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

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

Charles F. Howlett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaching the 1898 Wilmington Race Massacre using the History Lab Model

Teaching the 1898 Wilmington Race Massacre using the History Lab Model

Cara Ward and Lisa Brown Buchanan

Instances of racial violence towards Black Americans have a longstanding history in the United States. Though a few events and names are recalled most often in textbooks (e.g., Freedom Rides, Nat Turner) their retellings are generally presented from a White viewpoint; in fact, some events have been completely omitted from formal curriculum. This article discusses the teaching of racial violence in the United States, explores how Black historical principles of power and oppression can frame the study of events of racial violence, and outlines a concrete history lab designed to study the 1898 Wilmington Race Massacre (also commonly called the Wilmington Coup or Wilmington Insurrection).

An Overview of the Teaching of Racial Violence

Scholars of teaching Black history have documented the teaching and omission of racial violence towards Black and African Americans for decades (see, for example, Brown, Brown, & Ward, 2017; Busey & Walker 2017; Love, 2019; Vasquez Heilig, Brown, & Brown, 2012). Most research on teaching Black history has focused on PK-12 teaching and knowledge (Woodson, 2017), with some analysis of preservice teachers’ knowledge of Black history (King, 2019). More recently, resources for classroom teachers have become available that are focused on centering the Black experience and perspectives, particularly in experiences of racial violence (see, for example, Learning for Justice’s Teaching Hard History podcast series, New York Times’ 1619 Project, Facing History and Ourselves’ Race in US History collection) and some scholars have described pedagogical approaches to teaching Black history with accuracy and intention in K-12 (Simmons, 2016; Vickery, & Rodríguez, 2021; Vickery & Salinas, 2019).

Some have argued Black history is American history, suggesting a shared legacy between Black and White Americans (King, 2021) which is generally untrue. Others have taken this sentiment to task, pointing out that while the teaching of Black history altogether has been sidelined or disregarded, at best, the teaching of racial violence has been overwhelmingly avoided or if taught at all, with tremendous gaps and inaccuracies (Brown & Brown, 2010a, 2010b, 2011; Woodson, 2017).

In order to improve Black history education historical and contemporary racial violence must be taught as part of American history and Black history (King, 2021). As Brown, Brown, and Ward (2017) explain, classroom investigations of racial violence taught within the context of students’ lives presents a curriculum that “acknowledges race and racism in their present lives.” Using a framework of Black historical consciousness is one way to study racial violence within the context of Black history.

Teaching the Wilmington Race Massacre through Principles of Black Historical Consciousness

Scholars have described the need for teaching a more complete story of Black history (e.g., King, 2021; Muhammad, 2020; Rodríguez & Vickery, 2020) and using a Black historical consciousness framework centers the Black experience and perspective, both largely missing from traditional retellings of Black history. King describes six principles of Black historical consciousness (see King, 2021). While all are in some way directly related to racial violence, in this article, we focus on the principle of power and oppression (King, 2021). King (2021) suggests racial violence as a potential topic for the principle of power and oppression, and similar to our use of the history lab below to examine racial violence, suggests the use of compelling questions that align with interrogating systemic racism. Recognizing that “it is important to understand that Black people have been victims or victimized by oppressive structures, but have never been solely victims (King, 2021, p. 338)” teaching the Wilmington, NC Race Massacre of 1898 through the lens of power and oppression provides a historical context and conscious that is missing in traditional teaching of Black history and illustrates how power and oppression are created and sustained through society (King, 2021, p. 338). Complex ideas like power and oppression are often difficult knowledge for learners, and in concrete examples like the Wilmington Race Massacre, content may be taboo, rendering it obsolete in curricula and standards. Often coined as “hard history”, such content can be taught in powerful and productive ways. We posit that the history lab model, focused on evidence-based answers, offers the structure to unpack complex ideas of power and oppression while identifying the lasting impact of racial violence through the use of historical sources.

History Labs as an Instructional Strategy for Teaching Difficult Knowledge

Teachers are often wary of including instances of “hard history” as these events can be unsettling and spark tense discussions, especially in the current era of political polarization (McAvoy, 2016). In addition to building a cooperative and supportive classroom community before covering such events, there are instructional methods that can lead to productive classroom discussions and a deeper understanding of complex history. One such method is a history lab; first described by Bruce Lesh (2011), this form of instruction includes three main components:  a compelling question, sources to examine, and an evidence-based answer. This teaching method is inquiry-based and includes components of Swan, Lee, and Grant’s (2015) Inquiry Design Model which is now widely used in the field of social studies.

To create a history lab, teachers develop an overarching, open-ended question called a compelling question for students to consider. Swan, Lee, and Grant (2018, 2019) have devoted a chapter in each of their books on the Inquiry Design Model to the topic of compelling questions and how to develop them. After question development, teachers select related sources for students to examine, often a mix of primary sources for details and secondary sources for background information and clarification. After presenting the question and sources to students, teachers facilitate the examination of the documents, reminding students to cite evidence from the documents while formulating their answer to the compelling question (Lesh, 2011).

Careful facilitation of discussion is the key to the effectiveness of this teaching method since it is critical for students to cite evidence in their answers. The most effective history labs are structured in ways that allow student interaction and opportunities to share thoughts throughout instead of just working through a “packet” and writing an individual response. An important first step is determining how to have students examine the primary and secondary sources that are presented. This can be done via gallery walks, jigsaw grouping, small group analysis, and whole group seminar style examination (Author, 2017; Author, 2018; Authors, 2020). Creating guiding questions, prompts, or a graphic organizer to help guide students through a lab can also be beneficial.

Another important consideration in the pandemic-induced era of increased online learning is whether a lab will take place synchronously or asynchronously. While the traditional face-to-face classroom setting is ideal, labs can also work well in either the fully virtual or hybrid classroom. Online synchronous methods such as breakout rooms can be used as a method for having small groups examine sources together. Another effective synchronous method is a whole class seminar-style discussion where students can speak one at a time or even use the chat to respond. For asynchronous course delivery, teachers can put the question and sources in a Google Doc or Jamboard and ask students to share thoughts by adding comments. Another option is to use the discussion board feature in a learning management system such as Google Classroom or Canvas for students to respond to individual sources. Teachers can also use video response and sharing tools such as Flipgrid for students to record their evidence-based answer to a compelling question. For hybrid models, teachers can ask students to examine sources ahead of time, using some of the online tools mentioned above, and then use face-to-face time in class for a whole group discussion.

The 1898 Wilmington Massacre

One example of hard history that can be effectively examined through the use of a history lab is the 1898 Wilmington Massacre. November 10, 1898 was a day of horrific racial violence inflicted upon the thriving, successful Black community in the coastal town of Wilmington, North Carolina. An election year, 1898 had been filled with White supremacist propaganda in local and state newspapers which ultimately led to intimidation of Black voters and a rigged election in Wilmington on November 8th. Two days later, a White mob armed themselves, burned the office of the local Black newspaper The Daily Record to the ground, and took over the city’s biracial government by violent force. During the chaos, the mob killed approximately 60 Black citizens (likely more as an official death toll was impossible to determine) and forced untold numbers out of town. The mayor and members of the board of aldermen were replaced by White supremacists. The event holds great historic significance not only on a local and state level, but also on a national scale. It is the only successful coup d’état in the history of the United States (McCluskey, 2018; Everett, 2015; Tyson, 2006; Umfleet, 2009) and is an example of the extreme violence and resulting large-scale loss of life that could occur as a result of the rise of angry White supremacists in the Jim Crow era. The 1898 Massacre has been compared to what happened in Tulsa in 1921 (Everett, 2015; Umfleet, 2015) and has been referenced multiple times in coverage of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol (Butler-Arnold, 2021; Cornish, 2021; Hayes, 2021; Ingram, 2021; Meyers, 2021).

The significance of this event is ever-increasing and the economic, social, and political impact is still apparent in Wilmington, NC today. As with other events of racial violence, this event has been largely overlooked and rarely taught, even in North Carolina, due to a lack of information about the event (Everett, 2015). Even the terminology used to describe the event is still evolving – originally called a race riot, in recent years, it has been referred to as an insurrection, massacre, and coup d’état (Fonvielle, 2018; Tyson, 2006; Zucchino, 2020). For all of these reasons, the Wilmington Race Massacre should be taught with middle and secondary students and we believe a history lab is the most appropriate method for studying the event.

