My Mother made a beautiful stitched picture that hangs on my wall. Every time I look at it, I think of her fingers carefully pulling the needle and thread. The message was important to her and it should be for all of us today.
History also is most important to us because it teaches us so much. We can look at what has happened in the past and in some ways project the future…unless we refuse to learn. Most present-day issues are sensitive and hard to discuss, but we must think about these things.
What kind of “fragile” times are we going through and what has history taught our last generations?
Let’s take a hard look at now and then.
- Everyone has become fearful of the possibility of becoming sick or dying from our recent virus.
- Governments have taken control world-wide more than we can remember in our modern history.
- Life and travel has completely changed.
- Tragedies have led people to respond with demonstrations as they let their concerns be known. This is the democratic way, according to our Constitution, and should be respected.
- More tragedies have occurred for business owners, of every race and creed, whose livelihood has been ruined by the breaking and looting, which should have never been connected with those wanting peaceful demonstrations. Some organizations have as their goal to bring down democracy and pit our citizens against one another.
(Let’s look at those in other parts of the world who are fighting to keep their democratic way of life.)
- People in Hong Kong are facing further governmental crack-downs from mainland China as Beijing proposes new legislation. ( “China stunned Hong Kong when it announced it would impose a national security law on the city. Many worry this could spell the end of Hong Kong’s unique freedoms…”) whole story on BBC News
Why even mention the present day problems? It is because these are only a few of the world’s problems that makes “Life Fragile” for all of us, in this country and around the world today.
What can we, the present generations, learn from history?
- The slave owners and slave ship captains were the ones responsible for the sins of the past…not people living today. By making slavery the sin of those living today only makes our society more fragile. Unfortunately, history cannot be relived, as much as we would like to correct the wrongs of the past. Looking at and condemning the actions of the past by individuals or governments is one thing…to place it on the shoulders of those not responsible is another.
We talk of the need for “being together and unified” and for everyone to work together to rid all injustices in society. Yes, the present and future are our responsibilities. To rectify present problems is an honorable goal that most would want to see accomplished, but talk is cheap if we continue to blame those who are not responsible for past injustices.
Mass blame only leads to disruption and a society sickness within groups of people, leadership, the media, and our communities in general.
( Let’s think also about German history.)
- The Nazi regime blamed an entire group of people. They were the builders of the death camps, designed to eliminate the Jews from their culture. I had the honor of taking young Americans to Auschwitz to remember this tragic time during World War II. It is an experience one never forgets. Even the Jews, themselves, could not believe that their businesses were being destroyed and that they would be rounded up to die, simply because they were a particular group of people. Society has a way, through the evils of leadership, to turn against one another. Interestingly enough, Hitler continued to use the expertise of his Jewish doctors and dentist. How could he not have known the value of the individual? Mass hysteria became the weapon of choice, as well as propaganda through the German media, leaflets, and posters against people as a whole.
The German youth today, or their parents, are not responsible. We will make life more fragile if we try to pin on innocent people what tragedies were espoused when they were either tiny children or not even born.
- Past generations of Native Americans had the horror of walking to their death on the Trail of Tears, which is a despicable part of our own history of governmental policies. The white, mostly of European descent, who rode their wagons through the tribal territory to settle the West were often murdered and scalped. No living Native American had anything to do with this tragedy.
- We must not forget the hundreds of Japanese Americans, who were placed by our government leaders during World War II in the U.S.Internment Camps because of being Japanese. The generations today of U.S. Government officials had no part in this.
- Because some policemen have acted in evil ways against defenseless people, ALL men and women wearing the badge can not be blamed or demonized for the acts of others… for many have dedicated their lives to helping safe-guard our communities. Without them, those who mean harm will be let loose on those who will see a greater need to protect themselves. In this case, those wishing for more gun control may find their proposals will fall on deaf ears.
Are we getting the picture?
Blaming ALL people for the actions of some only leads to an extremely fragile society. It leads to the persecution of the innocent and instability of our nation and the world today.
Our last question: Can destroying the representations of history remove it from memory?
Condoleezza Rice, former 66th Secretary of State, explained her view about destroying history to the Washington Examiner. She believes that the Confederate statues and associated names of schools and universities should be used as teaching tools. It is as a way to understand history even as we learn not to celebrate it.
This is why we, the Believers in Christ and of the dignity of all people who were created in the image of God, must not forget to pray. We must pray for each other, all mankind of every nationality and the government leaders around the world, who have the power to turn our world upside down.
We are a fragile world.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Nelson Mandela, former Pres. of South Africa
Video: Turn up sound
Everyone who watched the royal wedding today in the beautiful St. George Chapel will have their own opinion of its significance, other than it was a very expensive wedding that may have brought excitement to people around the world…especially in England. I write this blog not to throw cold water on any of the festivities, but to point out that there may have been a missed opportunity.
Being an Episcopalian (Anglican to you Brits), I first have to say that the Episcopalians love their reverence, quiet solitude for reflection and prayer in their church services. We love beautiful choir music…soft and dignified…not boisterous. The church is a sacred place which is often called “God’s house.” It is not a theatre or a stadium. I am certain that the Anglicans throughout the world feel the same way.
Having said that, I have also been a part of “get down and happy” southern church services that put no stock at all in formality. Both places of worship have the pluses and minuses for different people. Some feel that music should be “praise music” and if the preacher preaches loud and long, then he is a “real preacher.” The ability to speak out and say “Amen” is part of the overall service. In most cases, in the Anglican (Episcopal) churches saying anything aloud is rare unless one is part of the service readings.
