Fisk University

America’s most influential social scientist, one of the smartest Americans ever, was educated at Fisk.front gate

W.E.B. Dubois was not Fisk’s first student, though probably its most notable.  Marion Berry went there too but that is another story and neither of these guys are the point. The point is Fisk.

Only six months after the end of the civil war, during that hopeful time of liberation, a school for freed black people was founded in Nashville. That school still stands and is now a well respected University.

jubilee hall quarter

Fisk has a partnership with Case Western, just in case you want to add a large research institution to your liberal arts degree. Sorry. I’m a father approaching middle age which means my souring sense of humor cannot resist poor punning.

But Fisk really is partnered with Case Western.

chapel inside

admin building


The Hermitage: Home of Andrew Jackson

When I was little I had a children’s book about Andrew Jackson. All I remember of that book is an image of a British soldier raising his saber as if to strike the little boy before him. The little boy, Andrew, had just refused to shine the soldier’s boots and was rewarded with a lifelong scar on his face and arm. That is all I thought I remembered till I drove past the sign that read, “Hermitage next exit”. I cut across two lanes to get off the highway. I apparently remembered that word as well.front door

Visiting historical sites on Wednesday afternoons in winter makes for a semi solitary experience. The visitor center parking lot was nearly empty when I pulled in. It was completely empty by the time I left.

I walked into the center still remembering very little about our country’s 7th president. I know now I remembered so little because that was all I ever knew. I remember the song about a battle using alligators as cannons and I knew he looked a little like an angry version of Albert Einstein, but it wasn’t till then, the moment I walked down a hall flanked by two life sized posters of Black people that it really hit me; of course he owned slaves.

The two posters gave two descriptions, one each, of two people born as slaves to Mr. Jackson, one who stayed on with the family after the civil war, the other fled to Union lines. I though it a bit unusual that these stories would hold such a prominent position, I hadn’t even seen a plaque telling anything of Andrew yet, and I continued on a bit more interested. I was curious about Ol’ Hickory.front columns

Leaving the visitors center I walked across a grassy tree lined walk, and was greeted by a man wearing an old timey trench coat, the kind with a built in two layered cape about the shoulders. He was pleasant and welcoming, opened the front door, and passed me off to an older woman wearing petticoats and a bonnet. She quickly told me no pictures.

This historical home is a bit different than so many others I’ve visited. All the stuff is still there. The tour guides explained that President Jackson’s son sold the home and all its furnishings to a preservation foundation, which still owns it to this day, and thanks to them I could now see the original Parisian wallpaper that tells the pictorial tale of Homer’s Odyssey. I saw Jackson’s riding switch whittled from a sapling that grew at Mt. Vernon, I saw his muzzle loading black powder rifle, and I saw his bedroom slippers set on the floor next to his original bed linens. The place and its furnishings were beautiful, the history felt real and not forced. Preserved rather than presented. I appreciated that.inside

We, myself and the grey haired couple who made up the rest of my tour, were also told a bit about the man.

He joined the continental army at the age of 13. He was orphaned by 15. He passed the bar with little formal education then moved into a little log cabin to scrape out a fortune as a cotton farmer. They mentioned he was shot in the chest during a duel, that he won the battle of New Orleans, was the provisional governor of Florida, and that his wife died just days before he was sworn in as president. Fascinating man.

Once upstairs, while looking at the children’s original bedroom furnishings, yet another guide explained that in this room with one bed lived two little girls along with their maid. This struck me as odd, not the girls sharing a room, but the maid quartering there as well.

“Wait. The maid slept here as well? Who was the maid?”

“The Maid was Hannah. She was a slave.”

“Was that normal? I have been to several other homes where the servants had their own quarters.”

“Well where else would they sleep? She had to be with the young children. She was their nurse.”

“In the other homes they slept upstairs.”

“Like the attic? There is some attic space inn this home but no evidence that any slaves stayed there. It is true that slavery was an unfortunate situation but President Jackson was far more lenient than others of his day. He let them learn to read and do as they pleased. He believed a man should be able to rise as far as his abilities would allow. He let them marry and tried to keep families together. So while slavery was an unfortunate situation Andrew Jackson was far better than so many of his day.”

I wondered at this statement. I was tempted to start googling on my phone right there to see what I could find of his treatments of the slaves, but I didn’t. I could see the guide was agitated. She didn’t like my questions, possibly because she thought I was trying to make Jackson look bad in front of these other tourists, or perhaps she was just uncomfortable with slavery. She spoke quickly enough to prove she was not just uninformed. She had responses from which to draw.

