Thursday, February 27, 2014

Movies That Made History: Fog's Top 5

Very rarely do poems, songs, or movies, etc. make, impact, change, or influence history (or even have any significant cultural impact)...but, every once in awhile they do. I considered many movies for my potential "Top 5" (all movies you should watch sometime!) like...

Bowling for Columbine...Fahrenheit 9/11...Inconvenient Truth...2001: Space Odyssey...Slacker...The Wizard of Oz...Citizen Kane...JFK...The Godfather...Boyz' in the Hood...Supersize Me...Do The Right Thing...The Fog of War...

and decided on these...Here is my list of the Top 5 movies that I feel have truly "impacted" American History!

The Thin Blue Line Trailer (2:39)
5. The Thin Blue Line (1988) successfully argued that a man (Randall Dale Adams) was wrongly convicted of murdering a Dallas police officer by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas. The film illustrated that most of the eyewitness testimony was unreliable and that many other witnesses in the trial blatantly committed perjury. As a result of the film, Adams was given a retrial and found innocent of the murder charge. The film significantly influenced issues regarding police intimidation and the "rush to judgment", the injustices of the justice system, the death penalty, and on crime scene investigation procedure. 
 Guess Who's Coming To Dinner Trailer (2:37)
4. Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967) portrays a (then rare) positive representation (but overly simplified and somewhat racist view) of the controversial subject of interracial marriage. At the time, interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 states and the Supreme Court was about to strike down all anti-miscegenation laws in the famous Loving v. Virginia case. For all of this films flaws and it's inaccurate portrayal of the black experience in is still a historically significant film that helped start discussions on race, social issues, and equality.
Philadelphia Trailer (3:02)
3. Philadelphia (1993) poses an ethical dilemma...should a person who is fully competent at performing their job be fired simply because they have a disease, disability, or certain beliefs that are unacceptable to the owner of the company? This was one of the first Hollywood movies to tackle the topics of HIV/AIDS awareness, homosexuality, sexual orientation job discrimination, homophobia, and the struggle to find a cure for AIDS (it also led to discussions on many other related topics such as age and religious discrimination).  A groundbreaking, thought-provoking, and "educational" film.

Raisin In The Sun Trailer (2:48)

2.  A Raisin In The Sun (1961) is a based on a play by Lorraine Hansberry that debuted on Broadway in 1959.  The title originates from the poem "A Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes. The story is based upon a black family's experiences in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the south side of Chicago.  The movie explores issues like racial discrimination, job discrimination, gender inequities, institutional racism, the perils of integration, real estate redlining, and the importance of family. It also considers a very difficult question..."should one fight or ignore discrimination". The movie also successfully predicts historical events a full decade before they occurred like...the "Black is Beautiful" Movement, the Feminist Movement, and an embracing of African Heritage/ Black Pride over the so-called American Dream.

Birth Of A Nation Clip

1. Birth Of A Nation (1915) is by the far the film that has had the greatest (albeit evil, racist, and offensive) impact on American History. This 3 hour long silent movie used deep seated fear, hatred, paranoia, stereotypes, etc. of African-Americans and seared them into the minds of white America in order to create "Civil War and Reconstruction Era Amnesia" helped "heal" sectional animosity and bring about national white reunion...aka White Power and the rise of the KKK. The remnants of the terrible stereotypes of African-Americans portrayed in the movie (lazy, unintelligent, devious, violent, etc.) are still haunting the minds of many Americans today.

Simply put...White America decided to "forgive and forget" about the true meaning of the Civil War and "remember" how each side fought for "A Noble Cause" order to fight the common enemy of African- American equality, political power, intermarriage, economic competition, etc. Isn't this why we allow the Rebel Flag and statues of traitors to grace our land....would this (Nazi Flag & statues of Hitler, Rommel, etc.) happen in Germany?!?

Gettysburg Reunion: White Power Handshake?


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Rise Above...Never To Go Under!

In class, my students are currently exploring Harlem Renaissance (aka The New Negro Movement) Poetry and it's relationship to The First Great Migration and 1920's America...

"Rise Above...Never To Go Under!"
Seattle: 1935
and "The African-American Expression" criticism...hope...pride, anger, the face of extreme post-WWI segregation...violent race riots..."celebratory" lynch mobs...

"Rise Above...Never To Go Under!"
Birmingham: 1963
I strongly feel that all great poetry, music, art, and critical thought draws from past, current, and "future hope" experiences...I hope my students truly feel the lessons to be learned in these poems and take inspiration from the struggles of the rise above in this current generation...never to go under!
America: 2014?
Listen to "Rise" by Richie Spice


Locked arm in arm they cross the way
The black boy and the white,
The golden splendor of the day
The sable pride of night.

