Entries Tagged as 'History'

Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promised glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
In this truth
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright
So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

Amanda Gorman

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. Inaugural Address

Chief Justice Roberts, Vice-President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice-President Pence. My distinguished guests, my fellow Americans.

This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve. Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested a new and America has risen to the challenge. Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate but of a cause, a cause of democracy. The people – the will of the people – has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded.

We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile and, at this hour my friends, democracy has prevailed. So now on this hallowed ground where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundations, we come together as one nation under God – indivisible – to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.

As we look ahead in our uniquely American way, restless, bold, optimistic, and set our sights on a nation we know we can be and must be, I thank my predecessors of both parties. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. And I know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation, as does President Carter, who I spoke with last night who cannot be with us today, but who we salute for his lifetime of service.
I’ve just taken a sacred oath each of those patriots have taken. The oath first sworn by George Washington. But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us. On we the people who seek a more perfect union. This is a great nation, we are good people. And over the centuries through storm and strife in peace and in war we’ve come so far. But we still have far to go.

We’ll press forward with speed and urgency for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibility. Much to do, much to heal, much to restore, much to build and much to gain. Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now. A once in a century virus that silently stalks the country has taken as many lives in one year as in all of World War Two.

Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice, some 400 years in the making, moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer. A cry for survival comes from the planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now. The rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism, that we must confront and we will defeat.

To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy – unity. Unity. In another January on New Year’s Day in 1863 Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper the president said, and I quote, ‘if my name ever goes down in history, it’ll be for this act, and my whole soul is in it’.
My whole soul is in it today, on this January day. My whole soul is in this. Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the foes we face – anger, resentment and hatred. Extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, and hopelessness.

With unity we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs, we can put people to work in good jobs, we can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus, we can rebuild work, we can rebuild the middle class and make work secure, we can secure racial justice and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.

I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal, that we are all created equal, and the harsh ugly reality that racism, nativism and fear have torn us apart. The battle is perennial and victory is never secure.
Through civil war, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setback, our better angels have always prevailed. In each of our moments enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward and we can do that now. History, faith and reason show the way. The way of unity.

We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbours. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury, no progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America.

If we do that, I guarantee we will not failed. We have never, ever, ever, ever failed in America when we’ve acted together. And so today at this time in this place, let’s start afresh, all of us. Let’s begin to listen to one another again, hear one another, see one another. Show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war and we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.

My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this. We have to be better than this and I believe America is so much better than this. Just look around. Here we stand in the shadow of the Capitol dome. As mentioned earlier, completed in the shadow of the Civil War. When the union itself was literally hanging in the balance. We endure, we prevail. Here we stand, looking out on the great Mall, where Dr King spoke of his dream.

Here we stand, where 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote. And today we mark the swearing in of the first woman elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can change. Here we stand where heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion rest in eternal peace.

And here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen, it will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever. To all those who supported our campaign, I’m humbled by the faith you placed in us. To all those who did not support us, let me say this. Hear us out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart.

If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peacefully. And the guardrail of our democracy is perhaps our nation’s greatest strength. If you hear me clearly, disagreement must not lead to disunion. And I pledge this to you. I will be a President for all Americans, all Americans. And I promise you I will fight for those who did not support me as for those who did.

Many centuries ago, St Augustine – the saint of my church – wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love. Defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we as Americans love, that define us as Americans? I think we know. Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honour, and yes, the truth.

Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens as Americans and especially as leaders. Leaders who are pledged to honour our Constitution to protect our nation. To defend the truth and defeat the lies.

Look, I understand that many of my fellow Americans view the future with fear and trepidation. I understand they worry about their jobs. I understand like their dad they lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling thinking: ‘Can I keep my healthcare? Can I pay my mortgage?’ Thinking about their families, about what comes next. I promise you, I get it. But the answer’s not to turn inward. To retreat into competing factions. Distrusting those who don’t look like you, or worship the way you do, who don’t get their news from the same source as you do.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes, as my mom would say. Just for a moment, stand in their shoes.

Because here’s the thing about life. There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days you need a hand. There are other days when we’re called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be, that’s what we do for one another. And if we are that way our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future. And we can still disagree.

My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us we’re going to need each other. We need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter. We’re entering what may be the darkest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation, one nation. And I promise this, as the Bible says, ‘Weeping may endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning’. We will get through this together. Together.

Look folks, all my colleagues I serve with in the House and the Senate up here, we all understand the world is watching. Watching all of us today. So here’s my message to those beyond our borders. America has been tested and we’ve come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances, and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. And we’ll lead not merely by the example of our power but the power of our example.

Fellow Americans, moms, dads, sons, daughters, friends, neighbours and co-workers. We will honour them by becoming the people and the nation we can and should be. So I ask you let’s say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives, those left behind and for our country. Amen.

Folks, it’s a time of testing. We face an attack on our democracy, and on truth, a raging virus, a stinging inequity, systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America’s role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the greatest responsibilities we’ve had. Now we’re going to be tested. Are we going to step up?

It’s time for boldness for there is so much to do. And this is certain, I promise you. We will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era. We will rise to the occasion. Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world to our children? I believe we must and I’m sure you do as well. I believe we will, and when we do, we’ll write the next great chapter in the history of the United States of America. The American story.
A story that might sound like a song that means a lot to me, it’s called American Anthem. And there’s one verse that stands out at least for me and it goes like this:

‘The work and prayers of centuries have brought us to this day, which shall be our legacy, what will our children say?
Let me know in my heart when my days are through, America, America, I gave my best to you.’

Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our great nation. If we do this, then when our days are through, our children and our children’s children will say of us: ‘They gave their best, they did their duty, they healed a broken land.’

My fellow Americans I close the day where I began, with a sacred oath. Before God and all of you, I give you my word. I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution, I’ll defend our democracy.

I’ll defend America and I will give all – all of you – keep everything I do in your service. Thinking not of power but of possibilities. Not of personal interest but of public good.

