Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Counting Down to The Rise and Fall of the Not-So-Invisible Empire

My lecture series on slavery, White supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan - The Rise and Fall of the Not-So-Invisible Empire - starts in just about a month.  Looking forward to seeing you there!  [If you haven't signed up yet, you can register on the California State University - East Bay OLLI website by clicking here.]  

In the meanwhile - 

This past Saturday, I attended a performance by one of my favorite jazz singers, Tierney Sutton.  She opened her show with a music video of the song "Good People" - confronting racism with a musical and visual survey of events in American history (as well as some present-day realities). 

Tierney then began her live performance without an introduction or comment by singing "The Way We Were".
Mem'ries may be beautiful and yet
What's too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget

So it's the laughter we will remember
Whenever we remember the way we were

Having spent a great deal of time over the past few months reading, researching and thinking about racism in America in preparation for The Rise and Fall of the Not-So-Invisible Empire, this was a surprise coincidence - and a surprisingly moving moment.   

On another note -

One of the topics that I will touch on briefly in the series is modern-day slavery and human trafficking.  Statistics vary quite a bit, but there are somewhere around 50 million people in the world today living in slavery.  Most coverage of human trafficking focuses on people being forced into sex work, but there are other areas of forced labor - one of the fastest growing being cyber slavery.  Hundreds of thousands are forced to work in industrial scale online scamming compounds. in southeast Asia.   You might find CNN's Ivan Watson's report on the intersection between human trafficking and the proliferation of online scamming:  Myanmar-based gangs force trafficking victims to scam Americans online. 

Some more food for thought - 

CNN's Fareed Zachariah closed out 2023 with a special report on immigration:  A Fareed Zakaria GPS Special: Immigration Breakdown.   Fareed provides a wide-ranging look at immigration, exploring not only the situation at the US southern border but immigration's history of racism.  You might also find the PBS American Experience page Reconstruction: The Second Civil War worth checking out.

Everything's Related!

Friday, January 5, 2024

Eric Larson's New Book: The Demon of Unrest

Eric Larson is one of my favorite authors, and his books have inspired some of my favorite lecture series -- and his new book, The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil, War (available May 1, 2024) ties into my upcoming series The Rise and Fall of the Not-So-Invisible-Empire.   

The election of 1860 was particularly fractious, and Abraham Lincoln was elected with only 39.8% of the popular vote, and Lincoln wasn't even on the ballot in all the states.  On November 9, 1860, just three days after Lincoln's election, the South Carolina General Assembly passed a "Resolution to Call the Election of Abraham Lincoln as U.S. President a Hostile Action" and stated its intention to secede from the United States.  On December 20 South Carolina followed through on secession, and other Southern states began to follow suit, formally establishing the Confederate States of America on February 9, 1861 - a month before Lincoln's inauguration on March 4, 1861.  Slavery was central to the conflict, and the proponents of secession unabashedly declared that the preservation of slavery was their motive.  

The Demon of Unrest chronicles the five months between Abraham Lincoln's unlikely election on November 6, 1860 and the Confederacy's shelling of Fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 12, 1861 that ended Lincoln's hope of holding the Union together and avoiding war. 

Hope to see you in The Rise and Fall of the Not-So-Invisible Empire!  

Check Out Larson's Books [Links take you to Amazon]

Friday, December 22, 2023

Registration is Open: The Rise and Fall of the Not-So-Invisible Empire

Registration is now open for my next online lecture series in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at California State University-East Bay:  The Rise and Fall of the Not-So-Invisible Empire.  

You can register on the OLLI website by clicking here.   Hope to see you there!  In the meanwhile, check out a few of my recommended readings in a previous post.   [Of course, I'll have created a lengthy bibliography by the time the series starts as usual.]  

You might also find the PBS American Experience page Reconstruction: The Second Civil War worth checking out.

On a misty April evening in 1865, a jubilant crowd packed the White House lawn to hear President Abraham Lincoln first speech since the end of the Civil War. They expected a stirring celebration of the Union victory — but instead got harsh reality. Even with the South defeated, Lincoln warned, the future would be "fraught with great difficulty." He called the task ahead reconstruction — a word that returned to American headlines nearly a century and a half later, in the aftermath of the war in Iraq.
Even as Lincoln spoke, opposing forces were gathering. Some Americans saw Reconstruction as a chance to build a new nation out of the ashes of war and slavery. Others vowed to wage a new war to protect their way of life, and a racial order they believed ordained by God. Lincoln saw the problem with agonizing clarity. Bitter enemies, North and South, had to be reconciled. And four million former slaves had to be brought into the life of a nation that had ignored them for centuries. In some ways, it was harder than winning the war.
Three days after delivering his warning, Lincoln was shot dead. Reconstruction would have to go forward without him.
Spanning the momentous years from 1863 to 1877, Reconstruction tracks the extraordinary stories of ordinary Americans — Southern and Northern, white and black — as they struggle to shape new lives for themselves in a world turned upside down.
Reconstruction:  The Second Civil War
American Experience 
Aired January 12, 2004

