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Emma Sanders, History-Making African-American Woman, Dies At 91

July 8, 2020

A well-written and informative obituary is the only way to sum up the one published today for Emma Sanders.  A life well lived and a history-making memory most worthy of a read.

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Mrs. Sanders, an educator who went on to pursue a business career and to be a voice in state politics, was a founding member of Mississippi’s Freedom Democratic Party. Its slate, under the name Freedom Democrats, showed up in Atlantic City to challenge the state’s all-white official delegation, which had been empowered by the regular party organization to help choose a presidential nominee. (It was a foregone conclusion that President Lyndon B. Johnson, seeking a full term after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, would win the nomination.)

The convention was held in Atlantic City in August 1964, near the end of Freedom Summer, a voting-rights effort that had also swept up Ms. Sanders, a great-granddaughter of a slave. She was one of the people who helped organize local citizens and some of the 700 or so young people from the North who flooded Mississippi to help Black citizens surmount Jim Crow-era barriers that had kept their voter registration at 7 percent of those eligible.

In Atlantic City, Democratic leaders were embarrassed by televised hearings, held by the party’s credentials committee, on the issue of segregated delegations and the subsequent standoff between the two from Mississippi.

The party refused to seat the Freedom Democrats and unseat the official delegation, but, weighing in on the matter, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. supported a compromise that, although it left neither side happy, did move the practice of segregation at party conventions closer to the discard bin.

The compromise gave the Freedom Democrats two symbolic at-large slots and required white delegates to sign a pledge that the next delegation would be integrated.

At that, most of the state’s all-white delegation walked out, and the Black delegates filled their vacated seats for a time, leading to a humiliating ruckus when guards tried to remove them.

Officials later banned racial segregation in the delegate selection process; in 1968, the Freedom Democrats, reconstituted as the Loyal Democrats of Mississippi, were seated as the state’s official convention delegation. But the move, coupled with federal civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965, prompted a white backlash against Democratic candidates in the South.

The party’s refusal to seat the Freedom Democrats in 1964 had also split Black activists.

“Never again were we lulled into believing that our task was exposing injustices so that the ‘good’ people of America could eliminate them,” said Bob Moses, a founder of the Freedom Democratic Party and a leader of the civil rights organization the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. “After Atlantic City, our struggle was not for civil rights, but for liberation.”

For Mrs. Sanders’s part, the 1964 controversy made her more determined than ever to keep pushing for change.

“We came back and worked hard to get the Democratic nominee elected, so they could not say we were disloyal to the party,” she was quoted as saying in “Blue Dixie: Awakening the South’s Democratic Majority” (2008) by Mr. Moser. “But the regular Democratic Party was not ready to accept us.”

After suing to place the names of Blacks on the ballot in Mississippi in 1966, she ran for Congress as an independent against John Bell Williams, a segregationist. She lost, but, she said: “We ran strong, and that was a revelation. The year after, in 1967, we were able to elect Blacks in local elections.”

Mrs. Sanders would live to witness great progress on civil rights, but one breakthrough that she had hoped for — the removal of the Confederate battle emblem from Mississippi’s state flag — would not occur until four days after her death.

Trivia: How To Woo A Woman in Early 1700s Boston

July 8, 2020

Oh, how the times have changed.

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While reading Eric Burns’ exceptionally well-written and highly interesting book Infamous Scribblers I came upon this nugget.

Newspapers, as they might be termed in the early 1700s, never had a huge number of subscribers.  For instance, the News-Letter never had over 300 subscribers at any one time.  But the Boston paper did have many readers as copies would be read at taverns, passed to neighbors, mailed to others far removed, and so on.

The paper was twopence a copy and considered a luxury, as people did not yet understand the need to know what they were not aware of in the world.   Which is where Judge Sewall comes into the story.

Since the paper was a luxury he occasionally presented copies of it to the ladies on whom he called.  Oh, do come in and sit by the fire as we absorb the news of this dreamy seaport.  

That offering would morph over time into boxes of candy for ladies who met a gentleman at the door.

Northern Wisconsin Acting “Like One Big Party” During Pandemic

July 8, 2020

Let’s talk COVID-19 and Wisconsin.

Before the heart of the post let us be reminded of the news released on Wednesday concerning the Badger State.  COVID-19 hospitalizations currently number 274, up 37 patients from last week and on the rise in Wisconsin after weeks of stability.   In the last reporting period Wisconsin has 598 new COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile the Wisconsin Hospital Association reports that 28 of the state’s 133 hospitals have a seven-day or less supply of face shields, 42 have a limited supply of goggles, 29 have limited N95 masks, 30 have a limited supply of gowns and 34 hospitals have limited paper medical masks.

