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

Advertisement

The Jan 6 hearings tell stories of violence (June 2022)

By Guy Trammell Jr

In the 1963 court case Lee v. Macon County Board of Education, U.S. District Judge Frank Johnson ordered Macon County schools to desegregate after Anthony Lee, the Black teenager for whom the case was named, and 12 of his Black schoolmates attempted to integrate the all-white Tuskegee High School. Johnson’s ruling ultimately caused every public school in Alabama to integrate. However, it also caused a third-grader attending school in Notasulga, just north of Tuskegee, to see his school bus on the TV news each night. His parents, who received threatening phone calls, sent his older sister away to school for her protection. The Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in his yard. The 8-year-old boy didn’t understand what was going on.

The Congressional hearings on the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol building reveal the disgusting, shocking and unlawful behavior of a deadly mob of people that destroyed public property, defecated in the halls, and caused people to be maimed and even die. Many of those from the assault went partying in town that evening and returned the next day as tourists, as if they had done nothing wrong.

However, the chilling truth from the hearings reveals a much more sinister plot by the president of the United States to retain power at any cost. A telling episode concerned a former Trump campaign worker assigned to the president’s Secret Service detail. On Jan. 6, Vice President Pence was hustled to the armored motorcade garage in the Capitol, but he refused to get into the Secret Service car. The president’s guard called the vice president’s chief of security, urging that Pence be placed in the car and driven away, but was told “No!” because the plan allegedly was to “fly Pence off to Alaska,” preventing him from certifying the 2020 election and keeping President Trump in office.

On Aug. 28, 1963, roughly 250,000 people arrived in Washington D.C. to join the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a demonstration in support of civil rights for Black Americans. Before the march, then-President John F. Kennedy had 19,000 troops stationed in the D.C. suburbs and ordered extra security for the U.S. Capitol building, expecting Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. to come and take it over. However, the march promoted not violent overthrow or assaults on the government, but the proclaimed tenets of U.S. democracy, the application of liberty and freedom, and the idea that “all men are created equal.”

Wandrea “Shaye” Moss was a Georgia Fulton County election official targeted by Trump, who claimed falsely that she had tampered with the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Trump’s allegation caused her to be attacked on social media, and even her grandmother was assaulted in her home. Her mother, Ruby Freeman, also an election worker, testified: “I’ve lost my name, and I’ve lost my reputation. I’ve lost my sense of security, all because a group of people, starting with Number 45 and his ally Rudy Giuliani, decided to scapegoat me, and my daughter Shaye, to push their own lies about how the presidential election was stolen.”

The Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol building is not an exception to the rule in America; in fact, it shows the underlying fiber of who we are and what we value. Just as during Reconstruction, when both lynching and mob rule were the order of the day, and on Sept. 13, 1926, when the Klan lawfully marched in Washington D.C., the assault reveals the true values at the foundation of our society – as they were in 1963, when the white Notasulga third-grader and his family were attacked for supporting integration.

By Amy Miller

Guy and I generally don’t like to write about politics. We like to address issues without dividing the world into parties or tribes.

Retired federal judge J. Michael Luttig apparently doesn’t like to talk about politics either. Last week, he said in written testimony for the Jan. 6 Congressional hearings that the U.S. is in a “war” over the nation’s democracy, and blamed one particular party, which actually was his own. He told a news interviewer this was probably the only time in his career he has said something political.

In any event, we decided to address the Jan. 6 hearings in our column. It is the biggest national news event right now, and it exemplifies the polarity pulling  our country apart.
.
More than 40 percent of Americans reportedly believe the 2020 elections were not legitimate. If members of the other side believed the elections had been rigged, or fraudulent, or stolen, what would they have done? What actions would they have considered acceptable?

When you believe your side is in the right, and believe it intensely, it’s almost impossible to imagine a flipped scenario.

So, the question remains, what is okay to do when you decide your country – a democracy – is on the brink of extinction? Is it okay to storm the Capitol, to protest violently? To ignore the ruling of the courts? These questions are worth asking because no matter what party or policies you believe in, you may well believe that democracy is threatened right now and that it is your job to protect it.

As our system is set up, if we don’t accept the integrity and findings of our election officials, we can turn to the courts. But if we don’t accept the ruling of the courts, what is left?

The courts get it wrong sometimes. They have freed guilty men and imprisoned innocent ones. They have awarded funding to litigants who in fact don’t deserve it.
They have at times handed down lighter sentences for white-collar criminals than for petty thieves. Our institutions are made up of humans, whose decisions and judgments are influenced by their own backgrounds, experiences and biases.

But when we stop respecting the words and rulings of this system of law, we are left with few alternatives. We can engage in peaceful civil disobedience, risking imprisonment. Or we can resort to violence.

And when that violence determines the direction the country is moving, and who is in charge, we have moved from a democracy into anarchy, oligarchy or dictatorship.

Competition, whether by words or acts, can serve us (June 2022)

By Amy Miller

When my aging father stopped arguing, I knew he was moving on from this life. A voracious reader who was uninterested in small talk, my dad liked to explore every side of an issue, and he embedded the idea in me that few things are as simple as they first appear.

So when I tried to engage my father with comments that would have elicited challenging comebacks and his response was, “Okay, Sweetie,” I knew his ilnlness was preempting his interest in the world around him.

My family has always argued over the finer details of an issue. You could call it competition, because we like to be right and we sometimes argue with heated emotion and even anger. But our underlying goal is usually seeking truth, or at least greater understanding.

So is arguing a competition? I prefer to think not. In a competition, the goal is to win. But unlike sports, winning is not the ultimate aim of a good argument. The aim is to understand, explore, maybe even learn.

The Talmud – the guide to how observant Jews should interpret their Bible – is made up of thousands of pages of rabbis arguing, each with his own interpretation of what the Old Testament asks of Jews.  And rather than come to any conclusions, this work offers up a buffet of options for what the rule book intends. This voluminous work created over centuries during the first millennium AD not only permits but encourages readers to question the written laws.
Argument is a form of showing that you want to engage. It shows that you are seeking answers and truth, and that someone else’s opinion might play into that. It shows that you care to understand them and they to understand you.