Episcopalians or Anglicans have Holy Communion each service. They might enjoy a shorter and to the point sermon. I have been to southern, African American churches where I was welcomed and actually escorted from the back seat to the front to share my love for Jesus with the congregation. I could not have been more warmly welcomed as a person not of color.
I want to comment on the American Episcopal Bishop, Michael Curry, who was asked to give the message at the royal wedding. He may have missed a golden opportunity. I don’t mean that he could have shortened his message or that his subject on God’s love was not a good one. He was certainly enthusiastic about what he was saying.
It was a message on love which was appropriate for a wedding. However, he only briefly mentioned Jesus with some words on “redemption” without explaining it clearly., Jesus gave his life and rose from the dead to bring redemption to mankind. He is the essence of God’s love.
Bishop Curry had an audience of a life-time with millions if not billions of people watching. Many of those people know nothing about the love of God or His redemptive power. Jesus is the “GREATEST LOVE of all, but we have to receive His Love just as one would receive a beautiful gift. This Perfect Love seemed to be minimized and somewhat lost as the sermon went on with other unrelated thoughts on “industrialization” and changin the world. This was unfortunate and disappointing.
God’s love and mercy also includes reconciliation, not division. When Bishop Curry began to talk about slavery…much of which could be contributed to the fore-fathers of the elite British audience in attendance…the message brought up a painful subject to many. As much as they might like to do so, the wedding congregation cannot go back and change their history. Neither can the Americans who came from England and bought the slaves to work their plantations. History is to be learned from, not lived over and over.
The bride and groom planned their wedding to be inclusive with choirs singing spirituals, which may have not been heard in St. George Chapel. This may have been a good, inclusive and memorable part of the wedding service. Some are saying, “Bishop Curry stole the show.” Perhaps…but his style of preaching was a genuine style of preaching for him and his background. The Anglicans have their style and he was in their territory for the day. If they were made to feel “uneasy,” perhaps the bridal party should have thought of that earlier.
We may want to be one, big world-family with everyone singing the same song and loving one another throughout the entire world. It is a lofty message. How likely is that to happen? Never…until Christ comes back and every eye shall see Him and every knee bows before Him. That will be real PEACE AND LOVE.
A brief history of St. George Chapel: St. George’s castle chapel was established in the 14th century by King Edward III and began extensive enlargement in the late 15th century. It has been the location of many royal ceremonies, weddings and burials… Windsor Castle is a principal residence for Queen Elizabeth II and its chapel is the planned burial site for the Queen. Other kings are buried here as well as some familiar names:
- Jane Seymore Queen of England, in 1537
- Henry VIII King of England and Ireland, in 1547
- Charles I King of England, Scotland and Ireland, in 1649 (credit Wikipedia)
VIDEO: St. George Chapel Choir rehearses for the wedding day.
Congratulations to the new couple.
Are we erasing history? Every generation has its conflicts…wars…inequalities and disputes. One might even today believe that the United States of America is coming apart at the seams and will someday have to pick up the pieces of our history that are being destroyed or hidden away.
People who are part of history never have had unanimous beliefs. Headlines may read “The KKK and White Supremacists Fight a Race war in the U.S.” …or “Everyone Hates the Police…or “The President is an Evil Racist.” Wait a minute…perhaps we should get a handle on things! What exactly does our very short U.S. history tell us about dissent and civil unrest?
The news clips and internet videos show that the recent violence in Virginia appears to be made up of young people as do the worldwide clips of terrorism and unrest. What is this saying about our future generations and public property? Have they not learned anything from historical figures such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks or Mahatma Gandhi about a peaceful protest for change?
It is true that there has been recent disputes and bloodshed over the removal of Southern, historical statues. Most politicians and Americans condemn such violence. As much as I dislike many of the things our President says, I agree when he said, “Where does this stop?” Will we have to rename Washington, D.C., our Capitol, because George Washington was an owner of slaves? What will happen to Mt. Rushmore?
Some would say that the actions of removing monuments is to “sanitize history.” Yet, according to the writings of Chris Graham, there can not be any sanitizing or rewriting history. He is correct on that point. History is history and should remain a lesson from which we learn. It should not be a lesson that is erased.
As an example, what would one think if we went to Auschwitz and removed the evidence of one of the most heinous crimes in history? Would we think that the Germans of today, who were not part of the Nazi era, would be offended and therefore the suitcases, eyeglasses, gassing buildings, ovens and Nazi signs should all be taken down? I think we know the answer to that….No, of course not! Would out of sight also mean out of mind? The Jews, by the millions, suffered as well as Christians who spoke out, gypsies, and homosexuals. If we tried to sanitize that period of history, we could be opening up another generation to treat these same people to another Holocaust…because they had learned nothing from history? We are also told that “those who do not remember history, will live it over again.” This includes the generation that is not taught history. Thankfully, we have people like Stephen Spielberg who is recording the stories of the Holocaust survivors to preserve for all times.
Chris Graham says “…you can’t rewrite the history of the United States to the point of sanitizing our collective experiences to meet the demands of our 21st-century sensibilities. Slavery was literally written into our Constitution…” (See paragraph below on the 13th Amendment)
“Even the great Thomas Jefferson, as he penned the Declaration of Independence, not even arguably the most important written document in human history, owned slaves at the time he put the words to paper and did for the remaining 50 years of his life after. George Washington owned slaves. Abraham Lincoln demurred over the Emancipation Proclamation. Every president and Supreme Court justice and other statesmen of any significance between Washington and Jefferson and today acquiesced in the perpetuation of slavery, Jim Crow, massive resistance, housing and job discrimination, mass incarceration and disenfranchisement, dilution of voting power through political gerrymandering. We don’t have the capacity to produce enough bleach to cleanse the sins of our past, our present and the ones that we will continue to commit into the distant future.
