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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WHITE CAKE!

The picture is our wedding cake, made by my friend Karen, who drove it from Indiana to Chicago on the hottest day of that year. It was in the back seat so their two little boys had to ride in front (remember when kids could ride in front?). They got lost in the city but I didn't know that for years because Karen and her husband start early and had time to get lost and then figure it out. Sometimes wedded bliss is a lot of work. 

The following story and recipe is not about the wedding cake, but it is the photo I have...

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6/30/2022

How Do We Remember What We Remember?

6/30/2022

The Jan 6 Hearings, huh? This is an amazing moment in US history and I’m trying to understand our incredibly intense response. Four of 10 voters have watched at least some of the hearings, which is 20,000,000 people. It’s not just me that can’t look away.

Our Terrible Canoe Adventure

The eagle photo was taken by Len - but not on this trip! 

6/23/2022

We are fine but I have a tale to tell.

American Successes / American Failures

Did you ever have to tell the truth when it was hard? Did you ever lie to avoid a hard situation?  Did you ever know a hard, wrong thing but you told no one because it was going to be complicated and some people wouldn’t believe you and you might end up disrespected or worse for “telling on” someone else?

Most people work hard at learning truth-telling when they are 4 and 5-years old.

Molecule Moving

6/8/2022     

I didn’t know a Panoply of Dental Moments was coming my way this week, but such is life with teeth. One can brush, floss, slosh, and swish - but if one’s teeth want to crumble, they do. Yesterday I had my six-month cleaning. The hygienist said several times that I brush and floss beautifully. I was proud and thinking maybe I would give myself a “well-done” sticker when I got home. Then the dentist came in to do the check-up and said two fillings had cracks around them and needed to be replaced.

Rough Stories, Tough Week

6/1/2022 

Last Friday evening on PBS Tonight David Brooks said something like this. “I am afraid for all of us. The news just pummels us.”

There are as many tough stories as there are fingers on a closed fist. The shooting in Uvalde. The shooting in Buffalo. The corrupt power of the NRA and other obscene wealth-mongers that are destroying our society from the inside of elected reps’ pockets outwards. Ukraine. Global climate mayhem. Oh, and covid is everywhere. Less traumatic for most; long covid for some. So that’s six fingers on that pugilistic fist.

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