From lowered blinds the dark folk stare
And here the fair folk talk,
Indignant that these two should dare
In unison to walk.

Oblivious to look and word
They pass, and see no wonder
That lightning brilliant as a sword
Should blaze the path of thunder.
                                             - Countee Cullen (1925)



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Z. Alexander Looby: The Man Who Saved Thurgood Marshall

Z. Alexander Looby disobeyed police and took a U-turn on a dark November night in 1946 just outside of Columbia, Tennessee...that U-turn saved the life of Thurgood Marshall and made straight the path for many Civil Rights victories in the coming decades! 
Z. Alexander Looby
Video Clip on the 1946 Columbia "Race Riot"...
Thurgood Marshall, Z. Alexander Looby, Maurice Weaver (NAACP Lawyers) and Harry Raymond (news reporter for the Communist Party of America) travelled to Columbia, Tennessee to successfully defend over 20 African-American men who were accused of instigating the Columbia Race Riots of soon as the verdicts were read they exited the courthouse to get out of Columbia (they had been threatened by the KKK) and back to Nashville as quickly as possible.

But, as they tried to "make their escape" they noticed their car was being followed by three police cars...they were soon surrounded by 8 police officers (aka southern Klansmen) and accused (Thurgood Marshall was known to enjoy a drink or two) of drinking and driving. But, Marshall had not been drinking that night. Nevertheless, the police arrested him for "drinking and driving" and told the other men to get out of town before they were arrested too...

It was becoming clear that the KKK/ police planned to lynch Thurgood Marshall and throw his body in the Duck River (as promised) that night.
Thurgood Marshall

But, a car followed the police toward the "Duck River Lynch Mob" was Looby, Weaver, and Raymond! They had decided they were all going to be lynched that night or none of them would be lynched. The police now worried that their were too many witnesses and that there might be another riot if 4 men "went missing" drove the group into Columbia to book Marshall for drunk driving. The judge sensed that this was a police "frame up" and immediately released Marshall and his friends.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Woodrow Wilson: An Example of American Amnesia

Full disclosure: Woodrow Wilson is one of my least favorite POTUS...

Helen Keller called Woodrow Wilson...
"The greatest individual disappointment the world has ever known!"
When I ask my students what they "remember" about President Woodrow Wilson (or almost any POTUS/ historical figure), they usually respond with positive enthusiasm...aka positive memory.

In Wilson's case they share that he was:

1. An "Anti- War Isolationist" who reluctantly led us into World War I.
2. The man who "made the world safe for Democracy."
3. A "Leader for Peace" who helped to establish the League of Nations.
4. A supporter of women's suffrage.
5. An intellectual and great academic leader at Princeton University.
6. A great man who won the Nobel Peace Prize.

In a composite of every historical ranking done of the Presidents, Woodrow Wilson is ranked 7th...with over 50% of Americans having "very favorable" views of his Presidency...

Top 10 POTUS of All-Time Composite List
1. Abraham Lincoln
2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. George Washington
4. Theodore Roosevelt
5. Thomas Jefferson
6. Harry Truman
7. Woodrow Wilson
8. Dwight D. Eisenhower
9. John F. Kennedy
10. Ronald Reagan
"Can you handle The Truth?"
Who is to blame for this "whitewashed" version of history?  Is it "illiterate" history teachers, sanitized textbooks, hero-worshipping museums, myopic public television documentaries, "historical" novels, Hollywood movies (hoping Leo DiCaprio "tells it straight" in the upcoming Wilson movie) or our inclination to embrace the comfortable truth? 
The Real Woodrow Wilson:
A Southern Racist/ White Supremacist who promised to undo the "injustices of Reconstruction"...encouraged a rebirth of the KKK...fought integration at every point...enthusiastically supported "The Birth of a Nation" commenting...
"It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so true."
...believed in "White Power Eugenics"...loved telling "darkie jokes"...gave tacit approval to race riots and lynching. All of this in spite of the political "support" and "pleading for justice" from many famous (W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells, William Monroe Trotter) Civil Rights leaders.
Made the world safe for Democracy?!?
An Aggressive Imperialist who authorized military interventions in Mexico (11 times), Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Panama, and Nicaragua. He also conducted a post-WWI "secret war"...invading Russia to fight against the Bolsheviks...which became the basis for much Cold War animosity. He also ignored a young Ho Chi Minh who was seeking American support for Vietnamese self-determination (against France) in Southeast Asia.