And together we will write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity not division, of light not darkness. A story of decency and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness. May this be the story that guides us. The story that inspires us. And the story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history, we met the moment. Democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrive.

That America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world. That is what we owe our forbearers, one another, and generations to follow.

So with purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time. Sustained by faith, driven by conviction and devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and God protect our troops.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Virtually Nobody

It affects virtually nobody..

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The world mourns the passing of great women, a great humanitarian, a great leader, a great American.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 15 March 1933 – 18 September 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg - 15 March 1933 - 18 September 2020
Ruth Bader Ginsburg – 15 March 1933 – 18 September 2020

I witnessed the horror of HIV 30 years ago. Here’s how we can conquer a pandemic

This is an article from The Guardian by Cleve Jones. I encourage you to follow the link and read it online along with images. It’s archived below for easy reference.

I witnessed the horror of HIV 30 years ago. Here’s how we can conquer a pandemic, by Cleve Jones

As the coronavirus rages across America, we would do well to remember the lessons, and victories, of the fight against HIV/Aids.

Thirty years ago this summer, we were one decade into the HIV/Aids pandemic and more than 100,000 Americans had already lost their lives. The nation was politically and socially divided as the virus decimated gay men and people of color. Our nation stigmatized and abused the individuals, families and communities who were suffering the most.

Early on, many thought HIV afflicted only gay men. Then we came to understand that African Americans were also severely affected. Neither community could easily trust a government that had failed to protect them in the past and neither had the resources to address the challenges of HIV on their own. The disease also spread rapidly within indigenous populations and other communities of color.

Sadly, then as now, too many people not immediately affected by the disease felt they had no stake in the fight against it. They believed it only happened to other people.

In the United States, largely because we initially perceived HIV as a gay disease, we failed to act with the speed and urgency required. This homophobia-driven indifference, compounded by racism, contributed to the deaths of tens of millions of heterosexual men, women and their children worldwide because the one nation supremely positioned to stop it in its tracks failed miserably.

Then, on 19 August 1990, after years of intense advocacy, George HW Bush signed into law the Ryan White Care Act. Senator Ted Kennedy, the liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, equally well known for his conservative Republican orthodoxy, had sponsored the legislation. It was named in honor of a brave boy from Indiana who contracted HIV from a treatment for his hemophilia and became a powerful public face for those suffering from the disease. The legislation passed both the House and Senate by overwhelming majorities of Republicans and Democrats.

Bitter rivals – representing polar-opposite ideologies – had reached across the aisle, worked together and crafted the legislation the nation needed to effectively fight the pandemic.

Today, the Ryan White Care Act represents a national framework for responding to a viral pandemic. It ensures not only access to healthcare and medications for people with HIV, but also access to food, housing, dental care and mental health services to address as many barriers to health as possible. It is an unquestionable success and demonstrates the power of federal leadership in addressing public health challenges. While our national response to HIV still leaves much work to be done, programs and clinics funded by the Ryan White program save lives that would be otherwise lost.

There are differences, of course, between HIV and the coronavirus, modes of transmission chief among them. But it is remarkable how many parallels exist: HIV and coronavirus were first identified in America in large coastal cities where thousands quickly died. Both diseases spread to marginalized communities, especially communities of color, where the impact has been disproportionate and deadly. Again we see state and local governments overwhelmed as hospitals fill with desperately sick and dying patients.

Thirty years ago, gay people were blamed for the pandemic. Today President Trump blames the Chinese. The notion of a “gay virus” then made no more sense than does that of a “Chinese virus” today. And both beliefs betray a deep ignorance and bigotry that have lethal consequences.

Traditional and social media are alive with nasty chatter from all sides of the debates about masks and economic reopening. It is easy to mock people with whom we disagree, but snarky memes and tweets do not move us forward. Our conversation needs to focus on who dies, why they die and how we can save them while we press for effective treatments and vaccines.

Service industry workers, first responders, teachers, food supply chain and processing workers, the elderly and immigrants die because society believes them to be disposable. In our rush for economic recovery, too many workers – fearing loss of both income and health insurance – are coerced to return to work sites that are not safe. These are the people who can’t work from home but provide essential services to those who can.

A compassionate and equitable response must replace anger and politically driven division. Access to testing, treatment and healthcare should not be determined by income, skin color, language, gender, sexual orientation or geography. Real economic support for struggling families and businesses as well as local governments must not be further delayed.

We must also accept education and trust public health officials. When political and opinion leaders mock scientists and question their recommendations without basis, they undermine our best efforts to slow transmission of the virus.

The daily, if not hourly, soundbites of sensationalistic news must be replaced with sober, scientific information and guidance on coronavirus. Politics needs to bow to public health. We need to depoliticize masks and mandates the way we once did with condom distribution and needle exchanges. In American society, we treasure individual rights and freedoms. But that focus on individualism can lead us to collective disaster.

Some of us are old enough to remember another ugly national debate about the use of fabric to save lives, in which one side claimed automobile seat belts were too uncomfortable to wear while the other pointed to research and studies to show their effectiveness at saving lives. Many Americans opposed a government requirement to use seatbelts and cited all manner of pseudoscience to discredit them, imagining them as an impingement of personal freedom. The debate was remarkably acrimonious, but today almost no one would question the simple fact that seatbelts save lives.

As we did 30 years ago, we need tireless advocates. In the early days of the HIV pandemic, we shouted “Silence = Death”, scaled research buildings and hijacked meetings to get our point across: inaction and political posturing were not acceptable. We marched in the streets and through the halls of Congress for funding, research and support.

The current political bottleneck that precludes action to save lives must be broken. We all have the responsibility to tell our elected officials – Democrats and Republicans – that they must do better.

For those of us on the frontlines in the fight against HIV in the 1980s and 1990s, it felt very much like we were at war. Today we have a self-proclaimed wartime president, but he has left every state to fend for itself without a coordinated national strategy. It is a recipe for disaster. HIV advocates understood the need for accurate, timely and regulated testing, without which we had no data or map to tell us where to allocate resources, no idea which prevention strategies worked and only a limited idea of how the virus worked. Today, without better testing, we can’t know with certainty whether coronavirus antibodies confer immunity, and if so, for how long, and our understanding of how the virus mutates is hampered.

