, M., & Reid, A. (2005). Globalising citizenship education? A critique of ‘global education’ and ‘citizenship education’. British Journal of Educational  Studies, 53(1), 66-89.    

Diaz, C., Massialas, B., & Xanthopoulos, J. (1999). Global perspectives for educators. Allyn & Bacon. 

Evans, M., Ingram, L., MacDonald, A., & Weber, N. (2009). Mapping the ‘global dimension’ of citizenship education in Canada: The complex interplay between theory, practice and context. Citizenship Teaching and Learning, 5(2), 16-34.  

Fernekes, W. R. (2016). Global citizenship education and human rights education: Are they compatible with U.S. civic education? Journal of International Social Studies, 6(2), 34-57.

Foa, R. S., & Mounk, Y. (2016). The danger of deconsolidation: The democratic disconnect. Journal of Democracy, 27(3), 5-17.

Frayer, J. M., & Suliman, A. (2021, April 7). ‘Milk Tea Alliance’ brews democracy online among young activists across Asia. Retrieved from

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/milk-tea-alliance-brews-democracy-online-among-young-activists-across-n1262253

Guterres, A. (2018). Address to the General Assembly [Transcript]. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/speeches/2018-09-25/address-73rd-generalassembly

Halewood, M. (2013). What kind of goods are plant genetic resources for food and agriculture? Towards the identification and development of a new global commons. International Journal of the Commons, 7(2), 278-312. 

Macron, E. (2018). Transcription du discours du Président de la République, Emmanuel Macron, devant le congrés des États-Unis d’Amérique [Transcript]. Retrieved from http://www.elysee.fr/declarations/article/transcription-du-discours-du-president-de-larepublique-emmanuel-macron-devant-le-congres-des-etats-unis-d-amerique/

Mascaro, L., Tucker, E., Jalonick, M. C., & Taylor, A. (2021, January 6). Pro-Trump mob storms  US Capitol in bid to overturn election. Retrieved from https://apnews.com/article/78104aea082995bbd7412a6e6cd13818

Motani, Y. (2007). The emergence of global citizenship education in Japan. In E. D. Stevick & B. Levinson (Eds.), Reimagining civic education: How diverse societies form democratic citizens (pp. 271-291). Rowman & Littlefield.      

Myers, J. P. (Ed.). (2020). Research on teaching global issues: Pedagogy for global citizenship education. Information Age Publishing. 

Noddings, N. (2005). Educating citizens for global awareness. Teachers College Press.  

Obama, B. (2016). Address by President Obama to the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly [Transcript]. Retrieved from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/09/20/address-president-obama-71st-session-united-nations-general-assembly

Oxfam. (2015). Education for global citizenship: A guide for schools. Retrieved from https://www.oxfam.org.uk/education/resources/education-for-global-citizenship-a-guide-for-schools

Repucci, S. (2020). Freedom in the world 2020: A leaderless struggle for democracy. Retrieved from https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2020/leaderless-struggle-democracy

Repucci, S., & Slipowitz, A. (2021). Freedom in the world 2021: Democracy under siege. Retrieved from https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2021/democracy-under-siege

Reysen, S., & Katzarska-Miller, I. (2013). A model of global citizenship: Antecedents and outcomes. International Journal of Psychology, 48(5), 858-870.  

Streck, C., Keenlyside, P., & von Unger, M. (2016). The Paris Agreement: A new beginning. Journal for European Environmental & Planning Law, 13, 3-29.      

Strege, M. (1994). Universal human rights and declaration. disClosure: A Journal of Social  Theory, 3(2), 1-14. 

The Economist Intelligence Unit. (2018). Democracy index 2017: Free speech under attack. Retrieved from https:/www.eiu.com/public/topical_report.aspx?campaignid=DemocracyIndex2017

The Economist Intelligence Unit. (2021). Democracy index 2020: In sickness and in health? Retrieved from https://www.eiu.com/n/campaigns/democracy-index-2020/    

UNICEF. (2013). Global citizenship: A high school educator’s guide (Grades 9-12). Retrieved from https://www.gcedclearinghouse.org/sites/default/files/resources/Global%20citizenship_1.pdf

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. (2014). Global citizenship education: Preparing learners for the challenges of the 21st century.   Retrieved from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000227729

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. (2015). Global citizenship education: Topics and learning objectives. Retrieved from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000232993

United Nations General Assembly. (2015). Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development.Retrieved from https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/21252030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development%20web.pdf

Wike, R., Silver, L., & Castillo, A. (2019). Many across the globe are dissatisfied with how democracy is working. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/global/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/04/Pew-Research-Center_Global-Views-of-Democracy-Report_2019-04-29_Updated-2019-04-30.pdf

Teaching the Creativity & Purpose Behind George Washington’s Giant Watch Chain

Teaching the Creativity & Purpose Behind George Washington’s Giant Watch Chain

by Robert Skead, Author

There are so many amazing and creative aspects of the American Revolution that I never learned in school—and I was in sixth grade in 1976 during America’s Bicentennial. Things like the Culper Spy Ring, the use of invisible ink and secret codes, the American Turtle submarine 9yes there was a submarine that worked during the American Revolution), top-secret gunpowder factories (gun powder was such a precious commodity the patriots had to have secret factories) and every-day patriots who went on covert missions to help the cause of liberty.

I never discovered these truths until my own research into this time period as an adult. Add the creation of the Great Chain at West Point to all these creative devices that helped American patriots win the war and you have a hook that will engage any individual’s imagination to want to learn more.

The Great Chain at West Point had an important mission. General Washington needed to prevent the British from taking control of the Hudson River and splitting the American colonies. If the British controlled the river, they’d have the ability to launch a major invasion from Canada and cut New England off from the middle and southern colonies—allowing them to win the war. Washington and the Continental Congress were not going to let that happen! They needed to keep the British fleet in New York, so they financed a giant chain to be forged and installed across the Hudson River at West Point—and it worked!

The chain was installed on April 30, 1778. It took 40 men four days to install it. The chain was supported by a bridge of waterproofed logs, like connected rafts that stretched across the river. There was a clever system of pulleys, rollers, and ropes, and midstream, there were anchors to adjust the tension to overcome currents and tides. Creative, right?

Consider these facts:

  • The chain consisted of 1,200 large links;
  • Each iron link was 2 feet long; and
  • Each link weighed 100 to 180 pounds.

As the British fleet approached the Great Chain at West Point, they were intimidated and retreated. Had they done so, the chain would have ripped a ship’s hull apart.

General Washington kept the chain a secret in all of his correspondence in the fall of 1778, referring to it as one of “several works for the defense of the river.” A tory spy did, however, report news of the chain to the British in New York City. Later, the Great Chain was dubbed “Washington’s giant watch chain” by newspapers in New York. It was certainly a special project of his – so much so that when they decided to take it down, Washington had to be on hand to oversee the operation himself. On the day after the Continental Army took it down, November 29, 1779, Lieutenant Reynolds, Aide to Colonel Timothy Pickering, The Adjutant General, U.S. Army, West Point, wrote the following to his wife about General Washington:

“The day started with breakfast of dried beef and talk of the upcoming battles and the need to keep the British Forces split between New York and Canada.  As assistant to Colonel Pickering, I got to sit in on all meetings and see the leaders at work.  Colonel Pickering is so very calm, which I believe he has learned from General Washington.  … The chain came out of the river yesterday and it was quite an operation to behold.  General Washington took his entire staff down to River Bank to the chain emplacement and oversaw the removal of the chain personally.

“It was quite a spectacle to see as the entire staff, General Washington on his great horse, Nelson, overseeing all the Soldiers and officers conducting the boat operation to retrieve the chain before the river would freeze over.  … Boats were used to maneuver the barges and raffs toward shore where the oxen could pull the great chain up on the bank of the river.  It took the entire afternoon and evening by torchlight to get the chain onto the shore and it was none too soon as the river had ice floating in it as we finished up last night.

“I will never forget seeing General Washington riding back and forth on that great horse talking to every Soldier, talking with the head of his honor guard and with his guests.  General Washington is always at his best when riding.  He becomes more animated and actually talks to almost everyone.  … General Von Steuben and The Marquis de Lafayette both commented to Colonel Pickering that General Washington is the right man at the right time for the American Army, as he is as noble as any aristocrat on horseback yet is truly an American Patriot in demeanor and leadership.”

Robert Skead is the author of Links to Liberty, the third book in the American Revolutionary War Adventure series, from Knox Press. Patriots, Redcoats and Spies, the first book in the series, features an adventure around an urgent spy letter from the Culper spy ring that needs to be delivered to General Washington. The second book in the series, Submarines, Secrets and a Daring Rescue, teaches about the American Turtle submarine. The stories were created by Robert and his father, Robert A. Skead (now 95-years-old) to inspire readers to do great things and celebrate the creativity of colonial patriots. The Skeads are members of the Sons of the American Revolution. Their ancestor, Lamberton Clark, one of the main characters in the stories, served in the Revolutionary War as a member of the Connecticut Militia and the Continental Army. Discover more at www.robertskead.com.

Does China Make the World Flat? Using Compelling Questions and Creating C3 Inquiries for the Social Studies Classroom

Does China Make the World Flat? Using Compelling Questions and Creating C3 Inquiries for the Social Studies Classroom

Starlynn Nance

Tension engulfs the room and faces begin to crinkle into frowns as a collective look of confusion crosses thirty seventh grader’s faces as they read the slide “Does China make the world flat?” Students look at each other and then back at the slide.  Several verbal exclamations of “what?’ and “the world is round!” bellows across the room.  Smiling sweetly, the teacher only states, “write it in your journal” before the bell rings and the bewildered seventh graders are dismissed from world history class. This exchange is the end of dimension one from the C3 unit titled Ancient China.  

National Council for the Social Studies: C3 Inquiry Framework

In How We Think (1910), Dewey discusses how important inquiry is to children.  He stressed that children need to learn by doing and trying different things not just memorizing and repeating the information to the teacher. 

Inquiry is simply, investigating.  In social studies, teachers should set up lessons of inquiry to include diverse historical content and let students ask questions, then investigate to find the answers.  Once a student has a firm foundation of the content, they can then begin to start connecting the past to the present. They may start to ask questions about their own community after learning about civil rights concerning injustice, voting rights in the community, or lack of representation on city council. Once that connection is made, students need guidance to develop skills to research, answer questions, and learn how, for example, to start a grassroots campaign for change.

An inquiry framework to teach these skill sets is called the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) from the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS).  The framework (2017) uses concepts, facts, tools, disciplinary and content literacies to successfully complete an inquiry in a social studies classroom (p. 17). It consists of four dimensions that build an inquiry arc and move the students through questioning, content, evaluation of sources, and eventual action to make change. Studying social studies, especially the four content areas highlighted in dimension two (history, civics, economics, geography), show students that the precepts of democracy have not applied to all people in their history book. This connection is key to inquiry. For students to learn to speak out against bullying, discrimination, systemic racism and other abuses against themselves or democracy, teachers need to use inquiry so students can learn skills to “take action”. 

That’s All Well and Good, But HOW Do I Create One?

            This article will feature a thorough explanation of creating C3’s in the social studies classroom.   Most teachers fit the C3 around a premade unit, such as the Ancient China unit in the introduction or create a C3 that is a stand-alone multiple day lesson plan like “Why Vote?” (This C3 can be found in Teaching the College, Career, and Civic Life Framework: Exploring Inquiry-based Instruction in Social Studies published by NCSS.)  The “Why Vote” C3 has been taught in a social studies methods course, tenth grade civics, ninth and tenth grade government, eighth grade United States history and other courses by teachers in the past several years in a midwestern state following their graduation from the social studies program.  

The C3 contains an inquiry arc and consists of four dimensions and subsections of those dimensions. The first dimension develops two types of questions, compelling and supporting. Questioning is a main component of inquiry and allows students to develop both styles of questions to increase critical thinking and knowledge of content. Dimension two is the mainstay of the framework and encourages multidisciplinary (history, civics, geography, and economics) content literacy to emerge. Students use relevant sources, in dimension three, to develop claims and counterclaims while dimension four supports inquiry and disciplinary literacy by retrieving and analyzing data, answering student developed questions, communicating conclusions, and taking informed action. Moving the students through these four dimensions can teach democratic skills and hopefully develop a more skilled, active, and responsible citizen. 

Dimension One

This dimension is instructing students to answer and develop questions that are compelling and supporting. A compelling question consists of a long-lasting issue, such as war, civil rights, or privacy while supporting questions include extracting answers from a source, finding definitions, or establishing a series of steps. An example of a compelling question would be “is the Revolutionary War really revolutionary?” Supporting questions deal with the content directly and help students analyze documents or any other sources. Supporting questions could be “is there bias in the document?”, “who wrote the document?”, or “how long did it take the Native Americans to move from X to Y in the removal process?” Supporting questions from all documents or sources help answer the compelling question by extracting evidence from all sources retrieved. 

Step 1: Selection of content.  As the title suggests, content is the first step to beginning dimension one. Gather the curriculum map, state standards, objectives, and premade unit or specific stand-alone topic to begin the C3 and develop dimension one.  Using the objectives, begin to create a compelling question and supporting questions for the unit.  Both are used throughout the C3 to develop students thinking and give substance to the essay written after dimension four. 

Step 2: The compelling question and supporting questions. From experience, creating a compelling question that has an element of good confusion gets the students to think.  As suggested by the C3 text, “is the Revolutionary War really revolutionary?” is a question that needs research to answer.  Just from presenting the compelling question, supporting questions begin to emerge from the students, like, “what is a revolution?” “have there been any other revolutions in history?” “when was the revolution?”, etc.  Students will use their textbooks, appropriate internet sources, etc. to find the answers to their questions.  The teachers will facilitate this activity and fill in gaps of content when necessary. 

Concerning compelling questions, the goal is not to have a textbook cookie cutter answer that all the students cut and paste from their notes or from an internet section of content.  The goal is for students to be able to answer yes or no and then develop their argument using sources that are given or gathered throughout the C3.  There is no correct answer, only evidenced based answers.  Compelling questions are asked after every dimension as a formative assessment to gather information about the students learning of the content and sources. At the end of dimension four, the compelling question essay is the summative or the authentic assessment.

Step 3: The hook. After the compelling question is designed, the teacher needs a hook to get the students interested in the unit topic.  Hooks can look different depending on the topic or content objectives pulled from the curriculum map.  Hooks can be a song, a poem, a picture, a painting, an excerpt of a primary source, a game, a simulation, or part of a movie/documentary.  Usually, the hook relates to the compelling question in some aspect.  The goal is to spark interest in a topic and connect it to the compelling question.  For example, to start a Cold War C3, one teacher used gamification to begin the unit where students became CIA agents trying to catch a Soviet sleeper agent in the United States.  The goal was to get the students to feel stress and tension while going through the gamification CIA missions.  The teacher asked the students about their feelings and one student exclaimed, “I was stressed!”  This led to a whole class grand discussion about tension between the two nations and eventually at the end of the class, the teacher displayed the compelling question, “How hot was the Cold War?”

Dimension Two 

Dimension Two is applying disciplinary concepts and tools using the four disciplines of history, geography, civics, and economics. In the framework (2017), teachers work with conceptual concepts, such as “explain the powers and limits of the three branches of government, public officials and bureaucracies at different levels in the US and other countries” rather than curricular content that would state, “identify every form of government” (p. 29). The curricular content will be found in the state standards and/or local curriculum maps. 

Step 1: Gather curricular and conceptual content.  Since each state and district is different, gather what you need for your unit.  This could include, pre-made units, state standards, district curriculum maps, lesson objectives and/or unit goals.  If you need to take the state standards and develop goals, objectives, etc.  please do that during this step.

Step 2: Disciplines.  Once you have what you need, make sure that the unit covers the four main disciplines of history, geography, civics, and economics inside the unit.  The C3 text has standards to help focus your unit and is found at https://www.socialstudies.org/standards/c3.    

Step 3: Create dimension two unit and lessons. Dimension Two is designed for the teacher to use content literacy to teach the facts, generalizations, concepts, etc. of the content required by the district and/or the state.  Teachers can use pre-made units containing different instructional strategies and activities for students to accomplish the objectives.  Display the compelling question before starting dimension two, so the students have a lens to “look” through as they learn about content and accomplish the objectives.  Remember to include all disciplines in the content.

Step 4 Assessment.  At this time in the C3, give the students a content assessment.  This could be your own test from the pre-made unit or the common assessment used by your data team.

Dimension Three 

This dimension is skill based by evaluating sources and using evidence. Students use the questions from dimension one to gather and evaluate sources that help answer those questions. After this is complete, students will develop claims (arguments) and counterclaims (arguments) using the evidence to support those claims. Students develop their own supporting questions and begin to gather evidence asking those questions along the way. This allows them to progress through the inquiry and begin to develop solutions to a problem they see in the community. Dimension three and four are student centered where the teacher becomes a facilitator. 

