Labor Day, the first Monday in September
Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September. It is a holiday in honor of the workers of the United States of America. In the 1880s, various states and cities began to celebrate workers with parades. Labor Day is typically a celebration of the average city-worker, and was the culmination of a growing labor movement in American cities. It marked the end of a chiefly agrarian society in America and the beginning of a modern one. In 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed the Labor Day legislation into law.
It is challenging to remember life in the United States before the era of industrialization. 90% of Americans grew up and worked on farms before the second half of the 19th century, and up to World War II, most Americans were farmers. Life on a farm is often glamorized, with romantic visions of beautiful sunsets, sweet-smelling grass and corn, and quiet and peace.
In reality, the workday for the typical farmhand in pre-industrial America was tough. My Dad grew up in 1930s and 40s Minnesota, a true Depression-baby farm boy. Starting at the age of 12 until he reached adulthood, he was hired out to a local family each summer to work on their farm. His experience was similar to most boys growing up in farm country, America. He lived in the family’s basement, Monday through Saturday. He awoke before dawn to feed the animals, clean the stalls, and continued to work throughout the day, as long as the sun was up. He did all the work a man would do, from driving tractors to repairing anything that would break. And, his workday was over 12 hours a day. When my Dad earned $1 a day, it was big money. He was able to use his summer earnings to pay for his school clothes, any books, and extra money throughout the school year.
When American society changed from an agrarian society to an industrial one, families faced great challenges, both socially and economically. Whereas before, the family who owned a farm would work altogether, in a city, family members worked in different locations. Where most family farms were independently owned in the 1700s and 1800s, workers in cities didn’t own the businesses they worked in. And, because America was such a huge attraction to foreigners, city life offered a constantly changing society.
In 1800s America, life for a factory worker was challenging. Workers had little or no rights, factories could be physically dangerous, and an evil business owner could get away with horrible acts. Workers could be killed by working in dangerous factories, or they could lose limbs and then be fired from their jobs. Still, the American worker most likely did better than other workers of the world. If this weren’t so, the U.S.A. wouldn’t have been the destination of so many millions of immigrants. The opportunity of America overrode the hardships of life when it came to where people wanted to live.
Because of the harsh work conditions, labor leaders sought to gather workers into unions in order to bargain for worker rights. Initially in the United States and elsewhere, there was great opposition to worker rights both by the government and by business owners. Those in power feared that the workers would take away the power, rights, and property of the business owners. In Russia in 1917, a “Workers Party” called the Communists, did take away the property of individuals and went on to be responsible for the murder of tens of millions of Russians who opposed them.
In the U.S.A., however, the labor movement focused on making the lives of workers better by pushing for an 8 hour workday, safer work conditions, and demanding fair treatment of all workers in every situation. In 1894, railway workers in the American Railway Union demanded better work conditions and went on strike against the Pullman Company. During the strike, the U.S. government attempted to crush the strike, as did other worker’s unions. There was violence, and workers died. It appears this strike helped Americans realize that working conditions needed to drastically change for city workers.
President Cleveland and the U.S. Congress initially opposed the strike, but later realized that the workers’ demands were reasonable. The Pullman Company was forced to change in favor of the workers. In 1894, the U.S. government passed a law declaring the first Monday of September a national holiday to honor workers. Today, this holiday is also celebrated as a seasonal event, with families marking it as the end of summer and beginning of fall.
Lesson Ideas for Grades K-5:
1. Ask children to think of all of the occupations, professions, and jobs they can think of. Make a list of them.
2. During dinner, have an adult in your family talk to the children about what he does every day at work.
Lesson Idea for Grades 6-12:
Direct your children to interview three people (one of them should own his own business) and ask five questions about the work he does. After the three interviews, have your children decide what sounds good about each of the three jobs and what sounds unpleasant. Have a short discussion about what type of work your child could imagine doing.
Here are sample questions for the interview:
a. Can you describe a typical day at work?
b. What is the pay range of someone in your field?
c. What are the highs and lows of your job?
d. What type of education does someone need to have your
e. If you could give me one piece of advice regarding my future
work, what would it be?
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.”
By Adam De Gree
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.
Copyright ©2017 by The Classical Historian. All Rights Reserved. www.classicalhistorian.com
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:
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:
Copyright ©2017 by the Classical Historian. All Rights Reserved.
by Jessica De Gree
Just one day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, men and women worldwide participated in what they called a Women’s March. Marchers protested to raise awareness for a lack of respect of women’s rights. These so called “rights” include the “right” to get an abortion and access to free healthcare, along with respectful treatment of women from men. Protesters wanted to show the world that we should not tolerate hurtful and degrading words to women, such as statements Donald Trump has made. And, protesters also tried to show support for Planned Parenthood, an organization which openly supports and encourages abortions, in stating that they wanted the government to continue to allocate tax monies to the organization.