She went on to tell how he grew his wealth on his own, starting as an orphan, then laboring as a lawyer till he had the money to buy a farm. She was obviously very proud of what he had accomplished. I kept the rest of my questions to myself and continued on the tour. I was honestly curious about this place and the man. Unlike my normal self I was not trying to pick a fight or make any points, I was too uninformed. This guide’s demeanor had already told me how she felt about things, I would Google later.slave house

Outside the back porch was a completely different story. Walking through the back door the first thing you see is a small log duplex. Beyond that there were more of the same.

Slave quarters. Recreated, visible, prominent, slave quarters.

A path winds its way back through the property lined with informational plaques, most of which dealt with the people who lived and worked behind the big house. The stories these stations told were not apologetic but rather quite damning. One told the story of Alfred. Alfred was the man who stayed on at the Hermitage after emancipation. Not only did he stay on but is buried in a marked grave right next to Andrew Jackson. Highly unusual. A plaque tells the story of how one day The Jackson children were walking the property with their tutor and came across a forlorn Alfred. They inquired what was the matter and he simply stated, “You white folk sure have an easy life.” The tutor replied that Alfred didn’t have it so bad with a roof over his head, a kind master, and that freedom had its own challenges.

Alfred looked at him and just inquired, “Would you rather be a slave?”

There were a dozen more similar displays throughout the plantation. I have never seen such a thing. Not at Mt. Vernon, Monticello, Montpellier, Roswell, Cliveden, anywhere in Savannah or Charleston, nowhere. What a contrast to the story the woman told me inside. Remarkable.instructions to whip

I have never been to an historic “great” home that presented such a complete picture of life in that time and location. The combination of original furnishings both grand and humble, information both lauding and condemning struck closer to the truth than anywhere I have visited.

What a contrast to the guide who was so bothered by my questions. I wish she would have been more direct rather than protective in her answers.

I think it would be so instructional to consider how remarkable and horrible Andrew Jackson was. It would, could, serve as such a lesson to people like me today. Consider this man. He was obviously more devoted to country than I enlisting in the army at age thirteen. I was a young adult when my country was attacked by terrorists. I did not enlist. This man while fighting a duel stood his ground allowing another man to fire a bullet into his chest, stayed on his feet, and then returned fire killing the man. I will never be that brave. This man with little formal education passed the bar, had the wisdom to not only invest in land but instructed a cotton gin to be built on his own property allowing him to become more self-sufficient in his business. He was smarter than me. This man became president. I will never rise that high. He was better than me.shrine

But this man, better than me, was still capable of ordering that a woman be whipped due to her attitude. This man was willing to kill another man over a disputed horse race. This man was responsible for the national policy of removing a native race of Americans from their homes to desolate and unwelcome reservations. This man valued his personal luxury above the lives of black people.

He was a better man than me and still capable of such horrible things. What a great warning to us today. So sad that we often have to look under the rug to get such a lesson.

Spelman College

My Wife’s best friend went to Spelman. So did Whitley, Dwayne Wayne, and Marissa Tome’…. sorta.arch

It is the HBCU (historically black college or university) version of Wellesley, and also the inspiration for Cosby’s fictional Hilman College in the sitcom Its A Different World.chapel

Founded in 1881, a time when neither women nor Black people were encouraged to pursue higher education. This sort of one-off origin, the kind of historical consolation prize that would lead one to think less of a place, does not apply to Spelman. It lists among the top 50 producers of Fulbright Scholars, second in production of black bacheloriates who go on to med school, and is the Alma Mater of the Dean of Harvard.

It does not to need to prove its bone fides.AKA



morehouse sweatshirt

Why White People Should Learn Black History: Part 2

Because there are so many White Americans that what we/they (white people) think or do automatically affects everyone else.

A lot has been said about our recent presidential election and how the Republicans lost because they had failed to recognize the growing number of minorities in America. These messages are normally coupled with population predictions that tell of a non-white American majority in the not so distant future.

This frightens white people.DalynForMB (3)

It shouldn’t. It shouldn’t really worry the white masses for two reasons: A) because white people will still be the largest single population group by far, and B) so what?

Lets look at A. In the 2010 census, the one from which all these alarming demographic trends derive, white people outnumbered everyone else by 136 million people. Stated another way, if you lump together every non white person in America, there will still be 136 MILLION more white people. The myth of the coming white minority is in fact a myth. There will surely be a day when all the “others” outnumber white people, but that is not the same as being a minority.