            Step 1: The primary sources and skill sets. Prior to evaluating the primary sources, teachers need to start with historical thinking skills of sourcing, close read, annotation, contextualization, and corroboration.  (Teacher tip: teach these skills at the beginning of the school year for students to use in every C3. More skills for historical thinking skills can be found at https://www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/teaching-resources-for-historians/teaching-and-learning-in-the-digital-age/the-history-of-the-americas/the-conquest-of-mexico/for-teachers/setting-up-the-project/historical-thinking-skills)

            Step 2: Evidence. After students have mastered the historical thinking skills, the teacher will transition to dimension three by gathering resources for a balanced set of evidence or have a list of appropriate texts and websites for research.  This dimension is for students to take control over their learning to develop claims/arguments for compelling questions students create in addition to the compelling question from the beginning of the unit.  Focusing on the content from dimension two and the new sources presented or collected, the teacher will take a facilitator role asking students questions when students get in a bind, rather than giving any answers.

            Step 3: Writing an essay or other type of authentic assessment.  After completion of dimensions one through three, students are ready to write an essay (authentic assessment) about what their claim is to the compelling question and use evidence found and connect content from dimension two.  Many different methods can be found to help the students complete the essay but one, has been efficient in working with the C3 framework and is called the P.E.E.L.  One example from online can be found at, https://www.virtuallibrary.info/peel-paragraph-writing.html.   

Dimension Four 

Civic engagement is a very important part for students to encounter as a developing citizen. Dimension four is the authentic assessment for students to communicate conclusions and take informed action. In dimension four, the students usually show the connections from dimension two, curricular and conceptual concepts, to today and their own lives. Then they develop a plan and act on that plan to solve a problem they found with the school or local community. The teacher continues to facilitate during this dimension as the students gain agency and sophistication to solve problems in a democracy. 

Step 1: The essay and then the issue.  Using the essay as a jumping off point, ask the students to connect claims made in the essay to today’s current events.  Have the students discuss this in small groups, like Think, Pair, Share, four-to-five-member small groups, or as a whole class discussion.  The teacher, only a facilitator, lists the issues on the board, and all are considered equal.  Students discuss and narrow down the list of issues to one that works within school policy, time frames, COVID-policies, etc.  The students narrow the issue and then create a plan to implement to solve the issue/problem that has arisen from understanding the content in dimensions two and three.  For example, the seventh-grade class studying Ancient China decided that the world was flat because of globalization and trade as far back as the Silk Roads.  Students began to learn about economics and sweat shops in China.  After doing research, they wanted to bring the issues of unfair wages, bad working conditions, and child labor of sweatshops in China to their community. 

Step 2 Research, creating a plan, communicating conclusions, and implementing action.  After the students have decided on an issue, they need to research the issue.  Using dimensions two and three as a format, the students need to create a compelling and supporting questions concerning their issue.  Student research, answering their questions, and then create a plan to combat the problem/issue they chose.  This needs to be written in another P.E.E.L because it will be shared to groups or individuals that are stakeholders.  Then the students need to implement the action. 

For example, the seventh graders found what fair trade meant, how to find fair trade businesses and then began to list clothing they wore, stores they shopped at, and business in the town.  They then researched to see if these were fair trade or not.  After finding the answers, the class wrote a P.E.E.L and presented it to the teacher and principal.   The P.E.E.L described their compelling question and gave evidence of why they needed to create a public service announcement (PSA) for the community concerning fair trade.  Due to restrictions, the students decided to communicate through social media and tagged all the fair-trade companies for consumers to consider. 

Why Vote?: A C3 Example Lesson Plan for Teachers

            NCSS has published two bulletins titled Teaching: The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework: Exploring Inquiry-Based Instruction in Social Studies I and II. In the first bulletin, number 114, it states, “teachers will need to be intentional about making space in the curriculum, selecting sources, building in scaffolding, and incorporating related assessments in order to support students in this process…teachers will need to provide experiences that allow students to practice gathering information from sources and making claims supported with evidence” (p. 5). This bulletin is the perfect guide to assist teachers in making the space to practice inquiry and for students to develop an action plan and follow through to make change.  These C3 topics can be implemented in pre-made units or as stand-alone C3s to enhance a topic taught in the social studies classroom.

 A course taught at a midwestern university incorporates a chapter from this text to teach future social studies teachers how to implement the C3 Framework into units and practice the inquiry during a mid-level teaching observation and student teaching requirement. Student and first year teachers (from the program) have adapted this framework and taught it from middle school through high school. The chapter is titled Why Vote? Understanding Elections, The Candidates, and Why Any of This Matters and was created by the Mikva Challenge. The chapter moves the students through the four dimensions of the C3 Framework to answer the compelling question: Why Vote? The next few paragraphs will take the reader through the C3 as it was taught in the methods course and then in seventh through twelfth grade classrooms by graduates of the program.

Dimension One

Dimension One begins with a bell ringer on the first day of the unit titled Civil Rights. On the screen, a picture of two young men is shown to the students. The picture is black and white and shows one with his face painted white with VOTE on his forehead with the other standing behind him, holding an American flag. The students are asked to fill in a graphic organizer about the photograph. Then the students are asked to source the photograph. After finding the answer using a search engine, a grand conversation begins to discuss key questions about the photograph and the compelling question is displayed at the end of the class. The teacher facilitates another grand conversation, instructing the students to develop another graphic organizer to help map out the compelling question: Why Vote?

Dimension Two

Dimension Two consists of learning stations and curricular content. Teachers teach the local and state standards regarding the Civil Rights unit. This content is connected to examples from today about civil rights and voting through learning stations. The teacher uses primary sources to connect the past to the present. Different categories, such as, “I vote…because I care about issues,” are introduced in the stations. Students work in groups using the sources connecting the curricular content to the contextual content from both state/local and national standards.

Dimension Three

Dimension Three is more student centered. Students begin to ask other questions in addition to Why Vote? One of the most popular questions is: why do people not vote? This requires students to search for the answer to this question using data from different governmental sources. Then to check this data, the students create their own data set from the community they live in. From the data set, other supporting and compelling questions arise, and the students begin to find problems about voting in their community. The students write an essay answering the compelling question.

Dimension Four

Students develop an action plan and carry it out after completing dimension four communicating the conclusions found through their inquiry. The students then carry out their plan that answered the question: Why Vote?

Although the paragraphs seem to make the inquiry simple and quick, it is not. Inquiry is messy and sometimes very frustrating. Some questions that arise are hard to answer or cannot be answered. Students must have the space and time to follow the inquiry to the end. This does take many days but with the right amount of planning it will fit with pre-made units already in the curriculum.

As a side note, from the many classrooms I have observed, including my own, when this framework is presented, the middle or high school students love it. They get very excited to see their plan take root and feel pride in their accomplishments as developing citizens.  They also learn to compromise and evaluate their own thinking and work with others.  It is a truly a collaborative process.  A hard process, a learning process, but a very rewarding process.   

Conclusion

            C3 is an inquiry framework from NCSS that takes the students through a hook of interest to implementation of action in four dimensions.  Through the process, students learn a variety of historical thinking skills, collaboration, resilience, evaluation, writing, and how to develop questions and research answers.  Having the students move through this process is what Dewey may have envisioned in How We Think.  Getting the students attention, teaching content, facilitating student learning, and watching students complete a plan of action to implement it can be the spark students need to develop as a citizen and start to make change in home town communities.

References

Dewey, J.(1910). How We Think. Boston: D.C. Heath & Co.

Herczog, M. (2013) Social Studies for the Next Generation: Purposes, Practices, and Implications of the College, Career, and Civic Life Framework for Social Studies State Standards. Bulletin 113, National Council for the Social Studies, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.socialstudies.org/standards/c3

Historical Thinking Skills. Retrieved from https://www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/teaching-resources-for-historians/teaching-and-learning-in-the-digital-age/the-history-of-the-americas/the-conquest-of-mexico/for-teachers/setting-up-the-project/historical-thinking-skills

P.E.E.L paragraph. Retrieved from https://www.virtuallibrary.info/peel-paragraph-writing.html

Swan, K and Lee, John (2014). Teaching the College, Career, and Civic Life Framework:

Exploring Inquiry-based Instruction in Social Studies, Bulletin 114. National Council for the Social Studies.

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

By Bill Gates (2021)

Reviewed by Hank Bitten, NJCSS Executive Director

The New Jersey Department of Education has taken an important step in avoiding a climate disaster. Beginning in September 2022, every New Jersey student in Grades K-12 will be studying the causes and effects of climate change in their community, state, nation, and world. In Social Studies classes, students will be researching, debating, proposing, and implementing solutions to reduce their carbon foot print, propose strategies for a sustainable environment in their schools and community, propose solutions at the state and national level, and collaborate with students and professionals in other countries about global initiatives. The goal of changing behavior at this critical time is to educate students with an interdisciplinary model and approaches in all disciplines.

Bill Gates focuses on solutions to the impending climate crises regarding the harms of the 51,000,000,000 (billion) tons of greenhouse gases that 7,500,000,000 (billion) people contribute to every year!  Although on the average this is 70 tons a day, the per person contribution is significantly higher in the United States, New Jersey, and some other countries. Europe has a plan to become the first continent to become carbon neutral in 30 years. (What is the EU’s Green Deal? And could Europe become the first climate-neutral continent? | World Economic Forum (weforum.org))

The first application in How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is with the metaphors that will help students in the elementary grades to understand the effects of global warming.

For example: Imagine a bathtub of water with the drain closed that is slowly filling up with water. What will eventually happen? What will be the damage to the room or house? Why is it not enough to slow the amount of water filling up the bathtub? 

Imagine sitting in a car with the sun shining on the glass windows.  What happens to the temperature inside the car? Will opening the window half an inch make the car safe for passengers?  Why is the temperature of the earth increasing every year? What will be the result if it continues to increase?

These metaphors will help students understand that small changes in our behaviors are helpful but they are not likely to solve the problem for what is causing the earth’s temperature to continually increase. Teachers will find valuable resources for teaching young children how electricity and cars contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. (Page 55) For example, electricity contributes about 27% of greenhouse gases to our environment. For younger children, teachers need to help their students understand how much electricity (megawatts and kilowatts) one family contributes.  The average home uses 28 kilowatt hours of electricity per day. For example, my electric bill stated that our home consumed 630 kilowatt hours over 28 days or 23 kilowatt hours per day.

Ask your students to identify everything in their apartment of home that uses electricity. Then compare kilowatts to a cup or glass of water that would be emptied into a sink or tub with the drain closed. Have your students explain the effects of increasing and decreasing the amount of electricity consumed.  The more electricity used and the more people using electricity will generate additional greenhouse gases that will harm the environment.

Another important understanding for younger children is to understand that each item they identify as using electricity uses different amounts of energy. For example, a light bulb might use 40 watts but the hair dryer uses 1,500. The critical application for younger students is to understand that by reducing the amount of electricity consumed helps the environment. In this context, teachers should scaffold to a higher conceptual level by understanding the impacts of more people in the home, community, and world. Reducing greenhouse gases is very difficult which is why understanding that everything we do and everything we produce has a harmful effect on our planet.

The second application is the useful information to support middle school student debates on the solutions to reduce greenhouse gases at the local, state, and national levels.

Middle school students should understand how human activity is accelerating climate changes by warmer temperatures. The technology of renewable sources, (i.e., solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal) should also be familiar to most students. However, the cost, amount of space needed to produce energy for a city, and the durability of the equipment are important areas for student research, problem-solving, and debate.

In the United States we have replaced energy several times over the past century.  Many homes have fire places but wood burns quickly and heat is lost through the chimney. Coal and oil were more efficient resources to heat homes.  They were eventually replaced in many homes with natural or propane gas. In the 1950s and 1960s the government supported high-powered transmission lines for electricity and underground pipes for natural gas. In the 1970s we transitioned from leaded gasoline to a more expensive grade of unleaded fuel.  Understanding the processes of continuity and change over time for how people live is critical to understanding the societal costs of inexpensive fossil fuels.

In Zurich, Switzerland there is a DAC (direct air capture) facility operated by Climeworks which can remove (or absorb) carbon from the atmosphere as it is released.  The cost is $100 per ton.  Since the world is currently producing 51 billion tons of harmful carbon emissions EACH year, the cost is $5.1 trillion.  The United States has a per person carbon footprint of 15 tons per person. The cost would be $1,500 per person or $6,000 for a family of four. This would be the cost EACH YEAR and a very expensive solution.

There are interesting hypothetical scenarios in How to Avoid a Climate Disaster regarding a place near Seattle or a large city the size of Tokyo. In these scenarios, students will find enough information for them to ask probing questions or search for more research regarding the average number of days with sunlight or wind speeds, the impact of severe weather, the amount of space on land or in water to build an energy farm, the costs to transmit electricity over long distances, and how to store sufficient power for evenings and when energy supplies are less than what is demanded.

Another interesting topic for middle school students to debate or discuss is the impact of electric vehicles on home energy supplies. Students need to consider the impact of charging multiple vehicles per household and in a city with high-rise apartments.  The book also provides basic information that should motivate students to research the technologies of fusion, batteries, and nuclear power. The ITER project in southern France will likely be operational within this decade. Is fusion the magical answer for our goal of zero carbon emissions?  Teachers will find empirical evidence in this book regarding current technology and experiments which are essential when teaching students how to support their claims and arguments with evidence.

The third application is for high school students to determine proposals for reducing the one-third of greenhouse gas emissions that come from producing plastics, cement, and fertilizers.

The media focuses on emissions from the fossil fuels of vehicles and the generation of electric power. Two areas that may not be familiar to students are that 19 percent of global emissions come from the production and application of fertilizers and 31 percent from industrial production.  The combination of these two areas represents about one-half of the 51 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions currently contributing to the increase in temperature.  When studying continuity and change over time, students visually see how communities and cities change over 100 years, 50 years, or less. For example:

Shanghai, China in 1987 (on the left) and 2013 (on the right) Source

New York City (1876-2013)

When studying the impact of land use on climate, students should explore the environmental costs to society from the use of cement, steel, glass, generation of electricity, loss of forested land, waste, and traffic. How to Avoid a Climate Disaster provides an opportunity for classroom exploration, research, inquiry, collaboration, and solutions.  The contribution of the social sciences to understanding the causes of greenhouse gas emissions, strategies for changing the way we currently are doing things, and analyzing the externality of societal costs is found in what students do best – asking questions, researching, debating private and public solutions, analyzing the costs and long-term benefits, and presenting information clearly and concisely in graphs, tables, maps, and images.

Examples of questions for collaboration, researching, and interviewing by students are:

  • How are we producing automobiles?
  • Is natural gas the most efficient method for cooking food and heating buildings?
  • What are the societal costs for raising animals for food?
  • How should we recycle food waste?
  • How would a Green Premium be calculated in analyzing the costs and benefits over time?
  • How significant are the societal costs of air-conditioning on a global scale?

Standard 6.3 for climate for high school students in New Jersey requires them to collaborate with other students on proposed solutions.

6.3.12.GeoGI.1: Collaborate with students from other countries to develop possible solutions to an issue of environmental justice, including climate change and water scarcity, and present those solutions to relevant national and international governmental and/or nongovernmental organizations.

The competitive advantage of Social Studies in learning about the biggest issue to impact our planet in history is with our ability to engage in problem solving, understanding perspectives from different cultures, historical lessons of strategies to address problems over time, the ability to analyze the economics of the problem and solutions, and to debate the effectiveness of public and private solutions. The Social Studies classroom, especially in grades 6-12, is a laboratory for analyzing the marginal costs and losses of incremental changes, preventative solutions, investments in research and development, and the cost of inaction.

“Climate science tells us why we need to deal with this problem but not how to deal with it.  For that, we’ll need biology, chemistry, physics, political science, economics, and other sciences.” (Page 198)

One of the best chapters in How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is the one on government. The perspectives on the electrification or rural America, installing natural gas lines, building the interstate highway system, implementing the Clean Air Act or 1970, the Montreal Protocol of 1987, and the Human Genome Project provide empirical examples of what the government of the United States has accomplished in the 20th century.  The lessons of innovation and the call to debate solutions for reaching the goal of zero carbon emissions are opportunities that should be integrated into the existing curriculum. The Sunshot Initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy to reduce the costs of solar energy is one example worth studying in Economics or U.S. History. Here are some examples:

  1. Will the steps taken to reduce carbon emissions in your community or average size city in New Jersey work in Tokyo with a population of 38 million, or Mexico City, New York, or Mumbai?
  2. Is the best strategy for reducing carbon emissions one that is implemented at the local or state level of government, through national or global commitments, or by incentives to private firms?
  3. Are there dangers in making immediate but small reductions by 2030 or will it be more effective to wait for new technologies from current research?
  4. If society delays implementing carbon emission reductions now, will the costs be significantly more expensive if implementation is postponed five or ten years?
  5. What are the most effective incentives to lower costs and reduce risks? (tax credits, subsidies, loan guarantees, carbon tax, cap and trade system, etc.)
  6. How important are the actions taken by citizens, consumers, and producers in taking the initiative in reducing carbon emissions?
  7. What lessons have we learned from the Covid-19 pandemic that apply to our response to impending warmer temperatures and rising sea levels from carbon emissions?

