Debate over the 15th Amendment Divides Abolitionists

Debate over the 15th Amendment Divides Abolitionists

Alan Singer

The 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution declares “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The wording of the Amendment drove a wedge between different factions in the anti-slavery movement. A number of prominent women in the movement argued for a universal right to vote. Some advocates for the amendment as written believed the moment was ripe to end voting discrimination against Black men, but that adding women’s suffrage to the Amendment would mean its defeat. Some of the opposition to granting Black men the right to vote but not white women was overtly racist.

Questions

  1. Why did the 15th Amendment divide allies in the abolitionist movement?
  2. Why did women in the movement demand universal suffrage?
  3. What was the argument for limiting the 15th Amendment to voting rights for Black men?
  4. How did this debate expose racism amongst those who opposed slavery?
  5. If you were an elected representative in the 1860s, what would have been your position on the 15th Amendment? Why?

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1865): “By an amendment of the Constitution, ratified by three-fourths of the loyal States, the black man is declared free. The largest and most influential political party is demanding suffrage for him throughout the Union, which right in many of the States is already conceded. Although this may remain a question for politicians to wrangle over for five or ten years, the black man is still, in a political point of view, far above the educated women of the country. The representative women of the nation have done their uttermost for the last thirty years to secure freedom for the negro, and so long as he was lowest in the scale of being we were willing to press his claims; but now, as the celestial gate to civil rights is slowly moving on its hinges, it becomes a serious question whether we had better stand aside and see “Sambo” walk into the kingdom first. As self-preservation is the first law of nature, would it not be wiser to keep our lamps trimmed and burning, and when the constitutional door is open, avail ourselves of the strong arm and blue uniform of the black soldier to walk in by his side, and thus make the gap so wide that no privileged class could ever again close it against the humblest citizen of the republic?”

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1866): “You white women speak here of rights. I speak of wrongs. I, as a colored woman, have had in this country an education which has made me feel as if I were in the situation of Ishmael, my hand against every man, and every man’s hand against me . . . 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. At the South, the legislation of the country was in behalf of the rich slaveholders, while the poor white man was neglected . . . Talk of giving women the ballot-box? Go on. It is a normal school, and the white women of this country need it. While there exists this brutal element in society which tramples upon the feeble and treads down the weak, I tell you that if there is any class of people who need to be lifted out of their airy nothings and selfishness, it is the white women of America.”

Petition to the Senate and House of Representatives for Universal Suffrage (1866): “The undersigned, Women of the United States, respectfully ask an amendment of the Constitution that shall prohibit the several States from disfranchising any of their citizens on the ground of sex. In making our demand for Suffrage, we would call your attention to the fact that we represent fifteen million people—one half of the entire population of the country—intelligent, virtuous, native-born American citizens; and yet stand outside the pale of political recognition. The Constitution classes us as ‘free people,’ and counts us whole persons in the basis of representation; and yet are we governed without our consent, compelled to pay taxes without appeal, and punished for violations of law without choice of judge or juror. The experience of all ages, the Declarations of the Fathers, the Statute Laws of our own day, and the fearful revolution through which we have just passed, all prove the uncertain tenure of life, liberty and property so long as the ballot—the only weapon of self-protection—is not in the hand of every citizen. Therefore, as you are now amending the Constitution, and, in harmony with advancing civilization, placing new safeguards round the individual rights of four millions of emancipated slaves, we ask that you extend the right of Suffrage to Woman—the only remaining class of disfranchised citizens—and thus fulfill your Constitutional obligation ‘to Guarantee to every State in the Union a Republican form of Government.’ As all partial application of Republican principles must ever breed a complicated legislation as well as a discontented people, we would pray your Honorable Body, in order to simplify the machinery of government and ensure domestic tranquility, that you legislate hereafter for persons, citizens, tax-payers, and not for class or caste. For justice and equality your petitioners will ever pray.”

Thaddeus Stevens (1867): “There are several good reasons for the passage of this bill. In the first place, it is just. I am now confining my arguments to Negro suffrage in the rebel States. Have not loyal blacks quite as good a right to choose rulers and make laws as rebel whites? In the second place, it is a necessity in order to protect the loyal white men in the seceded States. The white Union men are in a great minority in each of those States. With them the blacks would act in a body; and it is believed that in each of said States, except one, the two united would form a majority, control the States, and protect themselves. Now they are the victims of daily murder. They must suffer constant persecution or be exiled.”

