Tag Archives: Union

On this Day … 8/15 ~~ Woodstock


The Woodstock festival opens in Bethel, New York

On this day in 1969, the Woodstock Music Festival opens on a patch of farmland in White Lake, a hamlet in the upstate New York town of Bethel.

Promoters John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield and Michael Lang originally envisioned the festival as a way to raise funds to build a recording studio and rock-and-roll retreat near the town of Woodstock, New York. The longtime artists’ colony was already a home base for Bob Dylan and other musicians. Despite their relative inexperience, the young promoters managed to sign a roster of top acts, including the Jefferson Airplane, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival and many more. Plans for the festival were on the verge of foundering, however, after both Woodstock and the nearby town of Wallkill denied permission to hold the event. Dairy farmer Max Yasgur came to the rescue at the last minute, giving the promoters access to his 600 acres of land in Bethel, some 50 miles from Woodstock.

Early estimates of attendance increased from 50,000 to around 200,000, but by the time the gates opened on Friday, August 15, more than 400,000 people were clamoring to get in. Those without tickets simply walked through gaps in the fences, and the organizers were eventually forced to make the event free of charge. Folk singer and guitarist Richie Havens kicked off the event with a long set, and Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie also performed on Friday night.

Somewhat improbably, the chaotic gathering of half a million young “hippies” lived up to its billing of “Three Days of Peace and Music.” There were surprisingly few incidents of violence on the overcrowded grounds, and a number of musicians performed songs expressing their opposition to the Vietnam War.

Among the many great moments at the Woodstock Music Festival were career-making performances by up-and-coming acts like Santana, Joe Cocker and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; the Who’s early-morning set featuring songs from their classic rock opera “Tommy”; and the closing set by Hendrix, which climaxed with an improvised solo guitar performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Though Woodstock had left its promoters nearly bankrupt, their ownership of the film and recording rights more than compensated for the losses after the release of a hit documentary film in 1970. Later music festivals inspired by Woodstock’s success failed to live up to its standard, and the festival still stands for many as a example of America’s 1960s youth counterculture at its best.

Why the Founder of Mother’s Day Turned Against It : by Sarah Pruitt


a repost

Beginning in the 1850s, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia started Mothers’ Day Work Clubs in order to teach women proper child-care techniques and sanitation methods. In the years following the Civil War, these same clubs became a unifying force for a country ripped apart by conflict. In 1868, Jarvis and other women organized a Mothers Friendship Day, when mothers gathered with former soldiers of both the Union and Confederacy to promote reconciliation. After Ann Reeves Jarvis died in 1905, it was her daughter Anna Jarvis who would work tirelessly to make Mother’s Day a national holiday.

Fairtradeflowers

Anna Jarvis, who had no children of her own, conceived of Mother’s Day as an occasion for honoring the sacrifices individual mothers made for their children.

In May 1908, she organized the first official Mother’s Day events at a church in her hometown of Grafton, West Virginia, as well as at a Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia, where she lived at the time. Jarvis then began writing letters to newspapers and politicians pushing for the adoption of Mother’s Day as an official holiday. By 1912, many other churches, towns and states were holding Mother’s Day celebrations, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association. Her hard-fought campaign paid off in 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Jarvis’ conceived of of Mother’s Day as an intimate occasion—a son or daughter honoring the mother they knew and loved—and not a celebration of all mothers. For this reason, she always stressed the singular “Mother’s” rather than the plural. She soon grew disillusioned, as Mother’s Day almost immediately became centered on the buying and giving of printed cards, flowers, candies and other gifts. Seeking to regain control of the holiday she founded, Jarvis began openly campaigning against those who profited from Mother’s Day, including confectioners, florists and other retailers. She launched numerous lawsuits against groups using the name Mother’s Day, and eventually spent much of her sizeable inheritance on legal fees.

In 1925, when an organization called the American War Mothers used Mother’s Day as an occasion for fundraising and selling carnations, Jarvis crashed their convention in Philadelphia and was arrested for disturbing the peace. Later, she even attacked First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for using Mother’s Day as an occasion to raise money for charity. By the 1940s, Jarvis had disowned the holiday altogether, and even actively lobbied the government to see it removed from the calendar. Her efforts were to no avail, however, as Mother’s Day had taken on a life of its own as a commercial goldmine. Largely destitute, and unable to profit from the massively successful holiday she founded, Jarvis died in 1948 in Philadelphia’s Marshall Square Sanitarium.

