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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Confederate Flags: What Pride in Human Bondage?


While several states still include remnants of Confederate symbols in their state flags, Mississippi is unique. The primary symbol on the flag is a smaller version of the Confederate battle flag, which to many black Americans recalls an earlier era of slavery and discrimination, but to some white communities symbolizes Southern heritage. What heritage does the controversial flag actually represent?

The state flag of Mississippi was adopted April 23, 1894. According to Civil War historian and native Southerner Shelby Foote, the flag traditionally represented the South's resistance to Northern political dominance; it became racially charged during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, when fighting against desegregation suddenly became the focal point of that resistance.

In 2000, the Supreme Court of Mississippi ruled that state legislation in 1906 had repealed the adoption of the state flag in 1894, so what was considered to be the official state flag was only so through custom and usage.

Governor Ronnie Musgrove appointed an independent commission which developed a new proposed design, and on April 17, 2001, a non-binding state referendum to change the flag was put before Mississippi voters. The proposal would have replaced the Confederate battle flag with a blue canton with 20 stars. This is the proposed flag:

The new flag was soundly defeated in a vote of 64% (488,630 votes) to 36% (267,812) and the old flag was retained.

In the wake of the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina church shooting, in which nine black parishioners of an Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were killed by a young white supremacist, there were renewed calls for southern states to cease using the Confederate battle flag in an official capacity.

This extended to increased criticism of Mississippi's state flag. Several municipalities and schools in Mississippi, including the University of Mississippi and the city of Biloxi, are now refusing to fly the state flag until the emblem is removed. Over 20 flag-related bills, some calling for another statewide referendum, were introduced in the state legislature, but none were adopted.

A 2016 federal lawsuit alleging that the state flag is tantamount to "state-sanctioned hate speech" was dismissed by both a district court and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The lawsuit was brought by a black lawyer who said he suffered because of the "painful, threatening and offensive" flag, which made him feel like a second-class citizen. He noted that as a lawyer, he saw the flag frequently in court, compounding the pain it caused him. He cited both emotional and physical harms, including high blood pressure and anxiety.

The central question was whether the man had standing to sue — which depended on whether he had experienced an "injury in fact." The appeals court didn't deny that the flag might have a deep and personal effect on the man. They said he demonstrated that he feels stigmatized.

But feeling stigmatized, they said, isn't the kind of injury you can sue the state over.

"[E]xposure to a discriminatory message, without a corresponding denial of equal treatment, is insufficient to plead injury in an equal protection case," the three-judge panel ruled.

The 5th Circuit also rejected a claim on behalf of the Mississippi man's daughter, who, under Mississippi law, will be taught "the proper respect" for the state flag in school and learn the state pledge of allegiance to the flag.

The man said that being forced to respect or pledge allegiance to a flag with Confederate imagery would violate his daughter's First Amendment rights.

The Circuit Court responded with an argument that, in a roundabout way, suggests the Mississippi flag might not be worth respecting. That is, they said "proper respect" for the flag is the "correct" or "suitable" respect, not a particular amount of respect.

They concluded, "all that is required to be taught is the history of the flag and the respect that it is due, whatever that may be."

The state does not take responsibility in cases of equality. It does not believe this flag creates a hostile environment for people, and it finds that the stigma created by the symbol is not sufficient to satisfy an injury. Moreover, it requires children to respect it despite

So, the State of Mississippi continues to fly a flag undeserving of respect which causes stigmatization and deep personal negative effects.

Are symbols free and open for interpretation? Of course. Do these symbols speak of different connotative meanings? Undoubtedly. Yet, do symbols also hold powers within themselves to unleash definite emotions? I think so. I believe people should respect the fact that negativity is portrayed in this design. Yet, I still wonder if all Americans are sensitive enough to care.


Much study has been done on the effects of the display and the associations of the Confederate flag. Wise students can view these findings for in depth information. Each study below is followed by a brief summary

(Strother, Logan; Piston, Spencer, Ogorzalek, Thomas. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, June 2017.)

The findings yield strong support for the hypothesis that prejudice against Blacks bolsters White support for Southern symbols (such as the Confederate flag), support for the Southern heritage hypothesis is decidedly mixed. Despite widespread denials that Southern symbols reflect racism, racial prejudice is strongly associated with support for such symbols.”

(Christopher A. Cooper; H. Gibbs Knotts. Social Science Quarterly, Vol. 87, Number 1, March 2006.)

Research shows although racial attitudes are important among both southerners and nonsoutherners, region and race also influence support for the Confederate flag. Southern whites have the greatest support for the flag followed by nonsouthern whites, nonsouthern blacks, and southern blacks. Conclusions. Support for the Confederate flag is not simply about racial attitudes, but a more complex phenomenon where region and race exert important influences.”

(Ehrlinger, Joyce; et al. Political Psychology, Vol. 32, No. 1, 2011. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9221.2010.00797.x.)

As predicted, participants primed with the Confederate flag reported less willingness to vote for Obama than those primed with a neutral symbol. The flag did not affect willingness to vote for white candidates. In a second study, participants primed with the Confederate flag evaluated a hypothetical Black target more negatively than controls. These results suggest that exposure to the Confederate flag results in more negative judgments of Black targets. As such, the prevalence of this flag in the South may have contributed to a reticence for some to vote for Obama because of his race.”

(Moeschberger, Scott L. In Symbols that Bind, Symbols that Divide, Peace Psychology Book Series, 2014, 207-218.)

It was reported is not unreasonable to see racist overtones in a Northern area where the Confederate flag is commonly flown. Grant County, Indiana was the location of the last lynching in the northern states (in the year 1930) and still harbors racial tensions. The sight of the old courthouse where the lynching was held still holds power for many blacks in the city of Marion. Some would be appalled at this implication of racism and assert that it is simply a part of being a Southerner and taking pride in that geographical heritage.

(Holyfield, Lori; Moltz, Matthew Ryan; Bradley, Mindy S. Race. Ethnicity and Education, 2009, 12:4, 517-537, doi: 10.1080/13613320903364481.)

Findings reveal that whiteness remains largely an ‘unmarked’ category as demonstrated via discursive strategies (downplaying and defensive diversions versus race competence). Educators, especially in the American south, may benefit from examinations of controversies over the U.S. Confederate Flag in order to challenge racism in the classroom.”

My Conclusions

Remembering the history of the Confederacy is one thing, but nothing about the lost cause of secession should define who we are today. The Confederate flag is offensive, particularly to blacks. It represents those who fought to keep human beings as slaves and to continue the unimaginable acts inherent in slavery. Those who claim it is an enduring symbol of Southern pride evidently lack the ability to accept a New South in which remnants of racism have been removed.

Symbols and emblems should unite people. How does the Confederate flag do this? If you must fly it on your property, you are making the decision that your right to fly the flag is more important than the perception of others who take offense to it. Others will surely judge your stand. After all, the Ku Klux Klan and various Nazi groups still use it for purposes of promoting white supremacy. Using such a symbol, these supremacists employ racist history to attract members and to spread hate.

We all know the meaning of the symbol has not changed. Perhaps the historically-ignorant are not fully aware of its implications. To take pride in a government dedicated to preserving slavery without endorsing a racist view is more than I can believe.

On a lighter note, even iconic Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd no longer uses the symbol. Gary Rossington, a founding member of the band made a bold statement. The band, he said, was no longer going to use the Confederate flag in their merchandise because hate groups had “kidnapped” it. Rossington said the band wanted no part of “the race stuff” or “the bad things” associated with the flag. “We’re proud to be American,” he concluded.

The Confederate flag – in any form – should not be displayed on public property – any such property in any location. Any heritage it represents serves only to divide present-day America. It should take its appropriate place on display in museums and private collections, places off official grounds. Inscribe beneath it the years 1861-2015. There, history can be shared in its proper context. There, people can view it as an object that is not used to create political meaning. There those who care can review its many negative connotations. And, there people of all persuasions can walk away from it and not be affected by the stigma of its ugly design. And, the nation progresses with such dignity.


