Hiram Rhodes Revels

On this date in 1870 Hiram Rhodes Revels, a Republican from Mississippi, is sworn into the U.S. Senate, becoming the first African American to sit in Congress.

His father was a Baptist preacher, and in 1845, Revels became an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“The logical sequence”

Here is a powerful portion of the first speech Hiram Rhodes Revels gave to the Senate on March 16, 1870:

“Mr. President, I maintain that the past record of my race is a true index of the feelings which today animate them. They bear toward their former masters no revengeful thoughts, no hatreds, no animosities. They aim not to elevate themselves by sacrificing one single interest of their white fellow-citizens. They ask but the rights which are theirs by God’s universal law, and which are the natural outgrowth, the logical sequence of the condition in which the legislative enactment of this nation have placed them. They appeal to you and to me to see that they receive that protection which alone will enable them to pursue their daily avocations with success and enjoy the liberties of citizenship on the same footing with their white neighbors and friends.”

Hiram R Revels

Rev. Dr. Henry Highland Garnet

On this day in 1865, Abraham Lincoln’s 56th birthday, Rev. Dr. Henry Highland Garnet was the first African American to address the U.S. House of Representatives.

Garnet, a former slave himself, was a pastor of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. His sermon commemorated the victories of the Union army and the deliverance of the country from slavery.

Notably, President Lincoln arranged for the special Sunday service.

“From foundation to dome”

Here’s an excerpt from Garnet’s historic address:

“The other day, when the light of Liberty streamed through this marble pile, and the hearts of the noble band of patriotic statesmen leaped for joy, and this our national capital shook from foundation to dome with the shouts of a ransomed people, then methinks the spirits of Washington, Jefferson, the Jays, the Adamses, and Franklin, and Lafayette, and Giddings, and Lovejoy, and those of all the mighty, and glorious dead, remembered by history, because they were faithful to truth, justice, and liberty, were hovering over the august assembly. Though unseen by mortal eyes, doubtless they joined the angelic choir, and said, Amen.”

“Then before us a path of prosperity will open, and upon us will descend the mercies and favors of God. Then shall the people of other countries, who are standing tiptoe on the shores of every ocean, earnestly looking to see the end of this amazing conflict, behold a Republic that is sufficiently strong to outlive the ruin and desolations of civil war, having the magnanimity to do justice to the poorest and weakest of her citizens. Thus shall we give to the world the form of a model Republic, founded on the principles of justice and humanity and Christianity, in which the burdens of war and the blessings of peace are equally borne and enjoyed by all.”

 

Rev. Dr. Henry Highland Garnet

Alaska Purchase

On this day in 1867, Russia formally transfers possession of Alaska to the United States.

The name Alaska come from the Aleut word alyeska, which means “great land.”
The name is appropriate given that Alaska is nearly twice the size of Texas, along with its abundance of natural resources.

Secretary of State William Seward negotiated the purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million. That is less than two cents an acre, and about $119 million today.

Public opinion regarded the purchase as “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox.”
That was until the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s, anyway.

If the name sounds familiar, that’s because in 1861 President Abraham Lincoln appointed Seward Secretary of State. He also survived an assassination attempt as part of a plot to ‘decapitate’ the government the day Lincoln was assassinated.

Seward on Slavery

In the 1850s, the Seward family home was a safehouse on the Underground Railroad. He also signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Neither of these come as any surprise in light of these quotes from Seward:

“I deem it established, then, that the Constitution does not recognize property in man, but leaves that question, as between the states, to the law of nature and of nations. … When God had created the earth, with its wonderful adaptations, He gave dominion over it to man, absolute human dominion. The title of that dominion, thus bestowed, would have been incomplete, if the lord of all terrestrial things could himself have been the property of his fellow-man.”

“We hold no arbitrary authority over anything, whether acquired lawfully or seized by usurpation. The Congress regulates our stewardship; the Constitution devotes the domain to union, to justice, to defence, to welfare, and to liberty.

