Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's Simply the Right Time

One hundred and fifty years after South Carolina led the nation into disunity and war, it takes a stand to remove a symbol of the national tragedy.  South Carolina's Governor Nikki Haley is calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol.  "One hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, the time has come," Haley said, adding the flag "causes pain for so many." The measure to consider removing the flag passed by a wide margin.

The flag, which is seen by many white Southerners as a way to honor their ancestors who fought for the Confederacy, has been perverted by hate groups.  These groups have made the flag a symbol of racial and religious bigotry.  They turned the flag into a banner for the lynchings and perversions of the Jim Crow South.

The time is right for the new South to remove the flag from public buildings and place it in historical museums. The murders in Charleston have tied the flag to hate, lawlessness, and crime. It is, as we have pointed out several times, an insult to all minorities.  I doubt that the great Confederate generals would find any honor in the way that the flag has become misused today.

We applaud Walmart's decision to remove all merchandise bearing the Confederate flag from its stores, saying such items had "improperly" found their way onto shelves. Other retailers including Sears/Kmart, eBay, Amazon, Etsy and Google Shopping have ended their sale of merchandise with Confederate logos.

Mitt Romney said "It's a symbol of racial hatred  - remove it now to honor Charleston's victims." Other politicians should issue similar statements in support or opposition of displaying the flag in public venues. There is no place for "wiggle room" statements in this debate.

Rush Limbaugh entered the fray when he told his listeners that the effort to rid of the flag is aimed at "destroying the South as a political force," and he predicted: "The next flag that will come under assault, and it will not be long, is the American flag."  Wow! Clearly Mr. Limbaugh was not very good at completing the follow the numbered dots puzzles. How does removing the flag of rebellious southerners who wanted to destroy the Union lead to "assaults" on the the flag of the United States?  How does removing the flag which is objectionable to many, perhaps most southerners impact the political power of the south?  It seems to me that actions would tend to build a stronger more cohesive south.

Still, as we have written before, the issue is a state decision.  The federal government is not going to come sweeping down and order the removal the flag.  The question for state legislators is whether they want to offend part of their residents and align with those who use the flag as the banner for hate and racism.  South Carolina legislators who were first to secede are now first to remove the flag.

Friday, June 19, 2015

2015 Juneteenth Celebrated with Joy, Sorrow, and Courage

One hundred and fifty years ago today, General  Gordon Granger arrived in Texas with the news that the war was over and slavery was abolished.

Ashton Villa, Galveston
(Author's photograph)
On June 18, 1865, Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government. On June 19, standing on the balcony of Galveston's Ashton Villa, Granger read aloud the contents of "General Order No. 3", announcing the total emancipation of slaves:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
Juneteeth has become
an international celebration
 (Author's photograph)
This event has resulted in the worldwide celebration of Juneteeth.

In 1979 Juneteenth became a state holiday thanks to the efforts of State Representative Albert (Al) Edwards of Houston.  By 2008, nearly half of US states observed the holiday as a ceremonial observance. As of May 2014, when the Maryland legislature approved official recognition of the holiday, 43 of the 50 US states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or ceremonial holiday, a day of observance. States that do not yet recognize it are Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.

In 1996 the first legislation to recognize "Juneteenth Independence Day" was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.J. Res. 195, sponsored by Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI). In 1997 Congress recognized the day through Senate Joint Resolution 11 and House Joint Resolution 56. In 2013 the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 175, acknowledging Lula Briggs Galloway (late president of the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage) who "successfully worked to bring national recognition to Juneteenth Independence Day", and the continued leadership of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.

Emanuel African Methodist
Episcopal Church
(Author's photograph)

Today's celebration is muted in the aftermath of the murder at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. This vicious act by a deranged gunman illustrates the impact of hate on the community, city, state, country, and world. The church has a long history and has survived many man-made and natural threats and we know that it will not let this terrible act silence its voice.   Hate is a flaw in our nature that refuses to be conquered by knowledge and compassion. Yet we strive to eradicate this cancer in our DNA.  Our prayers and thoughts are with the victims of this atrocity. Yet, "deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall overcome some day."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Memorial Day - 2015 - Bivouac of the Dead - Theodore O'Hara

Battle of Mark's Mill

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on Life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe's advance
Battle of Bentonville

Now swells upon the wind;
No troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow's strife
The warrior's dream alarms;
No braying horn nor screaming fife
At dawn shall call to arms.

Battle of Bull Run
Their shivered swords are red with rust,
Their plum├Ęd heads are bowed;
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And the proud forms, by battle gashed,
Are free from anguish now.

