Color Us Connected

We have created this blog to encourage conversations, conversations based on respect, honesty and a shared desire to progress beyond our nation’s historical and persisting divisions. We invite you to join in this conversation here, and in your own communities.

Guy is from Tuskegee, Ala., and Amy is from South Berwick, Maine, and this column and our friendship grew out of a decision by the people of our hometowns to form Common Ground – the Tuskegee/South Berwick Sister City project. Initially the column was written by Amy and Karin Hopkins, another writer from Tuskegee. Guy began writing with Color Us Connected several months in. We hope you enjoy the blog. …. Guy Trammell Jr. and Amy Miller

Together we vote. Or so we should.

Voter is interviewed in South Berwick

By Amy Miller

Together we vote. At least this is our hope. That we, Americans, people who pride ourselves on democracy, who thank our veterans for protecting that democracy, who boast of our inalienable rights, will cast a ballot for the people we want to represent us.

South Berwick had local elections last week. Just over 800 ballots were cast out of more than 5,500 names on the voter rolls; that’s less than 15 percent.

And so it was that 214 votes were enough to elect one of the youngest politicians in the country to our town council. Evidently many people left blanks. Thank you to those who voted. Thank you to those willing to run for office, especially at the local level, where an important civic role comes with very little glamour.

But as far as voting, we can do better. And that is why South Berwick and our Sister City of Tuskegee are teaming up on a project called Together We Vote: Two Communities, One Nation.

In honor of the 200th birthdays of both Alabama (Dec. 2019) and Maine (March 2020), we will do 100 interviews in each of our towns asking people whether they think voting is important and whether they have ever faced obstructions to voting. A handful of these interviews will be edited into a video; all 200 will be printed in a booklet, which will include a short history of voting laws in both Alabama and Maine.

Remember, 200 years ago no women and almost no African Americans in this country could vote.

The city of Tuskegee paved the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. After white politicians afraid of losing power redrew the city lines in 1959, a lawsuit challenging the districts went all the way to the Supreme Court. The justices declared that the new districts were illegally drawn to minimize the influence of black voters.

As it happens, Maine has some of the most open voting laws in the country, and apparently did 200 years ago. In 1820, when the state was formed, it was among the five states where African Americans could vote. Today in Maine, we can vote early, by mail, or absentee. We were the first state to allow same-day registration, and we can vote if we are college students here or if we are felons, one of only two states that allow felons in jail to vote.

While it is true that Maine has some of the highest turnout in the country — typically about 10 percent higher than the national average, which is about 60 percent for presidential elections – we still have a ways to go.

Whether we live in Tuskegee or South Berwick, we agree that getting out to vote is central to protecting our democracy. Whether we live in the south or north, are white or black, conservative or liberal, voting is a right we should all take as a responsibility. This is why Common Ground: the Tuskegee/South Berwick Sister City has launched “Together We Vote. Two Communities, One Nation.”

Or we could say: Together We Vote: 36,000 communities, One Nation.

By Guy Trammell Jr.

Together We Vote is a joint project by citizens of South Berwick, Maine, and Tuskegee, Ala. We will gather 200 interviews from everyday people, representing the 200th state birthday celebrations, on why voting matters, and the hindrances to voting. This is an exciting project, especially as we look forward to a year of very important elections.

As we examine voting and elections, here are snippets from Tuskegee’s voting history:

1874 – The Honorable Robert Fulwood Ligon of Tuskegee was elected the Alabama Lt. Governor.

1887 – Tuskegee’s Judge James Edward Cobb was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. He served on committees overseeing education, Native American affairs, railways and canals, and the District of Columbia.

1895 – Tuskegee Institute’s first librarian, Adella Hunt Logan, became Alabama’s first women’s suffrage advocate, working 20 years for a right that excluded herself as a black woman.