The sad history of Mother’s Day founder Anna Jarvis has done nothing to slow down the popularity—and commercialism—of the holiday. According to an annual spending survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend an average of $168.94 on Mother’s Day in 2013, a whopping 11 percent increase from 2012. In total, Mother’s Day spending is expected to reach $20.7 billion this year. In addition to the more traditional gifts (ranging from cards, flowers and candy to clothing and jewelry), the survey showed that an unprecedented 14.1 percent of gift-givers plan to buy their moms high-tech gadgets like smartphones and tablets.

The March on Washington by Linda Lacina …Black History is American History


Slideshow: Inspiring Words From the March on Washington

                                                            image credit: Walter P. Ruther Library

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. made his now legendary “I Have a Dream” speech.

That event on Aug. 28, 1963, drew 200,000 people to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to press for issues that are just as relevant today, including civil liberties and a rise in the minimum wage. This week’s milestone gives us a chance to reacquaint ourselves with the great steps taken at this event as well as the inspiring words spoken and sung on that historic day. Below is a selection of inspiring excerpts from that day’s speeches and performances.

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Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker, the world-renowned singer and actress, had long since adopted France as her homeland and had even joined the French Resistance. Still, she was an active supporter of the American civil rights movement and was the only woman to address the crowd at the National Mall. An excerpt of her remarks is below.

“You know, friends, that I do not lie to you when I tell you I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad. And when I get mad, you know that I open my big mouth. And then look out, ’cause when Josephine opens her mouth, they hear it all over the world.”

John Lewis
John Lewis

John Lewis, currently a U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district, was 23 at the time of the March on Washington and the youngest speaker to come to the podium. He represented the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee as its chairman and was one of the original “big six” organizers of the march. An excerpt is below.

“To those who have said, “Be patient and wait,” we must say that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually but we want to be free now. We are tired. We are tired of being beat by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again, and then you holler ‘Be patient.’ How long can we be patient? We want our freedom and we want it now.”

For a full transcript and audio, visit Open Vault.

Walter P. Reuther

Walter P. Reuther

                                                            image credit: Nate Fine

Walter P. Reuther, the UAW president, was no stranger to the era’s civil rights rallies. He’d accompanied Martin Luther King Jr. to events including one in Alabama where the crowd was doused by the police with fire hoses and King was placed in jail. After the demonstration, Reuther bailed him out.

Many civil rights mobilizers were labor activists and the UAW let planners for the March on Washington work out of its union halls and even paid for the event’s sound system. Below is an excerpt from Reuther’s remarks.

“I am for civil rights, as a matter of human decency, as a matter of common morality. But I am also for civil rights because I believe that freedom is an indivisible value that no one can be free unto himself. And when Bull Connor with his police dogs and fire hoses destroys freedom in Birmingham, he is destroying my freedom in Detroit. And let us keep in mind, since we are the strongest of the free nations of the world, since you cannot make your freedom secure, accepting as we make freedom universal, so all may enjoy its blessings, let us understand that we cannot defend freedom in Berlin, so long as we deny freedom in Birmingham.”

For a full transcript and audio, visit Open Vault.

James Farmer

James Farmer

                                                            image credit: jamesfarmerlectures.umwblogs.org

James Farmer was a prominent activist who organized the first 1961 Freedom Ride for desegregation and founded the Committee for Racial Equality. Like many protesters, Farmer was often arrested for his activist work and could not attend the March on Washington because he had been imprisoned for “disturbing the peace” in Plaquemine, La. In his absence, Floyd McKissick, the National Chairman of the Congress on Racial Equality, read Farmer’s prepared remarks. An excerpt is below.

“By marching on Washington, your trampin’ feet have spoken the message, the message of our struggle in Louisiana. You have given notice of the struggles of our people in Mississippi and Alabama too, and in California, and in New York, and Chicago, and in Brooklyn. You have come from all over the nation, and in one mighty voice, you have spoken to the nation.

You have also spoken to the world. You have said to the world by your presence here, as our successful direct action in numberless citizens has said that in the age of thermal nuclear bombs, violence is outmoded to the solution of the problems of men.”

A full transcript can be found in the archives at The King Center.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez

                                                            image credit: National Archives and Records Administration

Singers Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were both prominent in the Civil Rights movement and performed a number of folk songs at the march. As a solo, Dylan performed his then unreleased Only a Pawn in Their Game, about the assassination of activist Medgar Evans.

Below is an excerpt from “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” performed by Baez and Dylan with its songwriter, Len Chandler.

“Got my hand on the freedom plow
Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on!”

Watch the performance on this compilation video at the 16:30 mark. 

Mahalia Jackson
Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson was considered the greatest gospel singer in the world in her time. She was active in the civil rights movement performing at events that served as percursors to the March on Washington, including the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in 1957 where the above photo was taken. She addressed the crowd at the March on Washington with two songs, “I’ve Been ‘Buked, and I’ve Been Scorned” and “How I Got Over,” an excerpt of which is below.

