Pondering War by Muriel Tillinghast (Members Blog)

(Download this document here)

 I was in my third year at Howard University when I had an unusual opportunity to travel to Southeast Asia.  One of my stops was in the Philippines — an archipelagic country, a big word for a nation of islands, in this case about 7600 islands or so.  Two things among other insights have stayed with me.  One was Corregidor.  It was the gateway island that controlled entry into Manila Bay, the entry to the island of Luzon which houses the capital city, Manila.  With a small group, I  descended “The Rock,” as it was called, some 20-odd years after the Japanese surrender.  It established for me what the expression “dug in” actually means in war-talk.  Observing this place in its dormancy, I could imagine its functionality as an unground city in war.    Chroniclers of WWII  have said that the Battle for Corregidor rivaled and surpassed the horrors of the infamous war camp Bataan, and we all know the hell that was.

At a later point, I went to the US Military Cemetery in Manila.    I had been to cemeteries before, but except for my visits to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington, this seemed different.  There was a stillness — not just a solemnity  —  which silenced my head as I looked over the thousands of white crosses placed just so indicating a body was buried there.  In many cases, the body had no name, some mother’s son given to the earth, nameless, gone.  It was profoundly sobering.  

Changing the focus a bit, on another occasion I went to a piano concert.  Now I am not given to concerts in particular, but this one was for a girl who was a prodigy, a genius who was Black.  Philippa Schuyler was in concert.   Her chosen instrument was the piano which was the original instrument for this magnificent music of which you just now heard a part.  Her selected work was all 10 movements of “Pictures in an Exhibition” by  Modest Mussorgsky.  The last movement is “The Great Gate of Kiev” which you heard as you were assembling for this talk.  Philippa Schuyler died in South Vietnam in the war, one of many.  Philippa, a well prepared, multi-lingual, multi-talented woman of genius,  was slammed and buffeted by racism.  She would never be acknowledged.  Even though we never met, I never forgot her. 

Envision with me our coming to a large building,  the one just up ahead.  This imagery may not hold of all this speech, but hang in there with me for now.  We won’t go in yet and push open those huge doors.  Let’s stop.  I want our conversation to be edifying  Know now that I don’t have answers; I have only perplexities.

I have been wrestling with how to present this topic of “war”  to you in a way that has meaning and leaves you with something on your mind. I have pondered on how to hold this topic steady, to control the narrative,  and to be clear in this limited period of time.  Let’s see. . . .

Let’s do the numbers as they say on NPR:  the first of the World Wars brought us 20 million dead with 21 million more wounded; 110,000 more of them never returned or were MIA.  A half-million children became     fatherless in England alone.  Then came along the Spanish Lady or the Influenza of 1918.  It was so impactful that it is considered the reason the world war stopped — more soldiers were dying of it than of bullets.  Killing between 675,000 to 750,000 Americans alone, that pandemic made its documented presence in 1918, but it was suspected some time before that date.  It killed between 50 to 100 million people world-wide by the time it abated.  Then came WWII in less than 20 years with the human count by its conclusion some 6 years later of 50 – 56 million military and civilian fatalities with approximately 19 – 28 million war-related deaths due to disease and famine for a total of about 85 million people.  Out of the 50 – 56 million deaths, 50 – 55 million were civilians. Sixteen million Germans died with 415,000 MIAs.

Purportedly, there are universal reasons for the initiation of war — the offensive strategies — but they are too numerous to enumerate here with much specificity except to say that they tend to be either culture-bound, primed with stoked anger and/or tied to economic reasons often for private benefit which is cloaked or more concealed.

Military art or science is extensive, but I would submit that it is largely focused on current circumstances: the study of tactics and strategies in the current experience(s),  next to nil on history, the manufacturing and use of weaponry, and the disciplining and deployment of the military fighters on all three spaces — land, sea, and air — to secure objectives operating within whatever standards exist or are enforceable by their commanders.  

Reading about some of the world’s implacable problems, I wrestled with various phrasing, “to win the hearts and minds of people.”  I wondered how this made any kind of sense?  And, if so, to whom?  The military was obliterating the people and their land — blowing up the ground and grinding the people to dust.  What minds were they going to win? How was that supposed to happen?  You can still hear that kind of thinking right up to today’s American presence in Afghanistan and Syria.  And, another expression, “a war to end all wars.”  Nonsensical and superficial, if hopeful.

That a people had the right to choose their own government, I had been taught that this was an axiom of American foreign policy.  It certainly was hammered home in my public school education.  Then I read about the “Banana Republics” and American foreign policies in South America with the training of their military at the U.S. Army School of the Americas  in Atlanta, Georgia.  That taught me foursquare that the right to chose one’s own style and kind of government  independent of any major power is not operative nor has it ever been likely the case since the founding of this republic.  That certainly came home in the Vietnam War where America dropped more bombs in little Vietnam and its neighboring countries than in all of WWII. Even with all of that, how can you kill an idea as fundamental as independence?

That said, it should be clear  that what is publicly spoken, is far from the whole picture.  Is this duplicity at its height?  Probably.  Most certainly, it is the fact that policy is complicated by the winding of private — generally corporate interests — into national policy and the public is certainly the last to know the real deal.  They are not taught or encouraged to look beneath the surface.

How quickly the enemy of yesterday can become the friend of today.   Reading about the stranglehold the Third Reicht had on almost all of Western Europe, I was floored by the courage that the Russians exhibited in finally turning back Germany’s eastern advance.  Then I wondered how this country and her sister, England, could turn against not only their ally but their essential partner and enter into the so-called “Cold War?”  Further, why would the U.S. embrace former Nazis, high and low, and bring them to this country and/or facilitate them going into South America?  These were former enemies, dangerous men!  Is America not a good friend?  

