Archives for category: History

I am a 1956 graduate of San Jacinto High School in Houston, Texas. The school no longer exists; it is now part of the campus of Houston Community College. When I attended San Jac, it was a thriving community of about 1500 students. Most of the teachers were old-timers. There were many clubs for after-school activities and many sports teams. We were known as the Golden Bears. As a senior, I was editor of the yearbook, the El Oroso. When my older sister went to San Jac, she was a “Golden Gaucho,” which was a girls’ marching group. The school was racially segregated, but it had a program for students with disabilities, which was unusual at the time. After the Brown decision was announced, I went to see our principal, Mr. Brandenburger, to ask why our school had not integrated. He told me that if we did that, all the black principals would lose their jobs. He did not mention that we had a very rightwing school board who opposed desegregation. I have many fond memories of San Jacinto. I am on the mailing list for alumni and saw this story by a woman who graduated 12 years after me. I was so moved by her story that I asked her for permission to put it on the blog. There is a message here about public education and its potential to change lives.

What San Jac Means To Me

By Annette Mazur Zinn, ‘68

zinn802@sbcglobal.net

I know I sometimes sound a little too passionate about San Jac, but there’s a reason for it. My circuitous path to where I now find myself gave me an appreciation for education, my classmates, teachers and others that I am forever grateful for.

As the eldest of 7 siblings, I grew up with a tremendous amount of responsibility. During the day, I was a surrogate Mom and, at night, I made money by cleaning offices and scrubbing bathrooms. My family was homeless most of the time, so attending school was not a priority. But I always wanted to go. I missed a lot of school starting in elementary school. My homeroom teacher at George Washington Junior High told me, “Education is the key to freedom.” At the time I had no clue what that meant, but I never forgot her words.   

Somehow, I finished junior high and made it to Reagan High School. I attended when I could, but I was truant much of the time. I remember hiding from the truant officers because I knew that if I was caught, someone would go to jail. I suspected it would be me! 

The Reagan years were especially hard because of my difficult home life and the stress and embarrassment that resulted. I had impetigo infections on my arms and legs, hair lice, dirty clothes that didn’t fit, and cockroaches sometimes crawled out of my school bag. I finally decided that I couldn’t stay at Reagan. I was too ashamed and embarrassed. Someone told me about San Jacinto High School. 

Somehow, I managed to transfer, even though I didn’t know where the school was or how I would get there. It seemed like a world away. I got on the bus. When I began at San Jac, I didn’t know anyone. I was overwhelmed and afraid I would not last. During one of my truancy periods my counselor said, “If it’s true what you said about your home life, and you don’t move out, you’ll NEVER graduate!” 

Fortunately, a friend offered me a place to stay. I continued working to support my family, but I began doing whatever I could to graduate. No one in my family understood why I needed to finish school. 

Fortunately, for me, the San Jac students were more forgiving than those at Reagan. I kept doing childcare/housework and going to school when I could. I cleaned offices at night and lived with the constant threat that I would not have enough hours to graduate. At the same time, I wanted to be “normal”. I tried to make up for lost experiences and joined as many groups as I could – drama, speech, choir, and library club. Tim Zinn, a San Jac student, helped me tremendously with moral support, bus fare, and even lent me his yearbook so I could collect autographs. I graduated!

In the years that followed I married Tim and graduated from The University of Houston. In 1978, Tim and I separated and I became a single mom. Our daughter, Tara Zinn, was 7 at the time. I knew I had to set the right example for being independent and self-sufficient. Ultimately, I applied to graduate school at The University of Texas School of Public Health (UTSPH). Afterwards, I became an epidemiologist and then took a regulatory position at Intermedics, Inc. where I was responsible for obtaining approvals for cardiac pacemakers worldwide. 

I applied to law school and graduated from South Texas College of Law in 1992. I practiced law for a few years – including business, intellectual property, immigration, personal injury, family, and criminal cases – and even had a murder case! Ultimately, I went back to medical devices at Cyberonics, Inc., where I was responsible for obtaining approvals for neurostimulators worldwide and handling legal matters. I also taught FDA-law for three years at University of Houston and started my Ph. D in health law/policy at UTSPH. In 2008, I began a career as a regulatory adviser for medical product start-up companies and finished my Ph.D. I also began volunteering in educational institutions and mentoring students, including my daughter, who just graduated from South Texas College of Law!

So, to my San Jac family, I owe so much — because of San Jac — I’ve had a rich life of learning and opportunity. I will be passionately and forever grateful! 

Political reporter David Sanger wrote a fascinating analysis of Trump’s attempt to reverse the results of the election. Trump lost the electoral college; Biden won 306 votes, surpassing the necessary 270. Trump lost the popular vote by nearly six million votes. He obviously forgot that he swore an oath on the Bible to defend the Constitution. He is actively subverting it.

David Sanger wrote:

President Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election are unprecedented in American history and an even more audacious use of brute political force to gain the White House than when Congress gave Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency during Reconstruction.

Mr. Trump’s chances of succeeding are somewhere between remote and impossible, and a sign of his desperation after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. won by nearly six million popular votes and counting, as well as a clear Electoral College margin. Yet the fact that Mr. Trump is even trying has set off widespread alarms, not least in Mr. Biden’s camp.

“I’m confident he knows he hasn’t won,” Mr. Biden said at a news conference in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday, before adding, “It’s just outrageous what he’s doing.” Although Mr. Biden dismissed Mr. Trump’s behavior as embarrassing, he acknowledged that “incredibly damaging messages are being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions.”