A History Lab about the 1898 Wilmington Massacre

We offer the following example of a history lab about 1898 that we developed for students to demonstrate how the work described above can be done. The lab described below can be found at https://tinyurl.com/1898historylab  and is formatted as a view-only Google Slides presentation. This format allows teachers who would like to use the lab either a ready-made version that can be used right away or the flexibility to make a copy of the document to edit for their specific instructional needs. The original sources are linked in the speaker notes area for each slide.

While there are many questions that could be asked about this event, we feel that asking students to examine the long-term impact of the 1898 is most critical to their comprehension of the scale and significance of this event. Therefore, our compelling question is “What is the lasting impact of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre?”

In order to introduce the lab, we have included two sources, one primary and one secondary to give students some background information before they begin analyzing sources. The first source (slide 2) is a photograph of the mob in front of the burnt remains of The Daily Record newspaper office. The next source (slide 3) is a 12-minute video published by Vox which gives a brief, but informative summary of the event. These two sources give students some sense of what happened so that they have some frame of reference for the additional sources.

We selected three guiding questions to help direct student thinking and analysis throughout the lab. For each of these questions, we selected three sources for students to examine. In terms of format for this lab, we recommend dividing the class into three groups (1, 2, 3) and having each group thoroughly examine one of the questions and the accompanying sources, thus allowing a group of students to become “experts” on their assigned question. After this analysis, the class should “jigsaw” into three new groups (A, B, C) which each include members from groups 1, 2, and 3. In groups A, B, and C, the representatives for each question should take turns sharing their analysis of their assigned question with the group so all can gain a sense of what happened and begin to consider what the lasting impact is.

What were the events that led to the 1898 Wilmington Massacre?

For this question, we selected a photograph of the waterfront in downtown Wilmington in the late 1800s which shows the prominent display of White supremacy banners (slide 7). We also selected an excerpt from a speech by Rebecca Lattimore Felton during which she endorsed lynching as a punishment for Black men who had relationships with White women (slide 8). The third source we selected for this question was an editorial written by Alexander Manly in response to Felton’s speech where he points out the unjust and hypocritical nature of her stance (slide 9). These sources should give students a glimpse of the extent to which White supremacy impacted daily life and conversations. While all of the sources in the lab are about a violent event, it should also be noted that Felton’s full speech and Manly’s full editorial which are linked include references to rape. We recommend that teachers thoroughly examine all the sources themselves before presenting them to students.

What happened during the event?

The first source for this question is a telegram sent to then President of the United States, William McKinley warning him of the volatile situation in Wilmington (slide 11). The next source is a map marking the location of those wounded and killed during the event (slide 12). The final source for this question is an interactive timeline and map which gives a comprehensive overview of the events (slide 13). These sources outline the seriousness of the situation and how violent it became.

What was the economic and social impact of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre?

We selected three charts from Umfleet’s (2009) book A Day of Blood for students to examine. The first chart compares the 1897 and 1900 occupations by race for Wilmington citizens (slide 15). The second chart shows the census population by race from 1860 to 1910 for Wilmington (slide 16) and the third chart shows the same data for North Carolina (slide 17). These charts show the loss of economic opportunities for Black Wilmingtonians as well as the decline in the city’s Black population.

We recommend concluding this lab with a whole class discussion focusing back on the compelling question: “What is the lasting impact of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre?” and the evidence that students examined in their groups. Students will likely reference the rise of White supremacy, the loss of human life and the impact on population, economic repercussions such as decreased employment for Black citizens, voter intimidation, and lack of Black political leaders in Wilmington in years that followed the event. Since this is an open-ended question, other responses may be offered as well, but students should back up their ideas with evidence from the sources.

Additional Teacher Resources

We understand that most teachers are unfamiliar with the 1898 Wilmington massacre and may need additional resources to improve their content knowledge of this series of events. We suggest the resources in Table 1 for a more in-depth history of the Wilmington Race Massacre. Teachers may find these sources useful as they study 1898 alongside their students.

  Table 1: Additional Teacher Resources for 1898 Wilmington Race Massacre
Umfleet, L.S. (2009). A day of blood. Raleigh: North Carolina Office of Archives and History.
Zucchino, D. (2020). Wilmington’s lie. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.
Everett, C. (2015). Wilmington on fire [Documentary film]. United States: Speller Street Films.
Oliver, N. (2016). The red cape [Motion picture]. United States.
Footnote: this lab is available for viewing at https://tinyurl.com/1898historylab (tiny URL view only Google Slides)

Conclusion

While this lab focuses on the Wilmington Race Massacre, we would be remiss to not recognize the abhorrent number of massacre events in United States history to date similar to 1898. If we are committed to teaching the story of Black America (King, 2021), we must be willing to navigate a more complete story of race and racism in the United States, which we believe includes studying “hard history”. Bringing together a Black historical consciousness framework and history lab structure is one powerful and productive approach to a more complete story of Black history.

References

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Brown, K.D. & Brown, A.L. (2011). Teaching K-8 students about race: African Americans, racism, & the struggle for social justice in the U.S. Multicultural Education, 19(1), 9-13.

Brown, A. L., & Brown, K. D. (2010a). Strange fruit indeed: Interrogating contemporary textbook representations of racial violence toward African Americans. Teachers College Record, 112(1), 31-67.

Brown, K. D., & Brown, A. L. (2010b). Silenced memories: An examination of the sociocultural knowledge on race and racial violence in official school curriculum. Equity & Excellence in Education, 43(2), 139-154.

Busey, C. L., & Walker, I. (2017). A dream and a bus: Black critical patriotism in elementary social studies standards. Theory & Research in Social Education, 45(4), 456-488.

Butler-Arnold, A. (2021). Why my students weren’t surprised on January 6th. Social Education, 85(1), 8-10.

Cornish, A. (2021, January 8). Race and the Capitol riot: An American story we’ve heard before [Radio Broadcast]. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/transcripts/953286955   

Everett, C. (2015). Wilmington on fire [Documentary film]. United States: Speller Street Films.

Fonvielle, C. (2018, January 24). Email correspondence.

Hayes, C. (2021, January 6). Trump must be lawfully removed from office as fast as possible. MSNBC. Retrieved from https://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/watch/chris-hayes-trump-must-be-lawfully-removed-from-office-as-fast-as-possible-99014213834

Ingram, H. (2021, January 7). 1898 Wilmington massacre and Capitol Hill: Historical parallels at nation’s capital. Star-News. Retrieved from  https://www.starnewsonline.com/story/news/local/2021/01/07/history-shows-parallels-between-1898-wilmington-coup-and-capitol-hill-riot/6579616002/

King, L. (2019). Interpreting Black History: Toward a Black History Framework for Teacher Education. Urban Education, 54(3), 368-396.

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McCluskey, M. (2018, August 5). America’s only coup d’état. Retrieved from https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2018/americas-only-coup-detat  

Meyers, S.. (2021, January 7). Seth Meyers calls for Trump’s removal after violent insurrection at Capitol. [Video]. Youtube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOIFBKB4mIE

Muhammad, G. (2020). Cultivating genius: An equity framework for culturally and historically responsive literacy. Scholastic.

Rodríguez, N.N. and Vickery, A.E. (2020). More than a hamburger: Disrupting problematic picturebook depictions of the Civil Rights Movement. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 21(2), 109-128.

Simmons, D. (2016, February 29). Black history month is over. Now what? Learning for Justice. Retrieved from https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/black-history-month-is-over-now-what

Swan, K., Grant, S. G., & Lee, J. (2019). Blueprinting: An inquiry-based curriculum. National Council for the Social Studies and C3 Teachers.

Swan, K., Lee, J., & Grant, S. G. (2015). The New York state toolkit and the inquiry design model:  Anatomy of an inquiry. Social Education, 79(5), 316-322.

Swan, K., Lee, J., & Grant, S. G. (2018). Inquiry design model: Building inquiries in social studies. National Council for the Social Studies and C3 Teachers.

Tyson, T. B. (2006, November 17). The ghosts of 1898: Wilmington’s race riot and the rise of White supremacy. Retrieved from http://media2.newsobserver.com/content/media/2010/5/3/ghostsof1898.pdf  

Umfleet, L.S. (2009). A day of blood. Raleigh: North Carolina Office of Archives and History.

Vasquez Heilig, J., Brown, K.D., & Brown, A.L. (2012). The illusion of inclusion: A Critical Race Theory textual analysis of race and standards. Harvard Educational Review, 82(3), 403-424.

