Saturday, September 28, 2013

Dr. Ronald McNair

I have always encouraged my students to "reach for the stars" as they follow their dreams.  I have also reminded them that this takes hard work, perseverance, learning from your mistakes, mental toughness, the ability to overcome obstacles, hard work, and more hard work!  Here is a story of a young boy who never gave up...

Dr. Ronald McNair
Dr. Ronald McNair (Ph.D. physicist and NASA astronaut) was born in segregated Lake City, South Carolina, a "typical" southern city.  In the summer of 1959, he walked to the segregated Lake City Public Library and refused to leave without being allowed to check out his books. After the police and his mother were called it was decided that he would be allowed to check out the books...beginning his love affair with books, science, and space!  After graduating as valedictorian of his high school, he went on to earn a bachelor's degree in engineering physics from North Carolina A&T State University and a physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology specializing in laser physics.

Watch his story here (3:21)
In 1978, Dr. McNair was selected from a pool of ten thousand applicants into the NASA astronaut program. He eventually flew aboard the space shuttle Challenger in1984, becoming the second African American to fly in space.  Following this mission, he was selected for another Challenger mission which launched on January 28, 1986.  Unfortunately, McNair and his crew were killed as the shuttle exploded less than two minutes after take off.
The Lake City Public Library where Ron was nearly arrested as a 9 year old boy is now appropriately named after him...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

David Walker Lives

David Walker

David Walker was a radical African-American writer and orator who is most famous for publishing a small book entitled "The Appeal to the Colored People of the World" in 1829.  This book was the first written assault by an African-American on the institution of slavery and American racism. It advocated Black Pride, self-determination, the importance of education and religion, and the justification of violence to overthrow the sin of slavery.

Walker attacked and challenged Thomas Jefferson (a member of the American Colonization Society) who had publicly stated black inferiority and his wishes to deport all African-Americans back to Africa.

"America is more our country than it is the whites -- we have enriched it with our blood and tears....will they drive us from our property and homes, which we have earned with our blood?"

Encouraging slave rebellion he stated...

"They want us for their slaves, and think nothing of murdering us. . . therefore, if there is an attempt made by us, kill or be killed. . . and believe this, that it is no more harm for you to kill a man who is trying to kill you, than it is for you to take a drink of water when thirsty."


Over the last 184 years, David Walker's Appeal has inspired thousands through his writings...icluding Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X.

My hope is that the spirit of David Walker will continue to live in the hearts and minds of all Americans...

Develop a deep love for America...the principles that she stands for...the pursuit of truth, justice, equality...the vision of a better tomorrow....and a deep hatred of her hypocrisy!

"Americans only need to consider their own purported values to see the error of their ways."
                                                     - David Walker

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A New National Anthem?

Battle of Ft. McHenry
 Recently, our USH class studied the War of 1812 and Francis Scott Key's poem "The Defence of Ft. McHenry"...eventually it was set to the melody from "The Anacreontic Song" and became our "National Anthem". 

The Anacreontic Society
Although the Star Spangled Banner has been our official national anthem since 1931, I believe we should "retire" Key's version and adopt a new National Anthem.  Here are my top 5 reasons why:

1. Francis Scott Key was a slave owner/ white supremacist and vigorously defended the right of white men to "own property."

2. The third verse of The Star Spangled Banner...during the War of 1812, slaves were escaping their owners and fighting with the British. The British had promised that if they defeated the Americans they would be emancipated and allowed to kill their old masters.  The third verse states that the slaves would be better off with their owners (alive) than fighting with the British and facing "the gloom of the grave."  Not exactly the land of the free and home of the brave!

3. As a lawyer, Key fought to suppress the ideas and speech of radical abolitionists in about the Benjamin Lundy and Reuben Crandall cases for further study.

Key's final argument in the Crandall case...
“Are you willing gentleman to abandon your country, to permit it to be taken from you, and occupied by the abolitionist, according to whose taste it is to associate and amalgamate (interracial relations) with the negro? Or gentleman, on the other hand, are there laws in this community to defend you from the immediate abolitionist, who would open upon you the floodgates of such extensive wickedness and mischief?”
4. Francis Scott Key was a member of The American Colonization Society...a group who wanted to "emancipate" the slaves and send them back to Africa.

5. Lastly, he fostered white fear, paranoia, and anger (stirring up memories of Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, etc.) by declaring that radical abolitionist rhetoric would lead to widespread slave rebellions and "lawlessness"...

