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semanario Claridad Archives - LVDSEl semanario Claridad es una publicación que este año cumple sesenta años defendiendo y promoviendo la independencia de Puerto Rico, la colonia más atigua del planeta. Durante este periodo ha enfrentado persecución política, ataques terroristas y los vaivanes socio-económicos y políticos de la sociedad puertorriqueña. La  entrega de quienes durante todos estos años han luchado por la supervivencia de este vocero de la nacionalidad puertorriqueña es encomiable.

En estos sensenta años Claridad ha sido mucho más que el vocero de una lucha política. Este semanario ha sido también un medio cultural, en donde academicos de diversas disciplinas  han  disfrutado de un espacio para compartir sus ideas. Comparto con mis lectores una corta nota titulada “1898, del otro lado“, escrita por la Dra. Dolores Aponte Ramos,  sobre el uso de la música “como recurso publicitario” durante la guerra hispano-cubano-estadounidense en 1898.


1898, del otro lado

Lola Aponte, de oficio hilandera.

Claridad

24 de julio de 2020

Nos propone Sun Tzu:  cuando se conduce a los hombres a la batalla con astucia, el impulso es como rocas redondas que se precipitan montaña abajo: ésta es la fuerza que produce la victoria.” ¿Cómo lograr el discurso que lograr mover las rocas?  ¿Quienes eran los soldados que en el 1897 fueron movidos a la guerra hispanoamericana? ¿Cómo hacerles partícipes de una ideología dominante en la cual se percibieran como salvadores en la lucha del bien versus el mal?  ¿Qué nociones del otro, del enemigo y de sí mismos los alentaba?

Esta guerra recurre a la prensa y a la música para crear el espíritu entre los soldados y ciudadanía de la necesidad de la guerra   Aquí propongo algunos textos visuales y musicales para darnos un sabor de la Guerra Hispanoamericana, conocida en los libros de historia militar de USA como “la guerra breve,”  Primero la representación de España como enemigo irracional y degradado.  Estas caricaturas ampliamente difundidas, crean “al otro” en cuanto  animalizado y brutal, asesino de los soldados el Maine, violador de la libertad.

Article Images | Origins: Current Events in Historical PerspectiveComo sabemos hacía ya décadas que latifundistas norteamericanos habían comprado enormes fincas en el Caribe hispano.  El interés por Cuba y Puerto Rico se había expresado incluso en la colaboración con los Partido Revolucionarios de ambas islas si bien fundados en New York.  Se había  materializado en el apoyo en armas a los mamvíses, ejército de guerrilla cubano organizado contra el estado español y asilo a figuras cimeras en la búsqueda de la independencia.  La imagen, sin embargo, no está dirigida hacia la intelligentsia militar, que conoce los intereses comerciales y expansionistas de esta guerra.  Esta imagen amarillista y metafórica está enfocada al lector promedio del periódico.  La auspicia el cuerpo militar, liderado por Teddy Roosevelt, para crear opinión pública.  Buscan y logran apoyo masivo a la primera guerra claramente imperialista de Estado Unidos.  Los cuerpos sangrientos, la ferocidad de contrincante, de proporciones corporales gigantescas son elocuentes en sí mismas.  Un importante grupo de jóvenes voluntariará para hacerse soldados a favor de tan justa causa. Formarán varios regimientos, voluntarios que servirán de linea de frontal de infantería.    En la imagen, Tio Sam protector de la Cuba feminina, presuntamente a punto de ser violada, mira con miedo a españoles de tez oscura que detiene su ataque mas no su gesto violento   Así la guerra se torna en una de protección de valores domésticos, un desarrollo contra la infamia antes que una búsqueda expansionista .  Los habitantes de las islas no parecen tener historia, y se nos muestran incapaces de  buscar redención propia, no parecen conocer la posibilidad siquiera de reclamar derechos, tampoco se les adjudica valores propios   Damiselas asustadizas, subyugadas ellas mismas ante su salvador  Sin duda la fantasía de dominación perfecta.  Es este la misma ideología que expresa su música.

Song sheet cover featuring Eugene Stratton in All Coons Look Alike ...

La música, como recurso publicitario,  mayormente producida alrededor de la casa de publicación Tin Pan Alley.  Entre los grandes éxitos del 1898 produjeron Yankee Doddle Dewey,  y Ma Fillipino Babe.  Esta compañía es responsable de otros top ten en el billboard de la época, tales como ˆ  All the Coons Look Alike to Me—(Todos los putos negros me parecen idénticos, traduzco temblándome el corazón)   Mientras Mark Twain se oponía a la intrusión militar como contraria al espíritu de la república, su país que había salido de su primera gran recesión estaba listo para adelantar la propuesta de intervención militar en el Caribe y cantaba a coro estas melodías.  Aquí tres fragmentos de canciones a las que siguen traducciones :  

A CALL FROM CUBA – J. R. Martin

 Rouse! Sons of Columbia, hear the cry of despair, Wrung from skeleton forms in the dreary night air;

Human forma herded there by a mandate from Spain, Without help, food or shelter, from sun, cold or rain; Age and infancy blend, no strong arm to defend, They wait in dull anguish the sorrowful end;

They’re our neighbors in Cuba; oh, hear their sad cry: “Save us, sons of Columbia, or haste, ere we die.”

Have we forfeited life because longing to be

Like your glorious union, in full liberty?

Our hearts are like lead ‘neath this load of despair,

You are brave, you are generous, hear this our prayer; By your own love of liberty, grant us the same,

Shield our homes and loved ones from the fury of Spain; Then the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

We have suffered for years every outrage which Spain Could invent to insult us and fill lie with pain;

The music they love is the shriek of desviar

And the moan of lost innocence in the night air;

Oh God! hear our cry, from Thy throne up on high, Send deliverance from Spain, or permit us to die;

May the star spangled banner o’er Cuba soon wave, Blessed emblem of peace for the home of the brave.

AS WE GO MARCHING THROUGH CUBA – Wilbur Eastlake

Hark, ye freemen, to the drums that call yon to the fray. Liberty now needs her sons, the fight is on to-day; Truth and Justice will prevail and Tyranny decay

As we go marching through Cuba.

Ignorance of human rights, contempt for human kind

And neglect of Freedom’s growth hath made Earth’s rulers blind. Fling Old Glory to the breeze, ‘twill closer brave hearts bind

As we go marching through Cuba.

“REMEMBER THE MAINE” – Lilith V. Pinchbeck Hark! don’t you hear the trumpets?

The beating of the drum

And measured tread of marching feet Proclaim that war has come.

The battle cry rolls onward

As they thin the ranks from Spain— ‘T is no more “Remember the Alamo But “Remember, boys, the Maine!”


A CALL FROM CUBA – J. R. MartinDe pie, Hijos de Columbia, escuchen el grito de dolor, 

de retorcidos esqueletos en el triste aire de la noche

Manada de formas humanas reducidas por mandato de España:

sin ayuda, comida; ni cobijo del sol, el frío o la lluvia,

 infancia y vejez sufren, sin brazo que les defienda,

 esperan en angustia el triste final. 

Son nuestros vecinos, Cubanos; 

Escucha sus tristes gritos: “Sálvennos, hijos de Columbia,

aprisa,  o moriremos 

¿Débemos sacrificar nuestra vida por querer tener,

 una nación como la suya, gloriosa, llena de libertad? 

nuestros corazones son como plomo bajo esta carga de dolor

son ustedes bravos, generosos, escuchan nuestra 

!Qué su amor por la libertad nos ampare a nosotros por igual 

protejan nuestras casas y a nuestros amados de la furia de España!

Entonces, la bandera de estrellas y rayas, triunfante ondeará  

sobre la tierra del libre y el hogar del valiente. (fragmento, traducción nuestra)

AS WE GO MARCHING THROUGH CUBA – Wilbur Eastlake

Atención!!, hombre libres al tambor.  les llama al servicio de libertad que necesita de sus hijos

en la lucha de hoy, Verdad y Justicia vencerán; t tiranía caerá

Según marchamos por Cuba

huirán los gobernantes con su ignorancia por los derechos humanos, 

 su desprecio por la vida y el olvido de desarrollar la Libertad humana.

Su gloria se desvanecerá en el aire

cuando nuestros bravos corazones 

Marchen por Cuba

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Comparto una nota periodistica escrita por Jaume Pi del diario La Vanguardia sobre una de las rebeliones de esclavos más importante de la historia estadounidense.  En 1831 un esclavo llamado Nat Turner dirigió una sangrienta rebelión de esclavos que fue duramente reprimida. Como bien señala el autor, esta y otras rebeliones de esclavos confirman la falsedad de quienes aún hoy alegan la bondad del regimen esclavista que fue fundamental en el desarrollo económico de Estados Unidos.


Screen Shot 2020-07-23 at 1.16.24 PM

Nat Turner: la rebelión del esclavo predicado

Jaume Pi

La Vanguardia 

7 de julio de 2020

Uno de los argumentos de los defensores del sistema esclavista en los EE.UU. fue que era un modo de vida garantizaba la paz social. Se sostenía que la misma población negra vivía conforme y feliz a este orden y que dicha jerarquía favorecía la convivencia entre razas. Esta visión idealizada se mantuvo incluso después de la proclamación de emancipación de Abraham Lincoln (1863) y es la que se refleja en la popular novela Lo que el viento se llevó, de Margaret Mitchell (1936), y posterior adaptación cinematográfica (1939).