But our collective history is more than our collective sins. Jefferson, a slaveholder, breathed life into the concept that all men are created equal. Washington led our armies to victory in our American Revolution. Lincoln did issue the Emancipation Proclamation and prosecuted the war against rebels intent on preserving the institution of slavery to the bitter end. Women waged a decades-old battle to win the right to vote that had been denied them. We persevered through a Depression and then immediately after defeated a literal axis of fascism, and the seeds of that victory jump-started a civil rights movement that de-codified Jim Crow and thrust our nation into the modern era…”
The Civil War was fought between April 12, 1861 and May 9, 1865. Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (Freeing the slaves) on September 22nd, 1862. It stipulated that if the Southern states did not cease their rebellion by January 1st, 1863, then Proclamation would go into effect.
13th Amendment to the Constitution (The Abolishment of Slavery)
“Before the Civil War ended, Congress passed and sent to the states for ratification, the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished “slavery” and “involuntary servitude” and authorized Congress to enact “appropriate legislation” implementing the abolition. The Amendment was understood to also make blacks citizens of the United States (overruling Dred Scott on that point). The House vote to propose the Thirteenth Amendment followed the Senate vote and barely made the 2/3 majority requirement. When the vote was announced the galleries cheered, congressmen embraced and wept, and Capitol cannons boomed a 100-gun salute. Congressman George Julian of Indiana wrote in his diary, “I have felt, ever since the vote, as if I were in a new country.” Ratification by the states quickly followed, and Secretary of State Seward proclaimed the Amendment adopted on December 18, 1865.
Less than a year after ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, Congress used its newly conferred power to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1866, giving black citizens “the same right in every state…to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, …to inherit, purchase, sell, and convey real and personal property; and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property as is enjoyed by white citizens.” Supporters of the 1866 law argued that its guarantees constituted “appropriate” means of “enforcing” the right of blacks not to be held in bondage.
The Thirteenth Amendment, unlike most provisions in the Constitution, is self-executing, in that it directly reaches-even without action by Congress- conduct by private individuals (slave holders). Because of this fact, Congress’s power under the Thirteenth Amendment allows it to punish forms of private conduct when it might not be able to do so under an amendment such as the Fourteenth, which restricts the conduct of states (prohibiting states from denying equal protection of the laws or due process).”(Exploring Constitutional Conflicts)
What about the removal of Southern, historical monuments? Many of our artistic, beautiful bronze statues are headed for the warehouses…unless they are pulverized first. Should we take a lesson from a more recent history where ISIS, that is good at destroying antiquities and monuments with which they do not agree, bombed a 2,000-year-old temple in Syria?
Think of it. Will we someday have scientists and archeologists sifting through the ruins or warehouses to find the antiquities of our American past? The people of Syria are desperately trying to save every piece of their temple history, even at their own peril. They are collecting even the smallest pieces, photographing, and storing them in boxes to save for future generations. CNN VIDEO on Syria
Yes, many of our nation’s founders were slave holders. Today everyone is appalled with the history of slavery and the hate that it inspired. It took too long to right a wrong, but finally, our government leaders decided to do something about those in bondage and the terrible road they had traveled…literally, from far away shores that they called home.
Yet throughout our history, people of color rose above the discrimination and sadness they encountered. Below are a few examples of over 118 African Americans who chose to build and develop America by their inventions and expertise. The list of white inventors…or Asian or Hispanic would also be long. However, the color of the skin made no difference. In any case, the people who made America what it is today only tried to better it and not destroy it. So many of the videos that show the recent violence appear to be mainly young people. Let’s hope that they will learn about these people and our history that worked for us in building a great nation. Each of these people had a vision of their self-worth and acted upon it.
A few African Americans from previous history and modern history:
- George Washington Carver: Discovered hundreds of uses for previously useless vegetables and fruits, principally the peanut.
- Sarah Boone: Invented the ironing board, allowing sleeves of women’s garments to be ironed more easily
- Harold Amos: Microbiologist Harvard Medical School Department Chair
- George Alcorn Edward, Jr.: Physicist Invented a method of fabricating X-ray spectrometer
- Archie Alexander: Civil Engineer Responsible for construction of roads and bridges including the Tidal Basin Bridge and Baltimore- Washington Parkway
- Leonard Bailey: Inventor of the folding bed
- Alice Augusta Ball: chemist Extracted chaulmoogra oil for treatment of leprosy
- Benjamin Banneker: Mathematician, astronomer, surveyor of Washington, D.C.
- Janet Basher: First African-American woman to receive a patent for a web-based software invention, LinkLine, an Equal Employment Opportunity case management and tracking software
- David Crosthwait Jr.: Heating, ventilation, air conditioning patents ( 40 US patents) relating to the HVAC systems See the entire list of 118
Modern Day contributors to our American history:
All of us must decide to be a part of building a better America through cooperation, non-violent discussions, and protests needed for change. We should look to history from which to learn and from which to teach the lessons that are needed for a better tomorrow for all generations. If we continue to tear down, destroy, promote violence that leads to death and injury or disrespect the history of our country, we will be no better than other countries that are having to pick up the pieces of their violators. Americans…We must not be like ISIS…destroying and turning our backs on our past. We are a young country and our monuments and statues are not thousands of years old, but they are OUR HISTORY. Our future generations need to know about their ancestors…for good or for bad. Disagreement does not mean DESTRUCTION.
VIDEO: Take a look. Do we want to be like this? Remember, it all started with the destruction of the FIRST statue and monument. We must not be a part of erasing history.
In Honor and Memory of Khaled al-Asaad, Antiquities Director, murdered by ISIS for refusing to divulge the storage of historical antiquities. (Look for another blog to come on his amazing life.)