Southern pride has nothing to do with the Confederate flag. Can someone please convince Mississippi of this? Perhaps, a historical tidbit will help. Just a few weeks before the start of the Civil War, Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens gave his now-famous “cornerstone speech,” from which this is a quote:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth…”


Henry Cleveland, Alexander H. Stephens, in Public and Private: With Letters and Speeches, Before, During, and Since the War. 1886.

John Wihbey. “The Confederate flag, divisive politics and enduring meanings.” August 26, 2017.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

What Is Patriotism? Are You Sure?


On November 1, 2016, the Crusader , the official newspaper of the Ku Klux Klan, threw its support behind Donald Trump with a front page article headlined “Make America Great Again.” The article read: “America was founded as a White Christian Republic. And as a White Christian Republic it became great.”

People like to view patriotism by what they believe is its true meaning – a set of concepts supporting national loyalty. Yet, when asked to define those concepts, folks usually sputter, then mutter some words about gestures of respect for symbols such as the flag and the National Anthem. Most of their answers about patriotism are superficial and definitively evasive. People understand the word more as an emotion than as a strict set of beliefs.

To me, American patriotism is not about idolatry. The flag and the anthem are powerful national symbols, not objects that require worship. These symbols, though deserving of respect, should never inspire a nation to blind allegiance. Patriotism is not about “my country, right or wrong.” Instead, it is about working together to form a more perfect union.

In what is still the sole book-length philosophical study of the subject, Stephen Nathanson, professor of philosophy at Northeastern University, defines patriotism as involving:

Special affection for one’s own country

A sense of personal identification with the country

Special concern for the well-being of the country

Willingness to sacrifice to promote the country’s good

Patriotism and nationalism are often viewed as synonymous; however, philosophers have made critical distinctions.

Both patriotism and nationalism involve love of, identification with, and special concern for a certain entity. In the case of patriotism, that entity is one’s patria, one’s country; in the case of nationalism, that entity is one’s natio, one’s nation (in the ethnic/cultural sense of the term). Thus patriotism and nationalism are understood as the same type of set of beliefs and attitudes, and distinguished in terms of their objects, rather than the strength of those beliefs and attitudes, or as sentiment vs. theory.

In the 19th century, Lord Acton contrasted “nationality” and patriotism as affection and instinct vs. a moral relation. Nationality is “our connection with the race” that is “merely natural or physical,” while patriotism is the awareness of our moral duties to the political community.

In the 20th century, Elie Kedourie did the opposite, presenting nationalism as a full-fledged philosophical and political doctrine about nations as basic units of humanity within which the individual can find freedom and fulfilment, and patriotism as mere sentiment of affection for one’s country.

And, George Orwell contrasted the two in terms of aggressive vs. defensive attitudes. Nationalism is about power: its adherent wants to acquire as much power and prestige as possible for his nation, in which he submerges his individuality. While nationalism is accordingly aggressive, patriotism is defensive: it is a devotion to a particular place and a way of life one thinks best, but has no wish to impose on others

This way of distinguishing the two attitudes comes close to an approach popular among politicians and widespread in everyday discourse that indicates a double standard of the form “us vs. them.” Country and nation are first run together, and then patriotism and nationalism are distinguished in terms of the strength of the love and special concern one feels for it, the degree of one’s identification with it.

When these are exhibited in a reasonable degree and without ill thoughts about others and hostile actions towards them, that is patriotism; when they become unbridled and cause one to think ill of others and act badly towards them, that is nationalism. Conveniently enough, it usually turns out that we are patriots, while they are nationalists.


President Donald Trump is a politician who encourages nationalism by demanding rote adherence to his limited views that he labels “patriotism.” It is a mission full of archetypal ideas and bent on division.

Kathleen Powers, assistant professor in the department of international affairs at the University of Georgia, in an email to Newsweek, said, “When people identify with a nationality, they have an idea about what defines the prototypical or archetypal group member. In short, they carry a picture of what it means to be an American.

“That prototypical American,” Powers adds, “might be defined in relatively inclusive terms, like a person who respects political institutions, or in more exclusive terms, like someone who is part of a Judeo-Christian religion, speaks English, or is a member of a certain racial group. Certainly, some people define the prototypical American as white, Christian, and/or born in the U.S.”

"And if that’s your conception of what it is to be an American, Powers writes, then anyone who deviates from the norm is either not a true American, or is a poor version of one."

The upheaval over patriotism is clearly part of Trump's vision – a belief that the U.S. should be a “great” white, Christian nation “again.” His disapproval of black matters such as player protests in the NFL, his playing on people's prejudices toward Muslims and immigrants, and his repeated incendiary comments that threaten diversity shows his extreme nationalism.

Jacqueline Gehring, associate professor of political science at Allegheny College shows Trump's influence on his followers …

“Part of what led to Trump’s rise, Gehring says, was a growing frustration among some people simply at having a black president. There has been a backlash. Obama is seen as having emboldened black people, having led to the rise of groups like Black Lives Matter and I think it makes many white people feel uncomfortable.”

Few non-supremists would admit their support for the beliefs of racist groups like the KKK, but many would agree that America should be a “White Christian Republic.” Any plea to demand patriotism serves to limit the liberty of individuals who still face inequality in their lives. Demanding adherence to so-called patriotic acts spurs nationalism and, in turn, limits free expression and protected peaceful protest.

In truth, our nation has yet to achieve its promise of “life, liberty, and happiness” for all. A good patriot would serve with all of his fellow citizens to fight injustice – this is “the affection, identity, concern, and sacrifice” of which Nathanson spoke … and the kind of patriotism that builds the character of our country.


Mirren Gidda. “How Donald Trump’s Nationalism Won Over White Americans. Newsweek. November 15, 2016.

Igor Primoratz. “Patriotism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. June 01, 2009. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Doors and "Riders on the Storm" -- Whispers of a Sweet, Fading Memory


Riders on the Storm

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm

There’s a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin’ like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If ya give this man a ride
Sweet memory will die
Killer on the road, yeah

Girl ya gotta love your man
Girl ya gotta love your man
Take him by the hand
Make him understand
The world on you depends
Our life will never end
Gotta love your man, yeah


Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm


“Riders on the Storm”was released by the Doors as their second single from the studio album, L.A. Woman in April 1971. It reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. More notably, it has remained popular as a fan favorite for its undying mystique. “Riders” was actually the last song recorded by the Doors with Jim Morrison, and thus Morrison's last recorded song to be released in his lifetime. It was released shortly before he went to France, where he died a few months later.


L.A. Woman

By the time The Doors came to make their sixth and final studio album, L.A. Woman, they were close to collapse. Their tour at the end of 1970 had been disastrous. Jim Morrison was charged with indecent exposure in Miami in September, then apparently suffered a breakdown at the band’s last ever show in New Orleans. But LA Woman was the LP that pulled them back from the brink, breaking new ground

The LA Woman sessions began badly in November 1970. The band fell out with their long-term producer, Paul Rothchild, who quit two weeks in, unwilling to go another six rounds with an increasingly drunken, unpredictable singer.

Rothchild dismissed "Riders on the Storm" as "cocktail music," but reserved particular scorn for "Love Her Madly," which he cited as the song that drove him out of the studio. "The material was bad, the attitude was bad, the performance was bad," he said in the Morrison biography No One Here Gets Out Alive. "After three days of listening I said, 'That's it!' on the talk-back and cancelled the session."

So, the Doors turned to engineer Bruce Botnick, whose credits included all of their previous albums, as well as the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, and the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed. With his help, the band vowed to coproduce their new album – no more endless days of Rothchild's studio strictness, where it was normal to record 30 takes or spend hours on perfecting a drum sound. "Rothchild was gone, which is one reason why we had so much fun," Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger told Guitar World in 1994. "The warden was gone."

The Doors decided to record in their unassuming "workshop" at 8512 Santa Monica Boulevard. "It was the room we had rehearsed in forever," recalled John Densmore, Doors drummer, in the documentary Mr. Mojo Risin. "Our music was seeped into the walls. We were very comfortable. It was home."