A Xenophobic Nativist who repeatedly questioned the loyalty of Americans he called "hyphenated Americans" stating,

"Any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger
that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready."

He imprisoned hundreds (including Eugene Debs) through enactment of the Alien and Sedition Acts....set up the Committee on Public Information to help spread anti-German WWI propaganda...and initiated the disastrous "Red Scare" Palmer Raids.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

W.E.B. DuBois: "Perfect" Heroes

Americans love a flawless hero...a perfect story...a happy easy myth over difficult reality. These are the challenges and difficulties we face each day in our class as we struggle with "how we want our coffee (history)"...straight or with cream and sugar?

We are not the first to struggle with this reality and we will definitely not be the last...W.E.B. DuBois dealt with "the struggle for truth" while he critically examined Abraham Lincoln in this September of 1922 excerpt:
We love to think of the Great as flawless. We yearn in our imperfection toward Perfection–sinful, we envisage Righteousness. As a result of this, no sooner does a great man die than we begin to whitewash him. We seek to forget all that was small and mean and unpleasant and remember the fine and brave and good. We slur over and explain away his inconsistencies and at last there begins to appear, not the real man, but the tradition of the man–remote, immense, perfect, cold and dead!
This sort of falsehood appeals to some folk. They want to dream their heroes true; they want their heroes all heroic with no feet of clay; and they are astonished, angered, hurt if some one speaks the grim, forgotten truth...First and foremost, there comes a question of fact. Was what I said true or false? This I shall not argue. Any good library will supply the books, and let each interested reader judge. Beyond this, there is another and deeper question...
“Is this proper food for your people?"
I think it is...that is the very reason for telling the Truth!


Monday, February 3, 2014

Winter Olympics: Top 10 Memories

I have always loved the Winter is the only sporting event I would put above Ali vs. Frazier...The Stanley Cup Playoffs...SEC Football...or the Minnesota Vikings winning a Super Bowl.
Why do I say this?  It may be my lifelong bondage to snow (I'm from Minnesota)...the fact that countries like Norway & Sweden can compete against the "super powers" like ice jumping...bobsled...luge...biathlon...speed skating...curling...the new X-game events...figure skating (although the judging is often ridiculous)...or the inspiring human interest stories, etc.

I give to you my Top 10 Olympic Memories:

10. Japanese Ski Jumping Team (Nagano, 1998): The Japanese dominated the ski jump hill with their flair and passion...exciting their partisan fans.

9. Bonnie Blair (Lillehammer, 1994): One of the top speed skaters of all time, Blair competed for the United States in four Olympics and won five gold medals and one bronze medal.

8. Dan Jansen (Lillehammer, 1994): American speed skater Dan Jansen overcame the death of his sister and many disappointing losses to compete in his final Olympics at Lillehammer. In his last race, he set a world record in the 1,000-meter race, finally winning the gold.

7. Franz Klammer (Innsbruck, 1976): Skiing with reckless abandon, the Austrian skier Franz Klammer moved from 15th position to Gold in his final attack on the hill.
6. Shani Davis (Turin, 2006): Davis became the first African-American to win a gold medal in an individual sport at an Olympic Winter Games, winning gold in the 1000 meter speed skating oval...he is looking for more gold in Sochi.

5. Eric Heiden (Lake Placid, 1980): At 21 years old, the American speed skater took home five gold medals, winning every speed skating event. His performance still ranks as the greatest individual feat in Winter Olympic history.
4. Bjorn Daehlie (Lillehammer, 1994): Dæhlie's 8 Olympic gold medals and12 total Olympic medals are an all-time individual record (earned in 3 separate Olympics).  Possibly the greatest winter athlete ever...a true Norwegian!

3. Eddie the Eagle (Calgary, 1988): Millions of fans fell in love with Great Britain's Michael Edwards. Known for his oversized glasses and epic crashes, people from around the world fell in love with Eddie despite finishing dead last. He made failure famous!!!

2. Jamaica Bobsled Team (Calgary, 1988): This four-man team from a country without snow became instant celebrities....when their bobsled lost control and crashed, they decided to cross the finish line on foot...inspirational!

1. The U.S. Hockey Teams (Squaw Valley, 1960 and Lake Placid, 1980): Known as the "Forgotten Miracle" and the "Miracle on Ice," the American victories both with Cold War backdrops...are in my opinion the greatest feat in all of Winter Olympic history!

Do you believe in miracles?!?