Professional athletes and career politicians have ready access to accurate and rapid tests, while most of the rest of us wait for tests that offer inaccurate readings or provide results days or weeks later, rendering them ineffective. Public health intelligence is just as important as military intelligence. President Trump may choose to ignore both, but we cannot. It is time we funded public health accordingly – for this crisis and for the next.

Worldwide, 35 million people have lost their lives to HIV, and the pandemic is not over. We have no cure and no vaccine. But we have learned that when we set aside our differences, when communities work together, when the federal government leads – with decisions based on science, compassion and common sense – we can save lives.

Even without a cure or a vaccine for HIV, we have succeeded in bringing the rates of infection and death lower than previously imaginable through life-saving medications that also prevent transmission. This is because we demanded and helped to create a sustained, long-term, science-based approach to addressing HIV. The Ryan White Care Act was a crucial component of our response then and is still saving lives today.

The thoughtful, long-term approach to addressing HIV exemplified by the Ryan White program needs to be replicated to address the coronavirus pandemic today as well as the inevitable health challenges of the future. Our very lives – and those of our family members, friends and neighbors – depend on it.

The president assures us that we will have a coronavirus vaccine soon, possibly by election day, but I well remember in 1984 when the former US health secretary Margaret Heckler told us a vaccine for HIV would be ready within two years. Thirty-six years later, we still wait for it. Empty promises won’t protect us from the threat of the coronavirus, but intentional action can.

I was there 30 years ago and experienced the horror of HIV. I also saw the power of bipartisan leadership once it was finally exerted against HIV. That is what we need today from the president, Congress and people of the United States of America. The Ryan White Care Act offers us a proven way forward. We need government and local communities to come together again and do the right thing to save lives.

This will almost certainly be a long-term challenge that will require sustained solutions, but we have shown that we can do it. There is a way forward.

Cleve Jones is a longtime labor and LGBT organizer, originator of the Aids Memorial Quilt and author of When We Rise: My Life in the Movement

Andy Marlette: Moving past the myth of ‘Mr. History’

This is not my op-ed, it was written by Andy Marlette and published in the Pensacola News Journal. For the original text along with images and additional links, please visit:

Andy Marlette: Moving past the myth of ‘Mr. History’. as published in the Pensacola News Journal

I strongly encourage you to read the original, and view the associated imagery, but the words deserve to be preserved here as well.

Andy Marlette
Pensacola News Journal

Just a four-hour drive from Pensacola, visitors to Birmingham’s Kelly Ingram Park stroll down sidewalks besieged by snarling dogs with fangs forged from violently welded metal.

Further along the walk, visitors are invited to take sight behind a sculptural machine gun turret fitted with a fire hose aimed directly at the frail bodies of black children seeking refuge against a wall.

And just a bit further along your walk, you see the graceful forms of four young girls, seemingly floating across the pathway ahead, and soon, you realize they are the “Four Spirits” of Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carolyn Robertson and Cynthia Wesley — the four little girls who were murdered in the 1963 KKK bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.

A letter from the “Grand Dragon” of the KKK in the “Realm of Florida” to Wentworth who was “Exalted Cyclops” of Escambia’s branch. The document is part of T.T. Wentworth Jr.’s personal collection archived in the Hilton-Green Research Room of the University of West Florida Historic Trust.
Across 16th Street from the park is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, one of the most psychologically and spiritually impactful museums I have ever stepped foot in. From the moment one of the small, darkened entry chamber walls suddenly rolls back, transporting visitors to stand in front of segregated water fountains of the 1950s, the museum possesses the power to shake the soul and inspire tears.

Only four hours from Pensacola, Kelly Ingram Park and the Civil Right Institute should be a mandatory pilgrimage for every Southerner seeking to understand this scar that marks us all.

These are the historic and cultural markers of a city which, at least in part, has become willing to be honest about its past. A city willing to stare at its own nakedness, its own bloody hands, its own butchered children. A city willing to confront its crimes and to use the God-given gifts of art and intellect to confess its sins and salvage its soul.

Last week’s news about T.T. Wentworth Jr.’s deep and shameful involvement in the KKK makes it pretty clear, Pensacola is not yet such a city.

A KKK response to a Pensacola News editorial from 199 that called the Klan “sneak thieves, cowards and paid assassins.” The document is part of T.T. Wentworth Jr.’s personal collection archived in the Hilton-Green Research Room of the University of West Florida Historic Trust.
But thanks to local historian Tom Garner’s willingness to reveal these public documents to citizens, Pensacola now has a tremendous opportunity to begin the process of becoming honest about the past.

Every citizen who holds any shred of affection for this city should read Garner’s extraordinary letter to Pensacola City Council members. The explosive revelation about Wentworth’s membership in the KKK (which Garner says has long been an open-secret in Pensacola) is only a fraction of what’s included in the full text, including some of the most jaw-dropping end notes you’ll ever read.

Who becomes the ‘keeper of history?’: Garner’s full letter to city council

Garner’s challenge to the public consciousness is to question who tells the history of our city. When an “Exalted Cyclops” of the Ku Klux Klan has his name emblazoned on a taxpayer-funded museum, his portrait memorialized in taxpayer-funded sidewalks and his legacy proclaimed as one of Pensacola’s esteemed historians, we’ve all been living a terrible, terrible lie.

But the more easily overlooked conclusion of Garner’s letter proposes an absolutely golden opportunity for Pensacola and the University of West Florida to turn the humiliating revelations about Wentworth into a transformative public project that at long last, tells the true story of black history in Pensacola. Garner wrote:

“As a native Pensacolian, and as someone who has invested decades toward the understanding and promotion of this community’s history, it is my hope that Pensacola’s Old City Hall, as well as historically relevant areas of Plaza Ferdinand, will become home to a Pensacola area black history museum, archives and research center.