Sojourner Truth (1867): “There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored woman; and if colored men get their rights, and not colored women get theirs, you see the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1869): “If American women find it hard to bear the oppressions of their own Saxon fathers, the best orders of manhood, what may they not be called to endure when all the lower orders of foreigners now crowding our shores legislate for them and their daughters. Think of Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung, who do not know the difference between a monarchy and a republic, who cannot read the Declaration of Independence or Webster’s spelling-book, making laws for Lucretia Mott, Ernestine L. Rose, and Anna E. Dickinson.”

Frederick Douglass (1869): “I do not see how anyone can pretend that there is the same urgency in giving the ballot to woman as to the negro. With us, the question is a matter of life and death, at least, in fifteen States of the Union [in reference to the former slave states]. When women, because they are women, are hunted down through the cities of New York and New Orleans . . . when they are in danger of having their homes burnt down over their heads; when their children are not allowed to enter schools; then they will have an urgency to obtain the ballot equal to our own.”

Susan B. Anthony (1869): “If you will not give the whole loaf of suffrage to the entire people, give it to the most intelligent first. If intelligence, justice, and morality are to have precedence in the government, let the question of women brought up first and that of the negro last . . . Mr. Douglass talks about the wrongs of the negro; but with all the outrages that he today suffers, he would not exchange his sex and take the place of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.”

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

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

Dana Faye Serure and Michael Broccolo

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

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

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

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

What is service learning with social justice in mind?

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 1: Service Learning Course Project

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

Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Project Description and Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 2: Rubric Dimensions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Steps and Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

navigate the online landscape. Social Education82(4), 219-221.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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African American History: A Past Rooted in the Hudson Valley

African American History: A Past Rooted in the Hudson Valley

David Levine

Reprinted with permission from https://hvmag.com/life-style/history/african-american-past-hudsonvalley/  

The origin story of what was to become the United States of America typically features two main characters: the native peoples who had lived on these lands for centuries, and the Europeans who took those lands from them. But there was a third cast member in this drama, one whose role is at best downplayed and at worst ignored: Africans and their descendants. In 1613, just four years after Henry Hudson’s crew sailed up the river that would bear his name, and seven years before the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, a mixed-race man named Juan Rodrigues (or some spelling variant near that) left Hispaniola for the New World, set up shop in and around Manhattan Island, traded with the natives for a time, squabbled with the Dutch—who called him a “black rascal”—and then disappeared from the public record as the first African to set foot in the Hudson Valley.

In 1626, just 10 years after the establishment of New Amsterdam, the Dutch West India Company shipped 11 African male slaves—whom they labeled “proud and treacherous”—into the colony, with women brought in two years later. Some slaves were moved to Fort Orange, the outpost that became Albany. As land patents divvied up the Valley, every patent holder whose name still graces the region stocked his farm with slaves. In 1664, when the Dutch handed the keys to the new kingdom to the British, about 800 Africans and their children inhabited the Valley, only about 75 of them considered free.

The British increased slave importation, and by the early 1700s New York State had more slaves than anywhere else in the colonies, more than the deep South, more than Boston, more than the Virginia plantations. “The two biggest slave markets in the country before the American Revolution were in New York City and Albany,” Dr. A.J. Williams-Myers, a retired professor of Black Studies at SUNY New Paltz, says. By 1790, the first federal census counted more than 19,000 enslaved New Yorkers; Georgia had 12,000. “New York was not a society with slaves, it was a slave society, dependent on enslaved Africans,” he says.

As New Yorkers, we like to think of ourselves as different from the south in regards to slavery. We were different only in that, numerically speaking at least, we were worse. Any history of African descendants in the Hudson Valley must first come to grips with this fact. From the earliest moments of European contact, African Americans have been part of the Valley’s dramatis personae. “Africans have been portrayed as in the shadow of history, when actually they were center stage,” Williams-Meyers says. “Where European people went, Africans went with them, shoulder to shoulder with their enslavers.” 

