Monday, July 20, 2020

History Erased Declaration of the Rights of Women July 4, 1876


Declaration of Rights and Sentiments of Women
Prepared by Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Presented at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848

Who has not heard of the Declaration of  Independence? This milestone of freedom written on July 4, 1776 declared the reasons necessary for the colonists to declare their independence from Great Britain. Not only is this document preserved and housed among the great documents of freedom in Washington, DC, every American student of history has studied this document in classrooms all over the country. Until I started doing research on my own when I was teaching American history in Albuquerque, NM, I had never heard of the following document, let alone the place where the document was presented in 1848. In that year, seventy-two years after the founding of this "free country" a group of women found it necessary to hold a convention where they outlined the abuses they had suffered as females being denied the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they were accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled. The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice. He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men--both natives and foreigners. Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides. He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead. He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns. He has made her, morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master--the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement. He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes, and in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given, as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women--the law, in all cases, going upon a false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his hands. After depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single, and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only when her property can be profitable to it. He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration. He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known. He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her. He allows her in Church, as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church. He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated, but deemed of little account in man. He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for a sphere of action, when that belongs to conscience and to her God. He has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make willing to lead a dependent and abject life. Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation--in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which long to them as citizens of the United States. In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and National legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions embracing every part of the country. (Lucretia Mott, Thomas and Mary Ann McClintock, Amy Post, Catharine A. F. Stebbins, and others, discussed these resolutions, which were later adopted.) WHEREAS, The great precept of nature is conceded to be, that “man shall pursue his own true and substantial happiness.” Blackstone in his Commentaries remarks, that this law of Nature being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this, and such of them as are valid, derive all their force, and all their validity, and all their authority, mediately and immediately, from this original; therefore, Resolved, That such laws as conflict, in any way, with the true and substantial happiness of woman, are contrary to the great precept of nature and of no validity, for this is “superior in obligation to any other.” Resolved, That all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in society as her conscience shall dictate, or which place her in a position inferior to that of man, are contrary to the great precept of nature, and therefore of no force or authority. Resolved, That woman is man’s equal--was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such. Resolved, That the women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor their ignorance, by asserting that they have all the rights they want. Resolved, That inasmuch as man, while claiming for himself intellectual superiority, does accord to woman moral superiority, it is pre-eminently his duty to encourage her to speak and teach, as she has an opportunity, in all religious assemblies . Resolved, That the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of behavior that is required of woman in the social state, should also be required of man, and the same transgressions should be visited with equal severity on both man and woman. Resolved, That the objection of indelicacy and impropriety, which is so often brought against woman when she addresses a public audience, comes with a very ill-grace from those who encourage, by their attendance, her appearance on the stage, in the concert, or in feats of the circus. Resolved, That woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her. Resolved, That it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise. Resolved, That the equality of human rights results necessarily from the fact of the identity of the race in capabilities and responsibilities. Resolved, therefore, That, being invested by the Creator with the same capabilities, and the same consciousness of responsibility for their exercise, it is demonstrably the right and duty of woman, equally with man, to promote every righteous cause by every righteous means, and especially in regard to the great subjects of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to participate with her brother in teaching them, I both in private and in public, by writing and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be used, and many assemblies proper to be held; and this being a self-evident truth growing out of the divinely implanted principles of human nature, any custom or authority adverse to it, whether modern or wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to be regarded as a self-evident falsehood, and at war with mankind Resolved, That the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and untiring efforts of both men and women, for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions, and commerce.   

This was the call to action given to the 300 women delegates at the convention and the final solution was that females could not achieve the aforementioned goals unless they attained the right to vote. Thus, the beginning of the women's suffrage movement. It is astounding to think that only 100 of the 300 female delegates signed the document. In addition most of the males who had not been invited to the convention but attended anyway who were given the right to vote abstained. This was the climate among not only those men in power but females themselves who did not agree with what was written. In understanding this history, and uncovering it for all to see instead of erasing it, the student can understand the great divisions among females that survives through this day.