1959 – Gomillion versus Lightfoote went to the U.S. Supreme Court, to contest the gerrymander when Tuskegee redrew it’s city limits rejecting all but a handful of the black voters, and keeping all the white voters.

1960 – Tuskegee school teacher, Beulah Crosby Johnson, and Tuskegee dean, Dr. Charles G.  Gomillion, with others, co-founded the Alabama Democratic Conference, an African American political league.

1964 – Tuskegee’s Queen Mother Amelia Boynton-Robinson, as she was known in our region, became the first black woman candidate for Congress from Alabama. Also, Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., and SCLC members composed the Voting Rights Bill draft on her kitchen table in Selma.

1966 – U.S. Navy veteran Samuel Leamon Younge, Jr., of the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League and  the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee became the first black college student killed in the Black Liberation Movement for helping people to register to vote in Macon County, Ala.

1966 – Tuskegee Institute students registered hundreds of new voters to elect U.S. Army Ranger Lucius Amerson as the first black sheriff in the United States.

Adella Hunt Logan wrote:  “Not only is the colored woman awake to reforms that may be hastened by good legislation and wise administration, but where she has the ballot she is reported as using it for the uplift of society and for the advancement of the state”.

Queen Mother Amelia Boynton-Robinson said, “A Voteless People is a Hopeless People.”

Amy and Guy can be contacted at colorusconnected@gmail.com

Have you faced any obstacles to voting?

A sign in Tuskegee in 2017

By Amy Miller

I am nearly certain I have voted in every presidential election since I was 18. I hope I voted in every other election too, but the truth is I can’t remember. At least once, I sent in an absentee ballot because I wasn’t in the state where I was registered. I remember thinking it was a hassle: find out where to get the ballot, order it, mail it in, make sure you get the deadline dates right and then send it in within that time frame.

Never, not once, do I recall having any trouble registering or voting. Never do I remember waiting on line in the rain, or having an exorbitant wait time. I’ve often wished I had the whole day off as a holiday so I didn’t have to come home from work at 6 pm and run to the polls, but mostly I’ve been grateful the polls are open till 8 pm in my town so I don’t have to take vacation time.

I have never carried an ID to the polls, or if I did have one with me, no one ever asked me to show it. Of course in South Berwick I pretty much know everyone working the polls, but even in other states, I have walked in, said my name, watched it get checked off and headed to the voting booths.

Come to think of it, no one I know has ever told me of having problems at the polls. I’ve read about and heard stories on the radio of long lines, people’s names being left off lists, particular ID cards being required. But I’ve never personally talked to anyone who told me these stories.

This Election Day, a few of us in South Berwick interviewed fellow townspeople about voting. As part of Together We Vote, a project of the South Berwick/Tuskegee Sister City relationship, we asked voters at the polls whether they had ever faced any obstructions to voting. We interviewed about 25 people out of the 100 we plan to interview over the coming months. Not one of those people  recalled being stopped or prevented from voting, or even having to climb any hurdles.

This is the great thing about America. We get to vote. At least this is the great thing about the America I live in. For the last 100 years, every American citizen over the required age has had the right to vote. I hope to hear the same from my fellow columnist, Guy, in his column. And I hope to hear the same from the people Together We Vote will interview in Maine. And in Tuskegee.

By Guy Trammell Jr.

Sammy Leamon Younge, Jr. was born November 17, 1944, on the campus of Tuskegee Institute. He became a U.S. Navy veteran and a student at Tuskegee Institute, where he was a leader of the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League.

He helped hundreds of black people around Tuskegee and Macon County, Alabama, to register and vote, and to overcome the obstacles they faced by providing transportation and going with them into the Courthouse. Once, the Registrar drew a knife on Sammy when he complained that people were not being served and were made to wait, which left them only a short time before the office closed for the week.

Racial discrimination by the Registrar was the main obstacle for black voters. Another obstacle was the poll tax, meaning people had to pay paid to vote. Besides paying the first time they voted, they also had to pay for each year they could have voted before they registered.