As teachers in New Jersey begin to implement the K-12 mandated curriculum standards on climate and environmental sustainability, they should consider an interdisciplinary model that includes learning in every grade focusing on causes, effects, and solutions at the local, state, national, and global levels.  Students who are age five in Kindergarten in 2021 will be 34 in 2050.  Teachers who are age 25 or 30 now will be 55-60 in 2050.  The curriculum that is planned and implemented will have a measurable legacy in the foreseeable future. In 1921, a nuclear bomb, sending a man to the moon, CT images, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) were impossible to imagine but by the middle of the 20th century they were in development of considered possible. Social Studies teachers must look beyond what is predictable today and teach students for a world that may be in conflict and crisis or one that can be safer and better.

A Question of Freedom by William G. Thomas III, Reviewed by Hank Bitten

A Question of Freedom:

The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War

by William G. Thomas III

Reviewed by Hank Bitten, Executive Director NJ Council for the Social Studies

Having taught the colonial unit for decades as part of the U.S. History 1 course, I always dedicated time to Lord Calvert, the persecution of Roman Catholics in Maryland, the Toleration Act of 1649, and life of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Although I would document his wealth and plantation, I never made the connection to his slaves or the role of the Roman Catholic Church in operating a tobacco plantation with slaves in Prince George’s County.

The history of slaves in Maryland and the role of the Society of Jesuits in conducting the business of a tobacco corporation in complicated.  As a result of reading A Question of Freedom, I have a new perspective and credible documentation of how slavery became rooted in the laws of our colonies, states, and national government.

The opening chapter is a compelling account of the life of Edward Queen who sued for freedom in 1791 because he was the son of a freewoman, his grandmother. (p. 3) The struggle for freedom by Edward Queen continued for 22 years until the decision in Queen v. Hepburn by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1813. His attorney was Francis Scott Key.

Teachers who are looking for the right questions to engage students in historical inquiry and investigative research will find the questions presented by Professor Thomas (University of Nebraska, Lincoln) a valuable resource. This book is filled with inquiry based questions that encourage exploration and debate. Here are some examples:

  1. Why did the Jesuits and other slaveholders fight so ferociously in court to hold on to the people they enslaved?
  2. What did people like Edward Queen hope to achieve, and what did they think was within their reach?
  3. Why did lawyers, like Francis Scott Key take these cases and how did judges, even those with moderate antislavery convictions, end up advancing legal principles in the trials that would ultimately uphold slavery?
  4. How did Duvall, Key, and Queen families know one another long before the case was argued in the Supreme Court in February 1813?
  5. Did the Queen case leave any lasting impression on the thinking of Francis Scott Key when he wrote the poem that would become “The Star Spangled Banner?’ (p. 5)

Professor Thomas discovered the name of Allen Bowie Duckett, Associate Justice to the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia in his research.  Justice Duckett’s father presided over a case for freedom by the Edward Queen family and ruled in their favor. In fact, this decision resulted in the freedom of twenty members of the Queen family. What Professor Thomas discovered through his research was that his grandmother’s family owned plantations adjacent to the area known as White Marsh on the Chesapeake Bay peninsula. He discovered that Elizabeth M. Duckett claimed slaves at the end of the Civil War. The document reported Henny Queen, age 35, and her five children ages six months to eight years old.

Teachers interested in teaching about Continuity and Change will see insights in Chapter 2 about how the aftermath of the Seven Years War and the American Revolution gave rise to the election of liberal and conservative members in the British House of Commons. In America, laws about slavery were limited to each colony before 1789 but in the case of England, its protection, importation, manumission, and abolition applied to a global colonial empire.

Did British Common Law Apply to its Colonies?

Even though the importation of slaves was legal in the United States until 1808, slaves who were brought to England were not compelled to leave according to a common law decision by Chief Justice Lord Mansfield in the decision of James Somersett.  James Somersett, a slave, was taken to England by his master, Charles Stewart, a customs officer in Boston. He ran away and was eventually tracked down and placed in prison. A writ of habeas corpus was issued for his release by the abolitionist Granville Sharp in connection with a pending case by merchants from the West Indies who wanted assurance by common law that slaves were a safe investment. The case of Somersett v. Stewart, 1772 became a landmark case that inspired hope for slaves held in bondage throughout the British empire.

The language of the Somersett decision indicates the complexities of the status of slaves as persons under natural and moral law or as property protected by laws. England will not abolish slavery for 60 years (1833) but without a specific law in England to sanction slavery, a person with the legal status of a slave in a colony could not be forced to leave England and return to slavery. James Somersett continued with his status as a slave but could not be forced to return to chattel slavery. The language is confusing in stating that slavery was odious but a temporary presence in England did not guarantee manumission, and questions would continue regarding if the common law ruling applied only to the definition of being in England or if being on a ship or at a port in the Tames River applied.

“Mansfield’s decision moved slavery entirely out of the reach of the common law and its moral protection.  Whatever slavery was, it was not sanctioned by English common law. As a result, Somersett v. Stewart wiped out the line of seventeenth century precedents that had once propped up slavery as a lawful form of property.” (p. 34)

Professor Thomas researched the case of Mahoney v. Ashton in Maryland. “In its length and complexity, Mahoney v. Ashton was like almost no other petition for freedom in American history.” (p. 88) Charles Mahoney and 40 of his relatives were owned by Charles Carrollton, Maryland’s leading politician and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The basis of the trial dated back to Ann Joice, grandmother of Charles Mahoney.  Ann Joice was a black indentured servant from Barbados who spent time in England before coming to Maryland to work for Lord Baltimore.  As an indentured servant, she should be entitled to her freedom, as should her 1,500 descendants who were slaves in Maryland. People of color born from a free woman were not slaves!  Unfortunately, it was difficult to provide evidence that she was in England. The research provided in this case, with its twists and turns, is worth your reading.  In the trial, the jurors heard testimony from hearsay of Mary Queen, a free black woman who came to Virginia from New Spain instead of the Popo region of West Africa as claimed by Benjamin Duvall, representing the slaveholders.

“The all-white slaveholding jury gave greater weight to the testimony of the Queen witnesses, followed the ruling of the general court in Edward’s case, and rendered a verdict in favor of freedom for Phillis Queen. The decision made sense.  A higher court determined Edward Queen was free, so surely his mother, Phillis should be also.  Since Edward’s grandmother, Mary Queen was “not a slave,” surely her daughter could not be a slave either.” (p. 76) “On May 12, 1799, the jury returned an unambiguous verdict: ‘Charles Mahoney is a free man.’” (p. 99)

As a result of this decision, twenty related lawsuits freed over fifty children and grandchildren. “The trials cost John Ashton and the Jesuits 6,795 pounds of tobacco in damages, court costs, and fees.” (p. 78) The year is 1796 and the cost was even greater since tobacco prices were depressed in the mid-1790s. In this same year, the Maryland legislature allowed manumission by last will and testament for individuals in good health, under the age of forty-five, who could support themselves. Unfortunately, legal precedents can change and Charles Mahoney’s family experienced their loss of freedom.

“On June 25, 1802, the High Court of Appeals reversed the May 1799 judgment freeing Charles Mahoney. The defeat was total.”  Setting a foot in England was no longer a basis for the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for Charles, Patrick, and Daniel Mahoney or others. (p. 112)

What a teachable moment!

  1. Is this decision evidence that in the United States, slaves were defined as property because of the color of their skin?
  2. Is this decision a reaction against the popularity of the Jeffersonian Republicans after the Election of 1800?
  3. Did the ill-fated rebellion near Richmond, Virginia by Gabriel Prosser in 1800 and the French and Haitian Revolutions increase fears of mob rule and the loss of property?
  4. Is the decision valid based on the arguments of Robert Goodloe Harper that Somersett v. Stewart only suspended a slaveholder’s right to property?
  5. Is the position of the Democratic Republicans contradictory in its support for slavery on the basis of race while advocating for the freedom of specific individuals, like the Mahoney family?

These questions should motivate deeper questions by your students leading to evidence that legal precedents are being established in states that will support the basis of Roger Taney’s obiter dictum in Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857. The Question of Freedom provides insights into why laws for voting based on the ownership of property were changed to qualifications based on race and skin color. (p. 115) States began to introduce legislation outlawing manumission and requiring free blacks to carry a certificate of freedom signed by the county court. Judges provided instructions to jurors that the burden of proof fell on the enslaved person to prove their freedom and that the color of their mulatto skin was white. “Judges and juries would observe their color, hair, and physical features.  Testimony about the racial features of their ancestors would give greater weight than what contemporaries said about their status as free persons.” (p. 132)

The Impact of the Domestic Slave Trade

The freedom case of Priscilla and Mina Queen (Queen v. Hepburn) offers unique insights into the slave trade, black market trade of enslaved persons, impact of bankruptcy on slaveowners and enslaved persons, and changing financial markets.  The case began in 1809 and a successful outcome depended on Priscilla and Mina Queen proving their grandmother was Nanny Cooper, the daughter of Mary Queen who was in England, and establishing that she came to Maryland as a free woman before 1715 (100 years ago).

John Hepburn, inherited over one thousand acres in 1775 and over the years overspent his fortune in a lucrative life style. As a result of filing for bankruptcy, his creditors could acquire slaves, sell them, and separate them from their children. Blacks, both free and slave, were in high demand to meet the labor needs for the construction of buildings and roads in the new capital city of Washington D.C. and to pick cotton to meet the international demand for cotton textiles.

The U.S. prohibited the international slave trade of slaves in 1808 but the domestic slave trade became a daily event at auctions.  “Former New York congressman John P. Van Ness advertised in the newspaper a year later that he had ‘A Negro Boy for Sale.’” (p. 166) When Catholic women joined the convent, their parents gave the Roman Catholic Church their dowries, which often included slaves. As a result of the increasing population of people of color in the new capital, strict black codes designed to limit freedom in the evening were enacted. (p. 162)

Chapter 5 presents the facts in a concise manner that offers teachers an opportunity to create a mock trial simulation of Queen v. Hepburn and Queen v. Neale. These cases have twists and turns regarding hearsay evidence, transcription errors in documents, and connections to shipping records and wills. Furthermore, the Queen’s lawyer is Francis Scott Key and one of the associate judges on the U.S. Supreme Court, Gabriel Duvall, had previous ruled in favor of Charles Mahoney.  There is also a map of Washington D.C. (1815) identifying the homes and offices of the major individuals in this story.  The research is splendid and the controversial issues for students to debate provide a powerful understanding of both systemic racism in the United States and the depth of individual freedom.  The arguments for the protection of property are real and the right to individual freedom is powerful. (pp. 169 -179

  1. William Cranch, Federalist and nephew of Abigail Adams is the chief judge of the circuit court in D.C. Although a Federalist, expert in property contracts, his decisions generally benefited slaves in their freedom suits.
  2. Francs Scott Key presented all the depositions from the 21 freedom suits of the Queen family that Gabriel Duvall had taken years before. The evidence that Mary Queen was an indentured servant was carefully explained.
  3. Fredus Ryland was a star witness and had previously given a deposition in 1796 stating that he met Mary Queen and heard her story first hand. His deposition clearly stated that she was ‘born free’ came from Guayaquil (Ecuador or New Spain) and was transported around the world and to England by Captain Woodes Rogers and lived in London for three years!
  4. Everyone who was literate in the United States was familiar with Daniel Defoe’s popular book, Robinson Crusoe, which is based on the account of Captain Rogers and includes a reference to a passenger Maria. Could this be Mary Queen?
  5. Francis Scott Key introduced the will of James Carroll bequeathing a woman named Mary to Anthony Carroll, John Carroll’s seven-year old nephew.
  6. The attorneys for Rev. Francis Neale, objected to the deposition of Fredus Ryland claiming it was based on hearsay.

Read the digital files of the freedom suits at The Georgetown Slavery Archive and University of Nebraska-Lincoln O Say Can You See Project

Students should ask questions about the rules of evidence in trials, especially in the case of slaves who lacked birth records and travel documents. In the 21st century lawyers and judges argue over what evidence is credible and what needs to be excluded.  Many judges were open to hearsay evidence in freedom trials, especially when it was supported by multiple individuals. With the rejection of hearsay evidence, Priscilla Queen and Nina Queen both lost their suit for freedom.  However, Nina Queen appealed her decision to the U.S. Supreme Court in February 1813.

In the context of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, I taught my students about the slave trade in Washington, D.C. and the market value of the price of slaves.  After reading Question of freedom, I realized this needs to be taught much earlier. Professor Thomas provides detailed research of the slave trade and prisons in our nation’s capital dating back to 1800 and the demand for laborers in building the U.S. Capitol, ships for our navy, and house servants for elected members of our government. It is a valuable resource for teachers, as is Solomon Northrup, Twelve Years a Slave, who want to teach about continuity and change and how the questions relating to slavery, property, and individual freedom changed in the first six decades of the 19th century.

“The men, women, and children were ‘bound together in pairs, some with ropes, and some with iron chains.” (Report from Dr. Jesse Torrey, circa 1815, p. 196)

Slave Trades in Washington D.C.

The locations of hidden slave pen on the upper floor of George Miller’s Tavern on F Street (between 13th and 14th), Williams Yellow House, and Robey’s Tavern on Independence Ave. between 7th and 8th Streets.

The story of Ann Williams captures the fear that every black person faced daily as the demand for labor intensified with the construction of roads and buildings and the cotton economy in the South.  Ann Williams and her two young daughters were taken from their home in Bladensburg, Maryland and marched in chains for seven miles to Washington D.C. She pried open a window and jumped three floors breaking her spine. George Miller, the tavern owner, kept her on a wooden pallet providing her with food and water. 

Engage your students in reflective thinking to determine if his motives were for humanitarian reasons or for profit from the children she would likely give birth to after she was healed. This is a powerful story that your students will never forget. Furthermore, the Circuit Court in D.C. issued a writ of habeas corpus to investigate the incident at the Miller Tavern only to have it rescinded on the grounds that Ann Williams was property and therefore a writ of habeas corpus could not apply because it is only for persons detained. Her story is even more important because on July 2, 1832, she received her freedom through a verdict from a jury in the District of Columbia Court – 17 years after she jumped from the top floor of Miller’s Tavern.

The questions presented by Professor Williams are at times clearly stated and they are also hidden in the perspectives. For example, the argument by George Miller that slaves were property and could be denied a writ of habeas corpus are of national importance.  This incident influenced the Missouri Compromise, Tallmadge Amendment, and the African Colonization Society. With every economic crisis in 1817, 1837, with the changing markets for labor, with burgeoning individual debts and personal bankruptcy, enslaved persons were vulnerable.

Henry Clay

Teachers must ask their students how did economics influence the principles of slaveholders such as Francis Scott Key, John Marshall, Roger B. Taney, Henry Clay and other prominent Americans who are also understood as reformers? The evidence illustrates the inequality of the United States of America in a way that the debate over a $15 minimum wage has arguments for maintaining wages below the poverty level and increasing profits for businesses above the expected rate of inflation. History is complicated!

However, the freedom suit filed by Charlotte Dupee in 1829 for her freedom from Henry Clay, Secretary of State, displays these conflicts.  Henry Clay is a founding member of the American Colonization Society (the chairperson), an aspiring candidate for president, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, and a senator from Kentucky.  Henry Clay stated, “free black confronted unconquerable prejudices resulting from their color and they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country.” (pp. 200-201)

Henry Clay purchased Charlotte for $450 (a high price) in 1815. She married Henry Clay’s personal assistant and driver, Aaron Dupee. Charlotte and Aaron married and had two children, Charles and Mary Ann.  They lived with Henry Clay in his home (Decatur House) on Lafayette Square. Charlotte’s parents lived in Maryland as a free family and her family visited with them regularly. Charlotte and Aaron were well known and respected among the Washington political elites and likely very aware of legislation and debates relating to slavery.

Charlotte’s law suit was based on the fact that when she was born her parents were free and not slaves. However, she was born in 1787 and her father received his freedom in 1790 and her mother in 1792. She claimed her sale to Henry Clay was illegal.  After the Electoral College declared Andrew Jackson as president, Henry Clay would return to Kentucky with Charlotte and Aaron and their two children. They could be separated and sold at any time.