These marchers equated the ability or choice to abort their pregnancies with women’s rights, a clearly false association. By so doing, many women who regretted their abortions, or who work to help those who seek an abortion find alternatives, were immediately unwelcome. In excluding these women, the Women’s March was much less of a protest for women, and more of a protest for progressivism. Organizers of the Women's March refused to let the voices of all women be heard, contrary to their publicized message, and instead bullied conservative women with their intense exclusivity.
Pro-life groups such as Students for Life of America and New Wave Feminists, after asking to be partners or sponsors of the event, were declined for their pro-life standing. According to the board on the platform, the march’s message of inclusivity and solidarity did not extend to all women. By refusing to include all women in the Women’s March, and only including those who support abortion and believe abortion and other controversial subjects should be funded by tax dollars, the march demonstrates that it really isn’t a march for women, but rather a march for abortion. Whereas many people claim that the march intends to raise awareness for bullying, exclusivity, and poor treatment of women, it clearly only showcases the progressive feminists' views.
In the Woman’s March platform found on their website, the protesters state their intentions of encouraging healthy environments for women in their family. They argue that women should not accept violence towards their bodies in any way. While this is a worthy issue to try to highlight, the rest of the platform underscores this message. The platform calls for the continuation of federal funding to Planned Parenthood, the organization which is responsible for more than 30% of the nation’s abortions, giving 1 in every 8 patients who visit Planned Parenthood an abortion. Clearly, this organization encourages abortions, a violent and harmful choice, instead of less violent and harmful options, such as adoption. So, although the platform initially seems to have a nice message that demands safety and security for women, the specific policies within the platform suggest otherwise.
It seems strange that this event happened right after Trump’s inauguration. If it was truly a Women’s March, if it was a march that highlighted common problems women face and have been facing for a while, why had it not happened sooner? Why had it not happened after Bill Clinton’s scandals and Hillary Clinton's cover-ups? Or after Chris Brown attacked his girlfriend? The march was much more than a march for basic human rights. It was a political scheme directly attacking both Donald Trump’s presidency and Conservative values (both different things).
Whenever there is a natural disaster and politicians use that to help build their appearance, people seem to always be dismayed. They point out that it is wrong to use the victim’s experience to better the politician’s own standings. In the Women's March, the organizers used the abuse of women to push a radical progressive agenda. They turned the emotions women have been holding inside into a political ploy. This abuse of women and of their emotions from real problems contradicts the very end the march was supposed to stand for. It is sad that this march has misled so many people from the ability to actually express their feelings of real hurt and pain.
1. What do the Women's March organizers claim were the goals of the Women's March?
2. When did the Women's March occur?
3. According to Ms. De Gree, what were the real goals of the Women's March?
4. What is your opinion of Ms. De Gree's analysis of the Women's March?
5. Optional Questions: Where did the Women's March occur? Which individuals or orgaanizations provided funding for coordinating and organizing the Women's March?
On January 20, 2017, President-Elect Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States of America. The ceremony where the new president begins his term is called the Inauguration.
Inauguration Day is the federal holiday set aside as the beginning of the new presidential term. The main and only requirement of the day is for the president to take the oath of office, though there are a number of other activities that occur. Originally, Inauguration Day was on March 4th, the day the U.S. Constitution took effect. Since the Twentieth Amendment took effect in 1933, Inauguration Day has been January 20th or 21st, if the 20th falls on a Sunday.
Article Two, Section One, Clause Eight of the Constitution includes the wording of the oath of office:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
The President may substitute the word “affirm” for “swear.” It is believed the Framers of the Constitution included this option because of the Quaker literal interpretation of a passage in the New Testament to not use swear words.
Certain elements of the inaugural ceremony are steeped in tradition but are not a requirement for taking the oath of office. George Washington took the oath of office with his left hand on a Bible, and his right hand raised. After saying the oath, he kissed the Bible. Many presidents after followed this example. John Quincy Adams took the oath with his hand on a book of law. When President Obama took the oath of office in 2013, he uttered the words, “So help me God” at the end. It is believed that President Washington started this tradition, though historians are not sure about it.
After taking the oath of office, the U.S. President gives his speech, the Inaugural Address. The form and words have changed greatly over time. Below are excerpts of a few addresses:
Excerpt from President Washington’s First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789:
Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquility, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally 'conspicuous' in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.