These are not new ideas. In the 18th century, French moralist Joseph Joubert said, “The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.”

For arguments to bring progress, though, we need to argue well. The polarization in our country reflects our inability to argue well. I’ve had more than one friend say that the people who disagree with them politically are mean-spirited and even not worth talking to or listening to.

So what does it mean to argue well.

It means not arguing to destroy the other side. It means arguing about the substance of an issue, not with the person themself, as in not turning arguments into personal attacks, even if you think badly of someone’s motivations. It means working to really understanding the other person’s argument.

I will end with a final quote – my final argument for argument. It comes from Margaret Heffernan, a former many-time CEO, an author, and an inspirational speaker who is known for her commitment to collaboration, consensus-building, and decision-making.

“For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.”

By Guy Trammell Jr.

Eighth-grader Benjamin Stevenson was recruited to play football at Tuskegee Institute for his speed and kicking skills. In his eight years of playing (1924-1930), the team lost only two games, and for six years was undefeated. Ben was known as the “Terror of the South.” In 1926, in a game against Liberty University, he ran two touchdowns, kicked two field goals and two extra points, scoring all the team’s points. Ben won seven All American trophies, more than anyone ever.

After college, Ben’s career ended because the professional football leagues didn’t accept Black players. He earned a master’s degree in counseling and coached high school sports in Houston for 17 years. Ben died November 14, 1969.

From 1929, Tuskegee Institute students Ora Mae Washington and Lula Ballard won 12 tennis doubles championships in the American Tennis Association (ATA). The United States Tennis Association (USTA) prohibited Blacks, so the ATA had been formed in 1916 for Black tennis players.

Ora won eight years of tennis singles championships. Even when she was behind, the crowd knew she would come back to win. Helen Wills Moody, the top USTA female player, refused to play her. This discouraged Ora, so in 1930 she began playing professional basketball with the German Town Hornets and led them to 33 straight victories. She later joined the Philadelphia Tribune team and led them to 11 straight years of championships. Ora (Queen of the Courts), possibly the best U.S. athlete ever, became a domestic worker. In 1971, she died in obscurity.

In 1949 the newly formed U.S. Air Force held an Aerial Gunnery competition among 12 divisions. Tuskegee Airmen’s commander, Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, sent four pilots and three planes, with mechanics, from the 332nd Fighter Group to Nevada to compete. The pilots were Capt. Alva Temple, 1st Lt. Harry Stewart, 1st Lt. Halbert Alexander and 1st Lt. James Harvey III. They flew obsolete planes and were disrespected by their white competitors. During the first week of competition, the Tuskegee pilots had high scores. The second week, a white pilot’s plane had problems and was replaced with a fresh plane. The Tuskegee pilots again earned high scores in the final week and were announced as the winners in a segregated Las Vegas ballroom — to complete silence.

For a few decades the winner of the first competition was listed by the U.S. Air Force as “Unknown.” In 1984 a Tuskegee Airman researched and discovered that the 332nd won that first competition. In 2004 historian Zelly Or of Atlanta found their trophy hidden in a Wright-Patterson Air Force Base warehouse. On January 11, 2022, a plaque was placed at the Nellis Air Force Base to honor the 332nd Fighter Group as the first ever Top Gun winners.

“Top Gun: Maverick” with Tom Cruise recently hit the big screen, and its trailer is very exciting. I only wish that the story of the first Top Gun winners could be shared with the world in an exciting way. Lt. Col. James Harvey III, now in his 90s, said, “If you believe in something and set out on a mission to correct something that was wrong, don’t give up. Stay with it. We waited 73 years, and it finally paid off. Set your sights high always.” (Seventy-three years to wait for recognition that you earned, and some died without receiving this recognition . . . wow.)

About 53 people are killed daily by a firearm in the U.S (June 2022)

By Guy Trammell Jr.

I am thankful to be alive today because my mother made sure I had the best health care as a child. However, I am also alive today because my father and the Black men of our community regularly stopped the local white supremacists (Ku Klux Klan, Knights of the White Camellia, White Citizens Council) from destroying us, in the Village of Greenwood. The men stopped this destruction by using a strong show of force. They brought their guns and strategically placed themselves along all roads leading into the Village of Greenwood.

A leader in 10th century China transformed fireworks into a deadly projectile on a handheld stick, and the concept of a gun was born. My brother and I learned to use guns at Tuskegee Institute’s Firing Range. I was not a big fan but my father, a hunter, wanted his sons to know how to use them.

As of January 7, 2022, U.S. citizens own over 393 million guns, or about twice as many as any other nation (about 120 for every 100 people). Between January 2019 and April 2021, 7.5 million U.S. citizens became new gun owners; half were women and about 40% were Hispanic or Black. This rise has increased gun accidents involving children. A Birmingham toddler and infant were injured by a gun just days ago, with the infant fighting for her life.

About 53 people are killed daily by a firearm in the U.S. In 2020, handguns were used in 59% of the 13,620 gun murders, the highest gun death rate on record. Rifles were used 3% of the time and shotguns in 1%. The other 36% were killed by unspecified firearms.

We just had mass killings in Buffalo, NY and Texas, but the deadliest was in 2017 at Las Vegas, where more than 50 were killed and 500 wounded. From 2000 to 2020, the FBI recorded 345 “active shooter incidents,” resulting in 1,024 deaths and 1,828 injuries.

Most gun owners are in the South, with 161,641 guns in Alabama, or 33 guns per 1,000 people; the state has no restrictions on assault gun ownership. At about 1,001 gun deaths annually, Alabama has 23.6% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. Its rate is the third highest in the U.S., and Tuskegee’s Macon County has Alabama’s highest gun death rate. Black Alabamians are six times more likely to die by a gun than their white counterparts, and Black children are twice as likely to die by firearms than white children. Shootings are the second highest cause of childhood deaths in Alabama, an average of 78 killed annually.