Sin embargo, esta imagen no se sostiene en los hechos históricos. El periodo esclavista en EE.UU. no fue, ni mucho menos, una etapa pacífica. Resultó convulsa y conflictiva. Los afroamericanos sometidos nunca aceptaron de buen grado su condición y se estima que se produjeron hasta 250 rebeliones de esclavos entre 1619 y 1865 en el país, desde las célebres revueltas cimarrones en las colonias españolas en los siglos XVII y XVIII hasta las numerosas insurrecciones de principios del XIX en pleno crecimiento del movimiento abolicionista.

La rebelión de Nat Turner es considerada una de las más sangrientas e impactantes de aquel periodo. Turner, un esclavo que había podido aprender a leer y escribir gracias a la supuesta benevolencia de sus amos blancos, utilizó sus capacidades y su posición como predicador para liderar una insurrección que durante 2 días puso en jaque el condado de Southhampton, Virginia.

Fue un levantamiento violento, que conmocionó a la región y todo el país, y que provocó una reacción igualmente represiva y virulenta contra la población negra. Su impacto posterior implicó el endurecimiento de las leyes de los estados del sur contra los negros (tanto esclavos como hombres libres), una situación que se fue tornando insostenible hasta el estallido de la Guerra Civil (1861-1865).

Nat Turner nació el 2 de octubre de 1800. Nació esclavo, hijo de esclavos, en la plantación de su amo Benjamin Turner, de quien, como era costumbre, tomó el apellido. De bien pequeño demostró que tenía altas capacidades y, de forma excepcional, sus propietarios le enseñaron a leer y escribir, especialmente la Biblia y textos religiosos. La primera infancia de Nat fue relativamente feliz: era el niño preferido de sus dueños blancos, que le exhibían a las visitas como una rara atracción.

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: Plantation slaves gathered outside their huts, Virginia, America. Photograph c1860. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

Plantación de esclavos en Virgina, en una fotografía tomada alrededor de 1860
 UniversalImagesGroup / Getty

Cabe puntualizar el contexto de la Virginia de ese entonces. En contra de lo que ocurría en el profundo sur, los propietarios no eran necesariamente crueles con sus siervos, que en algunos casos disponían de vacaciones o tiempo de ocio. Por lo tanto, tratos como los que obtuvo Nat no eran tan extraños. Sin embargo, llegada la adolescencia, ese privilegio se esfumó de forma abrupta. Cuando el joven tuvo la edad para ponerse a trabajar en los campos de algodón, fue apartado de sus estudios y tratado como un esclavo más.

La influencia de la religión tuvo un impacto brutal en Turner. De muy pequeño, su entorno familiar ya le atribuía unos poderes extraordinarios, fruto de una supuesta ancestral herencia africana. Él mismo se vio como una especie de elegido, asegurando que recibía mensajes o señales de Dios. Gozaba así de un gran prestigio entre los suyos, que le consideraban un líder y que le reconocían su inteligencia superior. Al mismo tiempo, conservaba la buena consideración de sus dueños, que veían en él la figura perfecta para evangelizar y tranquilizar al resto de esclavos.

Mantuvo su buena reputación de negro dócil probablemente como una estrategia para elaborar mejor su plan de insurrección. Sus motivos pudieron ser muchos: desde el desengaño por haber perdido su condición privilegiada hasta la toma de consciencia de la inmoralidad e injusticia del sistema esclavista. Todo ello aderezado por sus ideas religiosas. Dejó escrito que en la primavera de 1828 se había convencido de que “el Todopoderoso” le había encomendado “una gran misión” y que esperaba una señal para llevarla a cabo.

En torno a 1830, fue comprado por Joseph Travis, quien admirado por su buena fama, le permitió realizar reuniones religiosas en las que Turner comenzó a trazar sus planes. El predicador fue especialmente cuidadoso. Para evitar traiciones internas, se rodeó de un reducido grupo de fieles. Unas 4 o 5 personas a lo sumo que se intercambiaban la información a través de canciones y prédicas.

1831: Slaves rebelling in Virginia during the revolt led by Nat Turner. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

Litografía que muestra la rebelión de Nat Turner y su posterior neutralización por parte de las milicias del Estado de Virginia MPI / Getty

En febrero de 1831, Nat Turner interpretó un eclipse solar como la señal que estaba esperando. La noche del domingo 21 de agosto de 1831 comenzó la rebelión cerca de Cabin Pond, en el distrito Cross Keys de Southampton. Armados solo con hachas y cuchillos, el objetivo de Turner y de sus seis hombres era tomar Jerusalén, que así es como se llamaba la capital del condado. Su plan era sembrar el pánico en un ataque relámpago e intentar reclutar el máximo número de armas y combatientes por el camino.

Comenzaron adentrándose en la finca del dueño de Nat, al que ejecutaron rápidamente. Al mismo tiempo, convencieron a los esclavos para que se sumaran al grupo para seguir en la lucha. Este fue el modus operandi de los rebeldes durante esos días: recorrían la región, entraban en las casas, mataban a los dueños blancos, y trataban de convencer a los esclavos negros de que se unieran a la causa.

xiste cierta controversia sobre cómo fueron aquellos ataques. Las crónicas del momento hablan de masacres despiadadas y de todo tipo de atrocidades contra hombres, mujeres y niños, movidas por la sed de venganza de un “fanático religioso”. Lo cierto es que no hubo mucha piedad por parte de los insurrectos, como tampoco la habría posteriormente por parte de los propietarios blancos. Turner aseguró que la matanza indiscriminada solo se llevó a cabo inicialmente para generar alarma y añadió que, por ejemplo, evitó los ataques a “pobres blancos” por considerarlos también víctimas de aquel sistema.

Fuera como fuera, unas 70 personas blancas fueron asesinadas en apenas dos días hasta que la rebelión fue sofocada. Tras el shock inicial, los propietarios blancos comenzaron a organizar grupos armados y se produjeron intercambios de disparos en varias granjas. En las siguientes 48 horas, el grupo siguió liberando y reclutando esclavos -entre 50 y 80 personas se unieron a la lucha- hasta que los propietarios recurrieron a la infantería del estado que, mucho más numerosa en efectivos que los rebeldes, acabó por sofocar el levantamiento. Nat Turner pudo escapar.

SOUTHAMPTON COUNTY, VA - APRIL 09: The Porter house is seen at dusk on Tuesday April 09, 2019 in Southampton County, VA. In 1831 a slave rebellion was led by Nat Turner in Southampton County. Turner was found guilty and hung. The Porter family were warned about the insurrection and left before Turner and his followers arrived. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Ruinas de una de las granjas del condado de Southampton que fueron atacadas por Nat Turnet y sus seguidores en 1831. The Washington Post / Getty

Ruinas de una de las granjas del condado de Southampton que fueron atacadas por Nat Turnet y sus seguidores en 1831. The Washington Post / Getty

La respuesta de las autoridades a la revuelta fue la de una cruenta represión. Con el líder de la rebelión todavía vivo, se optó por dar un mensaje ejemplarizante a la población negra. Los 16 rebeldes capturados fueron condenados a muerte por el tribunal del condado, y centenares de negros fueron linchados y ejecutados sin juicio por sus propietarios, incluso sin haber tenido nada que ver con la rebelión. Las noticias del levantamiento se propagaron rápidamente más allá del Southampton y las atrocidades contra los afroamericanos, fueran esclavos u hombres libres, se extendieron por el resto de Virginia y por los estados del sur.

El cabecilla de la insurrección sobrevivió semanas vagando por el condado sin que fuera capturado, hasta que se entregó a las autoridades el 30 de octubre de ese 1831 tras ser avistado por un granjero. El 11 de noviembre fue ahorcado en Jerusalén, Virginia, tras ser condenado por rebelión. Su cuerpo fue descuartizado y despellejado, en un intento de hacer olvidar su legado. Si se saben tantos detalles de su vida es porque él mismo se los dictó a su abogado de oficio, T.R. Gray, quien poco después de la ejecución publicaría Las confesiones de Nat Turner.

The Faculty Lounge: Was Nat Turner's Lawyer Gay?

El episodio del levantamiento de Nat Turner conmocionó no solo el condado de Southampton sino todo el país. EE.UU. vivía en aquel entonces un intenso debate sobre la idoneidad del sistema esclavista. Cabe matizar que los contrarios a la esclavitud eran partidarios de una abolición gradual y generalmente, más allá de consideraciones morales, esgrimían argumentos económicos. Sin embargo, la rebelión de 1831 tuvo un efecto contraproducente y el debate terminó abruptamente en el sur en favor de los defensores de la esclavitud, que se entendió como un elemento identitario de los estados sureños.

Además, el miedo a nuevas insurrecciones provocó el endurecimiento de las leyes. El Congreso de Virginia prohibió enseñar a esclavos, negros libres o de “raza mixta” a leer o escribir. Igualmente limitó las reuniones de esclavos y las congregaciones de las iglesias negras, imponiendo que al menos un blanco estuviera presente en este tipo de encuentros para evitar nuevas revueltas.

La nueva legislación también recortó derechos civiles de los negros libres e incluso de blancos favorables del abolicionismo, movimiento que en el sur quedó borrado de la noche a la mañana. Curiosamente fue entonces cuando en el norte tomó mayor impulso: ese mismo 1831 se fundó la New England Anti-Slavery Society, la primera asociación abolicionista de los EE.UU. Una irreconciliable división entre el sur esclavista y el norte antiesclavista se estaba gestando, una situación que acabaría por ser insostenible y desencadenaría la Guerra de Secesión.