Our road to freedom for all has not been an easy one, but it is one that is continually worked on in the United States. Our founding fathers of this nation would not know our country in years past or today as they worked hard to overcome the inequalities of all humans and to build a country where freedom is for all.
They had to work through their own problems of slavery, finally giving freedom under the Emancipation Proclamation. In later years we as a nation had to make things better for native Americans whose lands had been taken and whose sufferings were evident in the Trail of Tears. Men of character stood up to speak for the civil rights of all through demonstrations and civil rights sit ins. Our soldiers have stood duty around the world to guarantee that no nation would take these freedoms away from our homeland. Evil raised it’s head once more and brought the terror of removing our freedoms in our present day. We must all know what what these freedoms mean and vow that they will never be taken away.
The word FREEDOM is defined as :
- the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government orthe state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.Just as anyone who has lost their freedom or in our past history, those who had to fight for their freedoms, FREEDOM has great meaning. Men of good will have seen the wrongs done and have tried to set things right. We know that through new laws and legislation, all can eat in restaurants, have access to education and much more in our country. Sadly, the non-violent approach to protest so cherished by Dr. King has lost its way in many cities, even though many try to stay true to his beliefs. Buildings and businesses have been burned and destroyed bringing no one to a better life or more justice. Freedom, as we desire it, is lost in this type of aggression for those who want change the most.We usually think of someone being imprisoned or taken hostage in deplorable conditions when we think of lost freedoms. It actually is more than that. If a person has been active and suddenly is disabled in someway that they no longer can do the things they once did, this is a loss of freedom. Many are courageous and build upon a new life. As far as the freedoms we enjoy because we have a government and a Constitution that guarantees our liberty and freedom, we may not think of what it would be like to lose it as other nations have.Let us think about that for a moment.What are some of our basic freedoms in this country and other countries world-wide with a democracy?Here in the U.S. we are have the following freedoms guaranteed by the THE BILL OF RIGHTS. If you are an American citizen and do not know your rights, then you should read this carefully. Men and women have died for the protection of these rights for you.(Some history in brief)“In drafting the Constitution, most of the Founding Fathers believed that the safeguards written into it would protect the rights of Americans. But when the Constitution was sent to the states in 1787 for ratification, a great roar of disapproval went up. In Virginia, Patrick Henry protested vigorously against the lack of a specific statement of rights. Other Americans from different states demanded that a Bill of Rights be added to the Constitution. A number of states ratified the Constitution only conditionally. That is, they would approve the Constitution only if it were changed to include these rights. Two years after the new American government went into effect, the Bill of Rights was added as the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Congress discussed nearly 200 proposals for amendments before it presented these ten to the states for approval. The states ratified these amendments, and they became part of the Constitution in 1791:FREEDOM OF RELIGION ...guarantees to all Americans the right to practice any religion they choose, or to practice no religion at all. (Notice it was chosen first.)
Congress is forbidden to establish any religion as our nation’s official religion. Congress cannot favor any one religion over others or tax citizens in order to support any one religion.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH…The right to express your ideas and opinions… Freedom of speech also means the right to listen to the thoughts and opinions of others. This freedom guarantees that Americans are free to express their thoughts and ideas about anything. They may talk freely to their friends and neighbors or speak in public to a group of people. Of course, no one may use his freedom of speech to injure others. If a person knowingly says things that are false about another, he may be sued in court by the person or persons who believe they have been harmed by what he said. Americans are free to express opinions about their government or anything else. They are free to criticize the actions of the government and of government officials. In a dictatorship, where the nation’s government has all the powers, the people have no right to speak like this. They do not dare to criticize the actions of the government. If they do, they may be imprisoned. But all Americans enjoy the freedom of speech, which is guaranteed in the First Amendment.
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS…The freedom to express your ideas and opinions in writing. This freedom is closely related to freedom of speech…This writing may be in newspapers, books, magazines, or any other printed or written form. Americans are also free to read what others write. They may read any newspaper, book or magazine they want. Because they are free to read a variety of facts and opinions, Americans can become better-informed citizens. (Reading does not necessarily mean agreement to what is written.)
FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY …freedom to hold meetings. Americans are free to meet together to discuss problems and to plan their actions. Of course, such meetings must be carried on in a peaceful way.
FREEDOM OF PETITION…The freedom of petition is the right to ask your government to do something or to refrain from doing something… The freedom of petition gives you the right to write to your Congressman and request him to work for the passage of laws you favor. You are free to ask him to change laws that you do not like. The right of petition also helps government officials to know what Americans think and what actions they want the government to take.
THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS…The Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees Americans the right to bear arms. In the early years of our nation, Americans needed weapons in order to serve in the militia, or volunteer armies, that were established to defend our states. The militia provided protection during emergencies, too. Many Americans also believed that without weapons they would be powerless if the government tried to overstep its powers and rule by force.
“NO-QUARTERING” RIGHT…The Third Amendment states, “No soldier shall, in times of peace, be quartered in any house. . . .” Under British rule, the colonists sometimes had to feed and house British soldiers against their will. As a result, Americans wanted this practice forbidden under the Bill of Rights.
THE RIGHT TO EQUAL JUSTICE…The Bill of Rights contains many rights that are guaranteed to persons accused of a crime. Amendments Five, Six, Seven, and Eight are all concerned with these rights. Our nation places great importance on these rights in order to guarantee equal justice for all Americans.
- A person must be indicted, or formally accused of a crime, by a group of citizens called a “grand jury” before he can be brought into court for trial.
- A person accused of a crime is guaranteed the right to know what law he is accused of breaking.