The Second Amendment of the Constitution discusses “the right to carry,” but shouldn’t restrictions apply to those mentally unstable, our youth, and persons with records of criminal violence? And does this principle apply to a military assault weapon? The National Rifle Association has a history of advocacy for less gun control, with notable exceptions —  in Lowndes County, Alabama, when Black citizens armed themselves to stop the killing of Black men, or in Louisiana, when Black men formed the Deacons of Defense and stopped drive-through shootings of Black neighborhoods by the Klan.

Also, venison and squirrel meat ripped and riddled by assault gun bullets are an unacceptable meal, so why do civilians need assault weapons?

By Amy Miller

On Tuesday morning I began googling gun laws and gun death statistics in Maine. Nineteen children from Uvalde, Texas, were still alive at the time.

Three hours later, 18 children in Uvalde, Texas, were dead. Three hours later, mothers and fathers were facing the fact that their daughters and sons would no longer be at dinner, or go to ballet, or throw a softball. Or live to be adults.

Guy and I had already decided to write about guns before Tuesday,May 24. We had decided this because 10 people in Buffalo, all of them AfricanAmerican, had been shot and killed just 10 days earlier. And because a gunman had opened fire at a Taiwanese church luncheon in Orange County, Calif., a day after that.

We also were writing about guns because people using guns kill about 40,000 Americans a year.

In my research, I learned that Maine had 10.4 guns deaths per 100,000 people andAlabama had 23.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020

But an hour later, after hearing about the children in Texas and their teachers, the numbers became meaningless. The statistics were too dry.Too unemotional. Too useless.

I am searching for what to say about guns when families and a community and our nation is feeling so much profoundly sad loss.

I look for what is being said elsewhere, to find inspiration.There is lots of talk about background checks and automatic weapons and gun control laws. Again.

The New York Times ran a column Nicholas Kristoff wrote in2017 about gun violence and ways to curb it. Again.

I watched our President struggle to find words, again. This time it was a father who for years has openly shared his own pain at losing a child.

I looked back to Jimmy Kimmel’s 2017 monologue following the shooting in Las Vegas. “It will happen again and again,” he predicted tearfully. “It feels like someone has opened a window into hell.” Yes it does.

I have little to offer. What I know is that our country accounts for 4 percent of the world’s people and 14percent of its gun deaths.

In Maine, nine out of every 10 gun deaths is a suicide. Nationally about six in 10 deaths by gun is a suicide. These people find living too painful to bear. Across the world about two of every 10 gun-related deaths is suicide.

I don’t know what any of this means. Statistics are slippery and don’t tell us why? or how it feels? Or how to change the reality of leaders who will not lead.

I just know it is getting more dangerous to live in the United States. And I know that whose who sell guns would like to keep selling them.

Not all grandmothers, or aunties, can cook well (May 2022)

By Guy Trammell Jr.

My mother’s Aunt Susie lived next door to Dr. Luther Hilton Foster, fourth president of Tuskegee Institute. I followed the sidewalk leading to her home from my grade school, Chambliss Children’s House, to wait for my parents coming home from work. Aunt Susie was a retired Tuskegee Institute home economics teacher, and had wonderful after school snacks. One snack was Jello cut into cubes and eaten with sprinkled sugar and cream, just like cereal in a bowl. She introduced me to petit fours, which I first thought were toys.

Aunt Susie and her sisters, including my grandmother, Dora, were raised above the Mason Dixon line, in Ohio. My grandparents married and later moved from Ohio to Detroit. Dora made the absolutely best apple pies from her backyard apple trees. The crust was similar to a croissant, the outer crust a crisp brown masterpiece of perfection. Down through the years family members have tried to duplicate it, to no avail. Some said she used lard in the dough and brushed it with egg white. I don’t know, but the eating experience was just amazing!

Grandmother Daisy, my father’s mother, was raised on an Alabama plantation in forced labor conditions. When she was a little girl, she said, someone would bring buckets of leftovers from the “Big House” and pour them into a trough, similar to how animals are fed. The Black people working there would take their bowl or cup and scoop out their meal. After she married my grandfather, they later moved to Tuskegee. She always had a vegetable garden and loved to go fishing. She cooked the best fried fish and fried cabbage, and she cooked her corn bread in a skillet on top of the stove. I still love a meal of cabbage and corn bread to this day. Her pies were all sweet potato custards.

My mother’s older sister, Ellen, was a Tuskegee Institute graduate who married and moved back to Ohio. Her home sat on a few acres of land, with a long driveway lined by cherry trees. When I wasn’t climbing and sampling in those trees, I was enjoying her delicious cherry pies or cherry cobblers. She also made mouth watering coffee cakes and breakfast casseroles.

My father’s older sister, Jimmie, a nurse trained at Tuskegee Institute, worked in the hospital where I was born. Christmas dinners were always at her house. One time she made a potato cobbler with white and sweet potatoes; you could see the sugar crystals as you served your plate. She had a vineyard and a garden. Besides making her own wine, she made a large assortment of preserves (jelly, pickles), pepper sauce, and chow chow (a pickled condiment for meat). My father’s favorite was her pickled peaches. I loved her pear preserves over biscuits or just on light bread. She made the very best cakes – from German chocolate to red velvet, and even a caramel cake – that called you back for more! Every Christmas while I was in college she sent me back to campus with a cake.

While working in Chicago, I visited my father’s other sister, Lena, and was shocked to see her bring out homemade chow chow. I didn’t think those in the city knew about food like that. I learned that all my father’s sisters “put food up.” In other words they made their own preserves.

Hmmm. Anyone up for a visit to the Yellow Store for some steamy cabbage and corn bread?

By Amy Miller

Guy initially suggested we write about preserves this week. I stopped. I thought. I dug deep. In the end I had to tell him, “Sorry, I don’t think I have any relationship with preserves.”

So he broadened our topic to foods of our grandmothers and aunties. I couldn’t say no again. But the truth is that I don’t remember one food either of them cooked. My mother made a great pot roast and a tasty spaghetti with meat sauce. But slicing up Nestles cookie dough was her idea of baking and most of the time we stuck to Yodels. As far as other  female relatives in her generation, I draw a blank.