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

The Rise and Fall of the Not-So-Invisible Empire: Some Recommended Reading

If you are planning on participating in my next online lecture series, The Rise and Fall of the Not-So-Invisible Empire, you can mark your calendar.  We have it scheduled - and registration is now open.  You can register on the OLLI at CSU-East Bay website by clicking here.

In the meanwhile, I want to recommend some related books that are worth reading whether you are planning on joining me for the series or not.

America's Original Sin:  White Supremacy, John Wilkes Booth, and the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (John Rhodehamel)

John Rhodehamel weaves together the rise of Lincoln and the evolution of his thinking on slavery from containment to emancipation to racial equality and John Wilkes Booth's rise to fame as an actor, his growing anger and hatred of Lincoln, and the evolution of his plot from kidnapping to assassination.  This is the first book to explicitly name white supremacy as the motivation for Abraham Lincoln's assassination.  (America's Original Sin on Amazon)

Unpunished Murder:  Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice (Lawrence Goldstone) 

On Easter Sunday, 1873, a band of white supremacists attacked the residents of Grant Parish, Louisiana and massacred over 100 African Americans in what is one of the most horrific episodes of mass murder in the United States.  Although those who sought justice for the victims took the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court, no one was ever convicted - and the resulting Cout ruling (US v Cruickshank) helped create a society in which black Americans could be legally oppressed and denied basic human rights, paving the way for Jim Crow laws and institutionalized racism in the American justice system. (Unpunished Murder on Amazon)

Built from the Fire:  The Epic Story of Tulsa's Greenwood District, America's Black Wall Street (Victor Lukerson)   

Popularly known as America's "Wall Street", Greenwood is a historic district in Tulsa, Oklahoma, During the early 20th century, the district grew into one of the most prominent and prosperous concentrations of African American businesses in the United States.  It was burned to the ground in the Tulsa race massacre of 1921 in which a white mob gathered and attacked the area.  Estimates of deaths range from 75 to 300 with hundreds injured and 5000 left homeless.  Victor Lukerson tells the story of the people who built the Greenwood community and struggled for equal opportunity, the destruction of the community and massacre of its population, and the surviving residents who rebuilt their community.  (Built from the Fire on Amazon)

You can check out the current course offerings at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at CSU-East Bay here.  You don't need to be a member to enroll in a course - and many courses are offered online.  


Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Planning Ahead: The Rise and Fall of the Not-So-Invisible Empire

The Rise and Fall of the Not-So-Invisible Empire is the working title of my next online lecture series for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at California State University-East Bay.  With the current challenging conversations among Americans about race, I thought it would be a good idea to look at some of the America's racial history and have proposed a lecture series on slavery and the Ku Klux Klan which has often been referred to as the Invisible Empire.  We are still working out a schedule, but the series will take place in early 2024.  I will let you know when we finalize the schedule. 

Update:  Registration is now open on the OLLI at CSU-East Bay website.  Register by clicking here.

The Ku Klux Klan is an American white supremacist, terrorist, and hate group which has existed as three separate Klan organizations in three non-overlapping time periods in American history. 

  • First Klan (1865-1872):  After the American Civil War, the first Klan terrorized formerly enslaved Black Americans and their White allies in in South until it was crushed by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872.
  • Second Klan (1915-1944):  Inspired by D. W. Griffith’s 1915 incendiary film “The Birth of a Nation”, the second Klan (often referred to as the Invisible Empire) grew to include as many as 6 million Americans by the mid 1920s—primarily in the North and Midwest rather than in the South—targeting not only Black Americans but Jews, Catholics. and immigrants in general as well.  The second Klan tapped into American passion for fraternal organization at the time and partnered with Evangelical clergy, temperance groups and suffragists.  The Klan infiltrated local and state governments, Congress, the judiciary—and had its sights set on the presidency before its scandal-driven decline in the second half of the 1920s.  Membership dropped to about 30,000 by 1930, and it finally faded away in the 1940s.  
  • Third Klan (1950-present):  The third and current manifestation of the KKK with between 5000 and 8000 members emerged after 1950 in opposition to the civil rights movement.  Contemporary Klan groups have consistently declined due to a variety of factors including the American public's general distaste of the group, prosecution by law enforcement, civil lawsuits, and the growth of alternative radical right-wing hate and militia groups such as neo-Nazis and neo-Fascists.
For some recommended reading, click here.  

