On this weekend when we’re beginning the work of marking the passing of John Lewis, civil rights icon and longtime Congressman, it may interest some readers to review this account of my last visit to Selma, Alabama This is only one of the cities where John Lewis nearly was killed. It was also where I played my bit part in the 1965 movement drama there.
Below is a news photo from late February, 1965. It turned up a few years back (hat tip to the sharp-eyed Lewis Lewis): it was taken on the steps of Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, when John Lewis (center-left, with a tie) announced the plan to march from Selma to Montgomery.
The goal of the march was winning voting rights for southern Blacks; but the plan was sparked by the police killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson. I’m at the far right, behind Andrew Young (who is also in a tie).
[NOTE: This post first appeared in 2019. Unfortunately, only the increasing list of mass shooting sites, and the ever-growing roll of victims’ names have changed since.]
If you blog about Quakers long enough, you get asked a lot of questions — including some surprises.
Like the one that came in a few days ago, from the Clerk of a meeting located east of the Mississippi. The Clerk wrote that in an after-meeting discussion, a Friend asked what the Meeting would do if an active shooter appeared there. Did I have any ideas?
Five days a week, my grandson who lives nearby goes to a public school. Our town has homicides, too many. But mass shootings? Not in my years here.
Not yet, deo gratias.
So I’m no expert on this subject, and hope never to become one. But such is the sick society we live in, that any of us could become a personal “expert” in it, or a victim, any day. So after pondering the inquiry, I figured I’d do what I could.
The Clerk did have one idea. He vaguely remembered a painting seen in childhood, of a meetinghouse in the woods, in colonial times, filled with plain dress Quakers, sitting quietly as a group of armed Indians came through the door.
Supposedly there was a story that went with it, that the Indians had meant to slaughter whites, and had done so in other similar places. But the warriors were so moved by their pious placidity, and disarmingly Friendly demeanor, that they dropped their murderous plans and let them be.
Here’s my idea: rename Fort Bragg as Fort Harriet Tubman.
Why? Because she was a loyal & effective US Army Civil War combat veteran, who led troops in a successful raid up the Combahee River in South Carolina, which freed hundreds of slaves. She also went under cover behind Confederate lines as a spy and scout, again successfully. (All this was in addition to her amazing pre-war exploits on the Underground Railroad.
And not to mention that, in common with so many other war veterans then and now, after the war Tubman was treated shamefully & abandoned by the government she fought to save. She struggled for years to gain a veteran’s pension. When she did the monthly amount was (wait for it): $20.)
If somebody says, “But Tubman’s gonna be on the $20 Bill!” I say: Hey, that’s great, but it hasn’t happened yet, has it??
If and when it does, that AND renaming Ft. Bragg is still only a start toward an adequate recognition of this major league American hero of war & peace. (That’s Tubman as a soldier in the sketch below.) If we’ve got to have a big military base in North Carolina,
“Fort Harriet Tubman” has the ring of truth — and justice— about it.
The following article excerpts expand on this possibility . . . .
Defying Trump, Republican-led Senate panel backs stripping Confederate names from military bases Patricia Zengerle – June 11, 2020
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican-led U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee voted to require the Department of Defense to rename military bases named after Confederate generals, setting up a clash with President Donald Trump, who opposes that change and promised a veto.
The committee approved the measure, proposed by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, as an amendment to the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, a $740 billion bill setting policy for the Pentagon, announced on Thursday.
The committee, with 14 Republicans and 13 Democrats, adopted the amendment by voice vote, which allowed individual members to avoid recording their choice.
However, the panel’s Republican chairman, Senator Jim Inhofe, expressed concern, telling reporters on a conference call he wanted local input on decisions on base names.
Besides requiring that bases stop honoring Confederate generals within three years, the legislation requires the Pentagon to change the names of other assets – such as streets, aircraft and ships – named for Confederate officers or honoring the Confederacy.
Similar efforts to change the names have stalled before, but Americans have become more conscious about race after a series of high-profile killings of African Americans, including that of George Floyd, who died on May 25 as a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
As demonstrations have swept the country, cities have removed Confederate statues and institutions have barred displays of the Confederate flag, saying they do not want to honor those who fought to continue enslaving black Americans.
There is a separate movement in Congress, led by Democrats, to remove statues of Confederate generals and leaders from the U.S. Capitol.
TRUMP BLAMES ‘POCAHONTAS’
But Trump drew a line in favor of keeping the names of 10 bases – including the Army’s massive Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Benning in Georgia – named for military leaders who battled Union forces during the 1860s Civil War. He threatened to veto legislation changing them.
On Thursday, the Republican president doubled down on his position, attacking Warren on Twitter as a “failed presidential candidate,” and referring to her as “Pocahontas,” a nickname widely seen as racist. He urged members of his party to keep the names of “our legendary military bases.”
“Hopefully our great Republican Senators won’t fall for this!” Trump wrote.
Tubman’s Civil War service was above and beyond all her amazing exploits in the antebellum Underground Railroad. Though she worked very frequently with purportedly nonviolent Quakers, Tubman was no pacifist. And when the war broke out, she was eager to help the Union forces win it. After working with wounded soldiers, she also served as a scout and a spy behind enemy lines.
May 24 was (Authentic) Religious Liberty Day (at least it was here), but the Administration has some strange ideas about how to mark it. Like: turn it upside down & inside out.
That day it releaseda proposed federal rule that would deny transgender persons many of the medical benefits and legal protections they gained in the Obama years. The proposal is one more chapter in the continuing drive to roll back just about everything the previous administration achieved or initiated. (Full text of the proposed rule is here.)
In 1988 I wrote a substantial essay laying out my views about abortion, and describing how they had evolved over time. The piece also considered the increasing parallels, both rhetorical and political, between this struggle and the Civil War.
Thirty-plus years later, despite some continuing evolution and updates, much of the piece still seems relevant, not least the potential for civil strife.
(Author’s note from 1998 reprint: Many of the policy issues described in this essay still seem timely more than a decade later. Further, the personal journey it describes was an important part of my life, one not to be denied or concealed. It is also necessary background to the civil war scenarios that will also surface. . . . A much shortened version of the piece was published in The New Republic.)