Please click on the number in the black menu to get to the article.
John Buford, Civil War Hero 3/6/2017
Henry Ossian Flipper, first black graduate of West Point 3/14/2017
Charles Drew, 6/3/1904 6/20/2017
Abraham Lincoln 2/6/2018
Martin Luther King, Jr.
William Harvey Carney
10. John Buford 11. Aaron Burr 12. Langston Hughes 13. Medal of Honor Jacob Wilson Parrott 14. Ansel Adams 15. Betsy Ross 16. Harriet Tubman 17. John Jay 18. Leonard Nimoy 19. Martha Washington 20. The American Oliver Cromwell
John Buford, Civil War Hero 3/6/2017
by Adam De Gree
John Buford Jr. was born on March 4, 1826. Just 37 years later, he would lose his life in the Civil War after receiving a deathbed promotion to the position of major general of Volunteers from Abraham Lincoln. Known for his key role in major battles including Gettysburg, Buford had a profound impact on Union victory and is remembered as an American hero.
Buford was born in Kentucky, which became a battleground state in the Civil War. When he was eight years old, his family moved to Illinois. His father was a well-known Democrat who opposed Abraham Lincoln. Like many Americans, Buford’s ancestors had fought in the Revolution; his grandfather served under Robert E. Lee’s father. Growing up in a political family, Buford was very patriotic. After one year at Knox College in Illinois, he was accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Divisions between American society increased as Buford grew older. The issue of slavery split the country into two factions – North and South. But while the split sounds simple, it wasn’t – many families were split into two opposing camps. For example, Buford’s father owned slaves, although he did not want to leave the Union. On the other hand, Buford’s wife Pattie was from a Southern family, and his in-laws fought for the Confederacy. At West Point, young men from the north and south trained to become officers, only to fight against each other when war broke out.
In 1861, the Civil War erupted. While Buford could have chosen to fight with the rebellious Confederates, he stayed in the United States Army and quickly rose to the rank of brigadier general. Buford was a cavalry officer, and one of the finest in the war. He served with distinction in major battles such as the Second Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Brandy Station. However, John Buford is best remembered for his role in the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most important battles of the entire Civil War, and Buford secured the field for a Union victory. As tens of thousands of troops from North and South neared one another, Buford’s cavalry arrived in the town of Gettysburg, located on high ground. As he looked down, the general saw thousands of Confederate troops marching up the road and knew that he had to hold the high ground if the Union was to win the battle. He boldly ordered his much smaller force to defend their position against the advancing Rebels. They held out just long enough for reinforcements to arrive and staked out a strong defensive position that held for three bloody days of fighting.
Buford served ably for some months after Gettysburg. However, it became clear that he was sick, possibly with typhus. This was a serious issue because during the Civil War, more American soldiers died of an illness than of a bullet wound. Buford was quartered at the home of a fellow general in Washington for his last days. President Lincoln, upon hearing that the hero of Gettysburg was on his deathbed, promoted him to “Major General for distinguished and meritorious service.” Buford, upon hearing of his promotion, asked, “Does he mean it?” and then said, “it is too late, now I wish I could live.”
John Buford’s funeral was attended by the President, and his pallbearers were Union generals. He was buried at West Point, where he joined other American war heroes. In response to his death, the Philadelphia Enquirer ran the poem:
No more to follow his daring form Or see him dash through the battle's storm No more with him to ride down the foe And behold his falchion's crushing blow Nor hear his voice, like a rushing blast As rider and steed went charging past ... Buford is dead!
Interesting Questions to Discuss with your Children:
Was Buford from a military family?
What did Buford’s father do for a living?
What was the most important cause of the Civil War?
What did Buford do at Gettysburg?
Why do you think more American soldiers died from disease than from bullets during the Civil War?
Henry Ossian Flipper, first black graduate of West Point 3/14/2017
By Adam De Gree
Henry Ossian Flipper Henry Ossian Flipper was born a slave in 1856, but he would achieve much by the time of his death in 1940. His life serves as an example of the courage and the challenges African Americans faced during Reconstruction. As the first black man to graduate from West Point and command African-American ‘Buffalo Soldiers,’ Flipper served with distinction. Yet white officers framed him for embezzlement only a few years into his military commission. Not until 1999 was his reputation restored by the United States government.
Flipper was born the eldest of five to Isabelle and Festus Flipper in Georgia. His father worked as a shoemaker and carriage-trimmer for a wealthy slave dealer. After the Civil War, the family did as much as they could to better their own lives. As a young man, Flipper attended Atlanta University. There, he earned an appointment to West Point, the United States Military Academy.
At West Point, Flipper and his fellow black cadets faced many challenges. White students at the academy regularly mistreated them. For example, Flipper wrote extensively about the many ways that white cadets would bully black students in order to gain the attention and favor of their superiors. Within several years he was the only black cadet who had not left the school. Flipper persevered in part because of his strong commitment to good behavior.
After graduating from West Point in 1877, Flipper was given a commission as a second lieutenant. His command was a company of African-American troops in the Western outpost of Fort Sill, Oklahoma. These black frontier troops were called ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ by Native Americans. The Indians thought the hair of the black soldiers resembled buffalo fur. Flipper was the first black officer to command Buffalo Soldiers.
According to army records, Flipper served with distinction at Fort Still. In addition to fighting in the Apache Wars and the Victorio Campaign, he contributed to many engineering projects. For example, he developed a system to drain stagnant pools of water that provided breeding grounds for malaria epidemics. In addition, he developed a reputation for honesty and trustworthiness with the local residents. He also started a close friendship with a white woman named Mollie Dwyer.
Suddenly, in 1881, Flipper was accused of embezzling over $3,000 worth of commissary funds by Colonel Shafter, his commanding officer. He was arrested and put before a court martial. During the trial, it became clear that there was little evidence to support the allegations. Colonel Shafter repeatedly contradicted his own testimony and many witnesses testified to Flipper’s honesty.
Since there was little chance of convicting Flipper of embezzlement, the court introduced a new charge – conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman. Many argue that this charge had more to do with Flipper’s friendship with a white woman than any error he made in keeping track of military funds. He was found guilty and dishonorably discharged.
Lieutenant Flipper was crushed by the dismissal. However, he resolved “to go forth into the world and by my subsequent conduct as an honorable man and by my character disprove the charges.” Over the next decades, Flipper worked throughout Mexico and the American Southwest as a civil and mining engineer, translator, surveyor, and cartographer. He became a well-respected Senate foreign relations expert on Mexican relations. Later, Flipper oversaw the planning and construction of the Alaskan railway system. His many achievements left an indelible mark on the West.
Despite his continual efforts, Flipper could never get his name cleared by the Army. He tried to enlist again during the Spanish-American War and the first World War, but was denied both times. After attaining old age, he retired to Atlanta and lived with his brother until his death in 1940.
Flipper’s death did not signal the end of the battle to reclaim his legacy. Several friends and family members continued to challenge the official narrative, and in 1976, the Army granted him a full pardon. However, his military rank and record would wait until a 1999 pardoning by President Bill Clinton.
Today, the U.S. Army gives the Henry O. Flipper Memorial award to the most outstanding cadet at West Point in the areas of leadership, self-discipline, and perseverance. Numerous landmarks and memorials dot the country in his memory. Henry Ossian Flipper paved the way for thousands of black West Point graduates and officers who have served their country nobly. In his conduct in the Army and in the world, he set a fine example for all Americans.
Interesting Questions for You to Discuss with Your Children and Students:
Why was it difficult for Flipper and his black friends to succeed at West Point?
Why were black soldiers called ‘Buffalo Soldiers?’
How many years did Flipper serve in the Army?
What were some of Flipper’s achievements after his Army service?
How did Flipper combat racial prejudice? Do you think Flipper chose the best way to combat prejudice against him?
by Adam De Gree Charles R. Drew was born in Washington, D.C. on June 3, 1904. By the time of his death just 45 years later, he had become the ‘father of the blood bank’ and one of the great scientists of the 20th century. Along the way, he pioneered new medical techniques, broke down racial barriers, and saved thousands of lives. As a black man born in a time when segregation was still practiced all over the United States, his achievements stood as an example of the great potential of African-American doctors and researchers. Yet despite his laboratory success, his early life was marked more by sports greatness than academic excellence.
Drew was not a good student until well into his university years. However, his natural athleticism earned him a scholarship to Amherst College for football and track and field. It was there that he developed an interest in medicine. After graduating, he chose to attend medical school at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, where his academic pursuits finally took center stage. Drew earned the annual scholarship in neuroanatomy and won multiple awards on his way to graduating 2nd in a class of 127 students.
After graduating from McGill with honors, Drew began his work with transfusion at Montreal Hospital. There, he worked with bacteriology professor John Beattie to develop treatments for shock. Drew hoped to pursue transfusion therapy studies at the Mayo Clinic, but racial prejudice against African-Americans barred him from joining the organization. However, he was admitted to doctorate studies at Columbia University, where he studied with John Scudder and aided in the establishment of an experimental blood bank.
At Columbia, Drew overcame racist treatment to successfully complete his award-winning dissertation, “Banked Blood: A Study in Blood Preservation.” His research brought significant progress to the growing field of transfusion. Drew’s understanding of fluid balance, shock therapy, and the processing and storage of blood samples allowed him to develop new and safer ways to collect and store blood. This earned him a post at the head of the Blood for Britain Project. Thanks to his work, thousands of liters of blood were sent to Britain as it bled in World War II.
When the United States joined World War II there was a great need for blood donations. Naturally, Drew was the man for the job. He was named assistant director of the National Blood Donor Service, where he pioneered the invention of ‘bloodmobiles’ – blood donation trucks with refrigerators.
Yet even though Drew was an African-American, the Red Cross did not allow blacks to donate blood. This meant that Drew could not donate to his own program. Eventually, this policy changed to one of segregation, where the blood of black donors could only be used by black recipients. Drew called this “unscientific and insulting to African Americans.” He resigned after a few months.
Drew spent the rest of his career at Howard University, where he had taught on and off in between other assignments. He headed the Department of Surgery and sought to “train young African American surgeons who would meet the most rigorous standards in any surgical specialty.” In addition to training surgeons, Drew campaigned relentlessly for the inclusion of black doctors in local and national medical associations.
On April 1, 1950, Charles Drew fell asleep at the wheel on the way to a medical conference. He died despite being given a blood transfusion at an all-white hospital nearby. In less than half a century, Drew earned numerous awards and appointments unique for his age and his race. His work on blood transfusion has undoubtedly saved the lives of millions of people. Today, he is remembered as one of the greatest medical scientists of the last century. He is also remembered for powerful words such as these: “So much of our energy is spent in overcoming the constricting environment in which we live that little energy is left for creating new ideas or things. Whenever, however, one breaks out of this rather high-walled prison of the "Negro problem" by virtue of some worthwhile contribution, not only is he himself allowed more freedom, but part of the wall crumbles. And so it should be the aim of every student in science to knock down at least one or two bricks of that wall by virtue of his own accomplishment.”
