On this day [Sept. 22] in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, a document that put the Confederacy on notice of his intention to free their slaves. They had until January 1, he said, to lay down their arms; after that, any slave within a rebelling state would be “then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
Although he didn’t make a point of it, his proclamation — both this preliminary one, and the official one he made at the first of the new year, when the deadline arrived — did not free all slaves; those living in border states, for example, would remain enslaved. Nor did Lincoln have, of course, any way to actually enforce a liberated slave’s freedom; other than promising to no longer aid in the capture of fleeing slaves, his promised emancipation relied entirely on the Union eventually winning the war.
“Too much hate that’s fueled extremist violence [has] been allowed to fester and grow.
You know, as a result, our very own intelligence agencies — our own intelligence agencies in the United States of America, have determined that domestic terrorism rooted in white supremacy is the greatest terrorist threat to our Homeland today.
I’ve been around a while.I never thought I’d hear that or say that.
The Confederate monument in front of the Alamance County Historic Courthouse will stay where it is after a superior court judge, in that same courthouse, dismissed a lawsuit from the NAACP demanding its removal – at least for now.
“It is abundantly clear whatever decision I make will likely be appealed,” said Judge Don Bridges.
The state and local NAACP, several other groups including business owners, individuals, and clergy members call the monument a danger to public safety and protecting it a waste of taxpayer money. They filed a lawsuit in Alamance County Superior Court in late March of 2021 against the Alamance County Board of Commissioners, alleging that keeping the monument in a prominent place violates the state constitution by denying Black residents equal protection under the law, promoting racism and wasting public funds.
The suit asked the court for an injunction to remove the statue and a judgment declaring state law does not prohibit the county from removing the monument and prohibiting the county from moving it to another location on county property.
The county’s monument to local Confederate war dead is a statue of a soldier atop a pillar about 30 feet above the street. It has been on Court Square since 1914 in front of what is now the only public entrance to the Alamance County Historic Courthouse. It’s been the focus of demonstrations for and against it for years, but the summer and fall of 2020, after the killing of George Floyd in 2020, became nothing short of intense.
The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office estimated it spent at least $750,000 in officers’ time on 39 demonstrations in 2020 – a figure the suit used to support its argument against spending public funds to protect the monument.
The Alamance County Commissioners have been advised they do not have the authority to move the monument under a 2015 state law limiting when local governments can move “objects of remembrance.”
The NAACP suit claimed the county interprets the public-safety clause in that law too narrowly, treating it only as a way to move monuments before they fall and hurt someone.
But, according to the suit, the state Attorney General’s office interprets it broadly and the Governor’s Office determined that UNC-Chapel Hill was acting within the law when it removed Silent Sam after protesters tore it down and removed monuments from the capitol grounds after protesters vandalized them.
The county spent about $30,000 on a fence around the monument to prevent any such vandalism in 2021, which a hit-and-run driver damaged in June.
Plaintiffs also argued the monument created a risk of violence pointing to a number of incidents between protesters, counter protesters and law enforcement through 2020, many of which worked their way through local and federal courts.
The presence of a monument to the confederacy in front of the courthouse also sends a negative message to Black residents who must pass it on the way to seeking justice under the law, the NAACP argued.
Judge Bridges, however, said the monument protection act, as it is often called, was obviously intended to protect statues like this one, and the commissioners clearly relied on that statute when they chose not to take any action to remove it. The plaintiffs did not, Bridges said, choose to challenge the law itself or the General Assembly that made the law.
“If the statute is valid,” Bridges said, “then the county commissioners are entitled to follow it.”
Bridges said the issue wasn’t strictly political but came close enough that a court should be wary of digging too deeply into it.
“It is better addressed by the public at the ballot box than in the courtroom,” Bridges said.
TORONTO (AP) — When Viola Davis, sculpted and hardened from months of training, first stood in the full garb of the Agojie warrior women, with her bare feet in the African sand, it was the culmination of not just the years–long push to make “The Woman King,” but of a lifelong battle.