Mr. Trump has only weeks to make his last-ditch effort work: Most of the states he needs to strip Mr. Biden of votes are scheduled to certify their electors by the beginning of next week. The electors cast their ballots on Dec. 14, and Congress opens them in a joint session on Jan. 6.

Even if Mr. Trump somehow pulled off his electoral vote switch, there are other safeguards in place, assuming people in power do not simply bend to the president’s will.

The first test will be Michigan, where Mr. Trump is trying to get the State Legislature to overturn Mr. Biden’s 157,000-vote margin of victory. He has taken the extraordinary step of inviting a delegation of state Republican leaders to the White House, hoping to persuade them to ignore the popular vote outcome.

“That’s not going to happen,” Mike Shirkey, the Republican leader of the Michigan State Senate, said on Tuesday. “We are going to follow the law and follow the process.”

Beyond that, Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, could send Congress a competing electoral slate, based on the election vote, arguing that the proper procedures were ignored. That dispute would create just enough confusion, in Mr. Trump’s Hail Mary calculus, that the House and Senate together would have to resolve it in ways untested in modern times.

Federal law dating to 1887, passed in reaction to the Hayes election, provides the framework, but not specifics, of how it would be done. Edward B. Foley, a constitutional law and election law expert at Ohio State University, noted that the law only required Congress to consider all submissions “purporting to be the valid electoral votes.”

But Michigan alone would not be enough for Mr. Trump. He would also need at least two other states to fold to his pressure. The most likely candidates are Georgia and Arizona, which both went for Mr. Trump in 2016 and have Republican-controlled legislatures and Republican governors.

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona has said he will accept the state election results, although only after all the campaign lawsuits are resolved. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, where a hand recount reaffirmed Mr. Biden’s victory on Thursday, has not publicly said one way or another who won his state.

Mr. Trump has said little in public apart from tweets endorsing wild conspiracy theories about how he was denied victory. Yet his strategy, if it can be called that, has become clear over two days of increasingly frenetic action by a president 62 days from losing power.

In just that time, Mr. Trump has fired the federal election official who has challenged his false claims of fraud, tried to halt the vote-certification process in Detroit to disenfranchise an overwhelmingly Black electorate that voted against him, and now is misusing the powers of his office in his effort to take Michigan’s 16 electoral votes away from Mr. Biden.

In many ways it is even more of an attempted power grab than the one in 1876. At the time, Hayes was governor of Ohio, not president of the United States. Ulysses S. Grant was, and when Hayes won — also by wrenching the vote around in three states — he became known as “His Fraudulency.”

“But this is far worse,” said Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian and author of “Presidents of War.” “In the case of Hayes, both sides agreed that the outcome in at least three states was in dispute. In this case, no serious person thinks enough votes are in dispute that Donald Trump could have been elected on Election Day.”

“This is a manufactured crisis. It is a president abusing his huge powers in order to stay in office after the voters clearly rejected him for re-election.”

He added: “This is what many of the founders dreaded.”

Mr. Trump telegraphed this strategy during the campaign. He told voters at a rally in Middletown, Pa., in September that he would win at the polls, or in the Supreme Court, or in the House — where, under the 12th Amendment, every state delegation gets one vote in choosing the president. (There are 26 delegations of 50 dominated by Republicans, even though the House is in the hands of the Democrats.)

“I don’t want to end up in the Supreme Court, and I don’t want to go back to Congress, even though we have an advantage if we go back to Congress,” he said then. “Does everyone understand that?”

Now that is clearly the Plan B, after the failure of Plan A, an improvisational legal strategy to overturn election results by invalidating ballots in key states. In state after state, the president’s lawyers have been laughed out of court, unable to provide evidence to back up his claims that mail-in ballots were falsified, or that glitches on voting machines with software from Dominion Voting Systems might, just might, have changed or deleted 2.7 million votes.

Those theories figured in a rambling news conference that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, held with other members of his legal team on Thursday. The group threw out a series of disconnected arguments to try to make the case that Mr. Trump really won. The arguments included blaming mail-in ballots that they said were prone to fraud as well as Dominion, which they suggested was tied to former President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela (who died seven years ago), and had vague connections to the Clinton Foundation and George Soros, the philanthropist and billionaire Democratic fund-raiser.

“That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history,” Christopher Krebs, who was fired Tuesday night by Mr. Trump as the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Thursday afternoon.

“And possibly the craziest,” he went on. “If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re lucky.”

Mr. Krebs has often noted that the purpose of a reliable election system is to convince those who lost elections that they have, indeed, lost.

Even some of Mr. Trump’s onetime enthusiasts and former top aides have abandoned him on his claims, often with sarcastic derision. “Their basic argument is this was a conspiracy so vast and so successful that there’s no evidence of it,” said John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s third national security adviser, who was ousted last year.

“Now if that’s true, I really want to know who the people are who pulled this off,” he said on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “We need to hire them at the C.I.A.”

On this subject, here is another excellent article:

WHY TRUMP IS LIKELY TO FAIL IN HIS EFFORTS TO UNDERMINE DEMOCRACY.


Denis Smith is a retired educator, now living in Ohio. He remembers here a day that will forever haunt him.

“I’m alive. Nobody else is … they’re all dead.” It Happened Fifty Years Ago Today.

The other evening, I had a dream about hearing sirens in the distance, shrill sounds which break the silence of an otherwise uneventful and quiet night.

Lest you think I’m in need of clinical attention, there was an underlying reason for me to be dreaming about the sounds of sirens. Let me explain.