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Vickery, A.E. and Salinas, C. (2019). “I Question America…. Is this America”: Centering the narratives of Black women in the Civil Rights Movement. Curriculum Inquiry, 49(3), 260-283.

Woodson, A. N. (2017). There ain’t no White people here”: Master narratives of the Civil Rights Movement in the stories of urban youth. Urban Education, 52(3), 316-342.

Zucchino, D. (2020). Wilmington’s lie. Atlantic Monthly Press.

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. 

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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

Bryan Stevenson: On Equality and Social Justice

Bryan Stevenson: I know this to be true

On Equality and Social Justice

Book Reviewed by Hank Bitten, NJCSS Executive Director

I am a history teacher who wanted to learn about the perspectives of racial inequality and social justice as a result of the events during the summer of 2020. Although I have a strong content background in the history of African Americans, slavery, reconstruction, prejudice and discrimination, constitutional law, the economics of poverty, and human rights, I never taught a course on social inequality, criminal justice, or how to address problems in this area.

A former student, Dr. Christopher Borgen, who is a law professor at St. John’s University, introduced me to the Equal Justice Initiative and its founder, Bryan Stevenson. After visiting the EJI website and learning from others that Bryan Stevenson was a past speaker at an NCSS convention, I read his book, all 66 pages in about 30 minutes!

The book was different from what I was expecting. When I read the description on the Amazon website, I was expecting stories of convicted felons on death row who were falsely accused and then represented by Dr. Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative. Instead, I discovered that I shared the same hopes, values, and mission as Bryan Stevenson, even though our life experiences were very different. The things we shared were loving grandmothers, disappointing high school educational experiences, religious faith, and a calling to help people by making a difference in their lives. My world view that we are placed into situations by circumstance (or divine intervention) was reinforced in the 66 pages of what I read.

Bryan Stevenson lived in a rural town in southern Delaware from 1959 until he graduated from Eastern University (PA) in 1977. He attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard where he earned a Master of Arts degree in Public Policy and a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. After moving to Atlanta, he was an attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights in 1989 he founded the non-profit law center, Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery. His life’s work is committed to eliminating life-without-parole sentences and capital punishment for juveniles. The Equal Justice Initiative have won reversals or release for 135 wrongly convicted death row prisoners.

The EJI opened the Legacy Museum in 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama to focus on racial inequality and the challenges of race discrimination in the criminal justice system in the United States. The current digital exhibits on racial justice, Reconstruction, and criminal justice reform are informative.

As a white, middle class, educated person living in a suburban community, my wife and I taught our children and now we are teaching our grandchildren that the police are your friend.  We instill in them that if you are ever in trouble to seek the advice of the police who are easily recognized by their uniforms. This is teachable because all of us deserve to be treated equally! The book provides examples of how “our society applies a presumption of dangerousness and guilt to young black men, and that’s what leads to wrongful arrests ad wrongful convictions and wrongful death sentences, not just wrongful shootings.” The example of injustice is the story of Walter McMillian who was sentenced to death in 1986 for the murder of Ronda Morrison, an eighteen-year old white woman. He was treated unfairly because he was targeted, the victim of false testimonies, convicted of a life sentence by an all-white jury, and then this sentence was changed to the death sentence by judicial override.  This short book emphasizes the power of mercy and redemption and how simple interventions based on perseverance can lead to justice and goodness and change lives.

The K-12 educational experience of Bryan Stevenson gave me a different perspective of my own experiences. I was educated in the Paterson Public Schools from 1952-1964. I went to overcrowded schools, we were attacked by black teenagers from the other side of the real estate dividing line, lacked a college preparatory experience even though I was in the Academic program, and skipped two years graduating at age 16. Bryan Stevenson’s experience was similar and yet opposite. Although he went to school a decade later, his mother and grandmother were anxious every day about his experiences in an integrated school. Both of our mothers and grandparents were influential in teaching us to read (newspapers and encyclopedias) and we were both the first in our families to attend and graduate from college.

The second perspective I gained from this book was first introduced to me in Race Matters by Cornell West. I read this book in the 1990s and the narrative demonstrated by African Americans through all the years of segregation, insecurity, and prejudice is one of love, hope, and a desire for acceptance. During the current national dialogue of racial inequality and social injustice, I think back to my first years as a teacher at Martin Luther High School in Maspeth, Queens. This was the year of the strike by teachers in the New York Public Schools and the year that neighborhood schools ended and busing to integrated schools began. As a new teacher, I was instructed to start an African American History course, even though college courses in this field were rare and not part of my education. As a result, I learned with my students, enrollment increased to multiple sections, and my students taught me about their experiences in East New York, (and other communities), threats against them on public transportation, and the difficulty in finding work. I also learned about the experiences of their parents in the workforce at a time when the Bakke decision by the Supreme Court challenged the validity of minority quotas.

The third perspective, the one that motivated me to write this book review, was the role and influence of the church and the driving values that motivated the life work and decisions of Bryan Stevenson.  I discovered in this narrative the importance of social and emotional learning, that solutions are always a process rather than an answer, and the importance of teachers in educating students.

It is important for teachers to understand the narrative of fear.  This is evident in the restrictions of the plantation, denial of literacy, and Jim Crow segregation.  It is also evident in the classification of drug addicts and users as criminals instead of individuals with a sickness or mental health condition. Fear is a powerful force in the human condition. We are taught to fear the consequences of breaking laws and rules as well as fearing failure.

It is equally important for teachers to teach and be a voice of hope and help. The social studies teachers I am privileged to know want to make a positive difference in the lives of their students. This is why civic education and historical context is important to them because the context supports equality, freedom, respect, justice, respect, and human rights. These are the threads that weave every day in the lessons of ancient societies, the Enlightenment, totalitarian rulers, colonial America, abolition, suffrage, Reconstruction, the New Deal, Fair Deal, Great Society, and the American Dream.

The impressive personal story of Bryan Stevenson is one of notable accomplishments but the difference he has been able to make in the lives of people through the Equal Justice Initiative is very similar to the impactful stories of teachers.  Although our calling is to teach social studies, we are also teachers of life skills, the extraordinary lessons of handling crises, and how to persevere through the frustrations of declining test scores and disappointments. Teachers are always modeling resilience, perseverance, and help.

Another lesson that was reinforced for me through this book was the concept of leadership. Leadership in the classroom is demonstrated by getting our students to support common goals of listening to others, searching for the truth, asking questions, doing our best, and supporting each other.  Bryan Stevenson also includes speaking out for what is right!  This includes making our classrooms and schools free from fear and anger, free from complacency and ignorance, and places where students feel comfortable to ask questions, learn different perspectives, and respect the competing ideas that are inherent in a democracy.

There are many lessons throughout this book and they will speak to each person in a different way. Regarding civic engagement, it is important to follow the calling in one’s heart in addition to their cognitive knowledge of what needs to be changed. It also means to think small when there are big problems. Bryan Stevenson lives in a state with a very high poverty rate and a record of harsh punishments against people. The lesson I came away with is to make a difference where I can, even if it is in the lives of just a few. For your students, let them know that they are witnesses to everything they see – bullying, sexism, injustice, inequality, favoritism, patronizing, cheating, lying, exaggerating, complacency, etc.

The book takes only a few hours to read but the messages in the book will last a long time!

New York’s African Americans Demand Freedom

Imani Hinson and Alan Singer

This dramatization designed for classrooms explores the lives and words of freedom-seekers from New York and the South and Black abolitionist who fought to end slavery in the United States. Each speaker is a real historic figure and
addresses the audience in his or her own words.


Background: The Dutch West India Company (WIC) founded New Amsterdam on the southern tip of Manhattan Island in 1624. The name was changed to New York in honor of the Duke of York after Great Britain took control over the small settlement in 1664. The Duke of York was the younger brother of the King of England and a future king himself. He was also the head of the Royal African Company, which was engaged in the transAtlantic slave trade. Many enslaved Africans were branded with the letters RAC, the company’s initials, or DY, which stood for Duke of York.

The first eleven enslaved Africans were brought to New Amsterdam in 1626 to work for the WIC. The first slave auction in what would become New York City was probably held in 1655. The city Common Council established the Wall Street slave
market in 1711. The last enslaved Africans in New York were freed on July 4, 1827, which meant slavery existed in New Amsterdam/New York for over 200 years, which is longer than there has been freedom in the city.

