Category Archives: U.S. History

Presidential gaffe inspires a nation to know Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice……Donald J. Trump

To be sure Frederick Douglass is better known now to most Americans, in light of journalists, teachers and the general public’s reaction to the President’s display of ignorance of the history of the nation he purports to “rule.”   And yet we all have more to learn.

Fortunately, resources  about this great American abound. Just last week my email included a link to this lovely video narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass produced by the National Archives. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxZClqEnRwQ

This led me to a corollary video that treats of Douglass as the “conscience of the abolitionist movement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fj-gz3u-1jM

And to this, one of many YouTube adaptations of picture books that tells the story of Frederick Douglass: — https://youtu.be/oN-QqKsgyL4

As well as to this impassioned speech, delivered by Douglass on July 4, 1852. http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/douglass.htm

And to the Frederick Douglass Honor Society, a venture created by residents of his birthplace in Talbot County, Maryland – who knew! http://www.frederickdouglasshonorsociety.org/douglass-history.html

Needless to say, the royal gaffe has fostered a flood of responses in the press. It’s informative to read the words of contemporary writers whose response has been to celebrate Black History Month 2017 by expanding their readers’  appreciation of Frederick Douglass. The problem is that it’s a challenge to focus on the contributions of Douglass rather than on the unfortunate gaps in the leader’s understanding of American history. Here is just one of scores of tributes to this brilliant visionary. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/06/opinion/a-lesson-in-black-history.html

To really learn about the writings, the life and unique contributions of Frederick Douglass there is no better path than to dip into the resources of the Library of Congress which has made vast Douglass-related resources accessible online. Though the wealth of information – books, manuscripts, videos, guides and more — may seem overwhelming, all is meticulously organized – and you may certain that there is something in the collection to pique the interest of every learner, including candidates for public office, who harbor a passion to know the story of this democracy. https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/douglass/

 

 

 

Words matter – and are now searchable in the Trump Archives

The opportunity before all of us is living up to the dream of the Library of Alexandria and then taking it a step further – universal access to all knowledge.  Interestingly, it is now technically doable Brewster Kahle

Founder of the Internet Archive Brewster Kahle is disinclined to back down from a challenge. He’s also a proponent of real facts, primary sources and the capacity of technology – in the hands of people of good will — to assure that real acts trump alternative facts and fake news. Basically, he believes that a democracy ruled by informed citizens is what the Forefathers envisioned….

Kahle’s Utopian vision is realized in the Internet Archive, now an accepted and essential pillar of today’s information infrastructure.

Sometimes a tool waits in the wing for just the right moment to be essential! Such is the case with the Internet Archives,  henceforth the home of the Donald Trump Archives.   Journalist David Lumb heralded the archive with a hearty “Fact-checkers, start your engines!”

Dating back to December 2009 the Trump Archives’ ultimate goal is to capture virtually every utterance, print, video, digital, or other of the Trump administration.   At the launch of the Trump Archive last month journalist Kalev Leetaru wrote this in Forbes:

For this first incarnation of the Trump Archive, the Archive chose to start with a manually curated collection of around 700 video clips, ranging from major events like presidential debates and major speeches to key policy statements and views espoused by the President-elect, drawing heavily from those video clips that journalists had already identified as particularly noteworthy or which received widespread attention. This means that the collection as it presently stands includes many of the most-talked about Trump statements, but is not an exhaustive record of Trump’s total television appearances.

Read Leetaru’s full article here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2017/01/06/the-internet-archives-new-donald-trump-and-white-house-archives-transparency-and-history-as-data/#26efe1907d98

It’s been nearly a month now since The Launch.   To get a sense of the goals, and to keep up-to-date on the scope, response and impact, follow the Trump Archive blog here:  http://blog.archive.org/2017/01/23/in-the-news-trump-archive-end-of-term-preservation-link-rot/

A well informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny. Thomas Jefferson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Love Our Presidents 2017!

 

We Love Our Presidents

Saturday, February 18, 2017

WALK & Celebration 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Celebrating our NE Presidential Streets: Washington to Kennedy Streets in Northeast Minneapolis

Walk begins at 10:00 followed by noon celebration

In his positive FB post community leader Paul Ostrow reminds young neighbors and their elders that “You don’t have to love all the Presidents to Love Our Presidents Walk. It is a great way to celebrate American history and our northeast community at the same time.”