The oppressed as oppressors

As the Hudson Valley economy transitioned during the 17th century from the fur trade to farming, Africans helped make the region the most prosperous in the New World. Hudson Valley farms helped feed Great Britain, its newest colonies and its holdings in the Caribbean, and Africans did much of the work. A 1733 century painting called the “Van Bergen Overmantel,” by artist John Heaten, depicts the Marten Van Bergen farm near the Greene County town of Leeds. Historic Hudson Valley writes that “no other single artifact offers more information about life in colonial New York. Here African, Native American, and European people populate the landscape.” Dr. Myra Young Armstead, Lyford Paterson Edwards and Helen Gray Edwards Professor of Historical Studies at Bard College, calls this painting, “a good picture of what was going on and why the Hudson Valley was a big area of slavery.”

Even those who came here because of oppression became oppressors. The French Huguenot founders of New Paltz purchased their first of many slaves in Kingston in 1674, a hypocrisy not lost on a Huguenot descendant. “My ancestors fled France for religious and political freedom. Before leaving France they saw their own families tortured, enslaved, and killed. Yet these emigrants came to the New World and, for their own personal gain, forced other human beings to labor against their will,” Mary Etta Schneider, board chair of Historic Huguenot Street, said this summer. “For this I am ashamed.” 

Schneider was speaking in advance of a September 2016 event, in which HHS welcomed Joseph McGill, founder of the Slave Dwelling Project. McGill travels the country spending the night in historic slave dwellings to bring awareness to their existence, history, and need for preservation. More of these are in the north than most people know. “The history I learned in school was junk,” McGill says. “Slave dwellings are part of the history of this nation. They are hidden in plain sight.” Huguenot slaves were likely locked in at night so they couldn’t escape, Schneider said, and those who slept there along with McGill got “a sense of what it must have felt like to just reinforce that ownership, that lack of ability to have any control over your life.” Addressing another myth, that northern slave owners were “better” than southern ones, McGill says bluntly, “There were no great slave owners. When you assign a degree of severity, you start with bad.”

Long before Nat Turner, slaves in New York were rebelling against their owners. In 1712, 23 slaves killed nine whites in New York City, and rumors both real and unproved of slaves plotting revolts from the City to Albany kept tensions high throughout the 18th century. In 1794, three slaves—including two girls of 12 and 14—were hanged for setting a fire that burned much of downtown Albany; two were hanged from “the Hanging Elm Tree,” at the northwest corner of State and Pearl Streets (planted in front of the house of young Philip Livingston), the third on Pinkster Hill, site of the current Capitol. “Slaves and owners were on constant war footing,” William-Myers says. “The Hanging Tree in Albany shows you the use of fear to keep Africans in their place.”

Revolutionaries and warriors

And yet, slaves helped their masters win independence. “You cannot discount Africans’ input in the Revolutionary War,” Williams-Myers says. Though they often were sent to replace their owners in battle, under the assumption that whey would be freed after the war, they fought bravely and well. “They are never pictured as part of that, but they were there on the battlefield,” he says. Slaves held positions along the Hudson River as General Clinton made his way up from New York City, and fought at the battles of Saratoga, along the Mohawk River and throughout the region. “African warriors were one of the colonies’ secret weapons,” he says. “They were significant in winning the war.”

After the war, slaves weren’t freed right away, but Federalists like John Jay and Alexander Hamilton founded the New York Manumission Society in 1785 to promote abolition. It happened in fits and starts, and full emancipation was realized when the last New York slaves were freed by July 4, 1827. It was the largest emancipation in North America before the Civil War.

The Hudson Valley to a large extent welcomed freed African Americans. During this gradual emancipation, Quaker groups offered land—usually rocky, undesirable land, to be clear—to help freed slaves, and self-sustaining black communities sprung up in Rockland (Skunk Hollow, near the New Jersey border), Westchester (The Hills in Harrison and another community near Bedford), Dutchess (near Hyde Park, Beekman and Millbrook), Ulster (Eagles Nest, west of Hurley), and all the other river counties. Though legally emancipated, blacks weren’t entirely free yet, and the Valley, like the rest of the state, was in no way free from racism. Laws limited blacks’ rights to vote, to travel with whites on public transportation, to attend school and more. “You could argue that the earliest ‘Jim Crow’ laws actually appeared in the north, not the south,” says Dr. Oscar Williams, Chair of the Department of Africana Studies at the State University of New York at Albany.