La rebelión de Nat Turner es uno de aquellos episodios clave en la historia de los afroamericanos, aunque también de las más controvertidas. Turner es visto como un héroe, sobre todo porque su caso demuestra que la esclavitud nunca fue aceptada por sus víctimas. Sin embargo, existen muchas críticas contra dicha idealización por el componente extremadamente violento del suceso.

La historia alcanzó una gran popularidad a raíz de la publicación en 1967 de la novela Las confesiones de Nat Turner, de William Styrton, obra inspirada en el texto de Gray y presentado como una narración en primera persona del predicador. La obra ganó el premio Pulitzer, como en su momento lo había hecho el clásico de Mitchell. Asimismo, en 2016, el director Nate Parker rodó The Birth of a Nation, un filme basado en el libro de Styrton y que se llevó el primer premio en el festival Sundance

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Acabo de leer una fascinante nota sobre un episodio que desconocía y que confirma la profundidad de la lucha por los derechos civiles en los Estados Unidos. Se trata de un escrito de Deborah Tulani Salahu-Din publicado en la página del National Museum of African American History and Culture. Titulado   “Hidden Herstory: The Leesburg Stockade Girls“, el trabajo de la Sra. Salahu-Din relata la historia de quince niñas afroamericanas de entre 12 y 15 años que, en julio de 1963 fueron encarceladas en Atlanta por retar la segragación racial. Las llamadas Leesburg Stockade Girls se negaron a sentarse en los asientos de la parte posterior de un cine, como les “correspondía” según ley, y por ello fueron arrestadas.  Encarceladas por casi tres meses, las niñas fueron liberadas el 15 de setiembre de 1963. La valentía de estas chicas demuestra que la lucha a favor de los derechos civiles fue un movimiento amplio en el que los niños también hicieron su aportación.


Hidden Herstory: The Leesburg Stockade Girls

Tulani Salahu-Din

I never fully realized the monumental role that massive numbers of children played in civil rights protests. Law enforcement arrested and jailed children by the thousands for days, and sometimes months, and their involvement helped to enable one of the greatest legal and social assaults on racism in the 20th century—the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Leesburg Stockade Girls are an incredible example of these courageous, young freedom fighters.

You may ask, “Who were the Leesburg Stockade Girls?” In July of 1963 in Americus, Georgia, fifteen girls were jailed for challenging segregation laws. Ages 12 to 15, these girls had marched from Friendship Baptist Church to the Martin Theater on Forsyth Street. Instead of forming a line to enter from the back alley as was customary, the marchers attempted to purchase tickets at the front entrance. Law enforcement soon arrived and viciously attacked and arrested the girls. Never formally charged, they were jailed in squalid conditions for forty-five days in the Leesburg Stockade, a Civil War era structure situated in the back woods of Leesburg, Georgia. Only twenty miles away, parents had no knowledge of where authorities were holding their children. Nor were parents aware of their inhumane treatment.

A month into their confinement, Danny Lyon, a twenty-one year old photographer for the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), learned of the girls’ whereabouts and sneaked onto the stockade grounds to take pictures of the girls through barred windows. After SNCC published the photos in its newspaper The Student Voice, African American newspapers across the country printed the story, and the girls’ ordeal soon gained national attention.On August 28, 1963, as Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC,  these children sat in their cell bolstering their courage with freedom songs in solidarity with the thousands of marchers listening to Dr. King’s indelible speech on the National Mall. Soon after the March on Washington, during the same week of the bombing of the five little girls at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963, law enforcement released the Leesburg Stockade Girls and returned them to their families.

Their story was part of the broader Civil Rights effort that engaged children in a variety of nonviolent, direct actions. In Alabama, for example, thousands of youth participated in the 1963 Children’s Crusade, a controversial liberation tactic initiated by James Bevel of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After careful deliberation about the merit of involving children in street protests and allowing them to be jailed, Dr. King decided that their participation would revive the waning desegregation campaign and would appeal to the moral conscience of the nation.

On May 2, 1963, in response to an invitation from Dr. King, roughly a thousand students—elementary through high school—gathered enthusiastically at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and joined a civil rights march throughout the streets of Birmingham. By day’s end, law enforcement had jailed over 600 children.

The next day the number of children doubled. However, the training classes provided by SCLC leaders could not have prepared the children for the violence they would encounter. The Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene “Bull” Connor directed the use of fire hoses and attack dogs on the children, and people in America and around the world witnessed this brutality. Authorities arrested nearly 2,000 children—one as young as four years old.  These protests continued throughout the first week of May, with over 5,000 children being jailed.

Within days, SCLC and local officials reached an agreement, in which the city agreed to repeal the segregation ordinance and release all jailed protestors.  Ultimately, the activism of thousands of African American children in 1963, including the Leesburg Stockade Girls, provided the momentum for the March on Washington and contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act the following year.

The history of children’s Civil Rights activism continues to be important to tell. The Leesburg Stockade Girls realize this importance, and they are documenting their story. In 2015, as the keynote speaker at a commemorative event for the Leesburg Stockade Girls at Georgia Southwestern State University, I engaged with ten of the surviving women, who shared recollections about the day of their arrest. Remarkably, these women still possess a collective spirit of resistance to social injustice, and they are beginning to embrace their place in history.

As we reflect on their story and the broader history of youth activism, let us consider:  How might children today play an equally significant role in promoting racial equality in the United States?
Written by Tulani Salahu-Din, Museum Specialist, National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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Comparto este intetesante artículo sobre la criminalización de la música y los músicos afroamericanos. Su autora es la escritora Harmony Holiday, quien nos muestra como el racismo institucional de la sociedad estadounidense abarca básicamente todas las esferas, incluyendo la cultura popular. Holiday analiza como grandes estrellas de la música afroamericana como Billie Holiday, Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus,  y Miles Davis sufrieron persecucióny violencia policiaca por ser negros. La imagen de Billie Holliday muriendo esposada a su cama de hospital resulta demoledora.  A otros como Abbey Licoln  se les cerraron las puertas a clubs y casas disqueras.


A Brief History of the Policing
of Black Music

Harmony Holiday Dreams of a Black Sound Unfettered
by White Desire

Harmony Holiday


Literary Hub     June 19, 2020

Billie Holiday died handcuffed to her hospital bed because her drug addiction had been criminalized. A Black FBI informant posed as a suitor, hunted her, fell in love with her even, and turned her in for heroin possession, not for hurting anyone, or violence, or for singing too beautiful and true a song but because she was self-medicating against the siege of being a famous Black woman in America, a woman who carried the weight of the nation’s entire soul in her music.

For as long as Black music has been popular, crossover, coveted by white listeners and dissected by white critics, it has also been criminalized by white police at all levels of law enforcement. A micro-archive of the criminalization of Black music and police presence within the music, focused on jazz music and improvised forms, shows why we now cry and chant unapologetically for abolition. Even when our life’s work is to bring more beauty into the world, to create new forms, we are brutalized, policed, jailed, and die in contractual or physical bondage. Or both.

Thelonius Monk’s composition In Walked Bud is dedicated to his friend, fellow pianist Bud Powell, a memento to the night when Bud protected Monk from police during a raid of the Savoy Ballroom in 1945. The Savoy was targeted as one of Black music’s epicenters in Harlem. Bud stepped between an officer and Monk and was struck in the head, incurring injuries that damaged his cognition, causing him to be institutionalized on and off for the rest of his life.

In 1951, Monk and Bud were sitting in a parked car when the NYPD narcotics division approached. Unbeknownst to Monk, Bud had a small stash of heroin and attempted to toss it out the window. It landed on Monk’s shoe instead—Monk was blamed, did not snitch on his friend, and was sent to Rikers Island for 60 days, held on $1,500 dollars bail. When released, Monk’s Cabaret Card, which granted him legal license to play in New York clubs, had been revoked. It would take years for the charges to be dropped and the license reinstated, years the Monk family and innovation in Black music suffered at the whims of the police. And the policing of Monk didn’t stop there.

In 1957, on a drive with Charlie Rouse and Nica, his rich white baroness friend, in Nica’s Bently, Monk asked to stop for a glass of water. Denied this simple request by the white waitress at the cafe they found, Monk just stood and stared at her, agape with disgust. The waitress called the police; when they arrived Monk walked right past them back into the car with Nica and Charlie. He would not get out when the police approached. Get out of the car you fucking nigger. Monk’s window was down and the officer started smashing his hands with a night stick: our genius Black pianist who gave us the break the space between Black thoughts and Black notes, getting his hands bashed and broken by police because he wanted a glass of water. Monk was cuffed, humming, his bloodied hands behind his back in chains.

Monk’s window was down and the officer started smashing his hands with a night stick: our genius Black pianist who gave us the break the space between Black thoughts and Black notes, getting his hands bashed and broken by police.

In 1959 Miles Davis was standing on the sidewalk outside of his own gig at Manhattan’s Birdland. He was with a white woman, smoking a cigarette between sets. A police officer pulled up and asked him what he was doing loitering—at that time a Black man just standing was criminalized, but especially one standing with a white woman. Miles pointed out his name on the marquee, explaining that he was between performances. This cavalier deference to the matter-of-fact seems to trigger the racism always-already seething in some cops.

Miles was beaten over the head with a nightstick, bloodied, cuffed, taken to jail. The incident was a legal nuisance and also altered his disposition, made him both more brooding and more volatile. In Miles’s case being policed in public life led to a rage he would only display in private, that he took out on his wives. His intimate relationships with Black women were overwhelmed by violence, he victimized them and beat into them deflected confessions of his feelings of powerlessness in the face of state violence. He could not be the father of “Cool” and a blatantly dejected Black man, so Black women became the symbols of a trouble he didn’t want to admit stemmed from white men, their policing, their scrutiny, and their over-familiar criticism.