The women who attended the convention at Seneca Falls went from there to a meeting in Philadelphia where they organized the Underground Railroad System. Frederick Douglas had been one of the men who attended the meeting and who voted for the Declaration. These women were the extremists, the radicals of their day and conductors of the Railroad were in constant danger of being caught and prosecuted. Although the slaves were emancipated after the Civil War and black males were given the right to vote in 1865, women were still a long way from achieving this goal. 

In fact another Declaration of the Rights of Women was written by Susan B. Anthony on July 4, 1876, the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.       

https://awpc.cattcenter.iastate.edu/2017/03/21/declaration-of-rights-of-the-women-of-the-united-states-july-4-1876/


Women were still being denied the right to vote and were still unequal to men in all the categories listed in the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments of Women. Once again, this history was erased from the textbooks I studied both in high school as well as college when I was pursing a degree in history. Once again, I was fortunate that women began to organize and start demanding equal treatment and raised the consciousness of this woman at least. As I read all the wall posts about certain groups having their history erased, many of these posts come from women themselves and I cannot grasp this. Why is this happening?

I was watching a program on TV with an interview of a woman who has written a book for women about another Declaration of Rights of Women to help women understand how they are still invisible in this country and how they themselves are still trying to demand rights from a "man's world." Again, I ask myself, why should this be happening? We do not need to push the male controlled, patriarchal system that is still in operation no matter what the politicians say. We need to demand reform and demand that our history not be erased, that it be taught and that measures to reform those documents of freedom that have historically ignored females be made all inclusive with all the rights granted to men being granted to females as well.


Sunday, June 28, 2020

Democratic Party Elects Joe Biden President in 2020 Election

January 6, 2021 
Washington, DC

On this date in 2021, this could be the possible headline announcing Joe Biden's election as President by the Democratic controlled House of Representatives. Few people really know about the process to elect the President and because of two men who received a minority of the popular vote in the last twenty years but became President,  this is the only possible scenario that concerns people. Because of that, however, there has been a movement that is getting stronger to have the state legislatures change the way their Electoral votes are cast to make the outcome of the election reflect the actual will of the people.

There have been all kinds of arguments about the role of the Electoral College as a fight between large and small states being the reason this system was set up by the Founding Fathers in the first place. Earlier, I posted an article about why the Electoral College was actually founded. To a certain extent it had to do with large and small states, but the main reason this system was set up was to provide a system free of the partisan power struggles between the states trying to get their "favorite sons" elected to this powerful position. At that time political parties did not exist; in fact the Founding Fathers never dreamed that the struggle for power between large and small states would become a partisan struggle between the red and blue states. In fact, George Washington, in his Farewell Address, seeing the beginnings of separation into parties by Federalists and Anti-Federalists warned against the formation of political parties. Therefore, the Electoral College was set up to elect the President.

What few people know, however, is that there is another consideration provided in the Constitution. Should neither candidate receive a majority of Electoral Votes, the House of Representatives then decides who will be President. Why the House of Representatives? Because in 1787 the House of Representatives was the only House of Congress elected by the people. Senators were not elected by popular vote until 1913 when the 17th Amendment was passed. " The Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1913, making the election of senators by popular vote. However, presidential elections still operate under the Electoral System. The Electoral College is made up of representatives who are generally selected by the political parties at their state conventions." And it is the state legislators who make the rules about how the votes are cast. By tradition, although this was never part of the design, states follow the winner take all method of assigning Electoral Votes. This is what has allowed the election of two minority Presidents in the last 20 years of American history.