Was Charles Drew an outstanding high school student?
Where did Drew earn his doctorate?
Why didn’t Drew work at the Mayo Clinic?
Why couldn’t Drew’s blood be donated to a white blood bank?
Why did Drew encourage black students to make worthwhile contributions to science and medicine?
Abraham Lincoln 2/6/2018 Abraham Lincoln was the most hated and despised president of all time, yet he is one of America’s greatest presidents. During the years before the presidential election of 1860, Lincoln clearly stated that slavery was a morally evil and corrupt institution, and that one day, the country would be either all free or all slave. His clarity on this issue led the South to believe that Lincoln would try to abolish slavery, even though he never stated he would. His election to the presidency in 1860 pushed the first Southern states to secede and form the Confederate States of America. Over the next four years, 1861-1865, Lincoln led the effort to crush the rebellion in the South.
Lincoln’s circumstances of youth were common to many Americans. He was born on February 12, 1809, in Kentucky, in a log cabin. His family was part of the Separate Baptist Church, which forbade alcohol, dancing, and slavery. Abraham’s dad, Thomas, saw Indians kill his own father. When Abraham was 9, his family moved north to Indiana. Then, Abraham’s mom died. About a year later, Thomas remarried to Sarah, called “Sally.” Abraham came to love Sally and called her “mother.” As a young person, Abraham learned to read and write at an “ABC School” a few weeks per year. In ABC Schools, children in a larger community met at a log cabin and were taught by a private tutor. Lincoln read the Bible, Robinson Crusoe, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,Franklin’s Autobiography, and law books, whenever he had extra time. At the age of 21, Lincoln moved west to Illinois.
As a boy and young man, Lincoln was known as physically strong and a person of wit. He was 6 feet, 4 inches tall, lanky and wiry. For fun, he would tell stories and wrestle. Lincoln is enshrined in the Wrestling Hall of Fame, and had a 300-1 record. Once, after beating his opponent, Lincoln looked at the crowd and declared, “I’m the big buck of this lick. If any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns.” Nobody took him up on the offer.
Lincoln was a reader, a hard worker, and a person of character whom others respected. He read the few books he had many times, and when possible, he borrowed books from other frontier settlers. While living with his parents, he worked on the family farm all day. Lincoln traveled by flatboat down the Mississippi River in 1828 and 1831, and he later received a patent pertaining to flatboats. In the Black Hawk War, Lincoln was voted militia corporal. When he lived on his own, Lincoln opened a store with his partner, who then embezzled all the money. Lincoln worked to pay off the resulting debt of $1,000 (equal to about $26,000 in 2017). Later he decided to be a lawyer.
Lincoln’s understanding of religion changed over time. As a young man, he was skeptical that God and Jesus Christ existed. Later, he believed in Christ, but he still rejected joining a religious denomination. Toward the end of his life, Lincoln was convinced of the truth of the New Testament and was led by his faith. In the election of 1846, he campaigned, “I am not a member of any Christian Church…but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures.” During the Civil War, Lincoln professed a conversion experience to Christianity. Immediately after the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln visited the battle scene. He wrote this of what happened: "When I left Springfield I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ. Yes, I love Jesus."
After this, Lincoln prayed every day and read the Bible. To a friend he wrote, “Take all of this book [the Bible] upon reason you can, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man.”
Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd in 1842 and had four boys. Though Lincoln left Mary Todd at the altar during their first wedding attempt, Lincoln called marriage a “profound wonder.” His son Edward died at the age of four of thyroid cancer. William died at the age of 12 of typhoid fever. Tad died of pneumonia at the age of 18. Only Robert lived into adulthood, dying in 1926. The boys’ deaths were a source of great sadness for the Lincolns.
Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Lincoln was known for physical beauty, but they were known for their character, ideas, and determination. Mary once said of her husband, “Mr. Lincoln is to be president of the United States some day. If I had not thought so, I would not have married him, for you can see he is not pretty.”
In 1858, Americans learned a great deal about the thoughts of Abraham Lincoln through the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. Republican Abraham Lincoln was running for an Illinois U.S. Senate seat against the incumbent Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas. Lincoln was relatively unknown in the country, and many believed Douglas would one day be president. Lincoln and Douglas debated seven times, with each debate lasting around three hours. The debates were big events, with bands, food, and whiskey. At the end of each debate, the candidates shook hands, and maintained a cordial, friendly attitude toward each other. There was no questioner or moderator, only the two men on stage, speaking at great length.
At the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, the two candidates expressed greatly different views, especially on slavery. Lincoln spoke strongly against slavery, calling it a moral evil. Lincoln’s clear and unequivocal talk on slavery angered Southern Democrats who wanted slavery to expand. Douglas stated that he was personally against slavery, but he favored popular sovereignty, that the decision should be left to the people in the individual states.
At the last debate, Lincoln stated, "The real issue is the sentiment on the part of one class that looks upon the institution of slavery as a wrong…The Republican Party look(s) upon it as being a moral, social and political wrong…and one of the methods of treating it as a wrong is to make provision that it shall grow no larger…That is the real issue.” [The black man is] “entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…In the right to eat the bread, without leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man.”
In the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Lincoln argued that the new Republican Party believed the Southern states opposed the ideals found in the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln saw slavery as a sin, as evil, and as a threat to liberty and equality for all. How Lincoln foresaw ending slavery, however, was through legal means, either by voting or appointing Northern judges who would chip away at slavery in the courts. He wanted to peacefully abolish slavery through law, over time.
Stephen Douglas won the 1858 Senate election against Abraham Lincoln, but Lincoln became a national political figure. All Americans understood that Lincoln and the Republicans saw slavery as morally corrupt, and that over time, they would work to end it. When Lincoln was elected president in 1860, the Southern states believed they had to secede from the Union in order to preserve the Southern culture, which included slavery.
The Civil War Nearly the entire Presidency of Abraham Lincoln consisted of the Civil War. Over 600,000 Americans gave their lives, and over that number suffered injuries. The North defeated the South and the United States remained as one country. Immediately after the war, the northern states passed the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.
The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln Five days after Lee’s surrender and just over one month after Lincoln’s second inauguration, a Southern actor conspired with others and then shot Abraham Lincoln on Good Friday, April 14, 1865. Lincoln was attending a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., when his bodyguard John Parker left his post to get a drink at a nearby tavern. John Wilkes Booth snuck behind the president, aimed his .44–caliber gun inches from the back of Lincoln’s head, and fired. President Lincoln was carried across the street to a nearby inn and died nine hours later.
After the assassination, Booth jumped to the stage below, shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis” (“Thus be it ever to tyrants”), and escaped on his waiting horse. Soon after, Federal soldiers trapped him in a barn, set it on fire, and a cavalryman shot Booth as he tried to escape. Lincoln’s conspirators had planned to murder a number of Republicans, but failed in their attempts. Four of Booth’s conspirators, three men and one woman, were hanged. Three others received life sentences, and one went to jail for six years.
Lincoln’s assassination immortalized the 16th President, alongside Washington and Jefferson, as one of America’s greatest heroes, and it led Congress to punish the South for its rebellion. The morning after Lincoln’s murder, Walt Whitman wrote the poem “O Captain, My Captain.” This poem expressed the grief many people in the North felt after Lincoln’s death.
In Lincoln’s second inaugural address, given a little over a month before his assassination, he stated: With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.
Lincoln had planned generous peace terms for Southerners who had joined the Confederate States of America, but his assassination gave control of the government to the Radical Republicans, who wanted to completely change the South.
I. Early Life George Washington is called The Father of our Country. This name is significant. Without a father, there can be no family. Many historians say that without George Washington, there could be no United States of America. George Washington was the most important American during its founding years.
George Washington grew up on his family’s tobacco plantation in Virginia. His family owned slaves and was moderately wealthy. As a little boy, George was known for swimming in the nearby river, playing outside, riding horses, and taking his studies seriously. We think George studied under Reverend James Marye, rector of St. George’s Parish.
In the 1700s, death was much more common than it is today due to poorer medical knowledge and practice. George’s father’s first wife died. His father Augustine remarried to Mary and they had six children. George was Augustine and Mary’s first baby, and he was born on February 22, 1732 in Virginia. Augustine and Mary lost three children, two dying in infancy, and one at the age of 12. When George was 11, his father died.
Washington studied and practiced good manners and correct behavior. As a young man, Washington attended church at St. George’s Parish in Fredericksburg. Along with his religious training, he learned how to behave in society by writing and reflecting on a book entitled Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation. The book survives today.
In public, Washington paid close attention to how he interacted with others, trying always to present himself in the best way possible. George took dancing lessons, went to the theater, and was renowned as a superb horseman. He was tall, especially for the 1700s, with some reporting that he was 6 feet, 4 inches. Washington is known for having a commanding presence.
II. Military Life In the 1700s, France, Spain, and England wanted to control North America. Washington joined the Virginia militia and rose to the rank of major. In the French and Indian War (1756-1763), the English fought the French and Indians for control of the Ohio Valley. In The Battle of Monongahela, the British General Braddock was killed, and every other officer was shot, except Washington. Washington was forced to take over and skillfully lead the British and Virginian forces in retreat. Riding on his horse, back and forth among his soldiers in plain sight of the enemy, his actions saved perhaps hundreds of soldiers. On that day, the Indians shot and killed two horses while he was riding them, but they couldn’t kill Washington.
After the battle, his coat had bullet holes on both the front and the back. A story it told that as President, an Indian warrior visited him and said these words, “White Father. I was there at the Battle of Monongahela. We were victorious that day and had shot all of the officers off of their horses but you. I told my men to aim at you, but after many efforts to kill you, we realized that The Great Spirit was protecting you, and we stopped firing on you.”
General Washington achieved his greatest military success during the American Revolution (1775-1783). Named Commander of the Continental Army, Washington raised an army from farmers, trained the Americans into a professional fighting force, and defeated the greatest empire in the world. It is difficult to overstate his accomplishments in the American Revolution. In the battles he lost, such as The Battle of Long Island in the summer of 1776, he craftily led his army out of a terrible trap so they could fight another day. In battles he won, such as the Battle of Trenton and the Battle of Princeton, he gave the American army courage that they could win the war. In the last battle of the war, the Battle of Yorktown, he tricked one of the world’s best generals, General Cornwallis, and captured, killed, or wounded Cornwallis’ entire army.