Still, occasions together centered on food. Aunt Hattie, 14 years my mother’s senior, always welcomed us for Thanksgiving dinner in Philadelphia. I believe we had turkey and sweet potato, as well as apple pie and something chocolate. But the only edibles I recall from Aunt Haitie’s house were tiny sticks of hard candy dipped halfway up in chocolate.

Back in New York, Grandma took us once a year to Blum’s on East 59th Street. The important part was the dessert menu with its extensive list of sundaes served in parfait dishes.

Our visits to Blum’s coincided with our annual trip to see the Christmas windows on Fifth Avenue. Before heading to the restaurant, Grandma’s car would slowly make its way from Bergdorf’s and Best’s onto Saks, Lord & Taylor and Bonwit’s. At each stop, my brother, sister and I would hop out to see the dioramas of Santa and Mrs. Claus, skaters and scrooges or Drosselmeyer  and the Sugar Plum Fairy. To this day, I consider viewing the windows of department stores a central part of holiday visits to New York with my own children, even though they are adults.

Childhood memories have a way of expanding. I could have sworn I dined at Blum’s with my grandmother throughout my childhood. In fact, the Caifornia-based Blum’s didn’t reach New York until 1965 and was gone within six years. Still, I hold tight to thoughts of sitting at Blums with Grandma in her wheelchair, surrounded by pink striped wallpaper and giant plush animals, while my siblings and I dove into giant sundaes smothered in hot fudge sauce.

On digging deeper, the closest I can get to talking about preserves among the older generation is to say my mom’s favorite lunch was crunchy peanut butter and jelly on Wonder bread.

But then I realized that in my own adulthood, in which I have been surprised to find myself a decent cook, I have loved preserving produce that comes from my land. Each July I freeze quarts of the blackberries that get more plentiful by the year and the peaches that come from a tree planted in memory of a neighbor’s niece. I make bread puddings and fruit pies all year long, knowing I picked the fruit myself, something that is inexplicably satisfying.

At 100, Lincoln Memorial tells stories of unity and division (May 2022)

By Guy Trammell Jr.

On February 12, 1900, 500 colored schoolchildren gathered at Jacksonville FL’s Stanton School to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The school’s principal, James Weldon Johnson, who was also a lawyer and a civil rights organizer, composed a poem to introduce the speaker for the occasion. The speaker was Booker T. Washington, and the poem would later be put to music by Johnson’s younger brother and become an enduring song across the nation.

Booker T. Washington recalled his mother’s tears of joy when “a man on the horse,” sent by Lincoln in 1863, read to them the proclamation that Black people, held in forced and cruel bondage labor, were set free to live as citizens. Booker honored Lincoln daily in his life’s work at Tuskegee, working tirelessly to create a civilization of excellence for Black people everywhere.

In 1897, the U.S. Congress authorized construction of a Lincoln memorial, and in 1911 appropriated $2 million for the project. On February 12, 1914, Joseph Blackburn of the Lincoln Memorial Commission, a Civil War Confederate lieutenant, was first to lift a shovel at the ground breaking, saying “Lincoln is now regarded as the greatest of all Americans …by the South and the North.”

In 1922, the Lincoln Memorial was completed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and Tuskegee Institute’s principal, Robert Russa Moton, was selected as the dedication ceremony’s main speaker, the only African American on the program. However, 12 days before the dedication the president of the Lincoln Memorial Commission, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft, asked to review Moton’s speech. Taft found the speech much too radical for the time; they wanted to celebrate the man Lincoln, not freedom for enslaved Black people.

Moton reluctantly revised his speech. Removed was: “From the ends of the earth were brought together the extremes of humanity to prove where the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should apply with equal force to all mankind.” Also removed was, “So long as any group within our nation is denied the full protection of the law; that task is still unfinished“; and again, “But unless here at home we are willing to grant to the least and humblest citizen the full enjoyment of every constitutional privilege, our boast is but a mockery and our professions as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal before the nations of the earth.”

As crowds assembled for the May 30th dedication, Blacks were roughly and disrespectfully ushered to the “colored section” in back by armed U.S. Marines. Moton could not sit with other speakers and honored guests, including Lincoln’s son Robert. Fully acceptable, however, was the blatant white supremacist segregation and the abuse of Blacks, even as Lincoln’s statue watched!

This May, the memorial turns 100, and Tuskegee University’s president, Dr. Charlotte Morris, will be the featured speaker. Without liberty for all, a democratic nation is only mockery. In the words of James Weldon Johnson’s poem used to introduce Booker T. Washington in 1900, now known as the Negro National Anthem, we must all, in the name of Freedom: “Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of Liberty!” 

By Amy Miller

The Lincoln Memorial is open 24 hours a day, and I have joined many others in making a visit past dark, when the illuminated monument with its 36 columns and 19-foot President is particularly impressive.

It’s hard to see from below, but the sculptor carved one of Lincoln’s hands closed to show his determination, while the other hand was left open, representing the Lincoln’s interest in welcoming the Confederacy back into the Union, and welcoming it without vengeance.

It took until 1922, 100 years ago and 67 years after the Civil War, to raise the funds, agree on a memorial design and get the statue built. Despite a country that then – and now – had serious differences of opinion over race and immigration, the final product remains a symbol of unity and democracy, as intended when it was completed.

The reality that Americans had differences of opinion was not ignored in creating the monument. Rather it was honored throughout.

Designer Henry Bacon used materials from different states: Massachusetts granite; Colorado marble; pink marble from Tennessee; Indiana limestone and Alabama marble (for the ceiling tiles). Sculptor Daniel Chester French carved Lincoln’s figure out of marble from Georgia, a dedicated Confederate state.


In keeping with this intent, the first bit of sod turned over for building the monument in 1914 was turned by Rep. Joseph Blackburn of Kentucky, who had been a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate Army.

“This memorial will show that Lincoln is now regarded as the greatest of all Americans,” Blackburn said, “and that he is so held by the South as well as the North.”

In the United States, the Lincoln Memorial has represented freedom for all people and hosted key civil rights moments. But the crowd and speakers at the dedication of this memorial were segregated by race. Robert Russa Moton, president of Tuskegee Institute and a central speaker at the event, was forced to sit separately from the mostly white crowd he was addressing.