“It was sort of metaphoric to not just everything I had done to prepare for this role but everything that I had done as a Black woman to prepare for this moment,” Davis says. “Which is to be a warrior.”
“The Woman King,” which opens in theaters Friday, is a $50 million action epic, set in 1820s West Africa, about the all–female army of the Kingdom of Dahomey. Made largely by women and featuring an almost completely Black cast, it’s powerfully unlike anything Hollywood has ever produced. And just as much as “The Woman King” dramatizes the fierce fighting of the Agojie, the film represents its own struggle.
“Fighting for actors. Fighting for the director. You have to fight for the writer,” Davis, also a producer, said in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Years and years and years go by and you’re still fighting. You’re fighting for the budget. You’re fighting for even the commercial aspects of the story. You’re fighting for your hair. Fight. Fight. Fight.”
“Whenever you’re doing anything new, it requires the warrior spirit,” says Davis. “What I feel now is: It was worth it.”
“The Woman King,” directed by Gina Prince–Bythewood (“The Old Guard, “Love & Basketball”), began as an idea seven years ago, after a trip to Africa by Maria Bello, the producer and actor. Enamored by the history of the Agojie, she brought the concept to producer Cathy Schulman, the producer of the Oscar–winning “Crash” and the former head of Women in Film.
Schulman knew the film could be a potent portrait of female strength, but she didn’t anticipate that, following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, it might serve as a rallying cry at a time when many consider women’s rights under siege.
“There couldn’t be a more important time for a movie about female courage, about sisterhood, about the complexity of the female experience, not to mention the physicality of our bodies,” Schulman says.
Viola Davis brought her empowering drama “The Woman King” to the Toronto International Film Festival for the film’s world premiere. Davis said the role of an African warrior named Nanisca “feels like my coming out party.” (Sept. 11)
But the producers and Davis, who was attached early on, found it difficult to convince executives and financiers to bankroll “The Woman King” at a budget large enough to provide it the scale it deserved.
“‘Braveheart,’ ‘Gladiator,’ ‘Last of the Mohicans.’ I love those movies,” says Prince–Bythewood. “Now, here was our chance to tell our story in this genre.”
“The Woman King,” a rousing emotional wallop that seamlessly fuses interior drama with action spectacle, was met with universal acclaim at its Toronto premiere as a crowd–pleaser of another kind. But the Hollywood calculus for what might appeal to a broad audience has traditionally really meant “Will white people watch it?”
“Black people did not have to love ‘Thelma & Louise’ for ‘Thelma & Louise’ to get made,” says Davis. “White people have to love ‘The Woman King’ for ‘The Woman King’ to get made — according to Hollywood.”
A pivotal moment came when “Black Panther” was released. Ryan Coogler’s film featured a fictionalization of the Agojie, the Dora Milaje, and its massive worldwide box–office ($1.3 billion) was a wake–up call to the industry.
“We would not have been able to do ‘Woman King’ without ‘Black Panther,’ Davis says. “I’m eternally grateful to ‘Black Panther.’”
To ready for the shoot in South Africa, Davis and fellow cast members Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch and Sheila Atim underwent a grueling monthslong regimen of weight lifting and fight training. The actors later performed their own stunts in the film. Davis, who at 57 refers to herself as “the O.G. warrior” among her younger castmates, says she never felt prouder of her body. “Not just for the way that it looked but for the way it serviced me.”
Lynch, the British actor of “No Time to Die,” would later be astonished watching herself in the film.
“I find it hard to believe that that was really me,” says Lynch. “It really taught me a lot about just what women come with. We have so much to be able to push through pain and birth children and push against the world’s pressures.”
“The Woman King,” penned by Dana Stevens, shot by Polly Morgan and edited by Terilyn Shropshir, was crewed by Prince–Bythewood with women and people of color in most department–head positions.
“It breathes such a more pleasant set,” says Schulman. “Lack of drama. More attitude of the work first. Less hierarchy. I just haven’t seen any job a woman can’t do. That was all a fallacy.”
