Two Virgins and the Vermont Republic

Virgin Queen

Vermont road mapVA Virginia, a state – a commonwealth – in the southeastern US. Capital: Richmond. Largest city: Virginia Beach.

Since I wrote about Virginia five years ago, I’ll just note that the state was “named for Queen Elizabeth I of England, who was known as the Virgin Queen. Historians think the English adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh suggested the name about 1584.”

VI Virgin Islands, a US territory in the Caribbean. Capital and largest city: Charlotte Amalie, on the island of St. Thomas.

The US Virgin Islands were sold to the United States by Denmark in the Treaty of the Danish West Indies of 1917. Other islands in the archipelago are controlled by the United Kingdom.

“Christopher Columbus named the islands after Saint Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins (Spanish: Santa Úrsula y las Once Mil Vírgenes), shortened to the Virgins (las Vírgenes). ”

GREEN Mountain State

VT Vermont, a New England state of the US. Capital: Montpelier. Largest city: Burlington

I wrote about our 2015 vacation. The truth is, I’ve been all over Vermont. A wedding on Lake Champlain, several choir performances in my Methodist days, even shopping. Of course, I’m inherently fond of the state, since it involves the color green.

On the Travel Trivia website, it listed 5 Countries That No Longer Exist. One was the Vermont Republic.

“On January 15, 1777, Vermont became the Vermont Republic, with its own Declaration of Independence, elected assembly, money, postal service, military, and diplomatic relations. Vermont was joined in its decade and a half of sovereignty by sixteen New Hampshire towns and a few more from New York.

“They were eventually given back to their states when Vermont joined the union [in 1791 when it became the 14th state], but it was a process by which Congress, New York, and New Hampshire recognized Vermont’s sovereignty. That means Vermont’s time as an independent nation wasn’t a fun historical quirk; it was a tangible expression of North American international freedom.”

For the verdant ABC Wednesday

Blackface + time + change = redemption?

“When a politician’s positions on current issues already raise questions about racism, then evidence of racism in his or her past ought to have increased significance.”

Ralph Northam
Ralph Northam, elected Virginia governor in 2017
“I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.” That was Abraham Lincoln in 1858 during a debate with Stephen Douglas.

Seven years later, he evolved, wanting to allow black soldiers – such as my ancestors – who had fought so bravely in the Civil War the ballot. Had he lived, who knows how much he may have changed, with Frederick Douglass whispering in his ear.

The notion here is rather obvious: people change. In The Mosque Across the Street – a video shown at the FOCUS churches service I attended this month – we see one Christian parishioner at a Memphis church weep as he realizes that HE was the problem in dealing with the new Muslim neighbors.

Jeff, a Facebook friend, wrote this recently: “Bob Zellner was a civil rights hero, a white organizer of SNCC. His father was a Klansman until he went to Europe in the 1930s, met up with a group of Southern Gospel singers and traveled with them. He wrote to his wife that at some point, he ‘forgot they were black,’ and he realized how foolish and awful he had been. When he got home he resigned from the Klan, traveled the South as an anti-Klan preacher… and his wife took his Klan uniforms and made much needed shirts out of them for the kids.”

As the very first line of his Oyez bio reads, “Hugo LaFayette Black refused to let his past dictate his future.” The Alabaman joined the Ku Klux Klan in 1923, but quit two years later. As an old poli sci major could tell you, Black was sworn in as an Associate Justice in 1937, and served for 34 years, supporting many groundbreaking civil rights cases.

People change. And we WANT and EXPECT people to do so. I’ve read a number of stories from white people, especially during this Black History Month, about how they, or those around them, were radically changed by interaction with people of different backgrounds.

One fellow from my former hometown wrote: “I changed from the young guy growing up in a backward community that still appears to show the same racist, bigoted attitude. Becoming educated, and allowing others to point out most of my misconceptions helped.”

So I am having some difficulty – OK, a LOT of difficulty – judging people solely based on how they dressed up in costumes – even racist, offensive costumes – decades ago. It does not necessarily make that person a bigot for life.

If people who were ACTUAL members of the Ku Klux Klan can be redeemed, some indiscretions of the past, even blackface – which must have been the state hobby among white Virginians at some point – can be contextualized.

What we need is some sort of formula based on the severity of the offense, the recency of the offense, the level of contrition, and most importantly, their current comportment. As a guy I know wrote: “I think that this needs to be decided by the group that he has offended, not white liberals.”

To that end, the subhead of this article from a couple weeks ago intrigued me: As Calls Mount for Ralph Northam to Resign, Some Virginians Mull a Second Chance. “Seems the average black voter in VA has conflicting feelings about all this. Maybe because they have seen a lot worse?

Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel had to quit recently. He wore blackface to make fun of victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I have no sympathy, and he needed to go.

As the Weekly Sift guy notes: “When a politician’s positions on current issues already raise questions about racism, then evidence of racism in his or her past ought to have increased significance.”

As a practical matter, I believe this is also true:

“I worry that we’re playing into Trump’s hands when we drum Ralph Northam out of the Democratic Party. As I interpret it, Trump’s message to wavering whites and men and anti-gay straights goes something like this:
“‘You’re never going to be pure enough to satisfy the liberals. So you might as well wear your MAGA hat and fly your Confederate flag, because no matter what you do, there’s never going to be a place for you on the other side'”.

Nation of Change recommends that Ralph Northam immediately resigns when the “lord of racism in the here and now” goes. THAT is a workable plan.

V is for Virginia

Virginia was the 10th state to enter the Union.

va-districts-mapI’ve long had this odd fascination with the state of Virginia. Partly it’s because it’s part of the old Confederacy, but the northernmost part. The distance from Richmond, the Confederate capital during the US Civil War, to Washington, DC is only 110 miles. General Robert E. Lee of Virginia seemed the reluctant warrior.

Several northwest counties broke away from Virginia during the Civil War to create the state of West Virginia Continue reading “V is for Virginia”

V is for a Virginia Slave Law

Based on the age of Blair Underwood’s ancestor, and the age of the slaves, it was believed that the slaves were likely his parents or other relatives.

The one television program the Daughter and I watch together is an NBC show called Who Do You Think You Are? It involves stars looking back at their genealogy. An episode we saw recently featured actor Blair Underwood, which I hope you can find here or here or here at the third notch 21 minutes in, with him walking down the steps.

What Underwood discovers is that one of his ancestors at the end of the 18th century, Samuel Scott, actually owns property in Virginia. He is distressed, though, to discover Continue reading “V is for a Virginia Slave Law”

L is for Loving Day

As late as 1987, a full 20 years after the Loving v. Virginia ruling, only 48% of Americans said it was acceptable for blacks and whites to date. That number has since jumped to 83%, according to the Pew Research Center.

I can’t believe I missed it. OK, until I read about it in TIME magazine, I’d never even heard of it, though it’s been going on for a half dozen years. There’s a group that has called for Loving Day Celebrations around June 12th each year “to fight racial prejudice through education and to build multicultural community.”

The celebration is named for Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, who had the audacity to fall in love with each other. Unable to get married legally in their native Virginia – he was white, she was black – they got hitched in Washington, DC and “established their marital abode in Caroline County”, Virginia.

Ultimately, on “January 6, 1959, the Lovings pleaded guilty to the charge” stemming from their interracial marriage, “and were sentenced to one year in jail; however, the trial judge suspended the sentence for a period of 25 years on the condition that the Lovings leave the State and not return to Virginia together for 25 years. He stated in an opinion that:

“‘Almighty God Continue reading “L is for Loving Day”