Seventeen years later, Marian Anderson sang to 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial after she was refused a performance at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution because she was Black. And Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the monument, his words now etched into the place where he stood.

Although divisions persist, as we strive towards a nation of true democracy, we might look to the Lincoln Memorial for a reminder that if the North and South and could stay together as a union after the Civil War, certainly we can find a way to work together as a nation in 2022.

Hair acceptable? Depends on your skin (April 2022)

By Guy Trammell Jr.

At birth, God gave me what we call “kinky” black hair. For those not familiar with the term, it simply means that brushing hair was only for infant years; as a boy, a comb was physically forced through my tangled forest of hair. There later were spray conditioners to make it easier to comb because “kinky” hair will destroy the wrong kind of comb.

Now that I am older, I have alopecia. That is Latin, meaning my head is going bald. It is Greek for “fox mange.” (Wow, I have mange! I thought that was for dogs!) Well, both my grandfathers had baldness, as did my father. In men it is something we accept. Celebrities hide alopecia by shaving their head to go completely bald, and pay to maintain their new bald look.

Recently Jada Pinkett Smith, from the 1990s television show “A Different World” and current film actress, suffered from alopecia. Society accepts male baldness, but in women it is a different matter. Western nations pride women on their “mane.” Celebrity women wear different hair styles for various occasions or moods, and when that option is taken away, there is a major adjustment period that requires an environment of support, love and caring.

Fast forward to the 2022 Academy Awards, where comedian Chris Rock jokingly referred to Jada, who was sitting in the audience, as having the “G.I. Jane” look. This earned him a slap and a few choice insults from Jada’s husband, Will Smith. Will went on to win the Best Actor award that evening for “King Richard,” but the Slap Heard ‘Round the World took the spotlight, leading the Academy to suspend him for 10 years.

10 Years?! Will Smith’s use of physical violence was completely inappropriate and fully unacceptable, but did it warrant a 10-year suspension? Maybe 5 years, instead? I don’t know, but who disciplined the Academy in 1940 for insulting Hattie McDaniel after she became the first Black to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in the movie “Gone With the Wind”? Special arrangements had to be made at the 12th Academy Awards for Hattie, her escort, F.P. Yober, and her white agent, William Meiklejohn, to be seated, not at the “Gone With the Wind” table, but in the back of the Ambassador Hotel’s Cocoanut Grove nightclub. They sat at a small table against a far wall because the “white only” club wasn’t integrated until 1959. Hattie said, “I sincerely hope that I shall always be a credit to my race and the motion picture industry.”

Instead of slapping Chris, Will would have better served Jada if he had acted as New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker did during Justice-designate Ketanji Brown Jackson’s grueling U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing. After many attacks from senators throughout 12 hours of questioning, Booker allowed Judge Jackson to offer appreciation to her parents (her mother a Tuskegee University alum), who combed her hair as a little girl, and to clarify a few earlier statements. He closed by saying “…not only are your children and your parents proud, but so are your ancestors.”

Public encouragement and support is the proper “slap” we can use to defend our insulted Black women such as Hattie McDaniel, Jada Pinkett Smith and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

By Amy Miller

The hair in my family ranges from Type 1C, to 2A, 2C, and 4C. If you are not a hair stylist or Black, you may not know about these hair designations.

Recently the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that protects people who want to leave their hair natural, or who wear styles suited to their type, and their culture.

Why was this law necessary? Mainly because people who have Type 4 hair – coils rather than curls (3) or waves (2) or straight (1) –  tend to be discriminated against as far as hair styles are concerned.

(By the way, the 1-4 categorization chart, known officially as the Andre Walker Hair Typing System, was created in the 1990s by Oprah Winfrey’s stylist and then adopted more widely, not without controversy.)

You may not be surprised to learn Type 4 hair tends to be the hair of African Americans. Nor might you be surprised to hear that employers and schools have often forbidden certain styles commonly worn by African Americans; cornrows, braids and bantu knots.

Twelve states have passed laws banning discrimination based on natural hair – and now the federal government is on its way with the Crown Act, an acronym for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.

It’s hard to believe we have to pass a law to let people style, or leave natural, their hair. But then, it’s less hard to believe it when you realize how much of our country’s challenge with race is born out of people’s fear of difference, fear of others.

Black people dressing and sounding more white is more comfortable. To white people.

Among the statistics that make this point, Black women are far more likely to say they have to change their hair to go to work or that they were sent home as a result of their hair style. Among the lawsuits filed claiming discrimination, Chastity Jones sued and lost in 2010 after a job offer was rescinded when she declined to cut off her locs.

My own hair is a very unruly 2B, or maybe C. It’s always been long, and tends to run frizzy. Sometimes I forget to brush it. Sometimes I pretend that the curls look better if I leave them alone. I even manage to convince myself the pieces falling out of my three-day-old braid are attractive in an old-fashioned way. These days I am telling myself that the formerly dyed hair at the bottom of my Covid gray is trendy.

In general, my style runs the other side of messy, if not chaotic. But never, ever has anyone – besides my family – told me my hair is untidy or I should wear it a different way to get a job. And never have I been sent home because of my hair.

Who doesn’t love a trip to the beach (April 2022)

By Guy Trammell

John Jackson Benson grew up enslaved, performing forced labor on a plantation owned by James Benson, near Kowaligia Creek in Alabama. In 1865, the Civil War ended, along with John’s time on the cruel plantation, so he traveled to Florida and rescued his sister who had been sold to another plantation owner. He returned to Alabama and worked in coal mines, and with his first $100 bought a plot of land. By 1895, he had purchased 3,000 acres of land from the very plantation where he grew up, and formed the community of Benson. Benson had a sawmill, brickyard, cotton gin and its own bank. The town produced corn, cotton, sugar and wood. In 1898, John’s son, William E. Benson, built a school for Blacks called Kowaligia Academic & Industrial Institute, with Booker T. Washington on the Board of Trustees. In 1914, William established Dixie Line, the first U.S. Black-owned railroad. 