III. Presidency Washington served as President from 1789-1797. He strengthened the national government and set a precedent that Presidents would not become kings. During his service, he worked hard to make Americans see themselves as Americans first, and not as citizens of the various states or as people who were French-American or English-American. When citizens in Pennsylvania violently protested a tax on whiskey, Washington ordered 13,000 U.S. soldiers to march and put down the revolt. When Washington was asked to serve a third term, he refused and went back to being a farmer in Virginia. Because of his example of humility, all subsequent presidents for over 130 years only served two terms. Within a few years of retiring from public life, Washington became sick and died at his home, Mount Vernon.
IV. National Holiday In 1880, an act of Congress declared George Washington’s birthday as a federal holiday. It is the first national holiday honoring an American citizen. Washington’s birthday is celebrated on the third Monday of February.
Interesting Questions You Can Discuss with your Children
When and where was Washington born?
Who died in Washington’s life when he was a young boy?
What was Washington’s first job?
Why is he called the Father of our country?
What was the most important thing Washington did for the U.S.A?
When George Washington was a young man, he copied the following, which was translated from a European language. He may be the most respected American public servant of all time, and it seems that he followed the advice set forth in the following rules.
1. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
2. When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered.
3. Shew Nothing to your Freind that may affright him.
4. In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
5. If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkercheif or Hand before your face and turn aside.
6. Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.
7. Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Drest.
8. At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.
9. Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it
10. When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them. 11th Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.
12th Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by appr[oaching too nea]r him [when] you Speak.
13th Kill no Vermin as Fleas, lice ticks &c in the Sight of Others, if you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexteriously upon it if it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths return Thanks to him who puts it off.
14th Turn not your Back to others especially in Speaking, Jog not the Table or Desk on which Another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.
15th Keep your Nails clean and Short, also your Hands and Teeth Clean yet without Shewing any great Concern for them.
16th Do not Puff up the Cheeks, Loll not out the tongue rub the Hands, or beard, thrust out the lips, or bite them or keep the Lips too open or too Close.
17th Be no Flatterer, neither Play with any that delights not to be Play'd Withal.18th Read no Letters, Books, or Papers in Company but when there is a Necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: come not near the Books or Writings of Another so as to read them unless desired or give your opinion of them unask'd also look not nigh when another is writing a Letter.
19th let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.
20th The Gestures of the Body must be Suited to the discourse you are upon.
21st: Reproach none for the Infirmaties of Nature, nor Delight to Put them that have in mind thereof.
22d Shew not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.
23d When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always shew Pity to the Suffering Offender.
[24th Do not laugh too loud or] too much at any Publick [Spectacle].25th Superfluous Complements and all Affectation of Ceremonie are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.
26th In Pulling off your Hat to Persons of Distinction, as Noblemen, Justices, Churchmen &c make a Reverence, bowing more or less according to the Custom of the Better Bred, and Quality of the Person. Amongst your equals expect not always that they Should begin with you first, but to Pull off the Hat when there is no need is Affectation, in the Manner of Saluting and resaluting in words keep to the most usual Custom.
27th Tis ill manners to bid one more eminent than yourself be covered as well as not to do it to whom it's due Likewise he that makes too much haste to Put on his hat does not well, yet he ought to Put it on at the first, or at most the Second time of being ask'd; now what is herein Spoken, of Qualification in behaviour in Saluting, ought also to be observed in taking of Place, and Sitting down for ceremonies without Bounds is troublesome.
28th If any one come to Speak to you while you are are Sitting Stand up tho he be your Inferiour, and when you Present Seats let it be to every one according to his Degree.29th When you meet with one of Greater Quality than yourself, Stop, and retire especially if it be at a Door or any Straight place to give way for him to Pass.
30th In walking the highest Place in most Countrys Seems to be on the right hand therefore Place yourself on the left of him whom you desire to Honour: but if three walk together the mid[dest] Place is the most Honourable the wall is usually given to the most worthy if two walk together.
31st If any one far Surpassess others, either in age, Estate, or Merit [yet] would give Place to a meaner than hims[elf in his own lodging or elsewhere] the one ought not to except it, S[o he on the other part should not use much earnestness nor offer] it above once or twice.
32d: To one that is your equal, or not much inferior you are to give the cheif Place in your Lodging and he to who 'tis offered ought at the first to refuse it but at the Second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthiness.
33d They that are in Dignity or in office have in all places Preceedency but whilst they are Young they ought to respect those that are their equals in Birth or other Qualitys, though they have no Publick charge.34th It is good Manners to prefer them to whom we Speak befo[re] ourselves especially if they be above us with whom in no Sort we ought to begin.
35th Let your Discourse with Men of Business be Short and Comprehensive.
36th Artificers & Persons of low Degree ought not to use many ceremonies to Lords, or Others of high Degree but Respect and high[ly] Honour them, and those of high Degree ought to treat them with affibility & Courtesie, without Arrogancy.
37th In Speaking to men of Quality do not lean nor Look them full in the Face, nor approach too near them at lest Keep a full Pace from them.
38th In visiting the Sick, do not Presently play the Physicion if you be not Knowing therein.
39th In writing or Speaking, give to every Person his due Title According to his Degree & the Custom of the Place.40th Strive not with your Superiers in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty.
41st Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art himself Proffesses; it Savours of arrogancy.
[42d Let thy ceremonies in] Courtesie be proper to the Dignity of his place [with whom thou conversest for it is absurd to ac]t the same with a Clown and a Prince.
43d Do not express Joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary Passion will aggravate his Misery.
44th When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it.
45th Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in publick or in Private; presently, or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Shew no Sign of Cholar but do it with all Sweetness and Mildness. 46th Take all Admonitions thankfully in what Time or Place Soever given but afterwards not being culpable take a Time [&] Place convenient to let him him know it that gave them.
7th Mock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance break [n]o Jest that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasent abtain from Laughing thereat yourself.
48th Wherein wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts.
9 Use no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.
0th Be not hasty to beleive flying Reports to the Disparag[e]ment of any.
51st Wear not your Cloths, foul, unript or Dusty but See they be Brush'd once every day at least and take heed tha[t] you approach not to any Uncleaness.52d In your Apparel be Modest and endeavour to accomodate Nature, rather than to procure Admiration keep to the Fashio[n] of your equals Such as are Civil and orderly with respect to Times and Places.
53d Run not in the Streets, neither go t[oo s]lowly nor wit[h] Mouth open go not Shaking yr Arms [kick not the earth with yr feet, go] not upon the Toes, nor in a Dancing [fashion].
54th Play not the Peacock, looking every where about you, to See if you be well Deck't, if your Shoes fit well if your Stokings sit neatly, and Cloths handsomely.
55th Eat not in the Streets, nor in the House, out of Season.
56th Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad Company.57th In walking up and Down in a House, only with One in Compan[y] if he be Greater than yourself, at the first give him the Right hand and Stop not till he does and be not the first that turns, and when you do turn let it be with your face towards him, if he be a Man of Great Quality, walk not with him Cheek by Joul but Somewhat behind him; but yet in Such a Manner that he may easily Speak to you.
58th Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for 'tis a Sig[n o]f a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion [ad]mit Reason to Govern.
59th Never express anything unbecoming, nor Act agst the Rules Mora[l] before your inferiours.
60th Be not immodest in urging your Freinds to Discover a Secret.
61st Utter not base and frivilous things amongst grave and Learn'd Men nor very Difficult Questians or Subjects, among the Ignorant or things hard to be believed, Stuff not your Discourse with Sentences amongst your Betters nor Equals.62d Speak not of doleful Things in a Time of Mirth or at the Table; Speak not of Melancholy Things as Death and Wounds, and if others Mention them Change if you can the Discourse tell not your Dreams, but to your intimate Friend.
63d A Man o[ug]ht not to value himself of his Atchievements, or rare Qua[lities of wit; much less of his rich]es Virtue or Kindred.
64th Break not a Jest where none take pleasure in mirth Laugh not aloud, nor at all without Occasion, deride no mans Misfortune, tho' there Seem to be Some cause.
65th Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion.
66th Be not froward but friendly and Courteous; the first to Salute hear and answer & be not Pensive when it's a time to Converse.67th Detract not from others neither be excessive in Commanding.
68th Go not thither, where you know not, whether you Shall be Welcome or not. Give not Advice with[out] being Ask'd & when desired [d]o it briefly.
9 If two contend together take not the part of either unconstrain[ed]; and be not obstinate in your own Opinion, in Things indiferent be of the Major Side.
70th Reprehend not the imperfections of others for that belong[s] to Parents Masters and Superiours.
71st Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of Others and ask not how they came. What you may Speak in Secret to your Friend deliver not before others.
72d Speak not in an unknown Tongue in Company but in your own Language and that as those of Quality do and not as the Vulgar; Sublime matters treat Seriously.73d Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring ou[t] your Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.
74th When Another Speaks be attentive your Self and disturb not the Audience if any hesitate in his Words help him not nor Prompt him without desired, Interrupt him not, nor Answer him till his Speec[h] be ended.
75th In the midst of Discourse ask [not of what one treateth] but if you Perceive any Stop because of [your coming you may well intreat him gently] to Proceed: If a Person of Quality comes in while your Conversing it's handsome to Repeat what was said before.
76th While you are talking, Point not with your Finger at him of Whom you Discourse nor Approach too near him to whom you talk especially to his face. 77th Treat with men at fit Times about Business & Whisper not in the Company of Others.
78th Make no Comparisons and if any of the Company be Commended for any brave act of Vertue, commend not another for the Same.
79th Be not apt to relate News if you know not the truth thereof. In Discoursing of things you Have heard Name not your Author always A [Se]cret Discover not.
80th Be not Tedious in Discourse or in reading unless you find the Company pleased therewith.
81st Be not Curious to Know the Affairs of Others neither approach those that Speak in Private.
82d Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Carefull to keep your Promise.83d When you deliver a matter do it without Passion & with Discretion, howev[er] mean the Person be you do it too.
84th When your Superiours talk to any Body hearken not neither Speak nor Laugh.
85th In Company of these of Higher Quality than yourself Speak not ti[l] you are ask'd a Question then Stand upright put of your Hat & Answer in few words.
86 In Disputes, be not So Desireous to Overcome as not to give Liberty to each one to deliver his Opinion and Submit to the Judgment of the Major Part especially if they are Judges of the Dispute.
[87th Let thy carriage be such] as becomes a Man Grave Settled and attentive [to that which is spoken. Contra]dict not at every turn what others Say.
88th Be not tedious in Discourse, make not many Digressigns, nor rep[eat] often the Same manner of Discourse.89th Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust.