Like a fraternity common room, the cramped space was littered with empty beer bottles, dog-eared magazines, an endless tangle of cables and assorted instruments – plus a jukebox and pinball machine. "It was tight," says Botnick, who was ensconced in the upstairs office behind a portable mixing board. "It was like sardines."

Krieger speaks of the sessions …

“We adapted our rehearsal room, bringing in a portable board, a kind of forerunner of today’s ProTools set-up. We were comfortable there, plus there were two titty bars next door. It was the fastest time we recorded anything after the first album, all recorded live between the four of us, very few takes, Jim in the bathroom, with the door off. Not stoned, not drunk. Unless he was drunk, he was great to work with.

During takes, Morrison would grab his gold Electrovoice 676-G stage mic and sing in the adjoining bathroom, which served as a provisional vocal booth. The room's tile provided impressive natural acoustics, and he ripped the door off its hinges to better commune with his band mates. (Also note the vocals and the lyrics in Hyacinth House” “I see the bathroom is clear, I think that somebody´s near” line.)

“Jim’s concentration level was low, but he was focused the whole time. After the first album, Paul Rothchild had said, ‘Boys, we better record as much as we can ’cause Jim ain’t gonna be around for too much longer.’ I always thought Jim would last forever. He was indestructible. He wasn’t saying Jim was going to die, but maybe go off and live in Africa or somewhere. You didn’t always know what Jim was going to do the next day so, as a group, we did everything for the moment.”

Jim Morrison actually left on an extended trip to Paris as the final mixes were being prepared, hoping to rediscover his muse in the City of Light. He would never return.

The album was a huge success. Self-produced and recorded in their private rehearsal space, it was a homecoming in both a musical and spiritual sense. "Our last record turned out like our first album: raw and simple," drummer John Densmore reflected in his autobiography. "It was as if we had come full circle. Once again we were a garage band, which is where rock & roll started." 


Riders on the Storm”

It seems inspiration for the song abounds. The process of creating “Riders...” is an amalgamation of ideas sparked by Morrison and nurtured by the rest of the group.

John Densmore, remembers …

“Jim always had notebooks of writings and poems to draw from and would just pull lyrics out from these. Jim had made the film, HWY, that was a road movie and he played the hitch-hiker who killed the guy that gave him a ride. It was out there, experimental. He called his friend, the poet Michael McClure, and pretended that he had actually committed a murder just to get a reaction. I’m not aware it was based on a true story, but Jim was a voracious reader as well as having a wild imagination.”

Some critics see the song as an autobiographical account of Morrison's life in that he considered himself a "rider on the storm." The "killer on the road" is a reference to a screenplay he wrote called The Hitchhiker (An American Pastoral). Morrison was going to play the part of a hitchhiker who goes on a murder spree.

Stephen Davis in Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend (2005) speaks of Morrison attending Florid State University in Tallahassee in 1962 while seeing a girl named Mary Werbelow who lived in Clearwater, 280 miles away. Jim would often hitchhike to see her. Davis says ...

"Those solitary journeys on hot and dusty Florida two-lane blacktop roads, with his thumb out and his imagination on fire with lust and poetry and Nietzsche and God knows what else – taking chances on redneck truckers, fugitive homos, and predatory cruisers – left an indelible psychic scar on Jimmy, whose notebooks began to obsessively feature scrawls and drawings of a lone hitchhiker, an existential traveler, faceless and dangerous, a drifting stranger with violent fantasies, a mystery tramp: the killer on the road."

Also, in reference to the contents of the lyrics, Jim Morrison mentioned spree killer Billy Cook during at least one interview. Cook killed six people, including a young family, while hitchhiking to California. In all likelihood, the Cook murders were inspiration for the song's lyric, "There's a killer on the road / His brain is squirming like a toad ... if you give this man a ride/sweet family will die;..."

Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek said, “Interestingly, Jim was pulled in two directions – he didn’t want to complete the song just about a killer hitchhiker. The last verse: ‘Your world on him depends/Our life will never end/You gotta love your man.’ It becomes a very spiritual song; you won’t still occupy this body, but the essential life will never end, and love is the answer to all things. It gives the song a different perspective.”

Further lyrical investigation is interesting. Speaking with Krieger and Manzarek, the philosopher Thomas Vollmer argues that the line "Into this world we're thrown" recalls Heidegger's (1889-1976) concept of thrownness (human existence as a basic state with all its attendant frustrations, sufferings, and demands that one does not choose, such as social conventions or ties of kinship and duty). In 1963 at Florida State, Jim Morrison had heard an influential lesson about Heidegger, including discussion about philosophers with the same tradition, including Freidrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger.

The title? Astute listeners can recognize that the song was also inspired by the song “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend.” Robby Krieger of the Doors attests to this. He says it evolved out of a jam session when the band was messing around with “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky, a 1948 cowboy song by Stan Jones that was later recorded by Johnny Cash, Bing Crosby and many others. It was Jim Morrison's idea to alter the title to "Riders On The Storm."

Bruce Botnick reveals his take on the recording …

“It’s hard to remember the exact chronology – unfortunately a lot of the tape boxes and outtakes were destroyed – but ‘Riders On The Storm,' like everything else, took only two or three takes and, as an afterthought, we recorded Jim’s whispered vocal. We all thought of the idea for the sound effects and Jim was the one who first said it out loud: ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to add rain and thunder?’ I used the Elektra sound effects recordings and, as we were mixing, I just pressed the button. Serendipity worked so that all the thunder came in at all the right places. It took you somewhere. It was like a mini movie in our heads.”

The Obscure

“Riders on the Storm” features Jim Morrison's main vocals and whispered lyrics over them to create the echo effect. Densmore says, “After we’d finished ‘Riders On The Storm,' I had this idea, which I suggested to Bruce Botnick, that Jim went back in and did another vocal that was just whispered, and it’s really subliminal. Unless you know it’s there, you don’t hear it.”

Referring to the dubbed lyrics, Ray Manzarek told Uncut magazine September 2011: "There's a whisper voice on 'Riders on the Storm,' if you listen closely, a whispered overdub that Jim adds beneath his vocal. That's the last thing he ever did. An ephemeral, whispered overdub."

Played in the E Dorian mode, "Riders On the Storm" not only incorporates effects of rain and thunder, but also the sounds of the electric piano playing keys which emulate rain – Manzarek used a Fender Rhodes to achieve the eerie mood. Sessions bass player Jerry Scheff, fresh from backing Elvis Presley at Las Vegas' International Hotel, came up with the distinctive, “jazzy” bass line with Manzarek's assistance. (Both Morrison and Densmore were massive Presley fans.)

The band also called upon guitarist Marc Benno, who was making a name for himself playing with Leon Russell.

Fittingly, “Riders on the Storm” ends with the storm fading slowly to silence. But not before Morrison had a more subtle contribution: two ghostly whispers of the song's title on the fadeout. The eerie send-off is even more haunting in retrospect. "That's the last thing he ever did," Ray Manzarek told Uncut. "An ephemeral, whispered overdub."

According to an interview with Manzarek, the song was performed live only twice: on the L.A. Woman tour at the Warehouse in New Orleans, Louisiana, on December 12, 1970, and in Dallas the night before that. This was The Doors' last public performance with Jim Morrison. It was only the second date of the tour, but was also the last, as the tour was canceled after this concert.

In November 2009, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame under the category Rock (track).

In the weeks before Morrison died on July 3, 1971, he intimated to John Densmore that he would soon be ready to record again. As it was, released shortly after the singer’s death, “Riders On The Storm” would become his haunted, mesmerizing swansong.

Today, Densmore is pragmatic about what might have been: “Either Jim would be a drunk playing blues in a club, or a vibrant, creative artist, clean and sober like Eric Clapton.”


Forty Year on, Jim Morrison Cult Thrives at Paris Cemetery.” The Independent. July 01. 2011.
Heinz Gerstenmeyer. The Doors – Sounds for Your Soul. Die Musik Der Doors. 2001.