More on the town later.

My first visit to a beach was in Hawaii, at 4 years old. My family was on the way to spend 13 months in the Tuskegee Indonesia Project, building infrastructure for the 10,000-island nation. While there, we visited the beaches near Jakarta. However, the beach fixed in my memory was one we visited on our way back to the States. During our stop in Jordan, I experienced the Dead Sea. The water seemed cloudy and my mother washed salt off my skin when I left the water. The Dead Sea’s salt content is so concentrated that fish can’t live in the water. The high salt concentration occurs because water flows into the Sea, but no water flows out. 

Growing up in Tuskegee’s all Black Village of Greenwood, I remember that several Black land owners had numerous lakes within Greenwood that were available for Black community parties and cookouts. Two families in particular were Mr. and Mrs. Love, owners of a beauty/barber shop and cafe, along with Mr. and Mrs. Reid, of Reid’s Cleaners and Haberdashery. I recall consuming many grilled burgers, washed down by bottles of soda at Love’s Lake and Reid’s Lake. 

Blacks also gathered at Sandy Beach, a large area of sand deposit on Uphapee Creek, and Broken Bridge, a similar sand deposit under the bridge near the Tuskegee Army Airfield, where a Tuskegee Airmen unsuccessfully “showed off” attempting to fly under the bridge. These beach alternatives were used because Blacks were not allowed at nearby state park beaches, nor at Lake Martin’s Bama Park north of Tuskegee. 

In 1926, Alabama Power Co. completed construction of Martin Dam, which caused upstream flooding and gave birth to the massive Lake Martin that covers three counties. That flooding destroyed the prosperous Black town of Benson, referred to as a “drowned town,” to make way for segregated beaches and water sports.

Other “drowned towns” included the Black town of Seneca Village, destroyed in 1857 to create New York City’s Central Park. In 1912, three Black men from Oscarville, Georgia, were lynched for allegedly raping and killing a white woman; the remaining 1,000 Black residents were shot or chased from town, and the town was burned to the ground. In 1956, the Buford Dam was finished, creating Lake Lanier, Georgia’s largest lake, and placing the remains of Oscarville under water. Maybe Black “drowned towns” are located in true “dead seas,” and racism instead of salt prevents Black life from surviving in them. 

By Amy Miller

Guy suggested we write this week about going to the beach, it being spring and all. This led me to believe that people in Alabama have little idea about what constitutes beach weather in Maine.

Readers of Foster’s Daily Democrat, our area newspaper, know that we are so far from sunning at the beach right now that we might as well be in Iowa. 

I didn’t want to tell Guy that our beach season doesn’t start until July 4. Or that it ends a six weeks later. And I hate to have to admit to readers of the Tuskegee News, people we encourage to come visit some time, that it was snowing up here this week and it’s not so unusual to have an April snowstorm.

But the surprising truth is that many of us prefer the beach in winter. That is when we own the beach. We don’t have to tiptoe through a sea of blankets or dodge flying frisbees. That is when we can bring our dogs to chase seagulls or spend a morning in awe of New England’s polar explorers- the surfers.

Despite water temperatures that hover around 40 degrees this time of year – about the coldest it gets all year – surfers head to the beach with their 7mm neoprene wetsuits to catch waves that tend to be bigger in winter and parking spaces that are empty and free. 

It’s true that in summer we will still go to the beach, but unless friends or relatives from Away are visiting, we are apt to go after 6 p.m. when the parking is free. Are you getting the picture that parking is an issue? And we definitely will not voluntarily head to the shore on a weekend. 

From South Berwick, about 10 miles inland from the Atlantic, we will choose a road that is one of a number of vectors to get to any of the beaches running from just south of Portland to somewhere along the 22-mile coast of New Hampshire.

But we will NOT drive on Route 1.

And by the way, we will also avoid I-95 from lunchtime Friday through Sunday at bedtime. Because Maine’s summer is so short, but so, so beautiful, we are inundated with tourists for just a few months of the year.And even then, by the way, the water temperatures rarely reaches 70.

Women create their own clubs (March 2022)

By Guy Trammell

In February 1892, Margaret James Murray Washington, Booker T. Washington’s third wife and Tuskegee Institute’s Dean of Women, formed the Mother’s Clubs in central Alabama. The clubs provided child care, education, hygiene, literacy and home care for 300 colored women.

In 1895, Margaret founded the Tuskegee Women’s Club, with 13 faculty wives and female teachers meeting twice monthly. One of the members, Adella Hunt Logan,Tuskegee University’s first librarian, was the first Alabama advocate with Susan B. Anthony’s suffrage movement. Though Black, her light skin allowed her to join the movement undetected. She wrote and spoke across the country on how women’s right to vote would help stop the rape and abuse of Black women. Club members also engaged in prison reform, community hygiene, anti-lynching advocacy, and helped form local communities around Macon County.

With Jim Crow laws to keep Blacks as second-class citizens and the lynching of Black men for allegedly raping white women, a prominent voice joined in, specifically condemning Black women. James W. Jacks, president of the Missouri Press Association, published a denouncement of all Black people and targeted Black women as “prostitutes, and all were thieves and liars.” White readers accepted his fabrications despite the legions of hard-working Black women, many among them articulate college graduates.

This led Boston’s Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, in 1895, to contact Margaret Washington to join her in co-founding the National Federation of African American Women to address nationally the false view of Black people; Margaret became the Federation’s first president. In July 1896, at a meeting in the 19th Street Baptist Church in Washington D.C. the Federation joined forces with the National League of Colored Women to create the National Association of Colored Women, and elected Mary Church Terrell as president. 

By 1904, Josephine Beall Willson Bruce, editor of the National Association of Colored Women’s publication, National Notes, as well as Tuskegee Institute’s female principal, reported that they had organized young women’s clubs, married women’s clubs, musical and literary clubs, hospital and orphanage support clubs. They also raised funds to support Southern colored children’s schools, which received only one-third the state support of white schools. 