90 Being Set at meat Scratch not neither Spit Cough or blow your Nose except there's a Necessity for it.
91st Make no Shew of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed no[t] with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the Table neither find fault with what you Eat.
92 Take no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greasy.
93 Entertaining any one at table it is decent to present him wt. meat, Undertake not to help others undesired by the Master. 4th If you Soak bread in the Sauce let it be no more than what you [pu]t in your Mouth at a time and blow not your broth at Table [bu]t Stay till Cools of it Self.
th Put not your meat to your Mouth with your Knife in your ha[nd ne]ither Spit forth the Stones of any fruit Pye upon a Dish nor Cas[t an]ything under the table.
6 It's unbecoming to Stoop much to ones Meat Keep your Fingers clea[n &] when foul wipe them on a Corner of your Table Napkin.
th Put not another bit into your Mouth til the former be Swallowed [l]et not your Morsels be too big for the Gowls.
98th Drink not nor talk with your mouth full neither Gaze about you while you are a Drinking.
99th Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily. Before and after Drinking wipe your Lips breath not then or Ever with too Great a Noise, for its uncivil.100 Cleanse not your teeth with the Table Cloth Napkin Fork or Knife but if Others do it let it be done wt. a Pick Tooth.
101st Rince not your Mouth in the Presence of Others.
102d It is out of use to call upon the Company often to Eat nor need you Drink to others every Time you Drink.
103d In Company of your Betters be no[t longer in eating] than they are lay not your Arm but o[nly your hand upon the table].
104th It belongs to the Chiefest in Company to unfold his Napkin and fall to Meat first, But he ought then to Begin in time & to Dispatch [w]ith Dexterity that the Slowest may have time allowed him. 05th Be not Angry at Table whatever happens & if you have reason to be so, Shew it not but on a Chearfull Countenance especially if there be Strangers for Good Humour makes one Dish of Meat a Feas[t].
06th Set not yourself at the upper of the Table but if it Be your Due or that the Master of the house will have it So, Contend not, least you Should Trouble the Company.
107th If others talk at Table be attentive but talk not with Meat in your Mouth.108th When you Speak of God or his Atributes, let it be Seriously & [wt.] Reverence. Honour & Obey your Natural Parents altho they be Poor.
109th Let your Recreations be Manfull not Sinfull.
110th Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Ce[les]tial fire Called Conscience.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On the third Monday of January, Americans celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, perhaps the most important leader of the Civil Rights Movement. King was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, in an American society that had strict laws and customs that were based on the color of your skin. This legal policy called segregation separated whites from non-whites in nearly all public places and limited the ability of black Americans to completely enjoy the benefits that come with living in a free country. Raised in a strong Christian environment, Martin Luther King, Jr. believed that the best way to change the United States and end segregation was to win over the hearts of fellow Americans by following the teachings of Jesus Christ to “love your enemy” and by following the example of non-violent leaders such as the Indian Mahatma Ghandi. In large part due to Dr. King’s words and example, Americans ended segregation in the 1960s and today enjoy perhaps one of the freest societies of the world, where people are judged on their character and actions more than on their physical appearances. Tragically, on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated by confirmed racist James Earl Ray.
Racial segregation became a way of life in most southern states after Reconstruction ended in 1877. During Reconstruction, the U.S. attempted to “reconstruct” the Confederacy that had just lost the Civil War. Larry Schweikart writes in A Patriot’s History of the United States that in Reconstruction (1867-1877), the U.S. attempted to readmit members of the Confederacy, rebuild the South, and help the freed men and women to live and work in a hostile environment. When Reconstruction ended, the northern soldiers went home, and the southern whites enacted laws that separated whites from non-whites. In practice, segregation greatly limited black Americans’ ability to work, kept black Americans from voting, and created a permanent underclass where blacks did not enjoy the protection of the U.S. law. Economic and social mobility was nearly impossible for black Americans, and in many southern states, black Americans were in constant physical danger. They were terrorized, brutalized, and murdered in astonishing numbers. The Supreme Court, in Plessy v Ferguson (1896) legalized racial segregation. Segregation was the legal policy of separating the races, but it also meant that black Americans would always constitute a permanent underclass.
Childhood Martin grew up in a strong, religious family. Originally named Michael like his father, he changed his name after the famous founder of the Lutheran religion, Martin Luther. His grandfather founded the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and when he died, Martin’s father became the pastor. Martin attended Booker T. Washington High School, where he skipped both the ninth and the eleventh grades. At age 15, he entered Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1944. As a junior in college, he decided to follow in his father and grandfather’s footsteps to become a pastor. As a doctoral student of theology at Boston University, Martin met Coretta Scott, a singer and musician at the New England Conservatory. They married and eventually had four children. King received his Ph.D. in 1955 and became pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Montgomery, Alabama.
Adulthood In the 1950s, many in America realized that the policy of segregation was unjust and against the basic ideals of the United States. Many black Americans had fought and sacrificed in World War II and were currently fighting and dying in Korea. It seemed horribly unfair, then, that at home, black Americans did not have equal rights with white Americans. Those who wanted to change segregation were faced with many options. One was just to wait until things changed, somehow. Another option was to turn to violence and to force white America to change. Martin Luther King, Jr. chose a third option. A strong Christian and student of nonviolent methods, King believed that the most effective and just way to promote change in America was to love your neighbor and win over his heart. King’s choice was not an easy one, and he bore the pain and suffering of his decision. However, his way of nonviolence and love most likely saved the lives of many, and brought about immense change in the United States.
In 1955, a brave and simple act by Rosa Parks, a 42 year-old woman, began the Civil Rights Movement and the national leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In Montgomery buses, blacks had to sit in the back of the bus, and if there were no more white seats towards the front, blacks were supposed to stand and allow the whites to sit. Rosa Parks sat in the black section, but was ordered to stand by the bus driver because there were a few whites who had no seats. Parks refused to stand, was arrested, and fined. Black community leaders met and decided to fight the bus company. They chose Dr. King, Jr. to lead a bus boycott and force the bus company to change its policy. After 382 days of avoiding bus travel, enduring harassment, violence, and intimidation, the blacks of Montgomery forced the company to desegregate its buses. The Civil Rights Movement had begun, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. became the noted leader of peaceful, nonviolent resistance to the unjust system of segregation in America.
Dr. King, Jr. was involved in many more Civil Rights battles, was jailed, and was eventually murdered for his desire to see a color-free American society. A moving orator, King, Jr. is most recognized for his “I Have a Dream” speech given in Washington, D.C. in 1963. It is here where King spoke of his dream of an America where children would grow up in a country where they would be judged based on the quality of their character and not the color of their skin. Segregation officially ended in the United States by the passage of various laws in the 1960s.
On April 4, 1968, Dr. King, Jr. was assassinated by white supremacist James Earl Ray. Ray fled the country, was found in London, convicted, and sentenced to 99 years in jail. In jail, he recanted his testimony, pled his innocence, and died in 1998. Four days after his death Congressmen began an effort to have a federal holiday in honor of King, Jr. However, some Americans felt that he was just one person of many in the Civil Rights Movement. And, some Americans were upset that segregation ended. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law holiday legislation, making the third Monday in January the day to honor Dr. King, Jr. Even after the federal holiday was declared, several southern states included celebrations for various Confederate generals on that day, and some states protested.
Interesting Questions You Can Discuss with your Children and Students 1. When was Dr. King, Jr. born? 2. What was his original name? 3. Why did he change his name? 4. What was his wife’s name and how many children did they have? 5. What grades did Martin skip in high school? 6. What was Dr. King, Jr.’s occupation? 7. Was religion important to Dr. King, Jr.? Explain your answer: 8. What was segregation? 9. How did the Civil Rights Movement begin? 10. Dr. King, Jr. spoke of a color-free America, where people would be judged on the quality of their character, and not the color of their skin. To what extent do you think this is true today? What evidence do you have to support your answer?
By John De Gree of www.classicalhistorian.com Copyright 2017. All Rights Reserved.
William Harvey Carney
By Adam De Gree of The Classical Historian
Rarely have state flags flown at half-mast at the death of a former slave. Yet when William Harvey Carney passed away on December 9, 1908, the Massachusetts state house honored him in a manner typically reserved for presidents. Carney earned this honor during the Civil War as a young man when, despite being wounded in the chest, legs, and arms during the fierce battle of Fort Wagner, he kept the American flag waving high. William Harvey Carney was born a slave in Virginia on February 29 of 1840. The details of his escape from servitude are uncertain, but many historians think he made his way to Massachusetts through the Underground Railroad. After this dangerous journey, Carney kept a low profile until he enlisted in the famed 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in 1863 as a Sergeant. The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry are famous for a reason - they formed the first African-American regiment organized during the Civil War. This was a momentous project at a time when even great men such as Abraham Lincoln harbored doubts about the capacity of black soldiers. As a sign of the times, black enlistees in the regiment were to be commanded by white officers, headed by the abolitionist Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. Yet after the bloody fighting of Gettysburg, Americans of all colors were ready for the Emancipation Proclamation - and the 54th Regiment was part of it. When Carney joined the 54th, it was not only unique in its racial composition. The regiment was comprised of men from 15 northern states, four border states, five Confederate states, Canada, and the West Indies. This was highly unusual at a time when most regiments were formed state-by-state. The 54th soon made headlines for another issue: that of equal pay. When black soldiers enlisted for the 54th Regiment, they were promised full pay - $13 a month - for their service. However, they were only given $10 a month, and they were forced to purchase their own uniforms. Carney and his fellow soldiers chafed at the notion that their service was of lesser value than that of their white comrades. As a sign of protest, the men refused pay for 18 months and fought for free. It was during those 18 months that the 54th saw action at Fort Warner, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. After two days of little sleep and less food, the Regiment volunteered for a bloody charge against the fort. This charge is now immortalized in song, poetry, and even film (It is the climax of Glory). It was as devastating as it was glorious. The 54th Regiment entered the fray by mounting bayonets and charging across the beach. As rifle fire ripped into the Regiment, Carney was shot numerous times. Yet when he saw Shaw and the flag bearer drop under the bullets, he sprang into action and grabbed the flag. Despite being shot in the chest, arms, and legs, Carney planted the flag in the fort’s parapet and fought on. When reinforcements finally arrived, the regiment made a dignified retreat, with Carney carrying the flag. As he reached Union lines, he shouted, “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground.” 74 enlisted men and three officers, including Shaw, died at Fort Wagner in what would come to be known as a noble defeat. Word of the Regiment’s bravery spread throughout Union ranks and had a profound impact on perceptions of black soldiers. Carney, as one of the most heroic men that day, was honorably discharged from service. After the war, Carney married Susannah Williams and worked first in streetlight maintenance, then as a mail carrier. Thirty-seven years after the battle of Fort Wagner, he received the Medal of Honor. He is the first African-American to have received the honor. His citation reads, “When the color sergeant was shot down, this soldier grasped the flag, led the way to the parapet, and planted the colors thereon. When the troops fell back he brought off the flag, under a fierce fire in which he was twice severely wounded.” Questions:
How did Carney get to Massachusetts?