Mick Houghton. “The Making Of… The Doors’ Riders On The Storm.” Uncut. September 18, 2014.

Lindsay Planer. “Riders on the Storm” – The Doors. Allmusic Review.

"'Riders on the Storm' full Official Chart History. Official Charts Company.

Riders on the Storm” (Which specific Rhodes was used?) The Electronic Piano Forum. April 25, 2009 Retrieved April 1, 2013.

Riders on the Storm.”

Jordan Runtagh. “Doors' 'L.A. Woman': 10 Things You Didn't Know.” Rolling Stone. April 19, 2016. 


Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Portsmouth Legacy: James Ashley, Lincoln's Conscience

 James Mitchell Ashley

Would it surprise you to know that President Abraham Lincoln was not an abolitionist when the Civil War broke out in 1881? He wanted desperately to preserve the Union. Although he personally found the practice of slavery abhorrent, he knew that neither Northerners nor the residents of the border slave states would support abolition as a war aim. The idea of granting freedom to nearly 4 million slaves in America was not his political concern.

Lincoln wrote in a famous letter to Horace Greeley on August 1862 ...

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.”
Even in his first inaugural address, Lincoln declared that he had “no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with slavery in the States where it exists.”

So, how did the Thirteenth Amendment that formally abolished slavery in the United States come about? Who led the cause, and what pressures caused President Lincoln to act? The story may surprise you. Although somehow lost in the annals of history, the person most notably credited with applying direct action in the right places was an abolitionist with a Portsmouth, Ohio connection.

Prior to the Thirteenth Amendment, the United States Constitution did not expressly use the words slave or slavery but included several provisions about unfree persons. Since the American Revolution, states had divided into states that allowed and states that prohibited slavery.

Slavery was implicitly permitted in the original Constitution through provisions such as Article I, Section 2, Clause 3, commonly known as the “Three-Fifths Compromise,” which detailed how each slave state's enslaved population would be factored into its total population count for the purposes of apportioning seats in the United States House of Representatives and direct taxes among the states.

For purposes of the Fifth Amendment, which was ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights – “no person shall… be deprived of… property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” – slaves were understood as property. They or their descendants could be sold or inherited like any other personalty. Like other property, human chattel was governed largely by laws of individual states. The Fifth Amendment rights of due process in the pursuit of life and liberty did not apply to slaves.

President Lincoln’s position on “Union above all” did pivot as the war progressed. It did so largely for a very utilitarian reason. By the fall of 1862, he had begun to believe that freeing the slaves could aid in his ultimate goal of reuniting the states as he saw the military benefit provided by the thousands of slaves who had fled their owners and joined the Union forces fighting behind enemy lines. After all, the Confederacy was using slaves as trench builders, teamsters, cooks, and in many other ways to help their cause. Lincoln was convinced that abolition had become a sound military strategy, as well as the morally correct path.

Foremost, Lincoln wanted to change the tide of the war. It was going badly for the Union. After the Northern armies had won a string of military victories in the early months of 1862, they suffered demoralizing reverses in July and August. He saw that emancipation would weaken the Confederacy and strengthen the Union by siphoning off part of the Southern labor force and adding this manpower to the Northern side.

Also, most Republicans had become convinced by 1862 that the war against a slaveholders’ rebellion must become a war against slavery itself, and they put increasing pressure on Lincoln to proclaim an emancipation policy. By the summer of 1862, it was clear that he risked alienating the Republican half of his constituency if he did not act against slavery.

Yet, even when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that all slaves in areas still in rebellion on January 1, 1863, “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free,” the mandate did not apply to border states or slave-holding territory already seized by the North.

It should be understood the proclamation only freed slaves; it did not abolish slavery itself. It pronounced freedom for all slaves in the Confederacy – states over which Lincoln had no control. Still, the symbolic directive had the effect of highlighting the centrality of slavery to the Union cause.

As historian Eric Foner writes, “never before had so large a number of slaves been declared free. By making the army an agent of emancipation and wedding the goals of Union and abolition, it ensured that northern victory would produce a social transformation in the South and a redefinition of the place of blacks in American life.”

Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it captured the hearts and imagination of millions of Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war. It was much more symbolic than practical.

Some historians believe issuing the proclamation gave Lincoln great benefit from a position of strength, rather than one of desperation. And, by shifting the Civil War’s main purpose from preserving the Union to universal liberty, Lincoln was hurling a moral challenge in the face of the British and French at a time when they were considering recognition of the Confederate government. In essence, it said, “You both abolished slavery – are you really going to recognize a nation built on that institution now, just to have access to the cotton grown by their slaves?” Britain and France balked.

A major concern was that the proclamation was executed by a president exercising greatly expanded wartime powers, and the president and his supporters were concerned that courts might rule it a temporary emergency measure invalid once the war concluded. Lincoln had preferred to see abolition codified on the state level, and by early 1864 several states had enacted laws prohibiting slavery.

Radical Republicans were opposed during the Civil War by the Moderate Republicans (led by Lincoln), by the conservative Republicans, and by the largely pro-slavery and later by anti-Reconstruction Democratic Party, as well as by conservatives in the South and liberals in the North during Reconstruction. The abolitionist group tried to convince the president that slavery would only be outlawed with an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. One of them was James Mitchell Ashley – the man with connections to Portsmouth, Ohio.


Born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, James Ashley moved with his parents and siblings to Portsmouth in the spring of 1826 at the age of two and grew to manhood here. His father, John Clinton Ashley was a minister in the Disciples (Campbellite) Church and served as a Justice of Peace and Township Trustee, providing the young Ashley a model of public service.

Still, Ashley and his father had a tense relationship. His father wanted him to follow family tradition and become a Baptist minister. Ashley did not want to do so. Therefore, Ashley grew very close to his mother, and he learned many things, both intellectually and morally, from her. She had many abolitionist friends, and this learning is said to have molded him into becoming a strong abolitionist. \

The young boy witnessed white men who refused to let their cattle drink from a stream in which his father had baptized slaves. Ashley grew to hate the "peculiar institution" (which he considered a violation of Christian principles) and the oligarchy that supported it.

When James Ashley was 14 years old, rather than attend a seminary, he ran away to become a cabin boy on Ohio and Mississippi River boats, and later he worked as a clerk on those boats. Ashley did not speak or write to his father again until he was twenty-one, but wrote often to his mother.

Nelson Evans, in his History of Scioto County account of the young Ashley, notes that it was “during his life on the river that he saw much that horrified him with the slave system. He saw coffles of chained slaves being walked to the Deep South, boys his own age being sold. In later years Ashley used to relate how free Negroes employed to work on the same steamer with him would be kidnapped.”

He recalled: “At landing places where the steamer would stop to take on freight, they (Negroes) would go ashore to help with the work, and would be arrested on the charge of being runaway slaves, and being unable, without money or friends, to make a defense, and no owner appearing, would finally be sold to pay the expenses of apprehending them.”

James Ashley began to help fugitives. Reports confirm that Ashley began helping slaves to escape as early as 1839. According to W. H. Siebert, a pioneering historian of the Underground Railroad, James Ashley began his active participation in the movement in 1841, at the age of seventeen, when he assisted two groups of slaves across the Ohio (one a group of seven and another of five), transferring them by a small boat from near Greenup, Kentucky, to two operators that lived below Portsmouth, on the West Side.

Late in his life Ashley relished telling stories of the families he had saved. Ashley explained in an interview when he was 70 years old: “The five was the most exciting time I ever had. From the group of seven, all of them got away.”

Ashley worked the river for several years, then he returned home to Portsmouuth and educated himself in the printing industry. By 1842, Ashley had begun working for various newspapers, particularly the Scioto Valley Republican. And, in 1848, he became editor and part owner of the Portsmouth (Ohio) Democrat in 1848 – the first Democratic party-aligned newspaper in Portsmouth. Ashley and the other owner would soon sell the paper to Francis Cleveland, who continued the enterprise.