By 1916, the organization operated through their 35 departments, including Legislation, Social Science, Young Women’s Work, Business, Industrial and Social Conditions, Suffrage, Civics, Juvenile Court, Rural and Railroad Conditions, Health and Hygiene. They later raised $5 million for the U.S. in World War 1, then questioned how our nation could “make the world safe for democracy” but fail to protect the rights of Black people at home.

In 1922, Margaret Washington founded the International Council of Women of the Darker Races, promoting Black history, Black literature in schools, and improved conditions for Haiti, Cuba and India. In Prague, in 1929, the council promoted world peace and in 1933, they prevented US intervention in Liberia. 

What about you, Faithful Reader? Are you sitting back and getting upset about what is going on? Letting current issues cloud your mind? What are you going to do?? Get up! Get Started!!  

By Amy Miller

When I was a kid we went to the Harmonie Club, a private men’s social club on East 60th Street. Sometimes we went for lunch, but only during the hours women and children were allowed, and sometimes we went to a kid’s event, perhaps a clown show, while the grown-ups dined.

I loved the macaroons wrapped in tissue-thin paper and being a kid at a big round table with relatives. I knew nothing of the history of the club, founded in 1852 by German Jewish immigrants in New York City who had been denied entry to an older, non-Jewish club. The fact that women could not be full members and were allowed entry only for certain meals did not faze me.

In fact, the Harmonie was considered progressive compared to other clubs meant for socializing, dining and engaging in shared interests when it broadened its rules to allow women at all meals, and then in 1986 when it invited in its first female member. In 2018 the Harmonie also hired its first female general manager, one of the first female general managers in New York City club history.

My mother grew up going to the Harmonie, attending its dances and dining there when invited. After getting married, having three kids, running the PTA, getting a doctorate degree and engaging in a successful professional life, my mom decided she deserved a club of her own. At that point she joined the Cosmopolitan Club in New York, which was founded in 1909 and describes itself as a place where women “gathered to socialize, exchange ideas and enjoy one another’s company.”

With its bright yellow home page and ornately scripted font, even the front page of the club’s website looks feminine. Although nothing on its site openly indicates the club is female only, it remains a women’s club. But, by my mom’s telling it wasn’t always open to Jews.

Typically quite unpretentious, my mom was quietly tickled by her own membership in this club on East 66th Street that had drawn such elite members as Eleanor Roosevelt, Willa Cather, Margaret Mead and Helen Hayes.

What my mother particularly liked about the “Cos Club,” though, represented a slight clash in the values of two eras. After my father died, the Club allowed my mom to take couples or men for a meal without having to grab for the check. This would save the men dining with my mom from the embarrassment of letting a woman pay. I like to think that in the next generation, my generation, that is no longer an issue.

It’s Women’s History Month and guess who made history? (March 2022)

By Amy Miller

In recognition of women’s history this month, let’s talk about a woman making history now. We are looking at the first nomination of a black woman for the Supreme Court.

The history of women in the courts goes back to 1939 when Jane Bolin became the first black woman judge in a state court, New York’s Family Court. Her appointment was followed by five other Black women as state court judges between 1955 and 1966.

Then, also in 1966, Judge Constance Baker Motley was nominated by President Johnson to the District Court of New York and became the first Black woman in a federal judgeship. Johnson wanted to appoint her to the 2nd Circuit Appellate Court, but he faced such strong opposition he instead nominated her for the district court in the New York.

In 1979, Amalya Kearse became the first Black woman on the US Circuit Court of Appeals. She was on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals for more than four decades and, since her appointment, there have been fewer than a dozen other Black women on the federal courts of appeals, three of them Biden appointees.

I will admit that I was not 100 percent sure I was behind President’s Biden’s promise that he would nominate a Black woman if given the chance to choose a Supreme Court justice. I love the idea of a Black woman on the court, and I support his selection of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the country’s 116th Supreme Court justice.

But I worried that Biden was locking himself in prematurely largely for the sake of politics. I also feared – perhaps dreaded – the push-back that would come from people saying – well, saying what I just said, but with a lot more indignation. They would say he was playing identity politics and that a nine-member court cannot adequately reflect every person’s identity in a varied population. Do we now need a Muslim? A disabled person? A non-binary justice? Where would that argument stop?

But the bottom line is that Black women have been under-represented, nearly unrepresented, for centuries and it is time to make change. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson could scarcely be better qualified.

White men have been blessed with affirmative action for centuries when no woman, let alone a woman of color, was even considered as a Supreme Court justice, or even allowed to weigh in on who might be considered. As long as white men have been in power, they have put other white men in power. Until change was demanded.

The lived experiences of a large group of Americans have been left out of the discussion and consideration when laws are analyzed and discussed in the nation’s highest court. This can finally change.

By Guy Trammell Jr.

Col. Herbert Carter was the iconic Tuskegee Airman whose image is on the Tuskegee Airmen logo. He and his wife Mildred were the Tuskegee Airmen’s “royal couple,” traveling to speaking engagements around the globe. However, in the 1950s and 1960s, when they shopped in nearby Montgomery or Auburn, Alabama, Mildred always sat in the back seat of the car because of her fair complexion. For his protection, Herbert Carter transformed from her husband to her driver.

Mildred Hemmons Carter was the first African-American woman in the Southeastern United States to earn a pilot’s license. She trained with the original Tuskegee Airmen, but being a woman prevented her from becoming a Tuskegee AirMAN. She applied to become a WASP (Women Air Force Service Pilot), women aviators who delivered war planes to military bases from the manufacturers. She was rejected by the service because she was Black, though shortly before her death in 2011, they made her an honorary WASP.

Mildred flew regularly with Chief C.A. Anderson, called the father of Black aviation, who trained the Tuskegee Airmen. One day while they were flying, Mildred looked down on a plot of land and said, “That looks like a good spot for an airport.” Chief Anderson replied, “I think you are right! Let’s go down for a closer look.” That area became the Robert Russa Moton Airfield, where the Tuskegee Airmen trained, and is now the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.

Mildred Carter was also the first person hired at the Tuskegee Army Airfield, where the Tuskegee Airmen lived and trained. The base had not been built yet, so Mildred hopped on a bulldozer and cleared trees to make way for the air base. All the Tuskegee Airmen agreed that she was the best pilot in the program. Despite her small stature, she could fly any aircraft.