The case embarrassed Henry Clay and called into question his political reputation. In another interesting twist of research, Professor Williams observes that Charlotte remained in Washington D.C. because of her pending lawsuit and found new employment with Martin Van Buren, the new vice-president and political enemy of Henry Clay.  The Court decided in May 1830 in favor of Henry Clay with the statement “Charlotte Dupee was born a slave for life.” (p.227). Henry Clay instructed his attorney to inform Charlotte to return to his home in Kentucky at her expense.  Students will find Henry Clay’s letter to his attorney of interest:

“I approve entirely of your order to the Marshall to imprison Lotty (Charlotte).Her husband and children are here. Her refusal therefore to return home, when requested by me to do so through you, was unnatural towards them as it was disobedient to me.  She has been her own mistress, upwards of 18 months, since I left her in Washington, in consequence of the groundless writ which she was prompted to bring against me for her freedom; and as that writ has been decided against her, and as her conduct has created insubordination among her relatives here, I think it is high time to put a stop to it.” (p. 227)

Charlotte Dupee was taken to the D.C. City Jail and sent to Henry Clay’s daughter in New Orleans. Charlotte’s freedom suit was never reported in the newspapers. In 1840, Henry Clay emancipated Charlotte and her daughter Mary Anne. She was 53 years old. However, Henry Clay did not free Mary Anne’s children. Have your students examine slavery in America with snapshots taken in 1790 (ratification of the U.S. Constitution), 1800 (rise of Jeffersonian Republicans), 1810 (end to the importation of slaves), 1820 (Missouri Compromise), 1830 (Charlotte Dupee’s freedom suit), 1831 (Nat Turner’s Rebellion), and now in 1840 (Whig Party).

Fears Every Black American Experienced

There were more urban riots in the summer of 1835 than in any other year. The 1835 riots in Washington D.C. exploded in the Washington Navy Yard following the decision to bring thirteen slaves and three free black men to complete the work on the USS Columbia.   The fear of industrial slave labor might replace skilled white workers. After someone reported the theft of compression pins from the blacksmith shop, the white workers went on strike.

The diary (1813-1865) kept by Michael Shiner, one of the enslaved workers who was a literate carpenter reveals the fears of the black community and a unique perspective of the events in Washington D.C.  Michael Shiner was one year away from his freedom when the riots of 1835 happened.  Another event that shook America was the death of John Marshall on July 6, which was followed by the nomination of Roger B. Taney. The diary of Michael Shiner also recorded the arrest of a young African American, Arthur Bowen for the attempted murder of a notable white woman, which involved the U.S. marines to keep order and prevent the lynching of Arthur Bowen.  The U.S. district attorney was Francis Scott Key, a tough prosecutor and brother-in-law to Chief Justice Taney, who arrested Professor Reuben Crandall, a botany professor at Yale.  There are many factors related to these events in the summer of 1835 for students to analyze and each of them reveals engaging questions about abolition, the influence of the Ebenezer African Methodist Church on Fourth and G Streets, the inequality experienced by residents in the area around the Navy Yard (Northeast), the citywide Memorial Petition calling for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, the slave trading corporation of Isaac Franklin and John Armfield with scheduled transports of slaves to New Orleans, Natchez, and other ports in the South. Some of the questions that intrigued me are:

  1. Is holding abolitionist literature and distributing a pamphlet to another person the same as publishing abolitionist literature?
  2. Francis Scott Key represented slaves in their request for freedom, is a founding member of the American Colonization Society, defended slave holders, owned seven slaves, freed four of his slaves, and facilitated the sale of 272 black men, women, and children for $115,000 to balance the accounts of Georgetown College. How should I teach my students about the life of Francis Scott Key?
  3. Did the rhetoric of the abolitionists, intended to end slavery, encourage slaves to become violent and become counter-productive to the cause of freedom?
  4. Was the decision to expand the U.S. Supreme Court in 1837 from seven to nine justices, motivated to protect the property of slaveholders or by the westward expansion of the United States? (President Jackson appointed seven of the nine justices)

System Racism

The evidence in Chapter 8 regarding the financial implications of how slaves were “assembled, sold, and transported,” the exponential impact of how the sale of a few enslaved persons affected the lives of hundreds, the importance of understanding how the panics or economic recessions of 1837 and 1857 contributed to the sale of enslaved persons and the breaking up of families, and the legal theories that were advanced by slaveholders and abolitionists is powerful and clearly articulated. The claims and arguments in this chapter regarding systemic racism in the United States are convincing.

  1. Enslaved persons were treated in every contract and sale as part of a “lot.” Individuals were clearly property and packaged in a way that mortgages are sold as bonds in today’s market. Individual slaves were sold as priced commodities based on their skin colors, genders, skills, histories, and ages. They were sold to different buyers in a similar way that odd lot purchases of stocks are bought and sold on today’s stock exchanges.  Slaves were chattel and appraised for their value. For example, Ann Bell lived independently in Washington D.C. from approximately 1825 to 1836. Unknown to her, she was privately bequeathed as estate property by Gerald T. Greenfield of Tennessee.

“Thirteen-year old Andrew was valued at $375. Caroline, now nine years old, was priced at $250.  Eleven-year old Mary Ellen and seven-year old George were valued at $200 each.  Five-year old Daniel and his three-year old sister Harriett were priced at $100 each.”  (p. 303)

2. After the expiration of the Charter of the Bank of the United States in 1836, state banks developed “property banking” to provide capital for land speculation in land and slaves. For example, the Union Bank of Louisiana arranged for slaveholders to leverage their land and slaves as collateral for expanding their cotton plantations. This was called “hypothecation.” (p. 281). Unfortunately, when supply was greater than demand, creditors demanded payments on loans in gold or specie, or the price of cotton, sugar, or tobacco declined, slaves were traded and sold. It was heartbreaking for families who were broken up.

3. Slavery was legally defined at the state level. For example, in Louisiana ALL Negroes of black color were “presumed to be slaves.”  Slaves could not be freed through a will because they were required to leave the state.  In Maryland, the General Assembly ratified a constitutional amendment in 1837 stating that “the relation of master and slave, in this State, shall not be abolished unless by unanimous vote of the General Assembly and with full compensation to slaveholders.” (p. 263) The reason for this new law was that fugitives were not being returned to Maryland from free states as required by the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act without a legal definition that slaves were property.

5. During the decade of 1831-1840, more than 285,000 slaves from Maryland and Virginia were sold through interstate trade – about 30,000 a year or about 80 a day. (p. 271)

6. The free black population in Maryland doubled between 1790-1800 from 10,000 to 20,000. Forty years later, the number of free blacks had more than tripled to 62,000, and four in every ten African Americans were free. (p. 316)

Slaves purchased on the market walked (perhaps 400-500 miles) to their new destinations in the Carolinas and Georgia or transported on vessels owned by Isaac Franklin and John Armfield, to New Orleans and Natchez.

“Their vessels, built in Connecticut, had been designed specifically for the slave trade, and their holds were similar to those in the ships that plied the transatlantic slave trade. Each captive had only about 36 cubic feet of space, (6x3x2) sometimes less, when more than 180 people were jammed into the tightly packed holds below decks.  Built for Franklin and Armfield’s in 1833, the Uncas carried thousands to New Orleans in the booming interstate slave trade. Franklin and Armfield typically separated the men and boys from the woman and girls on the voyage and heavily fortified the section of the ship holding the men.  Nothing prevented the captain or the officers from entering the women’s hold and seizing any of them for sex. The Uncas carried approximately 50 people.” (p. 290)

In 1850, the slave trade in the District of Columbia ended with the Compromise of 1850. The Fugitive Slave Act followed the neutral language in the Constitution of “persons held to service or labor” instead of slaves. Although these words could provide evidence that slaves were persons with basic constitutional rights of due process under the Fifth Amendment, they were seized without a warrant. Even Frederick Douglass, a runaway, was at risk of being returned to slavery!

Professor Thomas raises excellent questions for students to answer:

  1. Did enslaved persons have any rights under the Constitution?
  2. Was slavery a local condition without fundamental legitimacy in the law and therefore restricted to certain, specific restraints?
  3. Did enslaved persons lack any rights at all, and was slavery national in scope and legal authority under the Constitution?

The answers to these questions are difficult as reflected in the response of the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.  The Compromise of 1850 made Garrison choose between the U.S. Constitution and the moral evil of slavery.

“Their idealism was such that they would not participate in purchasing the freedom of a single enslaved person who fled bondage.” (p. 318)

One of the Performance Expectations for students in New Jersey public schools is to learn about free black communities:

6.1.12.HistoryUP.2.b: Analyze the impact and contributions of African American leaders and institutions in the development and activities of black communities in the North and South before and after the Civil War

Although Maryland had the third highest population of slaves in the United States with more than a hundred thousand people in bondage, (p.6), it was also the home to more than 8,000 free blacks living in communities, such as Annapolis and Baltimore and organizing institutions. (p. 42).  Forty years later, the number of free blacks was 62,000, and four in every ten African Americans were free. (p. 316) Students need to know this!

Another insight I learned from reading Question of Freedom was the diversity of Maryland regarding plantation slavery in the Chesapeake Bay area and the absence of slavery in Frederick County in northwestern Maryland. (p.91)

The evidence in A Question of Freedom, regarding the presence of systemic racism in the United States is convincing and it is presented over 240 years beginning with Mary Queen

For further inquiry and exploration, research the digital resources on the freedom suits of enslaved persons from Maryland.

The Georgetown Slavery Archive

University of Nebraska-Lincoln O Say Can You See Project

Poverty and Child Labor in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era in New York City

Poverty and Child Labor in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era New York City

John Louis Recchiuti

Why are people poor? What can be done to protect children who are growing up in impoverished households? These were central questions in Progressive Era New York City and across the country as they remain today. In this workshop your group will be assigned a particular perspective on poverty and child labor and develop arguments championing that perspective. You may find the perspective you are asked to argue to be precisely the opposite of your own view on the subject. The goal is to build-out elements in the debate so that we can gain insight into the public policy challenges surrounding poverty in turn-of-the-twentieth century New York City. Your final product will be testimony before “The New York City Commission on Poverty and Youth.” Your group’s testimony should be based on material provided in this package and any additional sources you wish to consult.

Group Perspectives:

  • Group 1: ”The Undeserving Poor and the Deserving Poor”
  • Group 2: Family, Faith, Education, and Work — “No government assistance!”
  • Group 3: Our Responsibility as Consumers
  • Group 4: The Need for Mothers’ Pensions
  • Group 5: State Governments are the proper venue for laws against child labor and for child education.
  • Group 6: Federal Child Labor Laws must be Passed
Working at Home. National Child Labor Committee

Background: New York City History

Source: J. Recchiuti (2007). Civic Engagement: Social Science and Progressive-Era Reform in New York City. University of Pennsylvania Press.

At the turn of the twentieth century New York City had evolved from its early seventeenth century beginnings as a Dutch harbor-colony into an international center of finance, commerce, manufacture, and culture – competing on the world stage with London, Paris, and Berlin. The Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883. The Statue of Liberty, arrived from Paris, was installed in 1886. The Washington Arch at Washington Square Park went up in 1889. Carnegie Hall opened in 1893. The first subway line opened in 1904. And, the city rose vertically: the 1902 21-story steel-framed Flatiron Building was eclipsed in 1913 by the 60-story Woolworth Building. Henry Frick, Henry Phipps, the Vanderbilts, and Andrew Carnegie built mansions along Fifth Avenue. While, at the same time, many New Yorkers lived in squalor. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers lived in ill-lighted, overcrowded tenements, many without running water, flush toilets, or electricity.

New York City was, in these years, the world’s largest port, and served as the point of entry for many of the nation’s eighteen million immigrants in the quarter century before the First World War. By 1910, 87 percent of the 4,767,000 people in Greater New York were immigrants or the children of immigrants.

In today’s Gotham there are few factories, but in the early 1900s there were 30,000 manufacturers in the City, employing more than 600,000 workers, and New York City ranked first in the nation’s industrial output. The Lower East Side, around Rivington Street, was an immigrant hub, its immigrant population in the late 1880s and early 1890s mainly Germans, Poles, Russian Jews, and Rumanians. A young woman, Helen Moore, a volunteer among the poor, wrote in 1893 of “fermenting garbage in the gutter and the smell of stale beer” and “a long panorama of heart-rending sights”:

“Every window opens into a room crowded with scantily-clothed, dull-faced men and women sewing upon heavy woollen coats and trousers. They pant for air, the perspiration that drops from their foreheads is like life-blood, but they toil on steadily, wearily…. From a political, sanitary, and educational point of view it [the Tenth Ward] is the worst ward in the city, and social statistics offer no parallel in any city.”

The Lower East Side was, the urban historian Kenneth T. Jackson notes, “The most crowded neighborhood in the world.” It had only private charity — often from churches and synagogues – and some municipal sponsored free coal for heat. (Federal veterans’ pensions did supply aid for that fraction of the population who had served the Union army in the Civil War, but most of the city did not qualify.) In the long tradition of private or county-sponsored relief, places of confinement, such as prisons, orphanages, asylums, and almshouses sheltered those in need and in distress.

A. Poverty in the City

In 1910 in New York City, tens of thousands of children labored for pennies an hour in many the c. 12,000 tenement sweat-shops licensed by the state. “Our little kindergarten children at Greenwich House (located near Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan),” Mary Simkhovitch, the settlement’s founder and head resident, wrote, “go home from school to help make artificial flowers and as late as eleven o’clock at night we have found their baby fingers still fashioning the gay petals.”  

Around the country, “Boys of 10 years were common in the blinding dust of coal breakers, picking slate with torn and bleeding fingers, or sweltering all night in the glare of the white-hot furnace of the glasshouse; the incarceration of little 10-year-old girls in the dust-laden cotton mills of the South or the silk mills of Pennsylvania for 12 hours a day was looked upon with approval or indifference; tobacco and cigarette factories, canneries, sweatshops, the street trades, and the night messenger service all took unchallenged too from schoolhouse, playground, or cradle.”

In 1904 Columbia University professor Henry Seager wrote, “It might be thought that considerations of common humanity would lead employers of children to fix hours and other conditions of employment that would not be injurious to them.” “Unfortunately,” “this is not the case,” he wrote. It was a “cruelty,” he said, “not only of employers, but even of [the children’s] own parents.”

B. Corruption

New York City’s government was corrupt. Tammany Hall battled with reformers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Tammany Hall was not vanquished until 1966). In a memorable example of corruption in city government a student in the Manhattan-based “Training School for Public Service” (founded in 1911) recounted his first assignment at the School: 

“That assignment was to go to the City Hall and attend the meeting of the City Council; I was told to walk in and take my seat at the press table. I was a complete stranger in New York and had some difficulty in finding the City Hall and where the council met. The only thing the council did that morning was to discuss some routine matters and pass one resolution appropriating $25,000 for the paving of a certain street. I returned to the office of the [Training School] and handed in my report, thinking that the task was ended. The next morning my assignment was to locate that street and to see if it needed paving. The street was more difficult to find than the City Hall but I finally located it over on the east side. I found that it had never been paved. I made this report in writing, feeling that my task was ended. The next morning my assignment was to go to the city clerk’s office and search the records to see if the street had ever been paved before. I discovered that the street every year for 25 years had been paved.” 

C. Children in the City

As in today’s New York City, children in the late 1800s and early 1900s had a broad range of experiences, experiences that often depended on their socio-economic class. Edwin Seligman, future Columbia professor of economics, was born and raised in Manhattan—the child of a wealthy German-Jewish family. Seligman was tutored as a child by the children’s author Horatio Alger, famous for his rags-to-riches stories–in which a poor but honest, industrious, and frugal lad finds himself, by dint of pluck and not a little luck, happy, married, and wealthy by story’s end. Seligman’s own family history, and his childhood experiences in New York City, in many ways mirrored Horatio Alger’s stories of childhood flourishing.

But in that same city, and in these same years, on streets near Greenwich Village, the social settlement activist Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch wrote (in November 1903): ”A neighbor’s child was burned to death alone in a tenement house. A man was stabbed on election night by a drunken comrade. On Cornelia Street…the [Irish and Italian] Jones Street boys are fighting the colored boys nightly with one or two really serious results.” And, a “Jewish girl, sixteen years old,” was told by an employment agent that “she was going to a restaurant to work for two dollars a week and tips,” discovered that she was to be sent to a brothel instead. The girl was saved when an unidentified “assistant” paid ten dollars to the agency for her release.

“CHILD LABOR IN NEW YORK,” New York Times, January 12, 1903, pg. 8. A petition with numerous signers, many of them persons of experience and authority in such matters, has been submitted to the Legislature for amendments to the laws regulating child labor and providing for compulsory education. The chief complaint brought forward by the petitioners is that the two laws do not agree, and the discrepancies interfere with the enforcement of each. The compulsory education law, for instance, requires as to children of twelve years of age merely that they shall attend school eighty days. The child labor law requires that children shall not work until they are fourteen years of age. If the former law required compulsory schooling until fourteen, the enforcement of the latter, it is believed, would be much more practicable. On the other hand, an amendment to the school law requiring school attendance at an age earlier than eight, as at preset, would also help. Amendments are also proposed prohibiting vacation work for children of twelve, making the ten-hour limit strict without reference to shorter hours on Saturdays, including street work in the occupations forbidden under fourteen, requiring a child’s name when employed to appear on a pay roll, and requiring a certificate of ability to read and write as a condition of lawful employment. These, as we understand them, are the points made in the petition, but that document is loosely drawn and not easily interpreted. Probably amendments are needed to the laws. These should be carefully studied and collated by a competent lawyer, and such recommendations should be made perfectly clear to the Legislature.