Recognizing the value of being inclusive, and knowing that the legendary event honors the legacy of their community, Northeast Minneapolis youth will join in the traditional President’s Day walk. Neighbors of every age who live and learn on streets that bear the names that honor the memories of national leaders will walk to celebrate and learn about their neighborhood and past presidents of the U.S.

Northeast neighbors – including Northeasters past, present and future, their friends and families – will gather at 10:00 AM at Northeast Library, 2200 Central Avenue Northeast – All will walk up Central Avenue with a pause for a cocoa break at Eastside Food Coop – then on to Audubon Park and further on to Northeast Middle School for a chance to warm up and enjoy a chili lunch break that features drawings, presidential trivia, awards for the locally famous coloring contest, and a chance to mingle with friends and neighbors.

http://WeLoveOurPresidents.com/

Facebook.com/WeLoveOurPresidents

 

Lively mix of issues and media at ESFL this month!

The East Side Freedom Library (www.eastsidefreeodmlibrary.org) continues to explode with creative ideas, provocative programs, and an open door to all who wish to share the energy that fuels this amazing community resource. Here’s what’s up in the weeks to come:

  • Wednesday, October 5, 7:00 p.m. Free and open — Deregulating Desire: Flight attendant activism, family politics, and workplace . Author and former flight attendant and union activist Ryan Murphy will discuss his book by this title. Held at the ESFL 1105 Greenbrier Street in St. Paul.
  • Friday, October 7, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Screening and Discussion of What Happened Miss Simone? (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4284010/mediaviewer/rm346220288) The evening, is co-hosted with A Greener Read Used Bookstore. (http://www.agreenerread.com.  Festivities  begin at 5:00 p.m. at the bookstore (506 Kenny Road) with viewing and discussion of the documentary. This will be followed by discussion of Come Back Africa (https://comebackafrica.com) at 7:00 at the ESFL, 1105 Greenbrier Street.
  • Friday & Saturday, October 15-16, it’s a “political graphics workshop” featuring Design and Screenprint from the Living Proof Print Collective. (https://wehavelivingproof.com) Presenters are Aaron Johnson-Ortiz and Aaron Rosenblum. Attend one day or both – it’s free but take time to register at http://goo.gl/forms/NXeFeJVBV7tqewlf2
  • If you actually survive Election Day 2016 you‘ll need to pause and reflect on it all by taking in a series of post-election talks on “Turbulent Times in the Race for the Presidency: An Historical Overview.” The series will explore the issues that have “driven political energies in the past two years – and in the more distant past. Presentations are set for Tuesdays in November (the 15th, 22nd, and 29th) 12:30 p.m. at the Roseville Library, 2180 Hamline Avenue North. The series features presentations by Peter Rachleff, History Professor Emeritus at Macalester and founding Co-ED of the East Side Freedom Library.   The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is co-sponsor of the series.

Questions? info@eastsidefreedomlibrary.org or 651 230 3294.

 

Musing on the National Museum of African American History

Experience tells me that I am not alone as fall creeps stealthily into our lives. Early evenings, falling leaves and an evitable autumnal languor herald a season when many of us find ourselves in a reflective mood. On the one hand, we yearn to hang on to the carefree days of summer. Still, we know it’s time to face the facts, which means re-visiting a jumble of memories. So I spent last evening absorbed with the memories conjured by the opening of the National Museum of African American History. (http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/09/24/495302034/national-museum-of-african-american-history-opens-its-doors)

My ritual morning click on The Writer’s Almanac reinforced the reflective mood.   Today’s show recalled the day six decades ago when the “Little Rock Nine” walked into Little Rock Central High School. Protected by federal troops they bravely “put a face” on the legendary decision by the Supreme Court to strike down the doctrine of “separate but equal.” (http://writersalmanac.org/episodes/20160925/)

My thoughts turn to the tragically slow trajectory of history. Thus, as I share in the celebration of the NMAAH I wonder about the world faced by the grandchildren of the Little Rock Nine.

It seems to me that there are times when we better understand seismic forces if we have a thread that ties us to the enormity of a movement or societal awakening. For me, the thread to the narrative preserved in the National Museum weaves through the story of the Brown vs Board of Education decision and the bravery of the Little Rock Nine and their families.