So now to the way some of our state residents are responding to science and data.

This photo from the Waushara Argus shows the participants of the First annual Paul Walker Century bike ride.  The paper promoted the link on their site “Waushara Social Cycling and Fitness” so to know more about regularly scheduled rides.   But the photo begs the question about what the term fitness must mean these days.  During a pandemic staying fit means being smart by wearing a mask and self-distancing.

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I spoke with a person who traveled to Northern parts of the state last weekend and while wearing a mask he was told by ‘the locals’ that there was no need for such protections.

This morning while listening to WGN radio from Chicago I heard a caller comment on the attitude of residents in the upper reaches of our state.  He reported people were acting ‘like it is just one big party’ over the past weekend.

What in the blazing hell is wrong with a sizable segment of our state’s citizens? What part of science and data-driven medical advice do our residents not grasp, and what would it take to shake them into reality?

Sadly, with their behavior and lack of reasoning, the answer will arrive.

Once again, education matters!

Stupendous Rainbow Over Madison And Lake Monona

July 7, 2020

On Tuesday evening a series of thunderstorms passed over Southern Wisconsin.  As the rain exited Dane County and the setting sun cast a golden hue to the sky, a phenomenal rainbow lasting nearly ten minutes arced across the eastern sky.  Here are some pictures showcasing its beauty.

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Elvis Presley Gets Prime Placement In The Economist

July 6, 2020

It is always the little things that make for the biggest smiles.

In the first Leaders column in the latest edition of The Economist, dealing with how Joe Biden can use his centrist leanings to not only help elect a Democratic Senate but also help bring forth meaningful legislative changes, came this mention of Elvis Presley.

You can hear Elvis say, ‘Thanka ya. Thanka ya.”

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Angst In Madison Over COVID-19

July 6, 2020

In our nation’s very first newspaper, Publick Occurrences, it was noted in 1704 the smallpox outbreaks were “thought that far more have been sick of it than were visited with it”.  It was also noted, over time, in the early newspapers from around Boston, that with each wave of smallpox there were self-imposed quarantines.  No one doubted the severity of the disease.

In 2020, as we face the ferocity of COVID-19, we are reminded of the anxiety and angst from a disease felt by others long before the idea of our independence had taken root. As I read the opening chapters of Eric Burn’s Infamous Scribblers there was no way not to feel a connection with those who were first dealing with the idea of inoculation against a most dreaded killer.  About 1722, during one of the outbreaks, one of every 10 Bostonians were killed from the disease.

Over the many weeks of conversations with friends in Madison, I have noted what can only be summed up best with the word angst when discussing our pandemic.  Some of that feeling comes with the weight of the headlines.   The vast majority of us are not medical professionals, or scientifically trained.  We read and learn, but the enormity of this virus, and the impact it has on us as individuals and on our society at large, can leave us feeling overwhelmed.

That is only a natural way to feel.   Our car may experience a massive computer failure but we do not have a personal meltdown as we are aware of computers and that the local auto shop can have the vehicle ready for road travel in mere hours.  We do not have that same sense of a certain outcome when pondering COVID-19.

In my conversations with friends, many being educated professionals from a wide swath of backgrounds, I hear an unease about the present situation regarding the virus and its spread.  I hear concern over a lack of national preparedness and those leaders not demonstrating to the public what needs to be done to truly combat the virus.

But what I hear more than anything else is something that borders on anger when it comes to the weeks that most of us ‘hunkered down’ and stayed in our homes so to not only bend the curve of infections, but lower it sharply.  But then giving in to the loudest voices who were bored at home, and unable to drink at their local bar, and not able to shop in brick and mortar establishments elected officials caved and opened up the economy too quickly.   All the work that was done with self-quarantine, and responsible ones wearing masks and urging others to employ the same while also self-distancing, was for nothing.

We are back where we started.

Those feelings are expressed, over and over, in conversation after conversation.

There is also a leeriness heard in conversations about the university students returning to campus this fall in Madison.  I love the energy of campus, the guest lecturers who visit sporadically over a semester, and the activism many of the students participate with in our city.  But I hear concerns about young people not adhering to medical guidelines when it comes to bars and social groups.   Staff at the university have reason to ask how safe they will be, in what one referred to in a conversation, as a ‘large petri dish’.