This play introduces African Americans, some born enslaved and some born free, who helped transform New York City and state into a center of resistance to slavery. It also tells about the ugly truth of slavery in New Amsterdam and New York. Each of the speakers in this play is a real historical figure and the words that they utter are
from their speeches and writing or from contemporary newspaper accounts.

The play opens with a petition from Emanuel and Reytory Pieterson. They were free
Blacks in colonial New Amsterdam. In 1661, they petitioned the Dutch government to recognize that their adopted son, eighteen-year old Anthony van Angola, was a free man because his parents were free when he was born and he was raised by free
people.

Venture Smith was born in Africa, kidnapped, sold into slavery, and transported, first
to Barbados, and then Fisher’s Island off the east coast of Long Island. In a memoir, published in 1796, Smith described brutal treatment while enslaved. Jupiter Hammon was the first Black poet published in the United States. Austin Steward was
brought as a slave from Virginia to upstate New York where he secured his freedom and established himself as a merchant. Peter Williams, Jr. was an Episcopal priest who organized the St. Philip’s African Church in New York City. Thomas James
was born a slave in Canajoharie, New York and later became an important figure in the AME church. John B. Russwurm published the first African American newspaper in the United States. William Hamilton was co-founder of the New York African Society for Mutual Relief. James McCune Smith was the first African American to obtain a medical degree. David Ruggles was a founder and secretary of the New York Committee of Vigilance.

Samuel Ringgold Ward’s family escaped enslavement in Maryland when he was a child. He became an abolitionist, newspaper editor, and Congregationalist minister. Henry Highland Garnet also escaped to the freedom with his family when he was a child and he became one of the most radical Black abolitionists. Solomon Northup was a free Black man in upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. After twelve years of enslavement he was able to contact his family and secured his freedom. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, Frederick Douglass
became a leading abolitionist orator and newspaper editor. Jermain Loguen was an abolitionist, teacher, minister and Underground Railroad “station master” in Syracuse.

After gaining her freedom when New York State abolished slavery, Isabella Bomfree became Sojourner Truth, an itinerant minister and abolitionist and feminist speaker. Harriet Jacobs wrote about her life enslaved in North Carolina and the discrimination suffered by free Blacks in the North. James Pennington opposed segregation in New York and championed education for African American children. Elizabeth Jennings was a free woman of color who challenged segregation on New York City street cars. William Wells Brown, a former freedom-seeker, worked as a steamboatman on Lake Erie helping other freedom-seekers escape
to Canada. Harriet Tubman was the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was a writer and an activist for African Americans and woman.

New York’s African Americans Demand Freedom

1. Reytory Pieterson: Reytory and Emanuel Pieterson were free Blacks in colonial New Amsterdam. In 1661 they petitioned the Dutch government to recognize that eighteen-year old Anthony van Angola, who they raised after the death of his parents, was born free and should legally be recognized as a free man.


Reytory, in the year 1643, on the third of August, stood as godparent or witness at the Christian baptism of a little son of one Anthony van Angola, begotten with his own wife named Louise, the which aforementioned Anthony and Louise were both free Negroes; and about four weeks thereafter the aforementioned Louise came to depart this world, leaving behind the aforementioned little son named Anthony, the which child your petitioner out of Christian affection took to herself, and with the fruits of her hands’ bitter toil she reared him as her own child, and up to the present supported him,
taking all motherly solicitude and care for him . . .Your petitioners….very respectfully address themselves to you, noble and right honorable lords, humbly begging that your noble honors consent to grant a stamp in this margin of this document . . . declaring] that he himself, being of free parents, reared and brought up without burden or expense of the West Indian Company . . . may be declared by your noble honors to be a free person.

2. Venture Smith: Venture Smith was born in Africa, kidnapped, sold into slavery, and transported, first to Barbados and then Fisher’s Island off the east coast of Long Island. When he was twenty-two years old, Smith married and attempted to escape from bondage. He eventually surrendered to his master, but was permitted to earn money to purchase his freedom and the freedom of his family. He published his memoirs in 1796.

My master having set me off my business to perform that day and then left me to perform it, his son came up to me in the course of the day, big with authority, and commanded me very arrogantly to quit my present business and go directly about what he should order me. I replied to him that my master had given me so much to perform that day, and that I must faithfully complete it in that time. He then broke out into a great rage, snatched a pitchfork and went to lay me over the head therewith, but I as soon got another and defended myself with it, or otherwise he might have murdered me in his outrage. He immediately called some people who
were within hearing at work for him, and ordered them to take his hair rope and come and bind me with it. They all tried to bind me, but in vain, though there were three assistants in number. I recovered my temper, voluntarily caused myself to be bound by the same men who tried in vain before, and carried before my young master, that he might do what he pleased with me. He took me to a gallows made for the purpose of hanging cattle on, and suspended me on it. I was released and went to
work after hanging on the gallows about an hour.

3. Jupiter Hammon: Jupiter Hammon, who was enslaved on Long Island, was the first Black poet published in the United States. He addressed this statement to the African population of New York in 1786, soon after national independence.

Liberty is a great thing, and worth seeking for, if we can get it honestly, and by our good conduct, prevail on our masters to set us free. That liberty is a great thing we may know from our own feelings, and we may likewise judge so from the conduct of the white people, in the late war. How much money has been spent, and how many lives have been lost, to defend their liberty. I must say that I have hoped that God would open their eyes, when they were so much engaged for liberty, to think of the state of the poor blacks, and to pity us.

4. Austin Steward: Austin Steward was born in 1793 in Prince William County, Virginia. As a youth, he was brought to upstate New York where he eventually secured his freedom and established himself as a merchant in Rochester.


We traveled northward, through Maryland, Pennsylvania, and a portion of New York, to Sodus Bay, where we halted for some time. We made about twenty miles per day, camping out every night, and reached that place after a march of twenty days. Every morning the overseer called the roll, when every slave must answer to his or her name, felling to the ground with his cowhide, any delinquent who failed to speak out in quick time.

After the roll had been called, and our scanty breakfast eaten, we marched on again, our company presenting the appearance of some numerous caravan crossing the desert of Sahara. When we pitched our tents for the night, the slaves must immediately set about cooking not their supper only, but their breakfast, so as to be ready to start early the next morning, when the tents were struck; and we proceeded on our journey in this way to the end . . . My master . . . hired me out to a man by the name of Joseph Robinson . . . He was . . .tyrannical and cruel to those in his employ; and having hired me as a “slave boy,” he appeared to feel at full liberty to wreak his brutal passion on me at any time, whether I deserved rebuke or not; . . . he would frequently draw from the cart-tongue a heavy iron pin, and beat me over the head with it, so unmercifully that he frequently sent the blood flowing over my scanty apparel, and from that to the ground, before he could feel satisfied.

5. Peter Williams, Jr.: Reverend Peter Williams, Jr. was an Episcopal priest who organized the St. Philip’s African Church in New York City. In 1808, Williams delivered this prayer commemorating the outlawing of the trans-Atlantic slave trade by the United States.


Oh, God! we thank thee, that thou didst condescend to listen to the cries of Africa’s
wretched sons; and that thou didst interfere in their behalf. At thy call humanity sprang forth, and espoused the cause of the oppressed; one hand she employed in drawing from their vitals the deadly arrows of injustice; and the other in holding a
shield, to defend them from fresh assaults; and at that illustrious moment, when the sons of 76 pronounced these United States free and independent; when the spirit of patriotism, erected a temple sacred to liberty; when the inspired voice of Americans first uttered those noble sentiments, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”; and when the bleeding African, lifting his fetters, exclaimed, “am I not a man and a brother”; then with redoubled efforts, the angel of humanity strove to restore to the African race, the inherent rights of man. . . . May the time speedily commence, when Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands; when the sun of liberty shall beam resplendent on the whole African race; and its genial influences, promote the luxuriant growth of knowledge and virtue.

6. Thomas James: Reverend Thomas James was born enslaved in Canajoharie, New York. When he was eight years-old, James was separated from his mother, brother and sister when they were sold away to another owner. He escaped from slavery when he was seventeen. He later became an important figure in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.