A voter test, given at the discretion of the Registrar, was also an obstacle. Any question was possible, from how many jelly beans were in a large jar to whether an African elephant is larger than an Indian elephant. The entire process of testing and completing the application was long and tedious.

Now, many organizations and individuals provide transportation at election time. The voting test, poll tax and long wait to register all have been taken away. However, with each state governing its own elections, there are still obstacles that reduce voter turnout.

In our rural area, people shut in because of chronic health challenges are hindered when medical appointments are scheduled on voting day, taking them out of town. The absentee ballot is a solution, but many are unfamiliar with the procedure for using it and how early it must be submitted. This could easily be solved with the availability of election day absentee ballot submission.

Another hindrance is not knowing or remembering the date of the election. Working people especially succumb to this. Alabama’s local and national poll dates are spread across a few months. A simple solution would be a 30-day long election period, instead of 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on only one day. With 30 days, the polls could close at 5 p.m. and eliminate the stress and long lines that people try to avoid.

Sammy Younge was murdered the January after he became old enough to vote, and never was able to vote. It is incumbent on us to both cast our ballot and to follow Sammy’s example by assisting others in exercising their right as fellow citizens. Let’s vote and take a friend!

We lived away from the U.S., and loved it

By Guy Trammell Jr.

By four, I learned left from right. My family left the U.S. so we could live right in Indonesia, where I began school.

The Dutch had colonized the islands and then left, but had not done right by not installing infrastructure such as plumbing, electricity, telephone lines, and other modern amenities.

Tuskegee Institute taught those trades and was chosen to assist. The Tuskegee-Indonesia Project matched my father and other Tuskegee instructors with Indonesian counterparts who would learn the trades and become technicians.

Traveling extensively, my father reached as many areas as possible. On weekends we left by car and boat to see the many sites right on the islands. The Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple and surrounded by jungle, had tall steps and many circular levels with rows of small openings, each holding a statue. At my favorite site, the Monkey Temple, we left banana pieces, and right away large monkeys emerged to eat; finally the babies appeared.

We lived on a dormant volcano overlooking the Java Sea. I slept under a mosquito net and took half a malaria pill daily. I fell in love with rice and the nine varieties of bananas. Rice paddies were just beyond our back yard, and bananas were 75 cents a stalk. We turned them upside down in the corner for guests to enjoy. We held bananas with one hand, peeled them with the other and ate, touching only the peel. Seasons of rain replaced winter. After the rainstorms, we saw women using roadside ditches for bathing and washing clothes.

The humidity caused complaints at home that the cold water, not the hot, was used up, and the water circled down the drain counter-clockwise. Litter was not left on the ground but was immediately transformed into souvenirs for the tourists. I saw a kerosene lamp made from a tuna can.

We left through California and returned right back through New York after visiting 11 countries. Before first grade, I was blessed to ride an Indian elephant and an Egyptian camel; and to see Damascus, Rome, the Eiffel Tower, and the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

The Dutch colonized Indonesia for many years and left them needy and neglected. The Tuskegee-Indonesia Project ended after just five years of activity, and ushered them into the 20th century with the right tools to compete on a global scale. I feel Tuskegee Institute left Indonesia the right way.

By Amy Miller

The first day my husband, our two children and I lived in the Dominican Republic my sister had surgery scheduled back in the US. That day, I dropped my cell phone on the gua gua, the local transport along a 20-mile stretch that claims to have more bananas per acre than anywhere on Earth.

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I spent the day running back and forth to the drivers, explaining what was at stake. They smiled and said they would help. I knew my phone was a goner. A few hours later back at the gua gua depot, a driver nonchalantly handed me my phone.