Miles Davis in a New York courtroom, 1959.

 

Later in his life, when he lived in Malibu and drove expensive sports cars on its canyon roads, police would stop Miles routinely when he was on his way home, to interrogate him on the true owner of his car, had he stolen it, was he some white man’s driver, what was he doing in this white neighborhood with this expensive machine. Money, fame, all levels of success, were no exemption. Miles’s presence as a Black man was as policed by the state as his changing sound was by white music critics. Everyone wanted him as they saw him, in return he became so original that he could take his tone into almost any form, from painting to boxing, to screaming back at their prejudice on his horn, hexing detractors back into their formless obsessions with his immaculate Blackness.

 

Abbey Lincoln - It's Magic (1958, Vinyl) | Discogs

 

In 1961, when the “Freedom Now!” Suite debuted, written by Max Roach and Oscar Brown, Jr., performed most visibly by Abbey Lincoln as she moaned and screamed its depiction of the path Black Americans took from slavery to citizenship, the result was the blacklisting of Max, Abbey, and Oscar from many performance venues in the US. The hushed accusations that they were controversial for making true music policed their ability to share that music with American audiences. Abbey screaming on stage like a fugitive slave found and being branded and beaten was a vision the country was not ready to allow without backlash.

Club owners and record companies helped marginalize their music, interrupted the course of star-making, and tamed some of the candid militancy in all of their spirits. The state can police Black music directly, but it can also deploy its tacit muzzle, which is almost worse for the anxiety and psychic distress it invites. These artists knew they were being surveilled and penalized for their expression but had no single name or entity to hold accountable, ensuring that some part of them blamed themselves and one another. Oscar Brown, Jr. even expressed resentment toward Max Roach for performing and releasing the suite at all, turning his reputation from benign griot to troublemaker in the eyes of the overseer owners of venues.

The fact that record companies and clubs and recording studios are owned primarily by white men adds another trapdoor to the labyrinth that polices Black music at every level. The boundaries between rehearsal and performance are skewed—with white men always watching and keeping time and signing the paychecks, the code switch isn’t flipped as often as it otherwise would be. There is always a stilted professionalism constraining the freest Black music when it’s recorded in white-owned studios or clubs—the music is not completely ours in those spaces. No matter how good we get at tuning out the white gaze its pressure is always immanent.

Hip hop’s most famous liberation chant is fuck the police. It’s been repeated so often it means almost nothing, it’s almost a call of endearment…

We feel this today in the music that jazz helped make way for. Hip hop, which began in Black neighborhoods as entirely ours, was colonized and coopted and policed into a popular form whose translation to white venues often reduces the music to sound and fury. What is the point of yelling about Black liberation to a bunch of white middle class college students, or at festivals where Black people aren’t even really comfortable or in attendance? What is the point of producing all this music to make white record executives richer and give them what they believe is a hood pass to obsess over and imitate Black forms.

Jazz begat hip hop, and we learned that our most militant sound was also our most commodifiable. The militancy was quickly overshadowed by criminalization, open-secret wars between Black rappers, public awareness of their rap sheets, of the personal business, all of that given to listeners who felt entitled, still do. Criminality became the vogue and Black criminality a fetish within hip hop, the parading of the rap sheet increasing desirability among white audiences who conflated crime with authenticity and realness, trouble glamorized and traded for clout. (When jazz musicians were criminalized it was more devastating, costing them their right to play.)

Prison and bondage have been effectively woven into Black acoustic consciousness. Policing and the police have become the most familiar chorus. Hip hop’s most famous liberation chant is fuck the police. It’s been repeated so often it means almost nothing, it’s almost a call of endearment, a calling forth of the police, a fuck you to them that implies they are omnipresent and within earshot all the time, ready to strike out against any Black song or singer who threatens their lurking fixation on Black life and Black sound.

As the musicians are policed and incriminated so too are their forms, so too is that thought that leads to new Black musical temperaments. Musicians who seek to remain true to themselves often self-marginalize, police their own public presence, reject fame and affiliation in order to keep from being ruined by it or policed into oblivion from the outside—and so fewer Black people hear them. Even still, the police ambush these private sects, asking why they’re at their gig or in response to a noise complaint, escalating to yet another incident, always haunting their music with some threat of captivity.

Presents Charles Mingus - Jazz Messengers

In the late 1960s jazz bassist Charles Mingus tried to open a jazz school in Harlem. He wanted a Black-owned and Black-run place, outside of the university, the studios, and clubs all owned by whites, to teach and develop the music. The city of New York kicked him out of the space, not for any real legal issues but because his wish was a threat to their embedded policing. They removed all of his belongings and arrested him, he cried in the back of the cop car as sheets of his music were left on the street to be swept away by the wind. No such school has been attempted since and Black music is developed and studied in heavily policed white westernized institutions or not at all.

My own father, a Black musician, was getting arrested the last time I saw him. He went to jail, he died. He had spent his life as a kind of warrior: he carried guns, he was the quickest draw anywhere, he mangled studio engineers or lawyers he felt were trying to rip him off, he could not read, had never been taught that skill, but he could kill if he had to. He was avenging something all the time, his vengeance was finally policed and criminalized, never rehabilitated in any more tender way, just returned as bondage. He sang songs in jail, entertained his jailers with stories and songs. I’m still avenging him. I’m still imagining his alter-destiny in a world where his very existence had not been criminalized.

In his story, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” Henry Dumas, who himself was killed by police, invents a Blacks-only jazz club set in Harlem and an “afro-horn” that if heard by white people kills them. A group of white hipsters comes to the club one night, name drops, begs for entrance, and when they are denied repeatedly, they call on a police officer who forces the bouncer to let them in. They enter and start to absorb the music and before the first song is over they are dead, the frequency kills them. They were warned.

I dream of a Black music, a Black sound, free of the shackles of the white gaze, impossible for police to attack or scrutinize, ineffable to those forces, free even of white desire. Unbroken, lethal to detractors, wherein we can hear our unobstructed selves and get closer to them in other spheres of life, where the pleasure we derive from our music isn’t always fugitive, in escape from those forces that police it, and escaping us to reach or appease white audiences and white modes of consumption. I dream of the notes that only we can hear recovered, the ones multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk called the missing Black notes that have been stolen and captured for years and years and years.

Harmony Holiday is a poet, dancer, archivist, mythscientist and the author of Negro League Baseball (Fence, 2011), Go Find Your Father/ A Famous Blues (Ricochet 2014) and Hollywood Forever (Fence, 2015). She was the winner of the 2013 Ruth Lily Fellowship and she curates the Afrosonics archive, a collection of rare and out-of print-lps highlighting work that joins jazz and literature through collective improvisation.

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8d858-huellas

Ya es una tradición de esta bitácora dar la bienvenida a los nuevos números de la revista Huellas de los Estados Unidos. Estudios, Perspectivas y Debates desde América Latina.  Publicada por los colegas de la Cátedra de Historia de Estados Unidos de la UBA, Huellas es una de pocas publicaciones en castellano dedicadas al estudio de la historia estadounidense. Por lo tanto, considero, además de un honor, un compromiso ayudar en su difusión.

Con este ya son 18 los números publicados por Huellas, lo que es todo un logro y una muestra del tesón de quienes han desarrollado este proyecto hasta convertirlo en un referente para quienes estudiamos la historia de Estados Unidos en el mundo Iberoamericano. Vaya para ellos mi felicitación y agradecimiento.

Copio el índice de este número para que puedan acceder a sus artículos.

Dr. Norberto Barreto Velázquez

Lima, Perú


 

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NYTEl diario The New York Times acaba de publicar un interesante estudio analizando las diferencias en el contenido y enfoque de ochos libros de textos de historia de Estados Unidos, usados en dos estados claves de la nación estadounidense: Texas y California. Sus hallazgos resultan, además de muy interesantes, tremendamente reveladores. Para comenzar hay que señalar que lo que aprendan en estos libros podría ser el único conocimiento que tendrían miles, tal vez millones, de estudiantes estadounidenses sobre la historia de su país, de ahí la gran importancia de su contenido y calidad.

Tanto las casas editoras como los autores de los libros son, alegadamente, los mismos, pero las diferencias son escandalosas, pues reflejan las divisiones  políticas e ideológicas, por no decir raciales, que caracterizan a la sociedad estadounidense. En otras palabras, los libros fueron customized  (personalizados) para satisfacer  las demandas de los políticos de cada estado (y de paso sus prejuicios y limitaciones) para garantizar así su compra por los gobiernos estatales y su uso en miles de escuelas públicas y privadas.

En el caso de los  libros usados en Texas -un estado conservador- destacan, según el Times, los mensajes raciales escondidos o disimulados en los textos, como minimizar el valor literario del Harlem Renassaince  o no mencionar que en los años 1950 los afroamericanos no tuvieron acceso al sueño de la casa suburbana por razones raciales.

En el actual contexto político, el contenido de estos libros y otros libros de texto usados en otros estados, podría ser determinante en la orientación política e ideológica de la nación estadounidense. En otras palabras, como bien lo definió el gran historiador cubano Manuel Moreno Fraginals, la historia sigue siendo usada como un arma.

Terminaré citando al Times:

In a country that cannot come to a consensus on fundamental questions — how restricted capitalism should be, whether immigrants are a burden or a boon, to what extent the legacy of slavery continues to shape American life — textbook publishers are caught in the middle. On these questions and others, classroom materials are not only shaded by politics, but are also helping to shape a generation of future voters.

