Posts Tagged ‘History’

Downsizing Books

We probobly have many books unread. I discovered one book is not Vol. Ii of Marie Antoinette. Instead it is Vol. VIII of The World’s History and Its Makers, American Statesmen. It was copyrighted in 1899. My copy was published in 1902 and looks pretty good considering.
So I am reading through this selection of men credited with our early years as a new country. I started with Hamilton. My aunt lived on Hamilton Place, NYC., right downhill from his home. And we spent a few wonderful hours seeing the play. After reading the duel, I turned to Jefferson, and found the following quotes to be timely. He believed the best life was that of the farmer. He owned farms and contributed to agriculture science, He also managed this with the labor of slaves. I was surprised how early he spoke against slavery as a legislator.
Jefferson, Thomas
On the Yellow Fever quote:
The yellow fever will discourage the growth of great cities in our Nation, and I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health, and the liberties of man.
On slavery, Jefferson and Adams wrote a summary view of the Declaration debate/. Quote:
The clause, too, representing the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, was struck out in compliance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who, on the contrary, still wished to continue it. Our northern brethren, also, I believe, felt a little tender under their censures, for though their people had very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers to others.

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One of my favorites to follow is The Heritage Trust. Today the link to excavations in York, England is most interesting. I envy the Old World countries and their history. The United States is so young that finds might be less notable. You never know.

There are housing complexes and hospitals built on old dumps and landfills. Some are over sinkholes  and old battlegrounds. With so much construction going on, we are bound to find more Indian burial grounds. What else could be under your home?

See these photos for a world made unknown for so many years. 

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The Texas News

Prairie View University is in the news because the young woman, a 2009 graduate, was to begin work there. It is one of the historic Black colleges and my family had many experiences working there.

I have learned the outlines of my history by living with many parts of my family and more recent genealogy searches. The internet has been wonderful in putting bones on family lore. It has answered questions I did not think to ask.

My grandmother taught in high schools and colleges. Prairie View was one. Annie Talbot Strickland, was born in Holly Springs, MS. Shewas an early graduate of Rust College. We believe the education of Annie and three other children was paid for by their father, a slave owner. She married my grandfather after they both graduated. At 18 she was listed on the census as a school teacher. He was also a teacher and a census enumerator. (It is so exciting to see how many people you may know who worked on the census. And you see the handwriting of the enumerators).

I do not know what years she was at Prairie View, then a college. I do know she was in Waco, TX when my mother was born in 1890.) Family lore is that her girls never attended school . They were educated by attending classes in the colleges where Annie was teaching. My uncle was too young and might have been left at home. Where was that?

All of the women in the family were teachers. My grandmother’s youngest sister (and cousins) taught at Rust. Aunt Addie’s youngest daughter married a man named Perkins. He was the groundskeeper at Prairie View for many years. Victor also owned the Houston bus station until she retired. (My mother was teaching school in Houston when she was introduced to my father, a soldier at Camp Logan).

Whenever I read about these places, I realize there is more to be done to trace my family’s history. And today I wonder how difficult would it have been to travel so far? How could she have managed two girls in new situations? And she also had her mother to care for. Grancy, a former slave, lived to be 100. College campuses are often oases of protection, but was she ever in danger? In Texas?

Some Resources:
-Ida B Wells, a classmate. Mentioned Velma, my mother in her diary. (See Ida: A Sword Among Lions, Paula J. Giddings)
-Meharry Medical College Archives (online and college)
-Prairie View A & M University
-Land grant colleges in Southern states
-AME church and freedmen’s schools

Sent from my iPad

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Amazing what is online! This website offers research by Leigh Henson, who lived in this small city. He shared not only the town’s ability to adapt to life with the very small number of Black families, but also his own experiences.

Using research of old newspapers, correspondenc and writings, he describes an intimate community of whites who had little exposure to Blacks. There are interviews and emails with classmates who shared how they were exposed to minorities.

In addition, there are photos. Buildings and important intersections which divide the community by class rather than race. And the most fascinating photos of a young woman. In one she is standing close enough to the camera to show only from her waist. Her face is the subject. Behind her, to her right, is a young man in a comic stance. She appears not to be aware of anything but the camera. The man is not identified. Nor is the photographer.

There were early troubles for the citizens. It was a northern town with southern attitudes. There were friendships formed lasting a lifetime. There was the KKK. This website won an award in 2004. I found this to be a wonderful depiction of actual times, actual small town America going about lives in a formative period post Civil War. Blacks describe what they had to do to be safe there and how the church helped them to cope. Good people are identified. The others were not.