That was my introduction to Las Galeras, a small fishing village in the Samana Peninsula in the northeast part of the island of Hispañola.
Almost every day I think about the five months we lived there more than a decade ago and wonder how we managed to do it. To pull this off involved serious planning, lonely moments and hours on crowded mini vans to reach the internet. But not for one second do I take for granted that I was able to do this with my 5-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter.

Any trip – whether to Boston or Bangkok, New York or New Zealand – is a reminder of how rutted we are and how far our horizons can broaden. As a result of this journey, my children are now aware that people can buy pineapples off trucks and bread from women walking the beach. They knew before they were old enough to think otherwise that people who look and talk differently can be loving and smart and funny. They know that many people live decent lives without electricity or cars or even indoor plumbing.

A few weeks before our time in the Dominican ended, my husband and I splurged on a night in an all inclusive resort on a small island off the coast of Samana. The captain of the ferry that takes tourists to the hotel kept telling us we were in the wrong place, the public ferry was up the road. That we arrived by public transportation with soiled backpacks made us unlikely guests at the Bahai Principe Cayo Levantado.

We spent the night at the resort eating unlimited food, drinking unlimited drink, and wandering under a full moon along the idyllic, but empty beach outside the resort. Guests had been told, as they are told in all-inclusives around the world—  by the media, their friends, the hotel itself — not to leave the walls of the resort. They are told they might get hurt. Or see poverty.

But after you have lived in a place, after you have gotten to know it’s people, you know better. You come home knowing they will return your phone with a smile.

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Amy and Guy can be reached at colorusconnected@gmail.com

We take a walk through our towns’ histories

By Guy Trammell Jr.

Tuskegee has two great walking trails. The Bartram Trail, in Tuskegee’s National Forest, features the flora and fauna illustrated by English naturalist William Bartram on his travels in the Southeast. The Carver Fitness Trail, beginning at Tuskegee University and ending at the Tuskegee History Center, features tips on leading a healthy lifestyle.

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Now we have the Tuskegee Civil Rights and Historic Trail, featuring personalities, events and organizations from the fight for equal justice in the U.S. This was made possible by the Tuskegee University Archives under the direction of Dana Chandler, with funding from the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.

The 13 markers include one for Tuskegee-born Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, who became the “Mother of the Modern Civil Rights Movement,” and another for Charles G. Gomillion, who sued Tuskegee’s Mayor Richard Lightfoot for redrawing the city limits to exclude all but a handful of eligible colored voters. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1960 in Gomillion v. Lightfoot that “gerrymander” for racial exclusion is illegal.

Also featured is Jessie Parkhurst Guzman, the second Tuskegee Institute archivist after the great sociologist Monroe Nathan Work, who established the Negro Year Book, an expansive variety of material on the African American experience, including lynchings. After Work’s death, Parkhurst Guzman took over chronicling lynchings for the Associated Press. She also was the first African American to run for office in Macon County, in 1954.

Another marker is for William P. Mitchell, who sued the Honorable Edward Johnson, Macon County’s district judge, for excluding Negroes from jury duty. In a county with five colored people for every white eligible juror, 12 white names were in the jury selection box for each colored name. Also, the jury list was recycled, using the same list of white citizens with a few colored names added to appear fair. The U.S. District Court ruled the practice illegal.

Many churches in Tuskegee are honored for opening their doors to strategy-planning meetings on justice and equality in the community, putting them in danger of being fired into by angry Knights of the White Camellia, or mysteriously set on fire in the night.

The Tuskegee Institute Advancement League is honored for their stand on justice. As students, they continued their studies but between classes collected bail money for schoolmates jailed during protests. On weekends and holidays they organized Lowdnes County Alabama’s and the country’s first Black Panther Party to elect blacks to office.

These “scholar activists,” along with other Trail honorees, were fighting not only for their own rights; they believed civil rights are for everyone. Please explore the Trail, then let’s all live its meaning. Let each of us not be satisfied until equality is a reality for everyone.

By Amy Miller

From the point of view of former history teacher Nicole St. Pierre, tracking down the story of South Berwick’s past is about people making connections in the present.