Ashley then studied law with Charles O. Tracy, and he was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1849. However, he chose not to practice law. Instead, he ran for mayor in 1851.

Evans noted that Ashley lost the election because he split the Democratic vote with Judge William Oldfield. This loss discouraged young Ashley with Portsmouth.

Evans record also relates that Ashley realized his secret and illegal underground railroad activities had become common knowledge when “he met a Quaker whom he knew had “anti-slavery sentiments” on the street who said to him, “James, I think thee needs this,’ at the same time handing him $20.00.” 

In 1851, he was married to Miss Emma Smith of Kentucky. That same year he and Emma decided to leave Portsmouth. They moved to Toledo, Ohio, to avoid prosecution under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. There, he opened a drug store. He sold his portion of the business in 1858 in order to focus on politics. James and Emma had four children.

Ashley decided to relaunch his political career in northwest Ohio, where he abandoned the Democratic Party and helped establish the new Republican Party. Soon, James Ashley became an active abolitionist. He even traveled with John Brown's widow to Brown's execution in December, 1859, and reported on the event in the still-extant local newspaper, the Toledo Blade.

Ashley said of Charles Town (Charlestown, now in West Virginia):

“It is enough to say, that any anti-slavery man would have been safer from personal injury and insult in...countries whose language he could not speak, a stranger without a passport...than in the town of Charlestown, in my own country, for the past few days.”

The way Ashley got into the city without arrest or confrontation was to get an old horse and rickety buggy and quietly drive into town. Ashley even spoke to Mrs. Brown who was present to fetch her husband’s body. Mrs. Brown had brought a few friends with her for support, but she was made to leave them behind when she spoke with her husband. Ashley reported that she was treated terribly, even made to strip to be certain she had no poisons or weapons upon her person to relay to her husband.

Ashley was very sorry for what she went through, “A poor, broken hearted woman, with two gentlemen and a Quaker lady friend, harmless and unarmed...” Many people still ask why Harper’s Ferry was such an excitement to slaveholders, and Ashley said that “It is inseparable from the system of slavery.” Of Brown’s execution, he had somewhat torn feelings. To quote him,“However much I condemn and lament, as I most since rely do, his attack on this place, I cannot but admire his heroism, his straight-forward independence, and his undoubted courage.”

On the morning of December 2, 1859, Brown wrote:
I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.”
Brown read his Bible and wrote a final letter to his wife, which included his will. At 11:00 a.m. he was escorted from the county jail through a crowd of 2,000 soldiers a few blocks away to a small field where the gallows were. Among the soldiers in the crowd were future Confederate general Stonewall Jackson and John Wilkes Booth (the latter borrowing a militia uniform to gain admission to the execution).

Brown was accompanied by the sheriff and his assistants, but no minister since he had consistently rejected the ministrations of pro-slavery clergy. Since the region was in the grips of virtual hysteria, most northerners, including journalists, were run out of town, and it is unlikely any anti-slavery clergyman would have been safe, even if one were to have sought to visit Brown.

Brown elected to receive no religious services in the jail or at the scaffold. He was hanged at 11:15 a.m. and pronounced dead at 11:50 a.m. His body was placed in a wooden coffin with the noose still around his neck. His coffin was then put on a train to take it away from Virginia to his family homestead in New York for burial. In the North, large memorial meetings took place, church bells rang, minute guns were fired, and famous writers such as Emerson and Thoreau joined many Northerners in praising Brown.

French poet, novelist, and dramatist Victor Hugo had tried to obtain a pardon for John Brown. This text, written at Hauteville-House on December 2, 1859, warned of a possible civil war:
Politically speaking, the murder of John Brown would be an uncorrectable sin. It would create in the Union a latent fissure that would in the long run dislocate it. Brown's agony might perhaps consolidate slavery in Virginia, but it would certainly shake the whole American democracy. You save your shame, but you kill your glory. Morally speaking, it seems a part of the human light would put itself out, that the very notion of justice and injustice would hide itself in darkness, on that day where one would see the assassination of Emancipation by Liberty itself.
Let America know and ponder on this: there is something more frightening than Cain killing Abel, and that is Washington killing Spartacus.”
While in Toledo, Ashley was active in local politics and served as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party in 1858. A year later, in 1859, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives in the 36th Congress. During his tenure, Ashley was one of the abolitionist movement’s leaders. His service to Congress spanned the entire Civil War and part of the Reconstruction Era.

According to biographer Robert F. Horowitz, Ashley "maintained that under the war powers clause of the Constitution, the government had the right to interfere with slavery in the states and to initiate complete abolition, and that the power should be used against the oligarchic slaveholders. He firmly believed that his views would eventually be accepted by the administration and the American people." Such strong support led to the Emancipation Proclamation.

In 1860, Ashley campaigned for Republican presidential nominee Abraham Lincoln. During the secession crisis in the winter of 1860-1861, Ashley opposed compromising with the slave-holding South. As chairman of the House Committee on Territories, Ashley formulated a radical plan for Reconstruction in December 1861. It would have abolished slavery, established territorial governments in the seceded states, redistributed confiscated land to former slaves and Southern white Unionists, and granted black men the right to vote.

Ashley was also instrumental in the drafting and passage of the law abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia in April 1862.

In December 1863, Ashley introduced a bill proposing a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery in the entire United States. Modeled after the wording of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Ashley's motion was the foundation for what would become the Thirteenth Amendment.

When President Lincoln presented his much milder Reconstruction plan, Ashley unsuccessfully attempted to add a provision for black voting rights. Also in his second term, the congressman was accused of illegal land speculation and misuse of his office to secure jobs for relatives. A special congressional committee acquitted him in 1863.

By the summer of 1864 Lincoln’s position on the 13th Amendment had continued to evolve. At his party’s convention, he pushed for a Republican platform that called for slavery’s “utter and complete extirpation,” and in accepting the nomination, he for the first time called for a federal amendment banning slavery as “a fitting, and necessary conclusion” to the war.

Emboldened by the 1864 election that not only returned him to the White House but increased his party’s seats in Congress, Lincoln threw himself behind the effort to pass the amendment. In his annual message to legislators in December 1864, Lincoln made clear that he had no intention of waiting for the inauguration of the new Congress in March. “The next Congress will pass the measure if this does not,” he wrote. “May we not agree that the sooner the better?”

As the 2012 Steven Spielberg biopic “Lincoln” portrayed, the president and Secretary of State William Seward were willing to strong-arm border Unionists and horse-trade with reluctant Democrats to secure their votes or at least their abstentions in order to lower the threshold for a two-thirds majority. The administration took advantage of the timing of the lame-duck Congress by offering patronage jobs – and in one case an ambassadorship to Denmark – to defeated Democrats.

As floor manager of the Republican majority, James Ashley then steered the Thirteenth Amendment through the House of Representatives until its passage in January 1865 by 2 votes. The constitutionally required three-quarters of the states ratified the Thirteenth Amendment and it became part of the U.S. Constitution on December 6, 1865, eight months after the end of the Civil War.

The chamber grew silent as House of Representatives Speaker Schuyler Colfax declared the results of the historic vote with a quiver in his voice: “On the passage of the joint resolution to amend the Constitution of the United States, the ayes have 119, the noes 56.” The measure passed by the narrowest of margins, with eight members abstaining. Sixteen Democrats, all but two lame ducks, joined the full slate of Republicans in approving the measure.

It was reported that following a short heartbeat of silence, the chamber erupted in celebration. Parliamentary rules were cast aside as congressmen cheered wildly and “wept like children.” Then came the thunder of a 100-gun salute outside the Capitol Building to relay the news of the vote to the rest of the city. Ashley quickly telegraphed the Toledo Commercial, "Glory to God in the highest! Our country is free."

Although it wasn’t legally necessary, Lincoln affixed his signature to the engrossed copy of the amendment the following day. That night, a jubilant crowd led by a brass band gathered by torchlight outside the White House and raised a great cheer when Lincoln appeared in a central upper window of the portico. The president leaned outside and told his supporters that slavery had caused the Civil War and must be expunged so that it would never tear apart the country again. “This amendment is a king’s cure for all the evils,” he said. “It winds the whole thing up.” Before he left, Lincoln congratulated the country “upon this great moral victory.” One must wonder what he said to Congressman Ashley.