While I was still in the seventeenth year of my age, Master Kimball was killed in a runaway accident; and at the administrator’s sale I was sold with the rest of the property . . .My new master had owned me but a few months when he sold me, or
rather traded me, . . . in exchange for a yoke of steers, a colt and some additional property. I remained with Master Hess from March until June of the same year, when I ran away. My master had worked me hard, and at last undertook to whip me.
This led me to seek escape from slavery. I arose in the night, and taking the newly staked line of the Erie canal for my route, traveled along it westward until, about a week later, I reached the village of Lockport. No one had stopped me in my flight. Men were at work digging the new canal at many points, but they never troubled themselves even to question me. I slept in barns at night and begged food at farmers’ houses along my route. At Lockport a colored man showed me the way to the Canadian border. I crossed the Niagara at Youngstown on the ferry-boat, and was free!

7. John B. Russwurm: Freedom’s Journal was the first African American newspaper published in the United States. It was founded and edited by Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm in New York City in 1827. Its editorials stressed the fight against slavery and racial discrimination.


We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations, in things which concern us dearly, though in the estimation of some mere trifles; for though there are many in society who exercise towards us benevolent feelings; still (with sorrow we confess it) there are others who make it their business to enlarge upon the least trifle, which tends to the discredit of any person of color; and pronounce anathemas and denounce our whole body for the misconduct of this guilty one . . . Education being an object of the highest importance to the welfare of society, we shall endeavor to present just and adequate views of it, and to urge upon our brethren the necessity and expediency of training their children, while young, to habits of industry, and thus forming them for becoming useful members of society . . . The civil rights of a people being of the greatest value, it shall ever be our duty to vindicate our brethren, when oppressed; and to lay the case before the public. We shall also urge upon our brethren, (who are qualified by the laws of the different states) the expediency of using their elective franchise.

8. William Hamilton: William Hamilton was a carpenter and co-founder of the New York African Society for Mutual Relief. On July 4, 1827 he delivered an Emancipation Day Address celebrating the end of slavery in New York State.


“LIBERTY! kind goddess! brightest of the heavenly deities that guide the affairs or men. Oh Liberty! where thou art resisted and irritated, thou art terrible as the raging sea and dreadful as a tornado. But where thou art listened to and obeyed, thou art gentle as the purling stream that meanders through the mead; as soft and as cheerful as the zephyrs that dance upon the summers breeze, and as bounteous as autumn’s harvest. To thee, the sons of Africa, in this once dark, gloomy, hopeless, but now fairest, brightest, and most cheerful of thy domain, do owe a double obligation of gratitude.
Thou hast entwined and bound fast the cruel hands of oppression – thou hast by the powerful charm of reason deprived the monster of his strength – he dies, he sinks to rise no more. Thou hast loosened the hard bound fetters by which we were held. And
by a voice sweet as the music of heaven, yet strong and powerful, reaching to the extreme boundaries of the state of New-York, hath declared that we the people of color, the sons of Africa, are free.”

9. James McCune Smith: Dr. James McCune Smith was an African American physician who studied medicine in Glasgow, Scotland. Here he describes a manumission day parade in New York that he attended as a youth.

A splendid looking black man, mounted on a milk-white steed, then his aids on horseback, dashing up and down the line; then the orator of the day, also mounted, with a handsome scroll, appearing like a baton in his right hand, then in due order, splendidly dressed in scarfs of silk with gold-edgings, and with colored bands of music and their banners appropriately lettered and painted, followed, the New York African Society for Mutual Relief, the Wilberforce Benevolent Society, and the Clarkson Benevolent Society; then the people five or six abreast from grown men to small boys. The sidewalks were crowded with wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers of the celebrants, representing every state in the Union, and not a few with gay bandanna handkerchiefs, betraying their West Indian birth. Nor was Africa underrepresented. Hundreds who survived the middle passage and a youth in slavery joined in the joyful procession.

10. David Ruggles: David Ruggles was born free in Norwich, Connecticut in 1810. He moved to New York City in 1827 where he was a founder and secretary of the New York Committee of Vigilance which aided hundreds of fugitive slaves. He also founded the city’s first Black bookstore, was a noted abolitionist lecturer, published a newspaper, and ran a boarding house that was a stop on the Underground Railroad. In 1838, he provided safe-haven in his home for a freedom-seeker named Frederick Bailey who later changed his name to Frederick Douglass.


The whites have robbed us for centuries – they made Africa bleed rivers of blood! – they have torn husbands from their wives – wives from their husbands – parents from their children – children from their parents – brothers from their sisters – sisters from their brothers, and bound them in chains – forced them into holds of vessels – subjected them to the most unmerciful tortures: starved and murdered, and doomed them to endure the horrors of slavery. . . . But why is it that it seems to you so “repugnant” to marry your sons and daughters to colored persons? Simply because public opinion is against it. Nature teaches no such “repugnance,” but experience has taught me that education only does. Do children feel and exercise that prejudice towards colored persons? Do not colored and white children play together promiscuously until the white is taught to despise the colored?

11. Samuel Ringgold Ward: Samuel Ringgold
Ward’s family escaped enslavement in Maryland when he was a child. He became an abolitionist, newspaper editor, and Congregationalist minister. He was forced to flee the United States in 1851 because of his involvement in anti-slavery activity in Syracuse.


I was born on the 17th October, 1817, in that part of the State of Maryland, commonly called the Eastern Shore. My parents were slaves. I was born a slave. They escaped, and took their then only child with them . . . I grew up, in the State of New Jersey, where my parents lived till I was nine years old, and in the State of New York, where we lived for many years. My parents were always in danger of being arrested and re-enslaved. To avoid this, among their measures of caution, was the keeping of their children quite ignorant of their birthplace, and of their condition, whether free or slave, when born.

12. Solomon Northup: Solomon Northup was a free Black man in upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. After twelve years of enslavement he was able to contact his family and secured his freedom. His memoir
remains a powerful indictment of the slave system.


My ancestors on the paternal side were slaves in Rhode Island. They belonged to a family by the name of Northup, one of whom, removing to the State of New York, settled at Hoosic, in Rensselaer county. He brought with him Mintus Northup, my father. On the death of this gentleman, which must have occurred some fifty years ago, my father became free, having been emancipated by a direction in his will.. . . Though born a slave, and laboring under the disadvantages to which my unfortunate race is subjected, my father was a man respected for his industry and integrity, as many now living, who well remember him, are ready to testify. His whole life was passed in the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, never seeking employment in those more menial positions, which seem to be especially allotted to the children of Africa. Besides giving us an education surpassing that ordinarily bestowed upon children in our condition, he acquired, by his diligence and economy, a sufficient
property qualification to entitle him to the right of suffrage . . . Up to this period I had been principally engaged with my father in the labors of the farm. The leisure hours allowed me were generally either employed over my books, or playing on the violin –
an amusement which was the ruling passion of my youth.

13. Henry Highland Garnet: Henry Highland Garnet escaped to freedom with his family when he was a child and became a Presbyterian minister in Troy and New York City. At the 1843 National Negro Convention in Buffalo, New York, Garnet
called on enslaved Africans to revolt against their masters.


Let your motto be resistance! It is in your power so to torment the God-cursed slave-holders, that they will be glad to let you go free. If the scale was turned, and black men were the masters and white men the slaves, every destructive agent and element would be employed to lay the oppressor low. Danger and death would hang over their heads day and night. Yes, the tyrants would meet with plagues more terrible than those of Pharaoh. But you are a patient people. You act as though you were made for the special use of these devils. You act as though your daughters were born to pamper the lusts of your masters and overseers. And worse than all, you tamely submit while your lords tear your wives from your embraces and defile them before your eyes. 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.

14. Frederick Douglass: Frederick Washington Bailey was born in Maryland in 1817. He was the son of a White man and an enslaved African woman so he was legally a slave. As a boy he was taught to read in violation of state law. In 1838, he escaped to New York City where he married and changed his name to Frederick Douglass. In 1847, Frederick Douglass started an anti-slavery newspaper in Rochester, New York.


“We solemnly dedicate the ‘North Star’ to the cause of our long oppressed and plundered fellow countrymen. May God bless the undertaking to your good. It shall fearlessly assert your rights, faithfully proclaim your wrongs, and earnestly demand for you instant and even-handed justice. Giving no quarter to slavery at the South, it will hold no truce with oppressors at the North. While it shall boldly advocate emancipation for our enslaved brethren, it will omit no opportunity to gain for the nominally free complete enfranchisement. Every effort to injure or degrade you or your cause . . . shall find in it a constant, unswerving and inflexible foe . . .”

15. Frederick Douglass: In 1852 Frederick Douglass delivered a Fourth of July speech in Rochester where he demanded to know, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”


“What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? . . . Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence given by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me.
This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn . . . What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of
liberty and equality . . . There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.”