The opening of the Erie Canal, in 1815, precipitated the slow and steady migration from upstate farms to river cities for employment. “Cities like Newburgh and Poughkeepsie offered jobs to blacks, while there was bigger movement to New York City or Albany, the nodes of the Valley,” Armstead says. Black institutional and social life took hold in these cities. Rhinebeck, for example, had a vibrant neighborhood of black artisans on Oak Street. African American Revolutionary War veteran Andrew Frazier and his family, who are buried in the “Potter’s Field” section of Rhinebeck Cemetery, owned land in the Town of Milan. In Kingston, the A.M.E. Zion Church on Franklin Street, the oldest African American church in Ulster County, owns the Mt. Zion African American Burial Ground on South Wall Street. The cemetery holds the remains of members of the U.S. Colored Infantry’s 20th Regiment, which fought in the Civil War. An extension of the Mt. Zion cemetery on South Pine Street is “one of the earliest, and potentially largest slave cemeteries known in the northeast,” according to an anthropologist who conducted an archeological survey for the city of Kingston in 1993. The Rye African American Cemetery, inside the Greenwood Union Cemetery, was established in 1860 as a burial place for blacks. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the final resting spot for African American Civil War veterans and the descendants of many slaves from Rye.

As the Civil War approached, the Hudson Valley was a hotbed of abolition. So-called Colored Conventions, movements held by free slaves to oppose slavery and push for rights for free blacks, were held all over country, including in Poughkeepsie, Armstead says. The Underground Railroad had important station stops along the river, such as the Beecher House in Peekskill and the Stephen and Harriet Myers House in Albany. Sojourner Truth started on her march to freedom as Isabella Baumfree, a slave born on an estate near what is now Ripton, sold to a family in New Paltz. In Troy, an African American named Henry Highland Garnett was Malcolm X before Malcolm X. Garnett led a radical movement from his position as the first pastor of the Liberty Street Negro Presbyterian Church. First working with abolition leaders like William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, he gave a famous speech in 1843 at the National Negro Convention, a “Call to Rebellion” encouraging slaves to rise up in open revolt. His position was opposed.

Past, prologue

After the Civil War, blacks continued to move from local farms to industrial centers, and in their “Great Migration” from the South. New York City was a major destination, and in time blacks also moved into the suburbs, exurbs and growing river cities of the Valley. Freedom did not mean integration, however. As just one example, in the 1920s, land in the Nepperhan neighborhood of Yonkers, now known as Runyon Heights, was sold to blacks because whites didn’t want it and it was naturally separated from white communities.

Work, as always, continued to be the magnet drawing African Americans north, and the Valley had one of the world’s most powerful magnets: IBM. After World War II, “IBM was really important, ahead of its time, a global force that recruited from black colleges and universities,” Armstead says. By the late 1950s and 1960s, black professionals populated the area. “That generation is dying or dead now, but they became the first black heads of organizations, the first black teachers,” she says.

The history of African Americans over the last half century is a story of progress and regression, of course, both nationally and here in the Valley. The current political climate is restive. The struggle has been ongoing for 403 years now, ever since Juan Rodriguez stepped ashore and began battling the Dutch. The story has evolved, but it hasn’t ended. As William Faulkner wrote, the past is never dead. It’s not even past.

“The Captain’s Story” by Harriet Beecher Stowe

“The Captain’s Story” by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Ellen Gruber Garvey

This article is reprinted with permission of the author. It was originally published in the Washington Post under the headline “A forgotten 19th-century story can help us navigate today’s political fractures.”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/03/23/forgotten-19th-century-story-can-help-us-navigate-todays-political-fractures/   

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Can Democrats truly reconcile with those Republicans who called President Biden’s election fraudulent and encouraged violent attack of the U.S. Capitol? Earlier moments in U.S. history should caution us about the lure and danger of reconciliation when one side refuses to acknowledge wrongdoing. After the Civil War, former Union partisans sought to get along with the Southerners who fought to keep Black people enslaved even after the war. But later, they doubted the wisdom of having done so.