Lynch, visibly moved by her experience making “Woman King,” for the first time witnessed an Africa–set action drama staged outside of the white male gaze.
“‘The Woman King’ will be its own blueprint that I hope filmmakers and heads of studios can take as an example,” Lynch says.
Some have been skeptical of how “The Woman King” tackles history. Last month, the 1619 Project author Nikole Hannah–Jones wrote on Twitter that “it will be interesting to see how a movie that seems to glorify the all–female military unit of the Dahomey deals with the fact that this kingdom derived its wealth from capturing Africans for the trans–Atlantic slave trade.”
The Agojie were indeed a brutal and bloodthirsty army that participated in slave raids. “The Woman King,” like most historical epics, takes some artistic license. But the slave trade is a central component to its narrative. Schulman says the 1820s were chosen from the 1600–1904 history of the Dahomey kingdom specifically for the backdrop of conflict with the mightier Oyo empire, along with mounting pressure from European colonizers for captives.
“The Woman King” is hoping to make history of its own by blazing a new path for the film industry. The Sony Pictures release will hope to enliven movie theaters after a prolonged late–summer lull at the box office.
“I feel that the film is eventized,” says Schulman. “My anticipation is that we’re ready for this film. We just don’t know how ready we truly are.”
Davis, for her part, feels like she’s been ready all her life. She has taken to calling “The Woman King” her “magnum opus” because her production company produced it, because she fought so hard for it.
“This was a hard–won battle,” says Davis. “And I won it. I feel like I won the battle.”
It’s an accomplishment that sends Davis back to her initial dreams of show business as a young girl growing up poor in Rhode Island. Before encountering the reality of the film industry, her movie dreams were limitless.
“This movie affirms that it’s possible,” says Davis. “That there are no limitations to my dreams. That, actually, I was right.”
What with Ukraine, Mar-a-Lago, Jerome Powell, and what-not, I suppose we can be forgiven (ha!) if we didn’t pay a lot of attention to the gnashing of teeth over President Biden’s long-delayed decision to forgive a significant amount of student debt.
As with everything else, the fallout is sharply polarized, with people like Ted Cruz predicting the end of civilization as we know it, and with folks in the Larry Summers wing of the Democratic Party fussing over the possible inflationary impact. (Do these inflation hawks ever fuss over the debate-free passage of ginormous unpaid-for military appropriations? Just wondering.)
And then there’s the “Christian” (i.e., evangelical Protestant) reaction to Biden’s action, as reported in Christianity Today and elsewhere, where scholars and cranks play whack-a-mole with Bible verses having to do with debt.
What I like best is the Can we proof-text this? We probably shouldn’t. But let’s try anyway! aspect of it. Not to mention the dominant focus on rival passages in the Hebrew Bible without much, if any, attention paid to how Jesus responded to debt peonage in his time and place.
Stefani McDade begins her Christianity Today roundup of evangelical responses by reporting on the top four Bible verses being cited by online Christian commentators in response to Biden’s move. The top four verses popping up on her screen were all from the Hebrew Bible—or the Old Testament as CT prefers to call it.
Then McDade cites the reactions of three guys. The first, an Anglican priest from Indiana, is all in on debt forgiveness. This guy actually does quote Jesus a lot. The second guy, from the Cato Institute (that well-known Christian organization), says that you can’t apply biblical texts related to an ancient agrarian society to our situation. The third guy, who works for a Washington PR firm, says let’s not debate this at all:
Instead, we should humbly engage others with our biblical convictions and research about alternatives, cost-benefit analysis, and weighing of unintended consequences as we pursue human flourishing and the common good.
I am sad to announce that this will be the last edition of this newsletter. This decision was mine, and it was a difficult one to make because I’ve enjoyed the interactions I’ve had with you, my readers. Your emails and messages have made this, without question, the most enjoyable and satisfying writing gig of my career.
