Archive for February, 2011

Frederick Douglass: American
February 28, 2011

A Truly Great American With a Life that Stands on Its Own

Dr. Woodson Ultimately Is Responsible for Black History Month and Started It Partly With Douglass In Mind

Black History Month:  Some time ago, February was designated as Black History Month.   I have mixed emotions about that particular designation.  I think it’s always a good thing to focus attention on history, particularly American history since so many Americans really don’t know a lot about their nation.  I suppose the whole idea rose from the notion that the school system in this country didn’t really mention much about African-Americans except in the context of slavery.  However, I have a problem with a focus on a particular group of Americans. I am not saying that it’s wrong to have such a month; I guess I really think that its too bad that it was a necessity.  You see,  those individuals who are discussed in February are part of American history and I believe that they should be seen simply as Americans because all citizens, past and present are, in my view, my American brother and sister and my fellow American.  Race, religion or ethnicity does not add or dimish their position as an American.  Another thing that bothers me is the a grand oversight.  I’ve gone to some Black History Month presentations and they always quite properly include Dr. Martin Luther  King, Jr.  Sometimes they talk about the contributions of George Washington Carver at the events of which I have attended.  Typically following the discussion of such well-known luminaries, they go off into some modern rappers or sports stars.  If it’s a good presentation, then it will rightfully include Jackie Robinson, but Mr. Robinson sometimes loses out to other Americans whose acheivements really don’t measure up to that of Robinson or Carver and certainly not even in the same neighborhood as Dr. King.  But, almost every time, they leave out someone whom I believe to be one of the most important Americans in our history.  His name is Frederick Douglass and all Americans should know about the man.

Slave Cabin probably not unlike one Douglass shared with his grandmother for a few short years

Even though Douglass often is left out of the Black History month discussion, his life was actually part of the reason why February has the designation.  The foundation of Black History Month dates back to the 1920’s when a Harvard doctoral graduate and former slave chose the month of focus since both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born in February and Douglass also died then as well.  Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland in February 1818.    Douglass often suggested that his mother, Harriet Bailey, conceived Douglass following the advances of white man who was not his mother’s husband.  It may be for that reason that Douglass did not live with his mother but instead was put in the cabin of his grandmother Besty Bailey by owner, Captain Aaron Anthony.  Even though he lived with his grandmother, it didn’t take long for Douglass to be hired out and so his familial ties were not strong.  In 1826, he went to Baltimore to work and live in the household of Hugh and Sophia Auld.  Sophia was Capt Anthony’s daughter and Douglass lived with the couple for 7 years from 1826 to 1833.  During that time, he watched the Auld’s young son and also was taught to read and write by Sophia…that is until Hugh told her to stop.  But, the seeds were already sewn.

Frederick Douglass Broke the Chains and Headed into History

Douglass continued to teach himself to read and write on his own.   He secretly helped organized schools for slaves.  He resisted his position as a slave.  He tried to escape and was imprisoned for awhile and was sent to a plantation where slaves who needed to be “broken” were sent.  But, he never bowed.  In 1838, he broke his bonds and escaped to New York.  He got married and had children.  He fell in with abolitionists.  He had read books related to oratory and taught himself to make public speeches.  At the age of 23, he gave a speech at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society convention and caught the attention of many abolitionists included renown abolitionist William Garrison.  Now, Douglass given name was really Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey but he realized that if he were to go on the speaking circuit, then he’d have to change his name to Frederick Douglass.  Afterall, he was officially a fugitive slave and could be returned to slavery.  So, he adopted the last name of Douglass. 

Click on Image For Information Regarding Book that details relationship between Lincoln and Frederick Douglass

On two occasions, Douglass fled to Europe to avoid recapture.  On one of his trips, sympathetic Europeans who heard Douglass speak raised money and bought his freedom.  By the time of the Civil War, Frederick Douglass finally was safe in the land of the free and home of the brave.  His autobiography that detailed his life in slavery was a huge hit and the words  he wrote and the words he spoke were significant contributors to the ultimate destruction of slavery.  Not only for the general public, but also for President Abraham Lincoln who consulted with Douglass regarding Lincoln’s policies and thoughts concerning slavery and the emancipation issue.  That included an idea Lincoln had about creating a colony in South America where freed  slaves could live.  Lincoln for a time had  the notion that Blacks and Whites were never intended to live together nor was it possible.  While he did  not believe in equality of the races, Lincoln also felt it was morally wrong for take what was earned from “the sweat of another man’s brow.”  Douglass impressed him as a tremendous mind and thinker and also took into consideration Douglass’ admonition that America was as much his country as it was the President’s.  Remember, Lincoln was born in the country just 9 years prior to Douglass.  Lincoln knew that Douglass had a very good and strong point.