16. Frederick Douglass: In a January 1864 speech at Cooper Union in New York City, Frederick Douglass laid out his vision for the future of the country.


What we now want is a country—a free country—a country not saddened by the footprints of a single slave—and nowhere cursed by the presence of a slaveholder. We want a country which shall not brand the Declaration of Independence as a lie. We want a country whose fundamental institutions we can proudly defend before the highest intelligence and civilization of the age . . . We now want a country in which the obligations of patriotism shall not conflict with fidelity to justice and liberty . . . WE want a country . . . where no man may be imprisoned or flogged or sold for learning to read, or teaching a fellow mortal how to read . . . Liberty for all, chains for none; the black man a soldier in war, a laborer in peace; a voter at the South as well as at the North; America his permanent home, and all Americans his fellow countrymen. Such, fellow citizens, is my idea of the mission of the war. If accomplished, our glory as a nation will be complete, our peace will flow like a river, and our foundation will be the everlasting rocks.

17. Jermain Loguen: Jermain Loguen escaped from slavery in Tennessee when he was 21. Once free, Loguen became an abolitionist, teacher and minister. In 1841, he moved to Syracuse, where as the “station master” of the local underground railroad “depot,” he helped over one thousand “fugitives” escape to Canada. In 1850, Reverend Loguen denounced the Fugitive Slave Law.


I was a slave; I knew the dangers I was exposed to. I had made up my mind as to the course I was to take. On that score I needed no counsel, nor did the colored citizens generally. They had taken their stand-they would not be taken back to slavery. If to shoot down their assailants should forfeit their lives, such result was the least of the evil. They will have their liberties or die in their defense. I don’t respect this law – I don’t fear it – I won’t obey it! It outlaws me, and I outlaw it, and the men who attempt to enforce it on me. I place the governmental officials on the ground that they place me. I will not live a slave, and if force is employed to re-enslave me, I shall make preparations to meet the crisis as becomes a man. If you will stand by me and I believe you will do it, for your freedom and honor are involved as well as mine, . . . you will be the saviors of your country. Your decision tonight in favor of resistance will give vent to the spirit of liberty, and will break the bands of party, and shout for joy all over the North. Your example only is needed to be the type of public action in Auburn, and Rochester, and Utica, and Buffalo, and all the West, and eventually in the Atlantic cities. Heaven knows that this act of noble daring will break out somewhere – and may God grant that Syracuse be the honored spot, whence it shall send an earthquake voice through the land!

18. Sojourner Truth: Sojourner Truth, whose original name was Isabella Bomfree, was born and enslaved near Kingston, New York. After gaining her freedom she became an itinerant preacher who campaigned for abolition and woman’s rights.
During the Civil War, Truth urged young men to enlist and organized supplies for black troops. After the war, she worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau, helping people find jobs and build new lives. Her most famous speech was delivered in 1851 at a
women’s rights convention in Ohio.


Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about? That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me!
And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman? . . . That little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from?
From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him. If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now
they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

19. Harriet Jacobs: Harriet Jacobs was born
enslaved in North Carolina in 1813. After hiding in
an attic for seven years, she escaped to the north in

She published her memoir in 1861 using the pseudonym Linda Brent. In 1853, Jacobs wrote a Letter from a Fugitive Slave that was published in the New York Daily Tribune.


I was born a slave, reared in the Southern hot-bed until I was the mother of two children, sold at the early age of two and four years old. I have been hunted through all of the Northern States . . . My mother was dragged to jail, there remained twenty-five days, with Negro traders to come in as they liked to examine her, as she was offered for sale. My sister was told that she must yield, or never expect to see her mother again . . . That child gave herself up to her master’s bidding, to save one that was dearer to her than life itself . . . At fifteen, my sister held to her bosom an innocent offspring of her guilt and misery. In this way she dragged a miserable existence of two years, between the fires of her mistress’s jealousy and her master’s brutal passion. At seventeen, she gave birth to another helpless infant, heir to all the evils of slavery. Thus life and its sufferings was meted out to her until her twenty-first year. Sorrow and suffering has made its ravages upon her – she was less the object to be desired by the fiend who had crushed her to the earth; and as her children grew, they bore too strong a resemblance to him who desired to give them no other inheritance save Chains and Handcuffs . . . those two helpless children were the sons of one of your sainted Members in Congress; that agonized mother, his victim and slave.

20. James Pennington: James Pennington was born into slavery on the coast of Maryland and escaped in 1828. He challenged segregation and championed education for African Americans. He authored the first account of African Americans
used in schools, A Text Book of the Origin and History of Colored People.


There is one sin that slavery committed against me, which I never can forgive. It robbed me of my education; the injury is irreparable; I feel the embarrassment more seriously now than I ever did before. It cost me two years’ hard labour, after I
fled, to unshackle my mind; it was three years before I had purged my language of slavery’s idioms; it was four years before I had thrown off the crouching aspect of slavery; and now the evil that besets me is a great lack of that general information, the foundation of which is most effectually laid in that part of life which I served as
a slave. When I consider how much now, more than ever, depends upon sound and thorough education among coloured men, I am grievously overwhelmed with a sense of my deficiency, and more especially as I can never hope now to make it up.

21. Elizabeth Jennings: In 1854, Elizabeth Jennings, a free woman of color, was thrown off a street car in New York City. The New York Tribune printed “Outrage Upon Colored Persons” where she told her story.


I 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 for that purpose . . . He insisted upon my getting off the car, but I did not get off . . . 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.” . . . 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 . . . 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 [damages] if I could.

22. William Wells Brown: William Wells Brown was born on a plantation near Lexington, Kentucky in 1814 and escaped to Ohio in 1834. He moved to
New York State in the 1840, and he began lecturing for the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society and worked as a steam boatman, which enabled him to assist freedom-seekers on the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War he demanded that Blacks be allowed to serve in the Union Army.


Mr. President, I think that the present contest has shown clearly that the fidelity of the black people of this country to the cause of freedom is enough to put to shame every white man in the land who would think of driving us out of the country, provided freedom shall be proclaimed. I remember well, when Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation went forth, calling for the first 75,000 men, that among the first to respond to that call were the colored men . . . Although the colored men in many of the free States were disfranchised, abused, taxed without representation, their children turned out of the schools, nevertheless, they, went on, determined to try to discharge their duty to the country, and to save it from the tyrannical power of the slaveholders of the South . . . The black man welcomes your armies and your fleets, takes care of your sick, is ready to do anything, from cooking up to shouldering a musket; and yet these would-be patriots and professed lovers of the land talk about driving the Negro out!

23. Harriet Tubman: Harriet Tubman, who escaped from slavery in Maryland as a young woman, was the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. She served in the Civil War as a scout, nurse, and guerilla fighter. On October 22, 1865, Harriet Tubman spoke before a massive audience at the Bridge Street AME Church in
Brooklyn.


Last evening an immense congregation, fully half consisting of whites, was presented at the African M.E. Church in Bridge street, to listen to the story of the experiences of Mrs. Harriet Tubman, known as the South Carolina Scout and nurse, as related by herself . . . Mrs. Tubman is a colored lady, of 35 or 40 years of age; she appeared before those present with a wounded hand in a bandage, which would she stated was caused by maltreatment received at the hands of a conductor on the Camden and Amboy railroad, on her trip from Philadelphia to New York, a few days since. Her words were in the peculiar plantation dialect and at times were not intelligible to the white portion of her audience . . . She was born, she said, in the eastern portion of the State of Maryland, and wanted it to be distinctly understood that she was not educated, nor did she receive any “broughten up”. . . She knew that God had directed her to perform other works in this world, and so she escaped from bondage. This was nearly 14 years ago, since then she has assisted hundreds to do the same.

24. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: In May 1866, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a leading African American poet, lecturer and civil right activist, addressed the Eleventh National Women’s Rights Convention in New York.

Born of a race whose inheritance has been outrage and wrong, most of my life had been spent in battling against those wrongs . . . 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. Society cannot afford to neglect the enlightenment of any class of its members . . . 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.