The only President to be elected by the House of Representatives was John Quincy Adams in the election of 1824. https://history.house.gov/Historical-Highlights/1800-1850/The-House-of-Representatives-elected-John-Quincy-Adams-as-President/#:~:text=About%20this%20object%20John%20Quincy%20Adams%2C%20the%20only,Secretary%20of%20State%20John%20Quincy%20Adams%20as%20President. If you will read this article, you will see that his opponent was Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson was a war hero and touted as the hero of the "common man." John Quincy Adams was a Federalist who believed in a strong federal government. It is interesting that John Q. Adams only served one term and in 1824 Andrew Jackson, the founder of the Democratic Party, was elected to the White House, ushering in the age of the common man and "universal suffrage." At this time universal suffrage referred to giving white men over the age of 21 who were uneducated and didn't own property the right to vote.
It is interesting that Andrew Jackson, the old Indian fighter, laid the foundation for ridding the Indian problem east of the Mississippi and by taking away all their lands, he was, indeed, able to help the common man own property. This part of history has been ignored and even the people who promote teaching about the Trail of Tears have little understanding of the importance of that event in the eventual decline of the Indian population under Manifest Destiny. Poor teaching of history combined with students' blatant disregard for history have led to a country that is ignorant, segmented and divided and vulnerable to any myths used by either partisan side in truly understanding the reforms that need to be made in this country to achieve social justice and liberty for all.

There is a movement in almost all the state legislatures to join what is called the National Popular Vote Interstate CompactAct. https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/written-explanation. To date, 16 states have passed this agreement and the vote is being considered by many state legislatures. The purpose of this article is to illustrate the effect on the vote if only those 16 states implemented this system of electing the President - keep the Electoral College but apportion the Electoral votes according to popular vote - not winner take all. This is used for illustration only because the Compact will not go into effect until enough states approve it so that the total number of Electoral Votes reaches 270 - the number of votes needed to elect the President. The article is actually an attempt to debunk the myth that without the Electoral College "California would elect the President." Hopefully, you will read to the end.

The states that have already approved the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact Act  represent 196 Electoral votes and everyone of these states is considered a blue state. https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/  Political experts have put all these states in the blue category meaning it is a Democratic win. The Electoral vote count in these states is 308, meaning that if the Democratic candidate wins in all those states under the current system, the Democrat would win the election. Let's assume for a moment that these states used the popular vote as a method of assigning Electoral votes. That means that Donald Trump would win a share of the Electoral votes in all these states, enough to drop the total to around 210 (this is only guesswork). Now, what happens.

Donald Trump's Electoral vote count in red states is only 167. If he picks up a share of the Democratic votes his total might even come close to the Democratic total. There is one set of Electoral votes that has been left out of the equation. Those are the swing states, those states that have voted for both Democrats and Republicans at one time or another and this is really where the candidates focus their attention. These states are Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina and possibly Nevada. The Electoral vote total is 91. Capturing these states becomes critically important to both candidates even more so to the Democrats if they lose some of their Electoral votes to Trump. Again, this is hypothetical to make a point. Attention has always been focused on these states and that is why it is important to know that they are the key in electing any President. So, what if neither of the candidates win enough Electoral votes to hit the magic 270? Then, in January of 2021, the Democratic controlled House of Representatives would choose Joe Biden as President. Again, this is just hypothetical in order to make a point. Big states such as California, Illinois and New York have always had an impact on the election, but the point being made is that if the vote is determined by the Popular Vote this will not happen. It can only help everyone make sure their vote is counted when it comes to electing the President of the United States no matter where they live. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will be on the ballot this year. Please consider voting for it and get rid of a system that no longer serves its purpose. 


 * Just a side note. Why is it that Donald Trump has suddenly held a briefing on the status of the Corona virus and his Administration's success at flattening the curve for the first time in two months? Vice President Pence's claims about the curve being flattened are only partially true and many of the states experiencing a surge as serious as the one in New York are badly needed by Trump in the upcoming election - two swing states - Arizona and Florida- and the traditionally Republican state of Texas with 34 Electoral Votes. Both sides are playing politics and the American people are caught in the middle.


Sunday, June 21, 2020

Why Juneteenth is a Big Deal

Imagine it is mid May, 1945 and you are a reporter standing in front of Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland recording release of prisoners from the Concentration Camp. You watch as emaciated forms walk under the sign Arbeit Macht Frei, some wobbling alone or on crutches, others walking being supported by one another. As they walk past you hear their conversations. How long were you here? Where did you come from? What do you know about prisoners from other concentration camps? Do you know the names Anne and Margot Frank or Peter Van Daan? It seems to you that the most important thing on these former prisoners' mind is finding out about loved ones lost to them during this terrible period known as The Holocaust, a time in history that will never be forgotten and now taught in all the history books - lest we forget.