Valentine Marie Therese of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, married Raymond Cassagnol on December 23, 1943. He was a Tuskegee Airman, and started the Haitian Air Force. They supported the initial Haitian Revolution and had to flee over the mountains to the Dominican Republic as political refugees. She worked as a seamstress, a baker and cake decorator in the family bakery. After they moved to the U.S., Valentine volunteered in nursing homes and with the homeless. However, before leaving Haiti, she volunteered in the children’s hospital and was a founder of the Haitian Girl Scouts or “Guides,” as they are known there. The Guides, who still honor her annually, are now instrumental in assisting with disaster relief in Haiti.

Deborah Cannon Partridge Wolfe, at age 22, was Tuskegee Institute’s Education Outreach Director, and became the principal of two schools near Tuskegee. She would later become the first Tuskegee Institute staff member with an earned doctorate. In 1951, she became the first Black faculty member of Queens College in New York. She later became the Education Chief of the Committee on Education and Labor for the U.S. House of Representatives under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. She authored legislation to create Head Start, the Community College system, and the federal loan programs.

These and so many other women have made a major difference in our world. We salute them!

Supreme Court ruling on districts erodes democratic process (Feb. 2027)

By Guy Trammell Jr.

Alabama’s Act 140 gerrymandered Tuskegee’s city limits in 1957, keeping all of the white population but excluding every all-Black neighborhood, along with Tuskegee University. It reduced the number of Black people registered to vote in local elections from 400 to 5. Prior to the landmark 1960 Supreme Court ruling in Gomillion v. Lightfoot that Act 140 violated the 15th Amendment, Appeals Court Judge Brown had called Act 140 “a clear legislative purpose to deprive Negroes and only Negroes of vote and village.” 

In January 2022, after hearing a massive record of facts over seven days of testimony and reviewing over 1,000 pages of briefs, a three-judge panel in federal district court held that Alabama’s 2021 Congressional redistricting plan violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The court found the plan unlawfully diluted the votes of the Black population, and ordered the state to devise a new congressional district map for the 2022 elections.

Alabama’s district lines allow fewer than 30% of Blacks to reside in a majority Black district, but allows 92% of Alabama whites to reside in a majority white district. Alabama’s Black legislators presented 11 plans that included a second majority-Black district, and even the Alabama state’s map expert said the plaintiffs’ plans adhered to the rules, and on a higher quality level than the enacted state plan he had authored.

On February 7, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in a 5-4 decision said: “the District Court’s injunction is a prescription for chaos“ and “Our action today shall of necessity allow the (2022) election to proceed without an injunction.” (No redrawing the map.)

Chief Justice John Roberts, in dissenting, stated: “the District Court properly applied existing law in an extensive opinion with no apparent errors for our correction….In my view the District Court’s analysis should therefore control the upcoming election.“

Justice Kagan, with Justices Breyer and Sotomayor also dissenting, wrote: “This Court goes badly wrong in granting a stay….The District Court here did everything right under the law. Staying its decision forces Black Alabamians to suffer what under that law is clear vote dilution.”

She continued, “Alabama cannot contend that redrawing its map in advance of this year’s elections would be impossible. It enacted its current plan in less than a week….Alabama is not entitled to keep violating Black Alabamians’ voting rights just because the court’s order came down in the first month of an election year. And most of all, it does a disservice to Black Alabamians who under that precedent have had their electoral power diminished.”

SCOTUS: You have been charged with stealing half the food and turkeys from the Black community, for the next 10 years, and a Federal Court told you to give it back. Is that right?

ALABAMA: Yes! But in November we are preparing Our Party to celebrate how we took land from the Mvskoke Nation. We just don’t have enough time to give it back and have the Party!!

SCOTUS: So you want to use the stolen Black community’s food and turkeys for Your Party?

ALABAMA: Yes! Yes, that’s exactly our intention!

SCOTUS: That sounds reasonable. Okay, we will discuss your case after the November Party!

By Amy Miller

We mere mortals have no hope of figuring out how the new Congressional districts being drawn in each state will change the politics of this country.

We can understand clearly, though, that if the people who draw up the districts have a personal stake in how the lines are drawn, that will affect their drawings. This, in fact, is the case in the more than 30 states where the legislators get to craft the new districts, using the 2020 census as a guideline for population counts.

In New Hampshire, the Republican-controlled legislature designed new districts that Democrats say will make one district more clearly Democratic and the other more clearly Republican, in other words less competitive; right now they are both represented by Democrats. The new lines mean a quarter of state residents will be in a different district now.

In New York, the Democrat-led legislature has redrawn lines that the GOP says take away some of their edge. Democrats responded that they are merely righting the wrong created by years of GOP-drawn lines.

And in Maine, although the state legislature draws the boundaries as in 31 other states, it managed to avoid the “gerrymandering drama” seen in many other states, as the Associated Press reported it. Here, a two-thirds majority is required to approve new district maps, which are subject to veto by the governor.

But perhaps the biggest drama has centered around Alabama, where new districts so clearly compromise the representation of Blacks voters. Three federal court judges agreed the lines unfairly and intentionally reduced the power of black voters in the state, in violation of the Voting Rights Act, but the Supreme Court decided 5-4 to reverse the court’s decision and allow the lines to stand. The majority said it ruled this way not because the lower court was wrong but because of the hassle state leaders would face in redrawing the lines before the next election.

The state-by-state changes are easy to see at Politico’s website with its interactive maps, which also show changes in key demographics in each district.

Efforts have been underway nationwide to find less partisan ways to draw these maps, including reform of redistricting laws, making redistricting more transparent, and electing politicians who will fight for reform, but recent drawings done after the 2020 census do not add to my optimism.

I can’t help wondering why, in this age of oh-so-smart computers, we cannot put the decisions for districts in the hands of a randomizing machine. How is it possible that we allow humans in power, humans keen to keep power in an increasingly polarized country, to make these decisions that clearly affect them and their personal hold on power.