But there’s a little more about which I couldn’t reconcile so just work with me a bit more.  The Great Powers ignored the Spanish Civil War        that was the precursor to the great conflagration of World War II.   Some suggest that if it had been won by the legitimately elected democratic forces, it could have nipped Hitler’s moves in the bud. Weren’t the European communists and socialists the first to signal that Hitler and his cohorts were evil and deadly?  Why didn’t the general population heed? Why are we still dancing around some of this same thinking in this country in the year 2020?  

Hatred — for real or imagined “reasons” — bursts forth when opportunity allows.  The psychotics and sociopaths are seemingly always with us, but they need fertile ground on which to grow politicly.  Did the United States encourage the importation of significant numbers of these types from Europe in the great westward expansion of this country increasing the already present sense of white domination and nationalism?  What accounts for this in real terms?  Can information actually sweep away gross, intentioned ignorance?

Why is mankind so unwilling to grow, admit past errors, improve judgment, and make amends where possible and allowed?  Surely, we by now, especially in the so-called west, we should realize that all of us are on the same small planet in the solar system and that no one group owns the earth!  Why is that a continued fantasy?

I remember talking with the small shopkeepers who occupied every corner in my neighborhood for blocks.  I was an inquisitive kid and so I asked them, how did they end up in my part of the city.  Who were they with their thick accents, where did they come from?   They showed me the tattoos on their forearms, gotten at some place called a concentration camp.  I was 5 or 6 years old, maybe a little older.  They told me that they were “DPs” displaced persons, people found by the Allies and released after the defeat of Germany. They were everywhere.   At the time, in my unsophisticated mind, it was just something I stuck in my memory bank.  Later, when reading about the displacement of Native Peoples here in this country, I saw great similarities.  Who’s the copy cat?  When I read about the Serbs and Croats efforts to vanquish the Moslems in Central Europe, doesn’t it sounded like a replay of the same kind of machinery and treachery we have seen and heard before?

Somewhere along the line,  I came to the recognition that government and private interests work by symbiosis particularly in the area of  foreign policy; you might say they are intertwined.  The mission and policy outcomes of war have many layers most of which cannot be easily resolved, certainly not publicly.  Often the reason for the current war is because of some things/issues/bad blood which occurred in past ones. There’s no finality to the action however intense and singular.   Sense and reason are often sacrificed on the altar of bloodlust.  The essence or kernels fundamental to both the mission and outcome are more soundly found out through diligent research rather than through the blather of politicians.  We are still figuring out pieces of the American Revolution much less the hundreds of war situations during and since then.

Now maybe if you understand that, this comment may now resonate: “the first casualty of war is truth.”  You are only told what you “need to know” and that is very little.   And, all you really need to know is to how to conform and support the troops whether in or out of uniform.  

Elaborate embellishments cover all of the following :  (1) coveted land and resources — almost never stolen people, (2) retribution for some past actions of a prior war as in the debacle of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the rub could go back centuries, but it only went to the previous world war — 20 years earlier — for Hitler’s enmity to find harvest; and, (3) finally on my list, displacing current residents — the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time, I will let you apply that to situations with which you are familiar.  

War’s violence brings about new trauma, new causes for hate because there are new violations.  And, war is going to make things right, yes?  No, that is what the propaganda machine spews.  The state’s or the empire’s military might has to spin for itself a “believable myth” that not only soldiers will buy, but that the general population will support as well.   The more vile or villainous the “causal act or actions,” the stronger the anticipated popular response.  But here’s the hitch:  wars almost never go the way the initiators anticipate for a variety of reasons.  In protracted wars, privation usually visits the home country in some ways.  But most interestingly, the people calling for the war never seem to fight in them.  They send somebody else’s sons and now daughters to do their deeds.  Indeed, war is an odd affair.  Full of moronic behaviors and thoughts to say the least.  In the meanwhile,  people are dying and all of the attendant destruction is occurring.

Let’s bring this conversation home.  Between the jabs from our current political leadership and the internet-trolls combined with what had been underground arch-right menaces, I hear the word “war” frequently.  It is bandied about in the media lightly, to my thinking, without real concern or warning.

Wars begin in the hearts and minds of men.  It has been a man’s game.  For at least the last 2, 000 years, for the want of control of particular resources or people, men have marched, ridden,  and since WWII flown hundreds if not thousands of miles to acquire and satisfy the avarice of their leadership.  Beneficence is not a common factor in war, so those in the way — women and children, non-combatants all — pay with their lives and means, blatantly a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I have also wondered, have you, has there ever been a day without war anywhere at any time?  I would be grateful to know of one. 

Here are some thoughts on the world stage:  the constant wars in Asia with the growth and contraction of China’s sense of empire; the national expansion in Japan towards a single country and its ravishing  and plunder of Manchuria, Korea, and China proper; much earlier the movement of the Mongol khans into Europe who shook the earth with the thundering hoofs of between 130 to 150 thousand men on horseback; the constant wars in Europe as the peevish greed of church and state churned the countrysides from Rome to Scandinavia into battlefields for who would dominate whom in Europe and later, the New World; the subjugation and vanquishing of Native Peoples in the New World; the kidnapping and enslaving of Africans to turn the forested regions of that New World into agricultural gain; the wars about whose god is God and what books and writings about Him were acceptable or not and on and on. . . .  These are my wars that I have wrestled with for this talk.

War’s restlessness is part and parcel of the American tradition, that this country — according to reliable sources has had less than 25 years of so-called “peace” since it began in 1617.  And, what is “the peace?” Well, that’s another conversation for another day.  The opposite of war is no war, peace is a much greater concept yet to be fully understood or explored.

Established as a colony, and moved on to being a settler state, and later a nation, this country has maintained an on-going war with Native Peoples from the beginning. The level of destruction to them should be obvious when we call out Native American words that mark our rivers, mountains, counties, streets and states in language given by those people but they not around or are no longer here. I mention that the bounty coaxed from the land and its profits have never been shared with the formerly enslaved population or the mill and factory workers who eked out a living  in the industrial transference of raw materials into consumer goods.  