Aquellos interesados en este estudio pueden encontrarlo aquí.

Dr. Norberto Barreto Velázquez

14 de enero de 2020

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Andrew Johnson · 1868 Una batalla política por la reunificación del país

El fin de la guerra civil estadounidense dio paso a un nuevo problema: ¿qué hacer con los derrotados estados sureños? Esta pregunta llevó a una crisis constitucional que abrió la puerta al primer juicio de residenciamiento en la historia estadounidense.

Tras el asesinato de Abraham Lincoln asumió la presidencia el Vicepresidente Andrew Johnson, un sureño que no sólo había sido miembro del Partido Demócrata, sino que también había poseído esclavos. Johnson era hijo de la tradición de Andrew Jackson y, por ende, se consideraba un defensor del hombre común frente a la aristocracia corrupta de noreste. El nuevo presidente simpatizaba con los blancos pobres y no tenía mucha empatía para los esclavos. Cuando estalló la guerra civil, Johnson era Senador por el estado de Tennesse, pero se mantuvo fiel a la Unión. Los Republicanos lo eligieron candidato a la vicepresidencia para promover la unidad y cortejar el apoyo de los sureños unionistas. En su gestión como Presidente, Johnson dejó claro que era un creyente en la supremacía de los blancos y, por ende, se opuso a la concesión de derechos políticos a los negros. Su simpatía para con los estados sureños fue más que evidente y le   llevó a una colisión con el Congreso.

En mayo de 1865, Johnson hizo público su plan para readmitir a los estados sureños en la Unión. El plan presidencial ofrecía amnistía a todo sureño que hiciera un juramento de lealtad a la constitución de los Estados Unidos. Sólo quedaban fuera los altos dirigentes civiles y militares de la Confederación, quienes sólo podían ser perdonados por el Presidente mismo. Para que los estados fuesen reintegrados a la unión, los sureños debían también ratificar la Enmienda 13, aboliendo la esclavitud. Rápidamente, los estados confederados aceptaron el plan de Johnson y pudieron elegir gobiernos propios. Para el otoño de 1865 diez de los once estados confederados habían cumplido con los requisitos del plan de Johnson

White League and Ku Klux Klan alliance, in illustration, by Thomas Nast, in Harper's Weekly, October 24, 1874La primera reacción de los congresistas Republicanos al plan del presidente fue favorable. Tanto moderados como radicales decidieron darle una oportunidad a Johnson y a su plan. Éstos esperaban que los nuevos gobiernos sureños aprovecharan la gran oportunidad que el plan Johnson significaba y actuaran de buena fe. Desafortunadamente, esto no ocurrió porque los nuevos gobiernos sureños buscaron resucitar la esclavitud a través de una serie de leyes, conocidas como los códigos negros. Estas leyes buscaban obligar a los negros libres a regresar a trabajar a las plantaciones.  Además, Johnson le otorgó un perdón a básicamente a todo antiguo líder de la Confederación que se lo solicitó. Envalentonados, los sureños eligieron antiguos funcionarios confederados para representarles en el Congreso de los Estados Unidos. Antiguos generales y coroneles, legisladores y hasta el vicepresidente de la Confederación fueron electos al Congreso federal en representación de los estados sureños.

La actitud y las acciones de los sureños enfurecieron a los congresistas Republicanos, quienes decidieron no reconocer a los nuevos legisladores sureños. Para ello, aplicaron una cláusula de la constitución que le reconoce al Congreso el poder de aceptar o rechazar legisladores. De esta forma, todos los congresistas sureños electos bajo el plan de Johnson fueron rechazados por el Congreso.  En respuesta, los estados sureños eliminaron las alusiones raciales en los códigos negros, pero en la práctica sólo aplicaban las leyes a los negros libres.  Para complicar aún más las cosas, se desató una ola de violencia y terror contra los negros libres en diversos estados del sur.  Todo ello llevó a los congresistas republicanos a concluir que el Sur estaba deliberadamente evadiendo la Enmienda 13, y que era necesaria la intervención del Congreso.

En marzo de 1865 el Congreso creó la Oficina de  Libertos  (Freedmen Bureau) para brindar ayuda de emergencia a los antiguos esclavos.  Esta oficina había tenido un éxito limitado.  La Oficina de Libertos operó escuelas ayudando a crear las bases para un sistema de educación pública en el sur. También ayudó a los negros a denunciar los abusos de que eran víctimas. A principios de 1866, el Congreso aprobó extender la vida de esta oficina asignándoles fondos de forma directa y autorizando a sus agentes a investigar casos de maltrato de libertos. Además, el Congreso aprobó una ley de derechos civiles, confiriéndole la ciudadanía norteamericana a los negros. Esta ley definía como ciudadano a toda persona nacida en los Estados Unidos, aunque dejaba fuera a los amerindios. De acuerdo con esta ley, los negros estarían cubiertos por todas las leyes norteamericanas que garantizaban la seguridad y la propiedad de los ciudadanos estadounidenses.

The Freedman´s BureauEn febrero de 1866, el presidente Johnson vetó la nueva ley de la Oficina de Libertos y la Ley de derechos civiles. Además, lanzó un fuerte ataque contra los radicales, acusándoles de traidores que no querían restaurar la Unión.

Los radicales toman control

¿Quiénes eran estos congresistas radicales que provocaron la ira del presidente Johnson?  La mayoría de los unionadicales eran individuos formados al calor de los debates en torno a la esclavitud. Éstos procedían, principalmente, de la zona de Nueva Inglaterra o del medio oeste. Les unía la creencia en la igualdad de derechos políticos y de oportunidades económicas, por lo que creían necesario un gobierno central fuerte. Según ellos, el establecimiento del trabajo libre, la educación universal pública y la igualdad de derechos llevarían al sur a disfrutar del mismo nivel de riqueza, progreso y movilidad social que poseía el norte. Su opinión del Sur no era la mejor, pues le consideraban una región en donde reinaba la ignorancia, se practicaba una agricultura de despilfarro, se rechazaba la manufactura, se despreciaba el trabajo honesto y estaba controlada por una oligarquía majadera. Los radicales querían transformar al Sur desarrollando la pequeña propiedad agraria, fomentando la manufactura, promoviendo la educación, cultivando el respeto al trabajo honesto y extendiendo la igualdad de derechos políticos entres sus habitantes.  Para los radicales, la prioridad no era reestablecer la Unión, sino rehacer al sur.

Charles Sumner

Para los radicales, el gobierno federal debía jugar un papel protagónico en la reconstrucción del sur, sobre todo, garantizando los derechos civiles y el voto de los libertos. Republicanos radicales como Thaddeus Stevens (Pennsylvania) y Charles Sumner (Massachussets) abogaban por una intervención federal directa que protegiera a  los negros y les brindara oportunidades educativas, sociales y económicas.

 

Los vetos de Johnson unificaron a los legisladores republicanos bajo el liderato de los republicanos radicales, quienes decidieron retar el poder del presidente. En abril de 1866, los radicales obtuvieron el respaldo de las dos terceras parte de los legisladores necesarios para aprobar las leyes vetadas por Johnson. Este fue un momento histórico porque por primera vez en la historia de los Estados Unidos el Congreso fue por encima de un veto presidencial.  En junio de 1866, el Congreso aprobó la enmienda la Enmienda 14 declarando ciudadano norteamericano a toda persona nacida en los Estados Unidos. Según la enmienda ningún estado “aprobará o hará cumplir ninguna ley que restrinja los privilegios o inmunidades de los ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos; ni ningún estado privará a persona alguna de su vida, de su libertad, sin el debido procedimiento de ley, ni negará a nadie, dentro de su jurisdicción, al igual protección de las leyes”. Esta enmienda histórica buscaba proteger los derechos de los libertos frente los abusos y atropellos de los sureños garantizando la constitucionalidad de la Ley de Derechos Civiles vetada por Johnson y aprobada por el Congreso.

En las elecciones de 1866, los Republicanos aumentaron su mayoría tanto en la Cámara como en el Senado, y ganaron control de todos los estados del norte. Los Republicanos entendieron su contundente victoria como un mandato, como una muestra de aprobación popular de sus posiciones, como una especie de referéndum que Johnson perdió. La victoria electoral unificó a los congresistas republicanos en su propósito de tomar control de la reconstrucción. Con ello quedó definido el escenario de un choque histórico y peligroso entre las ramas legislativa y ejecutiva del gobierno de los Estados Unidos.

Los Republicanos tomaron la iniciativa rápido aprobando una serie de leyes a comienzos del año 1867. En marzo, los republicanos aprobaron la Ley de la Reconstrucción que fue vetada por Johnson y vuelta a probara por el Congreso por encima del veto presidencial. Esta ley organizaba al sur como un territorio conquistado y ocupado, pues le dividía en cinco distritos militares, cada uno comandado por un general del ejército de la Unión. Para que se retirasen las tropas federales y los estados se reintegrasen a la Unión, era necesario que éstos le concediera en el derecho al voto a los libertos y privara de ese mismo derecho a los confederados que participaron en la rebelión. Cada comandante militar debía registrar a todos los votantes de su distrito, blancos y negros, y supervisar que se llevaran a cabo elecciones para escoger una convención estatal. Ésta debería redactar nuevas constituciones que garantizaran el derecho al voto de los negros en cada estado. Además, los estados sureños debían ratificar la Enmienda 14. Cuando todo ello ocurriese, los estados sureños serían readmitidos a la Unión.