Why was the 54th Regiment unique?
What did the soldiers of the 54th Regiment do to protest unequal pay?
Was the battle of Fort Wagner a Union victory?
Why do you think Carney cared about keeping the flag in the air?
Helen Keller was born into a wealthy household on June 27, 1880, yet her story is not one of ease and luxury. Helen was struck deaf and blind at the age of 18 months in a time when people with disabilities were not expected to live full lives. Largely due to Helen Keller and the work of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, that is no longer the case. Through her courage and intellect Helen Keller showed the world that the deaf and blind can change history. As a young girl, Keller was unruly, and this is understandable – she had no way to see or hear the world around her. That all changed with the arrival of Anne Mansfield Sullivan, a poor 20-year old graduate of the Perkins School for the Blind. Sullivan was determined to help young Helen. She began by ‘writing’ words into Helen’s palms one letter at a time. Unfortunately, the young girl had no idea what this meant – she did not know that words existed. One day, Anne tried something new: she took Helen (7 years old at the time) over to the water spout and signed w-a-t-e-r into one of her hands as cold water poured over the other one. Suddenly, little Helen understood that the fluid touching her body was signified by the word ‘water.’ That day the young pupil learned 30 different words. Within several years Anne had trained her student to speak, write, and read manual and raised print. Helen was very bright and learned quickly. She learned so quickly that she made it into the news as a blind and deaf prodigy and attracted the notice of such dignitaries as Mark Twain and Alexander Graham Bell. As the young girl entered adolescence she prepared to attend Radcliffe College. In 1904, Helen Keller graduated from Radcliffe College with a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors – the first deaf and blind person to graduate from any university in the world. At each step of the way she was aided by Anne Perkins, who faithfully traced each letter of her reading into her hand. Anne also helped her with a blossoming career as a writer – in 1903, Helen’s autobiography, The Story of My Life, was published to international acclaim. Helen Keller relied on Perkins until she died in 1936. At that point, Polly Thomson took over the task of helping Keller navigate a world built for those with sight. Keller always saw herself as a writer. Through the written word, she reached millions of people around the world. A passionate humanitarian, Helen Keller wrote about civil rights, socialism, women’s suffrage, and other issues that fit her Socialist worldview. She became a member of the Socialist Party in 1909. All of her writing gives evidence to Keller’s immense courage and faith in the face of adversity and in her politically radical views. Through her writing, Keller worked tirelessly on behalf of the nation’s – and the world’s – community of deaf and blind people. Keller joined the American Foundation for the Blind in 1924 and worked for the organization as a writer and speaker for over 40 years. She was also a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union. Her national profile earned her audiences from president Grover Cleveland to Lyndon Johnson, and she proved expert at using her connections to improve the conditions of disabled people. During WWII Keller visited veteran’s hospitals to administer and support men who lost their sight, hearing, or limbs in battle. After the war, Keller became America’s first Goodwill Ambassador to Japan. Her visit left a profound impact on Japanese society and the way that deaf and blind people in Japan were treated. Seven years later, in 1955 and at the age of 75, she spent five months traversing 40,000 miles on a tour through Asia. Many of the countries that she visited now have organizations that help the poor and blind that started because of her. Keller continued her work until a stroke limited her capabilities in 1960. She passed away in her sleep eight years later on June 1 at the age of 87. She is remembered all over the world as a champion for those with disabilities, as well as workers, women, and minorities. Today, her image is etched onto Alabama’s state quarter, the only US coin to feature braille. Interesting Questions to Discuss with your Children:
Why was Helen Keller an unruly child?
How did Helen first learn what words are?
What was Helen Keller’s job?
Did Helen travel a lot?
Why do you think that Helen Keller was chosen as America’s first Goodwill Ambassador to Japan after World War II?
One of many unsung heroes of the Revolutionary War, Seth Warner was born on the Connecticut frontier on May 17, 1743. Warner’s leadership would prove crucial in many battles of the American Revolution. An ardent defender of Vermont’s land claims at a time when the state was in constant conflict with New York, he remained loyal to the United States until his death in 1784. Warner was the fourth of ten children born to Dr. Benjamin Warner and Silence Hurd Warner. A soldier through and through, Warner did not leave any journals or speeches to his descendants. The little known of his early life is that he was a good hunter and sharp thinker. He received only rudimentary schooling, but learned the basics of medicine from his father. Warner married Esther Hurd in the early 1760s and fathered three children with her. Although his primary occupation was as a surveyor (someone who evaluates the size and quality of land before it is sold), Warner soon became an active member of the Green Mountain Boys militia. The Green Mountain Boys were men from Vermont who defended that state’s land claims against those of New York and other New England states. While we might think of the states as being allies, in disputed territory, houses were often burned and people were killed by men who would one day see each other as fellow Americans. Warner served as an officer under the command of the Green Mountain Boys’ leader, Ethan Allen. Shortly after the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Warner and many of his fellow Vermonters joined the Continental Army. Within months, they had aided in the capture of Forts Ticonderoga and Crown Point. Warner and Allen then went before the Continental Congress to petition for the creation of a Green Mountain Boys regiment. After the Congress approved the petition, the militia leaders joined together to choose a lieutenant colonel for the regiment. Surprisingly, the militia voted for Warner to take command of the newly formed army. The Green Mountain Regiment contributed to key military campaigns over the next five years. Warner earned notice time and time again for his capable leadership – at the Battle of Longueuil, the siege of Quebec, and the retreat from Ticonderoga, his prowess either secured victory or prevented a defeat from deteriorating into a collapse. Along the way, he put aside differences with officers from New York to coordinate for the benefit of the United States. What is most interesting about Warner’s career with the United States is that Vermont was not part of the U.S.A. during the Revolutionary War. In fact, the Vermont Republic had already achieved independence from Great Britain in 1777 as a separate country, and it would not be until 1791 that it joined the United States as the fourteenth state. However, from the very beginning, many Vermonters saw their future intertwined with that of their fellow colonists. This explains why so many Green Mountain Boys fought in the Continental Army. Warner fought well past 1777. During his time as a soldier, he developed numerous health problems. He was listed ill in 1779 and remained in poor health until 1780, when he was seriously injured in an Indian ambush. A year later, he retired from the army and went back to his family’s 51-acre farm in Roxbury, Connecticut, a poor man. Like many other soldiers, he had neglected (and spent) his family finances on the war effort. Even though several towns voted to award Seth Warner and his family land in recognition of his service, they remained paupers until the end of his life at age 41 in 1784. He left behind three children with few prospects of a comfortable life. His widow Esther petitioned Vermont’s General Assembly for a land payment in 1786; the plot awarded to her four years later was rocky and of little use to her or the children. It stands uninhabited to this day; a small piece of land called “Warner’s Grant” in upstate Vermont. Questions:
What does a surveyor do?
Who did the Green Mountain Boys fight against?
What were some of the engagements that Warner fought in?
Was Vermont part of the United States during the Revolutionary War?
Why do you think many Vermonters thought their future lay with the United States?
John Buford Jr. was born on March 4, 1826. Just 37 years later, he would lose his life in the Civil War after receiving a deathbed promotion to the position of major general of Volunteers from Abraham Lincoln. Known for his key role in major battles including Gettysburg, Buford had a profound impact on Union victory and is remembered as an American hero. Buford was born in Kentucky, which became a battleground state in the Civil War. When he was eight years old, his family moved to Illinois. His father was a well-known Democrat who opposed Abraham Lincoln. Like many Americans, Buford’s ancestors had fought in the Revolution; his grandfather served under Robert E. Lee’s father. Growing up in a political family, Buford was very patriotic. After one year at Knox College in Illinois, he was accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Divisions between American society increased as Buford grew older. The issue of slavery split the country into two factions – North and South. But while the split sounds simple, it wasn’t – many families were split into two opposing camps. For example, Buford’s father owned slaves, although he did not want to leave the Union. On the other hand, Buford’s wife Pattie was from a Southern family, and his in-laws fought for the Confederacy. At West Point, young men from the north and south trained to become officers, only to fight against each other when war broke out. In 1861, the Civil War erupted. While Buford could have chosen to fight with the rebellious Confederates, he stayed in the United States Army and quickly rose to the rank of brigadier general. Buford was a cavalry officer, and one of the finest in the war. He served with distinction in major battles such as the Second Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Brandy Station. However, John Buford is best remembered for his role in the Battle of Gettysburg. The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most important battles of the entire Civil War, and Buford secured the field for a Union victory. As tens of thousands of troops from North and South neared one another, Buford’s cavalry arrived in the town of Gettysburg, located on high ground. As he looked down, the general saw thousands of Confederate troops marching up the road and knew that he had to hold the high ground if the Union was to win the battle. He boldly ordered his much smaller force to defend their position against the advancing Rebels. They held out just long enough for reinforcements to arrive and staked out a strong defensive position that held for three bloody days of fighting. Buford served ably for some months after Gettysburg. However, it became clear that he was sick, possibly with typhus. This was a serious issue because during the Civil War, more American soldiers died of an illness than of a bullet wound. Buford was quartered at the home of a fellow general in Washington for his last days. President Lincoln, upon hearing that the hero of Gettysburg was on his deathbed, promoted him to “Major General for distinguished and meritorious service.” Buford, upon hearing of his promotion, asked, “Does he mean it?” and then said, “it is too late, now I wish I could live.” John Buford’s funeral was attended by the President, and his pallbearers were Union generals. He was buried at West Point, where he joined other American war heroes. In response to his death, the Philadelphia Enquirer ran the poem: No more to follow his daring form Or see him dash through the battle's storm No more with him to ride down the foe And behold his falchion's crushing blow Nor hear his voice, like a rushing blast As rider and steed went charging past ... Buford is dead!
Interesting Questions to Discuss with your Children:
Was Buford from a military family?
What did Buford’s father do for a living?
What was the most important cause of the Civil War?
What did Buford do at Gettysburg?
Why do you think more American soldiers died from disease than from bullets during the Civil War?