Group 1:”The Undeserving Poor and the Deserving Poor”

Josephine Shaw Lowell

You are assigned to give testimony to “The New York City Commission on Poverty and Youth.” Your group will explain its view that government does harm if it gets involved in aiding poor men and women whose poverty arises because they are “indolent” (lazy). Your group will refer to these men and women as “the undeserving poor.” You will report to the “Commission” as Mrs. Lowell and members of her Charity Organization Society of the late 1800s. You believe the “Undeserving Poor” must be offered jobs and not given “alms” (money). The poor need to learn the discipline of work, and private organizations such as the Charity Organization Society can help them get in the habit of work. Children who watch their parents work hard and take moral responsibility for their lives are likely themselves also to become responsible, hardworking citizens. Society needs to teach the underserving poor to take responsibility for their own lives. They must overcome their indolence, alcoholism, or drug dependency. The undeserving poor need to get a job!

Josephine Lowell founded the Charity Organization Society (COS) in the late nineteenth century. The COS sent “friendly visitors” into New York City’s poor neighborhoods. “Friendly visitors” used questionnaires to determine whether a poor man or woman deserved Charity Organization Society support. “Friendly visitors” went into apartments of the poor and asked questions. If the poor person was judged “undeserving” (that is, undeserving of being given money by the COS—for example, the “friendly visitor” might see evidence of alcohol or abuse) then the poor person would be refused alms.

Josephine Lowell said “recipients of alms become dependent, lose their energy, are rendered incapable of self-support, and what they receive in return for their lost character is quite inadequate to supply their needs; thus they are kept on the verge almost of death by the very persons who think they are relieving them.” 

Josephine Lowell continued “It is the greatest wrong that can be done to him to undermine the character of a poor man–for it is his all”; “almsgiving and dolegiving are hurtful–therefore they are not charitable”; “the proof that dolegiving and almsgiving do break down independence, do destroy energy, do undermine character, may be found in the growing ranks of pauperism in every city, in the fact that the larger the funds given in relief in any community, the more pressing is the demand for them, and in the experience and testimony of all practical workers among the poor.” (NOTE the importance of this last sentence: Lowell is arguing that when we as a society give out money to those who won’t work—as ‘welfare’ or alms—we find that more and more (and ever more) money is demanded by them. 

Lowell did fault “the pressure of the unjust social laws and legislative enactments which produce hardship and cause more people to become idlers than would otherwise be the case,” but, “the usual cause of poverty,” she wrote, “is to be found in some deficiency–moral, mental, or physical–in the person who suffers.”

The Charity Organization Society’s “Friendly Visitors” assessed the worthiness of each individual poor person who applied to it for aid, and also lectured the poor–and tried to find them jobs. The COS even hired many of the poor. Women deemed employable were sent to wash and iron at a Charity Organization Society laundry that opened in 1889 at 589 Park Avenue and moved to the Society’s Industrial Building at 516 West 28th Street in 1900. By the early 1900s the laundry was training eighty or ninety women a month. The system began first “over steaming wash-tubs, advances them to starching and ironing, and graduates them with a recommendation after thorough instruction in the ironing of filmy lace curtains and finest linen.”

The Charity Organization Society also opened a wood yard in 1884 on East 24th Street, where young men were sent to test their willingness to work. The Society sold tickets to the charitable for them to offer to street beggars in lieu of cash–each ticket entitled its bearer to a day’s work in the wood yard. Beggars who showed themselves willing to work were placed–as jobs became available–as domestic servants, factory workers, janitors and furnace men, messengers and delivery boys, porters, watchmen, drivers, dishwashers, bootblacks, and the like. The Charity Organization Society functioned, in this way, as an employment agency.

The Charity Organization Society did not content itself with its private activities but took public action against what it perceived as New York City’s indiscriminate charity. When the city persisted in distributing free coal to the poor (a practice it had begun in 1875), the COS lobbied legislators and the practice stopped. It even urged the municipal government to follow the European practice of giving lengthy prison sentences to vagrants and street beggars. And, when, in 1904, “a flurry of excitement over children who go breakfastless to school” created a movement to provide “free meals” at public expense, the Charity Organization Society opposed it in hearings before the city’s special committee of the Board of Education. 

Two years later, another proposal was offered to “give eye-glasses to all for whom they were prescribed” among the city’s school children, and the Society took a stand against it as “’certainly unnecessary’“ “in view of the admitted ability of parents in the very great majority of all cases to take care of their own children.” Although, the COS was stern but not heartless: it would “supply the needs of any child” whose family was truly unable to feed them or buy eyeglasses. (And, to be fair to Lowell, by the end of the century she was, increasingly asserting the need for some government assistance to the poor.)

Group 2: Family, Faith, Education, and Work — “No government assistance!”

John W. Burgess

You are assigned to give testimony to “The New York City Commission on Poverty and Youth” from the following perspective. You will explain the view held by Columbia University political scientist John W. Burgess that poverty will best be addressed and curtailed through faith, family, education, and individual moral responsibility.  John W. Burgess was a political conservative who believed, as he wrote in 1912: ”We dare not call anything progress . . . which contemplates . . . the expansion of governmental power.” He argued that “improvement and development of — the system of popular education, — revival of the influence of religion, –the restoration of a better family life, producing a more enlightened individual conscience and a more general conscientiousness would … be the truer way, the American way, the real progressive way of overcoming the claimed failure of our system.” In his writings, Burgess advocated government by the elite. “It is difficult to see why the most advantageous political system, for the present, would not be a democratic state with an aristocratic government, provided only the aristocracy be that of real merit, and not of artificial qualities. If this be not the real principle of the republican form of government then I must confess that I do not know what its principle is.”

Burgess also held racist ideas. He believed “Teutonic nations are particularly endowed with the capacity for establishing national states . . . they are intrusted [sic], in the general economy of history, with the mission of conducting the political civilization of the modern world.” In a book on Reconstruction after the Civil War he wrote “black skin means membership in a race of men which has never of itself succeeded in subjecting passion to reason, has never, therefore, created any civilization of any kind.”

Group 3: Our Responsibility as Consumers

Florence Kelley

Your Group is assigned to give testimony to “The New York City Commission on Poverty and Youth,” from the perspective that each of us as consumers can end poverty by buying goods and services made by workers being paid a living wage. This means buying from stores, farms, and manufacturers that pay a living (good/high) wage to employees — and from employers who do not hire children. If we will each buy goods and services made by workers (especially unionized workers) we can, by our individual shopping habits, reduce poverty among the working class–and end child labor (because working adults will be earning a living wage and will be able to afford to send their kids to school instead of into the factories to earn money to supplement parents’ low wages). Your group will argue from the perspective of Florence Kelley’s National Consumers’ League headquartered in New York City.

Under Kelley’s leadership the Consumers’ League worked against industrial sweatshops and against sweated labor in tenements, it sought an end to child labor, and to excessive hours and night work for women. In 1904 the League published a “Standard Child Labor Law” intended as a model for uniform laws across the country. A “Consumers’ League label” was affixed to articles “made under conditions approved by the League” and the League published a “White List” (the reverse of a blacklist) of recommended retail stores, where working conditions were, by League standards, fair. Kelley also championed state and federal minimum wage laws, and laws to regulate hours of labor, but she urged that we, individually, as consumers must also do our part by buying goods made by workers paid a living wage.

In 1907, Florence Kelly argued “An association of persons who in making their purchases strives to further the welfare of those who make or distribute the things bought. The act of shopping seems to many trivial and entirely personal, while in reality it exerts a far reaching, oft-repeated influence for good or evil.” Kelley also wrote “the interest of the community demands that all workers should receive, not the lowest wages, but fair living wages . . . Responsibility for debilitating workplace conditions “rests with the consumers who persist in buying in the cheapest markets regardless of how cheapness is brought about.” 

Frances Perkins, secretary of the New York branch of the Consumers’ League and later United States Secretary of Labor in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration), wrote “The Consumers’ League is an organization of persons who wish to improve the industrial conditions by utilizing the shopping power, the buying power of the consumers, who are banded together, that is, by pledging themselves in their shopping to do their buying in such a way as to improve conditions, rather than make them worse.” 

According to Florence Kelley pensions would “lift the burden from the widowed mother by giving her, as her right and not as the dole of a private charity…an allowance out of public funds on condition that she stay in her home and keep her children at home and in school.” Jean M. Gordon, a National Child Labor Committee member, wrote in The Child Labor Bulletin: “I contend it is just as much the duty of the State to pension dependent mothers as dependent veterans. Certainly the mother does as much for the country in rearing her children as the veterans did in killing her sons!”

Group 4: The Need for Mothers’ Pensions

“Public aid would have to be administered with intelligence and care,” Mary Simkhovitch wrote in an essay, “Women’s Invasion of the Industrial Field.” “But the difficulty of developing the technique of such a plan is not to be compared with the difficulty the state will meet through the inadequate care of families.”

Your group will give testimony to “The New York City Commission on Poverty and Youth” explaining that mothers in single-headed households (households in which a father is not present) must be provided with money from New York City and New York State so that these mothers can feed, clothe, and shelter their children. In the early twentieth century the term “pension” was used in the context of giving people state tax dollars — there were, for example, Civil War Pensions in which former Union soldiers from the Civil War were given old age pensions. Your group will urge the Commission to create a system of Mothers’ Pensions (money the state will give single moms to help them raise their children). Your positions is that private charity organizations alone simply cannot feed and clothe all needy children.

Group 5: State Governments are the proper venue for laws against child labor and for child education.

Edgar Gardner Murphy

In your testimony to “The New York City Commission on Poverty and Youth,” you will argue that individual states, not the federal government, must pass laws to regulate child labor. You are in agreement with Edgar Murphy and his allies that child labor laws are the responsibility of individual state governments only. Edgar Murphy’s argument was grounded in federalism. Federalism is the view that powers not granted by the Constitution to the Federal government are powers that are retained by individual state governments. Since the regulation of child labor was not listed in the U.S. Constitution as a power of the Federal government, Child Labor must fall under the regulatory power of individual State governments.

Edgar Murphy was an Episcopal minister from the South and the first secretary of the National Child Labor Committee. In 1903, Murphy wrote “The conditions of industry vary so greatly and so decisively from state to state and from locality to locality that the enactment of a federal child labor law, applicable to all conditions and under all circumstances, would be inadequate if not unfortunate.” 

Murphy claimed he was “interested in the question of child labor, not merely because I have photographed children of six and seven years whom I have seen at labor in our factories for twelve and thirteen hours a day, not merely because I have seen them with their little fingers mangled by machinery and their little bodies numb and listless with exhaustion, but because I am not willing that our economic progress should be involved in such conditions; and because . . . I am resolved to take my part, however humbly, in the settling of the industrial character of our greatest industry . . . I believe that an intelligent moral interest in the conditions of the factory, and the jealous guarding of its ethical assumptions, will minister not merely to the humanity of its standards and the happiness of its operatives, but to the dignity, currency and value of its properties.”

Group 6: Federal Child Labor Laws must be Passed

Samuel McCune Lindsay

Your group will testify to “The New York City Commission on Poverty and Youth” that a Federal Child Labor law is needed. You will advise the Commission to support passage of the Keating-Owen Child Labor Bill, a 1916 bill that would regulate child labor from the federal level by forbidding the interstate shipment of products of child labor. 

Samuel McCune Lindsay, Professor of Social Legislation at Columbia University argued at the 1911 National Child Labor Committee conference: ”Is it not our duty to seek for greater uniformity in the protection of working children, so that the children of all states may enjoy the same rights to a normal childhood, to life, education and leisure, to a time for play, a chance to grow and an opportunity to develop their best abilities whether they are raised in Alabama or Pennsylvania, in Georgia or Massachusetts, in Texas or Ohio? It is precisely to promote and secure this equality of opportunity for all American children that we are organized as a National Child Labor Committee [and therefore a FEDERAL LAW making child labor illegal is needed].”

Black Lives that Mattered

Black Lives that Mattered

Alan Singer

Teachers are grappling with ways to develop a more culturally-responsive social studies curriculum. An excellent starting point for revising the United States history curriculum overall is Voices of a People’s History, a document collection by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove that is a companion to Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Voices includes African American spokespeople from a number of eras. Featured Black abolitions include David Walker (1830), Henry Bibb (1844), Frederick Douglass (1852), Sojourner Truth (1851), and Harriet Jacobs (1861). Civil Rights activists include Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1893), Langston Hughes (1951), Paul Robeson (1956), John Lewis (1963), Malcolm X (1963), Fannie Lou Hamer (1964), Martin Luther King (1967), and Anne Moody (1968). More recent speakers and writers include George Jackson (1970), Angela Davis (1970), Assata Shakur (1978), Marian Wright Edelman (1983), Public Enemy (1990), June Jordan (1991), Mumia Abu-Jamal (2001), and Danny Glover (2003). Important websites for adding Black achievements to in the United States to the curriculum are:

When teachers are resistant to change, “awoke” students have a role to play. Social Studies lessons are usually organized so students can answer essential or compelling historical or contemporary questions. Many teachers start the lesson with an AIM question that defines the lesson and often also serves as a summary question at the end of lesson. If teachers aren’t asking these questions, students can politely ask them during the course of a lesson. “I don’t understand”:

  • What role did the trans-Atlantic slave trade play in the settlement of the Americas?
  • How could the signers of the Declaration of Independence proclaim “all men are created equal” and then keep almost 20% of the population enslaved?
  • Is the wealth of the United States and its position in the world today based on the enslavement of Africans?
  • How did Frederick Douglass feel about the American celebration of July 4th?
  • Why did Abraham Lincoln promise the South they could keep Africans enslaved?
  • To whom did Abraham Lincoln offer “malice toward none” and “charity for all”?
  • How could the Supreme Court in the 1850s, the 1880s, and the 1890s blindly ignore what the Constitution says about equal rights?
  • Why did the federal government abandon Blacks after the Civil War and Reconstruction?
  • Why were American troops racially segregated in World War I and World War II?
  • Why did Martin Luther King ask “What is to be done?” after passage of the 1960s Civil Rights acts?
  • Why do housing and job discrimination and school segregation continue in the 21st century?
  • Why do so many Black men and women continue to be injured or killed by police?

These activity sheets introduce students to thirteen African Americans who made major contributions to American democracy, but who are normally not included in the United States history curriculum. Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman, Julia Williams Garnet, Henry Highland Garnet, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Sarah Tompkins Garnet, Susan McKinney Steward, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, W.E.B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Paul Robeson, Ralph Bunche, and Fanny Lou Hamer are in chronological order based on the year of their birth. An examination of these lives introduces students to major themes in African American and United States history, as well as to “Black Lives that Mattered.”

Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman (c. 1744-1829): A Black Life that Mattered

Statue of Elizabeth Freeman, National Museum of African American History and Culture. An important source is the Ashley House historic site website. https://thetrustees.org/content/elizabeth-freeman-fighting-for-freedom/

Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman was born enslaved in Claverack, New York in present day Columbia County. As a teenager she was sold to Colonel John Ashley and moved to his property in western Massachusetts near Great Barrington where she was kept enslaved for thirty years. In the 1770s, Mum Bett overheard conversations about revolutionary unrest in Massachusetts, challenges to British colonial rule, the Declaration of Independence, and a new Massachusetts constitution. Her decision to sue in court for freedom was probably in response to abuse by Mrs. Ashley. Mum Bett intervened when Hannah Ashley tried to hit another enslaved woman, who might have been Mum Bett’s sister or daughter, with a kitchen shovel. Mum Bett was hit instead in the face and was scarred. After the attack, Mum Bett sought help to escape slavery from Theodore Sedgwick, a lawyer in Stockbridge.

In 1780, Massachusetts adopted a state constitution that was largely drafted by future President John Adams. It drew on the promise of equality and liberty made in the Declaration of Independence and included a Bill of Rights that declared “All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights.

With Sedgwick’s help, Mum Bett sued for freedom in a Massachusetts Court of Common Pleas. In Brom and Bett v. Ashley, a local jury found that Mum Bett and another enslaved African, Brom, were legally free people and awarded them 30 shillings in damages. In 1781, the jury’s decision was affirmed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court and in 1783, citing its decision in Brom and Bett v. Ashley, the state’s Supreme Court declared slavery a violation of the Massachusetts state constitution. After securing her freedom, Mum Bett chose the name Elizabeth Freeman. John Ashley offered to hire her as a paid employee, but she refused to work for the family again.

Documents:

Sheffield Resolves (Sheffield, Massachusetts, 1773): “RESOLVED: That mankind in a state of nature are equal, free and independent of each other and have a right to the undisturbed enjoyment of their lives, their liberty and property.”

Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Article I: “All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.”

https://malegislature.gov/laws/constitution

Chief Justice William Cushing charge to the jury in case of Quok Walker (1781): “As to the doctrine of slavery and the right of Christians to hold Africans in perpetual servitude, and sell and treat them as we do our horses and cattle, that (it is true) has been heretofore countenanced by the Province Laws formerly, but nowhere is it expressly enacted or established . . . But whatever sentiments have formerly prevailed in this particular or slid in upon us by the example of others, a different idea has taken place with the people of America, more favorable to the natural rights of mankind, and to that natural, innate desire of Liberty, with which Heaven (without regard to color, complexion, or shape of noses — features) has inspired all the human race. And upon this ground our Constitution of Government, by which the people of this Commonwealth have solemnly bound themselves, sets out with declaring that all men are born free and equal – and that every subject is entitled to liberty, and to have it guarded by the laws, as well as life and property – and in short is totally repugnant to the idea of being born slaves. This being the case, I think the idea of slavery is inconsistent with our own conduct and Constitution; and there can be no such thing as perpetual servitude of a rational creature, unless his liberty is forfeited by some criminal conduct or given up by personal consent or contract.”

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2h38t.html

Massachusetts Supreme Court Ruling (1783): “These sentiments led the framers of our constitution of government – by which the people of this commonwealth have solemnly bound themselves to each other – to declare – that all men are born free and equal; and that every subject is entitled to liberty, and to have it guarded by the laws as well as his life and property. In short, without resorting to implication in constructing the constitution, slavery is in my judgment as effectively abolished as it can be by the granting of rights and privileges wholly incompatible and repugnant to its existence.”

Elizabeth Freeman’s Statement on Freedom: “Any time, any time while I was a slave, if one minute’s freedom had been offered to me & I had been told I must die at the end of that minute I would have taken it — just to stand one minute on God’s earth a free woman — — I would.”

https://www.wbur.org/news/2020/01/27/elizabeth-freeman-sheffield-slave-ashley-sedgwick

Epitaph on Elizabeth Freeman’s grave stone (Stockbridge, MA): ELIZABETH FREEMAN known by the name of MUMBET Died Dec 28, 1829 Her supposed age was 85 Years. She was born a slave and remained a slave for nearly thirty years. She could neither read nor write, yet in her own sphere she had no superior nor equal. She neither wasted time nor property. She never violated a trust, nor failed to perform a duty. In every situation of domestic trial, she was the most efficient helper, and the tenderest friend. Good Mother, farewell.

https://www.wbur.org/news/2020/01/27/elizabeth-freeman-sheffield-slave-ashley-sedgwick

Julia Williams Garnet (1811-1870): A Black Life that Mattered

Julia Williams was an African-American abolitionist who was active in Massachusetts, New York, Jamaica, and Washington DC. Williams was born free in Charleston, South Carolina and as a child moved with her family to Boston. While she did not leave her own written record, she often collaborated with her husband, Reverend Henry Highland Garnet, on his speeches and writings. Her life touched on a number of major abolitionist organizations and events. Williams was a student at both the Canterbury Female Boarding School in Connecticut and the Noyes Academy in Canaan, New Hampshire. Canterbury was a school for “young Ladies and little Misses of color.” Noyes had an interracial student body. Both schools were attacked by white mobs while she was attending and forced to close. Williams finally completed her education at the abolitionist run Oneida Institute in New York. Williams later was a member of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, attended the 1837 Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women in New York, was a missionary in Jamaica where she headed an industrial school for girls, and after the Civil War worked with freedmen in Washington, DC. 

Documents:

The Liberator Report on the Destruction of Noyes Academy (1835)

Source: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/19369301/noyes-academy-removal-criticism/

“The Superintending Committee appointed by said town to remove the ‘Noyes Academy’ proceeded at 7 o’clock, A.M of the 10th inst. [August 10] to discharge their duty; the performance of which they believe the interest of the town, the honor of the State, and the good of the whole community (both black and white) required without delay. At an early hour, the people of this town and of the neighboring towns assembled, full of the spirit of ’75 [sic], to the number of about three hundred, with between ninety and one hundred yoke of oxen, and with all necessary materials for the completion of the undertaking. Many of the most respectable and wealthy farmers of this and the adjacent towns rendered their assistance on this occasion . . . The work was commenced and carried on with very little noise, considering the number engaged, until the building was safely landed on the common near the Baptist meeting-house, where it stands, . . . the monument of the folly of those living spirits, who are struggling to destroy what our fathers have gained.

Address of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society (1836)

Source: www.Docsteach.Org/Documents/Document/Address-Boston-Antislavery-Society?Tmpl=Component&Print=1

“As women, it is incumbent upon us, instantly and always, to labor to increase the knowledge and the love of God that such concentrated hatred of his character and laws may no longer be so entrenched in men’s business and bosoms that they dare not condemn and renounce it. As wives and mothers, as sisters and daughters, we are deeply responsible for the influence we have on the human race. We are bound to exert it; we are bound to urge men to cease to do evil, and learn to do well. We are bound to urge them to regain, defend, and preserve inviolate the rights of all, especially those whom they have most deeply wronged. We are bound to the constant exercise of the only right we ourselves enjoy — the right which our physical weakness renders peculiarly appropriate — the right of petition. We are bound to try how much it can accomplish in the District of Columbia, or we are as verily guilty touching slavery as our brethren and sisters in the slaveholding States: for Congress possesses power ‘to exercise exclusive legislation over the District of Columbia in all cases whatsoever,’ by a provision of the Constitution; and by an act of the First Congress, the right of petition was secured to us.”

An Appeal to the Women of the Nominally Free States, Issued by an Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women (1837)

Source: https://archive.org/stream/appealtowomenofn00anti/appealtowomenofn00anti_djvu.txt

The women of the North have high and holy duties to perform in the work of emancipation — duties to themselves, to the suffering slave, to the slaveholder, to the church, to their country, and to the world at large; and, above all, to their God. Duties which, if not performed now, may never be performed at all . . .  Many regard the excitement produced by the agitation of this subject as an evidence of the impolicy of free discussion, and a sufficient excuse for their own inactivity. Others so undervalue the rights and responsibilities of woman, as to scoff and gainsay whenever she goes forth to duties beyond the parlor and the nursery . . . Every citizen should feel an intense interest in the political concerns of the country, because the honor, happiness, and well-being of every class, are bound up in its politics, government and laws. Are we aliens because we are women? Are we bereft of citizenship because we are the mothers, wives, and daughters of a mighty people? Have women no country — no interest staked in public weal — no liabilities in common peril — no partnership in a nation’s guilt and shame? . . . Moral beings have essentially the same rights and the same duties, whether they be male or female. This is a truth the world has yet to learn, though she has had the experience of fifty-eight centuries by which to acquire the knowledge of this fundamental axiom. Ignorance of this has involved her in great inconsistencies, great errors, and great crimes, and hurled confusion over that beautiful and harmonious structure of human society which infinite wisdom had established.

Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882): A Black Life that Mattered

This biography of Henry Highland Garnet is drawn from a number of online sources and New York and Slavery: Time to Teach the Truth (SUNY, 2008). It concludes with excerpts from Garnet’s 1843 speech at a National Negro Convention in Buffalo, New York. In the speech, Garnet called for active resistance to slavery.

Henry Highland Garnet was born to enslaved parents in Kent County, Maryland in 1815. In 1824, his parents received permission to attend a funeral and used it as an opportunity to escape to New Jersey. The Garnets arrived in New York City in 1825, where Henry entered the African Free School on Mott Street. After a sea voyage to Cuba as a cabin boy in 1829, Henry returned to New York where he learned that his family had separated in a desperate effort to evade slave catchers. Enraged and worried, Garnet wandered up and down Broadway with a knife. Eventually friends were able to arrange refuge for him with abolitionists on Long Island.

In 1835, while he was attending the interracial Noyes Academy in Canaan, New Hampshire, a mob destroyed the school and attacked the house where Garnet and the other Black students were living. They fought back but were eventually forced to flee the town. Garnet later graduated from Oneida Institute near Utica, New York and in 1842, he became a pastor of the Liberty Street Presbyterian Church in Troy, New York. While there, Garnet edited abolitionist newspapers which called for enslaved Blacks to rise up in rebellion. He joined the Liberty Party and was known as an effective orator, but more mainstream abolitionists like Frederick Douglass thought he was too radical. In a speech to the National Negro Convention, Garnet urged enslaved Africans to rebel against their chains because they were better off dying free than living as slaves. In the 1850s, he became a missionary in Jamaica and encouraged Blacks to move there. During the Civil War, Garnet was a minister at the Shiloh Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and chaplain for Black troops stationed at Riker’s Island. In July 1863, draft rioters stalked Garnet, forcing his family to hide with neighbors. Later in his career, Garnet founded the African Civilization Society and advocated migration to a West African colony in Yoruba. In 1881, he was appointed a United States representative to Liberia

In an 1843 speech at a National Negro Convention in Buffalo, New York, Henry Highland Garnet beseeched his enslaved brethren to “Awake, awake; millions of voices are calling you! Your dead fathers speak to you from their graves. Heaven, as with a voice of thunder, calls on you to arise from the dust. Let your motto be resistance! resistance! resistance! No oppressed people have ever secured their liberty without resistance.”

Document: Henry Highland Garnet Calls for Resistance! (1843)

“Brethren, it is as wrong for your lordly oppressors to keep you in slavery, as it was for the man thief to steal our ancestors from the coast of Africa. You should therefore now use the same manner of resistance, as would have been just in our ancestors, when the bloody foot-prints of the first remorseless soul-thief was placed upon the shores of our fatherland. The humblest peasant is as free in the sight of God as the proudest monarch. Liberty is a spirit sent out from God and is no respecter of persons. Brethren, arise, arise! Strike for your lives and liberties. Now is the day and the hour. Let every slave throughout the land do this, and the days of slavery are numbered. You cannot be more oppressed than you have been, you cannot suffer greater cruelties than you have already. Rather die freemen than live to be slaves. Remember that you are four millions!”

“In the name of God, we ask, are you men? Where is the blood of your fathers? Has it all run out of your veins? Awake, awake; millions of voices are calling you! Your dead fathers speak to you from their graves. Heaven, as with a voice of thunder, calls on you to arise from the dust. Let your motto be resistance! resistance! resistance! No oppressed people have ever secured their liberty without resistance. Trust in the living God. Labor for the peace of the human race, and remember that you are four millions.”

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911): A Black Life that Mattered

Source: https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/frances-ellen-watkins-harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was an abolitionist, poet, novelist, suffragist, lecturer, teacher and reformer who co-founded the National Association of Colored Women. She was born to free Black parents in Baltimore, Maryland during the era of slavery. When she was 26, she became the first female instructor at Union Seminary, a school for free African Americans in Wilberforce, Ohio. She published her first book of poetry when she was twenty years old and her anti-slavery poetry was printed in the abolitionist press. While living in Philadelphia in the 1850s, she assisted freedom seekers escaping on the Underground Railroad. In May 1866,Frances Ellen Watkins Harper addressed the Eleventh National Women’s Rights Convention in New York City. Other speakers included white suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott.

Documents:

Eliza Harris (Excerpt) https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52447/eliza-harris

Like a fawn from the arrow, startled and wild, 

A woman swept by us, bearing a child; 

In her eye was the night of a settled despair, 

And her brow was o’ershaded with anguish and care. 

She was nearing the river—in reaching the brink, 

She heeded no danger, she paused not to think! 

For she is a mother—her child is a slave— 

And she’ll give him his freedom, or find him a grave! 

“We Are All Bound Up Together” (11th National Women’s Rights Convention in New York City, 1866)

Source: https://awpc.cattcenter.iastate.edu/2017/03/21/we-are-all-bound-up-together-may-1866/

“We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul. You tried that in the case of the Negro. You pressed him down for two centuries; and in so doing you crippled the moral strength and paralyzed the spiritual energies of the white men of the country. When the hands of the black were fettered, white men were deprived of the liberty of speech and the freedom of the press . . . This grand and glorious revolution which has commenced, will fail to reach its climax of success, until throughout the length and breadth of the American Republic, the nation shall be so color-blind, as to know no man by the color of his skin or the curl of his hair. It will then have no privileged class, trampling upon outraging the unprivileged classes, but will be then one great privileged nation, whose privilege will be to produce the loftiest manhood and womanhood that humanity can attain.

I do not believe that giving the woman the ballot is immediately going to cure all the ills of life. I do not believer that white women are dew-drops just exhaled from the skies. I think that like men they may be divided into three classes, the good, the bad, and the indifferent. The good would vote according to their convictions and principles; the bad, as dictated by prejudice or malice; and the indifferent will vote on the strongest side of the question, with the winning party . . . You white women speak here of rights. I speak of wrongs. I, as a colored woman, have had in this country an education which has made me feel as if I were in the situation of Ishmael, my hand against every man, and every man’s hand against me. Let me go to-morrow morning and take my seat in one of your street cars — I do not know that they will do it in New York, but they will in Philadelphia — and the conductor will put up his hand and stop the car rather than let me ride.

In advocating the cause of the colored man, since the Dred Scott decision, I have sometimes said I thought the nation had touched bottom. But let me tell you there is a depth of infamy lower than that. It is when the nation, standing upon the threshold of a great peril, reached out its hands to a feebler race, and asked that race to help it, and when the peril was over, said, “You are good enough for soldiers, but not good enough for citizens . . . Talk of giving women the ballot-box? Go on. It is a normal school, and the white women of this country need it. While there exists this brutal element in society which tramples upon the feeble and treads down the weak, I tell you that if there is any class of people who need to be lifted out of their airy nothings and selfishness, it is the white women of America.”

Elizabeth Jennings Graham (1827-1901): A Black Life that Mattered

Source: New York and Slavery: Complicity and Resistance

On July 14, 1854, Elizabeth Jennings and her friend, Sarah Adams, walked to the corner of Pearl and Chatham streets in lower Manhattan. They planned to take a horse-drawn street car along Third Avenue to church. When Jennings tried to enter a street car reserved for whites she was ordered to leave. When she refused, she was physically thrown off the street car.

An account of what happened to Elizabeth was presented on July 17 at a protest meeting at the First Colored Congregational Church in New York City. Elizabeth wrote the statement but did not speak because she was recovering from injuries. Peter Ewell, the meeting’s secretary, read Elizabeth’s testimony to the audience. At the meeting at the First Colored Congregational Church, a Black Legal Rights Association was formed to investigate possible legal action. Elizabeth Jennings decided to sue the street car company. She was represented in court by a young white attorney named Chester A. Arthur, who later became a military officer during the Civil War and a politician. In 1880, Chester A. Arthur was elected Vice-President of the United States and he became president when James Garfield was murdered in 1881.

The court case was successful. The judge instructed the jury that transit companies had to respect the rights all respectable people and the jury awarded Elizabeth Jennings money for damages. While she had asked for $500 in her complaint, some members of the jury resisted granting such a large amount because she was “colored.” In the end, Elizabeth Jennings received $225 plus an additional ten percent for legal expenses.

At the time of this incident, Jennings was a teacher at the African Free School and a church organist. She later started New York City’s first kindergarten for African-American children and operated it from her Manhattan home until her death in 1901.

Documents:

“Outrage upon Colored Persons, “New York Tribune, July 19, 1854, 7:2.

“I (Elizabeth Jennings) held up my hand to the driver and he stopped the cars. We got on the platform, when the conductor told us to wait for the next car. I told him I could not wait, as I was in a hurry to go to church. He then told me that the other car had my people in it, that it was appropriated (intended) for that purpose. I then told him I wished to go to church, as I had been going for the last six months, and I did not wish to be detained.

He insisted upon my getting off the car, but I did not get off. He waited some few minutes, when the driver, becoming impatient, said to me, “Well, you may go in, but remember, if the passengers raise any objections you shall go out, whether or no, or I’ll put you out.”  I told him I was a respectable person, born and raised in New York, that I had never been insulted before while going to church, and that he was a good for nothing impudent (rude) fellow for insulting decent persons while on their way to church. He then said he would put me out.

I told him not to lay his hands on me. I took hold of the window sash and held on. He pulled me until he broke my grasp and I took hold of his coat and held onto that. He ordered the driver to fasten his horses, which he did, and come and help him put me out of the car. They then both seized hold of me by the arms and pulled and dragged me flat down on the bottom of the platform, so that my feet hung one way and my head the other, nearly on the ground. I screamed murder with all my voice, and my companion screamed out “you’ll kill her. Don’t kill her.”

The driver then let go of me and went to his horses. I went again in the car, and the conductor said you shall sweat for this; then told the driver to drive as fast as he could and not to take another passenger in the car; to drive until he saw an officer or a Station House.

They got an officer on the corner of Walker and Bowery, whom the conductor told that his orders from the agent were to admit colored persons if the passengers did not object, but if they did, not to let them ride. When the officer took me there were some eight or ten persons in the car. Then the officer, without listening to anything I had to say, thrust me out, and then pushed me, and tauntingly told me to get redress if I could. I would have come up myself, but am quite sore and stiff from the treatment I received from those monsters in human form yesterday afternoon.”