Organized labor fought many a bloody battle for what we have come to recognize as the ordinary work week and basic demands for workers’ rights and dignity in the work place.  Those unionists faced constant military and para-military might fixed to waylay or obliterate their demands.  As a complete absurdity to me is that the police have a union!  Do we make a mockery of everything?  Is every idea up for sale?

So “war” can and does become internal.  We call them by many words, but civil unrest, civil war just about covers it. Organized labor made many missteps regarding race and now it faces a  backlash from people who never struggled, and therefore have a loose meaning as to the efforts made.  However,  for a brief period, at least, they have enjoyed the       hard-won benefits of other’s sacrifice.

You can see today what the progeny of the anti-democratic forces are willing to devalue in our fragile democracy as you observe the current struggles at the federal level.  Whether you actively admire or are merely passive in your participation in our political process, you have some understanding of those who would throw it all away and what that will mean going forward.  They are those who are deranged and ignorant of the basic tenets of right and wrong, justice and injustice, and think they will not have to finally pay the paymaster.  Everyone pays the piper one way or another!

As war has maintained itself in many societies across time and space, there seems to always be a level of “professionalism” which persists despite the futility of the war itself.  With a seemingly permanent social status, the persons and actions have found their way into the social structure; it signals permanency in the political agenda going forward. 

There are cracks and arrangements in the machinery of war where recognition for sheer survival requires cooperation over conflict.  Sometimes that has reached the national and international stage, that is what treaties are all about.

“On 12 June 1941, the representatives of Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa as well as representatives of the exiled governments from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Yugoslavia, and the Free French, met in London to sign the Declaration of St. James Palace to pledge their solidarity in fighting aggression until victory against the Axis powers was won.” The Declaration proclaimed that “the only true basis of enduring peace is the willing cooperation of free peoples in a world in which, relieved of the menace of aggression, all may enjoy economic and social security.”   

WWII finally halted on September 2, 1945.  Approximately 6 weeks later on October 24, 1945, 51 countries came together to create the United Nations or the UN.  Its purpose was to promote peace and cooperation around the world.  The event was to be observed by all member countries.  …. We have seen the effort and the evisceration.  Yet the U.N. endures  —  there is nothing else to take its place — and, so does war.  Seventy-five years for a very difficult job, happy birthday United Nations, take a bow!

Why does the Republican Party hate the UN? This is what I think.  Cutting through the verbiage, this is the bottom line. They conjure up many things, but I think that the corporate partners of the Republican/Federal      government structure do not want or ever intend to be held accountable for their operations, overt or covert.  And, they certainly have no intention of being held accountable before any world body, particularly one dominated in any form or manner by people of color.  Period, the end of discussion!  Where are the Democrats on the U.N.?  From my observation, the Dems have been milquetoast.  There has been no champion for the United Nations in this country for decades.  And the failure pay up and bring forward its billion-dollar dues is mind-boggling.  I guess they would rather kill using the military, than spending the funds to diplomatically let the UN do what it needs to do.

The military of the United States is deployed in more than 150 countries around the world, with approximately 165,000 of its active-duty personnel permanently assigned outside the United States and its territories excluding Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

When we come to the 20th century, we come to the marriage of technology and military might that is, in fact, capable of eradicating huge populations in current and future time. This echos the warning of Dwight Eisenhower some 50 years ago, “Beware of the military-industrial complex.”  The use of depleted uranium in Fallujah (Iraq) and apparently throughout Iraq and the Gulf Wars, not to mention the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has rendered normal childbearing and normal children out of the question for women in those  areas.  

And, while in the past, somehow human life has endured, that question remains open to shaky speculation as atomic power and its acquisition has unsecured the dominance in international warfare of the super powers and put its access in the hands of interests which function differently who have other bridges to burn.   What will the future bring?  I do not know.   This is our hope.

In closing I give you this most famous quotation from the  the Hindu text, the  Bhagavad-Gita, which has been quoted by many across time.  Most recently, however, it is attributed to J. Robert Oppenheimer, Father of the atomic bomb, winner of that bitter race to create and control atomic  energy that the Third Reich was also trying to establish,  but here it is:  “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”.

Thank you.