“I think it’s so important that people have a sense of belonging and telling the story of this place and land is a way to make you feel connected and like you belong to this little piece of geography,” St. Pierre says as she begins our drive into the town’s 400-year history.

St. Pierre brings me first to the edge of Vaughn Woods on the banks of the Salmon Falls River. This, she tells me, is where it all began. By “all,” she means the British settling down and calling the area home. The Europeans found fields here that were already cleared and farmed. It must have looked like a gift from God to the Brits, she mentions.

This gift from God, however, reflected a century of Indians being decimated by disease carried by Europeans passing through to fish and explore. The British found the abandoned area perfect for lumbering, and for over 100 years tall ships were built here and sent 10 miles downriver to the Atlantic to travel the world.

After winding through the area of the grist mills and water power stations, we end our tour in today’s downtown. This was village that was settled in the 1800s, when railroads had lured industry off the river and up to one of four train lines that criss-crossed South Berwick. By then the lumber was gone, and the main industry was fabric and shoes.

For about a decade St. Pierre has worked on the town’s Hike Through History, a walking tour created by the Old Berwick Historical Society to introduce all local third graders to our town’s history. Some years students learn about trades, other years about journeys, children or the river.

Now St Pierre wants to create a trail for adults. She envisions an innovative phone app that will make history come alive for visitors as well as locals.

As Maine gets set to celebrate its first Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 14, becoming only one of a handful of states to replace Columbus Day with this acknowledgment of the original inhabitants, St. Pierre recognizes this part of the story is complicated.

But this is, nonetheless, a part of the story and the seeds of our town’s heritage. St. Pierre devotes untold volunteer hours to this work, and if the story of our town’s relationship with Indians is not easy, it is still part of what she sees as the path to connection.

“I just try to be honest with it  — about the betrayals and broken treaties,” St. Pierre said. “I try to just present the facts and to ask where do we go from here. It’s all about connection and these are our stories.”

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Amy and Guy can be reached at colorusconnected@gmail.com

When schools – in Maine and Alabama – only had one room

South Berwick former one-room schoolhouse

By Guy Trammell Jr.

I began school in Semarang, Indonesia, my father being part of the Tuskegee Indonesia Project to assist in installing the country’s infrastructure when Dutch colonization ended. My nursemaid and I walked dirt roads to the one-room schoolhouse where light from the windows illuminated our books. My schoolmates spoke Bahasa Indonesian, and pointing to their arm and mine said “sama sama,” or the same, because we all were brown skinned.

Some 80 years earlier, the 1881 bill establishing a “Normal School for Colored Teachers at Tuskegee” required that graduates teach two years in schools within 20 miles of Tuskegee. Therefore, Booker T. Washington, the first principal, established a schoolhouse on campus that later became Chambliss Children’s House, and other schools followed.

Beginning in 1901, Booker T. Washington, with the Rogers and Anna Jeanes Foundations, established 50 communities around Tuskegee, each with a church, a business and a school. However, by 1910 those schoolhouses were in major disrepair, and both Rogers and Jeanes had died, removing the source of funding.

That year, while speaking at a Chicago YMCA, Washington met Julius Rosenwald, the Jewish owner and president of Sears. They became good friends and partners, creating 5,357 schools and educational buildings across 15 states, educating more than 600,000 colored children.

Addressing racial divisions, it was mandatory for each construction project to raise one-third of the funds locally and one-third through state Boards of Education. This brought harmony to communities, as both races worked in tandem. However, where white schools were in poor condition, these new and better “Rosenwald schools” caused white groups to burn them down.

During my last South Berwick visit, I met Jan, a wonderful and highly knowledgeable historian in nearby Eliot. She guided me through a one-room schoolhouse and showed me other area schoolhouses. Eliot’s school children made an incredible 3D map of the schoolhouse neighborhoods. This was “sama sama” to what happened in Tuskegee.