This facility should be operated under three criteria:

  1. It should be under the direction of an autonomous team of black historians, archivists, and museum professionals.
  2. It should be fully funded by the City of Pensacola, Escambia County, and the State of Florida.
  3. It should be available to both residents of and visitors to the Pensacola area at no cost.”

Garner’s vision is soaring. Can you imagine the potential power and symbolism of such a transformation? For a landmark that had previously been named after a KKK leader to be reborn as a long-awaited forum for telling the buried history of Pensacola’s black community?

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What Garner proposes is a public space not unlike the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, where art and intellect combine to tell a long-suppressed story with an experience that shakes the soul and summons tears.

And who better to help our community create that experience and correct the public record than the University of West Florida and the UWF Historic Trust?

The work of archiving the Klan documents hasn’t even been completed yet. The collection includes everything from courteous greetings between klansmen to invoices for satin Klan robes. Rest assured, there are many more pages of evidence with much, much more to come on the Klan’s influence over people and public offices in Pensacola.

And as controversial as the revelations may seem at first, in reality, in exposing them to the light of day, Garner has done a tremendous public service to Pensacola. Not only was it simply the right thing to do. Now the lie can die. The myth of Wentworth (and any other potential klansmen like him) can finally dry up and rot alongside his petrified cat.

It’s ironic that Garner — an expert on unearthing Pensacola’s past — is offering a positive and powerful vision for Pensacola’s future of historic narratives and preservation, a proposal that aims to move Pensacola beyond the embarrassing hoax of “Mr. History.”

Let’s hope city leaders are smart enough to listen.

Who becomes the ‘keeper of history?’: Garner’s full letter to city council

This is not my op-ed, it was written by Tom Garner and published in the Pensacola News Journal. For the original text along with images and additional links, please visit:

Who becomes the ‘keeper of history?’: Garner’s full letter to city council, Tom Garner, as published by the Pensacola News Journal

I strongly encourage you to read the original, and view the associated imagery, but the words deserve to be preserved here as well.

Pensacola’s Confederate Monument and the Erasure of History
Tom Garner – July 12, 2020

It’s time.

For 129 years Pensacola’s Confederate monument has occupied a place of prominence and prestige on the crest of Palafox Hill overlooking downtown Pensacola. It’s time now for it to come down.

Some will argue that removing the monument erases history. But it was with the original placement of the monument in 1891 that history was erased. We know this from a single word found missing from the monument’s text: “slavery”.

To understand the monument, the Confederacy, the Civil War, we need to answer a single question. Had the Confederate cause prevailed, what would the fate of slavery have been? Had the Confederacy won, the black citizens of the country, including the black citizens of Pensacola, would have remained in chains. In this context, the Confederate monument can only be viewed as a generations-long slap in the face to Pensacola’s black community.

It’s time for the monument to come down.

Blocks to the south, in the center of Plaza Ferdinand, in the most prominent and visible place of honor in the city, another monument stands, a granite obelisk dedicated to the memory of William Dudley Chipley. W. D. Chipley is remembered as a successful businessman and builder of the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad, which passes over the place we know today as Graffiti Bridge.

Chipley is further remembered as a politician and elected official. In 1884 he was appointed Pensacola-area vice-chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida, and by 1888 had been elected chairman for the entire state[1]. From 1887 to 1888 Chipley served as mayor of Pensacola, and from 1895 to 1897 served as Florida state senator from Escambia County.

Chipley is also remembered as a soldier. His monument records that “he fought for the Confederacy as sergeant-major, adjutant and captain, at Shiloh, Corinth, Chickamauga and other hard-fought fields, and bled for her at Shiloh and Chickamauga.” Pensacola’s Confederate monument, which Chipley championed, says of the Confederate soldiers that their “joy was to suffer and die for a cause they believed to be just.” Yet no amount of belief can make the cause for which they fought, the cause for which Chipley fought, just. As with the Confederate monument, it’s time for the Chipley monument to come down.

Immediately east of Plaza Ferdinand and the Chipley monument stands Pensacola’s Old City Hall, the most majestic structure on the public square. Built in 1907, it houses the T. T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum, and is operated by the University of West Florida Historic Trust. On a brightly colored display near the museum’s entrance, Wentworth is remembered as a small-business owner, the founder of a successful bicycle shop and sporting goods store.

Wentworth is further remembered as a politician and elected official. In 1920 he was elected to the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners, the youngest commissioner ever elected in Florida. From 1928 to 1940, Wentworth served as Escambia County’s tax collector.

Wentworth is also remembered as a historian. An early collector of Pensacola’s historic artifacts and memorabilia, Wentworth created some of the city’s first museum displays. Beginning in the 1930’s he “delivered weekly talks over local radio station WCOA, and published articles, columns, magazines and pamphlets filled with historical photos and documents.” It was in honor of these and other historic preservation achievements that Pensacola News Journal editor Earle Bowden honored Wentworth with the nickname “Mr. History”.

T. T. Wentworth, Jr. was also Exalted Cyclops, Escambia Klan number 57, Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Documents record the founding of Escambia’s Klan in 1920, with Wentworth as its first Kligrapp, or secretary. In 1925, Wentworth was elected Exalted Cyclops, or president.

These documents, held in the museum archives, are from Wentworth’s personal files[2]. Among the many Klan-related items in the files are Wentworth’s Klan membership cards, correspondence between Wentworth and the Grand Dragon, Realm of Florida, and an invoice for Wentworth’s specially ordered satin Exalted Cyclops robe.

For those unfamiliar with the beliefs and tenets of the Klan, a philosophy with which Wentworth would have been intimately familiar, the organization’s 1922 constitution makes it clear: “We avow the distinction between the races of mankind as decreed by the Creator, and we shall ever be true to the maintenance of White supremacy and strenuously oppose any compromise thereof.”

Who tells the story of a community? Who becomes the keeper of its history? Among Pensacola’s earliest storytellers were Exalted Cyclops Wentworth, and Confederate veteran Chipley. Another early keeper of our history was Lelia Abercrombie, first curator of the Pensacola Historical Museum[3].