It is said that each generation constructs a series of markers which serve to catalog collective life experiences for the purpose of identifying the most significant events of a particular era. For my parents’ generation, the markers were the Great Flu of 1918, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, and World War II. And for their children, it was the assassination of President Kennedy, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, the Lunar Landing, and, now, the Great Pandemic of 2020.

But there is another marker that is somewhat exclusive to me, not shared by my family but felt resoundingly in a small city in West Virginia, a marker established exactly 50 years ago.

It was a catastrophe that remains stored in that hard drive called memory, for November 14, 1970 will remain forever in my mind, as it followed that usually dreaded day before.

On the late afternoon of Friday, November 13, after struggling with being ill for a few days, I ended the week by locking the school office door and heading home. It was a 100-mile round trip each day to and from work, and then back to my tiny apartment near the campus of Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. At the time, I was employed as a too young, first-year junior high school principal and carrying a full-load as a graduate student in the history department at Marshall. The location of my apartment was within walking distance from school, an ideal situation, for I had need to continually use the library and other enticements the university offered.

After arriving home around 6:00pm, I grabbed something from the refrigerator and made a cup of hot tea to soothe the flu-like symptoms I was experiencing. I

was so ill that I slept most of Saturday but was awakened around 8:00pm by the incessant sound of sirens coming from emergency vehicles racing down nearby streets.

As I became more awake, I realized that the sirens were not heading toward campus or downtown, but instead were moving in the opposite direction. Since I lived on a one-way street, that fact proved helpful in figuring out the flow of the emergency vehicle traffic.

So what was happening in this small university town of about 70,000 that awakened me from a near-coma, a weekend evening when I was so sick that I hadn’t left the apartment in more than 36 hours?

Shortly after 8:00pm, I turned on the radio to find out. And no, I didn’t even own a television back then, and recall that there weren’t any cable news networks yet either. Though I was working, the meager circumstances of being a grad student was at play, as evidenced by the absence of a TV and an assortment of food in the tiny refrigerator.

Within a few minutes, as the sounds of speeding emergency vehicles and their full-throated sirens continued to be heard in my apartment on the city’s leafy Fifth Avenue, an announcer broke in to inform listeners that there were reports of a plane crash at Tri-State Airport in nearby Wayne County, West Virginia. A few more sketchy reports later in the 8pm hour told the townsfolk that the aircraft was a charter flight.

That was the key for me. Huntington wasn’t the largest metropolis in the world, and a charter flight certainly had something to do with Marshall – “the franchise” in that college town, much as it is in any other college community.

Just minutes before 9:00pm, the announcer finally revealed that the charter flight in question was Southern Airways Flight 932, a DC-9 jetliner carrying the Marshall University football team as it returned from its game with East Carolina University. The plane hit a grove of trees just short of the runway, killing all 75 aboard, including 36 team members, 9 coaches and administrators, 25 team boosters, and the crew of 5.

There were no survivors, and the crash remains the deadliest sports-related tragedy in this country.

After hearing some more details on the radio, the sirens suddenly ceased to penetrate the dark November night. That in itself was a bad sign, as I would find out later – as in no survivors to take to the hospital.

With no more sirens to keep me awake, I made some more hot tea with honey and fell back into my coma, where I slept till daybreak. Luckily, neither the phone nor any other sound interrupted my sleep during that dreadful night of horror.

Sometimes, it seems healthy to delay hearing even more bad news.

Though still ill, I ventured out long enough on Sunday morning to go to a grocery store and pick up enough food to get me through the next few days and the work week ahead. It was then that I realized the full impact of this tragedy, where it seems that everyone in Huntington knew someone on that plane or, at the very least, knew someone who knew someone on that ill-fated flight.

I was in the latter category.

No matter what grocery store or other place you entered in Huntington, there was the sight of people crying, some even sobbing in their grief. The sight of moist and swollen eyes on the faces of the populace continued for a few weeks in that town on the banks of the Ohio River.

The History Channel website has this to say about Huntington in the aftermath of the Marshall University plane crash:

For Huntington, the plane crash was “like the Kennedy assassination,” one

citizen remembers. “Everybody knows where they were and what they

were doing when they heard the news.” The town immediately went into

mourning. Shops and government offices closed; businesses on the town’s

main street draped their windows in black bunting. The university held a

memorial service in the stadium the next day and cancelled Monday’s

classes. There were so many funerals that they had to be spread out over

several weeks. In perhaps the saddest ceremony of all, six players whose

remains couldn’t be identified were buried together in Spring Hill

Cemetery, on a hill overlooking their university.

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/plane-crash-devastates-

marshall-university

Indeed it was a rerun of that dreadful Friday afternoon in Dallas just

seven years earlier, when nearly everyone you saw was crying, with the

same faces marked by profound grief.

In reviewing these strong memories, I was struck by this snippet about a

football player from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania who did not travel with the

team that weekend but called home from a phone booth in Huntington to

check in with his parents and reassure them:

“I’m alive. Nobody else is … they’re all dead.”page4image19246720

Years later, at an alumni function, I sat next to another player who alsopage4image19246912

did not make that trip to East Carolina. The memory of that lunchpage4image19247104

conversation remains with me.

The tears that were shed fifty years ago were not only for the football

team but what the catastrophe meant for the entire community. This

description speaks volumes about the scope of the devastation brought by

this plane crash:

Among those on the plane, in addition to the players, coaching staff and

boosters, were three prominent physicians and their wives, a newly-elected

state legislator who also was one of Huntington’s wealthiest men, a pastpage5image19190656

president of Marshall’s alumni association, a city councilman, two pastpage5image19186048

presidents of the Marshall athletic boosters club, an industrialist and thepage5image19186240

sports director of a local television station.