One of those people was Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (1852), the most influential novel in the United States during the 19th century. Her famous book kindled readers’ sense that they could and must end slavery, even if that meant disrupting alliances, friendships and family ties with enslavers and their supporters. Thirty years later, Stowe wrote a story little known even it its own time, in which she considered what happened when these same White Northerners who fought against slavery reconciled too easily with former enslavers.

Can Democrats truly reconcile with those Republicans who called President Biden’s election fraudulent and encouraged violent attack of the U.S. Capitol? Earlier moments in U.S. history should caution us about the lure and danger of reconciliation when one side refuses to acknowledge wrongdoing. After the Civil War, former Union partisans sought to get along with the Southerners who fought to keep Black people enslaved even after the war. But later, they doubted the wisdom of having done so.

One of those people was Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (1852), the most influential novel in the United States during the 19th century. Her famous book kindled readers’ sense that they could and must end slavery, even if that meant disrupting alliances, friendships and family ties with enslavers and their supporters. Thirty years later, Stowe wrote a story little known even it its own time, in which she considered what happened when these same White Northerners who fought against slavery reconciled too easily with former enslavers.

Written in 1882, but set in 1866, “The Captain’s Story” tells of two former Union army captains who visit Florida, where they once fought on the battlefield. They hope to relax and recuperate from the toll the war had taken on their health. The two listen to their white Floridian guide’s ghost story, which includes his casual mention of having murdered enslaved African captives. The ghost of one captive continues to haunt a nearby plantation, he says. Despite moral qualms, the two captains decide to continue their trip with their murderous guide who can show them all the best fishing grounds. They will get along, and leave his punishment to God.

Stowe began spending winters in Florida just after the Civil War, about the time the story is set, initially hoping to help her son recover from his own Civil War trauma. She wrote popular travel articles in the 1870s touting the state’s pleasures for Protestant Northern Whites, hoping to attract them to politically overwhelm the Southern planters. Full of chummy advice on how to travel south and where to buy land, the accounts spurred the state’s first tourist boom while also raising money for a Black school. In “The Captain’s Story,” she swerves to remind her readers of the brutalities of her Florida neighbors who once enslaved people.

Although Stowe was a founder of the Atlantic Monthly, “The Captain’s Story” was not published there, perhaps because few 1880s editors wished to take the horrors of slavery seriously. Albion Tourgée, the editor of the short-lived but high-paying weekly Our Continent, did, however. He was a Union veteran who worked for Reconstruction then wrote about his experiences in two best-selling novels focusing on the difficulties and assaults the freed people faced. He went on to fight Jim Crow, as the lawyer representing a Black plaintiff attacking segregation in public facilities in Plessy v. Ferguson.

Although Our Continent was not a crusading publication and sought to attract White Southern readers, too, Tourgée published other works that acknowledged that the Civil War was fought over slavery. Yet Our Continent was obscure enough that “The Captain’s Story” received no notice in the press at the time. It was not anthologized or reprinted.

The story’s questioning of White complicity in postwar racism is subtle and conflicted. But it does stand in stark contrast to other popular magazine stories of the time. Northern magazines shoveled out stories romanticizing Southern plantations as places where sweet, quasi-familial ties between enslavers and enslaved people infused life with graciousness. Plantation fiction frequently featured a tired Northern businessman who, like the two captains, goes South to rest and comes to appreciate relaxed Southern hospitality.

Marriage to a Southern woman in these stories offered an allegory of reconciliation between Northern and Southern Whites. As the White abolitionist and orator Anna E. Dickinson noted, “The fashion of the day has been, and is, to talk of the love feast that is spread between old foes, till at last we of the North and of the South are doing what our forefathers did 30 years ago — grasping hands across the prostrate body of the negro.”

Of course, former Confederates did not seek reconciliation. Instead, they created the cult of the Lost Cause, celebrating the nobility and heroism of the Confederacy, leading to the erection of statues honoring Confederate leaders and school textbooks that continued to inculcate this version of history for over a century.