Founded in 1960, Pensacola’s only historical museum made its home in the city-owned Old Christ Church on Seville Square[4]. Abercrombie is honored today in the name of the UWF Historic Trust’s Lelia Abercrombie Historical Reference Library. In addition to her curatorial duties, it was Abercrombie who would, upon black visitors leaving the museum[5], open every window and loudly complain about “the smell”.

In the 1890s, when the Confederate and Chipley monuments were conceived, Pensacola’s population was forty-eight percent black, and by 1900 well over fifty percent black. Despite these figures, is it realistic to think that Confederate veterans consulted Pensacola’s black citizens when they erected these monuments on public property in the two most prominent locations in the city? Do we believe that, in 1930’s Pensacola, an Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan asked black Pensacolians their opinion of his radio programs and publications? Do we think that, when the Pensacola Historical Museum opened in 1960, blocks away from sit-ins protesting segregated lunch counters[6], that the curator sought the input of the local black community regarding exhibits?

Wentworth and Abercrombie have been gone for decades now. Chipley is a long-faded memory. The Old Christ Church and Pensacola Historical Museum were years ago absorbed into the UWF Historic Trust. And yet, after all these years, the full story of the black experience in Pensacola still has not been told. This is not the fault of long deceased, racist figures of the past. This failure lies with us.

The history of Pensacola’s black citizens is not hard to find. It surrounds us. For instance, most in Pensacola’s white community don’t know, as we attend the many festivals in Seville Square, that just a block away two black men, Jeff Brown and Morris Morse, were murdered by a lynch mob in 1875[7]. Most don’t know, as they walk through Plaza Ferdinand, that two black men, Leander Shaw and David Alexander were, in 1908 and 1909, also murdered by a lynch mob. Most don’t realize, as they pass the old Escambia County courthouse on Palafox Street, that the records of local slave transactions — the actual documents through which Pensacola’s black citizens were bought and sold — still exist.

Most don’t understand, when they attend a performance at Pensacola’s historic Saenger Theatre, that black patrons were, not that long ago, required to sit in the “colored balcony” reached through a side door marked “colored entrance”[8]. Most don’t realize, when shopping at the Palafox Market Saturday mornings, that what we now call Martin Luther King Plaza[9] was once a city streetcar stop, where black passengers were, by order of the Pensacola City Council[10], made to sit at the back of the bus well before buses even came to be. Most don’t know that immediately east of the Confederate monument stood the first Pensacola High School, an institute of learning that black scholars were legally prohibited from attending.

Most don’t recognize that Palafox Street itself was home to successful black-owned small businesses until they were driven from Pensacola’s primary business district by the hand of Jim Crow. And most have no concept, as they walk among the halls of power and justice in downtown Pensacola that, for generations, black citizens were systematically denied the right to occupy those halls. Over the course of lifetimes, there were no black mayors, councilmembers or county commissioners, no black school superintendents, election supervisors or tax collectors, no black police chiefs or sheriffs, no black police officers or deputy sheriffs, no black judges or jurors, no black representatives or senators. Not even the proverbial dog catcher could be black in Pensacola.

In fact, the only public indication, the only hint at the inconceivable obstacles and adversities faced by black Pensacolians throughout a long, long history is a solitary historical marker on Palafox Street commemorating the sit-ins of the early 1960s. As the marker details, “members of Pensacola’s NAACP Youth Council, some as young as 12 years old, took their stand against segregation by peacefully occupying lunch counter seats.” These young citizens were physically and verbally harassed and even arrested on falsified charges, but in March of 1962, after a grueling two-year effort, they prevailed. The NAACP placed this marker just a few short years ago.

This is the history that Pensacola has erased. Nowhere can our citizens, educators, business leaders, or elected representatives learn the full story[11] of enslavement, of black codes, of poll taxes, of segregated education, of segregated transportation, of segregated healthcare, of segregated business, of exclusion from political power, of lynching, of the struggle for civil rights, of redlining, of sundown towns[12]. It is as though this history never happened. It has been vanished.

There is no other aspect of our history to which we turn such a blind, forgetful eye, not the Spanish explorers, not naval aviation, not the Civil War. But if we are to understand the lives of our black fellow citizens today, we must understand this history. We must understand that every significant obstacle the black community faces today finds its roots in the injustices of the past, in the denial of equal access, past and present, to housing, to education, to healthcare, to economic opportunity, to justice. It is the denial of access, even today, to what we in the white community commonly take for granted as the American dream.

Within the white community, we tell ourselves that this uncomfortable history is behind us, that it was all a long time ago, that it’s best now to just move on. We convince ourselves that the civil rights struggle of fifty years ago was more than enough to root out the injustices of the past, and that racism and discrimination cannot possibly still exist today. We tell ourselves that centuries of brutality and injustice couldn’t possibly have driven the stain of prejudice so deeply into the fabric of our community that today, after all these years, it still has not been completely scrubbed away.

We reassure ourselves that this is not even our own history, that this history belongs to someone else, that it’s “black history”. Yet had it not been for people with white skin, people who look like us, people who look like me, this history could not, would not, have taken place. This history is our history, it’s white history, and it’s long past time for this history to be heard.

It was no accident that Leander Shaw[13] and David Alexander[14] were murdered at the center of Plaza Ferdinand just steps away from the Chipley monument, the most prominent and visible location in the city. These murders were intended to send a message: if you’re black in Pensacola, justice and equal protection under the law do not apply. It was a naked act of terrorism.

Today we have the opportunity to send a different message, one of support, appreciation, and respect for the black citizens of Pensacola. It is inconceivable that the most prominent museum in the city will continue to bear the name of a founding member and the highest office holder of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. What then does the future hold for the historic Old Pensacola City Hall?

As a native Pensacolian, and as someone who has invested decades toward the understanding and promotion of this community’s history, it is my hope that Pensacola’s Old City Hall, as well as historically relevant areas of Plaza Ferdinand,[15]will become home to a Pensacola area black history museum, archives and research center[16].

This facility should be operated under three criteria:

  1. It should be under the direction of an autonomous team of black historians, archivists, and museum professionals[17].
  2. It should be fully funded by the City of Pensacola, Escambia County, and the State of Florida.
  3. It should be available to both residents of and visitors to the Pensacola area at no cost[18].