That paragraph says it all.

Just two months later, I relocated to Charleston, the state capital, which

provided a shorter commute to work, although I still had a 100-mile

commute to Marshall on those nights where I had classes to attend.

One more thing. To this day, I have never flown into or out of

Huntington’s hilltop Tri-State Airport, where the lives of 75 people were

snuffed out in an instant. The Charleston airport, also on a hilltop, is scary

enough.

In 2006, the film We Are Marshall retold that horrible tragedy of

November 14, 1970 while depicting how the university and its athletic

program recovered from adversity. Often, I think about those 75 people

whose lives were cut short in a jetliner which was, tragically, only twenty

feet lower than it should have been on its final approach to that runway.

In thinking about this date, it’s enough to make you dream.

Yes, it was a half-century ago. But then it was only yesterday.

The other evening, I had a dream about hearing sirens in the distance, shrill sounds which break the silence of an otherwise uneventful and quiet night.

Lest you think I’m in need of clinical attention, there was an underlying reason for me to be dreaming about the sounds of sirens. Let me explain.

It is said that each generation constructs a series of markers which serve to catalog collective life experiences for the purpose of identifying the most significant events of a particular era. For my parents’ generation, the markers were the Great Flu of 1918, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, and World War II. And for their children, it was the assassination of President Kennedy, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, the Lunar Landing, and, now, the Great Pandemic of 2020.

But there is another marker that is somewhat exclusive to me, not shared by my family but felt resoundingly in a small city in West Virginia, a marker established exactly 50 years ago.

It was a catastrophe that remains stored in that hard drive called memory, for November 14, 1970 will remain forever in my mind, as it followed that usually dreaded day before.

On the late afternoon of Friday, November 13, after struggling with being ill for a few days, I ended the week by locking the school office door and heading home. It was a 100-mile round trip each day to and from work, and then back to my tiny apartment near the campus of Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. At the time, I was employed as a too young, first-year junior high school principal and carrying a full-load as a graduate student in the history department at Marshall. The location of my apartment was within walking distance from school, an ideal situation, for I had need to continually use the library and other enticements the university offered.

After arriving home around 6:00pm, I grabbed something from the refrigerator and made a cup of hot tea to soothe the flu-like symptoms I was experiencing. I was so ill that I slept most of Saturday but was awakened around 8:00pm by the incessant sound of sirens coming from emergency vehicles racing down nearby streets.

As I became more awake, I realized that the sirens were not heading toward campus or downtown, but instead were moving in the opposite direction. Since I lived on a one-way street, that fact proved helpful in figuring out the flow of the emergency vehicle traffic.

So what was happening in this small university town of about 70,000 that awakened me from a near-coma, a weekend evening when I was so sick that I hadn’t left the apartment in more than 36 hours?

Shortly after 8:00pm, I turned on the radio to find out. And no, I didn’t even own a television back then, and recall that there weren’t any cable news networks yet either. Though I was working, the meager circumstances of being a grad student was at play, as evidenced by the absence of a TV and an assortment of food in the tiny refrigerator.

Within a few minutes, as the sounds of speeding emergency vehicles and their full-throated sirens continued to be heard in my apartment on the city’s leafy Fifth Avenue, an announcer broke in to inform listeners that there were reports of a plane crash at Tri-State Airport in nearby Wayne County, West

Virginia. A fewpage2image29521312more sketchy reports later in the 8pm hour told the townsfolk that the aircraft was a charter flight.

That was the key for me. Huntington wasn’t the largest metropolis in the world, and a charter flight certainly had something to do with Marshall – “the franchise” in that college town, much as it is in any other college community.

Just minutes before 9:00pm, the announcer finally revealed that the charter flight in question was Southern Airways Flight 932, a DC-9 jetliner carrying the Marshall University football team as it returned from its game with East Carolina University. The plane hit a grove of trees just short of the runway, killing all 75 aboard, including 36 team members, 9 coaches and administrators, 25 team boosters, and the crew of 5.

There were no survivors, and the crash remains the deadliest sports-related tragedy in this country.

After hearing some more details on the radio, the sirens suddenly ceased to penetrate the dark November night. That in itself was a bad sign, as I would find out later – as in no survivors to take to the hospital.

With no more sirens to keep me awake, I made some more hot tea with honey and fell back into my coma, where I slept till daybreak. Luckily, neither the phone nor any other sound interrupted my sleep during that dreadful night of horror.

Sometimes, it seems healthy to delay hearing even more bad news.

Though still ill, I ventured out long enough on Sunday morning to go to a grocery store and pick up enough food to get me through the next few days and the work week ahead. It was then that I realized the full impact of this tragedy, where it seems that everyone in Huntington knew someone on that plane or, at the very least, knew someone who knew someone on that ill-fated flight.

I was in the latter category.

No matter what grocery store or other place you entered in Huntington, there was the sight of people crying, some even sobbing in their grief. The sight of moist and swollen eyes on the faces of the populace continued for a few weeks in that town on the banks of the Ohio River.

The History Channel website has this to say about Huntington in the aftermath of the Marshall University plane crash:

For Huntington, the plane crash was “like the Kennedy assassination,” one

citizen remembers. “Everybody knows where they were and what they

were doing when they heard the news.” The town immediately went into

mourning. Shops and government offices closed; businesses on the town’s

main street draped their windows in black bunting. The university held a

memorial service in the stadium the next day and cancelled Monday’s

classes. There were so many funerals that they had to be spread out over

several weeks. In perhaps the saddest ceremony of all, six players whose

remains couldn’t be identified were buried together in Spring Hill

Cemetery, on a hill overlooking their university.