Resultado de imagen para Edwin M. Stanton"

Edwin M. Stanton

Los republicanos también aprobaron la Ley de Tenencia de un Cargo Público que hacía obligatorio el consentimiento del Senado para remover de su cargo a todo funcionario cuyo nombramiento tuvo que ser confirmado por el Senado. En otras palabras, obligaba a Johnson a solicitar el consentimiento senatorial para poder destituir funcionarios públicos que aunque pudieron haber sido nombrados por el presidente, debieron ser confirmados por el Senado. Con ello, el Senado quería proteger al Secretario de Guerra Edwin M. Stanton, quien había sido nombrado por Lincoln y favorecía la reconstrucción radical del sur. Como Secretario de Guerra, podía hacer mucho para favorecer a los republicanos radicales y bloquear las acciones del presidente. Esta ley atentaba contra los poderes reconocidos por la constitución al presidente de los Estados Unidos, pues exigía que Johnson trasmitiera sus órdenes al ejército a través de su oficial de mayor rango el General Ulises S. Grant.

Johnson no pudo evitar que se aprobaran ambas leyes y hasta pareció dar señales de aceptar el control congresional de la reconstrucción, pues nombró los generales recomendados por Stanton y Grant para comandar los cincos distritos militares creados por la Ley de Reconstrucción. Sin embargo, esto era una maniobra de Johnson para ganar tiempo, pues tan pronto acabó la sesión del Congreso destituyó a Stanton y le sustituyó por Grant, pues creía que el general sería mucho más fácil de controlar. Además, el presidente sustituyó a cuatro de los comandantes de distritos militares del sur. Grant sorprendió a Johnson al objetar públicamente las movidas del presidente. Cuando el Congreso volvió a reunirse anuló la destitución de Stanton. Resultado de imagen para johnson impeachment"

El 21 de febrero de 1868, Johnson oficialmente despidió a Stanton y el secretario se atrincheró en su oficina y se negó a obedecer al presidente. El 24 de febrero de 1868 por primera vez en la historia de los Estados Unidos, el Congreso inició un proceso de residenciamiento para destituir al presidente. Siguiendo el mandato establecido por la constitución, la Cámara de Representantes inició el proceso de residenciamiento contra Johnson acusándole de once cargos de mala conducta presidencial, siete de ellos por haber violado la Ley de tenencia de un cargo público.  Una vez establecidas las acusaciones en la Cámara, el Senado pasó a enjuiciar al presidente. Tras un juicio de once semanas de duración, Johnson se salvó de ser el primer presidente en ser destituido por un voto, pues se requería que dos terceras partes de los senadores le condenaran (36) y sólo 35 senadores lo encontraron culpable de los cargos de que se le acusaba.  Siete republicanos moderados votaron a favor de Johnson porque no estaban seguros de la constitucionalidad de la Ley  de tenencia de un cargo público, que en efecto fue más tarde declarada inconstitucional por el Tribunal Supremo. Para este grupo de legisladores, destituir a Johnson hubiera sido un acto muy extremo, pues habría establecido un antecedente muy peligroso. En otras palabras, para ellos era más importante salvaguardar el sistema político estadounidense que castigar a Johnson.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez

Lima, 15 de noviembre de 2019

 

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Eric Foner es uno de los más importantes historiadores estadounidenses. Profesor de Columbia University y ganador de premios tan prestigiosos como el Lincoln, Bancroft y  Pulitzer, Foner ha dedicado su  carrera al estudio del Partido Republicano,  la esclavitud, la guerra civil y, sobre todo, la Reconstrucción. Es a este periodo posterior a la guerra civil que Foner dedica su último libro, Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution (Norton, 2019). Enfocado en el significado de las tres enmiendas constitucionales aprobadas entre 1865 y 1870 (XIII, XIV y XV), Foner plantea que la Reconstrucción cambió radicalmente el ordenamiento político estadounidense. Al acabar con la esclavitud, definir la ciudadanía y garantizar el derecho al voto, tales enmiendas, propone Foner, conllevaron un renacer de la nación estadounidense.

Comparto con mis lectores la transcripción de una entrevista que el  historiador Ed Ayers, del podcasts Backstory, le hiciera a Foner sobre su último libro y otros temas. La entrevista se puede escuchar aquí

February 18, 1865 Harper’s Weekly cartoon depicting celebration in the House of Representatives after adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment. Source: Internet Archive.

HOW RECONSTRUCTION TRANSFORMED THE CONSTITUTION

A FEATURE CONVERSATION WITH PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING HISTORIAN ERIC FONER

If you turn on the news, you’re likely to find a heated debate about big issues, from citizenship to voting rights. For Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner, these issues are at the heart of what are often called the “Reconstruction Amendments”: the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the US Constitution. They were passed in 1865, 1868 and 1870, respectively. And if you ask Eric, they’ve been misinterpreted and overlooked for generations.

On this episode, Ed sits down with Eric Foner, a professor emeritus of history at Columbia University, to talk about public perceptions of Reconstruction, the landmark amendments to the Constitution and how they have the power to change the country today. Foner’s new book is The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution.

 

TRANSCRIPT

Download a pdf of the full transcript here.

Speaker 1: Major funding for Backstory is provided by an anonymous donor, the National Endowment for The Humanities and the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial foundation.

Ed Ayers: From Virginia Humanities, this is Backstory. This is Backstory, the show that explains the history behind today’s headlines. I’m Ed Ayers. If you’re new to the podcast, my colleagues, Joanne Freeman, Brian Balogh, Nathan Connolly, and myself are all historians and each week we explore the history of one topic that’s been in the news.

Speaker 3: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for a crime shall exist within the United States or any place subject to [crosstalk 00:00:48]-

Speaker 4: All persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein [crosstalk 00:00:58]-

Ed Ayers: What you’re hearing are portions of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the US constitution.

Speaker 4: Which shall outweigh the privileges or [crosstalk 00:01:02]-

Speaker 3: No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.

Speaker 5: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Ed Ayers: They’re known as the Reconstruction Amendments passed in 1865, 1868 and 1870 respectively. And if you ask Pulitzer Prize winning historian Eric Foner, they make up a second founding of the United States of America. The amendments are so important, Eric has made them the subject of his brand new book, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution. He says they have the power to bring progressive change on deep seated issues from citizenship to voting rights if only we’d give them their due. So today on Backstory, we’re bringing you a feature interview I did with Eric about his new book. It joins a host of others he’s written including Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, and The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. We talked about many things from public perceptions of Reconstruction to what Eric and I learned about the period when we were in elementary school. But I started our conversation by asking Eric why he felt we needed a book about the Reconstruction Amendments right now.

Foner

Eric Foner

Eric Foner: Two things; one the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, I argue and I think many scholars would agree, really transformed the constitution and are essential to understanding the Civil War era and indeed our current situation today, and yet they are not widely known or understood. Even though they really are central documents of American history, they don’t occupy the same place in our historical imagination as other key documents such as the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation. Your man or woman in the street has probably never heard of the people who wrote these amendments, people like John Bingham and James Ashley and Henry Wilson. They’re not part of the Pantheon of key figures in American history. I just wanted to draw attention to why they’re important, why those people are important, why the amendments are important.

Eric Foner: But secondly, as I said, I lecture a lot, as you do, to all sorts of audiences within the university, outside, or people who are just interested in history and I’ve found that there’s very little understanding of what these amendments were attempting to accomplish. Even in law schools, I hate to say it, I’m not a lawyer or a law scholar, I find that there’s a lot of misconception and even, dare I say it, on the halls of the Supreme Court. One of my arguments is that there’s a long history of what I can think of as misconceived Supreme Court decisions that are still embedded in our jurisprudence. If my book can help nudge the nine members of the Supreme Court toward a more expansive vision of these amendments, then I think that would be all to the good.

Ed Ayers: Yeah, that would be quite a return on your investment here. So you talk about being out in the world talking about Reconstruction, and I find that people don’t even claim to know anything about Reconstruction. My joke is that Reconstruction happens over the winter break and between volume one and volume two, and that it-

Eric Foner: They don’t reach it in the first semester if you’re teaching the survey of American history or if it’s the beginning of the second. They scoot right through it because there’s a heck of a lot of history coming along afterwards, but that’s a step forward Ed. You and I know that not that long ago when you mentioned Reconstruction, people knew “about it.” What they knew was that it was a period of misgovernment, corruption, the lowest point in the saga of American democracy. And that the reason for that was one, vindictive Northern radicals who wanted to fasten their power on the South, but also the former slaves who were just incapable of exercising democratic rights. They were manipulated by whites. They were childlike, and that giving them the right to vote was a disastrous mistake.

71DfIQ9brpL._SY741_Eric Foner: That played an important part in the ideological edifice of the Jim Crow era. The supposed horrors of Reconstruction were part of the justification for taking the right to vote away from black men in the late 19th, early 20th Century. That people no longer generally hold that view and actually know little is better. That at least now if people are interested, they can go at it with a fresh, a clean slate rather than having to disabuse themselves of a lot of mythologies.

Ed Ayers: That’s a very optimistic interpretation. I like that. Now it’s my sense that a lot of people still take their general idea about Reconstruction from Gone with the Wind, in which we have this great saga of that in which the victim is a slave holding white woman from the South. We’re sympathetic with her and it creates the impression that Reconstruction began immediately after the end of the war and the devastation there. Is this your experience? Do you think that people are still filtering this through … What do they think they know about Reconstruction? Where does it come from?

