Monday, May 6, 2013

Emperor of A, B, C, D (Auxiliary Post)

HERE WE HAVE A SELECTION FROM A HANDOUT I WROTE, BASED ON THE BOOK UP FROM SLAVERY. Young Booker T. Washington has just traveled 500 miles to attend school for the first time at Hampton Institute. At this point in his life he is only a few years removed from a childhood spent in slavery:

After reaching school Washington went to work in more ways than one. He rose daily at 4 a.m., cleaning the school buildings to earn room and board. He was poor and remembered:
...for some time, while I was a student at Hampton, I possessed but a single pair of socks, but when I had worn these till they became soiled, I would wash them at night and hang them by the fire to dry, so that I might wear them again the next morning. 

It was at this school that he saw beds with sheets for the first time. With a touch of humor he described his confusion: 
The first night I slept under both of them, and the second night I slept on top of both of them; but by watching the other boys I learned my lesson in this, and have been trying to follow it ever since and to teach it to others. 

After finishing his education Washington began a career in teaching. This led to a job at Tuskeegee, Alabama. One of his first “school buildings” was little better than a leaky shed:
I recall that during the first months of school that I taught in this building it was in such poor repair that, whenever it rained, one of the older students would very kindly leave his lessons to hold an umbrella over me while I heard the recitations [speeches] of the others.

Washington borrowed money to fix up a hen house and other farm buildings to provide for a growing enrollment.[1]

One day an old black woman came to offer the young teacher help.
She hobbled into the room where I was, leaning on a cane. She was clad [dressed] in rags; but they were clean. She said, “Mr. Washin’ton, God knows I spent de bes’ days of my life in slavery. God knows I’s ignorant an’ poor; but,” she added, “I knows what you an’ Miss Davidson [another teacher] is tryin’ to do. I knows you is tryin’ to make better men an’ women for de coloured race. I ain’t got no money, but I wants you to take dese six eggs, what I’s been savin’ up, an’ I wants you to put dese six eggs into the eddication of dese boys an’ gals.” 

From such small beginnings, Washington built his own college, the famous Tuskeegee Institute.

Even after he became famous Mr. Washington had to walk a racial tightrope. By the time Tuskeegee was well established most Southern states had created a system of strict segregation. On a rail trip through Georgia two northern white ladies invited the college president to sit with them and talk.

Said Washington:
These good ladies were perfectly ignorant [unaware], it seems, of the customs of the South and in the goodness of their hearts insisted that I take a seat with them in their section.[2] After some hesitation I consented [agreed]. I had been there but a few minutes when one of them, without my knowledge, ordered supper to be served to the three of us. This embarrassed me still further. The car was full of white southern men most of whom had their eyes on our party. When I found that supper had been ordered, I tried to contrive [invent] some excuse that would permit me to leave the section, but the ladies insisted that I must eat with them. I finally settled back in my seat with a sigh, and said to myself, “I am in for it now, sure.”
...The meal...seemed the longest one I had ever eaten.

[1] About this time Washington remembered talking to an ex-slave, about sixty years old. He asked about his past: “He said that he had been born in Virginia, and sold into Alabama in 1845. I asked him how many were sold at the time. He said, ‘There were five of us; myself and brother and three mules.’”
[2] That is: the “white” section of the passenger car.

SOMETIMES, IN MY CLASS, WE WOULD TALK ABOUT what happened to Japanese-Americans during World War II. After Pearl Harbor was bombed a hundred thousand people were sent to relocation camps. More than 77,000 were U. S. citizens.

I would remind students, “They had the same rights as you and me.”

Given a chance, thousands of young Japanese-American men later fought under the Stars and Stripes, winning praise for their courage. I felt the story of one soldier summed it up:
Daniel Inoyue was fighting in Italy when he and his men received orders to charge a German position. Inoyue led the way forward, was shot in the stomach, and kept going. A grenade almost blew off his right arm (which was later amputated). Inoyue cut down the German who tossed the grenade, by throwing one of his own left-handed! Then a bullet hit him in the right leg. Still, he kept going, personally destroying two enemy machine guns. Twenty-five German soldiers died in the action—and Inoyue received the Distinguished Service Cross for his courage.

On his way home after the war, however, Captain Inoyue was denied a haircut in a San Francisco barbershop. In uniform, with his battle ribbons and medals clearly displayed—and his empty sleeve pinned up—he was told: WE DON’T SERVE JAPS HERE!


Inoyue was no JAP.

Neither were thousands of others imprisoned during World War II. Sadly, they were Americans, even if others refused to treat them as such.

HERE IS A TYPICAL SCENE FROM A READING BASED ON The Leopard's Spots. I used selections from this sickening book to show how prejudiced many Americans once were. Here we have a poor white girl visiting Tim Shelby. (Dixon, the author, calls him “an animal in human disguise.”) We quote from the novel:
Shelby, a former slave, now [in an era of Reconstruction] controls employment in the local schools. The unfortunate young lady desperately needs money. With rising fear she enters Shelby’s office to discuss a teaching position. Finally, she asks: 
“May I have the place [job] then?”