A Disability History of the United States by Kim E. Nielsen

Review by Jenna Rutsky

“Disability” as a whole is not a topic commonly found in the average social studies curriculum.  I had history classes that would mention President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s use of a wheelchair after contracting polio, or a brief aside to discuss President Woodrow Wilson’s handicaps of paralysis and loss of partial vision after a stroke in his second term.  During my time student teaching, not one of the historical figures we learned about had a disability that we discussed as a class.  I struggled between choosing to read either Kim E. Nielsen’s A Disability History of the United States, or Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, but I decided to write my review of Nielsen’s book as I am not getting my special education certification as many of my other friends in the cohort are.  Though my knowledge of the indigenous peoples of the Americas is not incredibly broad, I do have more experience with that topic as I took several Native American history classes during my time as an undergraduate at Rutgers University.  But, aside from an online “Intro to Special Education” class, I felt I needed to learn more about the history of people with disabilities in the United States as an educator who will not only most likely be working at some point with students who have disabilities of their own, but also to educate all of my students about a history that has largely been ignored, in my own experience as a student. 

            Nielsen wrote a book which not only kept my attention with how clear it is, but also with how truly fascinating she kept her writing by including personal anecdotes from people with disabilities, as well from those who have discriminated against them throughout various time periods or witnessed this discrimination.  The main argument of A Disability History of the United States remains clear throughout the entire book: people with disabilities have a history all their own that has fallen by the wayside in terms of historical coverage and mass education to students.  Nielsen argues that this is a history that changes based on time period and culture, opening her book with a Native American view of disabilities before colonization, followed immediately after by a contrasting chapter of how early colonial settlers viewed disabilities.  But more subtle arguments appear throughout the book as themes, such as the reoccurring theme of discrimination against people with disabilities by those without disabilities. 

Discrimination against people with disabilities is still a civil rights issue today, which is how Nielsen concludes her book, bringing the reader to the twenty-first century with anecdotes of modern-day activists.  Another theme of the book is juxtaposing not only how able-bodied view people with disabilities, but how people with disabilities view themselves.  In no way does Nielsen write this book in condescending pity for people with disabilities.  She rather raises people with disabilities up to be identified by more than simply what they cannot do, but by highlighting what they can do in spite of their disability and how in various cultures and time periods, disability was not frowned upon, but instead those individuals were cared for by the community rather than shunned away.

            The argument of Nielsen’s book is effective mainly in its use of evidence to support her claims.  Her information has clearly been well researched with footnotes leading the reader to page after page of resources ranging from peer reviewed journals such as the Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences (Nielsen, 2012, p. 206) to the text from exhibit posters found at the Library of Congress (p. 201).  When Nielsen makes a claim about the treatment of people with disabilities, it is followed almost always by evidence to back up that claim.  For example, in Chapter Three, “The Late Colonial Era: 1700-1776,” Nielsen writes, “[Those considered valueless and often killed]… likely included those with physical disabilities that made them ineligible for slavery (pp. 43-44).”  The next page provides an excerpt of a primary source by a young boy named J.D. Romaigne serving on the slave ship Le Rodeur where many of the slaves on board for transport to the New World contracted blindness from ophthalmia, a contagious eye disease.  Nielsen cites Romaigne as saying, “The mate picked out thirty-nine negroes who were completely blind, and… tied a piece of ballast to the legs of each.  The miserable wretches were then thrown into the sea” (p. 45).  This gruesome retelling of such an appalling event perfectly supports Nielsen’s claim from just a page earlier; slaves with disabilities were typically “considered valueless and often killed” (p. 43). 

            Alternative interpretations of disability are the core content of the beginning of the book, especially, and this content continues throughout, though more sparsely, as the book goes on.  The remainder of the book focuses more often on disability as widely recognized, but not protected, and it then becomes a civil rights battle for equal rights.  I really enjoyed how the book is written in chapters that follow one another chronologically, to show the history of people with disabilities as one that does simply have an upward growth towards equal rights, but how that battle for equal rights was nonexistent, and then partially won, and then partially lost again, and how this battle continues into today’s society.  It is captivating how Nielsen starts with the treatment of people with disabilities amongst Native American cultures before European arrival, as this is an aspect of the topic I had never learned before.

But the book is limited, though it acknowledges this in the title, since it is only A Disability History of the United States.  The examination of Native American culture is the only look the reader gets at disability viewed by another culture other than mostly European immigrants to the United States.  She writes how Native Americans were generally unfazed by disability as, especially physical disability, was so common in the difficult work required to survive.  And anyone who could provide some service to the community was valued despite their disability.  The author does write two contrasting views immediately following one another, as disability was defined differently by separate tribes and individuals without any laws to define the rights of the disabled and who those laws should include.  Nielsen writes, “Some groups viewed the behaviors and perceptions of what today we call psychological disability as a great gift to be treasured and a  source of community wisdom (p. 5).  She then contrasts this statement by following up with, “Others considered them a form of a supernatural possession, or evidence of the imbalance of an individual’s body, mind, and spirit” (p. 5).  Alternative interpretations of disability are presented throughout the book within the setting of the chapter’s time period; for example, the varying accounts of disability and its differing treatments and levels of acceptance in the next chapter about European settlers, but it is up to the reader to connect those alternative interpretations within one chapter to past chapters. 

            The content of this book could inform classroom instruction in U.S. History not only in New Jersey schools, but schools across the nation.  Personal accounts of disability stretch from California protests for equal rights in the 1970s to “founding the nation’s first disability-specific institution in the United States, the American Asylum for the Deaf, in Hartford, Connecticut” (Nielsen, p.67).  And on the topic of asylums and other institutions for people with disabilities, the content of this book can connect to classroom instruction through the form of visual media.  Educators can connect Nielsen’s discussion of the conditions and purposes of asylums and institutions at their founding to their actual perpetuity in an example such as showing clips from journalist Geraldo Rivera’s publicly broadcast special about the horrors of Willowbrook State School in New York.  I recently watched the special in my “Inclusive Teaching” class this semester, and though it is from the 1970s, Rivera’s piece still sends shivers down my spine today.  It is a powerful visual component to incorporate into classroom instruction when discussing disabilities.

            The content of this book could also be used to engage students in current events by learning about the past.  For example, Nielsen writes, “Don Galloway of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on the Handicapped testified that every day, his office received phone calls from ‘people who are being discriminated against,’ and that as many as three hundred thousand Colorado citizens with disabilities needed civil rights protection” (Nielsen, p. 170).  Students could be asked to connect acts of the 1980s such as this, to modern acts of civilian participation in seeking to influence government. Students could be given examples such as this one provided by Nielsen and be asked to compare to the current events in which many American citizens have been calling their local senators to oppose the appointment of Betsy DeVos to the position of Secretary of Education.  Articles about the two Republican senators who voted against DeVos, though not preventing her appointment, can be found from reliable sources such as the New York Times, quoted as saying “The two Republicans who voted against the nominee, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said Ms. DeVos was unqualified… Ms. Murkowski also said she had been influenced by thousands of messages she had received urging her to reject the nomination” (Alcindor & Huetteman, 2017).  Students can be asked to draw comparisons between the activism that influenced the acts of these government officials, and in turn, learn about being active citizens in a democracy and exercising their rights. 

            The social studies curricula we have analyzed thus far in class, Jarolimek, Hartoonian-Laughlin, and Kniep, all seem to have at least one common curriculum goal: create active citizens in a democracy.  I believe that A Disability History of the United States could absolutely fit into the curriculum design of U.S. History for middle or secondary school students.  I found Nielsen’s book to be so clear, concise, and grabbing to read more, that I would recommend it as reading for secondary students.  The vocabulary used by Nielsen is easy to understand and the story she tells is compelling, especially to students who mostly likely have never learned anything about the history of disability.  This book can be used to inform students of both middle and secondary education of the contributions and struggles of people with disabilities throughout history.  Nielsen offers countless examples of tales of strife and triumph of those with disabilities for educators to choose from based on grade level appropriateness.  On one hand, maybe middle school students could not emotionally handle the previously mentioned “Le Rodeur” example.  People with disabilities have always existed, and these time periods and cultures in which they are living are mostly being covered in U.S. history classes, but the individuals with disabilities themselves are not.

            The content of this book could inspire empathy, a goal our cohort discussed as a class that we would like to see in our own curricula.  The number of inclusion classes in the United States seems to be growing every year, I taught two during my student teaching, and I believe it is important for the peers in these classes of both students with disabilities and students without disabilities to respect one another.  Knowing the history of the disability movements in the United States can engender respect for a group of people who have been historically oppressed such as when Paul S. Miller, a top-of-his-class Harvard graduate had “over forty firms seeking his application”, but “after interviewing Miller, who was four and half feet tall, firms changed their minds” (Nielsen, p. 171).  This example can be taught to students to show the struggles of those with disabilities, but also their successes, as “Miller later become a commissioner of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and an international disability-rights expert” (Nielsen, p. 171). 