Some will argue that the subject matter, while important, is not appropriate for a museum, that it’s too uncomfortable, too sensitive, too divisive. Some will argue that we’re just not ready. I would point to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., as well as to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, as some of the most visited museums and archives in the nation.

Some will ask how we can possibly afford such a facility, particularly in times of economic hardship. I would ask how we can possibly begin to repay the enormous debt that is owed. Creation of this museum, archives and research center seems the least we can do, and Pensacola’s black community has, through generations of injustice, earned this.

The creation of this facility may be challenging. Worthy projects often are. But is the task more challenging than that faced by a black citizen denied the right to vote by an unjust poll tax? Is it more difficult than that faced by a young black scholar denied a college education through an unfair admissions process? Is it tougher than the one faced by a black small-business owner driven from Pensacola’s main business district by the violence of Jim Crow?

It is imperative, after so many years of ignorance, indifference, and neglect, that we now, as a community, provide our black fellow citizens with a platform through which they can tell their story, through which they can tell Pensacola’s story, through their own eyes, not ours. This platform is richly and justly deserved, and it’s reasonable and appropriate that this museum, archives, and research center be located on Plaza Ferdinand, the most prominent and visible place of honor in the city.

And when our black friends and neighbors finally do tell us this story, it is imperative that we in the white community not only listen, but that we believe them.

It is time now for us to make things right.

Tom Garner has been involved in Pensacola area history and archaeology for 40 years and spent hundreds of rewarding hours at the Pensacola Historical Museum in Old Christ Church studying local history. In 1983 he completed UWF archaeological field school. In 1985 he co-founded the Pensacola Archaeological Society, and in 1986 discovered the site of the Presidio Santa Maria de Galve, the 1698-1719 Spanish Pensacola. In 2015, Tom had the great privilege to discover the site of the 1559-1561 Tristan de Luna settlement attempt, considered by many to be the cornerstone event in Pensacola’s history.

Tom has a deep familiarity with and appreciation for Pensacola’s historical markers and monuments. His first involvement with historic preservation took place in 1982 when, under the leadership and direction of the late Norman Simons, curator of the Pensacola Historical Museum, he assisted in the successful campaign to preserve the historic character of Plaza Ferdinand, including saving the ballast stone wall and cannons which had been slated for demolition by the City of Pensacola.

For many years, Tom was the anonymous designer of the Fiesta of Five Flags treasure hunt. Tom redesigned the hunt to focus more on Pensacola’s abundant history, writing clues that led hunters to many of Pensacola’s historic markers and monuments, including the Confederate monument in Lee Square.

Tom is also a descendant of the South. Born and raised in Pensacola, his great grandfather, Second Lieutenant James Blackstock, fought at Vicksburg and Chattanooga as a member of the Confederate Army. According to oral history, Blackstock’s family instigated the forced removal of a young black man from the town of Oxford, Georgia in the first decade of the 20thcentury.

[1] Chipley was deeply involved in Democratic party politics at a time when Democrats controlled state government and began to systematically disempower black leadership across Florida. As a member of the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida, Chipley, in 1884, played a leading role in the committee’s convention, held in the Pensacola Opera House. Soon after the convention he was appointed chairman of the campaign documents committee for the E. A. Perry gubernatorial campaign. Chipley was considered by many to be the controlling force behind the soon to be Governor Perry.

During the campaign Chipley publicly called for a constitutional convention to rewrite the state constitution. Under the Perry administration the new Florida State constitution of 1885 was passed, a document that created obstacles to black voting, prohibited interracial marriages, and segregated schools. It was Perry who, also in 1885, revoked the City of Pensacola’s charter, replacing the racially diverse city council with one controlled by white Democrats hostile to black citizenship. Chipley would become mayor of Pensacola under this new system in 1887.

Before arriving in Pensacola in 1877, Chipley, in 1868, was credibly accused of participating in the murder of George W. Ashburn, an outspoken supporter of black civil rights in Columbus, Georgia. The murder was thought to be the work of the Ku Klux Klan. Although Chipley was brought to trial under postwar military rule, the trial was abruptly ended when Georgia was readmitted to the Union. No one was held responsible for the murder.

[2] T. T. Wentworth, Jr.’s association with the Ku Klux Klan has long been an open secret. I was first told of this association in the mid-1980s by the late Norman Simons, the first curator of the T. T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum, in relation to a collection of Klan robes and associated materials found by workmen renovating a historic meeting hall. These Klan items were placed in the collections of what has since become the UWF Historic Trust.

In the years since Wentworth donated his artifacts and memorabilia to the State of Florida in 1983, rumors have circulated that his personal Klan membership card was included in the collection. There is Klan-related literature in the collection, as well as Klan-related correspondence among Wentworth’s Escambia County tax collector records.

The Wentworth Klan-related materials referenced in this statement to the Pensacola City Council were added to the collection recently and were shown to me by UWF Historic Trust archivists when I inquired about Klan-related items. The archivists made clear that, once properly accessioned, these materials would be made available to researchers just as other archival items are made available. As always, the archivists were generous and professional, for which I am grateful.

It is my hope that the Wentworth collection will soon be surveyed for all Klan-related materials, and that these materials will be gathered into a single document group. It is rare for Klan materials to make their way into a public archival collection. These archival materials should be made available for further research and display. An exhibit of Klan-related items, including artifacts and documents demonstrating T. T. Wentworth, Jr.’s leadership of the Escambia Klan, should be made available for the public in the near future.

[3] The Pensacola Historical Museum was operated by the Pensacola Historical Society, the earliest organization to specifically address Pensacola’s history. Founded in 1933, the Society was reorganized in 1952 following a World War II hiatus. T. T. Wentworth, Jr. and Lelia Abercrombie were early leaders.

[4] T. T. Wentworth, Jr. opened a small museum in Ensley in 1957. It was this museum collection that would be donated to the state in 1983 for the T. T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum. The Ensley museum was well outside the Pensacola city limits, inaccessible to those without transportation and a desire to travel.