Eric Foner: Yeah. Well certainly Gone with the Wind or if you want to push back further Birth of a Nation, which of course is even much more pernicious because it’s a direct defense and glorification of the Ku Klux Klan, Gone with the Wind is probably the most popular American movie ever made and it’s constantly being shown on Turner movie channels. Look, people don’t watch Gone with the Wind for a history lesson on Reconstruction. They watch so they can trace out Scarlet O’Hara’s ups and downs. But yes, the Klan is in there, the whole idea that black people were just ignorant and incapable of taking part of democracy is in there. Whether it’s that or just what you learned in school.

Eric Foner: I’m old enough to have learned in high school, and this was in Long Island, the suburbs of New York. I learned the old Dunning School view that Reconstruction was the worst period in all of American history. I think today most scholars see Reconstruction, or at least I’ve tried to argue, as a important moment in the history of democracy, the first effort to really make the United States an interracial democracy, which it had never been before the Civil War and then would not be again that until our own era. The tragedy of Reconstruction is not that it was attempted, but that it failed, and that left to subsequent generations, including our own, this question of racial justice in America.

Ed Ayers: Yeah. I should say in full disclosure, you learned about Reconstruction on Long Island in New York. I learned about it at Andrew Johnson Elementary School in East Tennessee, and I’m not kidding. There’s only two in the United States, and I was at one of them, but I had my students and for a class here at the University of Richmond go online and say, “What do we think about Reconstruction? What’s the general sense that you get?” And they came back with one word; failure. That’s a word that you used, a description right now. And so what’s the consequences of thinking of Reconstruction as failure? It’s been a great continuity, as you’re saying that people who hated Reconstruction defined it as a failure and people who admire it defined it as a failure. Does that have any cost?

9781912128228Eric Foner: I think that’s a great question and I will withdraw my word failure. You’re absolutely right. It is so embedded. That idea is so embedded that it’s just impossible to avoid. The problem with declaring Reconstruction a failure is that then it makes the question at hand why did it fail, rather than what it seek to accomplish and how much of that was accomplished? If you define Reconstruction as the effort to create a utopian society, it failed. We haven’t had one yet, and certainly if you go a little less expansive than that and just say the effort to put into the laws and constitution and to enforce them, the basic rights of citizens for all Americans, including African-Americans, well it’s not exactly that it failed, but it didn’t become secure enough that later on these rights couldn’t be taken away.

Eric Foner: But of course Reconstruction was many, many things and not all of them were a failure. Reconstruction saw the creation of the black church as really a major, major institution throughout the country. That’s still here and as you well know, the black church has been the springboard for all sorts of activism among African Americans. Schooling, which was denied to almost all black people before the Civil War, this is when the public school systems of the South were created. This was when the black colleges were created. Those survived and so the black family, which had been it really disrupted in many ways by slavery now is consolidated and becomes the foundation of black communities. That didn’t go away when Reconstruction ended.

Eric Foner: So yeah, we should amend failure at least to say, well, in what realms did it fail and in what realms did it succeed? Because my definition of Reconstruction is not a specific time period, let’s say 1865 to 1877 or other people have other dates, but as a historical process. How does the United States deal with the end of slavery?

Ed Ayers: As we’re thinking really about the place of Reconstruction in the current American imagination, we have seen signs of awakened acknowledgement and interest in it. You and I both were fortunate to be in the Henry Louis Gates series on the Reconstruction on PBS, and people seem to really engage with that. So where do you think this interest is coming from?

Eric Foner: Well, I, like your students, I look around and say, “Well, how is …” I look particularly at how Reconstruction is referred to in the press by journalists almost offhandedly. It’s not that long ago. I remember in the 1990s, a distinguished, I’m not going to name any names, but a pretty distinguished journalist for the New York Times wrote a little article about the Bosnian Civil War. And he said, “Well, I hope that after the Bosnian Civil War is over that the victorious side just doesn’t wreak vengeance on the losers as happened in the United States in Reconstruction.” And I, as a complainer, I send him a note. And I said, “You’re not writing about Reconstruction really, but I think it’s important to know that that’s not how historians view it anymore. You’re reinforcing the idea that giving rights to black people is an act of vengeance against white people, which is a really dangerous idea.”

920x920Eric Foner: He wrote back and said, “You’re absolutely right. I shouldn’t have said that, but my wife is from South Carolina,” and I’ve heard this all the time. And I said to myself, “That’s a funny way of running journalism.” You put in your article what your wife told you over breakfast. But be that as it may, you don’t see that anymore. I think what now, if Reconstruction pops up is Tim Scott is the first black Senator from South Carolina and the first ones were in Reconstruction. I think Reconstruction is being seen as a time when positive things happened even though negative things happened as well. So I think it’s good. And of course the Gates series was very important as you well know, that there’s now a national park site being developed in Beaufort, South Carolina to highlight the history of Reconstruction. So I think Reconstruction is, people are encountering it in all sorts of venues and I think in a more modern form than the old what we call Dunning School approach.

Ed Ayers: Well you were modest before in walking away from the word failure, but in many ways you came up with the right word back in 1988 with your great book on Reconstruction; unfinished revolution. Are you willing to stand by that phrase still?

Eric Foner: Yeah, I am. That was the very last words of the Gates series, if you may remember. Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw got the very last word in Reconstruction was an Unfinished Revolution. So I said, “Oh, look at that. That’s nice. My phrase still reverberating out there.” The funny thing is that that wasn’t the title of the book. The title of book was just Reconstruction, and the day before it finally went to the printer, my editor called me and said, “People here don’t think anyone’s going to buy that book. It needs a good subtitle. By tomorrow morning, give us a subtitle.” And I thought, “Gee whiz.” And I thought and thought and thought and suddenly this popped into my head, The Unfinished Revolution and I told it to him. So it wasn’t something that had shaped the way I wrote the book or anything like that.

Eric Foner: But anyway, yeah, it’s unfinished, and particularly, when you talk about the legal and constitutional aspects, yes. The Reconstruction put forward a whole set of ideals, a whole set of principles for our society and they weren’t fully accomplished, certainly. I want to give the impression of something that’s still ongoing, that Reconstruction is not just the dead past. It’s still happening in the sense that the issues of Reconstruction; who should be a citizen? Who should have the right to vote? How do we deal with terrorism and others? These are on our agenda today. So that debate is still unfinished.

Ed Ayers: Your new book, let’s talk about the title of it. The Second Founding. So why did United States need a second founding? What was it about the first founding that was inadequate?

Eric Foner: Well, as you well know, there’s a lot of debate among historians about exactly what the relationship between the constitution and slavery was. I don’t want to get into that right here. The abolitionist movement debated that forever, but I think we would all have to say that slavery in some form was embedded in the original constitution. We had the Fugitive Slave Clause, which required the return of those who managed to escape to freedom. We had the Three-Fifths Clause, which gave the slave South added representation in the House of Representatives by counting part of their slave population. So we needed a second founding to cleanse the constitution of slavery and to clarify issues which the constitution had left undecided.

Eric Foner: Number one, who is a citizen of the United States? One of the funny things is the constitution refers to citizens all over the place, but it never defines who is a citizen. What do you need to be to be a citizen? My view of Reconstruction, I use this phrase, a modern phrase, I didn’t use it back then, is this is regime change that’s going on. A pro-slavery regime is being replaced with what? With some kind of antislavery regime and you’ve got to rewrite the constitution in order to cleanse it of the remnants of the pro-slavery regime.

Ed Ayers: And that regime wasn’t just in the South. The whole nation was a regime based on slavery.

Eric Foner: Absolutely. That’s why Lincoln in his second inaugural address referred to it as American slavery, not Southern slavery. Lincoln always said that, that we are complicitous in the North. We don’t own slaves right now, but we are complicitous. We profit from slavery.

Ed Ayers: So as you know from out giving talks, people think that the Civil War itself ended slavery and that the 13th Amendment was just a codification of something that had already happened with the Emancipation Proclamation and so forth. So I thought that was one thing that was interesting about the Lincoln movie focusing on the 13th Amendment. So why did we need the 13th Amendment if the Civil War ended slavery?

GatewayEric Foner: Well there were still slaves on the ground when the Civil War ended, quite a few of them. People who had gotten to Union lines or where the Union Army had come and established control, yeah. Part of their job, part of the Union Army’s job once the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, was to protect the freedom that Lincoln had announced. But legally speaking, emancipation and abolition are not quite the same thing. Slavery is created by state law, not federal law, state law. States can abolish slavery as the Northern states did soon after the American Revolution, but freeing individuals does not abrogate the state laws that create slavery. That’s why Lincoln’s, even though you wouldn’t quite see this in the movie. That’s fine. It’s not a historical treatise. Lincoln’s preferred route to the end of slavery during the war was state by state abolition.

Eric Foner: Even after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, he was pressing Southern states. If any of them wanted to come back in the union, they would have to abolish slavery. That’s how you get rid of slavery on the ground, by having the state laws abrogated. But that couldn’t really happen in the Civil War very much, and so by 1864, many people particularly abolitionists are saying the simpler way is just to have this constitutional amendment. That will completely abrogate slavery everywhere in the country. We won’t have to go state by state and let’s do it that way. Lincoln got onboard of course, and as the movie shows, twisted a lot of arms in January, 1865 to get some people in the House of Representatives to vote for the 13th Amendment, so to completely get rid of slavery. It’s certainly true. The war disrupted slavery. Many people fled. Some states like Maryland, a border state and Louisiana where Lincoln was trying to push a Reconstruction plan, they abolished slavery on the state level, but there were plenty of places slavery was still existing when the Civil War ended.