We recently celebrated the 20-plus Macon County Rosenwald school buildings with a visit by Ciesla Foundation’s Aviva Kempner, who showed her film “Rosenwald,” telling the schools’ story. Alumni of Rosenwald schools attended and shared memories. This is untold history right around us, and as we collaborate locally and get to know schoolhouses in Maine, we can say we are all “sama sama” as we unfold these stories together.

By Amy Miller

The fictional Senator Laneway visits a fictional school in the make-believe town of Winby. All this pretending aside, author Sarah One Jewett was widely known to be writing about the very real one-room schools in her hometown of South Berwick.

After reading “A Native of Winby” about Laneway’s visit to a small country school, I decided to go find some of those one-room schoolhouses Ms. Jewett may have had in mind to inform her 1893 story.

At the turn of the 20th Century, South Berwick had 14 and Maine had 4,000 one-room schoolhouses. Today only a handful remain in operation in Maine, all of them on islands. South Berwick’s scattered district schools closed in the 1920s when the town built Central School for all K through 8th grade students.

I set out amid the changing leaves of fall last week to see the three that still remain standing, two of them now private homes.

Local history buff Norma Keim believes no one who went to one of these schools is still alive. Marie Donahue, who attended the school that is now a residence on Old Mill Road, died in 2007 at age 87, but not before telling Norma stories about her schooldays.

In one of her talks, a four-year-old Marie got lonely after her older brothers and sisters all left for school. So one morning, “Marie disappeared from the house,” according to Norma. “Her mother went to the front door and called for her. The teacher of the school across the street leaned out of the school window and called out, ‘It’s all right, Mrs. Donahue, Marie is here, and she’s doing fine!’” Thus Marie registered herself at school at age 4 and spent most of her life thereafter dedicated to learning, eventually teaching at Berwick Academy.

A mile away, a second former schoolhouse-turned-residence, also unmarked, sits across from the town’s Soldiers’ Monument, for the last 120 years the scene of tributes to South Berwick war veterans.

Farther out of town the old Dunnybrook School remains, a closed-up building that is one of the few remaining one-room schools in the county that has not been made into a home, barn or offices. I ignored the no-trespassing signs and peering in the windows, saw pews and construction material, an indication that someone has dreams of a renovation.

I could imagine a teacher standing before the pews filled with children, just as South Berwick’s most famous writer described it:

On the teacher’s desk, in the little road-side school-house, there was a bunch of Mayflowers, beside a dented and bent brass bell, a small Worcester’s Dictionary without any cover, and a worn morocco-covered Bible. These were placed in an orderly row, and behind them was a small wooden box which held some broken pieces of blackboard crayon. The teacher, whom no timid new scholar could look at boldly, wore her accustomed air of authority and importance. She might have been nineteen years old, – not more, – but for the time being she scorned the frivolities of youth.
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 Guy and Amy can be reached at colorusconnected@gmail.com

This is why we avoid politics…

By Amy Miller

Right from the launch of “Color Us Connected” in March of 2017, my co-columnist and I agreed we would not address politics. The goal of our column, and of the sister city relationship, is to honor differences, recognize similarities and build connections between communities.

Politics would not do this. Our political views would slam doors shut before they were cracked open. Each of us had our ideas and opinions, but recognizing the humanity in each other and our readers was more important than hashing out America’s bombastic partisan politics.

Karin Hopkins of Tuskegee joined me in starting “Color Us Connected.” Our column was readily received by editors at the Tuskegee News and Fosters Daily Democrat. Since then, no editor has told us what to write about, and no editor has sent us back to the drawing board or changed any of our columns.

The idea was to talk about life, ideas, places, and often ourselves from the point of view of … well, a white woman from Maine and a black woman from Tuskegee. Karin wrote for about a year before deciding she needed to give more time to other career and personal demands. In the meantime, she became a friend, a confidante and a treasured co-conspirator in an honest exploration of how our different colored skin affects our worlds.