 1 During the conflict, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers) fought against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and the United States (the Allied Powers).
 World War I casualties – Centre européen Robert Schuman.  www.centre-robert-schuman.org › userfiles › files › REPE…PDF World War I casualties – Centre européen Robert Schuman
 The Lost Doughboys — The Hunt Continues for American …   militaryhistorynow.com › 2016/03/09 › the-lost-doughboys.
A lot of children had a tough time during the war as their fathers, brothers and uncles were away serving. Over 500,000 children lost their father in World War One. It was the biggest loss of fathers in modern British history.
Childhood in WW1 – Black Country Living Museum.
Its origin was from a tiny, hardscrabble, rural town in Kansas, in Haskill County to be exact 1918 Flu History Documentary, Youtube.  And,The site of origin of the 1918 influenza pandemic and its …  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov › pmc › articles › PMC340389.  Jan 20, 2004 — In actuality, by then the county was free of influenza. Haskell County, Kansas, is the first recorded instance anywhere in the world of an outbreak …
by JM Barry · 2004 · Cited by 122 · Related articles
“Is the World Due for an Influenza Pandemic?” | Mount Sinai …
7 Ibid
 The main combatants were the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) and the Allies (France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China).Sep 10, 2020.
World War II casualties – Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org › wiki › World_War_II_casualties
World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history. An estimated total of 70–85 million people perished, or about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion).
World War II casualties – Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org › wiki › World_War_II_casualties
11 Fourteen million were killed internally:  6 million Jews, the  then Jehovah Witnesses, handicapped, homosexuals, mentally challenged, political enemies and people that get on the Nazi’s nerves.  The rest maybe attributable to those Germans killed in their displacement from occupied territories at the end of the war.
12  Military art is a field of theoretical research and training methodology in military science used in the conduct of military operations on land, in the maritime or air … Military art (military science) – Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Military_ar
How does a conquering army overcome resistance from the local population? For the United States, the answer has often taken the form of the somewhat nebulous concept of winning hearts and minds.”
. . .Essentially, the United States tried to convince the native population that they have been liberated and that their quality of life has been improved by a benevolent American invasion.”  “Winning Hearts and Minds” – The Long History of a Failed …www.warhistoryonline.com › instant-articles › winning-…  Oct 3, 2018
Woodrow Wilson’s World War of 1914–1918. Originally idealistic, it is now mainly used sardonically. The war to end war – Wikipedia   en.wikipedia.org › wiki › The_war_to_end_war
A visual record of the largest aerial bombardment in history
Between 1965 and 1975, the United States and its allies dropped more than 7.5 million tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia—double the amount dropped on Europe and Asia during World War II.     Bombing Missions of the Vietnam War – Esri  storymaps.esri.com › stories › vietnam-bombing
Excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC. War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is …  Military Force: United States Marine Corps.   Smedley Butler on Interventionism.  fas.org › man › smedley.
The Spanish Civil War: A Trial Run for World War II | nationalinterest.org › feature › the-spanish-civil-war-trial-   And,
Spanish Civil War:  Jul 17, 1936 – Apr 1, 1939  Spanish Civil War – Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Spanish_Civil_War
WWII dates:  September 1, 1939 – September 2, 1945.  World War II: Summary, Combatants & Facts – HISTORY www.history.com › topics › world-war-ii-history
18 The military of the United States is deployed in more than 150 countries around the world, with approximately 165,000 of its active-duty personnel permanently assigned outside the United States and its territories excluding Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria
Under international law, a treaty is any legally binding agreement between states (countries). A treaty can be called a Convention, a Protocol, a Pact, an Accord, etc.; it is the content of the agreement, not its name, which makes it a treaty.
History of the United Nations | United Nations.www.un.org › model-united-nations › history-united-n…
Saturday, October 24
United Nations Day 2020 Saturday, October 24; www.un.org › events › unday
During World War II, the Allies—known formally as the United Nations—adopted as their basic war aims the Four Freedoms freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, and freedom from want.[15][16] Towards the end of the war, the United Nations Charter was debated, drafted, and ratified to reaffirm “faith in fundamental human rights, and dignity and worth of the human person” and commit all member states to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”.[17] When the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany became fully apparent after the war, the consensus within the world community was that the UN Charter did not sufficiently define the rights to which it referred.[18][19] It was deemed necessary to create a universal declaration that specified the rights of individuals so as to give effect to the Charter’s provisions on human rights.[20] www.scribd.com › document › Universal-Declaration-o…
22 Of the U.S. arrears to the UN totaling over $1.3 billion, $612 million was payable under Helms-Biden. The remaining $700 million resulted from various legislative and policy withholdings.
United States and the United Nations – Wikipedia


Legislation Celebrates Juneteenth (Members Blog)

Legislation Celebrates Juneteenth (Members Blog)

A Day Which Commemorates Black and African American Freedom and Achievements

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed into law legislation (S.8598/A.10628) designating Juneteenth as an official public holiday in New York State. The new law celebrates Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the end to slavery and celebrates Black and African American freedom and achievements while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday for New York State employees.

“I am incredibly proud to sign into law this legislation declaring Juneteenth an official holiday in New York State, a day which commemorates the end to slavery in the United States,” Governor Cuomo said. “This new public holiday will serve as a day to recognize the achievements of the Black community, while also providing an important opportunity for self-reflection on the systemic injustices that our society still faces today.”

Senator Kevin Parker said, “Finally, we are beginning to acknowledge the historic oppression and injustices that African-Americans have endured. This holiday is a first step in reconciliation and healing that our great state needs in order to ensure equity for all people. Thank you Governor for your support and advocacy.”

Assemblymember Alicia Hyndman said, “Juneteenth serves as a piece of history towards Black liberation in this country. I am glad to serve along with my colleagues in government and Governor Cuomo, as a part of ensuring these important parts of Black American history will continue to be told in our great state of New York.”

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when the news of liberation came to Texas more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863. African Americans across the state were made aware of their right to freedom on this day when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston with federal troops to read General Order No. 3 announcing the end of the Civil War and that all enslaved were now free, as well as to maintain a presence in Texas for the purpose of enforcement of emancipation among slave-owners throughout the state.

Muriel Tillinghast, Co-Chair
Lucy’s Children*
(Named for the Australopithecus “Lucy” discovered in 1974 by the Johanson Team in Ethiopia, East Africa)

The Sentry (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) (Members Blog)

We are mourning the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg who for 27 years sat on the United States Supreme Court. Her impact in writing, affirming and advocating primarily the rights of women in a fractious and increasingly conservative judicial arena gave her various monikers, the Notorious B.E.G. is one that I have found to be the most illuminating and endearing, an unlikely “street” moniker for a scholar, a jurist and a lady in every respect.

I will leave you to read about her illustrious career and struggle with cancer in other places. This is a note of commemoration for a public hero of which we have far too few in this decade of our America.

The holder of not only ideas, Justice Ginsburg fashioned the trajectory of theory against which to make judgments at the High Court level to hold people accountable as well as to retread laws and review actions which bound women’s interests against their own fundamental rights. She consistently applied the measuring rod: what does this mean for and in the lives of women?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a sentry at the judicial gate. Sometimes it was a lonely vigil, but she stood at attention in her solitary role, ever vigilant, on duty until the last light left her eyes.