Please check this out..

Site a part of the Illinois State Historical Society.


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Nassau Thanksgiving 1979


Wrote a long letter about the trip and leaving the kids with new friends. The beach cut short by a downpour. We ran for cover. It was a quiet time to paint two large watercolors on Crescent board. This winter we will use them to prove we were here.


We went to Le Cabaret and found a long line. Many of the group played the slots while waiting for the doors to open.

We were seated randomly by the Maitre d’.Front row table at the stage. Randomly worked in such a way that all of those seated were the only Blacks in the room other than the employees.  One couple was a retired security officer at the casino and his wife. He explained that the Bahamians who worked in the casinos were not permitted to spend their money there.

Also wages were so low that few could come there anyway. The other couples were African-Americans on vacation. It was a long but interesting show.

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Nassau Thanksgiving Part 5


At breakfast, I overheard a Boston couple talking with a Canadian. One said the Casino is cheaper in the afternoons. Yesterday a man decided to spend only $2.50 each day in the machines. putting a quarter in each one. At one point the machine he had just fed paid off for $50. To someone else. Then someone played roulette and won  $50,000 – but that could just be a rumor.

Since we got a late start and missed the catamaran, we go to a gallery in a clothing store. I wanted to see “Paintings by Mr. Amos Ferguson” (primitives).  Bought gifts for the girls and Lorraine’s baby, Keelan.

Tonight we have early dinner reservations for the Bahamian Club and Le Cabaret on Friday.  John wished for Stevie at the B. Club.


Thanksgiving but seems like Thursday

A rental car would not be ready until late afternoon. We were just in time to get a bus to the catamaran! At Prince Georges Wharf, we see the boats that were recently confiscated by the harbor patrol making a marijuana bust. The ride out was by motor and back by sail and motor. The catamaran is not like the one rented on Martha’s Vineyard* but we did see a sea-plane skim the water and go up the ramp runway. (Crane’s Airline is the oldest.)

We go around Paradise Island to Cottage Beach. It is a part of Britannia Beach. The boat is driven right up on the sand. We stay there an hour:  swimming, snorkeling, drinking fresh coconut juice are available.


We realize we got a lot of sun and have not bought anything for Al. Shops were closed at noon on Thursdays. At McDonald’s we talked with a woman who looked like Trina and worked in a bank. She was critical of the market people as they are ‘not well educated.’ She said that accounted for their dialect.


I told her about the argument we heard and she said “They were expressing themselves well.” There is a song which says Bahamian marriages don’t last long.

We learned about the island of Eleuthra where a house can be rented on the beach. She said it is very beautiful and that the sands are pink in the sunset.  The natives use Sanders and Nassau beaches.

I wanted to go to another art gallery in Lyford Cay. It was written up in the newspaper. Perhaps tomorrow.


* Who knew?

Our only trip to Martha’s Vineyard was the week Elvis died and  Kennedy got in all that trouble. One morning I went to the historic gingerbread houses built by the Methodists. John and the children rented a catamaran.

I carried water, an apple and a pilot pen to use on parchment paper. These houses ring a large open area that had a stage in the middle. Chairs had been set up for the concert being held that evening. The grand piano, Steinway surely, was being played by the evening soloist, who went through the program.

No one else was there! I drew these houses in a pointillism method while the soloist played just for me. Unreal.

I was in such euphoria when I arrived back at our place. Only to learn that a plane had swooped down into the water near their catamaran. They had pulled the plane to a dock. And then, they realized that the key ring had fallen into the water. Gone keys to car, house etc.  tt took an hour and help to fish them out of the water and return to a safe shelter. I still can not believe they saved a plane.

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The child is the future and hope.

The child is the future and hope.


The theories about successful aging include keeping one’s mind active. This seems especially important to early retirees and elderly seniors. A whole generation of nearly 62 year olds has either stepped off the merry-go-round or been let go from employment.

The flow of life is a series of ups and downs. Who says the postwar 50s were a lull? Now, I feel for the people who have jobs and can no longer count on employment. Recently, a friend said her 10-year-old niece needed to interview someone who had lived in the 30s. Looking around the table, I was IT. I did not do the interview, but it made me think.

What were the adjustments made in my family to the depression? My father had provided a comfortable, even privileged life for us. He employed at least 5 people to keep our house running. He helped his brothers and their children. He played golf! And then, like many others (and fewer African Americans), he lost his money and his health. My stepmother and a friend made handpainted silk ties. They were sold to friends who still had money. This helped but could not support the family for long.