Being a minority means being outnumbered or isolated. If you are Vietnamese, it may be possible to find a neighborhood where there are more than three other people sharing your nationality, but really… there will be some white people there too.

If you are Latino, you may find places to live that have thousands upon thousands of Latinos… but there will still be white people. The relevance of this becomes even more apparent if one looks at California, Texas, or Arizona, places with large Latino populations, and do a racial survey of their state governments or national representatives. White people? Yessir.

If you are Latino, Asian, or Black in America, your life will always be affected by the actions of white people… They/we are the majority group.

Now B)… what would be so bad about white people being the minority? Is it assumed that the non-white will automatically begin oppressing the white folks? Perhaps. Do you white people who fear this think that white people oppress minorities now?

If no, then why would you assume “they” will oppress you?

If yes, then isn’t it only fair that “they” get a chance to be on top for once in a thousand years?

Both of these are admittedly problematic statements but they illustrate the point. The point being that if you have reservations about being the new minority, what exactly is it about this that bothers you? Get to the heart of it and deal with that, not some other surface distractions.DalynForMB (8)

Because what the rising minority populations DOES mean, and the recent elections proved, is that minorities can no longer simply be a distraction.

Historically, when we teach or learn of history, minority populations are treated as a distraction. The problem with this, especially when learning history, is that the idea that race, especially African-Americans as a group, is just a distraction or footnote, is factually wrong. It is not true. It is not factual history.

When the majority population get the history wrong, they make poor decisions regarding the future.


BYU: of course

Brigham Young University and I have a history. No, I never attended the school, but you can’t be what I am, from where I am from, without BYU being in your life. Sort of like a cousin, or a not-so-drunk uncle.IMG_9691

Speaking of uncle’s, my niece is a sophomore there. That is not why I went. I went for work.

BYU is a great school. I will even admit it is an absolutely top academic institution. While studying colleges, while I was in college, I realized again how different this school is from every other school in the country and cannot be honestly considered when doing national comparisons. This sign is a prime example of why.IMG_9692The bathrooms is the student union have diaper changing tables. I will wager big money a sign like this has never been posted at any other American college.

Now I am sure plenty of NCAA collegiate football players have children, but at BYU they also have wives (but only one wife per player so don’t start). The school is truly its own kind of bookstore

Last year they won the National championship in rugby. the college rugby team I played for has only beaten BYU once. I played in that game. I cannot take credit for the victory. I didn’t even know we won. I was simply running around confused and battered when a whistle blew and the BYU guys all walked to their van and went home. They did not shake our hands.

Its Okay though… we were very poor winners.



Why White People Should Learn Black History: part 1

It is February again. This month is designated “Black History Month”.

F.A&M.U. Black History Museum
F.A&M.U. Black History Museum

There are those who complain that such a designation exists, some who do so quite loudly. I have yet to hear such loud complaints over National Women’s History Month, Older Americans Month, or Unicef Month; all of which exist. I am sure I do not hear complaints about these designations because the general public simply ignores the specially set aside months, much as they could Black History Month.

To those who do complain I could simply advize that they ignore this designation as well, but I will not. This ability to ignore is why we need the special distinction.

But I say we should not ignore Black History Month, but that we, especially the white “we”, should pay special attention.

Why?gator bait

Because what we perceive, is not always how things really are and how things really are should determine what we should DO.

This is true for so many things, but especially so when it comes to white perceptions of most all things black.

Most all from my generation have been taught, and believe, that racism is wrong. We were taught that thanks to the great Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. the wrongs of Jim Crow were undone and racism was destroyed. It is gone now. Racism is dead. Of course we all have some crazy uncle or cousin who is a little racist, maybe even a lot racist, but he’s crazy so he doesn’t count.

At the same time we are fed modern statistics showing a huge achievement gap between black and white.


F.A&M.U. Black History Museum
F.A&M.U. Black History Museum

Why if racism is dead, do black Americans still lag in education, income, and wealth? The president is black, proving to so many minds that race is no obstacle to achievement, yet the general gap persists. Why is this and how did things get this way?

History holds the answers.

F.A&M.U. Black History Museum
F.A&M.U. Black History Museum

Let’s learn the truth and use it to determine what “We the People” should do next. Let us really dig for the truth, not through TV news or broadcast talking heads, the media is not very good at this game, but maybe read a book or two, talk to some people older than ourselves, whatever it is lets look a little deeper and pay a little more attention.

F.A&M.U. Black History Museum
F.A&M.U. Black History Museum

Because it does matter…

I’m looking at you Ferko String band.