Muriel Tillinghast,
Co-Chair Lucy’s Children*
(Named for the Australopithecus “Lucy” discovered in 1974 by the Johanson Team in Ethiopia, East Africa)

America Not at its Greatest (Members’ Blog)

Note: This is a statement of solidarity with and for the current public responses to the police murder of George Floyd, late of Minneapolis, Minnesota by the Ethical Action Committee of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture.

Today, millions of people around the world are on the brink of new thinking. New information is decimating old values and generating different perspectives about how we as Americans should live with each other. Having one’s life in the hands of sadistic, uniformed, gun-toting authorities is an impossible situation to negotiate especially when down on the ground, cuffed with someone’s knee on the throat. People are speaking out, calling for accountability by the police and their handlers — those at the top of civil authority — to change their MO (modus operandi), their way of conducting themselves in all quarters and at all times. Demonstrators are calling out to all federal, state, county, and city policing authorities. This is a national issue affecting police work on the street that we can see to the work in precincts and in jails and prison where we cannot see.

Now for those who didn’t know before, this treatment is a blueprint of the behaviors to which Blacks were subject in slavery. With help from our racial and class allies, these pro-Floyd responses have the momentum to be the catalyst to writing the next chapter in American life. Such improvement requires significant changes inclusive of having infrastructures in place with open channels ensuring increased inclusion of Black people through the American economy. Improving the police means permanently weeding out those with temperaments and attitudes of rabidity. Better policing will require fundamentally the revamping and reorientation of those in uniform, not just in rhetoric, but in behaviors and policy with heavy accountability for misconduct.


Juneteenth, a Historical Analysis (Members Blog)

Juneteenth, a Historical Analysis (Members Blog)

 Platform speech by Muriel Tillinghast (used with permission)
July 7, 2019

 It was an honor to delve into this annal of American history.  It allowed me to probe some historical confusions and to, hopefully, correct a few misconceptions — mine and probably yours as well — relative to this particular holiday with a funny name.  Let’s start with the word itself, “Juneteenth.” It hit my ears as peculiar, a made-up term attributed to slaves, a people with little literacy and peculiar speech as compared with the language of other classes.  So, I probed.

    Juneteenth has a particular significance — I will get to that in a minute as that is the subject of this speech — but the word’s sound should not have hit me as strange.   English and American English, in particular, is full of these kinds of words — portmanteaus, that is the blending of two or more unrelated words and making up a third word with a different meaning.   For example, smoke and fog to make smog or motor and hotel to make motel and breakfast and lunch to make brunch — they are all part of the American vernacular, our everyday words. Recognizing this linguistically settles this odd-sounding word issue.  This is a regularity within the practice of neologism, creating new words and sounds as the language expands to take in new concepts and expressions.  

     So why does Juneteenth make us raise our eyebrows if just a bit?  Let me say that for me, it is a word not often in use and that rests deep within the racist place in me and most assuredly in all of us, which makes words coming from non-European sources, at the best, sound a bit “outside,” if you know what I mean.  I won’t pursue this line of discussion, but this reality starts our journey . . . .  

     June and “teen” makes June 19.  No one seems to know who or how the “th.” got added; the “th” being a suffix forming nouns of action (birth) or abstract nouns denoting quality or condition (depth; length; warmth).  Hmmm, not bad for an illiterate people.  

     Let’s start with the word, “Juneteenth.”  It is a portmanteau, a word combining the sound of two words to make the third word with new meaning, like break and fast being breakfast, or breakfast and lunch combined for the word brunch.  Back to the story and the times.  Who among the slaves had a calendar, a pen, and paper?  Who knew what this man with the paper had to say reading from the Ashton Villa, the gathering place where important things and important people functioned?  Which date was the day of this proclamation, who knew? Common sense may have told the slaves that it was after the 10th and before the 20th for reasons we do not know.   It may also be that the date was overhead as it may have been cast about in talk at the landing on that fateful day.   

    In the period of this action in 1865, it was a criminal offense with fatal consequences for a slave to read and write.  Even for Free Blacks (not Freedmen as Blacks were to be called after the Emancipation Proclamation), the public display of being literate was considered uppity and could result in fatal consequences as well.   So, from the onset of this event, the slaves were to hear words they never thought they would hear during their lifetime, words from a man they had never seen before and would see only for a brief period during this time of great chaos and upheaval.  Not only was the United States government bringing a message to the Blacks, but it was also bringing the Civil War to a close. A few reactions for history’s sake were noted; most whites were not all welcoming or celebratory as they stood among the listening slaves, but I am getting ahead of my story.

    When I started researching this historic occasion, I was continuously surprised about how many details were wanting, how many gaps appeared in putting this story together.  There is a lack of comprehensive information readily available in any single place. Maybe it has something to do with where our textbooks are written — coming from Texas there is yet to be any significant mention of slavery itself.  There’s hope though, in 2020 and thereafter, there will be some correction in that regard. We’ll see. Researching this subject allowed me an opportunity to act as a sleuth, looking into the back channels to connect what dots I could.  Today, you will be the beneficiary of my efforts. Here we go. . . .

    Juneteenth is the final chapter of the Civil War. Subscribing to whether that war actually closed is a matter of perspective; but, whatever side you are on, this was most assuredly the closing of one style of life with the reluctant and often violent opening of another.  This Texas chapter takes place at the last major outposts of the Confederate Army. The Union’s presence with almost 2,000 men and horses had orders to subdue all military action. The actual results were to run the confederate hornets out of their nests sending them home, into extinction or silence. 

      The Emancipation Proclamation authored by Abraham Lincoln, was earlier on a means of breaking the psychological back of the Confederate psychosis and rendering their chief means of raising their required finances inert.  Slaves were of a calculated collective value of over #3 billion dollars, not a sum to take lightly. But by the time of the Galveston pacification, Lincoln was dead (April 4, 1865). The federal government headquartered in Washington, D.C., was in flux gravely bowed by so many actions and counter-actions in a high-stakes power shift.    Texas, so far off from the nerve centers of the east coast, was always late on the change of scene. Not only did Texas get the official message late, parts of it never seemed to receive the message at all.  