“Well, now, you know it depends really altogether on my fancy [wishes]. [Tim replies] I'll tell you what I'll do. You’re still full of silly prejudices. I can see that. But if you will overcome them enough to do one thing for me as a test...I’ll give you the place...Will you do it?”

“What is it?” the girl asked, with pale, quivering lips.

“Let me kiss you--once!” he whispered.

With a scream, she sprang past him out of the door, ran like a deer across the lawn, and fell sobbing in her mother’s arms when she reached her home.

In Dixon’s story, it is time for the Ku Klux Klan to ride the following night:
At twelve o’clock two hundred white-robed horses assembled around the old home...where Tim was sleeping. The moon was full and flooded the lawn with silver glory. On those horses sat two hundred white-robed silent men whose close-fitting hood disguises looked like the... helmets of ancient knights.

It was the work of a moment to seize [take hold of] Tim and bind him across a horse’s back. Slowly the grim procession moved to the court-house square.

When the sun rose the next morning the lifeless body of Tim Shelby was dangling from a rope tied to the iron rail of the balcony of the courthouse. His neck was broken and his body was hanging low—scarcely three feet from the ground. His thick lips had been split with a sharp knife, and from his teeth hung this placard [sign]:


This execution does not trouble Dixon. Nor does it seem to him extreme. He applauds such action and any steps necessary to guard against “race-mixing.” Any attempt to place blacks and whites on the same level, he once claimed, was “social dynamite.”

It was race suicide.

IF A GOOD TEACHER DESIRED he or she might compare Dixon's ideas with a selection from a reading on Adolf Hitler. To put this together I had to wade through all the sick pages of Hitler's Mein Kampf.

A sample:

The more Adolf studied the problem the worse the “truth” seemed to be. The Jews were more than a religious group: “They are a race, and what a race!” Jews were “the great masters of the lie,” a “spider...slowly beginning to suck the blood out of the [German] people’s pores.”

Hitler came to believe they were at the root of all social problems. “If you cut even cautiously abscess [boil or infection], you found, like a maggot in a rotting body...a kike [Jew].” The Jews were “incurable tumors,” “as dangerous as the Black Death.”

Given the opportunity “repulsive Jew b------s” would mix with pure German women. They would marry, he warned, and destroy “the racial foundations of our [national] existence and...[ruin] our people for all time.” Hitler insisted that the German people must not allow this. By defending their race from the Jews, he argued, the Germans would be “doing the work of the Lord.” 

IF I WANT STUDENTS TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IMPEACHMENT is about I can have them complete a reading on Watergate.

Here's how my story begins:

If you ask people today what they remember about Richard Nixon’s time in office any good he did is forgotten. The Watergate Affair is what we remember. Nixon is the only president ever driven from the White House before his term was over. His downfall began with a botched burglary at “The Watergate” office building in Washington, D. C. It was there, on June 17, 1972 that a night watchman with a flashlight noticed something odd. The locks on several doors leading into the building and into the headquarters of the National Democratic Party were taped open. Police were called to the scene and five burglars were soon rounded up.

Burglary doesn’t usually make national news; but this was no ordinary break-in. First, the suspects were carrying $1,754 in cash, cameras, and film. They also had sophisticated equipment for tapping telephones and recording conversations. One of the five, James McCord, had worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, the U. S. spy bureau. Stranger still, police found this notation in McCord’s address book:  “Howard E. Hunt, W. House.”

From the start, police were suspicious. Why would burglars want to break into the office of the Democrat Party? And could McCord’s note mean “the” White House? Could these suspects be spying on Democrats because 1972 was an election year?

Who had hired them and turned them loose?

The next day White House staff members spoke to reporters. No one who worked for the president, they said, knew anything about the Watergate break-in. President Nixon shrugged off the matter as a “third-rate burglary.” Then he assured reporters there was no reason for concern.

Everyone, from the president down, seemed surprised.

Almost all were lying.

FINALLY, IN MY HISTORY CLASS WE HAMMERED on the principles set down in the Declaration of Independence. 

I required all my students to memorize the section below and be able to answer the six questions on the unit test for the American Revolution as well as the final.

(We had to start by defining all the words in bold.)

The Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.

                                                  Thomas Jefferson
                                                  July 4, 1776


1. Government gets its power from ____________.

2. If government does not work we have the right to ____________________________.

3. Governments are set up to ______________________.

4. If government works as it should everyone will be treated __________.

5. Certain basic rights cannot be taken away from you by _____________.

6. Government should leave you alone to enjoy ________________________________.


Teachers:  If you find this post interesting contact the author at vilejjv@yahoocom for much more material like it. See, for example, the story I used with my classes:  Women of the Revolution.

****See original post on the curse of standardized testing:  The Emperor of A, B, C and D.

Lynching in American history.
Students were amazed that no one in this crowd seemed horrified.

1 comment:

  1. If you happen to read this post do me a favor and tell me who you are and how you ended up here. As the author (and a retired history teacher) I'm curious about the sources of all the traffic.