Aaron Burr is one of the most infamous characters in early American history. The third vice president of the United States, Burr is perhaps best known for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel. While he served bravely during the Revolutionary War, Burr is seen as self-serving by many historians. Aaron Burr was born in 1756 to a very religious family. His father was a Presbyterian Minister and his mother’s father was Jonathan Edwards, a famous preacher. Tragically, his mother and father died when he was only two years old, and he was raised by his uncle. Burr received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of New Jersey at the age of sixteen, and began studying law. When he was 19, the Revolutionary War broke out and he quickly enlisted in the Continental Army. Burr distinguished himself in the military. He participated in Benedict Arnold’s failed expedition to Quebec and was promoted to a captain due to his resolve. Later in the war, Burr saved a brigade from the British in Manhattan, earning him national fame. He also played a key role instilling discipline at Valley Forge and leading troops in the Battle of Monmouth, where he suffered a stroke. Although he resigned from the army in 1779 due to poor health, Burr continued to aid Washington in matters of intelligence gathering. In 1782, he began practicing law and married Theodosia Bartow Prevost. Burr’s military fame aided his legal career. In addition to his private practice, he was elected to the New York State Assembly for 1784 and 1785. He also served in a number of committees and commanded a militia regiment. In 1791, he defeated General Philip Schuyler and became a U.S. Senator for the state of New York. Although he ran for president in the 1796 election, he came in fourth overall (John Adams won). During John Adams’ presidency, Burr continued his involvement in politics, both as a New York State Assemblyman, and as a leader of the Tammany Society. This was a New York organization that became a ‘political machine,’ turning out votes for candidates in exchange for favors. Many people think that in this way, Burr started modern political campaigning. Perhaps this is why many politicians believed that Burr was too sly to trust. In 1799, Burr founded the Bank of the Manhattan Company, which would one day become part of JPMorgan Chase, one of America’s most important banks. In the election of 1800, Burr aligned himself with Jefferson and Madison against Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson and Madison believed in a small central government, while Hamilton thought that the U.S. should have broad powers. Burr used his political campaigning to get many votes for Jefferson, while also running himself. At the end of the election, Jefferson and Burr ended up tied with 73 electoral votes, which meant that the House of Representatives would choose the winner. Many expected Burr to step out of the race to give the presidency to Jefferson, but he remained in it, hoping to gain the White House for himself. In the end, even though Hamilton disagreed with Jefferson, he convinced many members of the House to vote for Jefferson instead of Burr, writing in a letter, “Mr. Burr loves nothing but himself.” Although Jefferson and Burr ran against each other, Jefferson became President and Burr became Vice-President. In America’s first elections, the second-place candidate served as Vice President. During his Vice-Presidency, Burr earned praise for his handling of the impeachment trial of Justice Samuel Chase. However, he would not run for re-election. After his Vice-Presidency, Burr ran for Governor of New York and lost. He largely blamed Hamilton for this loss, and subsequently accused him of defamation. When Hamilton did not recant, Burr challenged him to a duel. Duels were against the law, but they were still practiced in several states; Hamilton’s own son, Phillip, died in a duel at the very spot where Hamilton and Burr met. No one is entirely sure what happened during the duel; some people think that Hamilton missed Burr on purpose. However, it is known that Burr shot Hamilton and killed him. After the duel, Burr went west, where he quickly ran into trouble. He led a group of 80 armed men into disputed territory in the hopes that war with Spain would break out. When it did, he planned to seize land with his army. The president, Thomas Jefferson, declared Burr a traitor, and he was tried twice for different crimes. Despite the fact that he was found innocent both times, his reputation was ruined. Burr fled to Europe, where he lived for some time before coming back to the States. He started up his law firm again and practiced for years until retirement. Burr died in 1836, a poor man. Today, he is remembered as a complicated figure who did much to aid America, while also serving his own interests. Questions:
What can be said about Burr’s military service?
What is something that Burr did well as a Vice President?
How did Burr start modern political campaigning?
Why did other Founding Fathers not trust Burr?
In your opinion, was Burr a hero, or a villain?
By Adam De Gree
“Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly.” “Dreams,” 1929 Blues poet, playwright, social activist, and novelist Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Missouri. He was an African-American leader in a time when racism was embedded within America’s legal system. Today, he is best remembered as one of the stars of the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was a time when “the negro was in vogue” and many black Americans created art of all kinds. Throughout his life, Hughes wrote bravely about the black experience in America and used humor to point out problems that he saw in the lives of his fellow Americans. Hughes was the second son of a young Midwestern couple. He was born shortly after the Supreme Court had ruled that segregated schools and “separate but equal” facilities for black people were legal. This meant that black children like Hughes were treated worse than white children were. Life was made more difficult for the young boy when his father left the family. His grandmother raised him for some time and taught him black American folk stories and songs. Hughes started to write poetry when he was in high school. After graduation, he attended Columbia University for a year before working on a ship that sailed to Africa and Spain. He then settled down in Paris for some time and continued writing. Upon returning to the United States in 1924, he worked many odd jobs before earning the attention of publishers with his writing. Just one year later he won a scholarship to attend Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. It was at this time that Hughes’ first book of poetry, ‘The Weary Blues,’ was published. Hughes’ poems were often written in the language of black Americans. For example, one of the stanzas from ‘Weary Blues’ reads: Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon, I heard a Negro play. Down on Lenox Avenue the other night By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light He did a lazy sway . . . He did a lazy sway . . . To the tune o’ those Weary Blues. With his ebony hands on each ivory key He made that poor piano moan with melody. O Blues! Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool. Sweet Blues! Coming from a black man’s soul. O Blues! In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan-- “Ain’t got nobody in all this world, Ain’t got nobody but ma self. I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’ And put ma troubles on the shelf.”
Hughes’ first book launched a significant career in which he produced over a thousand poems and well over twenty novels and plays. He pioneered a poetic form known as the ‘blues poem,’ where he studied the rhythms of the blues and transformed them into poetry. He wrote about politics, religion, relationships, race, music, and philosophy, among many other topics.
One of Hughes’ goals as an artist was to express his love for black Americans. At this time in American history, many people thought that black Americans were worth less than white Americans. Many black Americans thought poorly of themselves because they were told that they were not valuable or beautiful. This is why Hughes tried to write about “black folk” in ordinary language. Although he loved black people, Hughes often wrote about their failures as well as their beauty, and he often used on humor to point out the silly habits of both black and white Americans.
Hughes died on May 22, 1967, in New York City. Today, he joins Walt Whitman as one of America’s best-loved poets.
Interesting Questions to Discuss with your Students
What did the Supreme Court rule shortly before Langston Hughes was born?
Where did Langston Hughes learn about black folk culture?
Why did Langston Hughes write in the language of ordinary black folk?
Why did many black Americans think they were worth less than white Americans?
Why do you think that Hughes chose to use humor to point out problems in America?
Jacob Wilson Parrott was one of the countless heroes of the American Civil War. We remember him as the first recipient of the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military award. As a 19-year old, Parrott volunteered for a dangerous mission behind Confederate lines and nearly paid for it with his life. Only with courage and luck did he make it back to Union lines. Parrott was born in Fairfield County, Ohio, on July 17, 1843. He joined the Union Army shortly after the outbreak of war in 1861 as a private. Privates are the lowest rank in the army. As a soldier, Parrott served bravely in numerous battles and bore the burdens of war with dignity. Yet despite the efforts of hundreds of thousands of enlisted men like Parrott, the early Civil War did not go well for the North. Parrott turned 19 in 1862, and the war seemed as if it might never end. In April of that year, Federal troops in central Tennessee mounted a campaign against the rebel stronghold of Chattanooga. Major General Ormsby M. Mitchel hoped to take the city by siege, but he knew that as long as Confederate train lines kept the city supplied, it would not fall. James J. Andrews, a civilian scout, approached the general with a plan: he and about 25 men would sneak behind enemy lines dressed as civilians, commandeer a train engine, and race north to Chattanooga, destroying track, telegraph wires, and bridges along the way. The general approved the plan and calls went out for volunteers for ‘Andrew’s Raiders.’ Jacob Parrott was one of them. The men separated into pairs and donned civilian clothing and southern accents as they sped their way south to Marietta, Georgia. All but two of them made it to the city by April 11 and boarded a civilian train propelled by the locomotive General. They planned to steal the train at its scheduled stop in Big Shanty, Georgia, a town with no telegraph office. Now, the steam trains of the mid-nineteenth century were much different than those of today. Few had restaurant cars, and progress was slow – most travelled at only 15 miles per hour on flat ground. Stops were frequent. The General made a regular stop in Big Shanty to let travelers grab a bite to eat. Often, the engine needed more fuel and water as well. As Southern civilians and soldiers emptied out of the train to eat, Andrew’s Raiders began their work. The men had unhitched railcars and commandeered the engine before anyone knew what was happening. The General steamed out of the station as dumbstruck onlookers stared. Only the train conductor, William Allen Fuller, and two other men, gave chase. At first, they simply ran after the train, but after some time, they found a handcar. Unfortunately for the Raiders, progress was slow. Cutting telegraph wires and destroying track and bridges took time, and even with a head start, they couldn’t afford to stop too often. To make matters worse, southbound trains kept the Raiders waiting at train stations. This kept the Raiders from achieving their goal of destroying significant portions of the track. Meanwhile, Fuller kept getting closer. He commandeered the locomotive Texas at Adairsville and ran it backwards to make up ground against the Raiders. Finally, at milepost 116, the General ran out of fuel. All the Raiders abandoned the locomotive and ran. They were all captured within two weeks. Since the Raiders dressed in civilian clothes, they were charged as unlawful combatants and spies. Each of them was court-martialed. Andrews was hung on June 7 and seven others followed suit on the 18. Parrott and his fellow survivors expected to be killed as well. However, the Confederates wanted information first. Young Parrott was severely beaten 110 times in an interrogation. He did not speak a word. After their harsh treatment, the remaining 14 soldiers tried to escape. 8 succeeded. Parrott and five others were recaptured and held in Confederate prisons until March of 1863. Then, they were returned to the Union in a prisoner exchange. That month, Parrott was awarded the first Medal of Honor. Every military member of the ‘Great Locomotive Chase’ also received the medal. The story of Parrott and the other Raiders is commemorated in a 1956 Disney film, ‘The Great Locomotive Chase,’ starring Fess Parker as James Andrews. The film saw only limited box-office success because the story ended with most of the ‘good guys’ being captured, hung, or imprisoned. Fortunately, thousands of men and women like Jacob Parrot have been willing to risk such an ending for the cause of liberty. Questions:
What is America’s highest military award?
Was James Andrews a soldier?
Did Jacob Parrott have to become one of Andrew’s Raiders?
Why were some of the men executed?
Why are their laws against soldiers pretending to be civilians?