That is why Stowe’s story is significant. It called out the murderous past, presented plantation owners and their friends as lawless, brutal, disloyal, casual killers, scornful of the family ties of enslaved people.But the story disappeared, and that illuminated the shifting reality of race relations in 1882. Reconstruction had ended, a reign of racial terror lynchings had commenced, and states passed Black Codes that allowed Southern Whites to continue to coerce the labor of African Americans.White supremacy had regrouped with new legal structures and Northern collusion, and former Confederates were back in power in the South. Ex-Confederates suppressed the Black vote and reinstated slavery under different names.

The myth of benevolent plantation life took hold through sheer repetition in fictional work, most familiar now through “Gone With the Wind,” imagery and plantation tours. Burying Stowe’s story while celebrating that myth matters. It is another small part of concealing slavery’s past and obscuring the power of white supremacy, which still haunt the United States.

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

Brown, A.L., Brown, K.D, & Ward, A. (2017). Critical race theory meets culturally relevant pedagogy: Advancing a critical sociohistorical consciousness for teaching and  curriculum. Social Education, 81(1), 23-27.

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.

King, L. (2021). Black history is not American history: Toward a framework of Black historical consciousness. Social Education, 84(6), 335-341.

Lesh, B. A. (2011). “Why won’t you just tell us the answer?”: Teaching historical thinking in grades 7-12. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

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Teaching social studies in an era of divisiveness: The challenges of discussing social issues in a non-partisan way. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Press, 31-46.

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  

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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.

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Global Citizenship Education and Liberal Democracy

Global Citizenship Education and Liberal Democracy

Evan Saperstein and Daniel Saperstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War by Jonathan Daniel Wells

The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War by Jonathan Daniel Wells

In The Kidnapping Club, Jonathan Daniel Wells, a social, cultural, and intellectual historian and a Professor of History in the Departments of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, tells the story of the powerful network of judges, lawyers, and police officers who circumvented anti-slavery laws by sanctioning the kidnapping of free and fugitive African Americans. Nicknamed “The New York Kidnapping Club,” the group had the tacit support of institutions from Wall Street to Tammany Hall whose wealth depended on the Southern slave and cotton trade. But a small cohort of abolitionists, including Black journalist David Ruggles, organized tirelessly for the rights of Black New Yorkers, often risking their lives in the process. Taking readers into the bustling streets and ports of America’s great Northern metropolis, The Kidnapping Club is a dramatic account of the ties between slavery and capitalism, the deeply corrupt roots of policing, and the strength of Black activism.

“With New York City as its backdrop, The Kidnapping Club offers an important and compelling narrative that explores the long struggle for Black freedom and equality. Jonathan Daniel Wells offers a rich and timely account that uncovers a history of racial violence and terror in nineteenth-century Gotham. To no surprise, law enforcement, politicians, and bankers thwarted Black freedom time and time again. But the power and fortitude of Black New Yorkers pressed white citizens to remember and uphold the ideals of a new nation. The Kidnapping Club is a must read for those who want to understand current debates about the intersection of Black lives and structural oppression.”― Erica Armstrong Dunbar, author of Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

“Jonathan Daniel Wells’ The Kidnapping Club is a necessary story of black agency and resistance. Bringing to life the competing strains of humanism and oppression that echo our present-day struggles, Wells paints a portrait of New York that reveals the best of American principles in the bodies of black resistors while showing us the economic complexity and complicity of America’s greatest city. It is a brilliant history perfectly suited for our times.”― Michael Eric Dyson, author of Tears We Cannot Stop and What Truth Sounds Like

The Kidnapping Club maps and specifies both the top-side financial connections between the capitalists of the North and the slavers of the South and the underbelly of police corruption, violence, and kidnapping that knit together. And it manages to combine acute historical analysis with literary drama and a persistent, gentle humanity. You should read it.”― Walter Johnson, author of The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States

“Nineteenth-century New York City was a battleground for African Americans, who most whites assumed to be undeserving of freedom. Jonathan Wells’ The Kidnapping Club brings to life the struggles in the courts and on the streets between those who sought to send blacks to slavery in the south; those who benefited from southern slavery; and the small group of interracial activists who fought against slavery and would eventually prevail in claiming freedom for all regardless of race. From politicians and jurists to newspaper owners, and from bankers to ministers to common laborers, everyone had a stake in the central question of the moment: the legality and morality of slavery and the status of people of African descent in the nation. Wells’ gripping narrative brings to life the real-life impact of these questions on every New Yorker, and how the struggle over racial equality affected every sector of life in antebellum New York City.” ― Leslie M. Harris, author of In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863.