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/plane-crash-devastates-

marshall-university

Indeed it was a rerun of that dreadful Friday afternoon in Dallas just

seven years earlier, when nearly everyone you saw was crying, with the

same faces marked by profound grief.

In reviewing these strong memories, I was struck by this snippet about a

football player from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania who did not travel with the

team that weekend but called home from a phone booth in Huntington to

check in with his parents and reassure them:

“I’m alive. Nobody else is … they’re all dead.”page4image19265600

Years later, at an alumni function, I sat next to another player who alsopage4image19265792

conversation remains with me.

The tears that were shed fifty years ago were not only for the football

team but what the catastrophe meant for the entire community. This

description speaks volumes about the scope of the devastation brought by

this plane crash:

Among those on the plane, in addition to the players, coaching staff and

boosters, were three prominent physicians and their wives, a newly-elected

state legislator who also was one of Huntington’s wealthiest men, a pastpage5image19289152

president of Marshall’s alumni association, a city councilman, two pastpage5image19295872

presidents of the Marshall athletic boosters club, an industrialist and thepage5image19292032

sports director of a local television station.

That paragraph says it all.

Just two months later, I relocated to Charleston, the state capital, which

provided a shorter commute to work, although I still had a 100-mile

commute to Marshall on those nights where I had classes to attend.

One more thing. To this day, I have never flown into or out of

Huntington’s hilltop Tri-State Airport, where the lives of 75 people were

snuffed out in an instant. The Charleston airport, also on a hilltop, is scary

enough.

In 2006, the film We Are Marshall retold that horrible tragedy of

November 14, 1970 while depicting how the university and its athletic

program recovered from adversity. Often, I think about those 75 people

whose lives were cut short in a jetliner which was, tragically, only twenty

feet lower than it should have been on its final approach to that runway.

In thinking about this date, it’s enough to make you dream.

Yes, it was a half-century ago. But then it was only yesterday.

When I was in high school in Houston in the 1950s, we studied the Civil War. John Brown was portrayed in the American history textbook as a zealot and a terrorist.

I just read about a new film in which he is shown as a visionary far ahead of his times, a man who believed unconditionally in human equality.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2020-10-26/showtime-the-good-lord-bird-john-brown-ethan-hawke

Of the day following John Brown’s raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va., in 1859 — now understood by scholars and schoolchildren alike to be one of the precipitating events of the Civil War — pioneering Black historian W.E.B. DuBois described a nation of doubters, uncertain of Brown’s legacy and hesitant to claim it. With the benefit of 50 years’ hindsight, though, DuBois himself had no such compunction.

“When a prophet like John Brown appears, how must we of the world receive him?” he asked in his 1909 biography of the antislavery crusader, combating Brown’s Jim Crow-era reputation as a bloodthirsty outlaw. “Only in time is truth revealed. Today at last we know: John Brown was right.”

Radical abolitionist and domestic terrorist, Confederate scoundrel and Union saint, Brown is among the most contested figures in American history, fated, perhaps, to be received as the world and the moment require. Which lends the earthy, slyly funny, utterly righteous portrait of Brown painted in Showtime’s “The Good Lord Bird,” based on James McBride’s raucous novel, its sense of urgency: We’ve rarely needed Brown the prophet more than we do now.

And in “The Good Lord Bird,” cocreated by Ethan Hawke and Mark Richard, Hawke’s Old Man Brown is neither the monster of Southern nightmares, nor the eccentric on the margins of Geraldine Brooks’ “March,” nor the martyr of Russell Banks’ “Cloudsplitter.” Here, as in DuBois’ analysis, he is our very own Cassandra, logic crystalline behind his cloudy eyes.

This is a film I want to see. I hope I get Showtime.

I was invited to write for The Hill, a D.C.-based website, about why I oppose the Trump administration’s executive order creating a “1776 Commission” to promote “patriotic education.” Here is my article.

Trump signed an executive order on November 2, the day before the election, establishing the Commission. The reason, the order said, was that “…in recent years, a series of polemics grounded in poor scholarship has vilified our Founders and our founding.  Despite the virtues and accomplishments of this Nation, many students are now taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but rather villains.”

The Commission is a direct response to the 1619 Project, which was published by the New York Times and edited by Nicole-Hannah Jones. It sought to see American history through the African-American experience. I suspect that Trump never read the 1619 Project, but perhaps his speechwriter Stephen Miller did.

The Commission is a bad idea, which I explain in the article. It is also illegal. But when has that ever stopped Trump or Miller?


Donald Trump, a man who is noted for his ignorance of history, signed an executive order the day before the election to create a “1776 Commission” to establish guidelines for “patriotic education.” The commission was established as a counterpoint to the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which told the story of African Americans in the colonies and the nation.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/elanagross/2020/11/02/trump-signs-executive-order-to-establish-a-1776-commission-to-instill-patriotic-education/

Although Trump surely did not read the 1619 Project, he somehow gleaned that it detracted from the all-white, all- male history that he imbibed at his military school. While he doesn’t remember it, he does know that it portrayed America as a nation that was blameless and pure. He wants to assure his base that he will fight to protect white paternalism and privilege. Whatever his commission comes up with, it’s unlikely to affect curriculum, which is decided by states and textbooks.


This short video provides perspective on where we are today. The long view….