But there is a higher law than the Constitution, which regulates our authority over the domain, and devotes it to the same noble purposes. The territory is a part, no inconsiderable part, of the common heritage of mankind, bestowed upon them by the Creator of the universe. We are his stewards, and must so discharge our trust as to secure in the highest attainable degree their happiness.”

“[O]ur statesmen say that ‘slavery has always existed, and, for aught they know or can do, it always must exist. God permitted it, and he alone can indicate the way to remove it.’ As if the Supreme Creator, after giving us the instructions of his providence and revelation for the illumination of our minds and consciences, did not leave us in all human transactions, with due invocations of his Holy Spirit, to seek out his will and execute it for ourselves.”

Alaska Purchase

James Meredith Ole Miss

On this day in 1962, James Meredith, having twice been denied admission to the University of Mississippi is escorted onto Ole Miss campus by U.S. Marshals, forcing integration, and causing a race riot in which two men were killed.

It took more than 3,000 federal soldiers to stop the violence.

Meredith is a nine-year Air Force veteran of African American, British Canadian, Scottish Irish, and Choctaw heritage.

He was inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s January 20, 1961 inaugural address (yes, the “ask not” speech):
“For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”

So, Meredith sent a letter to Ole Miss the following day requesting an application in order to exercise his constitutional right to apply to the all-white school.

Then, in a letter to Thurgood Marshall, he lays out his motives:
“I am making this move in what I consider the interest of and for the benefit of: (1) my country, (2) my race, (3) my family, and (4) myself. I am familiar with the probable difficulties involved in such a move as I am undertaking and I am fully prepared to pursue it all the way to a degree from the University of Mississippi.”

Also, decidedly understated, he added that he was “familiar with the probable difficulties involved in such a move as I am undertaking and I am fully prepared to pursue it all the way to a degree from the University of Mississippi.”

“Divine Responsibility”

After all, as he said:
“Nobody handpicked me… I believed, and believe now, that I have a Divine Responsibility to break white supremacy in Mississippi, and getting in Ole Miss was only the start.”

In the prologue to his memoir Mission from God, he wrote:
“I have no fear because I am an American citizen, heir to a sacred covenant of citizenship bestowed on me by George Washington and the Founding Fathers and Mothers of the nation. … And I am on a mission from God.”

Finally, powerfully, James Meredith is quoted as saying:
“My answer to the racial problem in America is to not deal with it at all. The founding fathers dealt with it when they made the Constitution.”

James Meredith Ole Miss

 

Martin Luther King Jr I Have a Dream Speech

On this day in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivers  what became known as his “I Have a Dream” speech. From the Lincoln Memorial steps, he spoke to approximately 250,000 people at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Magnificent Words

Here are several excerpts from his speech:

“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

“Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.”

So, let us all continue to work to make America great.

Martin Luther King Jr I Have a Dream Speech

Lyndon Johnson signs Civil Rights Act, July 2, 1964

On this day in 1964, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs into law the Civil Rights Act. The Act prohibited racial discrimination in education and employment and outlawed racial segregation in public places. Further, it paved the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In his Remarks upon Signing the Civil Rights Act, President Johnson’s opening and closing comments are as relevant on this July 2 as they were on that July 2:

“One hundred and eighty-eight years ago this week a small band of valiant men began a long struggle for freedom. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor not only to found a nation, but to forge an ideal of freedom—not only for political independence, but for personal liberty—not only to eliminate foreign rule, but to establish the rule of justice in the affairs of men.”

“Let us close the springs of racial poison. Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our Nation whole. Let us hasten that day when our unmeasured strength and our unbounded spirit will be free to do the great works ordained for this Nation by the just and wise God who is the Father of us all.”

 

Lyndon Johnson signs Civil Rights Act, July 2, 1964

 

Clara Barton American Red Cross

On this day in 1881, Clara Barton founds the American Red Cross at age 60. She went on to lead the organization for the next 23 years.

During the American Civil War, Clara earned the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield” for the comfort and care she provided for sick and wounded soldiers. She read to them, wrote letters for them, listened to them, and, perhaps most importantly, she prayed with them. Then, in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln commissioned her to search for lost prisoners of war.