- A person accused of a crime has a right to a prompt public trial by a jury of his fellow citizens.
- An accused person cannot be put into prison and kept there for weeks or months while awaiting a trial. He has the right to leave jail, in most cases, if he can raise a certain sum of money, or bail, as a pledge that he will appear at his trial.
- An accused person has a right to a lawyer to represent him in court.
- All the testimony and evidence against an accused person must be presented publicly in court.
- The accused person has the right to call any witnesses to appear if their testimony will help him.
- The accused person cannot be forced to testify or give evidence against himself.
- If the accused person is found guilty, he cannot be given cruel or unusual punishment. If the accused person is found not guilty of a serious crime, he cannot be tried a second time for this same crime.
THE RIGHT TO OWN PRIVATE PROPERTY…The Fifth Amendment guarantees Americans the right to own private property. No person may take away anything that we own. Nor can the government seize our land, money, or other forms of property without cause, or without paying for it. The right to own private property is one of America’s basic freedoms. Our free economic system is based upon this right.
THE RIGHT TO ENJOY MANY OTHER FREEDOMS…To make doubly sure that Americans should enjoy every right and freedom possible, Amendment Nine was added to the Constitution. This amendment states that the list of rights contained in the Bill of Rights is not complete. There are many other rights that all Americans have and will continue to have even though they are not mentioned in the Bill of Rights. Among them are the following.
- Freedom to work at any job for which we can qualify
- Freedom to marry and raise a family
- Freedom to receive a free education in good public schools
- Freedom to join a political party, a union, and other legal groups
- Freedom to live or travel anywhere in our nation
As a final guarantee of our rights, the Tenth Amendment set aside many powers of government for the states. This Amendment says that all powers not given to the federal government by the Constitution, nor forbidden to the states, are set aside for the states, or for the people. This provision leaves with the states the power to act in many ways to guarantee the rights of their citizens.
Government is the authority or power that people establish to help them run their affairs.
Governments serve many important purposes, but the most important one is that government makes it possible for people to live and work together. Government provides us with rules of conduct we can follow. Government makes it possible for people to live by known laws, and helps provide many services that citizens acting alone could not perform themselves.
Our nation’s government is based on the American Constitution. This Constitution, together with its Bill of Rights and other amendments, provides us with a workable plan of government. The Constitution also guarantees to all Americans many priceless rights and freedoms.
Our nation’s government is based upon the approval, or consent, of the people who are governed. It is a federal system in which certain powers are given to the national government and other powers are left to the states and to the people. Certain powers are shared by both federal and state governments. In both federal and state governments, powers are separated and balanced among three branches of government. (From: Hartley, William H., Vincent, William S.. American Civics. N.Y., 1974, pp. 34ff)
Protesting has its place in our democracy, but the statement below should make us think seriously about the cost of freedom, for it is not free.Video: Our National Anthem: A tribute to all who love our country and our American flag, the symbol of our FREEDOM. (turn on sound)
My writing has taken me into a new series called, The Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a collection of books that celebrate the life and work of the people who live in and around the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway of Virginia and North Carolina. In researching my stories of the books, it has been my privilege to interview a number of people whose roots go back generations. Many small, family grave plots can be seen in the hills. Some have a small flag or stone that reads that the person was a Civil War member of the Confederacy dating back into the 1800’s. They are proud of their history and do not think of their confederate flag as a symbol of racism or bigotry, but of the bravery of the men who fought against those who had invaded their land and homes.
Hearing their stories has brought to mind how tied the people are to their mountains and their history. The “Yankee” troops that marched through these valleys and hills during the Civil War, marched on afterward to return to their northern states.
The people of the South pulled themselves up to endure rebuilding and hardship, becoming a strong part of “one nation under God”. Slavery was no more. The long road to equality began far after the ships arrived with its human cargo from Africa.
As an retired educator, I know the emphasis that I put on history in the classroom, but it has almost become, in recent years, politically incorrect to talk about slavery…even the Emancipation Proclamation which freed them. It appears that the climate of the country is to bury our heads about the past. Remembering it no more must be the road to the future. I think that this way of thinking is wrong for we should learn from our past. In all fairness, the nation must have believed that they had passed racial tensions and elected an African American President twice to follow in the footsteps of Presidents like Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. When we see violence in our streets and children who can’t walk to school in our large cities without the fear of being shot, one wonders if we have learned anything from the strife of the past.
We have a fabric in America that is woven from many different threads and backgrounds. Most school children today probably do not know that there are descendants of Thomas Jefferson, the writer of the Declaration of Independence, who meet each year to celebrate who they are and to tell their stories. Many are highly educated because education was placed as a priority. (See video at end)
Who exactly was Thomas Jefferson? He certainly was a man of great contradictions. A graduate in law from the College of William and Mary, he at times defended slaves seeking freedom, but owned a large number of slaves himself. He represented Virginia in the Continental Congress…drafting the law for religious freedom…served as a governor and became the U.S. Minister to France…served as Secretary of State under President George Washington. He penned “all men are created equal.” and had a strong belief in states rights.
Jefferson also became the 3rd President of the United States. There were many issues to deal with, as there are today, for this nation. Jefferson’s were concerning trade and pirates. He doubled the size of the country with the Louisiana Purchase. Not only was there controversy with slavery, but he began the removal of Indian tribes to the newly organized Louisiana Territory….but signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves. (Yes, a difficult, but talented man to understand in the midst of a growing, new nation. ) Jefferson’s talents were in mathematics, surveying, horticulture and mechanics.