Ansel Adams gave the American Wilderness a face. The twentieth-century photographer is best-known for capturing the power and majesty of the Sierras, but his catalog extends to much of the West. A brilliant technical mind, Adams also wrote some of the most influential texts in all of photography. Adams was born on February 20, 1902. By the time he died in 1984, Adams had singlehandedly created the visual legacy of the American National Parks system. Born into a wealthy San Francisco family, Adams spent much of his youth exploring the beaches and dunes of the Golden Gate area. He was a young boy when the great earthquake of 1906 struck and much of San Francisco was destroyed. Adams fell and broke his nose during the earthquake, and the bone set crooked. As a boy, he had trouble fitting in at school, partly because of his nose and partly because of shyness. He was homeschooled by his mother and eventually graduated from a private school with an eighth-grade level education. Despite his low level of formal education, Adams showed great promise as an artist. His first love was music, and he trained seriously to be a concert pianist. And yet, his love of nature, specifically of Yosemite, drew him into the wilderness and away from his instrument. Around 1916, Adams began photographing Yosemite on hiking and climbing trips. Eventually, he would give up piano and instead concentrate solely on photography. In 1919, Adams joined the Sierra Club, a conservation organization that would be a major part of his personal and professional life for decades. It was through the Club that Adams began publishing his first photos. In 1922, his photographs were published in the Sierra Club Bulletin, and in 1928, he had his first one-man exhibition at the Club headquarters in San Francisco. Around this time, Adams began seriously pursuing his photography career. By 1934, he was a member of the Sierra Club board of directors and had gained renown for his photographs of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. While the Great Depression raged, Ansel Adams built a name for himself on both the East and West coasts. He partnered with respected photographers such as Edward Weston and Alfred Stieglitz, and hosted shows throughout the country. Yet like much of the country, Adams also struggled financially. He relied on commercial photography for companies such as AT&T, IBM, and Kodak to pay the bills, and work was not always steady. Adams worked hard even when he could not find good jobs. He was known to work 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, for months at a time. As a result, he produced a huge volume of work, much of it technical in nature. Adams developed a complicated “zone system” that gave photographers more creative power over what their pictures looked like. He also wrote ten manuals on photography that are the most influential books ever written about the topic. At the beginning of Ansel Adams’ career, photography was not considered a ‘fine art.’ Not so when he retired. Due in large part to his efforts, photography became a respected artistic pursuit. For example, he helped establish the first museum department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Today, many art museums have a photography department. In addition to art, Adams was passionate about conservation. As a member of the Sierra Club, he campaigned relentlessly for the preservation of America’s resources, and most especially, of its wilderness areas. One of Adams’ targets was the resort-style management of many national parks, which saw heavy development as tourist attractions in the early 20th century. Yet Ansel Adams did not photograph the American Wilderness for political reasons. As he wrote in 1977, “I know I shall be castigated (a word that means ‘scolded’) by a large group of people today, but I was trained to assume that art related to the elusive quality of beauty and that the purpose of art was concerned with the elevation of the spirit (horrible Victorian notion!!).” In his photographs, he tried to capture not just the appearance, but the spirit, of the wilderness. Ansel Adams died in Monterrey as one of America’s most cherished artists. Today, he is remembered as a uniquely American creative genius, in the company of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Cole. When people think of the American West, they often think of an Ansel Adams masterpiece.
Interesting Questions to Discuss with your Children:
How did Ansel Adams break his nose?
What was Ansel Adams’ first job?
What organization was Ansel Adams a key member of?
What didn’t Ansel Adams like about national park management?
Are wilderness areas important and deserving of protection? Why or why not?
Betsy Ross (born Elizabeth Griscom) was born on January 1, 1752, in Philadelphia. Best known for a legendary claim to the design of the American flag, Ross’ life is typical of that of an American Patriot woman during the Revolutionary War. While there is no evidence to support her as the creator of the Stars and Stripes, her story remains powerful today. Betsy Ross’ young life was eventful. Ross was born the eighth of seventeen children to Quaker parents. Her father, a carpenter, sent her first to a Quaker school and then to an upholsterer to apprentice (learn) in the upholstery trade. Ross was a hard-working woman and sewed mattresses, chair covers, and window blinds for years before she started sewing flags. Ross left her apprenticeship and her family at the age of 21 when she eloped (ran away and married) with John Ross. Because she did not marry within the Quaker faith, she was kicked out of her church and her family. The nation experienced upheaval, excitement, and tragedy throughout the 1770s, and so did Betsy. She and her husband moved to Philadelphia, where they started an upholstery business and attended Christ Church. The Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, just two years after Betsy and John married. John died that same year. Betsy re-married soon after, but her second husband died quickly as well. To support herself, Betsy continued to work as an upholsterer, although times were tough due to fabric shortages. She found employment making and repairing uniforms, tents, and blankets for the Continental Army. During this time, she also sewed flags for the use of Washington’s troops. According to legend, George Washington, Robert Morris, and George Ross paid Betsy a visit in 1776 to request a new flag for the Continental Army. Most people know about George Washington, but few know Robert Morris or George Ross. Morris was a wealthy merchant who financed the American Revolution. George Ross, John Ross’ uncle, signed the Declaration of Independence. All three men played important roles in shaping the United States. The three men wanted a new American flag because until then, the United States had used many different flags. One famous design displays a coiled snake with the words, “Don’t tread on me.” Another is a modification of the Union Jack, the British flag. As the story goes, Washington requested that Ross design a flag with a six-pointed star. She responded by showing him a way to cut a five-pointed star with a single strip of cloth. Hence, the five-pointed star on today’s Stars and Stripes. There is little evidence to back up this account, but we do know that Betsy Ross helped the war effort. She joined the Free Quakers in supporting the Continental Army. After the war, Ross remarried a third time and gave birth to five daughters. Betsy worked into old age and died on January 30, 1836, at the age of 84. She is commemorated today as the legendary designer of the American flag, and as an ordinary American Patriot woman who sacrificed for the cause of Revolution. Interesting Questions to Discuss with your Children:
Why did Betsy get kicked out of the Quaker church?
Harriet Tubman’s image will replace Andrew Jackson’s image on the front of the $20 bill, beginning sometime after 2020. Jackson’s image will move to the back of the bill. During Harriet Tubman’s life, she was hated by the Southern Democrats but loved by the party of Lincoln, the Republicans. Because of the change of the $20 bill, Tubman’s life and meaning has become again a controversial topic for the United States of America.
Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave who risked her life to free others. Born a slave in Maryland, we believe her birth date was 1822, though we are unsure because slaveholders tried to take away any birthday celebrations for slaves. It was believed that if a slave didn’t think she was special, she would follow orders better. Some time in her young adulthood, Tubman escaped and travelled along the Underground Railroad until she made it to Pennsylvania, a free state. After making it to freedom, she returned South numerous times to rescue dozens of slaves.
Escaping from slavery was dangerous, but this did not stop Tubman from returning to the South to rescue more slaves. She travelled on the Underground Railroad. This was a secret system of families, mainly white, who sheltered and fed escaped slaves during the day at their homes, called “stations”. At nighttime, the slaves continued on the “railroad” until they made it to another station, or into the North. Tubman acted as a conductor, a person who led the slaves along the railroad.
Harriet Tubman carried a gun while a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Running away from slavery into the unknown was so terrifying, that some slaves wanted to return to their masters while on the journey to freedom. If a slave started to turn back, Tubman would point the gun at these individuals and threaten to shoot if they returned. Tubman knew the slave master would torture the slave until he found out information where the other runaways were.
Unlike Andrew Jackson who was the founder of the modern Democratic Party, Harriet Tubman was a lifelong Republican, even acting as a spy against the southern slaveholding Democrats during the Civil War (1861-1865). Tubman reportedly had hundreds of intelligence contacts and could easily gain the trust of slaves in the South. In one scouting mission, she became the first woman to command a significant number of American troops in combat. This action freed more slaves than all of her journeys on the Underground Railroad.
Harriet Tubman was a devout Christian and believed she gained her strength and courage to help others from her belief throughout her lifetime. After the Civil War, she helped to found a church and a retirement home. She also fought for woman’s suffrage and fair treatment of black Civil War veterans. Harriet Tubman died in 1913, loved by the North and the slaves she had freed. Questions
What did Harriet Tubman do on the Underground Railroad?
What was Tubman’s experiences with guns?
Which political party was Tubman a part of and why?
What did Tubman believe about her faith?
Is there any irony in the fact that the Obama administration chose Harriet Tubman to replace Andrew Jackson? If so, explain.
John Jay was an American Founding Father and the first Chief Justice of The United States Supreme Court. John Jay was an American hero who championed equality and justice in the United States of America. He was extremely influential in shaping American values and political traditions.
In the late 1600s, the Jay family fled France to escape religious persecution and established a new home in New York, one of the English colonies. In France, everyone had to practice Catholicism, or suffer under the law. This was not the case in New York, where most people were Protestant and the Jays were free to practice their Protestant faith. Peter Jay established a successful fur and timber company, and he and his wife Mary raised ten children. John Jay was Peter and Mary’s sixth child, born on December 12th, 1745. Life was challenging in the 1700s, and three of John Jay’s siblings died before reaching adulthood and two became blind from smallpox.
Jay’s mother taught him until he was eight years old. He was then taught by private tutors including Anglican pastor Pierre Stoupe who had a profound effect on his worldview. In 1760, Jay enrolled in Kings College (now Columbia University) where he received a classical education and studied law. Jay studied the great minds of Western civilization and strove for virtue and wisdom through his studies. After graduating, Jay established his own legal practice and became a prominent and successful lawyer in New York.
In 1774, John Jay married Sarah Livingston, the daughter of the Governor of New Jersey. Their marriage gave Jay important connections to powerful colonial families and marked the start of his career in politics. In the same year, Jay served as a member of the Continental Congress. During the revolutionary period, politicians in the Continental Congress debated whether the colonies should declare independence from Great Britain. As a conservative, John Jay did not support the revolution because he wanted to keep ties with Great Britain. However, Jay changed his position in support of the revolution as Great Britain continued to violate the rights of colonists. Jay returned home after the Continental Congress as the state’s newly appointed Chief Justice and helped to create the state constitution.
One of John Jay’s most important roles during the American Revolution was his job as the minister to Spain. Jay traveled to Spain and convinced the Spanish government to loan the U.S. money for the Revolutionary War. In 1783, after his three years in Spain, Jay traveled to Paris with Benjamin Franklin where they negotiated The Treaty of Paris. This treaty marked the end of the Revolutionary War and independence from Great Britain.
With independence secured, Jay returned to New York and served as Secretary for Foreign affairs under the Articles of Confederation, America’s first governing document. But, Jay thought that the Articles of Confederation were too weak for the challenges facing America. Many other politicians agreed. To help found a stronger government, Jay joined James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in writing The Federalist Papers, which argued in favor of a stronger federal government. After the Constitution was ratified, Jay became the first Chief Justice of the United States.
