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 #150 8/11/2020 Taking a Break

I’m depressed. How about you?  I’m not the kind of depressed where I should call a doctor. I’m more “Michelle Obama depressed.”  Things feel stuck, wrong, and getting worse. There’s the pandemic and the feeble, chaotic response to it. There’s racial strife. When, if ever, will the police police themselves? Teachers and kids are being thrown back into schools like spaghetti thrown against a wall - to see who will stick? There’s the angry self-entitled idiocy of too many people.

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I was well into my 40’s when I realized that one doesn’t have to wait for perfect weather if one wants to go into the water. 

Quarantine Diary #141 8/5/2020 "Red Dust"

I just finished reading “Red Dust – A Path Through China” by Ma Jain.  It is a remarkable book that asks more questions than it answers.

Ma Jain was born in the 50’s and grew up grew up very poor in a small Chinese city. He remembers when his mother would simmer stones for dinner so that the neighbors would see her cooking and not realize how poor they were.  (A whole different take on the children’s tale “Stone Soup.") The violent and terrifying Cultural Revolution that Chinese citizens lived through is over but memories of it are in everyone’s minds.

Quarantine Diary #140 7/31/2020 Wishing you a Merry Quarantine Weekend

When I’m in a certain mood I love how-to articles – and I’m in that mood right now. I think it happens at the intersection of reasonable weather and Friday ... when happiness still seems possible.

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Let’s invent this right here, right now.

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I thought I wanted to reprise some of our Canada travels.  FYI, if you’ve traveled in a place you loved, put that place into your streaming service Search window, find some great or mediocre documentaries about that place, and revisit your memories.  It’s fun.

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