Douglass' marriage to Helen (sitting) Was Not Popular with White or Black late 19th century America

Frederick Douglass was a proud man.  He was a tough man.  He was a smart, self taught man and great thinker.  He was bold and fearless.  Not only did he contribute to the rights of  Blacks, he also lent his name and effort to the equality of women.  He even was on the ticket for an early feminist presidential candidate.  Age did not diminish his courage though.  After his first wife died, he married a white, feminist woman and that, he said, brought condemnation and scorn from both Blacks and Whites alike.  His story is absolutely remarkable and one that every American should know and be proud to be able to say that Frederick Douglass was our American brother.  So, as Black History month comes to a close  just remember that the legacy and life of a great American, Frederick Douglass,  deserves as much recognition and acknowledgement as any American.  In my view, there is no other adjective beside “American” is needed to describe Frederick Douglass.  As he did in life, he can stand on his own for  the ages.

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Ginger or Mary Ann?
February 12, 2011

A Long Way From Gilligan's Island

NOT my grandmother...but it is Tatiana

On This Date in History:  If I am not mistaken, Elizabeth Carter Symon was born on this date in 1898.  My grandmother lived to see February 11, 1998.  It always amazed me that she was born in the Oklahoma Territory.  I’ve seen a photo of her and her best friend in a horse and buggy.  She and her best friend went on to marry two men who were friends as well.  They remained as such for the rest of their lives.   Think about it.  My grandmother was born in Oklahoma before it was a state, rode around in a horse and buggy and in her lifetime, the invention of the automobile, the airplane, the atomic bomb and numerous medical breakthroughs took place.  She saw her territory become a state and saw man walk on the moon.  When she began there was no radio, no phonograph, no tv and probably not too many phones or running water where she grew up.  She did go to college though, which was rare in those days for a woman.  So many other things changed during her lifetime including the notable birth of Tatiana Josivovna Chernova Blacker on this date in 1934

I Think Jonas Grumby Would Have Had a Heart Attack if he Saw This Waiting in his Hut instead of Gilligan

Tatiana was born in New York and was raised by her mother, Betty Horn, who was a fashion model.  She went by the name Tina Blacker and told her high school teacher that she was the only girl in class without a middle name.  At the age of 17, she began taking acting classes and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  At 17, she started taking acting classes and did some modeling, showing up in some old “pin-up” magazines such as Modern Man and Adam, Sir!  In 1952, Tina made her acting debut on Broadway in a Bette Davis musical revue called Two’s Company.  More Broadway shows followed as did appearances in Playboy in May 1958 and April 1959.  I guess Hef must have dug her to put her in twice.  She probably caught his attention when she gained notoriety in 1957 for her performance with future Catwoman Julie Newmar in the Broadway adaptation of Li’l Abner.  That same year, she released an album with a couple of popular tunes, “Embraceable You” and “I’m in the Mood for Love.”  I mean, 1957 alone must have screamed “Hef! Hef!” for the budding star and she seemed destined for greatness.  And you know what, she became a household name; even to this day.

As We Remember, Ginger

She had film roles in the early 1960’s as a leading lady for the likes of Robert Ryan, Richard Widmark and Robert Taylor.  She turned down a role in Operation Petticoat, which would have put her on the wide screen with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis.  She opted instead for more Broadway shows.  Then, in 1964, she teamed up with Bob Denver in a beach party movie called For Those Who Think Young.  No one remembers that movie but Tina will always remember that as the catalyst that changed her career and life.  You see, Denver was set to star in a new TV Show in 1964 and she took the role that was turned down by Jayne Mansfield.  Tina had taken as a stage name the middle name her high school teacher had given her, which was Louise.  Tina Louise starred in Gilligan’s Island as Ginger Grant.  She became unhappy with the role as she feared she would be typecast.  She was right.  But, she also became a television icon.

Cast Your Vote in the Poll

She continued her career and even had a memorable role in The Stepford Wives.   But, for all the acting credentials, playboy shoots and pinups, she will always be remembered as Ginger and be part of arguments over the question that will last forever: “Ginger or Mary Anne?”  While she generally refused to reprise the role of Ginger in any of the follow up movies related to Gilligan’s Island, she did make cameos on a few talk shows with a reunion theme.  While she may have tried to run from her role as Ginger, she couldn’t hide.  In fact, in 2005, TV Land listed her as 2nd all time in that cable channel’s top ten greatest sex-symbols of TV.  I once had a job in which I got to see all 98 episodes of Gilligan’s Island as I edited and dubbed the entire series.  I could watch every show frame by frame.  An interesting way to try to analyze the question: Ginger or Mary Ann?  And, it provided answers to other questions:  The Skipper was Jonas Grumby, the Professor was Roy Hinkley, Mary Ann’s last name was Summers and Gilligan was never given a last name, though creator Sherwood Schwartz once said that Gilligan was his last name.

Weather Bottom Line:  Believe the hype; it’s going to warm up.  The oscillation over the Arctic changed last week which had been oriented such that the North Pole has been warm all season and the continental US so cold has flipped.  It takes a little while for the change to come down stream but it will come.  The jet stream will move well north and we’ll be pushing toward 60 by the end of next week. If this shift persists, then winter is effectively over…but…it could shift back..after all it is an El Nino year so enjoy it while you can.