He was a Christian well versed in linguistics and spoke several languages.”Baptized in his youth, Jefferson became a governing member of his local Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, VA. Influenced by Deist authors during his college years Jefferson abandoned “orthodox” Christianity. In 1803 he asserted, ‘I am Christian, in the only sense in which Jesus wished any one to be.’ Jefferson later defined being a Christian as one who followed the simple teachings of Jesus.”
He was the founder of the University of Virginia after leaving public office.
(Story behind picture of Lucy Cottrell was the daughter of Dorothea (Dolly) Cottrell, a house servant at Monticello who, after 1826, became the property of George Blaetterman, a professor at the University of Virginia. About 1850 Dolly and Lucy Cottrell went to Maysville, Kentucky, with the professor’s widow, who freed them five years later. In this daguerreotype Lucy Cottrell is holding Charlotte, daughter of Blaetterman’s foster son.)
Jefferson must have taken it literally that all of his hundreds of slaves belonged to him to do with as he liked. After the death of his wife in 1782, he had a relationship with Sally Hemings and fathered at least one of her children. This may have been the beginning of those who now have Jefferson as part of their heritage. Nevertheless, despite the events in his life that makes him controversial, he is consistently ranked as one of the countries “Greatest Presidents”. Presidents are often making decisions to foster their own legacy. History will play out whether the time in office points to greatness or the lack thereof.
Video. Turn on sound and enlarge for best viewing.
John Newton is well-known in Christian circles, but may not be someone you have heard of….or at least you think you haven’t. If you have ever been to a memorial or funeral, chances are you have heard the song he wrote about his life. Yet, you may not have known anything about the man himself. Here’s a summary of John Newton’s life in a few sentences:
- Newton was born in London July 24, 1725, the son of a commander of a merchant ship which sailed the Mediterranean.
- In 1744 John was impressed into service on a man-of-war, the H. M. S. Harwich. Finding conditions on board intolerable, he deserted but was soon recaptured and publicly flogged and demoted from midshipman to common seaman.
- Finally at his own request he was exchanged into service on a slave ship, which took him to the coast of Sierra Leone. Being a servant of a slave trader, he was brutally abused.
- Rescued later, John Newton ultimately became captain of his own slave ship, but his life was about to change.
- His mother died when he was a child and Newton had no real religious convictions.
- However, on a homeward voyage, while he was attempting to steer the ship through a violent storm, he experienced what he was to refer to later as his “great deliverance” which was his conversion to Christianity. He wrote in a journal ( May 10, 1748) that he believed “Lord, had mercy upon us.” This, he believed, was his moment of grace and God had begun to work in his life.
- He continued in the slave trade for a time after his conversion; however, he saw to it that the slaves under his care were treated humanely.
- He married and began educating himself; teaching himself Latin and other subjects.
- Newton also met and came to admire John Wesley, founder of Methodism. Newton’s self-education continued, and he learned Greek and Hebrew.
- From 1755 to 1760 Newton was surveyor of tides at Liverpool, where he came to know George Whitefield, deacon in the Church of England, evangelistic preacher, and leader of the Calvinistic Methodist Church. Newton became Whitefield’s enthusiastic disciple.
- Deciding to become a minister, he applied to the Archbishop of York for ordination and was refused.
- Newton persisted in his goal, and he was subsequently ordained by the Bishop of Lincoln and accepted the curacy of Olney, Buckinghamshire.
- In 1780 Newton become rector of St. Mary Woolnoth church, in London. There he drew large congregations and influenced many, among them William Wilberforce, who would one day become a leader in the campaign for the abolition of slavery. Newton continued to preach until the last year of life, although he was blind by that time. He died in London December 21, 1807. Calling himself a “wretch” he was secure in his faith that God’s amazing grace would lead him home.
- BEST KNOWN FOR WRITING THE WORDS TO THE HYMN AMAZING GRACE which showed his feelings about his life and God’s grace toward him. (a portion of which is written here).
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!
Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come;’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,And grace will lead me home…
Pain and suffering was part of John Newton’s life and pain and suffering is in our world today. Newton would probably be amazed at how many times his beautiful song, often played with bagpipes, has been sung and played at memorials of those we lovingly remember…..as shown below.
They stand under the great oaks with moss blowing in the wind. These are the old, historic slave dwellings. Life was difficult, but they found a strength to carry on. Some fled to the north through the Underground Railroad…with help from the white and black population. Most stayed on until the United States of America passed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed all slaves. Even then, some did not know what to do outside of these grounds that had Masters who told them what to do. To see these run-down places, we remember how precious freedom really is….especially to those whose ancestry never knew it.
History, whether good or bad, is important to protect. Our future generations need to understand its meaning. That is why we have added many of the photography taken in the low country of South Carolina to our list of available prints. See these at Old Slave Dwellings. (Scroll down the page of prints)
Also, if you missed the in-depth blog about this area, click back at the bottom of this writing to see what life was like in the “Old South” low country of the USA “Gone with the Wind”
MUSICAL SCORE FROM GONE WITH THE WIND (Click and read below while you listen)
To go back in time….to know what life was really like in the days around the Civil War, one might look at the famous movie by Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind. She won a Pulitzer prize for her book and actors such as Clark Gable and Vivian Lee became famous for their roles. Butterfly McQueen, whose life we feature at the end of this writing, tells us what it was like to portray the southern black slave of that day. She, of course, only acted in the role, but the real slaves of that time were not only the house maids, but the field hands, working either on the cotton plantations or in the rice fields.
My husband and I visited South Carolina recently and took a tour of the plantations that exist in the low countries. Many have been restored, but most are finding it hard to keep up the thousands of acres and the huge mansions of that era. It may truly be a thing of the past in a few years…or “gone with the wind” as so many fall into disrepair. Maybe that is why it is important to take a look at what has survived and think of our country’s past. I made many pictures of the old slave houses because soon they will fall into the dust…and without something to see…may be remembered no more by our future generations.