“They (radical abolitionists) declare that every law which sanctions slavery is null and void…That we have no more rights over our slaves than they have over us.  Does not this bring the constitution and the laws under which we live into contempt? Is it not a plain invitation to resist them?”

Listen to Fog's National Anthem... 
My Solution: Top 5 Songs to replace the Star Spangled Banner in order of preference:
1. "Lift Every Voice and Sing"
2. "Battle Hymn of the Republic"
3. "God Bless America"
4. "America: My Country 'tis of Thee"
5. "America, The Beautiful"

Honorable Mention: "You're A Grand Old Flag", "Stars and Stripes Forever", "We Shall Overcome"
An interesting alternative...

What song would you choose or suggest to be our new national anthem?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11: The Man Who Saved Thousands

At 8:46 a.m. on the morning of September 11, 2001...World Trade Center Tower 1 was hit. Rick Rescorla (head of security for Morgan Stanley) heard the explosion and saw the tower burning from his office window. He disobeyed orders urging people to stay at their desks. He grabbed his bullhorn, walkie-talkie, cell phone, and began ordering employees to evacuate. 
"Keep moving...keep moving. 
Today is a day to be proud you are Americans. 
Keep moving!"
He also sang songs (he had sang these songs to his troops in Vietnam) to calm the evacuees and boost their morale.  In between songs, he called his wife... 
 "Stop crying. I have to get these people out safely.
If something should happen to me, I want you to know...
 I've never been happier....You made my life." 
Rick Rescorla
Vietnam Veteran/ 9-11 Hero
After evacuating 2,687 employees of Morgan Stanley, he went back into the building.  When one of his co-workers told him he too should evacuate the World Trade Center, Rescorla replied,
"As soon as I make sure everyone else is out!"
Rescorla was last seen on the 10th floor, heading up the stairwell, shortly before the tower collapsed.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Thomas Jefferson: Natives Are Not Created Equal

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson wrote a private letter to William Henry Harrison (later to become our 9th POTUS) who was the Governor of Indiana Territory...following are excerpts from his letter.
1801: Thomas Jefferson Indian "Peace" Medal
"Our system is to live in perpetual peace with the Indians, to cultivate an affectionate attachment from decrease their subsistence by hunting and draw them to agriculture, to spinning and weaving."
"When they withdraw themselves to the culture of a small piece of land, they will perceive how useless to them are their extensive forests...we shall push our trading uses, and be glad to see individuals among them run in debt, because we observe that when these debts get beyond what they can pay, they become willing to (sell) their lands."
"Our settlements will gradually approach the Indians, and they will in time either incorporate as citizens of the United States, or remove beyond the Mississippi.  The former is certainly the termination of their history most happy for themselves; but, in the whole course of this, it is essential to cultivate their love."
"We presume that our strength and their weakness is now so visible that they must see we have only to shut our hand to crush them...should any tribe be foolish enough to take up the hatchet at any time, seizing their whole country and driving them across the Mississippi as the only condition of peace would be an example to others and a furtherance of our final consolidation."


Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day Was No Picnic!

Labor Day...the last day of summer, a day of backyard bbq, a day to relax, time to spend with family and friends, etc.  started out as a reaction to a very violent day (The Pullman Strike of 1894) in United States history.  The Pullman Strike of Chicago was a nationwide (and 23 sympathy strikes nationwide) railroad strike led by Eugene Debs against wage reductions and unfair working conditions that involved over 250,000 workers in 27 states.

The majority of Americans saw the strike as harmful, called for the deportation of "the foreigners", and generally viewed the strike as un-American Socialist uprising.  Some in the country supported the strike as defending "the rights of the people against aggressive and oppressive corporations...the monied aristocracy who seek to dominate this country."

Ultimately, President Grover Cleveland ordered over 15,000 federal troops and U.S. Marshalls to end the strike.  The bloody result was nearly 90 workers killed or wounded with over $80 million in property damage. 

In a conciliatory move (6 days after the Pullman Bloodbath) to quiet national unrest...President Cleveland rushed "Labor Day legislation" through Congress creating a nationwide federal holiday to "support the contributions of the American worker to the strength and prosperity of our country."


Eugene Debs
Debs was jailed for 6 months for his role in the strike...he would later be sentenced to 10 years in prison for speaking out against America's involvement in WWI.