Now imagine you are a reporter covering the day on June 19, 1865 when federal soldiers marched into Houston ordering that all people held as slaves in the state of Texas are now and forever free.
You go to a nearby plantation and watch as slaves hear about Emancipation for the first time and begin to understand what that means to them. They are now free to pack up their belongings and leave the plantation to which they have been bound since they were born. They are now able to put any family units back together and go freely to look for other relatives that were sold to other plantations or who ran away. Imagine the joy! This is what freedom means - to travel and go about freely and live in family units just like their masters!

You notice that there is someone in the crowd telling the freed slaves about a gathering in a place in Houston called Freedom Park. The freed slaves look at him in astonishment - you mean we can gather in a public place!  "Yes, so long as you do it peacefully," comes the reply. Freedom - this is what emancipation means.

You get to the park and you notice there are Black people who can read and write who are reading the Emancipation Proclamation and explaining it to the crowd without being hauled away or beaten. A revelation occurs to some - I can learn to read and write.  Freedom! People are coming with food and mingling and talking to one another about relatives and friends. You even see some of your own! Freedom!

There are tables full of traditional foods prepared by female members of the community and set onto tables for the freed slaves to eat - not masters. Freedom! Everyone is singing and dancing for their own enjoyment not for the masters- Freedom!

When the day ends these slaves return to the plantation as free people, they begin to absorb what this freedom means and then start to build a new life, but they do not forget this day. They mark the date June 19, 1865 on a calendar so that no matter where they are in the following years, they will come together with family and friends to mark the day they received their freedom from tyranny the way their white masters did on the 4th of July, but this observance is a little different from that celebration.

In order to understand how the Juneteeth celebration is observed, I attended many celebrations in and around the state of Kentucky from 2015-2019 when I moved from my home state. I also did presentations at the Portland Library on the history of Juneteenth and the long struggle to get the day declared a federal holiday not just an observance day. As I started learning how the day was observed, I decided to write a short story about an adolescent growing up in the Portland Neighborhood of Louisville, Ky. The story is about his coming of age on this day, but it also creates a picture of the Black community in this neighborhood with its roots in slavery and how they celebrate the day. The story is entitled Juneteenth and it is found in my collections of short stories Finding New Pangaea available at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/finding-new-pangaea-ms-brenda-c-duffey/1126177417. It is also available in kindle format.

The observance of Juneteenth follows closely the observance of the original Juneteenth celebration. It is a celebration of family and oftentimes there are large family reunions at state parks in the area. Traditional foods are served and it is just a big family picnic with tables spread with traditional foods and children laughing and playing and reuniting with distant family members or meeting new ones. Education is also a component. Some of the observances of the day are marked by original plays that tell the story of slavery and freedom. For the most part, it is just people having fun enjoying the same freedoms that the white Anglo-Saxon males attained on July 4, 1776. That day is marked by ringing of bells and fireworks displays along with national celebrations in Washington, D.C. with spectacular entertainment by national choruses and the singing of patriotic songs as well as a lot of flag waving and red, white and blue. Just like July 4th Juneteenth is, indeed, a big deal because this day marks the day on which they received all the freedoms listed in the Constitution  just as July 4th marks the day Anglo-Saxon men and other Black freedmen attained the right to self-government and their freedom from absolute monarchies that denied them their rights as English citizens. July 4th was also a landmark day for oppressed people in other countries. It is unfortunate that these Founding Fathers did not include all American citizens at this time. So Juneteeth is a big deal to the African-American communities and just like July 4th the day needs to be at last declared a federal holiday. *

Just like the struggle to get Juneteenth declared a federal holiday, the journey of not only African-Americans, Native Americans, women and other people of color has been long and difficult. In 2020, all of these groups are still held in bondage and prisons and still struggling to get the freedoms listed in the Bill of Rights so the country can live up to the words of the preamble to the Constitution:

          We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect union,
establish justice. 
provide for the common defense
promote the general welfare,
and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.