     There is speculation, of course, why this occurred.  Surely, there were enough scouts to have brought the message forward.  Did murder silence the messengers or was there a general conspiracy to ignore this strange directive and carry on as usual?  There are no real answers. One that does stand up is that there would have been no enforceability in areas where fighting was active.  So until Texas was under Union military control, the notice would have served no real purpose beforehand.

    Interestingly, this final chapter to the largest bloodbath in American history remains a footnote in the larger annals of American history and I wonder why does that remain the case?  Nonetheless, given the willfulness and perseverance of many Blacks in Texas with their very few white allies, the event and location where the proclamation was made is remembered, and celebrated, but was not so at the time. 

     A word more on commemorations, Juneteenth is called in some quarters Emancipation Day.   It became a state holiday in Texas in 1980, and as it has been in Texas, the day has been consistently celebrated outside in 44 states and internationally in approximately 20-odd countries.  I think that this is grand. But, why aren’t there more celebrations? Why is there no national event recognition particularly since there are no other events set aside to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation?   Yet we know so much about Christopher Columbus, the man who brought slavery to the New World. There are always reasons, but let me give you a few things to ponder:

     One, the slave community was overwhelmingly illiterate — made so as mandated by the slave codes which were universally observed by almost all members of the dominant society.  Who would write any of this down? Among other essentials of the day, what about the names of the ships that brought in the troops? Is that memorialized anywhere?    

    Two, white Texans were generally overtly hostile to the slaves both before and after the Emancipation Proclamation.  Formerly, with some protection as slaves, Blacks now had very little to none. They went from being an economic asset to being a financial and social liability — at least that is how white society saw this — always quick to determine the dollars and cents of a matter.   

     Three, white Texans generally hated those dreadful Yankees now in their midst reading this General Order #3 declaring the end of slavery.  That paper declared the death knell of the Southern Cause — something that many of them held on to with an abiding faith.   

     All of this rolled out at the same time along with the beginning chapter of the Union’s occupation.   This was an eventful day, one probably long-anticipated, but also deeply resented by whites and a little beyond many who upon hearing that they were free to go wherever had no place to go.  That notwithstanding, many took to just leaving where they now stood or reported for work. Texans call this “The Scatter,” as the former slaves now sought out family members from whom they had been separated.  Putting families back together, that was the slaves’ priority. Whites despaired that there would be no return to how things use to be. It is little wonder, then, that most of the details of that day are missing.     

     Returning to the story. . .  Juneteenth doesn’t start in Texas.  As a working document, the Emancipation Proclamation began on a date the economic Panic of 1857, in July of 1862.  But to get in front of this rolling event, let us take a step even further back. Social and political scientists would call this an examination of some precipitating events.  So here we go. . . .

    When Abraham Lincoln was elected President on November 6,  1860, the Deep South roiled. As part of a campaign speech in 1858, two years earlier in a run for the Senate in his home state of Illinois,  Lincoln fingered a nerve. He was a Republican. The Democratic Party in this period was the party of “slave-holding” interests; the Republican Party was the party of the free north. Even though he was virtually an unknown, Lincoln’s  “House Divided” speech signaled to the ever vigilant pro-slavers in his state — which had strong anti and pro-slavery divisions — that he was not entirely “their man.” He argued against Stephan Douglas that the nation could not continue to exist half slave and half free or words.  The national direction would have to be entirely one way or another — slave or free. On this, there could be no compromise!  

    Taking a further step back, the 1850s was a decade fraught and layered with economic, political and social upheavals, one after another.  To name a few: the Fugitive Slave Act followed by the economic Panic of 1857, the Dred Scott Decision, the Missouri Compromise then “Kansas, Bloody Kansas.”   The latter is attributed to John Brown’s effort to respond to riot conditions in both Kansas and Nebraska stirred by vigilantes throughout the territories who traveled and pillaged to intimidate voters to support slavery.  Harriet Beecher Stowe’s, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a knockout success, punctured holes in old ignorances about slavery. All the time progressives, like Frederick Douglass, maintained contact with a network of men — mostly — in the president’s orbit.  America was moving from a simmering set of conflicts to that of a boiling pot. In his public messages and conversations, Lincoln continued the “a house divided cannot stand” commentaries and so it was a small step to assume the worse was in store for pro-slavers from the Lincoln administration.  

    Not an abolitionist, Lincoln, nonetheless was associated with the thinking that slavery into the West and Northwest must stop and he hoped that the union would hold together despite strains.  Preemptively, five weeks after Lincoln’s election, and approximately 119 days before his Monday, March 4, 1861, swearing-in ceremony, South Carolina seceded from the Union. Within the next two months Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas followed suit.  

    By February 4 or 8th — depending on who you read — in 1861, the sectional rift was more than words, a formal confederation of secessionist states had been established.  And, on the ground, war talk was quickly moving up and beyond a rumble to a shout!  

    Bolstered by broad and active  local and state-wide defiance to what they perceived would be hostile federal policies — though none had yet been made public or had otherwise materialized —  the seceding southern states had quickly organized themselves into the Confederate States of America, seven states whose leadership pledged to join as sovereign states for “The Cause”  They had a proper name, officers, uniforms and the like — even letterhead. The Union expected to make short shrift of things. However, their defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run, when Washingtonians had arrayed themselves in “picnic-like fashion”  to observe, they had falsely assumed that outcome. They expected that that fight would be a one-off. It was not. Lincoln now knew then that the South was in it for the long haul and consequently so was he. 