Excerpt from President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865:
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.
Excerpt from President Franklin Roosevelt’s Third Inaugural Address, January 20, 1941:
In the face of great perils never before encountered, our strong purpose is to protect and to perpetuate the integrity of democracy.
For this we muster the spirit of America, and the faith of America.
We do not retreat. We are not content to stand still. As Americans, we go forward, in the service of our country, by the will of God.
Excerpt from President John Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
Excerpt from President Ronald Reagan’s Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981
If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.
Interesting Questions to Discuss with your Kids and Student:
1. What is inauguration day?
2. When does it take place?
3. What did Washington put his left hand on when he took the oath of office?
4. What four words did President Obama utter after he took the oath of office?
5. What is the Inaugural Address?
6. Who is Washington referring to in his Inaugural Address when he states “since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquility?”
7. Paraphrase the following section from Lincoln’s speech: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right,”
8. Paraphrase the following from Roosevelt’s speech: “As Americans, we go forward, in the service of our country, by the will of God.”
9. John F. Kennedy spoke about the challenging of fighting communism in the following quote, “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it.” Based on this quote, what was his intention in this challenge?
10. According to Ronald Reagan, why has America prospered?
Copyright ©2017 by the Classical Historian. All Rights Reserved.
By John De Gree
Fidel Castro, Cuba and the United States of America
On November 25th, 2016, one of the world’s brutal dictators, Fidel Castro, died. Fidel Castro led Cuba as its Communist dictator since 1959. During his 57-year rule, Castro was responsible for the murder, torture, and imprisonment of tens of thousands. Castro’s regime did not allow basic civil rights in Cuba such as the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. In addition, Castro did not allow Cubans to travel outside of the island and ordered his navy to kill those trying to leave by boat. Under Castro, the Cuban navy sank ships and used fire hoses to drown Cubans in the Caribbean Sea trying to escape island by boat.
Cuba, 1492 – 1895
In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the New World for Spain, and Spain quickly colonized much of North and South America. For the next four hundred years, Spain ruled Cuba. As Spanish colonies in the New World revolted in the early 1800s and countries such as Mexico gained independence, Cuba remained loyal. In the mid to late 1800s, Cubans wanted independence from Spain and fought for many years. In the Ten Years’ War (1868-78) Cubans struggled to break away, but Spain kept control of the island.
The United States of America and Cuba, 1895-1959
During the Second War for Independence (1895-98) the United States entered the war on the side of the Cubans, fighting what Americans call the Spanish-American War. The United States defeated Spain, and at the Treaty of Paris it was decided that Spain would surrender Cuba, Puerto Rico, parts of the West Indies, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States. The Americans gave Cuba its independence in 1901, but the U.S. insisted on the right to have a permanent naval base on Cuba (Guantanamo Bay), and claimed the right to militarily intervene in Cuban affairs should there be unrest. Over the next 60 years, the U.S.A. militarily intervened in Cuba on numerous occasions.
Cubans suffered under military dictatorships, and at times, the United States supported Cuban leaders who were undemocratic. Fulgencio Batista (1901-1973) seized power militarily in 1933, was elected Cuban President in 1940, and he made himself rich through his connections as the Cuban President. In 1944, he left office and lived in Florida. While Batista was in Florida, Cuba became unstable and corruption was rampant. The American government supported Batista’s return to power in 1952, and for the next seven years he led Cuba as dictator. Batista did not tolerate anyone going against him, controlled the media, and arrested, tortured and executed those who he believed were Communists. It is not known how many he killed, and the number historians give ranges from 1,000 to 20,000 Cubans.
Cuba, 1959 – Present Day
In 1959, Communist Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro overthrew Batista. The Castro government nationalized (took over) all foreign owned businesses, and eventually took over all businesses owned by Cubans, as well. Communists believe that only the government should own property, and they do not trust businesspeople. Communists are also against religion, and anyone wanting to pray to God in Cuba is punished. In the first few years of the Castro regime, the Cuban government terrorized those who did not obey. Tens of thousands of Cubans were tortured and executed because they did not want to follow the Castro regime. Che Guevara, Castro’s chief enforcer, in response to questions about Castro's firing squads, said, "To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution. And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate."
For the next few years, the U.S.A. tried to get Cuba back into its sphere of influence, but failed. In 1961, President Kennedy approved of a plan to support a group of Cubans to invade Cuba and conquer Castro. Called “The Bay of Pigs Invasion”, it failed miserably. In 1962, America realized that the Soviet Union was building a network of nuclear missile launch sites on Cuba. After a U.S. naval blockade, the Soviet weapons were withdrawn, and the U.S. promised to never invade Cuba, again. From 1962 on, Cuba was allied with the Soviet Union, America’s enemy throughout most of the second half of the 1900s. The Soviet Union gave Cuba money, food, and a great amount of support.