John Jay played an important role in politics throughout his life and fought tirelessly to promote equality and justice in the United States. Jay was committed to the abolition of slavery. He attempted to legally abolish slavery in New York on three separate occasions and succeeded in doing so in 1799. Jay’s efforts caused New York to gradually emancipate (free) all slaves by his death in 1829.
John Jay died on May 17, 1829 at the age of 83. John Jay was one of the leading figures of his time. He left a lasting impact on The United States of America.
John Jay Quotes: “The wise and the good never form the majority of any large society, and it seldom happens that their measures are uniformly adopted; or that they can always prevent being overborne themselves by the strong and almost never-ceasing union of the wicked and the weak.”
“It is much to be wished that slavery may be abolished. The honour of the States, as well as justice and humanity, in my opinion, loudly call upon them to emancipate these unhappy people. To contend for our own liberty, and to deny that blessing to others, involves an inconsistency not to be excused.”
Interesting Questions to Discuss with your Children:
What caused John Jay’s family to move to from Manhattan to Rye?
Who was responsible for John Jay’s education as a child?
How did John Jay become involved with politics?
What did John Jay think about slavery?
How might have John Jay’s faith influenced his view of slavery?
Henry Ossian Flipper was born a slave in 1856, but he would achieve much by the time of his death in 1940. His life serves as an example of the courage and the challenges African Americans faced during Reconstruction. As the first black man to graduate from West Point and command African-American ‘Buffalo Soldiers,’ Flipper served with distinction. Yet white officers framed him for embezzlement only a few years into his military commission. Not until 1999 was his reputation restored by the United States government. Flipper was born the eldest of five to Isabelle and Festus Flipper in Georgia. His father worked as a shoemaker and carriage-trimmer for a wealthy slave dealer. After the Civil War, the family did as much as they could to better their own lives. As a young man, Flipper attended Atlanta University. There, he earned an appointment to West Point, the United States Military Academy. At West Point, Flipper and his fellow black cadets faced many challenges. White students at the academy regularly mistreated them. For example, Flipper wrote extensively about the many ways that white cadets would bully black students in order to gain the attention and favor of their superiors. Within several years he was the only black cadet who had not left the school. Flipper persevered in part because of his strong commitment to good behavior. After graduating from West Point in 1877, Flipper was given a commission as a second lieutenant. His command was a company of African-American troops in the Western outpost of Fort Sill, Oklahoma. These black frontier troops were called ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ by Native Americans. The Indians thought the hair of the black soldiers resembled buffalo fur. Flipper was the first black officer to command Buffalo Soldiers. According to army records, Flipper served with distinction at Fort Still. In addition to fighting in the Apache Wars and the Victorio Campaign, he contributed to many engineering projects. For example, he developed a system to drain stagnant pools of water that provided breeding grounds for malaria epidemics. In addition, he developed a reputation for honesty and trustworthiness with the local residents. He also started a close friendship with a white woman named Mollie Dwyer. Suddenly, in 1881, Flipper was accused of embezzling over $3,000 worth of commissary funds by Colonel Shafter, his commanding officer. He was arrested and put before a court martial. During the trial, it became clear that there was little evidence to support the allegations. Colonel Shafter repeatedly contradicted his own testimony and many witnesses testified to Flipper’s honesty. Since there was little chance of convicting Flipper of embezzlement, the court introduced a new charge – conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman. Many argue that this charge had more to do with Flipper’s friendship with a white woman than any error he made in keeping track of military funds. He was found guilty and dishonorably discharged. Lieutenant Flipper was crushed by the dismissal. However, he resolved “to go forth into the world and by my subsequent conduct as an honorable man and by my character disprove the charges.” Over the next decades, Flipper worked throughout Mexico and the American Southwest as a civil and mining engineer, translator, surveyor, and cartographer. He became a well-respected Senate foreign relations expert on Mexican relations. Later, Flipper oversaw the planning and construction of the Alaskan railway system. His many achievements left an indelible mark on the West. Despite his continual efforts, Flipper could never get his name cleared by the Army. He tried to enlist again during the Spanish-American War and the first World War, but was denied both times. After attaining old age, he retired to Atlanta and lived with his brother until his death in 1940. Flipper’s death did not signal the end of the battle to reclaim his legacy. Several friends and family members continued to challenge the official narrative, and in 1976, the Army granted him a full pardon. However, his military rank and record would wait until a 1999 pardoning by President Bill Clinton. Today, the U.S. Army gives the Henry O. Flipper Memorial award to the most outstanding cadet at West Point in the areas of leadership, self-discipline, and perseverance. Numerous landmarks and memorials dot the country in his memory. Henry Ossian Flipper paved the way for thousands of black West Point graduates and officers who have served their country nobly. In his conduct in the Army and in the world, he set a fine example for all Americans. Interesting Questions for You to Discuss with Your Children and Students:
Why was it difficult for Flipper and his black friends to succeed at West Point?
Why were black soldiers called ‘Buffalo Soldiers?’
How many years did Flipper serve in the Army?
What were some of Flipper’s achievements after his Army service?
How did Flipper combat racial prejudice? Do you think Flipper chose the best way to combat prejudice against him?
Martha Washington, or “Lady Washington,” as she was later called, was born Martha Dandridge on June 2, 1731. She is best remembered today for her second marriage and her role as America’s first ‘First Lady.’ Yet, most people don’t know that Martha was a widow when she and George Washington were married in 1759. While she enjoyed great wealth throughout her life, Martha Washington also suffered greatly. Today, she stands as an example to all American First Ladies. As with many Virginia colonists, Martha was born into a large family. Yet unlike most women, she learned to read and write, and enjoyed doing so. When she turned 18, she married Daniel Parke Custis. Custis was about 20 years older than Martha, and very rich. They had four children together, but within several years, Daniel Custis and two of their children were dead. At the young age of 25, Martha oversaw 17,500 acres of land, 300 slaves, and numerous investments, alone. In 1759, Martha Custis married a young George Washington. Washington was neither older nor richer than Martha, and most historians think they had a good marriage. The couple lived together in Mount Vernon in Virginia. While they had no children together, they cared for Martha’s two remaining children from her first marriage, Martha (“Patsy”) and John (“Jacky”). Tragically, Patsy died during an epileptic seizure as a teenager. Shortly after Martha’s second marriage, the French and Indian War broke out. George Washington fought on the British side against the French. During the war, Martha oversaw the family’s estates capably. George Washington returned home to her at the end of the conflict. In 1775, the Washingtons were brought away from Mount Vernon once more, this time by the American Revolution. When George Washington was named Commander of the Continental Army, he and Martha began their years of service to the United States of America. Martha would leave her home each winter to live in army camps with George. Even though she preferred a quiet life at home, she entertained the officer’s wives and foreign dignitaries at Valley Forge and other encampments. Her son, Jacky, served in the Continental Army and died of camp fever. At the end of war, the Washingtons retired to Mount Vernon to enjoy some peace. However, not a decade would go by before they were called to duty once again. George Washington was elected President of the United States in 1789, and Martha went with him to New York, the nation’s first capital. There, she mindfully set a precedent for future First Ladies. Despite her private nature, she arranged social events and parties, held public receptions each Friday, and oversaw household affairs. After George Washington’s second term in office was complete, the Washingtons returned to Mount Vernon. There, they lived a peaceful life until George’s death in 1799. George Washington released his slaves upon his death; Martha did not approve of this. She was heartbroken by his death, shut up their bed chamber, and lived on the third floor of their mansion until her death in 1802. Shortly before she died, she burned almost all of her letters to George.
Could Martha read and write?
What was the age difference between Martha and her first husband?
Did Martha have resources before she married George?
Where did Martha spend winters during the Revolutionary War?
Why do you think Martha was an active First Lady, even though she preferred a peaceful life?
Born a free man on May 24 of 1752, Oliver Cromwell (1752 – 1852) is remembered as a distinguished African-American Revolutionary War soldier. He enlisted at the outbreak of war and served for seven full years as a battlefield drummer. In recognition of his outstanding service, George Washington personally sized Cromwell’s discharge papers and awarded him a Badge of Merit. Cromwell is one of many unsung heroes of the American Revolution. Cromwell was born in Black Horse, New Jersey, in a county known for its high percentage of free blacks. He bears the name of a famous British political leader from the 17th century. At a time when many Americans saw no problem with slavery, people living in the area, many of them Quakers, spoke out against the practice. Thus, Cromwell was born into a strong culture of freedom that would eventually earn the entire Delaware Valley the nickname ‘The Cradle of Emancipation.’ In Black Horse, he lived as a farmer and worked among both free blacks and whites. Cromwell’s distinguished military career began in 1776. In that year, he served with General Washington at the Battle of Trenton. Today we remember this battle as the moment when the Continental Army crossed the Delaware River in the heart of winter to surprise the British. Cromwell’s service that night is immortalized in the famous painting, ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware.” Over the next few years, Cromwell served bravely in engagements including Princeton, Monmouth, and the defense of New Jersey. The role of black men in the Continental Army was unclear from the get-go. While many free blacks enlisted at the outbreak of war, Washington was skeptical about the value of their service. He was unsure about the quality of their aid as well as the impact it would have on the morale of white troops. Early in the conflict, the Continental Congress decided to allow those already in the army, such as Cromwell, to re-enlist, while barring further enlistment to blacks. However, as the war dragged on, the Army opened itself to black enlistees. The fine service of Cromwell and his fellow African-American soldiers provided a perfect example of the impact that blacks would have on the Continental Army. Cromwell’s years in the military culminated in the Battle of Yorktown, where he saw the last man die. When the Continental Army disbanded, Washington made a point to personally sign Cromwell’s discharge papers in appreciation. When Cromwell was later interviewed about his military service, he reported a deep affection for General Washington. The battlefield drummer was awarded the Badge of Merit for his dedication and service. Cromwell then returned to New Jersey and resumed farming. He would go on to father seven girls and seven boys, all of whom reached adulthood. Despite his illiteracy, Cromwell successfully petitioned the pensioner’s office and received a pension until his death. It is said that a number of local dignitaries appealed to the office on his behalf, a sign of his community’s appreciation of his service. Today, the Oliver Cromwell Black History Society seeks to encourage the preservation and celebration of African-American history. Cromwell’s former home bears a plaque in his remembrance. His story continues to inspire Americans today.
What was unique about Cromwell’s home county?
What famous painting depicts Oliver Cromwell next to George Washington?
What was the role of black men in the Continental Army?
What did Oliver Cromwell think about George Washington?
Why do you think George Washington was hesitant to accept black volunteers in the Continental Army?
"I absolutely LOVE the critical thinking aspects of the curriculum." Dina, California