Monday, June 15, 2020

Why All Lives Matter Landmark Supreme Court Decision

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement. Although the movement began to end segregation and discrimination against Blacks in the South, when the Act was passed it was all inclusive - the language was not specific to one group of people; it banned discrimination in public places or in the work place based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Today, that all inclusive language resulted in a victory for the LGBTQ community in a decision handed down by the Supreme Court and delivered by a conservative Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch. Justice Gorsuch was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the four liberal justices making this a 6-3 decision. 

Two members of the LGBTQ community who had been fired from their jobs for entering into same sex relationships took their case to court and it ended up in the Supreme Court which today upheld their right to keep their jobs regardless of sexual orientation. For the two conservatives on the court, the decision was made based on the wording of the text of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which mentioned the word sex. If the Civil Rights Act had been specific only to the rights of Blacks, this protection would have been denied the LGBTQ community which has suffered from discrimination as long as any other group in this country. That's why it is important to keep in mind that George Floyd, a Black man, is more than a Black man. He is the representative of all of us who have suffered from police brutality, injustice and discrimination. The leadership of Black Lives Matter has the opportunity to make important changes in our system for the betterment of all. I hope when dialogues begin and things start to change that the leadership will remember it's not just about Black people; please include all those groups that have suffered from injustice and discrimination for too many years. They are standing in solidarity with you because they know too well themselves the brutal consequences of hate and injustice. 










 
 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

For Those Touting Juneteenth Celebration In Tulsa a Little Historical Context


Juneteenth – The Road to Freedom
Kentucky’s observance of Juneteenth was ordered by proclamation in 2005. Here is the text of the proclamation http://www.nationaljuneteenth.com/Kentucky.html. The following is a history of the story of emancipation and freedom from slavery. 

One of the biggest misconceptions in American history is that the Union fought the Civil War to free the slaves and that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued to free the slaves. This perception has resulted from the failure of education to teach anything but White man’s political history for over a Century in this country.  I wrote my first novel (The Peacemaker) in retirement from 25 years of teaching American history in public schools all over the country in an effort to dispel these myths. This is why I continue writing and teaching and making presentations such as this all over the country in retirement.

What were the real issues in regard to the fighting of the American Civil War? The Civil War was an economic war between two powerful entities that controlled the American economy from the time of the establishment of the United States in 1787. These two entities were the industrial magnets of the North and the plantation owners of the South.  Neither of these entities represented the common man or even those bound by slavery or forced removal from their ancestral lands in order to make room for one of these two economies and thus control the great wealth available for only a few of the ruling members controlling each region.

The rich plantation owners of the Confederacy (10% of the population) were able to convince the poor whites living in the area that their cause to protect their “way of life” was important enough to die to the last man. The industrialists of the North did not succeed in doing so causing great resistance to the War to preserve the Union after two years of nothing but a blood bath with nothing in return. In fact, the Irish-immigrants in the Northern centers soon began to call this War a “rich man’s war, but a poor man’s fight.” They had lost the will to fight and even began to resent the large numbers of African-Americans filling the contraband camps in the North who were not taking part in the fight. Lincoln was running out of both men and materials by September of 1862 as the Union armies fought the invading forces of the South at Antietam Creek outside of Maryland. This one day battle was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War with the Union losses at 12,000 and the Confederate losses at 13,000. The Southern forces were loyal to the last man, but Union troops were not willing to suffer such terrible losses. The Union desperately needed a victory to keep support for the War and Congress was talking about passing a Conscription Act (draft) in order to supply more “cannon fodder.” 

 When the Battle of Antietam ended in a draw with the Confederates simply moving back instead of surrendering, Lincoln decided this was the time for an act that would turn the tide of war with a Confederate surrender, or keep the British and French from coming into the War on the side of the Confederacy and give him the power to conscript Black soldiers into the conflict – thus preventing a Conscription Act.  The failure of the Emancipation Act to stop the War led to the passage of the Conscription Act in March of 1863 resulting in three days of Draft Riots in New York City (described in The Peacemaker) during which the African-American population suffered great loss.  The document issued by Abraham Lincoln in September of 1862 was the Act Lincoln chose to accomplish the afore mentioned. That document became known as the Emancipation Proclamation and was the basis of the now nationwide observance of Freedom Day more commonly called Juneteenth.

