Mary Beth Writes

13th Amendment - ratified in 1865

Section 1. 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.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

14th Amendment - ratified 1868

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

(Sections 2 and 3 and 4 are about how the law will regard people who were elected representatives of, and debt incurred by the Confederacy)

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

15th Amendment - ratified 1870

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

I said last week I would write about the 15th Amendment. Except … I am haviing a hard time concentrating. I keep checking Twitter to see what’s happening now. I assume many of you are likewise distracted and occupied. So let me write this fast and short and you read it likewise. 

I’ve been listening for years to the podcast In The Past Zone. Edward T. O’Donnell is a history professor who is also firmly rooted in contemporary issues and how we got here. He offers 10-20 minute historical lectures that generally bounces off the news.  He’s easy to listen to plus he has a great sense of irony and humor.  His website. http://inthepastlane.com/

Everything I am saying today is sourced pretty directly from http://inthepastlane.com/episode-187/  You can either listen to it or scroll into the URL and read his short lecture. 

The 15th Amendment was third and final of the Reconstruction Amendments. It mandates that all African Americans including all formerly enslaved men (not women) are allowed to vote. Period. 

From 1868 until 1872, 700,000 Black men would register to vote; 600 formerly enslaved men would win state and federal elections. More would serve in local offices. Between 1869 and 1901 twenty-two African Americans would serve in the U.S. Congress (twenty in the House, and two in the Senate).

This amazing enfranchisement of former slaves into government happened because of these constitutional amendments (there had not been a new amendment to the constitution in 60 years). And also, because federal authority was “on the ground” to protect civil rights. 

Also, Congress passed Force Acts that compelled the federal government to use its power and authority to defeat groups like the KKK. The federal government succeeded in crushing these violent groups throughout the South in the years after the War was ended.

So long as the federal government remained committed to upholding civil rights, the achievements of Reconstruction worked. However, this commitment began to waver and eventually disappear after 1872.

This happened because 1.) The Grant administration was wading through scandals involving high ranking officials. 2.) The Panic of 1873 touched off five years of severe economic depression. 3.) Conservatives argued that the federal government had done enough and that it was time for African Americans to take care of themselves. So the Force Acts fighting KKK etc. was no longer supported.

Violence reared its head as soon as federal enforcement left the scene. In Mississippi in 1875 armed whites allied with the Democratic Party to build a campaign of terrorism that came to be known as the Mississippi Plan. Through threats, beatings, and killings, they delivered the unambiguous message: blacks and their white allies who dared vote Republican risked their lives and livelihoods.

Alarmed, Mississippi governor Adelbert Ames asked the Grant administration to send troops to keep the peace and protect the polls. His request was rejected.

So, next election, more than sixty thousand black, Republican Mississippi voters stayed away from the polls on election day. When fifteen hundred African Americans gathered to vote in Aberdeen, Mississippi, they were informed by the mob that “if they did not leave town within five minutes … the last man would be shot dead.”

Jim Crow was alive and Black Americans would not get their vote back until the 1960’s. Laws and amendments that are not enforced are not worth the paper they are printed on.

This disenfranchisement is going on right now. Republicans who oppose mail-in voting in a time of pandemic are still working on the Mississippi plan. It’s all about enforcement versus intimidation.

Len and I are not going to protests. We are not young, and our health is great except for when it’s not. 

We ARE giving money to efforts we see that work to safeguard the rights of African Americans and then the rest of us.  In case this helps your mental health, consider donating $5 here and $5 there when you are on social media and your heart and head hurts.  It helps others and it helps us.

 

 

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Quarantine Diary #312

“You know me, I think there ought to be a big old tree right there. And let's give him a friend. Everybody needs a friend.” ― Bob Ross

This tree lives in Waukesha and stopped me in my tracks when I was out for a walk.

...

 When will this Quarantine Diary end? When Len and I drive out not wearing masks to go to a place where we will stay overnight. Just letting you know. FYI we started last year on Friday the 13th of March.

 …

Quarantine Diary #308 1/15/2021

My life is pretty fine, and I bet yours is, too. Warm place to live. Food to eat. Friends to share and laugh with - even if we have to do it via Zoom.

At the same time, who isn’t feeling anxiety and dread? Will the white supremacist insurrectionist knobs attack the inaugural? Will they screw up state capitols and infrastructure? One lone guy blew up Nashville a mere three weeks ago. What the hell is going on?

Quarantine Diary #307 Brain Names

Remember when there was no autism? Sure, there were kids in our schools who were weirdly able to remember stuff, or were hard to control, or whose emotions triggered at the oddest time. We generally ignored those kids. Those of us who were kind did, anyways. Others bullied. 

Remember the mopey kids in high school who knew too much about depressing art and angsty music and sometimes killed themselves?

Quarantine Diary #306 Hunched Over & Paying Attention

I am going to write some Quarantine Diary entries again. There’s a lot going on and sometimes it helps to hear a small voice as well as the big voices of journalists, pundits, networks, the other public media we follow.

I have had a small headache off and on for days. I worried that I might have contracted Covid, except dang it, I haven’t gone anywhere! And then, thinking about it, I realized I am hunched over my phone much more than usual. These mild on-again, off-again headaches are from eyestrain and weird posture.

Rime and Treason

These photos were taken by Len on Monday in that other time and world that existed before the Trump gorgons mobbed the Capitol. (Gorgons existed in Greek literature. Gorgons are the poisonous siblings with hair of living snakes. Those who beheld them face-to-face turned to stone. Or were killed by being beaten by a fire extinguisher.)

I have been trying to write about that but it is too hard. There is so much that is clear and is informative. You are reading it as much as I am. Blessed be the journalists, right? 

Quarantine Diary #292 New Year's Eve

Many of us feel as if we are in limbo until Biden takes office. I don’t think you need me to say a lot about how long and hard this year has been; we’ve been in this dentist’s chair together.

But...

Did you see how many days quarantine has lasted? 292 days.

So far.

This week I read a remarkable essay. On Natural Landscapes, Metaphorical Living, and Warlpiri Identity, by Barry Lopez. https://lithub.com/. Life is weird. The day after I read it, Mr. Lopez died.

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