We were sent to live in another state. My aunt and uncle had three children, an ill mother and assorted relatives and friends on hard times. They had come from the South and were qualified teachers. My uncle worked with red-hot ingots for the automotive industry. My aunt worked for the government. [Three of those years were in Washington, DC.]

They fell back on frugal ways learned in an earlier time. He bought land with his army pension. From 1919 to 1936, veterans had waited for a check. We grew food, fished and collected old fields of berries. We worked boxing raspberries @5 cents. We canned and made jellies. A cold cellar kept potatoes. and rhutabagas.  My uncle got unused dough from a bakery to feed a few hogs and a few dozen donuts for us.

Sundays we ate in the diningroom. Each person had the same piece of chicken. Being the youngest and the last I got the drumstick. We went to church on Sunday and pulled the shades when playing a game with cards. The neighbors must not think we were gambling.

The truck took us back and forth the 40 miles to the farm. One child could sit in front with the adults. The rest of us huddled and hung on. I don’t remember a return when a tire did not blow. And then we drove home on the rim.

One year they hired a man to stay at the farm in the winter. He could not read or write but he could count. He knew money. One year he asked to spend Thanksgiving with his family. My brother next to me was told to take his place for the weekend. We had no phones. Over the weekend, the old man died. Snow blanketed the farm. They took some time to find a replacement and to bring my brother home! I know he did not have money. Where could he have spent it? My allowance was only 10 cents. Five cents to tithe and five cents to spend.

The food and wood ran low. The water in the well froze. I cannot imagine the isolation and fear that he experienced: 50 acres more of snow, miles from anyone else! Today, I would say that experience was Character-building.

My aunt got free government pamphlets, many written by George Washington Carver. They told her how to grow vegetables in water. How to conserve waste. How to can. What to eat healthy. We bought or were given a baby chick warmer. We raised white rabbits in the garage but they were pets. We had turkeys at the farm but they were determined to drink rain….a dangerous thing to do. I learned to use a bucket brigade which came in use later.
My cousin and I had hand-me-down clothes. She sewed beautifully. Bolts of material and a few dresses were gifts from another aunt. One pair of shoes a year regardless of need.

For fun? A lot of laughing. A toboggan for all but one in the family. A lot of games with everybody playing. And always, that other world of school. For my brothers and I, we had each other and the expectation of leaving. We had memories that there could be an easier life with hard work, school and luck.

The more I have paid attention to others lives, the more common experiences there are. So many people have suffered things I never dreamed of. And the good and the difficult all create us. We can lie down and stay defeated or we can make our dream and walk in.

Happy Holidays.

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Ida B. Wells was attending college when the Yellow Fever hit Holly Springs, Mississippi. Her parents and a sibling died leaving her the one to care for the younger children. She left Rust College to teach and placed the children with her aunt. Her life story of achievements and responsibilities is recorded in her journal.

While teaching she began to write under the pen name, IOLA. Later she owned a newspaper in Memphis, TN. This brought her face to face with legal (Jim Crow) discrimination that reversed many of the opportunities afforded Blacks after the Civil War.

Her own experiences included being thrown off a train. She had bought a first class ticket and refused to move from the segregated Ladies car reserved for white women. Ida sued the company and won a judgement. However, this was reversed by the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

She became an advocate for the rights of Blacks after several business men she knew were lynched. She was forced to leave the south but travelled widely for the causes she believed in. She was an early supporter of the Crisis magazine and the NAACP.

Her marriage to F. Barnett, a lawyer, made them a prominent couple and parents of 5 children. There are many named sites recognizing her contributions, including the Ida B. Wells museum in Holly Springs.

Who knew?

The list of her associates is long and includes my grandparents, William H.  and Annie Talbot Strickland. They were students at Rust College at the same time Ida attended. Her attitudes regarding Annie changed when Ida returned to Mississippi to attend my grandparents’ wedding. I learned of this by reading her biography (by) Paula Giddings (Ida:A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching.)


It pays to check your drafts! I did exactly one year to the day. I do have an excuse. I have been busy. Soon to explain my project and its progress.

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Encaustic wax on Paper

Out of the Dark is Light
by Bettye W. Harwell

In art, as in life, the darkest dark forms the brightest light. A painter sets aside a painting that does not ‘work’. Imperfect  Impulses with Aaron (wordpress.com) is a website demonstrating journaling techniques. A recent post, no video, describes a failed technique. When he attempted something new, it did not get the hoped for results.