The Silence of the Ellipses

Or Why History Can’t Be About Telling Our Children Lies

Sam Wineburg is the Margaret Jacks Professor of Education & (by courtesy) History at Stanford University. His most recent book is Why Learn History (When It is Already on Your Phone), University of Chicago Press, 2018. He tweets at @samwineburg.

Aware his days were numbered, a tuberculosis-stricken George Orwell raced to finish the book that would make his name an adjective. Holed away in a remote cottage on the Isle of Jura off the Scottish coast, he left the island for the last time in 1949, the same year his novel appeared. He died a year later.

I read 1984 in my 11th-grade English class in the weary rustbelt town of Utica, New York, at a time when Russia was still the USSR and the “focus of evil in the modern world.” With Cliff Notes at my side, I decodedthe book’s more obscure allusions (2 + 2 = 5, I learned, conjured up Stalin’s claim that his five-year plan had been completed in four). But you didn’t need a study aid to get the main point. We lived in a free society; they in a tyrannical one. We respected truth; they disfigured it. Russian-speaking Winston Smithscomposed their history books; ours were written by esteemed historians (mine, The American Pageant, was written by the past president of the Organization of American Historians, Thomas Bailey). 

Mind you, we knew our textbooks weren’t perfect (we weren’t naïve—or at least not as naïve as they were). Elaine Cantor, my history teacher, openly criticized our books (another testament to our superiority). We learned that Thomas Jefferson used his incandescent intellect to pen the Declaration of Independence, but our textbook conveniently omitted how he used hisintellect to devise tunnels at Monticello that hid the scourge of slavery from view. Yet, omission was one thing; outright fabrication of the Winston Smith-variety, another. We stooped, but not as low as they did. Or so it seemed, then.

Financed and approved by the state, history textbooks record our hopes and fears. They are less a reflection of the current state of historical knowledge than a collection of stories adults think will do children good, the educational equivalent of making the kids eat theirpeas. Veering too much from the common understanding of history—not among historians but among the chiropractors and other community memberswho sit on state boards of education—risks booting a title from an adoption list and costing publishers millions. The resulting documents are as scintillating as the terms of service you click on to download a new app. Before being presented to adoption boards,textbooks incorporate reams of feedback (sometimesword for word) of the most strident and well-connected special interests: deep-pocket groups with the resourcesto wade through mountains of books, formulate their recommendations in Roman numeral-ed memoranda, and, during periods of public comment, fly to state capitals to deliver statements at open hearings. This labyrinthine process puts publishers in a risk-averse corner in which they strive, oddly, to make their products as similar to each other’s as they can. What distinguishes one company’s books from another is not the stories they tell, but their “differentials”—the ancillary features that come bundled with a majoradoption: test banks, online primary sources, hefty teacher’s editions, downloadable flashcards, and just about every other shiny object that glistens. Accounting for some regional differences, the narration of major events—from the Constitutional Convention to the moon landing—is pretty much the same across publishers, so much so that, across books, the placement of a particular topic can be found within a few pages—quite a feat in tomes that exceed a thousand pages. (Full disclosure: As a former textbook author, Iknow this routine from the inside). 

The Boston Massacre is one of those events that appears in every US history textbook. The basic storyhas changed little across centuries. On a chilly March evening in 1770 a crowd assembled outside the Customs House on King Street and started taunting the British soldiers garrisoned there. With 4,000 troops quartered among the town’s 15,000 inhabitants, tensions had simmered for months, especially between Boston’s dockworkers and off-duty soldiers, who undercut them for odd jobs. As night fell on March 5, agaggle of dockworkers marched from the waterfront toward King Street to join the crowd and startedheaving “snow balls, oyster shells, clubs, white birch sticks three inches and an half diameter” at the sentryand his compatriots.

Commanded by Captain Thomas Preston, the soldiers fired their muskets. Three men died on the spot; two others succumbed later to their wounds. Paul Revere’s depiction of the event, “The Bloody Massacre in King-Street,” etched the night’s carnage in Americans’collective memory: An organized line of British soldiers, their faces angular and sinister (including one who seemed to be grinning), firing in unison onhelpless townspeople out for some fresh air. A travestyof historical accuracy, but highly effective as propaganda. A 1953 textbook does a better job, explaining that whenever the troops appeared on Boston’s narrow streets, “crowds jeered and threw snowballs” that “even the best-trained soldiers will in time lose their tempers”—precisely what happened on March 5, when an unnamed man “knocked a soldier down with a club and then dared the soldiers to shoot.”Which, of course, they did.

More recent textbooks have knitted a similar accountwith one exception: the anonymous, club-wielding man has been named and awarded a major role in the drama. Crispus Attucks was a seaman of mixed African and Native origin. Much of what we know about him remains speculative. However, most historians assume that he’s likely the same “Crispas” who appeared in an advertisement in the Boston Gazette some 20 years earlier: “Ran-way from his Master William Brown of Framingham…a Molatto Fellow, about 27 Years of Age, named Crispas, 6 Feet twoInches high, short curl’d Hair.” 

Crispus Attucks opens the chapter called “The Coming of the Revolution” in The Americans (2014), published by Holt McDougal/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the three publishing behemoths that dominate the American market. Attired in formal jacket and ruffledwhite shirt, his portrait graces the side of the page (and appears as well on a 1998 United States Mint “Black Revolutionary War Patriots Commemorative Silver Dollar”—sheer fabrications, both. Few seaman had the leisure, not to mention the means, to sit for formalportraiture in 1770). Attucks, the text says, was “part of a large and angry crowd that had gathered at the Boston Custom House to harass the British soldiers stationed there. More soldiers soon arrived, and the mob began hurling stones and snowballs at them. Attucks then stepped forward.” A quotation from John Adams comes next, in which the Founding Father calls Attucks a “hero.”