“Coming from the north, south, east, and west
On their way to a land of rest
Lord, we gonna join the heavenly choir
We gon’ sing and never get tired”

To watch video of the performance, refer to this YouTube video.

Rabbi Joachim Prinz

Rabbi Joachim Prinz

                                                            image credit: American Jewish Archives

Rabbi Joachim Prinz, who arrived in the U.S. after being expelled from Germany by the Nazi Government, became president of the American Jewish Congress and active in civil rights issues. He was a founding leader of the March on Washington and one of several religious leaders to speak at the Lincoln Memorial that day. He spoke just minutes before Martin Luther King Jr. took the podium. An excerpt is below.

“As Jews, we recall our own history of slavery, our own experience of life in the ghetto. Like the Negro, we learned that a proclamation of emancipation was not enough.To know freedom, we had to free ourselves. To enjoy the blessings of liberty we had to liberate ourselves.”

A full transcript can be read in the archives of The King Center. 

Eva Jessye Choir
Eva Jessye Choir

Eva Jessye was a composer and conductor who worked for Gertrude Stein and was the music director for George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. She used spirituals often in her work including at the March on Washington. An excerpt of the song Freedom that she and her choir performed that day is below.

[Chorus] Freedom is a thing worth singing about
Spread the message far and near

[Chorus] Freedom is a thing worth shouting about
The time is now. The place is here.

An excerpt of the perfomance can be seen on this complilation video at the 21:45 mark. 

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

                                                            image credit: Jeff Singer

Martin Luther King Jr. was a clergyman and civil rights leader who supported non-violent activism. Versions of his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington had been presented at other rallies, including one in Detroit just two months earlier. However, a prompting by Mahalia Jackson to “Tell them about the dream!” encouraged King to shift from his prepared remarks, contributing to what is arguably one of the most famous speeches in American history. An excerpt is below.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.”

For a full transcript of the speech and audio, refer to Open Vault.

Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin was instrumental in pulling together in less than eight weeks one of the largest protest marches of its time. His remarks at the March on Washington listed the event’s demands, such as school desegregation and a ban on housing discrimination, a list that would later be brought to President John F. Kennedy. Below is an excerpt of the pledge he asked event-goers to make to carry the movement’s momentum to their hometowns.

“I pledge that I will not relax until victory is won. I pledge that I will join and support all actions undertaken in good faith in accord with the time-honored Democratic tradition of non-violent protest, of peaceful assembly, and petition, and of redress through the courts and the legislative process.”

Refer to Open Vault for audio and a complete transcript of the speech.

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

Mays was the president of Morehouse College and a mentor to Martin Luther King Jr. He was also a minister and read the benediction, or blessing, at the event’s closing. An excerpt is below.

“In peace and in war thou hast blessed America as the nations of the earth look to the United States for moral and democratic leadership. May we not fail them, nor thee. Please God, in this moment of crisis and indecision give the United States wisdom, give her courage, give her faith to meet the challenge of this hour. Guide, teach, sustain and bless the United States, and help the weary travelers to overcome, someday soon. Amen.”

A complete transcript of the benediction can be found on Open Vault. 

Black History Month

5 Things You May Not Know About Lincoln, Slavery and Emancipation – Sarah Pruitt


slavery29.8MillionSeptember 22 marks the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, in which he declared that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in states in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
To commemorate the occasion, we invite you to consider some surprising facts about Lincoln’s views on slavery, and the complex process that led him to issue the document he later called “the central act of my administration, and the greatest event of the 19th century.
Depiction by Francis Bicknell Carpenter of Abraham Lincoln’s first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, in July 1862. It hangs in the U.S. Capitol.

1. Lincoln wasn’t an abolitionist.  Lincoln did believe that slavery was morally wrong, but there was one big problem: It was sanctioned by the highest law in the land, the Constitution. The nation’s founding fathers, who also struggled with how to address slavery, did not explicitly write the word “slavery” in the Constitution, but they did include key clauses protecting the institution, including a fugitive slave clause and the three-fifths clause, which allowed Southern states to count slaves for the purposes of representation in the federal government. In a three-hour speech in Peoria, Illinois, in the fall of 1854, Lincoln presented more clearly than ever his moral, legal and economic opposition to slavery—and then admitted he didn’t know exactly what should be done about it within the current political system.