Now I write with Guy Trammell of Tuskegee, which has brought some subtle changes in focus to the column. With Guy came his point of view as a male and as a history buff. The column now looks more toward the past and how history informs the present. We address lifestyle and culture more and current trends and events less. We offer fewer opinions and tell more personal stories. This can leave me feeling self-indulgent or vulnerable; it’s safer to argue over opinions than to reveal who you are.

What has not changed is our commitment to staying away from directly speaking about politics in the form of parties, candidates or trending political issues. So much in today’s political world has been boiled down to buzz words and litmus tests. We too easily throw people in one box or another once we know their opinions on candidates or trending issues.

But I believe politics is not just about parties and voting but rather that how we vote and what policies we support reflect our values. I believe the policies we and our leaders choose reveal priorities and set our nation on a path for the future. So although we shy away from getting into the political fray, we will at times discuss immigration, education, gender and of course race, issues that come up in politics.

In one column, Guy and I addressed our states’ voting laws and the importance of voting. No matter what attitudes we hold or which politicians we like, we feel comfortable saying that every American has a responsibility to vote. Party politics aside, our nation as a whole needs to protect the right of every American to cast a ballot and be heard.

By Guy Trammell Jr.

Children’s parties were fun, until the dreaded pre-teen parties when music was for dancing, not the fun children’s games. I distinctly remember my father telling me to ask a girl to dance, as he followed me around with his new home movie camera and a bank of lights (remember, he was an electrician). Embarrassment intensified as each girl refused to dance. My only highlight were refreshments: chips, French Onion dip and salted nuts from a can.

In high school we formed the Chess Club, and held parties with chips, dip and nuts. We danced to “Stay in My Corner,” a song that seemed to go on forever.

My grandfather, a postal worker, had the opportunity to become the first African-American postmaster for Wilberforce, Ohio. Instead, he moved the family to Detroit because he refused to party with the new Democratic President. He preferred to “stay in his corner” and party with Abraham Lincoln Republicans.

Alabama’s Dixie Democrats had demanded that everyone “stay in their corner” to party. On May 6, 1870, Alabama Rep. James H. Alston and his pregnant wife were shot in bed at their Tuskegee home because Alston partied with the Republicans.

Later, on Oct. 3, 1870, Reverend Andrew Geary was killed in Tuskegee’s Butler Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church by masked Knights of the White Camellia because he had partied with Republicans.

George tried partying, but was ignored. He didn’t party like a Dixie Democrat. He regrouped, singing a new song: “Segregation Yesterday, Segregation Today, and Segregation Forever!” Topping the charts, George Cornelius Wallace became Alabama’s governor in 1962.

Students formed the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League to get everyone partying, but they couldn’t dance to Dixie Democrat songs. Therefore, in 1965 the League and Lowdnes County, Ala., citizens created their own party, the first ever Black Panther party, welcoming everyone. They partied like freedom and justice were available to all. In 1966, others began Black Panther parties in Southern California, Chicago and began planning one for Tuskegee.

This column doesn’t discuss current parties because there is plenty of commentary available, and we have many more issues to discuss. I believe we can all party together and make a difference, because only together can we have a real party. So let’s get out of our corner, pop in a favorite CD, and don’t forget the chips and French Onion dip. We’ll leave the nuts in their can.

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Amy and Guy can be reached at colorusconnected@gmail.com. Past columns are on line at https://colorusconnected.wordpress.com/

This is where we call home

By Guy Trammell Jr.

I live in Tuskegee, located in east central Alabama. Tuskegee is in Macon County, one of 67 counties in the state. This area was home to the Creek Nation, one of the five “civilized” tribes (Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Seminole).

Civilized meant that they practiced agriculture. One of their largest towns was Atassi, located west of Tuskegee, in LaPlace (now known as Shorter). This is also where the first Methodist minister came to Alabama to establish churches.