            A curriculum based around including the history of disabilities in the United States, such as the story of Paul S. Miller, would not be difficult to create.  Social studies educators already teach the time periods marked in Nielsen’s book.  For example, Nielsen writes, “The story of Robert Payne and the Disabled Miners and Widows is a story of class, labor, race, and place; it is also the story of the social reform movement that culminated in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society… (p. 159).  Mainstream approaches to U.S. History, based on my own experience in history classes in high school as a student, already include discussions of “class, labor, race, and place.”  To include the discussion of disability in this mix is natural as Nielsen in the aforementioned quote proves, the stories of people with disabilities overlap with other historical contexts already being taught.  To include a history of people with disabilities in the mainstream curriculum would challenge a curriculum that does not always include the stories of minorities based on race, gender, or ability.  During my student teaching, I was expected to follow a curriculum that mentioned a few historic women, barely any historic racial minorities other than those conquered or enslaved by Europeans, and no discussion of those with disabilities.  Curriculum design that includes the stories of people with disabilities paves the way for social studies educators to discuss the stories of all minorities, as people with disabilities can also be racial or gender minorities.  Nielsen’s book makes it easy for the social studies curriculum to include content from A Disability History of the United States, especially with her chapters clearly marked by the eras already being taught in the mainstream social studies curriculum of U.S. History.

References

Alcindor, Y. & Huetteman, E. (2017, February 7). Betsy DeVos confirmed as education secretary; Pence breaks tie.  The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/07/us/politics/betsy-devos-education-secretary-confirmed.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share.

Nielsen, K. E. (2012). A disability history of the United States. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ty=”48

Culturally Responsiveness through the Eyes of an Indian American Educator

Sheena Jacobs
Coordinator for Social Studies, Glen Cove School District

“I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes, but I laugh, and eat well, and grow strong. Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table when company comes. Nobody will dare say to me, “Eat in the kitchen,” then. Besides, they’ll see how beautiful I am and be ashamed—I, too, am America” (Hughes, 2012).

James Mercer Langston Hughes was a famous American writer who was known best for being a leader of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City. Through his writings, he spoke about the inequalities that Blacks faced in our nation. He wrote and talked about the trials and tribulations that society has put on Blacks, and he questioned all aspects that are a nation is derived from, which are political, social, and economic. Reflecting on Langston Hughes poem, “I, Too,” and in the current political and social climate that we are living in, we are reminded that now more than ever, schools must embrace diversity and become culturally responsive. We are currently living in a society where the haves are at an advantage point, and the have-nots are at a disadvantage. For social mobility, we must provide equal and quality education for all children.

Unfortunately in the 21st century, we still face segregation and inequalities within schools from various regions, such as rural, urban and suburban areas. According to Leonard Valverde article titled, “Equal Educational Opportunity Since Brown: four major development” (2004) research has indicated the following implications are all steps to assist the segregation, promotion of equality and quality of education for all children.

  • Implication #1: Compensatory Education for Equal Treatment Programs stimulated and encouraged by federal funding
  • Implication #2: School Financing: Equity and Adequacy—Includes facilities, equipment, and personnel; inclusion and access using affirmative action
  • Implication #3: Multicultural Curriculum: An Accurate Account—A balance and true representation of contributions made by populations in America’s development

These strategies are targeted to address four basic concepts necessary to eliminate school segregation: promote equality in treatment, equity in resources, equal opportunity, and cultural democracy (Valverde, 2004). When researching responses to diversify and provide equal and quality education, author Ezella McPherson states the following points in “Moving from Separate, to Equal, to Equitable Schooling: Revisiting School Desegregation Policies,” (2011)

“…to diversify schools, housing policies need to be implemented to end racial discriminatory housing practices while integrating neighborhoods so that children and parents can interact with people from different racial backgrounds. By doing so, parents may be able to build racial tolerance and acceptance of their neighbors, which will place them in a better position to feel more comfortable to send their children to racially integrated schools. Besides neighborhoods, schools may need to be reformed to provide equitable learning environments for students regardless of their racial and/or socioeconomic class background. By equitable learning environment, I am suggesting that schools provide students with the opportunity to learn through providing an equitable education to students through quality teaching, school resources (e.g., books, materials), in-school tutoring for students with special needs or who have challenges in a particular subject. More importantly, in building racial tolerance and acceptance for people from different racial backgrounds, community members (e.g., school teachers, parents, local community members) should consider working together to provide a quality education for students” (2011, p.479).

Reflecting on my personal story, my parents migrated to the United States of America in the 1970s, looking for a better opportunity in three aspects of life, political, social and economic. They left their family and possessions behind and started in this country with a clear motivation, “to provide a better opportunity and lifestyle for their children and extended family.” I grew up in a household with strong cultural ties to the Indian culture and the Christian faith. My siblings and I were consistently reminded of the struggles that my parents and their ancestors endured and faced as they lived in India. They told us their hardships if it dealt with socioeconomic status, race, equality, or gender relationship, that they dealt with as they started and continued to live in America. The challenge of living in a traditional household that focuses on culture and religion is when you are living in a different culture besides the one that you are growing up in. Living in a household and trying to find an even balance between the American culture and Indian culture was challenging because there were ideology differences in culture, achievement, motivation, and gender. As I entered the elementary school, I thought that all children are equal and viewed the same; however, I soon came to realize how different I was even though I was born in the United States of America. I saw that I was not a part of the same culture, in fact, I was a minority looking into a culture that I had no idea about.

At an early age, I found myself making decisions and understanding perspectives that differed from mine; I look at the content in multiple ways because I was exposed to understanding how the world can be complicated, unjust, and unfair. My parents instilled in us that one should not allow being conquered by the injustices or unfairness that we might receive, one should look at these trials and tribulations and overcome them by continuing to follow their aspirations, advancing to become educated and eventually empowering oneself and making the change he or she wishes to see.

Looking at my parents starting point as they entered this country in the 1970s and comparing to where we are as a family now is remarkable, considering the strides that they made with the limited resources and support at their disposal. My parents eventually moved out to the suburbs on Long Island. They were adamant about providing us a quality education, and as a result, they uprooted their family to a new location where they were the only minority family. I can remember racial tension stories, an unfair treatment that my parents endured as they lived in the United States. I remember entering school and seeing racial injustices amongst my siblings and I. However, the one thing I remembered is that my parents consistently demonstrated that the culture that they have raised us was a culture that entailed language, knowledge, history, morals, and values that we should be proud of. We were taught not to back down and continue to strive. My parents equipped us with ideas that when we face injustices, we must be prepared with words, education, knowledge, and understanding and only then can we achieve equality.

In a traditional Indian household males and females are distinctly different. Being the youngest and a female, my gender defined my family responsibilities, social behavior, and thought process. For instance, I was expected to learn how to cook and clean, prepare meals and serve, be submissive and inferior to the males. However, living in a western culture and growing up in a traditional Indian household, my environment did not allow me to accept and practice any of these expectations. In fact, with the combination of the American and Indian culture intertwined, the two cultures combined empowered me to become a stronger individual that was aspiring to be a change agent for future minority youths, adults and especially minority females.

As an educator, administrator, and a doctoral student, I can emphatically say and agree with Ezella McPherson; it is time for schools to support children that come from diverse background, it is imperative that we as leaders provide professional development to our teachers who are in the frontline to help children who may differ from the majority, it is time for local and state officials to make culturally responsiveness a priority and not a checklist of things to get done within the educational system. The racial segregation and intolerance I felt in my life was strikingly turning points in my life, however the people that I came across, my family who was my foundation, and my loved ones who continue to support me were all factors why I keep staying on a path where I can be a change agent for schools to become culturally responsive.

References:

Hughes, L., Collier, B., Linn, L., & Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers (Firm),. (2012). I, Too. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Kozol, Jonathan (1991). Savage Inequalities: children in America’s schools. New York: Broadway Paperbacks.

McPherson, Ezella (2011). Moving from Separate, to Equal, to Equitable Schooling: Revisiting School Desegregation Policies. Education and Urban Society, 46(3), 465-483.

Valverde, Leonard (2004). Equal Educational Opportunity Since Brown: four major developments. Education and Urban Society, 36(3), 368-378.