    A country needs a mission or a cause or a reason to be.  The Confederacy “Cause” for them was being left to do what they wanted to do:   raise cotton, tobacco, rice, beets, and cane, raise hogs and cattle and do business with whom they chose, with no interference whatsoever regarding their labor pool.  They rallied a united revolutionary front — now barely some 60 years after the ink was dry on the American Revolution. They would hear nothing whatsoever about any interference with their labor base with its endless resources.  Southern wealth turned exponentially on the exploited labor of slaves. 

    April 12, 1861, Pierre Beauregard,  the first general of the Confederacy organized the call to war with the firing — continuous I might add — on the Union seaport of  Fort Sumter, effectively serving notice for war. By July 21st, there was the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) as I have already mentioned.

    The Confederacy raised a military by conscription of close to a million men and had a battle plan or two.   Their leadership was generally well trained with a number of them from West Point and other military schools.     Spies worked both sides. The South worked tenaciously and often in the light of day to secure its advantage. The Union, too, secured its own reconnaissance, establishing a naval blockage covering 3,500 miles of coastland closing off significant port trade  and through other means efficiently blocking the south’s ability to borrow money abroad. Being in a state of war, both sides established way too many controls for us to talk about here, but suffice it to say, however, that tensions grew inside the homes of families and in the halls of state. 

   Early on, Lincoln and his cabinet remained hopeful that things would or could be turned around, that the split would only be temporary, but now that door was shut fast!   The Union’s quick blockade of principal ports slowly began to cripple the flow of funds for troops and trade. The blockage could reduce activity, but it could not eliminate it:  the export of cotton was a critical product provided the funding for the Confederacy as was the importation of various supplies for other needs. Over time and by the close of the war, the Union’s economic strategy here had unquestionably been effective. 

    Significantly, the Union had a poor presence on the battlefield. And, Lincoln wanted desperately to hold on to the border states, some of which held slaves.   A little flushed with a hard-won success at Antietam, Lincoln felt that the Union now had sufficient clout to provide a realistic threat which the emancipation of slaves would theoretically do.  In that reality however and without the Emancipation’s “shield,” thousands of slaves were running to the Union lines particularly as the army moved into their areas. It seemed time.  

      On September 22 soon after the Battle at Antietam, Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Program.  In it, he declared that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states shall then be, thenceforward, and forever free.”  It didn’t free a single slave, but it transformed the Union’s fight from purely the preservation of the Union to something loftier, the battle for human freedom.  No, the Emancipation Proclamation would not provide any magical change in circumstances or attitude. In fact, the backlash effect caused sometimes horrible results unless the ex-slaves were successful in escaping north or finding that rare respite.  The Feds were going to have to think beyond just winning the war; what was going to happen to the Blacks?

     q Note:  Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to the border states. Of the states that were exempted from the proclamation, Maryland (1864), Missouri (1865), Tennessee (1865), and West Virginia (1865) abolished slavery before the war ended. However, Delaware  and Kentucky did not abolish slavery until December 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified.]

      Texas was a principal source of smuggling for the Confederacy from 1860 until the port of Galveston was closed by the Union.   With 385 miles of coastline, the gulf coast was close to impossible to control. Moreover, Texas had scores of islands with a rich river system traveling inland with which having the right kind of boats and gear — the kind specially made in Galveston and other island communities along the coast  — gave great opportunity for clandestine trading. Galveston, Texas was a smuggler’s paradise. England was desperately dependent on southern cotton for its mills in Lancashire and Manchester and its banking houses were ever ready to let loans, if only arrangements could be made.  

    Did I mention that as the next-door neighbor Mexico — Texas as an independent state being newly wrenched  from those hands some twenty-four years earlier — proved a useful vehicle to evade the Union’s blockage? Vigorous trade with Europe was carried through the Caribbean and South American locations via sympathetic shippers and planters.   Between Mexico, Cuba, Barbados and points even further south, the Confederacy continued as best they could to carry on traffic and trade without too much interference from the blockage using this channel of access. In 1860, of the 300,000 bales of cotton shipped out, 200,000 came from Galveston.   

     Do you think that’s taking matters too far?  Well, did you know that among the various “final shots” fired for “The Cause “ one set of shots was fired on June 22, 1865, by the Confederate raider, a ship, the CSS Shenandoah in the Bering Sea.  That ship had been a repurposed British trade ship and was used to terrorize Union commercial ships long after the cessation of other hostile acts. Now that’s a piece of history no one talks about.     

      Now that you understand some of the length and breadth of the South’s operations, we can skip most of the rest of the battle information.   

   Most of us were taught that the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, when Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia in the McLean House in the village of Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.  Now, this took a bit of understanding on my part, was Lee’s signing the whole Magilla? It was not.  

    This confederation was a union of sovereign states who apparently needed/wanted and required separate jurisdictions and independent authority particularly as the war slowed down.  That is, each state’s military apparatus had to be met and brought to heel on its own. So, I followed the battle lines starting with Lee’s signing. 

     There were only 7 states in this southern debacle, but it still a great deal of land and ports to cover.   The fact that the South was largely rural did not make communication any easier. Other forces in the Eastern Theatre of the war surrendered from east to west, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana surrendered in early May.   I am mentioning May 9th particularly, because the cavalry troops at Gainesville, Alabama were under the control of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a name that rings in infamy even today. But you see that the surrendering process was moving at a pace west.  

     [Note:  Nathan Bedford Forrest was the convenor/orginator of the KKK.   He is also the murdering leader of the Fort Pillow Massacre.]

    On May 10th, President, Andrew Johnson declared the armed resistance — an interesting choice of words — virtually over. That was relatively easy to do from Washington.  For everywhere else the fighting in some form continued — battles, raids, skirmishes still to go and Texas was still in action. Who knew who was in charge there and if those soldiers were actually ready to put down their arms?  Significantly, some weren’t. The last official battle of the war in Texas was the Battle of Palmitto Ranch near Brownsville. There a force of 350 under Col. Rip Ford defeated 800 Union troops led by Col.Theodore H. Barrett. Odd, at this late stage Texas was still in an active state of war and the confederates exhibited strongly.  