“A Wholesome Verdict,” New York Tribune, February 23, 1855, 7:4.

“The case of Elizabeth Jennings vs. the Third Ave. Railroad Company, was tried yesterday in the Brooklyn circuit, before Judge Rockwell. The plaintiff is a colored lady, a teacher in one of the public schools, and the organist in one of the churches in this City. She got upon one of the Company’s cars last summer, on the Sabbath, to ride to church. The conductor finally undertook to get her off, first alleging the car was full, and when that was shown to be false, he pretended the other passengers were displeased at her presence. She saw nothing of that, and insisted on her rights. He took hold of her by force to expel her. She resisted, they got her down on the platform, jammed her bonnet, soiled her dress, and injured her person. Quite a crowd gathered around, but she effectually (effectively) resisted, and they were not able to get her off. Finally, after the car had gone on further, they got the aid of a policeman, and succeeded in getting her from the car.

Judge Rockwell gave a very clear and able charge, instructing the Jury that the Company were liable for the acts of their agents, whether committed carelessly and negligently, or willfully and maliciously. That they were common carriers, and as such bound to carry all respectable persons; that colored person, if sober, well-behaved, and free from disease, had the same rights as others; and could neither be excluded by any rules of the Company, nor by force or violence; and in case of such expulsion or exclusion, the Company was liable. The plaintiff claimed $500 in her complaint, and a majority of the jury were for giving her the full amount; but others maintained some peculiar notions as to colored people’s rights, and they finally agreed on $225, on which the Court added ten per cent, besides the costs.

Railroads, steamboats, omnibuses, and ferry boats will be admonished from this, as to the rights of respectable colored people. It is high time the rights of this class of citizens were ascertained (respected), and that it should be known whether they are to be thrust from our public conveyances (vehicles), while German or Irish women, with a quarter of mutton or a load of codfish, can be admitted.”

“Legal Rights Vindicated,” Frederick Douglass’ Paper, March 2, 1855, 2:5

“Our readers will rejoice with us in the righteous verdict. Miss Elizabeth Jennings, whose courageous conduct in the premises is beyond all praise, comes of a good old New York stock. Her grandfather, Jacob Cartwright, a native African, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and took active part in city politics until the time of his death in 1824; her father, Mr. Thomas L. Jennings, was mentioned in our paper as having delivered an oration on the Emancipation of the slaves in this State in 1827, and he was a founder of the New York African Society for Mutual Relief and of other institutions for the benefit and elevation of the colored people. In this suit he has broken new ground, which he proposes to follow up by the formation of a ‘Legal Rights League.’ We hold our New York City gentleman responsible for the carrying out this decision into practice, by putting an end to their exclusion from cars and omnibuses; they must be craven indeed if they fail to follow the lead of a woman.”

Sarah Tompkins Garnet and Susan McKinney Steward: Black Lives that Mattered

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_J._Garnet; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_McKinney_Steward

Sarah and Susan Smithwere highly accomplished sisters. Their father, Sylvanus Smith, was one of the founders of the African-American community of Weeksville in Kings County, now Brooklyn, and one of the very few Black Americans eligible to vote in New York when the state still had slavery. Their mother Anne (Springsteel) Smith, was born in Shinnecock in Suffolk County and may have had Native American ancestry.

Sarah Tompkins Garnet (1831-1911)

Sarah Tompkins Garnet was an educator and suffragist and the first female African-American school principal in the New York City public school system. She began teaching at the African Free School of Williamsburg in 1854 and became principal of Grammar School No. 4 in 1863. When she retired in 1900, Garnet had been a teacher and principal for 37 years. Garnet was the founder of the Brooklyn Equal Suffrage League and a leader of the National Association of Colored Women. She married noted abolitionist and minister Henry Highland Garnet in 1879 and they traveled together to Africa. She and her sister Susan McKinney Steward participated in the 1911 Universal Races Congress in London. Public School 9 in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn is named after her.

Susan McKinney Steward (1847-1918)

Susan McKinney Steward was an American physician and author. She was the first African-American woman to earn a medical degree in New York State. Her medical career focused on prenatal care and childhood disease. Between 1870 and 1895, Steward had her own practice in Brooklyn and co-founded the Brooklyn Women’s Homeopathic Hospital and Dispensary. She was also on the board and practiced medicine at the Brooklyn Home for Aged Colored People. Later she was a college physician at Wilberforce University. In 1911, she delivered a paper, “Colored American Women”” at the Universal Race Congress in London.

Documents:

“Mrs. Garnet’s Reception,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 25 June 1907.

“Mrs. Sarah J. S. Garnet, who for many years was the principal of Public School No. 80 and who was an active worker or the retention of Afro-American teachers in the public schools of this state and is now on the retired teachers’ list, gave a reception to New York teachers at her residence, 74 Hancock Street, last evening. There was an excellent program of impromptu speeches varied with music by Professor [Walter] Craig, a pupil of Mrs. Garnet.”

“School to change name in honor of 1st African-American female principal in NYC”

http://brooklyn.news12.com/story/40287636/school-to-change-name-in-honor-of-1st-africanamerican-female-principal-in-nyc

An elementary school in Prospect Heights is changing its name to honor Sarah Smith Garnet, the first African-American female school principal in New York City. P.S. 9 Teunis G Bergen is currently named after a Brooklyn politician in the 1800s who was a slave owner. Parents say the current name sends a bad message. For the past year, parents have discussed changing the name and students got involved. Ninety-three fifth-graders signed a petition for the name change. The new name was decided by a vote. The Department of Education is backing the decision calling Garnet, “a trail-blazing leader who changed our schools and city.” The school’s principal says it is an empowering move for the school, where 40% of the students are black. “It’s important for our children to understand that everyone has a voice and no matter your race, your religion, no matter who you are, you do have a voice and your voice counts,” says principal Sandra D’Avilar.

MARASMUS INFANTUM, By S. S. McKinney, M. D., BROOKLYN, N. Y.

https://archive.org/stream/transactions14yorkgoog/transactions14yorkgoog_djvu.txt

Of the many diseases to which children are victims, marasmus is to me one of the most interesting, from the fact that my success in entering upon and building up a comparatively fair practice is, in a measure, due to the good results I have had in the treatment of this disease. One of my very first cases after graduation was that of a little patient afflicted with this disease, whose parents had become discouraged with the old school treatment, and, as they stated, were willing to give me a trial. The case was a typical one. I put forth my best efforts, supplemented by careful nursing on the part of a loving and intelligent mother, and in time my little patient rounded out into a fine healthy looking child, rewarding my labors in its behalf by being the means of other children being brought to me, similarly afflicted. Thus all along the line up to the present time I find myself being called upon as one able to alleviate the sufferings, if not always able to cure the condition.

The word marasmus is derived from the Greek, meaning ‘I grow lean,’ and is used synonymously with the word atrophy. The name has been fitly chosen for the condition, and indicates a general waste of all the tissues from malnutrition. This disease may develop at any stage of infantile life, and is chiefly the result of the following causes: Unsuitable food, chronic vomiting, chronic diarrhea, worm in the alimentary canal, and more especially inherited syphilis.

The most prominent symptoms are: Emaciation exhaustion, hectic fever, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, dark and shriveled skin, anorexia or great voracity, thirst, sweats, bloated and hard abdomen, enlargement of the glands, great restlessness and nervous irritability, and a host of other symptoms.

In taking charge of a case of this disease, I make it a rule never to promise a cure, but say I will do all I can to restore the little patient to health. I shape my course of treatment to suit each individual case as presented, directing careful attention to the dietary and hygienic needs of the little patients and apply homoeopathic remedies according to their symptomatology.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931): A Black Life that Mattered

Source: https://spartacus-educational.com/FWWwells.htm

In 1901, Ida B. Well published Lynching and the Excuse for It. She argued that the main reasons for lynchings was to intimidate Blacks from demanding their rights and to maintain white power in the South. She was a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909 and headed the organization’s push to make lynching a federal crime. A strong supporter of the right of women to vote, she challenged segregation in the suffrage movement, refusing to march in the back of a march in Washington with a separate black delegation of women. In 1894, Ida B. Wells married Fernand Barnett and they had four children.

Documents:

On Women’s Rights (1886): “I will not begin at this late day by doing what my soul abhors; sugaring men, weak deceitful creatures, with flattery to retain them as escorts or to gratify a revenge.”

Preface to Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases (1892): “The greater part of what is contained in these pages was published in the New York Age June 25, 1892, in explanation of the editorial which the Memphis whites considered sufficiently infamous to justify the destruction of my paper, The Free Speech. Since the appearance of that statement, requests have come from all parts of the country that ‘Exiled,’ (the name under which it then appeared) be issued in pamphlet form . . . It is with no pleasure I have dipped my hands in the corruption here exposed. Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so. The awful death-roll that Judge Lynch is calling every week is appalling, not only because of the lives it takes, the rank cruelty and outrage to the victims, but because of the prejudice it fosters and the stain it places against the good name of a weak race. The Afro-American is not a bestial race. If this work can contribute in any way toward proving this, and at the same time arouse the conscience of the American people to a demand for justice to every citizen, and punishment by law for the lawless, I shall feel I have done my race a service. Other considerations are of minor importance.”

Letter to President McKinley (1898): “For nearly twenty years lynching crimes have been committed and permitted by this Christian nation. Nowhere in the civilized world save the United States of America do men, possessing all civil and political power, go out in bands of 50 to 5,000 to hunt down, shoot, hang or burn to death a single individual, unarmed and absolutely powerless. Statistics show that nearly 10,000 American citizens have been lynched in the past 20 years. To our appeals for justice the stereotyped reply has been the government could not interfere in a state matter.”

Protest Against the Execution of 12 Black Soldiers (1917): “The result of the court-martial of those who had fired on the police and the citizens of Houston was that twelve of them were condemned to be hanged and the remaining members of that immediate regiment were sentenced to Leavenworth for different terms of imprisonment. The twelve were afterward hanged by the neck until they were dead, and, according to the newspapers, their bodies were thrown into nameless graves. This was done to placate southern hatred. It seemed to me a terrible thing that our government would take the lives of men who had bared their breasts fighting for the defence of our country.”

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Crusade for Justice (1828): “All my life I had known that such conditions were accepted as a matter of course. I found that this rape of helpless Negro girls and women, which began in slavery days, still continued without let or hindrance, check or reproof from the church, state, or press until there had been created this race within a race – and all designated by the inclusive term of ‘colored.’ I also found that what the white man of the South practiced as all right for himself, he assumed to be unthinkable in white women. They could and did fall in love with the pretty mulatto and quadroon girls as well as black ones, but they professed an inability to imagine white women doing the same thing with Negro and mulatto men. Whenever they did so and were found out, the cry of rape was raised, and the lowest element of the white South was turned loose to wreak its fiendish cruelty on those too weak to help themselves. No torture of helpless victims by heathen savages or cruel red Indians ever exceeded the cold-blooded savagery of white devils under lynch law. This was done by white men who controlled all the forces of law and order in their communities and who could have legally punished rapists and murderers, especially black men who had neither political power nor financial strength with which to evade any justly deserved fate. The more I studied the situation, the more I was convinced that the Southerner had never gotten over his resentment that the Negro was no longer his plaything, his servant, and his source of income . . . I’d rather go down in history as one lone Negro who dared to tell the government that it had done a dastardly thing than to save my skin by taking back what I have said. I would consider it an honour to spend whatever years are necessary in prison as the one member of the race who protested, rather than to be with all the 11,999,999 Negroes who didn’t have to go to prison because they kept their mouths shut.”

W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963): A Black Life that Mattered

Source: https://spartacus-educational.com/USAdubois.htm

W.E.B. DuBois was a leading American scholar and civil rights activist at the end of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. He was the first African American to earn a doctorate at Harvard University, a founder of the NAACP in 1909, and editor of its journal, The Crisis.

William Edward Burghardt DuBois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1868. After graduating from high school, he earned a scholarship to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee where he worked as a teacher while attending school. DuBois studied for two years at the University of Berlin and then returned to the United States to complete his education. His Harvard doctoral dissertation on the trans-Atlantic slave trade was later published as a book. His other influential books included The Souls of Black Folk, a biography of John Brown, and Black Reconstruction in America.

As editor of The Crisis, DuBois campaigned against lynchings and Jim Crow laws and for women’s suffrage and equal rights. He also became a socialist, supporting Eugene Debs for President in 1912. His positions brought him into sharp conflict with other African American leaders, particularly Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey.

Starting in the 1930s, DuBois’ views were increasingly aligned with Marxism and its interpretation of race relations in the United States. He supported Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party candidacy for President in 1948, was the party’s candidate for the United States Senate from New York in 1950, and in 1951, during the McCarthy anti-communist witch hunts he was accused of being a Soviet agent and denied a U.S. passport.

In 1961, DuBois joined the Communist Party – USA declaring “Capitalism cannot reform itself. Communism – the effort to give all men what they need and to ask of each the best they can contribute – this is the only way of human life.” DuBois moved to Ghana at the age of 91 where he became a citizen and lived until his death.

Documents:

The Philadelphia Negro (1899): “Such discrimination is morally wrong, politically dangerous, industrially wasteful, and socially silly. It is the duty of the whites to stop it, and to do so primarily for their own sakes. Industrial freedom of opportunity has by long experience been proven to be generally best for all. Moreover the cost of crime and pauperism, the growth of slums, and the pernicious influence of idleness and lewdness, cost the public far more than would the hurt to the feelings of a carpenter to work beside a black man, or a shop girl to start beside a darker mate.”

The Forethought, The Souls of Black Folks (1903): “Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here at the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.” 

Speech at the Niagara Movement (1906): “We will not be satisfied to take one jot or tittle less than our full manhood rights. We claim for ourselves every single right that belongs to a free-born American, political, civil and social; and until we get these rights we will never cease to protest and assail the ears of America. The battle we wage is not for ourselves alone but for all true Americans.”

The Crisis (1911): “Every argument for Negro suffrage is an argument for women’s suffrage; every argument for women’s suffrage is an argument for Negro suffrage; both are great moments in democracy. There should be on the part of Negroes absolutely no hesitation whenever and wherever responsible human beings are without voice in their government. The man of Negro blood who hesitates to do them justice is false to his race, his ideals and his country.”

Black Reconstruction in America (1935): “The unending tragedy of Reconstruction is the utter inability of the American mind to grasp its real significance, its national and world wide implications . . . This problem involved the very foundations of American democracy, both political and economic.”

The Autobiography of W.E.B. DuBois (1968): “Perhaps the most extraordinary characteristic of current America is the attempt to reduce life to buying and selling. Life is not love unless love is sex and bought and sold. Life is not knowledge save knowledge of technique, of science for destruction. Life is not beauty except beauty for sale. Life is not art unless its price is high and it is sold for profit. All life is production for profit, and for what is profit but for buying and selling again?”

A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979): A Black Life that Mattered

Source: https://spartacus-educational.com/USArandolph.htm

Asa Philip Randolph was born in Florida in 1889. His father was a tailor and an African Methodist Episcopal Church minister. His mother was a seamstress. After high school, Randolph moved north to attend the City College of New York where he studied economics and philosophy, became a socialist, and founded The Messenger, a radical monthly magazine that opposed lynching and U.S. participation in World War I. Randolph was arrested and charged with treason for urging African American men to avoid the military draft but was never prosecuted. As a member of the Socialist Party, Randolph ran a number of unsuccessful campaigns for local office in New York City. During the 1920s, A. Philip Randolph organized Black workers in laundries, clothes factories, and sleeping car porters and in 1929 became president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

Documents:

The Messenger, July 1918: “We are fighting ‘to make the world safe for democracy,’ to carry democracy to Germany . . . We are conscripting the Negro into the military and industrial establishments to achieve this end for white democracy four thousand miles away, while the Negro at home, through bearing the burden in every way, is denied economic, political, educational and civil democracy.”

The Messenger, July 1919: “The IWW is the only labor organization in the United States which draws no race or color line. There is another reason why Negroes should join the IWW. The Negro must engage in direct action. He is forced to do this by the Government. When the whites speak of direct action, they are told to use their political power. But with the Negro it is different. He has no political power. Therefore the only recourse the Negro has is industrial action, and since he must combine with those forces which draw no line against him, it is simply logical for him to draw his lot with the Industrial Workers of the World.”

Statement on Proposed March on Washington (January 1941): “Negro America must bring its power and pressure to bear upon the agencies and representatives of the Federal Government to exact their rights in National Defense employment and the armed forces of the country. I suggest that ten thousand Negroes march on Washington, D. C. with the slogan: “We loyal Negro American citizens demand the right to work and fight for our country.” No propaganda could be whipped up and spread to the effect that Negroes seek to hamper defense. No charge could be made that Negroes are attempting to mar national unity. They want to do none of these things. On the contrary, we seek the right to play our part in advancing the cause of national defense and national unity. But certainly there can be no national unity where one tenth of the population are denied their basic rights as American citizens.”

Speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (August 1963): “We are not an organization or a group of organizations. We are not a mob. We are the advance guard of a massive moral revolution for jobs and freedom. The revolution reverberates throughout the land, touching every city, every town, every village where blacks are segregated, oppressed and exploited. But this civil rights demonstration is not confined to the Negro; nor is it confined to civil rights; for our white allies knew that they cannot be free while we are not. And we know that we have no future in which six million black and white people are unemployed, and millions more live in poverty. Those who deplore our militancy, who exhort patience in the name of a false peace, are in fact supporting segregation and exploitation. They would have social peace at the expense of social and racial justice. They are more concerned with easing racial tensions than enforcing racial democracy.”

Paul Robeson (1898-1976): A Black Life that Mattered

Paul Robeson was an American social activist, actor, singer, lawyer, and All-American athlete. As an activist, he received global recognition, but in the United States he was persecuted for his radical ideas and suspected communist ties. In August 1949, rioters supported by local law enforcement and the KKK prevented him from performing at a concert in Peekskill, New York. In 1950, his passport was revoked by the United States State Department and in 1956 he was forced to appear at a sub-committee hearing of the House Un-American Activities Committee where he was threatened with indictment for contempt of Congress.

In 1945, Robeson received the NAACP Spingarn medal for outstanding achievement by an African American. In 1978, after his death, he was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly for his efforts challenging apartheid in South Africa. He is a member of the College Football, American Theater, and New Jersey Hall of Fames.

Robeson was born on April 9, 1898, in Princeton, New Jersey. He was the youngest child of Maria Louisa Robeson and Reverend William Robeson, a Presbyterian minister. Reverend Robeson was born enslaved in North Carolina in 1844. In 1901, Reverend Robeson was forced to resign as pastor of the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church in Princeton because of his outspoken opposition to racial injustice. Paul Robeson credited his commitment to social justice to the way his father was treated.

During World War II, Robeson help rally Americans to support the war effort. In 1940 he broadcast and then recorded Ballad for Americans, a song that defined the United States as an inclusive nation committed to rights for all. Although many considered Robeson the country’s leading entertainer and he continually performed in benefit concerts, he was sometimes prevented from performing or staying in hotels because of racial segregation. In New York City, Robeson performed at the Polo Grounds, the former stadium of the Giants baseball team and at Lewisohn Stadium on the City College campus, both located in Harlem. Among his other interests, Robeson lobbied to desegregate Major League Baseball.

Robeson’s political troubles began at the conclusion of the war. After four African Americans were lynched in July 1946, Robeson met with President Harry Truman. The meeting ended abruptly when Truman declared it was not the right time for a federal anti-lynching law. Robeson responded by founding the American Crusade Against Lynching.

In his testimony before the House Un-American Activities sub-committee, excerpted below from the History Matters website, Paul Robeson accused committee members of being the real Un-Americans and defended fundamental American constitutional rights. James Earl Jones has a narrated version of the testimony available on YouTube.

Document: Testimony of Paul Robeson before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, June 12, 1956

Source: Congress, House, Committee on Un-American Activities, Investigation of the Unauthorized Use of U.S. Passports, 84th Congress, Part 3, June 12, 1956; in Thirty Years of Treason: Excerpts from Hearings Before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, 1938–1968, Eric Bentley, ed. (New York: Viking Press, 1971), 770.

Part 1: “Are you now a member of the Communist Party?”

RICHARD ARENS (counsel for HUAC and a former aide to Senator McCarthy): Are you now a member of the Communist Party?

PAUL ROBESON: Oh please, please, please.

CONG. GORDON SCHERER (R-OH): Please answer, will you, Mr. Robeson?

PAUL ROBESON: What is the Communist Party? What do you mean by that?

CONG. SCHERER: I ask that you direct the witness to answer the question.

PAUL ROBESON: What do you mean by the Communist Party? As far as I know it is a legal party like the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Do you mean a party of people who have sacrificed for my people, and for all Americans and workers, that they can live in dignity? Do you mean that party?

ARENS: Are you now a member of the Communist Party?

PAUL ROBESON: Would you like to come to the ballot box when I vote and take out the ballot and see?

ARENS: Mr. Chairman, I respectfully suggest that the witness be ordered and directed to answer that question.

CONG. FRANCIS WALTER, CHAIRMAN (D-PA): You are directed to answer the question.

PAUL ROBESON: I stand upon the Fifth Amendment of the American Constitution.

ARENS: Do you mean you invoke the Fifth Amendment?

PAUL ROBESON: I invoke the Fifth Amendment.

ARENS: Do you honestly apprehend that if you told this Committee truthfully —

PAUL ROBESON: I have no desire to consider anything. I invoke the Fifth Amendment, and it is none of your business what I would like to do, and I invoke the Fifth Amendment . . . [W]herever I have been in the world, Scandinavia, England, and many places, the first to die in the struggle against Fascism were the Communists and I laid many wreaths upon graves of Communists. It is not criminal, and the Fifth Amendment has nothing to do with criminality. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Warren, has been very clear on that in many speeches, that the Fifth Amendment does not have anything to do with the inference of criminality. I invoke the Fifth Amendment.

Part 2: “To whom am I talking?”

PAUL ROBESON: To whom am I talking?

CONG. WALTER: You are speaking to the Chairman of this Committee.

PAUL ROBESON: Mr. Walter?

CONG. WALTER:  Yes.

PAUL ROBESON: The Pennsylvania Walter?

CONG. WALTER: That is right.

PAUL ROBESON: Representative of the steelworkers?

CONG. WALTER:  That is right.

PAUL ROBESON: Of the coal-mining workers and not United States Steel, by any chance? A great patriot.

CONG. WALTER:  That is right.

PAUL ROBESON: You are the author of all of the bills that are going to keep all kinds of decent people out of the country.

CONG. WALTER:  No, only your kind.

PAUL ROBESON: Colored people like myself, from the West Indies and all kinds. And just the Teutonic Anglo-Saxon stock that you would let come in.

CONG. WALTER:  We are trying to make it easier to get rid of your kind, too.

PAUL ROBESON: You do not want any colored people to come in?

Part 3: “The reason I am here today”

PAUL ROBESON: Could I say that the reason that I am here today, you know, from the mouth of the State Department itself, is: I should not be allowed to travel because I have struggled for years for the independence of the colonial peoples of Africa. For many years I have so labored and I can say modestly that my name is very much honored all over Africa, in my struggles for their independence . . . The other reason that I am here today, again from the State Department and from the court record of the court of appeals, is that when I am abroad I speak out against the injustices against the Negro people of this land. I sent a message to the Bandung Conference and so forth. That is why I am here. This is the basis, and I am not being tried for whether I am a Communist, I am being tried for fighting for the rights of my people, who are still second-class citizens in this United States of America. My mother was born in your state, Mr. Walter, and my mother was a Quaker, and my ancestors in the time of Washington baked bread for George Washington’s troops when they crossed the Delaware, and my own father was a slave. I stand here struggling for the rights of my people to be full citizens in this country. And they are not. They are not in Mississippi. And they are not in Montgomery, Alabama. And they are not in Washington. They are nowhere, and that is why I am here today. You want to shut up every Negro who has the courage to stand up and fight for the rights of his people, for the rights of workers, and I have been on many a picket line for the steelworkers too. And that is why I am here today.”

Part 4: “I belong to the American resistance movement.”

PAUL ROBESON: Would you please let me read my statement at some point?

CONG. WALTER: We will consider your statement.

ARENS: I do not hesitate one second to state clearly and unmistakably: I belong to the American resistance movement which fights against American imperialism, just as the resistance movement fought against Hitler.

PAUL ROBESON: Just like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman were underground railroaders, and fighting for our freedom, you bet your life . . . Four hundred million in India, and millions everywhere, have told you, precisely, that the colored people are not going to die for anybody: they are going to die for their independence. We are dealing not with fifteen million colored people, we are dealing with hundreds of millions.

Part 5: “My people died to build this country.”

PAUL ROBESON: In Russia I felt for the first time like a full human being. No color prejudice like in Mississippi, no color prejudice like in Washington. It was the first time I felt like a human being. Where I did not feel the pressure of color as I feel [it] in this Committee today.

CONG. SCHERER: Why do you not stay in Russia?

PAUL ROBESON: Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay here, and have a part of it just like you. And no Fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear? I am for peace with the Soviet Union, and I am for peace with China, and I am not for peace or friendship with the Fascist Franco, and I am not for peace with Fascist Nazi Germans. I am for peace with decent people.

CONG. SCHERER: You are here because you are promoting the Communist cause.

PAUL ROBESON: I am here because I am opposing the neo-Fascist cause which I see arising in these committees. You are like the Alien [and] Sedition Act, and Jefferson could be sitting here, and Frederick Douglass could be sitting here, and Eugene Debs could be here . . .[Y]ou gentlemen belong with the Alien and Sedition Acts, and you are the non-patriots, and you are the un-Americans, and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

Ralph Bunche (1904-1971): A Black Life that Mattered

Documents:

Segregation in Los Angeles (1926)

“I hope that the future generations of our race rise as one to combat this vicious habit at every opportunity until it is completely broken down. I want to tell you that when I think of such outrageous atrocities as this latest swimming pool incident, which has been perpetrated upon Los Angeles Negroes, my blood boils. And when I see my people so foolhardy as to patronize such a place, and thus give it their sanction, my disgust is trebled. Any Los Angeles Negro who would go bathing in that dirty hole with that sign—‘For Colored Only,’ gawking down at him in insolent mockery of his Race, is either a fool or a traitor to his kind.”

Some Reflections on Peace in Our Time (1950)

“In this most anxious period of human history, the subject of peace, above every other, commands the solemn attention of all men of reason and goodwill. Moreover, on this particular occasion, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Nobel Foundation, it is eminently fitting to speak of peace. No subject could be closer to my own heart, since I have the honour to speak as a member of the international Secretariat of the United Nations.  In these critical times – times which test to the utmost the good sense, the forbearance, and the morality of every peace-loving people – it is not easy to speak of peace with either conviction or reassurance. True it is that statesmen the world over, exalting lofty concepts and noble ideals, pay homage to peace and freedom in a perpetual torrent of eloquent phrases. But the statesmen also speak darkly of the lurking threat of war; and the preparations for war ever intensify, while strife flares or threatens in many localities.

The words used by statesmen in our day no longer have a common meaning. Perhaps they never had. Freedom, democracy, human rights, international morality, peace itself, mean different things to different men. Words, in a constant flow of propaganda – itself an instrument of war – are employed to confuse, mislead, and debase the common man. Democracy is prostituted to dignify enslavement; freedom and equality are held good for some men but withheld from others by and in allegedly “democratic” societies; in “free” societies, so-called, individual human rights are severely denied; aggressive adventures are launched under the guise of “liberation”. Truth and morality are subverted by propaganda, on the cynical assumption that truth is whatever propaganda can induce people to believe. Truth and morality, therefore, become gravely weakened as defences against injustice and war. With what great insight did Voltaire, hating war enormously, declare: ‘War is the greatest of all crimes; and yet there is no aggressor who does not colour his crime with the pretext of justice’.”

Racial Prejudice in America (1954)

“The existence of racial prejudice, the practice of racial or religious bigotry in our midst today, should be the active concern of every American who believes in our democratic way of life. Such attitudes and practices subvert the foundation principles of our society. They are more costly and more dangerous today than ever before in our history. Indeed, it is impossible to calculate the tremendous costs to the nation of such attitudes and their shameful manifestations. They are a seriously divisive influence amongst our people. They create resentment, unrest and disturbances in our communities. They deprive us of our maximum national unity at a time when our way of life and all that we stand for is gravely threatened from without. They prevent us from using a substantial part of our manpower effectively, even though we are seriously short of manpower, to meet the challenge confronting us from an external world.”

Letter to 4th graders (1964)

“The habit of always looking on the bright side of things may make one appear naive now and then, but in my experience it is the best antidote for worry and ulcers. I am often called an optimist. No doubt I am; but if so, it is by training rather than by nature – my mother’s training. I am convinced that nothing is ever finally lost until faith and hope and dreams are abandoned, and then everything is lost. This, I feel, is what my mother meant.”

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977): A Black Life that Mattered

Fannie Lou Townsend’s parents were sharecroppers on the Marlow Plantation in the Mississippi River delta region of Sunflower County, Mississippi. Fannie Lou was the youngest of her parent’s twenty children. As a child, Hamer helped her family pick cotton and grow corn. She was only able to attend school until sixth grade. In 1945, Fannie Lou married Perry Hamer, a tractor driver and sharecropper on the Marlow plantation. The couple never had children.

In 1961, Hamer had a hysterectomy and was sterilized without her consent. It is suspected this was part of a plan by the State of Mississippi to reduce the number of poor blacks in the state.

 In 1962, after participating in a bus trip organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to register African-Americans voters, Fanny Lou Hamer was recruited to work for that organization. Her demand to vote led to threats on her life and the lives of family members and she was forced to move away to protect them.

In June 1963, Fanny Lou Hamer was arrested on a false charge and severely beaten by police in Winona, Mississippi. In 1964, she helped found and was elected vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. On August 22, 1964, Hamer addressed the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey where she challenged Mississippi’s all-white and anti-civil rights delegation. Hamer ran for Congress in 1964 and 1965, and in 1968 was a member of Mississippi’s official delegation to the Democratic National Convention. She died of heart failure in 1977.

This biography of Fannie Lou Hamer is drawn from a number of online sources including Timeline, Wikipedia, and American Public Media. It concludes with excerpts from her testimony at the 1964 Democratic Party presidential nominating convention and a speech she delivered in Harlem, New York in December 1964.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fannie_Lou_Hamer

https://timeline.com/hamer-speech-voting-rights-d5f6ddc7470a

Documents:

Fannie Lou Hamer testifies before the Credentials Committee of the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey (August 22, 1964)

http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/sayitplain/flhamer.html

“My name is Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, and I live at 626 East Lafayette Street, Ruleville, Mississippi, Sunflower County, the home of Senator James O. Eastland, and Senator Stennis. It was the 31st of August in 1962 that eighteen of us traveled twenty-six miles to the county courthouse in Indianola to try to register to become first-class citizens. We were met in Indianola by policemen, Highway Patrolmen, and they only allowed two of us in to take the literacy test at the time. After we had taken this test and started back to Ruleville, we were held up by the City Police and the State Highway Patrolmen and carried back to Indianola where the bus driver was charged that day with driving a bus the wrong color.

After we paid the fine among us, we continued on to Ruleville, and Reverend Jeff Sunny carried me four miles in the rural area where I had worked as a timekeeper and sharecropper for eighteen years. I was met there by my children, who told me that the plantation owner was angry because I had gone down to try to register. After they told me, my husband came, and said the plantation owner was raising Cain because I had tried to register. Before he quit talking the plantation owner came and said, “Fannie Lou, do you know – did Pap tell you what I said?” And I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “Well I mean that.” He said, “If you don’t go down and withdraw your registration, you will have to leave” . . . And I addressed him and told him and said, “I didn’t try to register for you. I tried to register for myself.” I had to leave that same night.

June the 9th, 1963, I had attended a voter registration workshop; was returning back to Mississippi. Ten of us was traveling by the Continental Trailway bus. When we got to Winona, Mississippi . . . I stepped off of the bus to see what was happening and somebody screamed from the car that the five workers were in and said, “Get that one there.” When I went to get in the car, when the man told me I was under arrest, he kicked me. I was carried to the county jail . . . And it wasn’t too long before three white men came to my cell . . . I was carried out of that cell into another cell where they had two Negro prisoners. The State Highway Patrolmen ordered the first Negro to take the blackjack. The first Negro prisoner ordered me, by orders from the State Highway Patrolman, for me to lay down on a bunk bed on my face. I laid on my face and the first Negro began to beat. I was beat by the first Negro until he was exhausted. I was holding my hands behind me at that time on my left side, because I suffered from polio when I was six years old. After the first Negro had beat until he was exhausted, the State Highway Patrolman ordered the second Negro to take the blackjack . . . Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?”

“I’m Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired,” Harlem, New York (Dec. 20, 1964)

https://awpc.cattcenter.iastate.edu/2019/08/09/im-sick-and-tired-of-being-sick-and-tired-dec-20-1964/

“For three hundred years, we’ve given them time. And I’ve been tired so long, now I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and we want a change. We want a change in this society in America because, you see, we can no longer ignore the facts and getting our children to sing, “Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed.” What do we have to hail here? The truth is the only thing going to free us. And you know this whole society is sick . . . But this is something we going to have to learn to do and quit saying that we are free in America when I know we are not free. You are not free in Harlem. The people are not free in Chicago, because I’ve been there, too. They are not free in Philadelphia, because I’ve been there, too. And when you get it over with all the way around, some of the places is a Mississippi in disguise. And we want a change. And we hope you support us in this challenge.”