This pandemic is testing our resolve and this is only the first wave.   The weariness and angst are clearly heard and understood.  Like so much that we have witnessed over the recent years there is no way to predict where we are headed.  We can only hope that reason and logic prevail, or else the virus will cut an even deeper trough of destruction through our nation.

And so it goes.

America Did Not Get What It Needed During July 4th Weekend

July 5, 2020

Throughout the weekend I kept thinking of a line posted on twitter that read, and I paraphrase, ‘how can a president start a war of words with Native Americans on Independence Day weekend’?

The year has been a ragged and weary one for many Americans.  Many lost their jobs, business owners are beset with unforeseen hurdles, the nation is grappling with a renewed effort at dialoguing over racism, untold numbers suffered from COVID-19, and the most troubling and sad of all is many of our fellow citizens died during the pandemic. Clearly what our nation required this weekend was a leader who knew the mood of the land, the angst of a nation, the fear and dread of many, and the wish for something hopeful and uplifting as we venture into the second half of a seemingly overwhelming year.

Rather than a Jeffersonian moment, or a bounce of spirit with Reaganesque language our nation was instead splattered by Donald Trump’s use of the July 4th weekend as an occasion to assail segments of the country that do not support him.

Late Friday night as I was reading The New York Times reporting on the Mount Rushmore performance, I thought of one of our most colorful and dynamic personalities that ever step foot in the White House.   Alice Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter, had once remarked that TR always wanted to be ”the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral”.  He had an enormous dominating personality and often used it for the betterment of the nation.

Trump has such an appetite for being the only noticed one in any setting, but he lacks a serious bearing, gravitas, a genial nature, or any trait that endears him to others.  When given a platform to show what he is all about it becomes clear only one thing matters.  It is always all about him.

This weekend we watched and heard the self-absorbed nature of Trump as he lashed out at the ones around the nation with whom he disagrees.  Using the holiday for his own narrow and partisan aims he missed the higher call from John Adams about the intent of the 4th as a time for the holiday “to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade”.  Instead of a call to the grandeur of our independence, Trump made the event a snarling ‘pick the scab’ moment to open and widen the wounds of a nation.

A true leader, in a time like our nation now finds itself, rises to reach out and comfort, to instill confidence in the citizenry that effective governing will meet the needs of the moment.  With a rich history of the nation to fall back on as a foundation, a real leader could have hit the ball way over the back wall in proclaiming why the citizens should have faith in the future.  A true leader would have made it clear that hope has always been in our view as we press forward.

None of that, however, was stated to the American people.  What this nation needed to hear was never uttered.  It was not only a wasted moment for a nation, but another most-telling moment concerning who, and what, Donald Trump is as a man.

Happy Fourth Of July! (With George Washington)

July 4, 2020

Happy Fourth Of July!

This particular flag is flown only one day each year at our home. I placed it up late last night as the moon shone so brightly over Lake Monona and Madison. The flag was flown over Mount Vernon on 5-8-17.

I urge my readers to better know and understand our Founders through history books and biographies, as I know you will not be disappointed. Have a wonderful Holiday.

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Different Perspective To Honor July 4th

July 2, 2020

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This has been a most unique year, and James keeps reminding me we are only halfway through 2020.  While each July 4th I post about some historical trivia or a commentary on the national holiday I will veer off into a new direction this year given where we are in this nation.

We started off in January with a presidential impeachment process, drifted into a pandemic, careened into a racially charged protest season,  and let us not forget peppered throughout is the election season.  So given this upcoming holiday weekend, I  want us to ponder what the Founding Fathers might ask of us since they have already given so much to this Republic.

When I read of their lives and the period of history which they dominated one of the most obvious aspects that shines out is the enlightened nature of these men.  They did not just wake up smart and conversant in the weighty topics of their day.  They read…and read…and read.

A phrase that has stayed with me from time spent at the Library of Congress is how Thomas Jefferson referred to books as “mental furniture”.   He would bemoan the time required to do other things that removed him from his journey into books.

Famed historian and powerful writer David McCullough expressed how John Adams adored reading.  Along with seeing his family when returning from his many trips, he would also be thrilled to again be reunited with his books.

Such accounts from these men about books and reading could be written about in many paragraphs here, but the lesson we can take from them is that the path to knowledge and furtherance of our ideas starts with education.  And the finest first step is within the pages of a book.