Battle of Bull Run
The neighing troop, the flashing blade,
The bugle's stirring blast,The charge, the dreadful cannonade,
The din and shout, are past;
Nor war's wild note nor glory's peal
Shall thrill with fierce delight
Those breasts that nevermore may feel
The rapture of the fight.

The Great Train Chase
Like the fierce northern hurricane
That sweeps his great plateau,
Flushed with the triumph yet to gain,
Came down the serried foe.Who heard the thunder of the fray
Break o'er the field beneath,
Knew well the watchword of that day
Was "Victory or Death."

Battle of Chickamauga
Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O'er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;
And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the gory tide;
Not long, our stout old chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.

Gettysburg National Cemetery
'T was in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr's grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation's flag to save.
By rivers of their fathers' gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.

Battle of Resaca

Full many a norther's breath has swept
O'er Angostura's plain,
And long the pitying sky has wept
Above its mouldered slain.
The raven's scream, or eagle's flight,
Or shepherd's pensive lay,
Alone awakes each sullen height
That frowned o'er that dread fray.

Battle of Kennesaw Mountain
Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground,
Ye must not slumber there,
Where stranger steps and tongues resound
Along the heedless air.Your own proud land's heroic soil
Shall be your fitter grave:
She claims from war his richest spoil —
The ashes of her brave.

Battle of New Bern
Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest
Far from the gory field,
Borne to a Spartan mother's breast
On many a bloody shield;
The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
The heroes' sepulchre.

Confederate Cemetery at Resaca
Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead!
Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While Fame her record keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
Where Valor proudly sleeps.


Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanished age hath flown,
The story how ye fell;
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight,
Nor Time's remorseless doom,
Shall dim one ray of glory's light
That gilds your deathless tomb.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Our Confederate Past - Statues on University of Texas Campus

Jefferson Davis Monument at the
University of Texas at Austin 
The Sunday May 10, 2015 edition of The Dallas Morning News contained an editorial about the "statues of Confederate heroes scattered on the grounds of the University of Texas in Austin." The editorial asks the questions about "how we understand our history" and "how we let it inform our present lives."

This editorial strikes at the heart of questions about our perspectives of the past.

Students at the University of Texas in Austin have called for the removal of the statute of Jefferson Davis. They argue that the statue and others on the campus are not historical markers, but memorials to honor Confederate leaders and "by extension, the ideals they championed." The presence of these statues on an integrated campus may also indicate, again by extension, that the University and the State of Texas supports these 19th century ideals.

The University of Texas admitted its first black graduate students in July 1950. That August, because of University policies, a black student was denied housing. In September 1956 the  University allowed "all qualified applicants would be admitted on all levels without reference to race." The dormitories were still segregated.  On September 24 and 25, 1961, student advisers in white dormitories reportedly said that "if African American girls were invited to student rooms the doors must be closed and that the African American were not to use the restrooms or drinking fountains."  On June 1, 1964, the university president stated  that "with respect to student and faculty housing situated on premises owned or occupied by the University, neither the University of Texas nor any of its component institutions shall discriminate either in favor of or against any person on account of his or her race, creed, or color." (Source: The University of Texas website).

The editorial goes on to warn readers to "tread with caution" when we try to "whitewash history by removing or erasing historical and artistic markers." The Dallas Morning News suggests that plaques be placed at the Confederate sculptures to add historical content and meaning."

Confederate War Memorial
in Dallas, Texas
The News also mentions the number of Confederate statues in the city and public schools named after Civil War leaders.

This is a significant problem throughout the South. Civil War monuments can be found in every town and city throughout the old Confederacy. The same statues are in town squares in the North.  Monuments to American soldiers and sailors should be kept in place. No footnotes should be required.

Other monuments are of a different nature.  I would suggest the following criteria:

  1. Is the monument relevant to local history? Does the tribute have a connection to the organization and/or community?  In the case of the Davis statue, what is his connection to the University of Texas?
  2. Does it reflect the current sentiments of the community? Should a primarily minority school continue to carry the name of a Confederate general or leader? 
  3. Does the statue reflect the organization in the manner that it wants? Is the statue offensive to customers (students) that the organization is trying to attract?
  4. Has the statue become a part of student or community lore? Does the football team rub General Lee's nose for good luck before a game? Has the general's nickname became ingrained with the school's teams? 
I am opposed to having a marker that explains who the statue was and the historical content of why it is on campus.  It is too much like an asterisk on some sports record, i.e. The statue of Jefferson Davis was placed on this site in [year] by the [group] as a [reason for placement]. The University is keeping the statue on campus even though Davis was [list of negative issues that Davis was connected with]. Rather than provide the narrative, let students learn about the man, the Civil War, and slavery.