The long-time residents of the deep south, sometimes called the Bible Belt, take great pride in their history of a south that lost the war to the northern Yankees Rebel flags are flown; monuments are placed in the public squares. It is difficult for some to not believe that the South as they knew it could never “rise again”. They still put up stones to the fact that their cause, the Rebel cause, was the right one. (See picture below.) We know, of course, that had the South won the war, slavery would have continued. There would not be desegregation, as we know it today, with opportunity for all citizens. Our country would be a very different place. However, in our travels, we saw such towns as Greenville, S.C that have made a beautiful down-town area with thriving shops and offices open to all. Perhaps the South did “rise again” even though many of their towns were burned to the ground during the Civil War. It may have been a long-hard struggle, but I think those who bled for their cause, on either side, would be pleased to see how far the southern people have come. It is up to them to pass on their history to the young people of today, pointing out the struggles.
There is a wonderful, natural beauty in the South Carolina lowlands…massive oak trees that grace the entrances to the large plantations, often overlooking the water that once were the rice fields. (See the video below.) Great camellia bushes bend with red and pink blossoms. Hanging moss blows gently in the wind. Most of the plantations were constructed in the 1700’s. A few have the original house or foundation, but fire took its toll on so many. The threat of fire was why most homes had the kitchen building separate from the main house.
Some of the houses, such as the Sampson-Hamby-Ward House, date pre-Revolutionary War times. This can be noticed by the hand-hewn sills and joists; braced frame construction with hewn and pegged hanging joists.
Some of the famous plantations of the southern low country are in the Prince George Winyah Parish, near Georgetown, S.C.
There was nothing gentle, or genteel, about the lives of those who worked the hundreds of acres. Rosemont Plantation produced 570,000 pounds of rice and had 291 slaves. . Hopsewee Plantation house was built of black cypress over 275 years ago. On this property of 240 acres, 178 slaves worked the rice fields of the Santee Delta, producing 560,000 pounds of rice.
Take a look at the slide presentation of Plantations in the Low Country of South Carolina and some of the Slave Houses on the “Slave Street” at Mansfield Plantation.
An interview of Butterfly McQueen and what she experienced taking the part of a black slave in Gone with the Wind.
•Born 1801 Virginia
•Free Black Craftsman
•Maker of Fine Furniture
•Lived Milton,NC 1823-1861
•Died c. 1861
It was before the Civil War. A well-educated man, member of the local Presbyterian Church, and highly recognized cabinet-maker was going bankrupt. His name was Thomas Day of North Carolina.
“Thomas Day is North Carolina’s most famous furniture craftsman and cabinetmaker. During his lifetime, his work was acclaimed from Georgia to Virginia, and he became one of the largest furniture manufacturers in North Carolina. In recognition of his talent, he was commissioned to furnish the interior woodwork in one of the original buildings of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His classically inspired furniture was built by hand and his wealthy clients included two North Carolina governors.
Born in 1801 in Dinwiddie County in southern Virginia,Thomas Day came from a fortunate family that had been free African-Americans for several generations. Thomas was educated by private tutors and apprenticed with his father John Day, Sr., who was a moderately successful cabinetmaker. The Day family moved to Warren County, North Carolina in 1817, because of increasing restrictions against free African-Americans in the early nineteenth century in Virginia. (His brother had moved to N.C to become a preacher and Thomas followed him from VA.)
Fortunately for the Days, they moved just prior to a law forbidding relocation. In 1825, at the age of 24, Thomas moved to Milton in Caswell County, where he established a cabinet making business. The business quickly grew, and in 1827, he advertised “a handsome supply of mahogany, walnut and stained furniture” in the Milton Gazette and Roanoke Advertiser.
In antebellum North Carolina, many state laws and cultural norms restricted the activities of free African-Americans. However, Thomas Day achieved success both socially and professionally. He was highly admired and respected in his community of Milton and contributed to its prosperity. Although he owned slaves himself, he challenged deeply entrenched racial and social injustices of the antebellum South. (Many people do not know that freed black men of the South often owned slaves themselves. This is a difficult thing to understand because they also fought against slavery.)
When he married a free African-American woman, Aquilla Wilson of Virginia, Day confronted an 1826 law that barred free African-Americans from migrating to North Carolina. With the support of North Carolina’s attorney general and more than 60 prominent whites in Milton who petitioned the General Assembly on his behalf, Day and his wife were granted an exemption. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Day were later accepted as members of the Milton Presbyterian Church. They worshiped with the white congregation in beautifully crafted pine, poplar, and walnut pews that Day had crafted.
By 1850, Thomas Day’s furniture business was the largest of its kind in North Carolina. As his business thrived, he employed white apprentices seeking to break down racial barriers. He expanded his business to coincide with the growth and changing tastes of antebellum society.
Day added his own stamp of creativity to a variety of styles including Federal, Gothic, Late Classical and Empire. His inventive decorative motifs and impeccable craftsmanship characterize his furniture, the quality of which eventually won him nationwide recognition.
As the Civil War loomed in the late 1850s, North Carolina enacted more restrictive laws against African-American business owners. Consequently, Day’s business faltered and went bankrupt before he died in 1860 or 1861.”( taken from North Carolina Freedom Monument Project.)
Restrictive Laws or suppressive burdens of many kinds, when it comes to the man or woman who wants to use the God-given talents in their small businesses, can only lead to a sadness and failure.