The Emancipation Proclamation was not an act of Congress; it was an Executive Order. In 1862 the Presidential use of Executive Orders was far more limited than it is today. The power to issue an Executive Order was supposed to be restricted to times of national emergencies when the President had to act swiftly as Commander-in-Chief to protect national security because there was no time for Congress to debate a law. Read the full text of the Proclamation at this link: http://www.historynet.com/emancipation-proclamation-text  The text lists the 10 states covered by the Proclamation.

The actions of these 10 states after the issuing of the Proclamation is what led to freedom of the slaves in those states. The governments of these states kept fighting, therefore the slaves were free but emancipation did not happen until federal troops marched into the states and took control. If the South had surrendered, the slaves would not have been freed there. Lincoln realized after issuing the Proclamation that Congress needed to act to end slavery all together in this country because the slaves in the five Border States as well as the slaves in the District of Columbia were not affected by the Proclamation. Congress had passed the Compensated Emancipation Act in April of 1862. This Act freed all the slaves living in the District of Columbia. Therefore, April 16th is a state holiday celebrated each year in the District of Columbia. Other celebrations commemorating Freedom Day take place in Florida on May 20th, and Puerto Rico on March 22nd. The most common nationwide celebration of freedom is the celebration known as Juneteenth.

The celebration known as Juneteenth is a corruption of the words June and nineteenth. June 19th is the day in 1865 when General Granger marched his federal forces into Galveston, Texas and declared that the slaves were free under the conditions of the Emancipation Proclamation. As the news reached the slave communities, a free Black man who owned property in Galveston donated the property and declared that it be named Emancipation Park where June 19th would be celebrated each year with reading of the documents of freedom (Emancipation Proclamation and eventually the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments), picnics and family reunions. There were street fairs, rodeos and singing of traditional songs of freedom such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”- one of the spirituals sung by slaves to pass along information about when a guide for the Underground Railroad such as Harriet Tubman was in the area.

The celebration grew as former slaves moved from the South into urban centers of the North during the 1920’s and 30’s taking the celebration with them. One interesting celebration of Juneteenth takes place in Coahuila, Mexico. The mascogos or Black Seminoles fled to Mexico after the forced removal to the Indian Territory in 1832. Runaway slaves fled to Florida and had married into the Seminole population so after the removal of the Indian population to Oklahoma in 1832, this mixed population fled to Mexico to avoid being put into slavery. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/mascogas.
Since the slaves of the Border States were not freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln realized that the passage of an Amendment to the Constitution would be needed to put an end to slavery the United States once and for all. In January, 1865 the surrender of the South appeared eminent, so Lincoln decided to push Congress into proposing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that would end slavery. The Amendment did not become law until December of 1865 when the 30 of 36 states ratified the Amendment ending slavery. Lincoln did not live to see that. In another paradox of history, Kentucky did not ratify the 13th Amendment. The main reason the amendment passed was because one of the requirements for reentry into the Union for the Confederate States was ratification of the 13th Amendment. Since the slaves in Kentucky had not been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, it would be 140 years before the celebration became recognized in Kentucky.
The movement for a national celebration of Juneteenth began after the Poor People’s March on Washington in August of 1963 when the story of Juneteenth was shared with people from all over the country who converged upon Washington, D.C. The marchers took the celebrations back to their home states and in 1994 Christian leaders from all over the country met in New Orleans , LA to lobby Congress to pass a law to declare Juneteenth as National Independence Day for African-Americans similar to July 4th to allow for time off from work. Congress never enacted such a law, but state lawmakers encouraged their states to either establish Juneteenth as a state holiday or at least a state observance. As of 2012, 41 states and the District of Columbia passed legislation to officially recognize Juneteenth National Independence Day. Kentucky passed a resolution on June 20, 2005 to set the 19th of June of each year to be observed as Juneteenth National Freedom Day.”
Further reading on the historical context in which the Emancipation Proclamation was written can be found in “The Peacemaker,” by Brenda Duffey at http://kentuckywoman.net.  A short story entitled “Juneteenth” that is part of a collection of short stories by Brenda Duffey can be found in “Finding New Pangaea” available on amazon.com.  