“This Attucks . . . appears to have undertaken to be the hero of the night; and to lead this army with banners . . . up to King street with their clubs . . . . This man with his party cried, ‘Do not be afraid of them,’ . . . He had hardiness enough to fall in upon them, and with one hand took hold of a bayonet, and with the other knocked the man down.” The text resumes: “Attucks’s action ignited the troops. Ignoring orders not to shoot civilians, one soldier and then others fired on the crowd. Five people were killed; several were wounded. Crispus Attucks was, according to a newspaper account, the first to die.”

Attucks’ appearance in textbooks is a relatively recentphenomenon. Eclipsed from memory from the 1770swell into the 19th century, he was resurrected by William Cooper Nell, an African American journalistand historian, author of the “Services of Colored Americans in the Wars of 1776 and 1812.” By mid-century Attucks emerged as a symbol for abolitionists, Black and White. In 1888, Boston’s Black community unveiled a monument in his honor (over the objectionsof the Massachusetts Historical Society, who believed that the “famous mulatto was a rowdyish person” and“not a fit candidate for monumental honors”). 

It wasn’t until the civil rights movement of the 1960sthat Attucks became a regular feature in textbooks. Among the first was Henry Graff’s 1967 The Free and the Brave: “Attucks and his fellow victims had become the first martyrs in the American struggle against Britain.” A review of seven textbooks published between 2003-2009 found that all but one featured Attucks in their narration of the Boston Massacre.

The Americans not only features Attucks but goes theextra mile by including his portrait and the quotation from John Adams. Knowing little else, young readerswould assume that when John Adams called Attucksthe “hero of the night” the words were a panegyric to the fallen martyr. Nothing in the text hints otherwise.Nothing could be further from the truth.

Adams’ words were, in fact, part of his summation at the trial of the eight British soldiers accused of murder, a trial in which Adams served as counsel for the defense. In taking the case, he faced a formidable challenge: how to undermine the jury’s natural allegiance with the slain victims and make themidentify with the reviled British soldiers. 

He did so by driving a wedge between upstanding Bostonians and a “motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes, and molattoes, Irish teagues and out landish jack tarrs” (that is, ill-mannered non-Whites, lowly Catholics, and uncouth seamen) responsible for the bloodshed. These hooligans were a different stock from “the good people of the town.”: “Why we should scruple to call such a set of people a mob, I can’t conceive, unless the name is too respectable for them.”

Crispus Attucks was a hero all right: the kind of hero who presided “at the head of such a rabble of Negroes, &c. as they can collect together,” a hero commandinghis “myrmidons” who were “shouting and huzzaing, and threatening life . . . throwing every species of rubbish they could pick in the street.” Adams repeatedly plied the trope of the fearsome non-White body, how the looming figure of the “stout Attucks was enough to terrify any person,” including the besieged British soldiers. The Americans quotes Adams who quotes Attucks (“Do not be afraid of them”) but ripsthe phrase from its chilling continuation: “Do not be afraid of them, they dare not fire, kill them! kill them! knock them over! And he tried to knock their brains out.”

In Adams’ account, the soldiers tried in vain to restore order, imploring the crowd to “stand off.” However,under “the command of a stout Molatto,” the mob would have none of it, hurling chunks of ice so big that they “may kill a man, if they happen to hit some part of the head.” Were Attucks’ skin color not enough to distance him from the jury, Adams accented his foreignness. This “Attucks from Framingham” was an outside agitator “to whose mad behaviour, in all probability, the dreadful carnage of that night, is chiefly to be ascribed.”

Race-baiting proved a winning strategy. The jury found Captain Preston not guilty, along with six of his soldiers. As for two others, Hugh Montgomery and Matthew Kilroy, the jury reduced charges of murder to manslaughter, branding the two with the letter M (for “manslayer”) on the “brawn of the thumb” along with their oath to never again break the law. As the legal scholar Farah Peterson explained, Adams’ strategyworked in absolving the people of Boston of the night’s carnage by convincing the jury that the soldiers had “only killed a black man and his cronies and that they didn’t deserve to hang for it.”

Tracing where footnote-less textbooks get their information can be an exercise in futility. Not so with The Americans. Accompanying Adams’ quotation, the textbook’s authors cited its source: The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution (New York Graphic Society, 1973) by the late University of Massachusetts historian Sidney Kaplan and his wife Emma. Fairness demands that we consider the possibility that it was the Kaplans who butcheredAdams’ quote, and that the textbook authors, failing to check the original, merely reproduced it.

The Kaplans narrate the events of March 5, noting that the local press singled out Attucks for both praise andblame. However, they left no doubt about the counsel for the defense: “For John Adams,” they wrote, “it was all blame.” They quote the same excerpt from Adamsas The Americans but leave intact the charged racial language: Attucks’ menacing figure (“a stout Molatto fellow, whose very looks was enough to terrify any person”) and his role as instigator (the “head of such a rabble of Negroes, &c. as they can collect together”).

With the Kaplans’ text in hand, the authors of The Americans made a choice. Instead of helping young Americans see how a Black (or mixed race) body wasstamped from the beginning, to invoke Ibram X.Kendi’s phrase, and thereby prompt an examination ofthe hoary legacy of race-baiting, stretching fromCrispus Attucks to the Scottsboro boys to Michael Brown, they performed laser surgery on Adams’ words in an act that would do Winston Smith proud. As Farah Peterson notes, Black people are allowed onto the stage of American history only if they satisfy certain conditions: “when they intersect with the triumphal tale of the creation of a white American republic.”