Some reflections:

For five years in the 60’s my days were spent as a fledgling librarian at the District of Columbia Teachers College. As an agency of the DC Public Schools, the College, like virtually all the of the nation’s capital, operated under the political thumb of the United States Congress. DCTC was a merger of two teacher education institutions — Wilson (historically White) and Miner (historically Black)* – a marriage forced by the same Brown vs Board of Education decision. Any observer of school integration or white flight in the 60’s would instantly know that, by the time I showed up at DCTC, the student body and the faculty were 99.9% African American.

Totally immersed in an environment that was far beyond my experience, I learned in a way that has shaped my life.   As a librarian I learned about brilliant Black writers, the Harlem Renaissance, about the paucity of research on the African American experience. I learned, too, about emerging authors who were turning their attention to young African American readers.

As a newbie on a professional team of outstanding Black librarians I heard the stories of powerful African American leaders – writers, educators, artists, athletes, politicians, leaders of the faith community, veterans of wars and labor movements. In time I grasped what my elders shared about the unique characteristics of African American academic institutions, their fraternities and sororities, about the Washington, DC Gold Coast, and, of course, I absorbed back-stories on the civil and human rights movements of the era. Above all, I learned about the pain – and about the unflinching hope — that inspired the Black community’s compulsion to speak out and stand up for the inalienable rights so long trampled by the diabolical myth of white supremacy.

My life has been forever enriched by this long ago experience – the daily brown bag lunch in the back room, the petty gripes and celebrated birthdays, the wisdom shared with patient generosity of spirit by my older and much wiser co-workers.

All of these memories flowed as I viewed the spectacular opening of National Museum of African American History. The impact of the Supreme Court decision, the turbulence of the 60’s struggle for human and civil rights, the history we share but too often prefer to ignore or deny.  All of this history I learned by listening to my elders – wisdom shared over long lunches in the “back room” of DCTC. My oral history learning was not so much about facts but about the power of a people to believe, to hope, and put their shoulder to the wheel of freedom – not for individual gain but for the good of the race and of society.

The National Museum of African American History makes a powerful statement – the stories behind the objects can “put a face” on those who lived their lives and helped to shape a history filled with pain and injustice could not break the spirit of my colleagues and their forebears.

________

* (In an earlier post I wrote about Myrtilla Miner, the white woman for whom the African American college was named – an interesting historical footnote —https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/myrtilla-miner/)

Constitution Day September 17 – Reasons and Resources

We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution. Abraham Lincoln

Constitution Day, aka Citizenship Day, comes at a most propitious time this election season – a good time to reflect on the fundamentals of our shared and ongoing experiment in democracy. Constitution Day 2016, Saturday, September 17, marks the signing of the Constitution of the United States on this date in 1787. That hard-won document is dedicated to the citizens of the United States.

It is the custom that, if Constitution Day falls on Saturday, it is to be celebrated on a weekday before or after September 17 – no doubt because it falls to social studies teachers to teach the basics… Still, it seems to me that, because Constitution Day is on Saturday this year – and since Constitution question are implicit if not explicit in much the news and opinions – not to mention the conversation – of the day, an extra-curricular commemoration may be in order.

Here are some discussion — or teaching – prompts:

*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GReu04iG0fs&feature=em-subs_digest  Great starting point

*http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2016/09/10-essential-online-resources-for-constitution-day/ – Helpful list of links

http://news.usc.edu/107628/celebrate-constitution-day-2016-with-usc/ — Brief intro with links to specific portions of the Constitution

https://www.mnsu.edu/constitutionday/ – Minnesota take on the commemoration

*http://www.archives.gov/calendar/constitution-day/ – Comprehensive guide to resources, events throughout the nation, teaching and learning activities, relevant blogs, and more.

These troubled times challenge us to know and respect the Constitution of the United States, its founders and the role of every citizen to respect and to live by the the principles embodied in that historic document.   It really does matter.

Archives reveal untold stories of African American Women Religious

 

As I was deciding among the many ideas waiting to be explored during the waning days of African American history month I happened upon AOTUS (http://blogs.archives.gov/aotus), the blog posted by David Ferriero, Archivist of the U.S. In his recent Black History Month post Ferreiro wrote about a number of “hidden treasures”, archives that reveal the narrative of African Americans; included on his brief list was the following

The Oblate Sisters of Providence is the first successful Roman Catholic sisterhood in the world established by women of African descent. It was the work of a French-born Sulpician priest and four women, who were part of the Caribbean refugee colony which began arriving in Baltimore in the late 18th century. The order founded the oldest continuously operating school for black Catholic children in the United States and is still educating children in Baltimore. A grant from the NHPRC helped the Oblate Sisters process and make available the historical photograph and scrapbook collection of approximately 16,000 photographs dating from the 1850s to 2003, including this touching image of orphans under their care.