Also during the war, Barton brought supplies and support to the all-black Massachusetts 54th Regiment, which had been recruited by Frederick Douglass. Shortly after the war, the two met and built a supportive friendship. Douglass subsequently became a signatory of the original Articles of Incorporation for the American Red Cross.

The need and the strength

The following quote from Clara Barton captures the spirit of our lost founding, from the Declaration, the prayer proclamations, and the perception of Providence:

“You must never so much as think whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not; you must never think of anything except the need and how to meet it. Then God gives the strength and the thing that seemed impossible is done.”

 

Clara Barton American Red Cross

Jackie Robinson Day Logo 42

On this day in 1947, Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball.

Robinson joined the army in 1942 as a second lieutenant. He was honorably discharged despite being court-martialed in 1944 for protesting instances of racial discrimination during his service.

In 1945, Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, recruited Robinson to join one of the Dodgers’s farm teams.

When he was called up to the Majors he soon became a star infielder and outfielder as well as the National League’s Rookie of the Year. Then, in 1949, Robinson was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player and batting champ.

Noble Purpose

“Rickey’s faith told him that injustice had to be fought wherever it was found. As for Jackie Robinson, he believed that God had chosen him for this noble purpose. And he knew that if he committed himself to doing this great thing, God would give him the strength he needed to see it through.”
– The Secret of Jackie Robinson’s Greatness: Turning the Other Cheek, By Eric Metaxas, April 15, 2016

“God built me to last” is a line from the 2013 Jackie Robinson biopic 42.

Jackie Robinson Day Logo

 

 

Lincoln Bible t-shirt collage

On this day in 1861, the Civil War begins when Confederates fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor in South Carolina.

One or the other

Prior to that, on June 16, 1858, then U.S. Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln uttered these famous words:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing or all the other.”

In 1860, the majority of the slave states were threatening secession. Then, when Lincoln was elected President, South Carolina immediately initiated secession proceedings.

Prior to Lincoln’s inauguration, March 4, 1861, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas had seceded from the Union.

Finally, four years after the attack on Fort Sumter, the Union defeated the Confederacy with the staggering total of 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers dead.

The concept of “a house divided against itself” is widely known as a statement from Jesus in reference to casting out evil. Matthew, Mark, and Luke recorded it in their gospels. That Abraham Lincoln saw fit to use it regarding slavery makes it that much more powerful.

Abraham Lincoln’s clearly appreciated the Bible, and his about “this great book” inspired one of our first t-shirts:

Lincoln Bible t-shirt collage

 

MLK Washington Monument

On this day in 1969, James Earl Ray pleads guilty to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., then is sentenced to 99 years in prison. Interestingly, Ray was born on this day in 1928.

King’s legacy as a leader endures because of Who he followed. The following quotes exemplify the essence of his life and his message:

“Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”

King’s King

Finally, King spoke these words as he concluded his last sermon, delivered the day before he was shot and killed:

“I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. … I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., Washington D.C. Monument

Sara Margru Kinson

On this day in 1841, the Supreme Court rules on the mutiny staged by African slaves aboard the Amistad. The had been illegally forced into slavery, and so, are free under American law.

John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States (1825-1829) was part of the Africans’ defense team. He argued that they “were entitled to all the kindness and good offices due from a humane and Christian nation.” Read more about that, HERE.

It was not until November 1841, that the thirty-five Amistad survivors sailed back to Africa, accompanied by several missionaries. Abolitionists had cared for them in the interim.

Sarah and Sierra

Margru, one of those survivors, was just a child when she taken aboard the ship as a slave. When she returned to Sierra Leone she served as an evangelical missionary, with the name Sarah Margru Kinson. Then, in 1846, Sarah became the only Amistad captive to return to the United States where she studied at Ohio’s Oberlin College. In fact, she was the first female international student in America. Finally, in 1849, she returned to the mission she helped to establish in Sierra Leone, this time, as a teacher.

Sarah Margru Kinson Amistad