This project was always supposed to be free-flowing and open to my own interpretation. Such freedoms are rare in journalism, and while I was both excited and flattered by the opportunity to spill the contents of my brain on Mondays and Thursdays, I will admit that it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to actually say in this space. I am, by nature, a deeply ambivalent person about most things, and did not carry an agenda with me into the job.
But over the past year, as I’ve written about homelessness, education policy, nursing homes, and even dabbled a bit in the culture wars, a central argument began to emerge.
It turns out, there was more to this story, which further digging has at least partially exposed. I want to share that here.
This episode could be said to have begun a month earlier, in mid-July, with pistol shots and bursts of machine gun fire in downtown Graham, the county seat. This confrontation serves as our opening segment:
Act One: The Battle of Alamance Court House
On Sunday July 18,1920, North Carolina’s adjutant general issued the following order:
STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
ADJUTANT GENERAL’S DEPARTMENT
July 18, 1920.
1. Under the provisions of Section 11, Chapter 200, Public Laws of North Carolina, Acts of 1917, the Commanding Officer of the Machine Company, 1st North Carolina Infantry, Durham, N.C., is hereby directed to assemble his Company and to report to the Sheriff of Alamance County, for the purpose of upholding the law of the State, and guard the jail of said county until relieved by proper authority.
2. Upon completion of this tour of duty, the Commanding Officer will make full report to this office of the duty performed. . . .
The “machines” mobilized by the unit were machine guns, hence the unit’s nickname, “the machine gun company.”
The Governor who gave the order was Thomas W. Bickett, who served from 1917 to 1921, through World War One.
In these years, the Great Migration of Black citizens heading north, seeking better jobs and some refuge from racist terror, was burgeoning: as many as 20,000 Blacks had left the state during the war. Governor Bickett tried to slow the exodus by reminding Blacks about racial violence in the North, and pointing out that there had been no [recorded] lynchings in NC during his time in office.
Any sense of racial calm, however, was soon shattered: the war’s end in Europe in November of 1918 was followed by a wave of violent race riots and massacres in dozens of U. S. cities, during what Black author and activist James Weldon Johnson called the “Red Summer” of 1919.
It was red with the blood of the dead and injured; red with the flames of burning Black-owned homes, farms and businesses; and “Red” with panic over a feared leftist “Red” revolutionary uprising — which never actually happened, but which triggered the notorious “Palmer Raids” in which thousands of suspected radicals were rounded up. The raids were led by U. S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer (a Philadelphia Quaker, by the way), and added to the seething racial tensions.
North Carolina was largely spared from this round of major outbreaks, though riots erupted in Norfolk, Virginia and Knoxville Tennessee; too close for comfort. And Bickett’s no-lynchings-in NC boast was soon quashed, when George Taylor was lynched in Wake County (near Raleigh) in November 1918, and again on July 7, 1920, when a masked mob stormed the jail in Person County north of Durham, and lynched Ed Roach, who had been arrested on a charge of assaulting a white woman.
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is dropping more hints about a potential run for governor in 2024. And, if elected, he says he’d work to keep science and history out of some elementary school classrooms. He says he’d also seek to eliminate the State Board of Education, end abortion and work to prevent transgender people from serving in the military.
In a forthcoming memoir, Robinson explains how he drew his views from a wide range of life experiences, beginning with a troubled upbringing and a violent father. Little did he know that a fiery 2018 speech about gun rights at a Greensboro City Council meeting would set him on a journey to become the state’s top Republican executive office holder and first Black lieutenant governor.
The night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, the Rev. J. Deotis Roberts was attending a conference at Duke University, listening to German theologian Jürgen Moltmann present a paper on the theology of hope.
Dr. Roberts, a soft-spoken Baptist minister and theology professor at Howard University in Washington, had spent years wrestling with philosophical questions about God, existence and meaning. Now he began to wonder what Moltmann’s theology — what any theology — had to say to “a hopeless people” living in an age of anger and despair.
The next morning, he asked Moltmann how his approach to Christianity might be applied to Black Americans. The German scholar had no answers.