Cuba after the Fall of the Soviet Union
In 1991, the Soviet Union fell apart and could no longer give Cuba subsidies. As a result, Cubans suffer greatly from a lack of food and basic necessities. After 50 years of Communist rule, Cuba has become a poor country run by a government that only cares about itself. The Castro brothers are much older now, but they remain rich, as the average Cuban suffers. Cubans are jailed because they oppose the Castros and the Communists, and some have been executed for their beliefs. Whoever tries to escape Cuba and is caught faces grave danger.
President Obama has changed the United States policy towards Cuba from starving the Castro government to recognizing it as legitimate. President Obama thinks that increased American tourism and business will open up Cuba. Other Americans, like Senator Marco Rubio, argue that doing business with Cuba means helping the Castros stay in power. All foreign money spent in Cuba goes straight to the Communist leaders, so more American business means a richer Communist regime.
The death of Fidel Castro has been met with diverse reactions from leaders in North America.
President Obama wrote, "Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him," in a White House statement.
President-Elect Donald Trump wrote, "The world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation."
It is unclear if the death of Fidel Castro will have a great impact on the lives of Cubans. His brother, 85 year old Raul Castro, is currently the Communist leader of Cuba, and he has so far followed his brother Fidel’s model of repressive leadership.
Interesting Questions You Can Discuss With Your Students and Kids:
The Electoral College and President-Elect Donald Trump
On November 8, 2016, Americans voted Donald Trump as their 45th President. President-Elect Trump captured 290 electoral votes to Secretary Clinton’s 232. It appears that Clinton will win the popular vote by about 400,000, however, Trump won 30 states and Clinton won 19 (Michigan is still counting votes in a close election). Because of Trump’s performance in a majority of states, he captured the Presidency, based on the Electoral College.
The U.S. Constitution and the Electoral College
The American Framers of the Constitution wrote that the President and Vice President are elected through the Electoral College. The Electoral College is an institution, or process. States are given a certain number of “electors,” people who vote for a President and Vice President. The number of electors given to each state depends on how many representatives each state has in Congress. The electors are directed by their state legislators how to vote.
Before 1824, state legislators decided how electors would vote. However, American politicians in the 1820s and 1830s, especially Andrew Jackson, thought that all American citizens should choose the electors. Because of Jackson and others, the people became the main voice in choosing electors, not the politicians. However, Americans still vote by state through the Electoral College.
Why did the Framers Create the Electoral College? Why Didn’t the Framers Establish Direct Democracy to Choose a President?
There are at least two reasons why the Framers created the Electoral College.
1. They wanted proven leaders to decide who should be president, because they thought professional politicians would best understand who should lead the country.
2. They wanted all 13 states to join the United States of America, because the new country could probably not have survived if one or two states did not join. After the Framers wrote the Constitution, it had to be approved by the states to become the law of the land.
Allowing for a representative body, elected by the citizens, to choose a president, was a completely novel and radical idea. The Framers were taking an incredible risk in establishing a republic, and most thought the young United States of America would fail. Never before, in the history of man, had there been a republic established as the United States of America. The Framers wanted the President to be chosen by professional, proven leaders, who had been chosen by the citizens of each state. Their thinking was, “Who could make the best decisions about leaders than leaders themselves?” When the leaders were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, etc., it is easy to understand this logic.
The Framers established the Electoral College also to ensure the states that were lightly populated, or rural, would not be bullied by the more populous states. The lesser-populated states of Vermont or Rhode Island would not have joined the Union if the President were to be democratically chosen. In a democratically chosen election, the interests of the people of Virginia would have dominated the young country, much like the citizens of California and New York would today. The Electoral College ensures a President that is approved over a large and diverse geographical area, not just over one particular kind of people.
How Could America’s Electoral College Change?
There are at least two ways how Americans could change the electoral process.
1. One way is for each state to change how their electors are granted. 2. The other way is for a Constitutional amendment.
For a state to change, it could decide to reward the politician with the percentage of electors that would coincide with the percentage of votes received. For example, in California, Hillary Clinton won 61.5%, Donald Trump won 33.2%, Gary Johnson won 3.2%, Jill Stein won 1.7%, and others won .4% of the vote. California, like most states, currently rewards the winner with all of its electoral votes, which is 55. If the California legislature wanted to, it could reward the electoral votes as a percentage of votes cast. However, the California Democrats (who control the California legislature) are happy with this way of rewarding electors, so California will probably not change how it rewards the winner of the vote in its state.