[5] The story of Lelia Abercrombie’s reaction to black visitors was related to me by the late Norman Simons, assistant curator of the Pensacola Historical Museum under Abercrombie in the 1960s, and head curator of the museum in the 1970s-80s.

[6] The sit-ins at Newberry’s lunch counter were described to me by the late Norman Simons who personally witnessed them. Originally from New York City, Simons described his horror as white antagonists assaulted the young black protesters.

[7] Jeff Brown and Morris Morse were alleged to have raped a white woman near McDavid, a small community in northern Escambia County. According to one observer, Brown and Morse claimed their innocence and were gathering witness testimony in their defense when they were murdered.

[8] The ornate iron railing of the Saenger’s balcony is originally from the Pensacola Opera House, which stood at the corner of Government and Jefferson Streets across from Plaza Ferdinand. Like the Saenger, the Pensacola Opera House was segregated. The opera house site is identified by a historical marker, placed by the Pensacola Historical Society in 1955, listing the names of numerous white performers. Not mentioned is Booker T. Washington, who spoke on March 1, 1912 to an audience of two thousand, who were “standing around the walls and down the corridors, filling every seat and occupying every available bit of space.”

[9] Chase Street, which passes below MLK Plaza, is named for Colonel William H. Chase, who relied on black enslaved labor to construct Forts Pickens, Barrancas and McRee. In 1861, Chase commanded the Confederate troops at Pensacola, seizing the Pensacola Navy Yard and Forts Barrancas and McRee, and unsuccessfully demanding the surrender of Fort Pickens. A historical marker placed by the City of Pensacola’s Municipal Advertising Board in 1956 explains the origins of the Chase Street name, however, Chase’s decades-long use of black enslaved labor is not mentioned.

[10] The 1905 streetcar ordinance was passed by the Pensacola City Council at the urging of the Chamber of Commerce of Pensacola after similar state legislation was ruled unconstitutional.

[11] The UWF Historic Trust does manage the Julee Cottage, an early nineteenth century house museum once owned by Julee, a free woman of color. One of the smallest museum spaces managed by the Trust, the house is divided into two parts, one half representing “the cottage of a working class African-American family during the era of Reconstruction.” Unfortunately, excepting the portraits of unidentified black individuals above the mantels, this reconstruction could represent any household of that time, black or white.

The second half of the cottage holds an exhibit dedicated to black history; however, it does not, and in the extremely limited space cannot, do justice to the rich history of black Pensacolians available. This exhibit leaves the visitor with little concept of what it was like to actually be black in Pensacola in 1840 or 1875, 1910 or 1955.

[12] In 1922, white citizens of Jay, Florida, a small community in northern Santa Rosa County, “advised, directed, ordered and made to leave” every black citizen within a large radius of the town under threat of violence. The catalyst for this forced removal was the killing of a white man, Sam Echols, by a black man, Albert Thompson. Thompson was held, tried by an all-white jury, and convicted of second-degree murder in the Old Escambia Court of Record Building at the corner of Jefferson and Zarragossa Streets, the site of an earlier jail that held Leander Shaw. Black witnesses testified that Thompson killed Echols in self-defense. Thompson’s sentence was commuted in 1928. As a “sundown town”, the Jay community and surrounding areas continued to exclude black residents and visitors for more than fifty years, posting signs on the highways warning black travelers to beware.

[13] Leander Shaw was murdered for the alleged rape and fatal assault of a white woman named Lillie Davis. During the lynching, Davis’s brother, Joe Brewton, while rushing the jail as part of the lynch mob, was shot and injured, his name appearing in the next day’s newspaper. Brewton was not charged and soon after became a law enforcement officer in Santa Rosa County. This was not the only lynching associated with Lillie Davis’s family.

In 1899 a black man, Wesley Lawrence, was murdered by a lynch mob near McDavid, a small community in northern Escambia County. Lawrence was alleged to have raped a white woman, Nellie Bowman, Lillie Davis’s aunt. The mob hanged Lawrence from a tree where his body was “literally torn to pieces with rifle, gun and pistol bullets”. Davis’s uncle, Escambia County Deputy Sheriff A. C. Brewton, Jr., investigated the murder. Davis’s grandfather, A. C. Brewton, Sr., rushed back to McDavid from Pensacola in order to personally witness the scene, declaring in a letter to a Pensacola newspaper that “when I heard this morning that they had lynched the brute… I was overflowed with joy.”

In 1902 the body of an unidentified black man was found in the woods between McDavid and the nearby town of Century, Florida. He had been flogged and then hanged from a tree where his body had “literally been riddled with bullets.” Pinned to the victim’s body was a note reading in part “a warning to Century coons”. The murder was investigated by Lillie Davis’s uncle Escambia County Deputy Sheriff Allen Brewton. One local newspaper attributed the murder to “white caps” who, at that time in the South were typically poor, white farmers attempting to control black laborers. A Pensacola newspaper stated that “it is known… that there exists a certain element at and around Century that hate the sight of black men.”

In 1910, a black man named Robert Matthews was alleged to have attempted the rape of a white woman in Beulah, a small, and at that time, whites-only community in western Escambia County. Taken to DeFuniak Springs for protection, Matthews was being brought back to Pensacola for trial when a lynch mob boarded the train and murdered him, throwing him through a glass window and causing him to be dragged beside the train by his handcuffed hands. When the train stopped the mob shot him multiple times. Escambia County Deputy Sheriff W. A. “Archie” Bowman, the lone deputy guarding Matthews, is Lillie Davis’s first cousin. The lynch mob stopped the train beside Lillie Davis’s former house near what is today known as the Bay Bluffs Preserve on Scenic Highway.