“It was then,” Dr. Roberts later wrote in an essay, “that the seed of ‘black theology’ began to germinate in my own mind.”
Dr. Roberts went on to help pioneer Black theology, a new perspective on Christianity that evolved in response to the revolutionary spirit of the Black Power movement, with a focus on issues of racial justice and liberation. “I am pleading for a theology of the Black experience which grows out of the soil of our heritage and life,” he wrote in a 1976 article for the Journal of Religious Thought, outlining his vision. “For us faith and ethics must be wed. There can be no separation of the secular and the sacred. Jesus means freedom.”
A first-generation Black theologian, Dr. Roberts rose from an upbringing in the segregated South, where the county prison was within sight of his elementary school, to become the first African American to earn a doctorate from the University of Edinburgh’s divinity school in Scotland. His work emphasized both liberation and reconciliation, drawing from King’s emphasis on nonviolence as well as Malcolm X’s message of Black self-determination. As he saw it, the church had an obligation to address social issues and engage with the daily struggles of marginalized people, including African Americans.
“No theologian of [Christianity] can escape the ethical questions raised by racism,” he wrote in his 1971 book “Liberation and Reconciliation,” “whether white oppression or black response.”
Over the decades, Dr. Roberts’s work became “a touchstone” for generations of Black theologians, according to his former student David Emmanuel Goatley, director of the Office of Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School. Dr. Roberts was 95 when he died July 22 at his home in Clinton, Md. His daughter Charmaine Roberts Parker confirmed the death but did not cite a cause.
For years, Dr. Roberts was engaged in an intellectual dialogue with the Rev. James H. Cone, who effectively launched Black theology as a formal discipline with his 1969 book “Black Theology & Black Power.” While Cone emphasized the need for liberation, Dr. Roberts insisted that reconciliation was just as important. “He did not want to support any notion of freedom, of liberation, that would in any way create separation,” said the Very Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
“If Cone was more spurred on by a Malcolm and the Black Power movement,” she added in a phone interview, “then Roberts was more like a King,” emphasizing a message of nonviolence and reconciliation while pointing to “Christ’s universal relationship to all humanity,” not just White people, who often depicted Jesus as a blond-haired, light-skinned messiah. “For Roberts,” Douglas continued, “Black people had as much right to see Christ in their likeness as did anybody else.”
Dr. Roberts liked to say that he lived “with one foot in the academy and one foot in the church,” and preached and taught at churches while spending much of his academic career at historically Black institutions. He taught at Howard’s divinity school for 22 years before leaving in 1980 to become president of the Interdenominational Theological Center, a consortium of seminaries in Atlanta. He was later a distinguished professor of philosophical theology at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in the Philadelphia suburbs, and in 1992 he was elected the first Black president of the American Theological Society, one of the field’s oldest professional associations.
He felt an obligation, he said, to help “overcome the cancer of racism” afflicting seminaries and other religious institutions, in part by bringing more people of color — and more women — into leadership positions. For many years he also taught alongside Latin American theologians at a seminary in Buenos Aires and collaborated with scholars from around the world, focusing in particular on Black theology’s African spiritual heritage.
“Roberts applied himself and his genius to building important bridges between African Americans and Euro Americans; the church and the community; older and younger generations; traditional and contemporary cultured expressions; and between prophetic and praise-based church traditions,” said Adetokunbo Adelekan, a theology and ethics professor at Palmer Theological Seminary, the successor to Eastern Baptist.
“In so doing,” Adelekan continued in an email, “he helped to expand our imagination about the role of the seminary and the church and where the future of the American Church may be.”
The youngest of three children, James Roberts was born in Spindale, N.C., on July 12, 1927. His father was a carpenter, and his mother was a homemaker. According to his daughter, he took the middle name Deotis at the suggestion of his elementary school principal, who said that it meant “learned man” or “scholar.”
He went on to graduate from high school at 16 and studied at historically Black universities, receiving a bachelor’s degree from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte in 1947 and a bachelor of divinity from Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., in 1950. During his studies, he supported himself in part by serving as a pastor.
