Thursday, July 9, 2020

Octavius Catto

The battle for equal rights in America is an ongoing struggle.    From the Civil War to today civic minded people have led protests and organized resistance to inequity.  Over the years some protesters have received more attention then others.  Octavius Catto was a Civil Rights leader that is often left out of Civil Rights discussions.   He was born in South Carolina.   His family moved north when he was a child.  He enrolled in school and educated himself at the Institute for Colored Youth and in Washington D.C.  He studied Latin and Greek and went on to become a teacher.  In the summer of 1863,  he successfully helped the Union recruit black regiments.  Although he did not fight in the Civil War, he was awarded the rank of Major for his efforts.  After the Civil War he organized protests against segregation laws in the public transit system of Philadelphia.  He also worked to register black people to vote in the election of 1871.  While working for political equality he was targeted by local party bosses and shot in cold blood.  His work was inspired and courageous.   I found this in an article referencing the book Tasting Freedom: Catto and the Battle for Equality in the Civil War America.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Alaska Territorial Guard

German and Japanese imperialism were the main causes of World War II.  When Japan began building its territory the U.S. Army was alarmed.  When the Japanese raided and occupied parts of Alaska the U.S Army responded with the development of the Alaska Territorial Guard (ATG). The goal of the ATG was to be the “eyes and ears” of the U.S. Army during a very tenuous time.  The ATG recruited six thousand three hundred unpaid volunteers.  They trekked hundreds of miles across western Alaska.  These Alaskan Natives' contribution to the war effort in 1941 was valuable and brave.  They were prepared to defend their homeland and deserve more recognition.    

Friday, June 19, 2020

Tulsa 1921

In 1921 there was a massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma..  It was the home for a thriving black community dubbed "Black Wall Street." It had hundreds of successful black business owners.  While the community thrived, racial tension mixed with envy and anger.   One false accusation caused an unnecessary tragedy.  The false accusation came from a 17 year old white girl who shared an elevator with a 19 year old black boy.   The younger white girl claimed that he assaulted her.   Within days, her claim of assault turned into accusations of rape.  Within 24 hours, the young black boy was arrested, tensions escalated, and the 35 square blocks of Tulsa was destroyed.  This event should be in every textbook. Teaching and discussing unsung events in American history is the key to a more inclusive and well rounded curriculum.  Maurice Willows  was an unsung hero of this tragic event.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Sylvia Mendez

When it comes to striking down "separate but equal" most people think of Brown v Board of Education (1954).   But this was not the first time "separate but equal" was struck down. Mendez v Westminister struck it down in 1947. Sylvia Mendez is often forgotten by the history books.  She was a young Mexican girl who grew up in California during the 1940's.   Mendez had to attend a Mexican school which was strikingly inadequate compared to white schools.  In her Mexican school boys were introduced to agricultural labor and girls were taught house keeping.  Her petition to integrate the schools was heard by the Supreme Court over a 2 year span (1944-1946). 

There is a illustrated children's book entitled Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tontaiuh.  The book is about Sylvia Mendez and California segregation. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Ghost Boys

I have a great children's literature suggestion that seems especially timely.
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes.  Teaching history from alternative points of view sheds light on new internal and external conflicts. 

Friday, June 12, 2020

Ruby Bradley

Nurses often work in the shadows of inspiring heroes and receive significantly less appreciation. Their work is  instrumental to any standing army.   West Virginia Army nurse Ruby Bradley’s record is one for the ages.  Her accomplishments and actions are inspiring and brave.  Bradley served as a combat nurse and a prisoner of war in the Philippines during World War II.  She assisted in hundreds of major operations on battlefields and was awarded two bronze stars.  She risked her life on many  occasions. She was one of the most decorated nurses in military history.  She was known as the ‘Angel in Fatigues.’  

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Triple Nickles

The Triple Nickles (555th) were created during World War II.  The 555th were named after an infantry of Buffalo soldiers from the late 1800’s.  This colored unit was subject to racist laws and intolerance.  African American’s served in strictly supportive roles for the white soldiers at Fort Benning. Until Walter Morris decided to enact change.  He wrote a letter to his superiors suggesting the formation of an all black airborne unit.  He expected negative feedback or to be fired.  Instead he was granted his wish.  The white officers did not think they would last.  The group of soldiers were organized and rigorously trained. The group began with seventy volunteers and grew to the thousands.  In 1945 the Triple Nickles were used in Operation Firefly.  They fought fires in the Pacific Northwest set ablaze by thousands of Japanese balloon bombs  They were pioneers in combating forest fires.  Soon the Triple Nickles would be known as “Smokejumpers.”   They succeeded when no one thought they would.  His expression, “This is my county, This is my duty, This is my responsibility,” is powerful.