James Mitchell Ashley is forever known as the Radical Republican who introduced the first bill which ultimately became the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. He was good friends with President Lincoln, yet Ashley views on slavery were deep-seated and more extreme – breaking away from any compromise that deprived humans of equality and absolute freedom. Without such pressure on the President and Congress, the necessary transformation would likely not have occurred. A radical group led by a radical man had served the nation.

Ashley wasn't finished with his important work. He also became a leading advocate of the enfranchisement of black men, which was established by the First Reconstruction Act of 1867 and the Fifteenth Amendment (1870). Three years before his death, his efforts on behalf of racial equality were recognized by the Afro-American League of Tennessee, and he donated the proceeds of a book of his speeches to build schools.

With his health declining, Ashley developed a bad case of diabetes and it eventually cost him his life. In September of 1896,Ashley took a fishing trip up north. While fishing, he neglected to watch his diet and his health. On September 16th, Ashley suffered a fatal heart attack and died. He is buried in Toledo, Ohio.

While honoring James M. Ashley, William H. Young, the president of the Afro-American League of Tennessee said of Ashley …

“We come to snatch from the consummate statesman, patriot, philanthropist and benefactor, the chill and gloom of ingratitude and to reinvest his being with new life. We come to reassure him that the years of strife, turmoil, and self-abnegation spent for a despised race were ‘as bread upon the water.’

"We come to remind him that we tonight intend that his name and life-work shall be a precious legacy to our children’s children. That they shall rise up and call him blessed. We have come to announce to the world that henceforth, he who shall merit our gratitude shall not go unrewarded.”

With supreme conviction, Ashley fought for his beliefs. He fought for minority rights in a time when minorities had nothing. He pushed the people of his time to abolish slavery and to do away with segregation not only in his state, but also in the entire country. His name should forever be remembered as the person most responsible for the conviction and execution of these words: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” No Founding Father did more for equality in America than James Mitchell Ashley.


Jean Allain. The Legal Understanding of Slavery: From the Historical to the Contemporary. 2012.

“James Ashley.” Ohio History Central.

Evan Carton. Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America. 2006. 

“Emancipation Proclamation.” History Channel.

Andrew Feight, Ph.D. “James Ashley & the Thirteenth Amendment.”

Raelin Ingram. “The Life and Times of James. M. Ashley.” Washington Senior Research History Class.

Christopher Klein. “Congress Passes 13th Amendment, 150 Years Ago.” History Channel. January 30, 2015.

Abigail Perkiss. “Abraham Lincoln as constitutional radical: The 13th amendment.” Constitution Daily. July 12, 2013.

David Potter. The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861. 2011.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Local History: Conducting the Ohio Underground Railroad


When Virginian John Randolph's 518 slaves were emancipated and a plan was hatched to settle them in southern Ohio, the population rose up in indignation. An Ohio congressman warned that if the attempt were made, "the banks of the Ohio ... would be lined with men with muskets on their shoulders to keep off the emancipated slaves."

Slavery and Ohio

When Congress established the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, one of the provisions forbid slavery in any new future state admitted to the Union, north of the Ohio River. Yet, to say Ohio afforded slaves freedom would be debatable in that blacks were denied many rights of citizenship. It is evident that Ohio abolitionists were not in the majority.

According to historian Leon F. Litwack, Ohio "provided a classic example of how anti-immigration legislation could be invoked to harass Negro residents."

The Ohio state constitution adopted in 1802, deprived blacks of the right to vote, to hold public office, and to testify against whites in court. In time, Ohio's position became even harsher when laws were passed saying that blacks could not live in Ohio without a certificate proving their free status. They even had to post a $500 bond "to pay for their support in case of want."

Blacks were prohibited from joining the state militia, were excluded from serving on juries and were not allowed admittance to state poorhouses, insane asylums, and other institutions. Some of these laws were not strictly enforced, or it would have been virtually impossible for any African American to emigrate to Ohio.

Later Congress added the Fugitive Slave Law on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern slave-holding interests and Northern Free Soilers. It required that all escaped slaves were, upon capture, to be returned to their masters and that officials and citizens of free states had to cooperate in this law. Abolitionists nicknamed it the "Bloodhound Law" for the dogs that were used to track down runaway slaves.

The law made it a federal crime to give aid or harbor escaping slaves. It also penalized officials who did not arrest an alleged runaway slave, and made them liable to a fine of $1,000. Adding to this were rewards paid by plantation owners to freelance bounty hunters for slaves that were returned. This made life extremely difficult for slaves, even in a free-state like Ohio.

The population of Ohio in the early 1800s held opposing views about slavery. Ohio was being settled by two basic cultures: those coming from New England, and those coming from Virginia and other southern states. In New England, slavery had long ago been abolished, and quite the opposite held true for the southern states. These two different cultures led to clashes with regards to African Americans and the issue of slavery in Ohio. Even in rural areas, one town might be pro slavery and the one just down the road a few miles would be a stronghold of anti-slavery sentiment.

A third conflict arose from law-abiding citizens that may have opposed the issue of slavery, but so revered the letter of the law, that they felt obligated to turn in runaway slaves because the law required it.

Almost anywhere in Ohio, in almost any community, about half of the population would be pro-slavery, and the other half anti-slavery. This would be especially true in the lower half of the state where citizens were more likely to be former residents of Virginia or Kentucky or be descendents of family from these states. Slavery was a hot issue in Ohio. Pro abolitionists speaking at local rallies could often turn the event into a hostile conflict.

Even with all the impediments to equality and the considerable opposition to emancipation, Ohio became perhaps the most important state on the road to freedom. Many Ohioans help secure this claim as they took part in helping escaping slaves.

It was under these conditions that caused abolitionists to form secretive networks that could help escaping slaves move along a network that was neither advertised nor written. In fact, most of the people on the network only knew a few of the other members to help protect everyone's identity. That network became known as the Underground Railroad.

Underground Railroad

The Ohio Anti-Slavery Society was formed by a number of like-minded individuals that opposed slavery. Following closely the structure of the American Anti-Slavery Society that was founded in 1833, the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society was formed in 1835 in Zanesville as an auxiliary to the American Anti-slavery Society. The members of the society pledged to fight for the abolition of slavery and establishment of laws protecting African-Americans after they were freed. Their purpose, as stated in their constitution, was, “abolition of slavery throughout the United States and the elevation of our colored brethren to their proper rank as men.” In 1836, the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society grew from 20 chapters to 120 chapter covering every part of the state. By December of the same year, ten thousand Ohioans were part of the Society.

The Underground Railroad was neither underground, nor a railroad, but a system of loosely connected safe havens where those escaping the brutal conditions of slavery were sheltered, fed, clothed . . . and instructed during their journey to freedom. The term underground was used because this activity of helping escaping slaves was against the law and therefore these activities had to be concealed. The term railroad was used because those people involved in the activities used terms commonly associated with railroads, to describe different aspects of their activities.
  • Slaves were called cargo or passengers.
  • Hiding places or safe houses were called stations.
  • Guides leading the escaping slaves were called conductors.
  • People helping the escaping slaves, but not guiding them, were called agents.
  • People providing financial resources for these activities were called stockholder.
Although there were Underground Railroad networks throughout the country, even in the South, Ohio had the most active network of any other state with around 3000 miles of routes used by escaping runaways. Some sources estimate that 40,000 slaves escaped to freedom through Ohio. The reason for this is two-fold. First Ohio was bordered by two slave states: Virginia and Kentucky. That amounted to more than 400 miles of border between slave-state and free-state. In addition, of all the states involved in these underground networks, Ohio was the closest state to Canada with only about 250 miles or less from anywhere along the Ohio River to Lake Erie and freedom.