Where We Started by Arthur Dobrin

Where We Started by Arthur Dobrin

Where We Started is a historical look at the United States from 1740-1864 that brings the past and its inhabitants alive and makes possible a very different understanding of the history of the United States, enslavement, and the struggle for freedom. Arthur Dobrin is an American author, Professor Emeritus of Management, Entrepreneurship, and General Business at Hofstra University and Leader Emeritus of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. Dr. Arthur Dobrin served two years in the Peace Corps with his wife, Lyn, in Kenya. He has maintained his interest in Kenya since, having returned with his family and having led educational safaris to Kenya for Adelphi University School of Social Work.

“In Where we Started, Dobrin creates a world that leaves the reader enough space to make moral judgments themselves, while at the same time showing how perspective changes the weight of all these considerations. The novel reads like parables, strewn together and buoyed by historical context.”  – Christian Hayden, African American activist.

“The novel is a narrative on the development of American society, taking a realistic view of the social interactions between the Old and New World, and between the societal facets that coalesced to produce what we call Americans. This work does not shy away from some very sensitive and difficult narratives, and ones that require discourse today more than ever.” – Clifford J Pereira, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

“I was touched by the individual events and stories. This book is very clearly in line with the telling of racial history in the USA country. No one would read this book and not be more aware of the ways in which it tells the sad story of race in the USA.” – Don Johnson, retired minister.

“Many historical novels are accurate in detail but not in the deeper reality of a period. Dobrin’s great accomplishment is that he places the reader in each period, as the people of the period would likely have experienced it.” – Dr. Michael S. Franch, President of Baltimore City Historical Society.

Black Lives that Mattered

Black Lives that Mattered

Alan Singer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documents:

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

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

https://malegislature.gov/laws/constitution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documents:

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

Like a fawn from the arrow, startled and wild, 

A woman swept by us, bearing a child; 

In her eye was the night of a settled despair, 

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

She was nearing the river—in reaching the brink, 

She heeded no danger, she paused not to think! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: New York and Slavery: Complicity and Resistance

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

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

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

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

Documents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Tompkins Garnet (1831-1911)

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

Susan McKinney Steward (1847-1918)

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

Documents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAUL ROBESON: Oh please, please, please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARENS: Do you mean you invoke the Fifth Amendment?

PAUL ROBESON: I invoke the Fifth Amendment.

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

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

Part 2: “To whom am I talking?”

PAUL ROBESON: To whom am I talking?

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

PAUL ROBESON: Mr. Walter?

CONG. WALTER:  Yes.

PAUL ROBESON: The Pennsylvania Walter?

CONG. WALTER: That is right.

PAUL ROBESON: Representative of the steelworkers?

CONG. WALTER:  That is right.

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

CONG. WALTER:  That is right.

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

CONG. WALTER:  No, only your kind.

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

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

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

Part 3: “The reason I am here today”

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

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

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

CONG. WALTER: We will consider your statement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documents:

Segregation in Los Angeles (1926)

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

Some Reflections on Peace in Our Time (1950)

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

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

Racial Prejudice in America (1954)

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

Letter to 4th graders (1964)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Teachable Idols of the ’60s: Their March Toward Civil Equality

The Teachable Idols of the ‘60’s: Their March towards Civil Equality

Thomas Colantino

2020 will be stamped in history books worldwide. You always wonder when analyzing history what it was like to live in some of the most chaotic time periods. I guess you never realize what it’s like living through history when it is happening around you every day. Teaching history relies on this idea of perspective. Students must be able to not only comprehend the content, but also be able to focus through another lens, which is the ability to put themselves in the situation that is being taught. I feel as though the best way to achieve this is through student engagement. The most important question in education is how to get students to be engaged with the material and to learn the lessons accordingly? For myself, the philosophy is you have to find ways to relate or spark the interests of the student. Schooling, in a repetitive manner can become exceedingly dull and classes can become white noise to students, ESPECIALLY, in the world we live in today. With virtual learning students are partaking in classes sometimes still in bed. There is a plethora of distractions when working from home, so as the educator, the objective is to make the class not only packed with content, but also have the ability to intrigue the students.