In 1912 an all-white coroner’s jury cleared Deputy Bowman of the fatal shooting of a black suspect, Arthur Grace. In 1938 Bowman was killed by a black suspect, Ben Davis. A Pensacola Police Department special officer at the time, Bowman is memorialized in the department’s officer memorial.
In a 2002 video interview, Joe Petty, Lillie Davis’s nephew, described the family’s reaction to Davis’s 1908 fatal assault. According to Petty, the family would murder every black person who ventured down a specific section of road near McDavid. The family buried the victims in a wooded area known as Sandy Hollow. Family members involved in the killings included Lillie’s father, former Escambia County Commissioner Joe Brewton, Lillie’s uncle Riley Brewton, and their sons. According to Petty, “That went on for years!”

Lillie Davis was born in the McDavid community. Records from T. T. Wentworth, Jr.’s personal files indicate an active chapter of the Ku Klux Klan there in the 1920s.

[14] David Alexander was accused of the murder of Pensacola Police Officer John D. Carter. Less than a month earlier an all-white coroner’s jury cleared Carter of the fatal shooting of a black suspect, Will Harris. Carter is memorialized in the Pensacola Police Department’s officer memorial.

[15] Plaza Ferdinand was an important epicenter of racially motivated violence in Escambia County. At the southeast corner of Jefferson and Zarragossa Streets stood the jails that held lynching victims Jeff Brown and Morris Morse in 1875, and Leander Shaw in 1908. Across Jefferson street stands the jail that held lynching victim David Alexander in 1909.

Brown and Morse were forcibly removed from jail by a lynch mob and murdered, hanged from trees just east of Seville Square. Shaw was forcibly removed from jail by a lynch mob and dragged behind a horse or wagon through the streets. His body was then hanged from a lamppost in the center of Plaza Ferdinand where it was shot more than five hundred times as a crowd of over a thousand Pensacola-area citizens looked on. A few months later Alexander was also removed from jail by a lynch mob and hanged from the same lamppost as Shaw, his body also being shot multiple times.

While gruesome, these events demonstrate the brutal enforcement of racial inequalities that Pensacola’s black citizens historically faced. It is both appropriate that we remember these events and important that this history no longer remain invisible.

It seems likely that the location of the lamppost upon which Leander Shaw and David Alexander were murdered can be located through archaeology. In addition, there are numerous historic photos showing this lamppost in detail. Using these archaeological and historical records as a guide, a replica of the original lamppost can be reconstructed in Plaza Ferdinand to shine a light on past injustices.

Further, the Equal Justice initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, has offered to pay all costs associated with the creation and placement of a historical marker recognizing the history of the seven public lynchings that took place in Escambia County between 1875 and 1910, an offer that has been made to every county where a lynching took place. EJI is also offering to each county an exact replica of that county’s monument displayed in the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The monuments, six-foot-tall iron columns, display the names of each county’s public lynching victims. In the case of Escambia County, the monument would include the names Jeff Brown, Morris Morse, Wesley Lawrence, an unidentified victim, Leander Shaw, David Alexander, and Robert Matthews.

Unlike the Confederate monument, the Chipley monument’s text is written on bronze plaques attached to the granite rather than being carved into stone. This leaves open the possibility that the granite obelisk could remain, preserving the historic character of the Plaza, and that the bronze plaques and sculpted bust of Chipley could simply be removed. This creates the opportunity for the monument to be rededicated in honor of Pensacola’s black community, who faced tremendous adversities with great determination, strength, and courage. As with the granite monument itself, the original text of the Chipley monument can be repurposed to honor Pensacola’s black citizens as follows:

      “The history of their lives is the history of the up-building of West Florida, and its every material advancement for generations bears the impress of their genius and their labor.”
[16] This facility should act as a “one stop” for Pensacola area black history: an exhibit space, an archives and research library and, most important, a space where black Pensacolians can discover and share their family history. In addition, there should be significant scholarly research. There are many aspects of Pensacola’s black history that remain under researched or not researched at all, an omission we should correct.

[17] There are some existing local organizations whose mission is to bring the story of black Pensacolians to the public. These include the African American Heritage Society of Pensacola, the Chappie James Museum of Pensacola, the Kukua Institute, the John Sunday Society and others that I may not be familiar with. It is essential that these organizations be included in all conversations about the presentation of Pensacola history through black eyes. Any future project, including a Pensacola area black history museum, archives and research center must seek to include and enhance the efforts of these existing entities. Further, as a white man who has dedicated much of his life to the understanding of Pensacola’s history, while I can offer suggestions and support, the final decisions about how the black experience in Pensacola is presented to the public must remain solely in the hands of the black community.

[18] Admission price should not be a factor in accessing this important history.


In the Summer of ’62 the US military detonated a hydrogen bomb in outer space above the Pacific Ocean as part of a project code named: Starfish Prime.

There’s a good article on NPR you can read at:

A Very Scary Light Show: Exploding H-Bombs In Space on NPR

Tax Land Mines

There’s all this talk about how the Republican Party crafted a tax land mine when they put in place the Bush tax cuts with a ten year expiration — that they knew that the laws would force action by the Democratic party (you mean the Republican’s knew that after George W Bush there wouldn’t be another Republican in White House, nor would they be in control of either branch of the legislature?

Hmm… I don’t but it, but if it’s true that’s cause for major concern.

So the rational goes:

  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose not to renew the tax cuts; they are seen raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts for only those making less than a quarter million dollars; they are seen as raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts as they are now, the Republican’s get what they want, and they are seen taking no action to address the growing deficit.

I don’t know what alternate Republican reality these analysis came from, but I certainly don’t understand why the Democrats can’t take the reigns and turn this into a political hot potato for the Republicans.

Elections are about votes; and most American’s earn far less than a quarter million dollars per year, so they aren’t effected by renewing the tax cuts for only those who earn less than that (the current strategy favored by the Obama administration)… so leverage that, show how (once again) the Republican’s want to benefit those who are wealthy, and are only providing lip service as to trying to control the deficit (it is, after all, Republican policies of the Bush administration that created the deficit we have now — remember when Bush took office there was the so called budget “surplus”).

Regardless of your political affiliation, the only real way to take control of the deficit is spend less than you take in — it’s not a revolutionary concept, and in the end it’s likely we’re going to have to both increase taxes on at least some American’s, cut waste, and likely reduce spending.