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Planning Ahead - The Great Awakenings

America's Great Awakenings were periods of widespread religious rivals led by evangelical Protestant ministers.  The Awakenings occurred just prior to moments of upheaval in American history – the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the two World Wars.  The Awakenings were characterized by:

  • Revival meetings, intense religious fervor, and a profound sense of conviction and redemption on the part of those affected;
  • A sharp increase in interest in religion and an increase in evangelical church membership; and
  • The formation of new religious movements and denominations

Each of the Great Awakenings lasted only about a generation.  Nevertheless, they each had a profound impact on American development.  The Great Awakenings shaped the discussions and debates over independence, abolition, suffrage and women’s rights. and social welfare. 

[This lecture series takes its title from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, a 1740 sermon by American revivalist preacher, philosopher and Congregationalist theologian, Jonathan Edwards (1703 - 1758.  Edwards' sermon was immensely influential during the 1st Great Awakening and considered a classic of early American literature.]

Registration for "In the Hands of an Angry God" is now available.
Click here to go to the CSU-East Bay OLLI website to register and view other courses.  

Friday, October 14, 2022

Planning Ahead - Politics of Grievance

The term populism originated in the USA in the late 19th century.  Populist-like movements, however, have existed in many eras in many places, and today populist movements with their politics of grievance exist in almost every democracy in the world.   

Because it ends with “-ism,” [populism] is often mistaken for an ideology, a counterpart to socialism and liberalism in competition for a coherent governing philosophy. It is no such thing. Instead, populism is best understood as a strategy for gaining and wielding power.” …[P]opulists portray a political reality neatly cleft into two:  corrupt, greedy elite versus the noble and pure—but betrayed and aggrieved—Volk, the people. All the people’s problems stem from the decisions—often conspiratorial, always corrupt—of a venal elite. …Populist leaders portray themselves as embodying the will of the people and championing their cause against the corrupt elite.  (The Revenge of Power by Moisés Naím)

Populist movements don’t fit easily into the left-wing/right-wing model—some movements are clearly left-wing, some right-wing, and some have elements of both—because populist movements are essentially reactive to the perceived political reality and grievance of “the People.”  

Politics of Grievance takes a thought-provoking journey to populism in the USA through the complexity of power dynamics and grievances in Western religious, intellectual and political development.  

Addicted to "Truth"Early Christians wrestled with one another over what constituted true belief, and over time the winners of those contests defined Christian orthodoxy—and over time gained the religious-political power to enforce orthodoxy and control Europe’s political and intellectual life. 

Recommended Reading:  Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (Bart D. Ehrman)

16th Century Grievances:  Protestant Reformers - The grievances of Martin Luther, John Calvin and others ended the religious, political and intellectual monopoly of the Roman Catholic Church

 Recommended Reading:  Luther’s Fortress:  Martin Luther and His Reformation Under Siege (James Reston, Jr.) 

Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650)
17th Century Grievances:  The Enlightenment - The Protestant Reformers were not advocates of religious freedom, equal rights or separation of church and state, but their break with Rome opened the door for intellectual freedom that led to the Age of Enlightenment, the philosophical movement based upon evidence of the senses, science and reason rather than faith and revelation.  Their grievances dominated and reshaped Western thought and politics in the 17th and 18th century.

Recommended Reading:  Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict between Faith and Reason (Russell Shorto)

18th Century Grievances: The Enlightenment and America's FoundersEnlightenment philosophy fueled America's founders' grievances with British rule and shaped their thinking on government, democracy, human equality, rights and self-determination.

Recommended Reading:  Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution (Woody Holton)

19th Century Grievances:  Populism in the United StatesAmericans of the Jacksonian Era demanded that government be taken out of the exclusive hands of "the Elite" and greater power given to "the People."  In the early 1830s, however, Alexis de Tocqueville expressed his concern that the populism he observed in his travels through America during Andrew Jackson's presidency would erode American's foundational ideals of equality and human rights, creating a new form of tyranny and despotism.

Recommended Reading:  The Revenge of Power: How Autocrats Are Reinventing Politics for the 21st Century (Moisés Naím)

Registration at www.scholarolli.com is available beginning December 12, 2022.

Counting Down to The Rise and Fall of the Not-So-Invisible Empire

My lecture series on slavery, White supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan - The Rise and Fall of the Not-So-Invisible Empire  - starts in just abou...