            For myself, the best way to pique the interest of students would be to somehow combine a mutual interest and find it in history, or how at least it could correlate. I feel as though my capstone is this happy medium. The entertainment business, of any kind reaches a wide variety of people. Whether it be through film, art, music, or athletics, one of the many outlets connects with someone. So, why wouldn’t you try and incorporate the entertainment business into a lesson. If you could show history through entertainment, potentially students would be more interested to learn that lesson. My capstone centers around the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, one of the most crucial topics of not only modern America, but American history in general. Yet, with a little twist, I focus on the celebrities of the time period, and how they were able to utilize their platforms to promote change. Not only just working for activists, but also alongside them. With many of the unfortunate events that had transpired over the course of the year in relation to social issues, it was interesting to see which individuals were on the forefront fighting the battle and protesting in the street. In several different cities around the country, several different actors, athletes, etc., flooded the streets with the general civilian voicing their wants and desires. For students, seeing their favorite athlete or musician voicing their opinion for change, could change the student’s perspective and raises interests. As a result, this idea can be depicted also for the Civil Rights Movement. By finding celebrities that chose to fight for the Civil Rights Movement, it creates another avenue for students to stay engaged with the material.

            So how would one go about collaborating the important material in regards of the history aspect of the Civil Rights Movement, and also sparking the interest of students through the entertainment of the era. For myself, I start with the true trailblazers, the ones that’s actions outside of their own profession spoke louder than those within their respected fields. One of the obvious names to start with in this case is Jackie Robinson. Now, Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, well before the 1960s and its decade of civil rights activism, but every lesson has a background section, no? To Segway to a historical standpoint, around this same era, dealing with the same kind of circumstance, Executive Order 9981 (1948), the desegregation of the military declared by President Harry Truman. See, there are connections that can be made. In terms of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s itself, the individuals to stick with are those who worked closely with the activists of the era. Someone like Harry Belafonte, singer by day, activist by night, had a loft in New York City where activists would meet to create rally plans and protests to promote change. Even the idea of the stories that could be shared of activists and celebrities would be intriguing enough for students to work with the material. The overall argument here is that there is knowledge that can be learned from these celebrities and their work towards promoting civil equality.

            To conclude, there were similar arguments I attempted to prove that could be utilized within the classroom. I tried analyzing media sources such as newspapers to see the perception of historical events. The objective here was to see how the events were written and perceived by the general public. This idea derives from how medias portrayal of an event can alter an individual’s viewpoint of that situation.  The influence of the public can be changed through how the media covers the situation. This idea of an influence can also be seen in comparison to those of celebrities and their aurora. Celebrity platforms reach a wide variety of individuals. The way they speak and carry themselves can and does influence their fans. The idea here that I try to create with the Civil Rights Movement is that if the celebrities preach change, then their fans will want change. In closing, the main argument of this work is how important student engagement is. Yes, we bounce around the ideas that are focused within my capstone, but the reason for its importance is how it can provoke interest in students. Every child is entertained by a commodity of life. Why not, as teachers, add the entertainment factor to the classroom and connect it with your lessons? Throughout history there are other aspects that connect history to everyday life. As an example, when teaching the Renaissance, generally professors and educators utilize the art aspect of the movement to pique the interest of their students. The colors, pictures, paintings, etc. help the class visualize the era. How about when teaching the Civil Rights Movement, add the sounds of Bob Dylan and Harry Belafonte, with the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to see the similarities—or just as importantly the differences? Or add the movement of one Muhammad Ali in and outside the ring with the movement of protest marches for civil justice and voting rights in the South during the early stages of Civil Rights Movement. There are many ways to connect, it just takes thinking outside the box to not only teach, but to entertain.