I have to imagine that in editing Adams words, The Americans’ authors thought they were doing something noble: giving American children of all hues a hero who is a person of color. But the sly three dots of an ellipsis cannot perform magic. They erase the stain of racism no better than a bathroom spray masks the stench of askunk. Editorial subterfuge only forestalls a reckoning. 

Last month, the president of the United States stood in the great hall of the National Archives to denounce what he called a leftist assault on American history. “We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms” and teach our children a kind of history that will make them “love America with all of their heart and all of their soul.” 

But love built on a lie is a false love. It achieves itsmirage by making truth its victim. In any event, the goal of historical study is neither to cultivate love nor hate, anyway. Its goal must be to acquaint us with the dizzying spectrum of our humanity: lofty moments of nobility mixed in with ignominious descents into knavery. When history’s mirror intones a single phrase—that we’re the fairest of them all—it freezes us inchildhood and stunts our growth. History that impels us to look at the past, unflinchingly and cleareyed, doesnot diminish us or make us less patriotic. The oppositeis true: It makes us grow up. Understanding who we were allows us to understand who we are now. Only then can we commit to doing something about it. That should be the goal of history education. 

Our children deserve nothing less.

Nükhet Varlik, a historian at the University of South Carolina, studies the history of diseases and public health. In this article, she reveals that epidemics and pandemics seldom completely disappear. Only one epidemic–smallpox–has been eradicated. Many others survive.

She writes:

A combination of public health efforts to contain and mitigate the pandemic – from rigorous testing and contact tracing to social distancing and wearing masks – have been proven to help. Given that the virus has spread almost everywhere in the world, though, such measures alone can’t bring the pandemic to an end. All eyes are now turned to vaccine development, which is being pursued at unprecedented speed.

Yet experts tell us that even with a successful vaccine and effective treatment, COVID-19 may never go away. Even if the pandemic is curbed in one part of the world, it will likely continue in other places, causing infections elsewhere. And even if it is no longer an immediate pandemic-level threat, the coronavirus will likely become endemic – meaning slow, sustained transmission will persist. The coronavirus will continue to cause smaller outbreaks, much like seasonal flu.

The history of pandemics is full of such frustrating examples.

Whether bacterial, viral or parasitic, virtually every disease pathogen that has affected people over the last several thousand years is still with us, because it is nearly impossible to fully eradicate them.

The only disease that has been eradicated through vaccination is smallpoxMass vaccination campaigns led by the World Health Organization in the 1960s and 1970s were successful, and in 1980, smallpox was declared the first – and still, the only – human disease to be fully eradicated.

We can all do our part to reduce the danger of COVID-19 by wearing masks and social distancing. When there is a vaccine available, we should take it. It may never be completely eradicated, but we can protect ourselves and our communities by following the practices that scientists have agreed are effective.

Derek Black, Jack Schneider, and Jennifer Berkshire wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer that the future of public education is on the ballot on November 3 (for the record, I got a credit for doing some minor editing).

Should Trump be re-elected, you can count on him and Betsy DeVos to continue their brazen assault on public schools and to continue their demand to transfer public funds to private and religious schools as well as to pour hundreds of millions of federal dollars into charter school expansion. Draining public dollars away from public school has been Betsy DeVos’s life work and she would have four more years to staff the U.S. Department of Education with likeminded ideologues who hate public schools.

The authors write:

When Trump selected Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, many took it as a sign that he wasn’t serious. After all, DeVos seemed to know little about public schools. But that was a product of her extremism. Over the last four years, she has been crystal clear that her primary interest in the public education system lies in dismantling it. For evidence, look no further than her proposed Education Freedom Scholarships plan, which would redirect $5 billion in taxpayer dollars to private schools.

Unmaking public education is a long-standing goal of libertarians and the religious right. Conservative economist Milton Friedman conceived of private school vouchers in 1955, and four decades later was still making the case for “a transition from a government to a market system.” As they see it, public education is a tax burden on the wealthy, an obstacle to religious instruction, and a hotbed for unionism. Rather than a public system controlled by democratic values, they’d prefer a private one governed by the free market. If they had their way, schools would operate like a welfare program for the poor while the rich would get the best education money could buy. The result would be entrenched inequality and even more concentrated segregation than now exists.

This extreme view has never caught on, largely because public education is a bedrock American institution. Many states created public education systems before the nation even existed. Massachusetts, for instance, was educating children in public schools long before tea was dumped in Boston Harbor. In 1787, the federal government explicitly mandated that the center plot of land in every new town in the territories — land that would become states like Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois — be reserved for schools, and that other plots be used to support those schools. After the Civil War, Congress doubled down on that commitment, requiring readmitted Confederate states, and all new states, to guarantee access to public education in their constitutions. In each of these foundational periods, leaders positioned public education at the very center of our democratic project.

The founders and their successors recognized that public education is essential to citizens’ ability to govern themselves, not to mention protect themselves from charlatans and demagogues. Public education is the surest guarantee of individual liberty, the founders understood — no less essential than a well-trained army to the survival of the nation. That’s why they recognized that the education of American citizens couldn’t be left to chance...

We are here to sound an alarm to Republicans and Democrats. The future of our nation’s public schools is at stake. And insofar as that is the case, the democracy envisioned by our founders — one with universal, tax-supported schooling at its core — hangs in the balance.