I wanted to contact him and say, keep working on it. Put on more layers. In a scrape-off technique, some residue and texture remain. Continue to add, sand, add, scrape to create unexpected glow and depth. Then find the dark that will reveal the light. (A later post uses that page successfully.)

A result will present itself totally unplanned. Then the work will be done. I use a mat to find the best part to save. (Harder to select on canvas. Works on paper can be cut or torn to show the strongest composition.)

If after reworking, you still feel it is hopeless, you have not failed. It was a teachable experience. Start over and apply what was learned. Keep the failure. It may show more promise later.

Why the light in life?
I wondered how long it would take before the reputation of Nelson Mandela, first Black President of South Africa, would be attacked. His services are to cover ten days. World dignitaries and regular people will show their respect for an amazing life. Any death is an opportunity for self-reflection. Are we living our best life?

I wondered if it would take the full ten days before the knives came out. No. Not even two. The words used in the past by people, who themselves were protective of terrible atrocities, dredged up names he was called long ago. Questions have been raised. When did Mandela become a man of peace? When did he stop being a rebel? Was he a communist? And more.

The dark terrible history of the people of South Africa, both Black and white, forced the brightest light. It shaped the man. It shaped a government.

Lessons are learned from both the bad and the good. Some are influenced to emulate the political successes of Mandela, the leader. Others have taken on the resistance skills of the apartheid government. Is America using tactics which limit the apirations of all its citizens? Will we be the model for other governments?

Why compare one leader to anyone but his (or her) own self? Obama/Mandela or Washington/Mandela? Mandela paid his dues after personally enduring his country’s power. Obama has lived a very different life.

Mandela was not chosen to form an army and fight a revolution. He did not form another country, as Washington did. He used freedom and the rights of citizenship for all to make the country of his birth better. Washington and the Founding Fathers used an army and a new government to defeat the British. They accepted a constitution and government calling a large part of the population 2/3 of a man, had no universal right to vote and no recognition of women as full citizens. Mandela used his election to include all citizens fairly.

Who knew?
No man is better or has a higher station than any other.

Newt Gingrich and Senator Cruz are getting a backlash for speaking about the loss of a leader, Nelson Mandela.

Written December 8, 2103

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A sculpture done by the citizens of NAshvilla

A sculpture done by the citizens of NAshvilla

This year has been one continuous  reflection on: the 50 year`ago March on Washington, 50 years since the Kennedy Assasination.  And the 50 year anniversary of the birth of my youngest child.

She was in high school when she could not remember where she was when Kennedy was killed. I remember where I was. It was eleven days before her birth. I was walking my four year old, a routine we enjoyed. We stopped at the strange store just around the corner. We always stopped to look at the linens and small gifts in the windows. Suddenly a small woman ran out the door and dragged us inside. The elderly couple who owned the store were huddled around a small radio.

I was a little frightened because we had never been inside this store. The first lady, a helper, was trying to tell me that the President was in Dallas, that he had been shot and that  they were looking for ‘a Black man’. As she talked, voice rising and dropping to a near whisper, the radio announcers were trying to clarify and update events. Soon they said he had died.

We all were silent, frightened and sad. I needed to be with friends and walked to the home of lifelong friends. Our boys were the same age and soon drifted off to boys’ games. (Today I remembered that our televisions were black and white. It seemed fitting for such glum news.)

After awhile two children appeared at the back door. My children! I had lost all thought of them. The school had dismissed them to a deserted house. In a crisis, people either come closer or close inward. It was such a strange Friday and continued into the weekend of murder and grief. I doubt our children had any prior experience of grief. And learning the news in ther separate classrooms gave them no avenue to deal with their feelings.

Now the cable stations, for almost ten days, have covered all of the events, questioned who accepts the Warren Report conclusions, used old and new film footage. Non-stop. The level of emotional distress is heightened and hard to dispel. The young announcers who were not born, show their struggle to understand. They try to compare it to September 11. But were probably too young for that also.

Who knew?

My youngest, at age 4, suddenly jumped up off the floor, jumping up and down, screaming “I thought that man (Kissinger) said the war was over.”  It was the first time that we realized she was aware of the news when she colored in front of the television. We cannot know how our children internalize things going on around them.

What long-term ways are we and our children unable to process our emotions when confronted repeatedly with critical information? I am really glad that Caroline Kennedy was out of the country, starting a new phase of her life.

Chief WritingWolf(wordpress.com)reminds us that another man, a good man died on that same day. All I could do was to turn inward and cut the television off.

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