The Word of the Day is Nadir: Black History Month

In 1876 Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican, made a deal with the Democrats, that he would end reconstruction if they would let him be President of the United States. In this same year the Supreme Court ruled that only states, not the Fed, could prosecute violations of the Ku Klux Klan Act, a law meant to protect Black people from White violence. States refused to prosecute.

That was a rough year for Black Americans.27state rights

That year facilitated a swift slide back toward the America that existed before the civil war. The difference this time was that a constitutional amendment prevented slavery, so in its place rose up a system, both formal and informal, legal and/or practical, that pushed Black people back away from being considered Americans.

This period, from around 1890 up through the 1940’s, is called the “Nadir”.blacksketches

The Nadir is considered not simply the low point in post slavery American race relations, but more so the low point in the lived experience of Black Americans. this is the time where it was normal for Black people who got “too successful” or even just sassy, to be publicly murdered.

This is the time period that most directly set the table for the racial America we have today. If you want to understand #blacklivesmatter, the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, #oscarsowhite, or  the whys and hows of the Civil rights Movement, you need to first understand the Nadir.IMG_0941

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A Lot of People Know Who Booker T Was, but Most Don’t Appreciate How Bad it Must Have Been: Black History Month

Booker T. Washington gave one of America’s most influential speeches in 1895 at the Cotton States and World Expo. I would paraphrase it this way, “We promise not to try to vote, we will accept an inferior place in society, if the white people will promise to stop killing us.”

No really, that was the gist of his speechwallofruins

It became known as the Atlanta Compromise and was seen as the settling of the American social order regarding race moving into the 1900’s.

Now mind you this is Booker T. Washington, best selling author, president of the Tuskegee Institute, huge fund raiser for Black education and philanthropy, and he is saying “we” will settle for being subjugated because it would be an improvement.

I’m not sure we of today appreciate how bad it must have been for smart ambitious people to see subjugation as the best viable option.vintagemate

Whatever the views of the day, and there were other opinions, this compromise was seen as the rule by those in power. It was the foundation for Southern for the next 50-60 years till a bunch of college kids started agitating.

This is a foundational part of American history.

 

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When a College is Historically White, Then Black, Then White Again: Black History Month

The University of South Carolina was founded by a state charter in 1801 and was the 23rd college founded in the United States. It was only for white people. When South Carolina started the Civil War, the students went off to fight for the South and the school closed, then it was occupied by Northern forces. After the war (1865) it was reopened under South Carolina’s reconstruction government.library reading room

They, the reconstructionists, made the school open to Black people. And it wasn’t just the students. One of the new professors they hired after the war ended was Richard Theodore Greener, America’s first Black professor at any state run flagship university (he was also the first Black person to graduate from Harvard). By 1875 ninety percent of the student body were Black.

When reconstruction was abandoned and democrats retook the state government (1876), they quickly closed the school down. Then in 1880 they reopened the school, but only to White people. After the passing of Brown vs. the Board of Education, which outlawed segregation, USC became the nation’s first college to require an entrance exam. That was 1954. The school did not admit any Black students till 1963.museum

Mind you, Professor Greener (who left the school when the democrats closed it down) graduated Harvard back in 1870, almost 100 years earlier.

History is not a straight line ascending up and up eternally. It weaves a drunkards path, back and forth, forward and back. Forward progress is not, and has never been, natural or inevitable.

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Black History Month: Sometimes Doing the Right Thing is Harder Than it Should Be

In 1791 Robert Carter III decided to free his slaves.

Carter had been part of the royal governor’s council of Virginia under King George, and then later a firm supporter of the Revolution. Carter owned more than 6,500 acres of land and kept more than 500 people in slavery. He was rich, powerful, and influential. He and Thomas Jefferson knew each other well.CIMG0310

When he started freeing his slaves, began paying them wages, and even giving them land, the other white Virginians tarred and feathered Robert Carter and forced him to abandon his plantation and live exiled in Baltimore.

To quell the troubles Carter sold the rest of the slaves to his lawyer for $1, with the understanding that he would quietly finish off the freeing. This lawyer was then severely beaten.CIMG0304

Carter died in 1804 while the freedom of the people he was trying not to own was tied up in court battles. His appeal was granted in 1808. It took 17 years for an owner of private “property” to try to give it away. No one made such a large scale attempt again till the Emancipation Proclamation.

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Black History is American History: it will take more than a month

Pop quiz: In the year 1776 most of the people in South Carolina were:

a) Rich Land Owners

b) Loyal to the English Crown

c) Peasants of Scotch-Irish Descent

d) Blackstate house

The answer is D. By a long shot. If you did not know this, and have not thought through the ramifications of this fact, we still need a Black History Month.

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That One Time I Hung Out With Tyra Banks: My Baby Hairs are On Fleek

So this one Day I get an email saying that this TV show is looking for white fathers of bi-racial daughters. The premise of the  bit is that we oafish Dads may be ill equipped to do the hair of our daughters, especially if they don’t have the same hair types as our collective selves.

That email was well directed.

I had never heard of the show and for good reason- this call was for its very first taping. What I did know was the name of the celebrity headliner, because every boy of my generation knows the name Tyra Banks.IMG_6298To make a long story short, you did not miss our episode. It never aired. Which makes this post exclusive footage, but that isn’t really my point. I will eventually get to some sort of point. Eventually.

So I show up, bi-racial daughter in tow, and I meet a bunch of other guys who are there to play the role of expert hair-doing dads. I am the only oaf. Normal.IMG_6296

Once the cameras got rolling I realized it wasn’t just Tyra but a cast of characters hosting the show including this one woman I know as Mrs. John Legend.

This is the part where I get to my point. Sure I was on a television set with celebrities and producers and such, but I was more interested in this ivy league professor, and academic rock star friend of mine who has a borderline unhealthy obsession with John Legend. The obsession is understandable as John is after all the coolest, smoothest, and arguably smartest crooner alive today, and here I am hob-nobbing with Mr. Legend’s Sports Illustrated cover gracing wife.

I told Chrissy Teigen I was good friends with someone who may be willing to pay me an unreasonable amount of money to somehow, anyhow, make her husband “available.” She admitted there were many people with the same intentions.IMG_6276

My wife is by far the best, I am more Doug Heffernan than Cassanova, and I am not even close to Tony Soprano, so Chrissy and I settled for texting my professor friend a picture of the two of us together.

And of course I had time to do all this because Tyra was working on my little girl’s baby hairs. Then, when it came my turn, they cut to commercial and a crew of actual stylists came in to do what they were sure I could not… make a pony tail.IMG_6274

Perhaps the reason why we didn’t air was my little girl’s hesitation to perform while sitting on Tyra’s lap. Too young to be star struck, she was comfortable enough talking, but Lil Bit refused to look into the camera and say “My baby hairs are on fleek.” She acted all shy and stuff.

Driving home I asked her why she wouldn’t say it. “Did you get scared?”IMG_6301

“No Dad”, said the seven year old, “I don’t know what fleek means. I’m not going to say a word I don’t know on TV.”

I am apparently even more deficient in teaching my children vocabulary than I am in making pony tails.

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Who Left This Guy in Charge?

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Occasionally I am the one who decides some of the things that happen on campus.palmsandarts

And on those occasions… I bring in a food truck.IMG_7623

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