Ohio also had a large Quaker population, especially in the east and southeast portions of the state. While the Pennsylvania Quakers were largely responsible for initiating the abolitionist movement, the Ohio Quakers seemed to be more directly involved in actually moving escaping slaves on their way north and freedom in particular those fleeing slaves coming from Virginia.

The River-To-Lake Freedom Trail in Ohio memorializes one of the most frequently-used corridors of the Underground Railroad. The trail generally follows the present-day alignment of U.S. Route 23 from the Ohio River at Portsmouth, north through central Ohio. North of Marion County the trail follows state Route 4 to Sandusky on the shore of Lake Erie.

Of course, the ultimate destination for freedom was Canada (and to some degree, Mexico in the south). Yet, once there, escaped slaves still found life difficult – with no work and with strong segregation. After escaped slaves arrived in Canada, they would often return to Ohio where they could join small enclaves of freed slaves in areas that were uninhabited and try to remain as inconspicuous as possible.

The recorded history of the Underground Railroad is lacking simply because its operations were conducted in secret. Records were not kept.

Crossing at Scioto County


James Poindexter

Many runaways from Kentucky on the River-To-Lake Freedom Trail were aided by Rev. James Poindexter. Poindexter was born on Sept. 25, 1819, in Virginia. His father was white; his mother was black and Cherokee. He trained as a barber and moved to Columbus in 1838. His shop at 61 S. High St., across from the Statehouse, was popular with city leaders and state politicians.

Simultaneously upon apprenticing himself to a barber, he hired a British tutor to teach him. From this time, instead of letting circumstances keep him down, he made them do his bidding and besides furnishing him an income his barbering also gave him an education.

All sorts of prominent men sat in his barber chair: politicians, statesmen, doctors, lawyers, and many others :in the know” around the state capitol. Before they knew it, these men found themselves deep in complicated discussion of some question of the day and, unlike the philosopher who wanted his hair cut in silence, they came as much to listen to the arguments of a well-informed young man as they did for a haircut.

Upon reaching maturity Poindexter exercised his right to vote and was the first Negro in Columbus to use his franchise. He knew his rights and privileges. An uncle of his, George B. Poindexter, was once governor of Virginia.

In 1847, Poindexter was a preacher at the Second Baptist Church when an event split the congregation in two and Poindexter emerged as a champion of freedom.

A black family that Poindexter knew from Virginia joined the congregation. The family had owned slaves in the South and sold them before moving to Columbus. Some churchgoers demanded that the family use the proceeds from the sale to buy their former slaves from bondage. The family refused and Poindexter led forty dissenting brethren to form the Anti-Slavery Baptist Church.

That church grew to 104 members before it merged with its parent church in 1858. Poindexter was named pastor of the combined church, a post he held for the next forty years.

Poindexter also served secretly as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, helping runaway slaves escape to Canada. Risking imprisonment and fines, Poindexter and a handful of both black and white Columbus residents gave sanctuary to escaped slaves and passed them, often disguised as cargo in freight wagons, north to the next stop on their journey to Canada.

During the Civil War Poindexter and his wife formed the Colored Soldiers Relief Society to help give soldiers and their families’ assistance since the State of Ohio failed to support its black veterans.

When the 15th Amendment allowed black voting throughout Ohio in 1870, Poindexter began his political career. In January 1871 he led the call for a statewide convention of African American men to encourage voting. Two years later Poindexter was nominated by the Republican Party for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives. He lost but in 1880 he became the first African American elected to the Columbus City Council. Reelected in 1882 Poindexter remained in the seat until 1884 when he was named to the Board of Trustees of the Ohio School for the Blind. In 1884 Poindexter was also appointed to the Columbus Board of Education and was reelected four times.

William McClain

William McClain was born in Virginia in 1807. His father, Hugh McClain, captained ships along the Ohio River. While little is known of William McClain's youth, he eventually pursued the same career as his father. He also became an abolitionist and actively protested slavery by ferrying runaway slaves across the Ohio River from the slave states of Virginia (now West Virginia) and Kentucky.

McClain usually brought the runaway slaves to J.J. Minor, who resided in South Webster, Ohio. He, in turn, would see them to the Dan Lucas or Joseph Love farms. The Lucas or Love families would take them 37 miles northwest to the PP Settlement in Pike County. This place was settled by former slaves and freed men from Virginia and North Carolina. The people here sent them to Chillicothe or to other places of safety. There, they followed the Scioto River to Waverly and to the free black community called P.P. Settlement in Pebble Township.

McClain died on September 10, 1867, in Portsmouth.

Connection to Huston (Houston) Hollow

Established in Scioto County, Ohio in 1830, Huston Hollow was a predominantly African-American community. It was located six miles north of Portsmouth, Ohio in what is now Clay Township. In 1830, whites in Portsmouth drove approximately eighty African-American residents from the city.

At the time, many white Ohioans had no desire to live near or face economic competition from African Americans. Free blacks found that it was difficult to get fair treatment, and they often formed their own communities away from whites for protection. Several of the displaced African Americans formed the community of Huston Hollow. Among the community's more prominent residents were the Love and Lucas families. Members of both of these families actively assisted runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad. This was part of the River-To-Lake Freedom Trail.

Huston Hollow remained small in size during its existence, averaging less than one hundred residents. By the mid 1900s, Huston Hollow had lost its identity as a separate community. With whites increasingly showing African Americans tolerance, many African Americans began to find acceptance in traditionally white communities.

Despite the growing opposition to slavery by some whites during the early 1800s, communities, such as Huston Hollow, illustrate the prejudice that existed in Ohio during the years before the American Civil War.

James Ashley

Ashley was born on November 24, 1822, to John Ashley, a bookbinder and Campbellite preacher who evangelized in Kentucky and West Virginia, and his wife Mary A. (Kilpatrick) Ashley of Kentucky. near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When he was four years old, his family moved to Portsmouth, Ohio. As a boy in the Ohio River Valley, Ashley saw coffles of chained slaves being walked to the Deep South, boys his own age being sold, and even white men who refused to let their cattle drink from a stream in which his father had baptized slaves. He grew to hate the "peculiar institution" (which he considered a violation of Christian principles) and the oligarchy that supported it.

He had begun helping slaves to escape as early as 1839, and late in his life Ashley relished telling stories of the families he had saved as a 17 year old.

Although Ashley's father was a bookbinder, many of his ancestors had been Baptist ministers. Ashley's father encouraged his son to pursue a career in the ministry. Ashley refused and ran away from home at the age of fourteen. He spent several years as a cabin boy and later as clerk on steamboats on the Ohio River. He then returned home to Portsmouth in 1848 where he became a journalist—first at the Portsmouth Dispatch and later editor of the Portsmouth Democrat. The following year, he was admitted to the Ohio Bar but did not practice. the printing trade.

In 1851, abolitionist activities caused Ashley and his wife to flee Portsmouth and move to Toledo to avoid prosecution under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. There, Ashley opened a drug store (which was soon burned down) and also became involved in the new Republican Party (campaigning for its presidential candidate John C. Fremont and Congressman Richard Mott.

Ashley quickly became prominent in the party and served as chairman of the Ohio Republican Convention in 1858. In that same year, Toledo voters elected Ashley to the United States House of Representatives. He was reelected four times until he lost in 1868 by fewer than one thousand votes.

An active abolitionist, Ashley traveled with John Brown's widow to Brown's execution in December 1859, and reported the event in the still-extant local newspaper, the Toledo Blade. In 1858, he led the Ohio Republican Party. As the year ended, Ashley was elected to U.S. House of Representativs of the 36th United States Congress, and took office the following year.

In Congress, Ashley championed abolitionist causes. During the American Civil War, Ashley took an active role in supporting the recruitment of troops for the Union Army. He also became a leader among the Radical Republicans, writing a bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia in 1862. On December 14, 1863, he introduced the first bill which ultimately (with Ashley as House Majority floor manager) became the Thirteenth Amendment to the United State Constitution by a 2/3 margin of 2 votes on January 31, 1865, formally abolishing slavery.