Abolitionists, by contrast, knew exactly what should be done about it: Slavery should be immediately abolished, and freed slaves should be incorporated as equal members of society. They didn’t care about working within the existing political system, or under the Constitution, which they saw as unjustly protecting slavery and slave owners. Leading abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison called the Constitution “a covenant with death and an agreement with Hell,” and went so far as to burn a copy at a Massachusetts rally in 1854. Though Lincoln saw himself as working alongside the abolitionists on behalf of a common anti-slavery cause, he did not count himself among them. Only with emancipation, and with his support of the eventual 13th Amendment, would Lincoln finally win over the most committed abolitionists.

2. Lincoln didn’t believe blacks should have the same rights as whites. Though Lincoln argued that the founding fathers’ phrase “All men are created equal” applied to blacks and whites alike, this did not mean he thought they should have the same social and political rights. His views became clear during an 1858 series of debates with his opponent in the Illinois race for U.S. Senate, Stephen Douglas, who had accused him of supporting “negro equality.” In their fourth debate, at Charleston, Illinois, on September 18, 1858, Lincoln made his position clear. “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,” he began, going on to say that he opposed blacks having the right to vote, to serve on juries, to hold office and to intermarry with whites. What he did believe was that, like all men, blacks had the right to improve their condition in society and to enjoy the fruits of their labor. In this way they were equal to white men, and for this reason slavery was inherently unjust.

Like his views on emancipation, Lincoln’s position on social and political equality for African-Americans would evolve over the course of his presidency. In the last speech of his life, delivered on April 11, 1865, he argued for limited black suffrage, saying that any black man who had served the Union during the Civil War should have the right to vote.

3. Lincoln thought colonization could resolve the issue of slavery.  For much of his career, Lincoln believed that colonization—or the idea that a majority of the African-American population should leave the United States and settle in Africa or Central America—was the best way to confront the problem of slavery. His two great political heroes, Henry Clay and Thomas Jefferson, had both favored colonization; both were slave owners who took issue with aspects of slavery but saw no way that blacks and whites could live together peaceably. Lincoln first publicly advocated for colonization in 1852, and in 1854 said that his first instinct would be “to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia” (the African state founded by the American Colonization Society in 1821).

Nearly a decade later, even as he edited the draft of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in August of 1862, Lincoln hosted a delegation of freed slaves at the White House in the hopes of getting their support on a plan for colonization in Central America. Given the “differences” between the two races and the hostile attitudes of whites towards blacks, Lincoln argued, it would be “better for us both, therefore, to be separated.” Lincoln’s support of colonization provoked great anger among black leaders and abolitionists, who argued that African-Americans were as much natives of the country as whites, and thus deserved the same rights. After he issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln never again publicly mentioned colonization, and a mention of it in an earlier draft was deleted by the time the final proclamation was issued in January 1863.

4. Emancipation was a military policy.  As much as he hated the institution of slavery, Lincoln didn’t see the Civil War as a struggle to free the nation’s 4 million slaves from bondage. Emancipation, when it came, would have to be gradual, and the important thing to do was to prevent the Southern rebellion from severing the Union permanently in two. But as the Civil War entered its second summer in 1862, thousands of slaves had fled Southern plantations to Union lines, and the federal government didn’t have a clear policy on how to deal with them. Emancipation, Lincoln saw, would further undermine the Confederacy while providing the Union with a new source of manpower to crush the rebellion.

In July 1862 the president presented his draft of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet. Secretary of State William Seward urged him to wait until things were going better for the Union on the field of battle, or emancipation might look like the last gasp of a nation on the brink of defeat. Lincoln agreed and returned to edit the draft over the summer. On September 17 the bloody Battle of Antietam gave Lincoln the opportunity he needed. He issued the preliminary proclamation to his cabinet on September 22, and it was published the following day. As a cheering crowd gathered at the White House, Lincoln addressed them from a balcony: “I can only trust in God I have made no mistake … It is now for the country and the world to pass judgment on it.”

5. The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t actually free all of the slaves. Since Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation as a military measure, it didn’t apply to border slave states like Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, all of which had remained loyal to the Union. Lincoln also exempted selected areas of the Confederacy that had already come under Union control in hopes of gaining the loyalty of whites in those states. In practice, then, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t immediately free a single slave, as the only places it applied were places where the federal government had no control—the Southern states currently fighting against the Union.

Despite its limitations, Lincoln’s proclamation marked a crucial turning point in the evolution of Lincoln’s views of slavery, as well as a turning point in the Civil War itself. By war’s end, some 200,000 black men would serve in the Union Army and Navy, striking a mortal blow against the institution of slavery and paving the way for its eventual abolition by the 13th Amendment.

Black History Month

“Jim Foley’s Life Stands in Stark Contrast to His Killers”


 

“Jim Foley’s Life Stands in Stark Contrast to His Killers”

 

~ President Barack Obama