Dr. Roberts earned a master of sacred theology degree in 1952 from Hartford Seminary (now Hartford International University for Religion and Peace) and received his doctorate in philosophical theology five years later. In part, said Goatley, he completed his education in Scotland because of racial barriers at American divinity schools: “There were exceedingly few opportunities in the United States for an African American to be able to pursue a PhD in theology or philosophy.”
The year after he got his doctorate, Dr. Roberts joined the Howard University faculty. He took a leave of absence in the mid-1970s to serve as dean of the theology school at Virginia Union University in Richmond, and taught at Eastern Baptist from 1984 until 1998, commuting to the campus in Wynnewood, Pa., from his home in Silver Spring, Md. Later he taught for three years at Duke.
Dr. Roberts published more than a dozen books, including the essay collection “Quest for a Black Theology” (1971), which he edited with James J. Gardner; “A Black Political Theology” (1974); and “Bonhoeffer and King: Speaking Truth to Power” (2005), which explored the theological perspectives of King and German minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
His wife of 66 years, Elizabeth Caldwell Roberts, an elementary school teacher, died in 2019. In addition to his daughter Parker of Clinton, Md., survivors include two other daughters, Carlita Roberts Marsh of Washington and Kristina Roberts, a best-selling author who writes under the pseudonym Zane and lives in Atlanta; eight grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. He was predeceased by a son, Deotis.
After he started writing about Black theology, Dr. Roberts appeared at conferences and church gatherings to discuss his views, including at a 1989 conference in New York City where speakers noted some of the problems facing Black Americans, including poverty and violence.
“In some respects, we’ve gone backwards in this decade, and racism itself has become more insidious,” he told the New York Times at the time. “If our people are to survive,” he continued, “it will be largely due to how well the Black church carries out its mission.”
Harrison Smith is a reporter on The Washington Post’s obituaries desk. Since joining the obituaries section in 2015, he has profiled big-game hunters, fallen dictators and Olympic champions. He sometimes covers the living as well, and previously co-founded the South Side Weekly, a community newspaper in Chicago.
The most elegant gentleman to come out of Minnesota, Mr. Butch Thompson,
died yesterday in St. Paul. He picked up the New Orleans spirit listening to Jelly
Roll Morton 78s and carried it through the 20th into the 21st century. He was a pianist and a clarinetist, the piano for the bounce, the clarinet for the blues, and if he could've he would've played both at the same time. We worked together for years, a quiet man, and I never knew him except through his music. God bless the memory, God preserve the music.
Born and raised in Marine-on-St. Croix, a small Minne-river town, Butch Thompson was playing Christmas carols on his mother’s upright piano by age three, and began formal lessons at six. He picked up the clarinet in high school and led his first jazz group, “Shirt Thompson and His Sleeves,” as a senior.
After high school, he joined the Hall Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band of Minneapolis, and at 18 made his first visit to New Orleans, where he became one of the few non-New Orleanians to perform at Preservation Hall during the 1960s and ’70s.
In 1974, he joined the staff as the house pianist of public radio’s A Prairie Home Companion. By 1980, the show was nationally syndicated, and the Butch Thompson Trio was the house band, a position the group held for the next six years.
From the early days on APHC, Butch remembers, “It was pretty casual back then. Margaret or somebody would call me and ask if I was busy on Saturday. More than once I remember saying I couldn’t get there by showtime, and being told to show up as soon as I could. Sometimes I’d go onstage without remembering what key something was in. If Garrison was going to sing, I usually couldn’t go wrong with E major.”
By the late ’90s, Thompson was known as a leading authority on early jazz. He served as a development consultant on the 1992 Broadway hit Jelly’s Last Jam, which starred Gregory Hines. He also joined the touring company of the off-Broadway hit Jelly Roll! The Music and the Man, playing several runs with that show in New York and other cities through 1997.
The Village Voice described Butch’s music as “beguiling piano Americana from an interpreter who knows that Bix was more than an impressionist and Fats was more than a buffoon.”