The second way to change the electoral process is through a Constitutional Amendment, which is detailed in Article V of the Constitution. However, to do this, a large number of states would have to agree to the change, and it is highly unlikely that state legislators, or citizens of each state, would ever agree to this, as it would diminish a state’s power in the Electoral College.
The Electoral College: An Institution of Stability
The United States of America is the world’s oldest Constitutional Republic, and the Electoral College is one of the reasons for its longevity. Only once in America’s history has a Presidential election been a catalyst for war, which was the Civil War, 1861-1865. It can be strongly argued that it wasn’t the election of Lincoln that caused the war, but the issue of slavery. The Electoral College ensures that lesser-populated states are important and not dominated by heavier-populated states. It allows for states to have freedom in deciding how electors are chosen. And it ensures that the United States of America doesn’t become divided by geography or by urban or rural living.
Interesting Questions You Can Ask Your Kids
1. Who won the popular vote and the electoral vote in the 2016 Presidential election?
2. What is the Electoral College?
3. Why did the Framers create the Electoral College?
4. How could Americans change the Electoral College?
5. What is good about the Electoral College
6. What is your opinion of the Electoral College?
By John De Gree of www.classicalhistorian.com Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.
40th Anniversary of the Death of Mao Zedong
Next month marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Mao Zedong. Mao lived from 1893-1976 and is the founder of the People’s Republic of China. From the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 until Mao’s death in 1976, he ruled as the country’s autocrat, or dictator. Mao established communism in China, and is responsible for the murder of 48 – 78 million Chinese. Historians think that Mao is the greatest mass murderer in the history of the world, in terms of number of people killed. As China is the most populous country on Earth, and as Communists are against the ideals of the United States of America, it is important to understand the history of Mao.
Mao grew up in one of the wealthiest families in rural China, was an avid reader, and was interested in politics. When Mao was a young man, Chinese rebels fought the emperor and attempted to change the government of China. China had been ruled by an emperor for centuries, and the rebels wanted to establish a republic. Mao joined the rebel army as a soldier. The leader of the rebels was SunYat-sen. Sun Yat-sen established the Republic of China in 1912. Unfortunately, the Republic of China had many problems and didn’t resemble the United States Republic.
Mao Zedong spent the next few years studying philosophers and history and forming his political philosophy. Mao thought he was smarter than others, and that because of this he believed he didn’t have to follow a moral code. He thought that if his actions produced what he thought was good, it didn’t matter if his actions were bad. His father didn’t respect Mao’s intellectual pursuits and stopped paying for Mao’s schooling.
After graduation, Mao moved to Beijing to work and continue studying under a professor he respected and became active in politics. Mao worked in the university library, and increasingly became interested in the ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marx and Engels had written about communism. According to Communists, everyone should have the same amount of money, receive everything they need, and everyone should serve the state over their family. Communists hated religion, because religious people love God over the state. In 1917, the Communist Party took over in Russia, and Mao started to imagine the same thing happening in China. The Communists in Russia believed that they could do anything they wanted, even murder people, in order to get what they wanted. Russian Communists outlawed religion and murdered tens of millions of people.
Mao Zedong became the leader of the Communist Party of China until his death in 1976. From the 1920s until about 1949, the Communists fought various groups in China for control. On October 1, 1949, Mao founded the People’s Republic of China. Throughout this time, Mao attempted to force China to become the country he imagined. The Communist Chinese outlawed religion, private property, freedom of speech, the right to vote, and other liberties. In order to change China into what he wanted, Mao was involved in the murder of 48 million to 78 million Chinese. We are not exactly sure of the number he killed because of problems involved in record-keeping.
During the Korean War (1950-1953), the Communist North Korea fought the free South Korea, a republic. The United States of America supported the South and China supported the North. At times, Americans were fighting Chinese in Korea. Mao Zedong attempted to establish Communism throughout Korea. In 1953, the war ended with North Korea remaining Communist, and South Korea remaining a free republic. Today, American soldiers still guard South Korea from invasion by North Korea.
Today, over 1.357 billion people are Chinese, and China is still officially a Communist country. In 2016, Chinese enjoy more liberties than when Mao ruled. There are also not the mass murders that existed under Mao. Still, the Communist Party in China has control over all elements of life, Chinese do not get to vote for their leaders, and they are not able to speak or write against the government. Next month marks the 40th year anniversary of the death of one of the most influential persons of the 20th century.
Great Discussion Questions to Ask Your Kids
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
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