A lesson here is one to be learned, over a hundred years later, from a man who tried to do the right thing for social justice. I am impressed that he hired whites to be apprentices to learn his amazing ability. He was honored by high up authority for his creations. His was one of hard-work and talent, only to die with heart-break because he could not survive the smothering oppression of government and economic problems nationwide. Does this say much to us today?
For video viewing, click Thomas Day Cabinetmaker in blue below. It is a little slow in starting, but PBS will introduce it. Ignore advertisements ! Click on the small arrow to play and enlarge screen. Worth the wait. Antique enthusiasts and wood workers will really enjoy this.
Not long ago, I was watching a reporter who went to the beaches to interview some young people, roughly in their twenties. The reporter asked this question, “Who is your favorite founding father?” A moment of silence and glances passed. Finally one lovely young lady, said, “What is a founding father?”
As an educator, I nearly fell off my chair! How did this American get through school without knowing about the “Founding Fathers”? Someone had failed to teach or she had failed to listen. Regardless, I thought it important to think about those in our history who took a stand during a difficult time in American history with cultural and ethical problems…one being slavery.
Below is a video showing an important document in our nation, the 13th Amendment. I wonder if the young adults on the beach or older adults would know what this important document did for a young nation struggling to rise to new heights during a bloody civil war? Putting one’s signature to a document that would stir great emotional reactions and opinions was risky business. These men signed what was right for all the people of a nation instead of “correctness ” of this era.
Take a close look at this national treasure, signed by many courageous people along with President Lincoln. Perhaps it would be good to ask someone if they know how this document changed the course of American history?
FEBRUARY 1, 1865 a Congressional Resolution to end slavery forever:
“NEITHER SLAVERY NOR INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE WILL EXIST IN THE UNITED STATES OR THE LANDS UNDER ITS CONTROL.” The 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United Sates of America
Restoration of the document was done by the Graphic Conservation Company of Illinois.
What do the names Zinzendorf, Wilberforce and Newton have in common? They each had a passion to right the wrongs forced on other human beings. The moments they experienced, led them to spend a life-time changing the world.
Slavery was a going business in the world. It brought big money and wealth to those who were in this trade. It brought tragedy to the black families around the world. Unless one walked in the shoes of two, white Moravian Christians who sold themselves into slavery for the purpose of ministering to the slaves, one would never know this existence.
Zinzendorf was German. Wilberforce and Newton were both English.
Starting with perhaps the most dramatic of stories, few may know the life of John Newton even though they have heard “Amazing Grace” in church, funerals and in the entertainment world.
Newton was born in London July 24, 1725, the son of a commander of a merchant ship. In 1744, John sailed in such intolerable conditions on the man-of war, the H.M.S. Harwich, that he deserted. A public flogging occurred when he was captured and demoted from midshipman to a common seaman. He was sent into service on a slave ship that went to Sierra Leone. Being the servant of a slave trader, he was brutally abused. Fortunately, a sea-captain who knew his father, rescued him and he ultimately became the captain of his own slave ship.
The worst conditions imaginable were found on these ships of human cargo. When returning home to England through a violent storm, he recorded in his journal the moment that he experienced his “great deliverance“. It appeared that the ship would sink and all would be lost. He cried out, ” Lord have mercy on us!” He reflected on what he had said. However, God met him in the midst of the raging storm and brought him out of a life of slave trading into a life of faith. . The words that he wrote became a testimony to his life and the changes that God brought.
For twenty-six years, Wilberforce headed a campaign against British slave trade. His was the creation of a free colony in Sierra Leone. Sometimes he was criticized for his efforts in anti-slavery abroad and not enough help to the socially deprived at home. However, he persisted. Just three days after Parliament abolished slavery with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, Wilberforce died and was buried at Westminster Abbey.
Count Nikolaus Ludwig won Zinzendorf:
Fifty years before Wilberforce, a wealthy German visited a museum where he saw a painting of Christ. Under it were the words,” This I did for you. What will you do for me?” This was moment when he dedicated his life a service for Christ. A group of Moravians, who were at the time a Christian sect in the Czech Republic, asked to locate on his land. In 1727, a convent was formed; a twenty-four hour prayer circle begun, which lasted for 100 years. Wilberforce made friends with a former slave who had converted to Christianity. When Wilberforce died, he had organized missions throughout Europe, Greenland, and South Africa.
In the early settling of America, slaves made America prosper. Slaves worked the cotton fields and in other products. Slavery was not only in the South, but other parts of America. Many of our founding fathers owned slaves. Pictures were rare because no one wanted to advertise and document their dark trade . Some slaves were treated more humanly than others.
It wasn’t until later that President Lincoln decided the slave trade would be left to the British and others. He would enforce the law, largely ignored, against the trades of this sort. One of the most notorious slave traders in the USA was Nathanael Gordon of Maine. He was hung for his deeds as a trader in 1862. Here is an account of the conditions on one of his ships, which carried hundreds of men, women and children:
“The slaves were stowed so closely that during the entire voyage they appeared to be in great agony. The details are sickening, but as fair exponents of the result of this close stowing, we will but mention that running sores and cutaneous diseases of the most painful as well as contagious character infected the entire load. Decency was unthought of; privacy was simply impossible — nastiness and wretchedness reigned supreme. From such a state of affairs we are not surprised to learn that, during the passage of fifteen days, twenty-nine of the sufferers died, and were thrown overboard.”
At the end of the lives of Zinzendorf, Wilberforce and Newton, their contributions and work to change the laws around the world saved many human beings from the fate of slavery.
QUESTION: If it had not been for the lives of men like these, would we still have slave ships today?
Most school children have been taught about the EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION and President Lincoln in the USA. Do they know about these Christian men who helped change the plight of thousands? I think one knows the answer to this lack of education.
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!
Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home… Written by John Newton