Ashley also served as the chairman of the House's Committee on Territories and helped organize Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, and Montana. Ashley strongly opposed Mormonism and polygamy, and he successfully campaigned to reduce the size of Utah to limit Mormon influence. He also played a leading role in President Andrew Johnson's impeachment. In 1867, he demanded that the House Judiciary Committee begin an investigation of the President. Ashley lost reelection in 1868 principally because of his radical views on race issues. Increasingly, white Ohioans rejected government actions that would increase equality between whites and African Americans.


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Underground Railroad in Ohio.”

The Underground Railroad in Southern Ohio.” Written for Lest We Forget, published by Bennie McCrae, 1997.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

"Tied to the Whipping Post": Trump and the NFL Plantation System


What defines the character of a person? Can an individual escape the consequences of his wrongful words and actions by merely making excuses or claiming his behavior is not intentionally hurtful? Of course not. Any person must own his own mistakes, learn from them, and modify his behavior to strengthen character.

President Donald Trump is unable to do this. He has a long history of harboring racist attitudes, and he shows no signs of changing. Oh, he has said, “I am the least racist person that you’ve ever encountered,” and when asked about how he would persuade those who believe he is a racist otherwise, he ignored the question and said, “I’m not concerned. Actually, I’m not concerned because I don’t think people believe it.”

However, it is ludicrous to account for his racist words and deeds by saying, “Oh, that's how he is – impulsive and provocative. He doesn't really feel that way.” Trump is the man behind his divisive behavior. Even if he doesn't completely understand how he displays prejudice, he is clearly at fault. In truth, I believe the bias is much deeper than his atrocious inability to communicate.

Donald Trump has done many things that reveal his prejudiced character. For example …

* He attacked Muslim Gold Star parents of the late Army Captain Humayun Khan and seized on Ghazala Khan’s silence to insinuate that she was forbidden from speaking due to the couple’s Islamic faith.

* He claimed a judge in his class action against the for-profit Trump University.was biased because “he's a Mexican.”

* The Justice Department sued his company, the Trump Management Corporation twice for not renting to black people in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.

*Workers at Trump’s casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, have accused him of racism over the years. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission fined the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino $200,000 because managers would remove African-American card dealers at the request of a certain big-spending gambler. A state appeals court upheld the fine.

* He refused to condemn the white supremacists such as former KKK leader David Duke, who were campaigning for him.

* He questioned whether President Obama was born in the United States.

* He treats racial groups as monoliths – calling them “the blacks, the Muslims, etc – while claiming he “loves” the group in question and ignoring that people are individual human beings.

* He encouraged the mob justice that resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of the Central Park Five by taking out full-page ads in four New York City-area newspapers. 
* He condoned the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign rally in Alabama.

* He stood by his “blame on both sides” at Charlottesville comment even after Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., discussed with him how to improve race relations and policy issues of specific concern to communities of color. Plus, he came down squarely on the side of keeping Confederate monuments saying : “They’re trying to take away our culture.”

* He pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who implemented discriminatory policies, flouted the law, and violated the civil rights of the people he was elected to serve.

* During what was supposed to be a stump speech for Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), he drifted away from campaigning to ask members of the crowd if they'd love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired’?” He also encouraged fans to boycott the league over the protests.

* He often treats African-American supporters as tokens to dispel the idea he is racist.

So, is it any wonder Trump keeps inserting himself into a debate over National Anthem protests? By making the issue about himself and not about blacks, not only does he wish to force his views about managerial power and patriotism, but also he willingly asserts his racist character. He doesn't care that the protest started by Colin Kaepernick is meant to open a national conversation about race and justice while fighting oppression through education and social activism. Trump's vision of “making America great again” is a return to a time when nonwhites were second-class citizens.

Although Trump claims his actions “have nothing to do with race,” he continues to ignore the real issues of the protest, and he has taken it upon himself as president (from a bully pulpit) to condemn those who use their right to protest in order to draw national attention to a very pressing issue.

Donald Trump knows the racial composition of the league – blacks represent 70 Percent of NFL players while the fan base is 83 percent white. The NFL has no African-Americans majority owners of a team and no African-American CEOs or presidents. In fact, Reggie Fowler, who owns 40% of the Minnesota Vikings is the sole black major ownership member.

In addition, Trump knows that “since at least 2014, owners who donated to him have consistently had fewer African-American execs, general managers and vice presidents than teams whose owners did not donate.” In fact, owners who did not give to Trump were found to be roughly 2.5 times as likely to have black general managers or vice presidents than Trump-donating owners over the past three football seasons.”

Believing that ownership would reciprocate and overwhelmingly support him, Trump exploited this inequality and essentially declared, “It's time for the masters to force a stop to all these problems on the NFL plantations.” By saying any player who didn’t stand for the anthem was a “son of a bitch” and should be fired by his team’s owner, he played to his base while using the excuse of patriotism to urge political obedience.

Face the facts – this is a time of a near unparalleled rise of racial tension. Now, the United States is experiencing the most profound demographic change since the turn of the 20th century, with minorities already comprising a majority of all students in the K-12 public school system nationwide. Demographers such as the Pew Research Center project that as soon as 2020 kids of color will comprise a majority of all Americans under 18. White Christians, who represented a majority of Americans for most of our history, fell below 50% of the population sometime around Barack Obama's reelection in 2012. And, the share of the US population that is foreign-born is on track to reach its highest level ever by around 2025.

Still, under pressure from Trump and despite promises by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that the protesters would face no reprisals, NFL team owners will consider requiring football players to stand for the U.S. national anthem. Trump has even suggested using tax laws to penalize the league for players who kneel in protest of racial injustice. This from a man who has refused to disclose his own tax history.

The population is changing. Not that this would matter to Trump. The nation must practice less resistance to changing viewpoints and identities to avoid unnecessary division; however, pressure from the top down prevents a clear perspective from emerging. The ownership of NFL isn't afraid of Trump, per se. It is more that they resemble him much too much.

Author and The Nation’s sports editor, Dave Zirin, explains ...

“It’s not fear of Trump. It’s that they are Trump. Billionaires are not allies in the fight against the white-supremacist, anti-labor aims of this administration. They are the beneficiaries. This has gotten twisted in recent months, as people have been grateful for the diverse, proudly political voices that ESPN has hired in recent years, as well as the sight of NFL owners backing their players after Trump’s abhorrent Huntsville, Alabama, speech, where he called NFL protesters 'sons of bitches.'”

Trump is as Trump does. This can also be said of those who support his reckless ways. Trump is an accelerant for white supremacists and other less outspoken racists. As LeBron James said, “He's now using sports as the platform to try to divide us.” How can you not see his intent as he condemns the NFL while while, at the same time, saying he is “so proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans” for not tolerating “disrespecting our country or our flag.”

This president wants people to take sides, and, believe me, his “side” has nothing to do with equality. He may say the country needs solidarity; however, he defines any unanimity as a strict adherence to what he deems important to him and to his divisive supporters. He quickly attempts to demean opposition by encouraging an “us versus them” mentality. The single polarizing agent time and again is race.
Joe Feagin, a Texas A&M professor who has studied race relations for decades says …

“The closest comparison to Trump in recent decades may be the former Democratic governor of Alabama, George Wallace. In his presidential campaigns, Wallace was stylistically similar to Trump in his aggression on the stump; he blamed “anarchists” for disrupting his events and the country at large, much as Trump has often impugned today’s protesters. As a renowned segregationist, Wallace didn’t have to talk openly about race; instead he talked about blocking fair housing laws initiated to protect minorities...

“It’s hard to find somebody as bold and blunt as Trump is without going back to George Wallace. It’s more of a megaphone than a dog whistle...

“At the center of this seems to be a strong resistance to racial change and reform and racial justice. The bodies of black and brown people seem often to trigger a strong response in him.”

(Cathleen Decker. “At Trump's bully pulpit, it's 'us' vs. 'them,' with race often used as a device to polarize.” Los Angeles Times. September 23, 2017.)