Saturday, June 6, 2020

Don't Kill the Mockingbirds - Mockingbirds Matter

A glass of water, that piece of bread, an item of clothing, that visit… these little things, my friend, are what the Lord asks of you. Love manifested for the hungry one, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the one in prison, the broken one, the one who suffers, who’s alone, as the Bible tells us in Matthew 25:35-40.
“‘For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink’ […] ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?’ […] ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

We are seeing this denial played out in the streets of every major city across the nation. People are hungry and thirsty, people are dying because of social injustice. Now is the time for all of us Christians to think about these words from Jesus Christ. He came into the world to teach about how to live to create a Kingdom of God. His words during the short time that he lived are written down for all to see. He sacrificed his life that we could have a better life, but I am afraid many people are so caught up in religious differences that we fail to really understand these words and how they play out in the larger society.

Huge populations of Christians all over the world carry the Bible and pound the religious teachings of Jesus to make the world a better place - for humans anyway. How many of us really take these words to our hearts and live our lives accordingly? I aspire to do this, but I am not perfect. I think when I live these words I am compassionate and can look beyond religion and politics and relate to all humans from this perspective. This works for me. I try to understand all groups and "walk a mile in their moccasins" to be able to really hear what they are saying and use my freedom of choice and vote to walk with them in support as Jesus did when he walked among the lepers of his time. I am certainly not perfect and fall down a lot - my ego gets in the way many times and I revert to my superior knowledge instead of thinking about my wisdom and "what would Jesus do?" That being said, I must take a stand for a group that has never been included in the dialogue of this nation since the beginning of our nation and I see this as a major problem in working to settle the suffering that fills our nation today - Mother Earth and all her sentient beings.

Without going into all the scientific discussions about climate change, I want to discuss how our lives are being ruined by industrialism and division based on what I need as opposed to what others need. What does our planet need? I watched as police released tear gas upon a crowd of protesters and the nation condemned and judged with no mention about the damage to the air and earth and all the wildlife living there. It is my thought that when we include Mother Earth and all sentient life that we share the earth with and that not only provides our sustenance but pure joy, we will move forward in a better way as a nation.

I have been thinking a lot about the great writers of classic literature that have made an impact on our society as we examine social injustice and change. I have written a lot about the black writers of the Harlem Renaissance but most recently I have been thinking about Harper Lee and "To Kill a Mockingbird." I think the theme of this novel closely aligns with not only the words of Jesus but my thoughts about our relationship to "the least of us - the mockingbird." The title of the book comes from a speech given by Atticus Finch near the end of Tom Robinson's trial. Atticus reminds the jury that "we should not kill mockingbirds because all they do is sing and make people feel good." Let's try to look at what we are doing to Mother Earth in this long struggle for civil rights and include her in the mix as well.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Time for Peace: "The Invisible Man" - When Hope Turns to Revenge

A Time for Peace: "The Invisible Man" - When Hope Turns to Revenge: “When we take away from a man (woman, animal, earth itself) his traditional way of life, his customs, his religion, we had better make cert... I wrote this after I read three African American authors who were part of the Harlem Renaissance in New York and after I saw the movie "Something of Value" based on the novel by Richard Ruark. I felt compelled to re blog this after watching a compelling scene in Charlotte, North Carolina as frustrated mentors worked with angry young black men trying to help them understand that violence is not the answer. My heart filled with remorse and sorrow as I watched a 31 year old man trying to comfort an exhausted 16 year old who fell in the middle of the street during a protest that blocked the entrance onto I-277. The interview with the mentor afterwards was one that revealed exhaustion and frustration about the role of peaceful black men trying to fulfill the promise of Martin Luther King, Jr. I think if the black community would read the works of these authors who won Pulitzer Prizes as well as the nation as a whole, I think we might have a chance at building some dialogue and peace. God bless us all.