A quick search revealed that the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) – which coincidentally comes under the federal authority of the Archivist — had recently awarded a grant of $25,830 to the Oblate Sisters of Providence for an Historic Photograph Project. The goal of the project was “to process and make available the historical photograph and scrapbook collection” of the Sisters. The inventory had identified approximately 16,000 photographs dating from the 1850’s to 2003. A bit more probing disclosed a remarkable bit of the history of African Americans and of women religious in the U.S.

Though the Oblate Sisters of Providence was the first successful order of Roman Catholic Sisters of African descent, there was an earlier community. An earlier community, the Friends of Mary at the Foot of the Cross, later known as the Sisters of Loretto, formed in Kentucky in 1812 with the encouragement of a Belgian priest, Father Charles Nericnkx. When the priest died that early community dissolved.

A short time later, in 1829, Jacques Hector Nicholas Joubert de la Muraille, took a similar approach to proselytizing. Born in France, Joubert worked in Haiti before the Revolution; he escaped to the U.S., specifically to Baltimore, where he became a Sulpician priest. Assigned to serve French speaking Haitian Catholics at St. Mary’s chapel he grew concerned with his young parishioners’ problems learning to read the Catechism. His thoughts turned to founding a school – while his circle expanded to include two women of African descent who were already running a small school.

The two women who evinced an interest in consecrating their lives to God were soon joined by two other young women with a similar commitment. And thus was formed the nucleus of the nation’s first religious order for Black women. Eventually, the four novices took their vows and the first order of women religious of African descent was officially founded in 1829; the superior of the community was Elizabeth Lange, a native of Cuba.  On October 2, 1831 Pope Gregory XVI blessed the Oblate Sisters of Providence.

The Sisters opened a small school for Haitian children where French was the spoken language and the essential tool for learning the tenets of their Catholic faith. In time the school grew, eventually leading to the founding of The Baltimore School for Colored Girls in 1828. Renamed St. Frances Academy the school remains as the oldest continuously operating school for African American Catholic children in the United States. As the school continued to grow, the Sisters bought more property and built a new chapel.  This chapel was significant as the first chapel open to African American Catholics living in Baltimore.

Things went well until the early 1840’s when the community faced a number of problems, including the death of their original supporter, Father Joubert, in 1843. Because the primary work of the Joubert’s order, the Sulpicians, had always been the education of men, the community decided to no longer minister to the Oblates. The school languished, as did the Oblate community. The Oblates asked permission from the Bishop to beg on the streets to support their community. One of the original founders, Mother Theresa Duchemen, left the community to move to Michigan where she eventually helped found the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The times were difficult for the fledgling community. For some time, the Oblates worked at a church served by the Redemptorists where their attention shifted to serving the city’s growing German community. It was at this juncture that a second priest, Father Thaddeus Anwander, helped the community restore a degree of financial stabaility. Anwander eventually came to be known as the second founder of the Oblates.

The struggling community next came under the directorship of the Jesuits; for the first time they began missions outside of Baltimore, including missions in Philadelphia and New Orleans. Then, in 1871, the Sisters faced yet another change when the Josephite Fathers and Brothers assumed directorship. The mission of the Josephites was to administer to African American Catholics; in this era the Oblates expanded, adding additional schools and orphanages.

In the early 1900’s the Oblates, no longer under the directorship of the Josephites, grew and adjusted to changing needs. By the 1950 there were over 300 Oblate Sisters of Providence teaching and otherwise meeting the needs of African American children. They opened foreign missions, the first of which in Havana was followed by seven Cuban missions; all were closed in the early 1960’s with the regime of Fidel Castro.

Today the approximately 80 Oblate Sisters continue to operate their southwest Baltimore motherhouse known as Our Lady of Mount Providence. The site has housed several missions over the years including Mt. Providence Junior College (1963-1966), administrative offices, and the archives of the community. Today the Oblates serve missions in Baltimore, Miami, Buffalo, NY as well as cities in Costa Rica.

For much more information, including the photographic archives, visit the Archives of the Oblate Sisters of Providence Library, 701 Gun Road, Baltimore, MD 21227, 401-242 8500, osparchives@oblatesisters.com. https://www.facebook.com/Oblate.Sisters.of.Providence/photos_stream