   That notwithstanding,  the surrender of the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederacy at Galveston occurred June 2nd, 1865.    Seventeen days later, General Gordon Granger, commander of U.S. troops in Texas arrived. We don’t know if it was bright and early one Galveston morning or not.  No notice was recorded of the climate. We have no names of ships. But men and stead, almost 2,000 strong were present and ready to ride. We have no details generally presented on the transfer and arrival of the Union’s presence. Nonetheless, they came.  In the mix were seasoned Black troops. 

      [Note:  Five months after the Proclamation took effect; the War Department of the United States issued General Orders No. 143, establishing the United States Colored Troops (USCT). By the end of the war, over 200,000 African-Americans would serve in the Union army and navy.]

    Granger was given command of the Department of Texas on June 10, 1865, by Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, commander of the Military Division of the Southwest.  Galveston as a Confederate post had been abandoned some months prior to Union occupation due to the gross lack of supplies and food evidencing an increased effectiveness of the Union blockage.  Nonetheless, this declaration of the presidential proclamation came to Texas exactly 2 years, 6 months and 17 days behind the rest of the country. Armed resistance was expected. 

     Upon his arrival in Galveston on June 19, Granger officially declared that the institution of slavery was dead, setting off joyful displays by Texas freedmen. Granger’s proclamation formed the basis for the annual “Juneteenth” festivities, which celebrate the end of slavery in Texas.  He also declared that laws passed by the Confederate government were void, that Confederate soldiers were paroled, that all persons having public property, including cotton, should turn it in to the United States Army, and that all privately owned cotton was to be turned in to the army for compensation. He counseled blacks against congregating around towns and military posts, remaining unemployed, or expecting welfare; rather he advised them to remain on the plantations and to sign labor agreements with their former owners while awaiting further assistance from the Freedmen’s Bureau, which had not yet been established in the state. For six weeks Granger took this message into the interior of the state. 

    According to a biographer of Granger, he wrote, “[Granger] wrote a very radical statement for the time, striking in his language.” Faced with defeated but defiant Texans, Granger issued an order that went beyond instructions from division commander Gen. Philip Sheridan. Six days earlier, Sheridan had written to Granger the phrasing “all slaves are free” but “must remain at home.”

Granger’s order added the words “absolute equality” and defined the legal roles of “employer and hired labor.” Former slaves were only “advised” to stay in place.



     GENERAL ORDERS, No. 3. — The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, “all slaves are free.” This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.

    The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts, and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

By command of Maj.-Gen. GRANGER.

F.W. EMERY, Major, and A.A.G.



     How did the whites react?  Those who were not stunned, simply return to life as they had known it.  Where they could corral and intimidate Blacks to stay against their will, they did.  Generally, they acted badly, disruptively and viciously, not towards the Union troops that were moving through the state to inform the new freedmen of the change, but their rage was vented with impunity against the newly freed persons. Texas ran red in black blood.

    Many of the most brutal bushwhacker leaders, such as William C. Quantrill and William T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson, won national notoriety. A group of their followers remained under arms and carried out robberies and murders (which they may have considered to be ongoing guerilla resistance) for sixteen years after the war, under the leadership of Jesse James, his brother Frank James, and Cole Younger and his brothers.

    More isolated geographically, Texas was not a battleground state, and thus the people held there as slaves were not affected by the Emancipation Proclamation unless they escaped.  Early in the war, planters and other slaveholders had migrated into Texas from eastern states to escape the fighting, and many brought enslaved people with them, increasing by the thousands the enslaved population in the state at the end of the Civil War.  Although most enslaved people lived in rural areas, more than 1000 resided in both Galveston and Houston by 1860, with several hundred in other large towns. By 1865, there were an estimated 250,000 enslaved people in Texas. By example, an older Hispanic town, San Antonio, had 168 among a population of 3,436.

     How did the Blacks assembled react?  Slaves cried and danced for hours. Many shouted to the heavens, “We’s free! We’s free!” Thousands had no idea what freedom meant or how to experience it, but they knew it had to be better than eating hog scraps, wearing tattered clothes, living in slave quarters, and working for zero dollars.

    But even as the proclamation gave them everything, it provided them nothing. Thousands of black people left slavery without a strategy for survival. Some adhered to Granger’s advice to remain in Texas to “work for wages” as sharecroppers, ranch hands and domestics.

[This advertisement was published on June 18, 1947, in The Dallas Morning News. ( /Dallas Morning News)]

     The first anniversary of June 19 was quietly celebrated in Texas by former slaves who lived in fear of being sent to prison for breaking the Black Codes — almost word-for-word the Slave Codes post-Civil War — or shot on the roads as they traveled to work. Cold steel bars replaced cruel slave masters. Even when black Texans managed to navigate the daily hurdles of not angering whites, they were sometimes hung or beaten for almost no reason at all.

    Between 1865 and 1868, more than 500 former slaves were murdered in Texas, almost exclusively at the hands of white people. This brutality was designed to crush dreams and any notion of equality.

     To assist former slaves in their uncharted transition and counter the deadly response to emancipation, the federal government established the Freedmen’s Bureau. In 1867, the agency helped organize the first Juneteenth celebration at a park in Austin.

     inA few years later, two ministers, John Henry “Jack” Yates Tand Elias Dibble, purchased 10 acres in Houston to guarantee Negroes who wanted to celebrate Juneteenth could do so at Emancipation Park on Dowling Street. These men knew what Juneteenth meant that their brothers and sisters deserved a respite to sing, march, play baseball, devour barbecue or sip sweet tea minus the threat of violence.

Thank you.