I fully understand the constraints we experience given COVID-19.  Many people are tied much closer to home and perhaps feeling that the summer fun that usually accompanies the 4th has been severely constrained.  I will not pretend otherwise.  But I do offer a remedy for the holiday and a way to honor the Founders who shaped a nation and a system of government that still evolves and thrives.

Almost everyone has a smartphone and book reading apps are numerous.  (I use Libby on my iPad and though most of my reading is done with an actual book, there are times when it is cheaper and easier to get what I want digitally.)   Here are just a couple reading options that I have completed over the years and highly recommend.

George Washington

John Adams

Alexander Hamilton

The Vineyard Of Liberty

American Creation 

American Gospel 

All the answers to our times will not be found in these types of books, but we might all do better with one another going forward if we had more of a foundation of understanding about our history before we called out the next epithet.  Regardless from which side of the road we stand.  If we read more we might just discover we all are on the same road.

Just something to ponder this July 4th.

And thank you to our Founding Fathers!

Herman Cain, No Mask During Tulsa Trump Rally, Has COVID-19

July 2, 2020

Well, well, well.  Who could have predicted that those who were not acting responsibly, given the pandemic, would suffer the results?

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Herman Cain, the former 2012 GOP presidential candidate who attended Trump’s Tulsa rally, has been diagnosed and now hospitalized with Covid-19.  Cain, as co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, was one of Trump’s surrogates at the rally.

The cult-like atmosphere which surrounds so much of the Trump base refused to practice social distancing at the rally and rejected the wearing of masks.

Because of his stupidity, I wonder how many people Cain infected.

Madison Restaurants Do Not Deserve Special Treatment During COVID-19

July 1, 2020

A local person in the Marquette Neighborhood wrote a letter to elected officials in Madison and across Dane County, and made it public on a listserve, trying to argue the following.

The ban on even low-percentage indoor service in restaurants will strip our vibrant city of its unique culture and put many out of business and out of work.

Wow.

I responded and explained why the assertion was ridiculous.

The only way to move forward during this pandemic is to use daily tracking data and follow the professional advice from doctors and scientists. This virus has negatively impacted everyone around our nation.  From the NCAA having dreams dashed, upcoming Broadway stars not standing in the limelight, and so many who graduated from high school and college this year not being properly recognized.  It needs to be stated the restaurant industry in Madison is not any more important, or impacted to any larger degree, then countless others around the nation.

Opening restaurants, regardless of the percentage of capacity, is not the issue if there is not the belief among the citizenry that it is safe to go to such establishments.  And the fact is, it is not safe at this point with this virus.   When there are so many people walking without masks in the city, or congregating and forgoing social distancing, it raises a serious question.  If people are not mindful of their behaviors when not at work why should there be a belief they would be more respectful at their place of employment?

We all have a regard for our favorite places, be it a restaurant or a local symphony, but until the medical data and the advice from professionals allows people to feel safe with some degree of certainty in not becoming infected then it does no good to ask for restaurants to have any more capacity or privileges. 

And so it goes.

Royce Humphrey, From Hancock, Would Have Been 100 Today

June 30, 2020

My dad would have been 100 years old today.    He is pictured below when age 14, in 1934.

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Royce Humphrey, born in Coloma, but living and raising a family in Hancock and serving in local town government for 40 years, died in April 2011.

Royce served honorably in the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater from November 1941 to January 1946. Upon returning stateside Royce drove a truck delivering milk to homes in Waushara County and wedded his sweetheart, Geneva Schwarz in 1947 in Westfield.

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Of all the photos of dad taken over the decades, there is one that I treasure the most. It shows quiet tenderness and joy with simple pleasures.  I have always, on a more personal note, found this picture to my liking as it shows him slim, and I have always shared that trait.

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I was not sure how to honor the day until mid-afternoon.  It was blazing hot and humid but dad always wanted the lawn, and all about the home to be neat and orderly for holidays. We lived in the country and he wanted whoever passed by to see the pride he had for his land.

So with July 4th around the corner, James and I gave our outdoor lawn and gardens ‘the treatment’.  When all was done the lawn was mowed, trimmed, sidewalks were edged. weeded with all the flower beds having a  ‘trough’ around each bed, leaves were blown from the driveway and sidewalks, and all cobwebs swept from outdoor windows and doorframes.

Dad always sat on the picnic table after mowing and mom often brought out a chilled Mountain Dew.   I was raking some compost back under some plants from the monsoon rains this week when I noticed a large green plastic cup of cold water placed on the back porch.

It was a good day of memories and smiles.  The way it should be.

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