Peter McQueen, a Creek leader, built a house in the eastern part of Macon, known as Society Hill. Later a railroad was built there to support a burgeoning pulpwood industry. Peter’s father, James McQueen, lived to be 128 and is buried just outside Tuskegee Institute, in the Franklin community.

When Andrew Jackson’s troops defeated the Creeks in 1814, the Creek land that became Macon County was ceded to Alabama. This is when the state attained its current shape. The county was much larger until 1866, when part of Macon land was divided to form Lee, Bullock and Elmore counties.

During the Civil War, Notasulga, Macon’s second largest town after Tuskegee, had one of only two Conscription Camps in Alabama where Confederate soldiers were enlisted and trained.

Macon County has the only National Forest completely contained in one county. This is where renowned naturalist and illustrator William Bartram traveled and recorded both wildlife and the Creek culture in the 1770s.

Blacks had long been a majority in the county, however from the 1940s and beginning in the 1940s they focused on voter registration. The threat of black elected officials disturbed the conservative portion of the local white community, which prompted an unusual response. In 1957, state Sen. Sam Englehardt drafted a Constitutional amendment to demolish Macon County, even though he lived in Shorter.

In a statewide election, Amendment 132 was adopted into the Alabama Constitution, making Macon the only county in the state set for demolition. The vote was 43,328 in favor and 31,993 opposed to splitting the lands of the county among the surrounding counties. However, the demolition never took place because none of the surrounding counties wanted those “trouble-making Negroes” in their citizenry.

We live on land that was taken from the Creek Nation and almost had it taken from our forefathers (and mothers), but we are holding tight to keep it because we think it is someplace special, along with the wonderful people who choose to live, work and go to school here.

By Amy Miller

When people ask you where you are from — ignoring the annoying rejoinder of “do you mean where was I born or where am I living?” — you have several options for how you locate yourself.

I love to say I’m from Maine. People rarely have anything bad to say about Maine, unless you count that it’s cold here. Maine has lobsters and coastlines, potatoes, blueberries and mountains for skiing and hiking. What’s not to like? Its biggest city, Portland, has about 40 percent of the state’s 1.3 million people and the capital city of Augusta has only 18,000 people.

Sometimes I say I’m from southern Maine. Thing is, if you say you are from southern Maine, people north of Portland are apt to decide you are not from the “real Maine.” But from southern Maine, you can get to Boston in an hour or two instead of the six hours it takes from Aroostook County. That northern county is truly the “real Maine,” where the map is divided into townships labelled by number and paved roads are few and far between.

Often, of course, I say I’m from South Berwick, where I have lived for more than two decades. But outside of Maine, few have heard of this town of under 8,000 people, unless they have a cousin who moved here or they are a devotee of 19th century writer Sarah Orne Jewett, who lived and wrote here.

But in fact, South Berwick is one of the oldest towns in Maine. It existed long before Maine became a state in 1820, when we separated from Massachusetts to become an additional non-slave state and balance out the addition of Missouri as a slave state.

Whether I say I am from Maine, or southern Maine or South Berwick, I say it with more than a hint of pride. When I went to summer camp on a lake in Maine as a child, it represented peace and tranquility and a life that I only dreamed could be mine.

I love being from a state that is 80 percent forested, has 3,166 off-shore islands, more than 6,000 lakes and ponds, and more coastline than California.

I am tickled to know we have 75,000 or so moose, even though I have seen only one of them. And I am fascinated by the hoards of hikers who finish their 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail trek on our tallest mountain, the 5,269-foot Katahdin.

I am also proud to live in a state that has one of the few areas east of the Mississippi where skies are truly dark at night. And then, it’s cool to think that each morning when the sun rises over America, it rises first in the most eastern corners of Maine.

Guy and Amy can be reached at colorusconnected@gmail.com