Ed Ayers: Well, why would Lincoln have to twist so many arms if the United States awakened to the great injustice of slavery during the war and mobilized 200000 African American men to be soldiers and sailors? Why was there still resistance to it as late as 1864 and early 1865?

Eric Foner: Yeah, well, of course the first time they tried, the 13th Amendment failed in the House of Representatives. Remember, it needs two-thirds vote in the Congress, which is often not that easy to get. The Democratic Party was still there. It was still, if not pro-slavery, it was still resistant to abolition. The border slave states, the people there were quite adamant that they didn’t, Kentucky, Maryland said they didn’t want this constitutional amendment. They were still in the union, but it took arm twisting because the 13th Amendment gets lost in the shuffle in a way. We talk about the 14th and 15th much more for complicated reasons, but the 13th Amendment was really a constitutional revolution in and of itself.

Eric Foner: Never before had the constitution been written or amended to just abrogate a whole type of property. Some of the people in Congress said, “Wait a minute. If we’re going to say this kind of property is gone, next year there’ll be demanding that we confiscate the factories of New England.” It also completely reversed the position and that was traditional, but from the constitution arm, with the ratification of the constitution arm, that this was a state matter. Now it’s a, “Forget it. I don’t care what the states want. No slavery anymore in this country, do supersede.” That is a fundamental shift of power from the states to the federal government. And then the second clause. The first clause, abolition of slavery. The second clause, Congress shall have the power to enforce this amendment. A lot of southerners, once the war is over and Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction plan is moving along, a lot of white Southerners say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. Yeah, slavery is dead. We understand that. We’re not going to have slavery back, but this second clause seems to give Congress the right to legislate about anything they want.”

Eric Foner: How do you enforce the abolition of slavery? Do you give black people the right to vote? Yeah. People said that’s what they need if they’re going to be free. Do you give them land? That’s what African Americans wanted. In other words, it’s very open-ended. Enforcing the abolition of slavery is a very complicated idea. Unfortunately, for very complex legal reasons, it has never really been implemented. The Supreme court has barely ever used the 13th Amendment as a weapon against the racial inequality that is, of course, tied up in slavery.

Ed Ayers: Yeah, so the 13th Amendment, it’s a breakthrough in thinking about what the nation is as well as ending slavery right?

Eric Foner: Right.

Ed Ayers: Does that help explain why the 14th Amendment comes so quickly after the 13th after there have been decades, really, without constitutional change?

WhoEric Foner: Yeah. The 14th Amendment, I would say, is working out the consequences of the 13th Amendment as well as the consequences of the Civil War. I see the 14th Amendment as putting the Northern Republicans understanding of what they had achieved in the Civil War into the constitution. Some of it has something to do with race or slavery, for example, that Confederate bonds are never going to be repaid. If you patriotically loaned money to the Confederacy, forget it. You’re never getting that back. It has to do with various other things related to the war. But the first section, which is the key one, is really henceforth because of the abolition of slavery, everybody born in the United States is a citizen of the United States.

Eric Foner: You needed that because the status of citizenship was still very uncertain and then more important, all those citizens are going to enjoy the equal protection of the law. The original constitution said nothing about equality among Americans, nothing. It’s the 14th Amendment that makes the constitution as it has been in our own time, a vehicle through which all sorts of people can claim greater equality. The gay marriage decision a few years ago was a 14th Amendment decision. They weren’t thinking of gay marriage when they were writing the 14th Amendment, but they were thinking of how do you make people equal before the law?

Ed Ayers: The last amendment you talk about of course, is the 15th, which I think often tends to be seen as a footnote to the 14th but was that also a hard fought battle to create that?

Eric Foner: That was very hard fought because the principle that the states controlled the right to vote was deeply embedded North and South. There were plenty of Northern states that were nervous. In Congress, they were those who said, “We want an amendment that just says every male citizen age 21 has the right to vote.” If they had gotten that through, just think of all the trouble that would have been avoided. Even today when we’re debating voter IDs and all that, a positive statement. Now they weren’t willing to give women the right to vote and the women’s movement was very outraged by that. But Northern states, the Chinese couldn’t vote in California. Immigrants couldn’t vote on the same basis as a native born in Rhode Island. Massachusetts had a literacy test for voting. They didn’t want to give up their control of the rights. So instead of a positive amendment, it’s what you might call a negative amendment; that no state can deny anyone the right to vote because of race.

Ed Ayers: Well, it’s a work-around in a way, right? It’s-

Eric Foner: It’s a work-around and it has a serious flaw, which is any other limit on the right to vote is not prohibited right? You can have a literacy test. You can have a poll tax. When the Southern states, as you well know, took away the right to vote, they didn’t do it by saying, “Hey, black people can’t vote anymore,” because that would’ve violated the 15th Amendment. What they did was put all these other qualifications and then understanding clauses. You’ve got to prove to the registrar that you understand the state constitution, but the Supreme Court allowed this to happen. They said, “Well, look, they’re not talking about race actually. This law says nothing about race so it doesn’t violate the 15th Amendment.”

Ed Ayers: Well and there’s other parts of these amendments that have come back to haunt us in some ways. Perhaps you could talk a little bit about the clause about involuntary servitude and the 13th Amendment?

Eric Foner: That’s been highlighted a few years ago by the documentary of, the Hollywood documentary, 13th. 13th Amendment, the language is taken just about directly from the Northwest Ordinance of Thomas Jefferson, and it says, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime, can exist in the United States.” That criminal exemption. Now this is not a conspiracy as some people think, “Oh look. They were looking ahead to mass incarceration, to convict labor, to the exploitation of the labor.” They were hardly any prisons in 1865. There was a little bit of a history of convict labor to help pay the cost of prisons, but it wasn’t a mass system. But this little, this exemption, which was not even debated in Congress, nobody even mentioned it except Charles Sumner, the abolitionist Senator from Massachusetts. It wasn’t debated in the press. I looked through the newspapers. Nobody mentions it.

Eric Foner: It’s just boilerplate language really. But nonetheless, inadvertently, it created this loophole through which the Southern states particularly drove this Mack truck in the late 19th century of massive convict labor, either within prisons or leasing out of convicts to work in mines and plantations and on roadwork and stuff like this, under terribly oppressive conditions. The courts have persistently ruled that the 13th Amendment allows the requirement, the involuntary labor of people convicted of a crime. And then after Reconstruction, Southern states began making almost anything a felony. You steal a chicken, it’s a felony, and you’re eight years in jail and you are sent out pretty soon to labor on some guy’s plantation who has rented the labor of the prisoners from the federal government. So it’s disastrous really in Southern history later on, but it was inadvertent almost. What it shows you is people talk a lot about the original intention. Sometimes unintended consequences can be just as important as the intended consequences of an amendment.

Ed Ayers: You talked before, Eric, about the way that even though women played such a crucial role in bringing about these amendments; petitioning Congress during the war and afterwards, that they were excluded from this. How about the place of American Indians in all this? Who’s been born in this country more than American Indians? So why is that a blind spot in these laws of the post Civil War era?

Eric Foner: The legal status of Native Americans was murky, to say the least. You still had the remnants of the idea that they were not Americans. They were members of their own tribal sovereignties. People talked about the Cherokee Nation, the Choctaw Nation. You are not a citizen of the United States. You were a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Now, of course, by this time, the power of the Indian nations in most places had been broken, and it wasn’t as if you had the United States government dealing with equal nations on the other side. But the people who wrote the [inaudible 00:29:15] did not, their aim was not to make Native Americans citizens. The exemption in the 14th Amendment says, “Anybody born in the United States or naturalized coming from abroad except and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.” And the idea, well Native Americans are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. They’re subject to the laws of their own national sovereignties.

ForeverEric Foner: So Indians were not citizens and it’s not until 1924 that Congress enacts a law making all Native Americans, regardless of where they are living, regardless of what tribe they in, citizens of the United States. So yeah. These amendments had exemptions, they had loopholes, they had serious flaws. Women, as you said, certainly objected to the 15th Amendment, which didn’t give them the right to vote, and the second clause of the 14th Amendment, which introduces the word male for the first time into the constitution. These measures were compromises. They were worked out after long debate and amendments and ups and downs in Congress. There’s no single mind behind the 13th, 14th or 15th Amendments. They were the result of all sorts of negotiation and controversy. Nonetheless, the basic principles are pretty clear. The abolition of slavery, the establishment of a universal notion of citizenship, despite without the native Americans and of equality among those citizens and the vast expansion of the right to vote.

Ed Ayers: And they are alive in today’s political and legal culture. What do you see as the issues that are most salient right now on either being contested or helping drive forward some kind of change?

Eric Foner: Well, sadly, yeah. Many of these issues are still unresolved and I’d have to say sadly, our Supreme Court has adopted an increasingly narrow definition of the implications of these amendments. The most notable was a few years ago in the Shelby County decision, which overturned a very important part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That’s a law passed under the 15th Amendment. It was passed with virtual unanimity in Congress, forcing jurisdictions in the South that had a long history of discrimination and voting to get prior approval from the federal government before they changed the voting rules. Supreme Court a few years ago said, “Well that’s a violation of federalism. It treats some states more harshly than other states.” Well, these are states that had slavery and not every state did. And also these are states that had consciously removed the right to vote over many years.

Eric Foner: But anyway, so their narrowing the 15th Amendment. Who should have the right to vote is a hot issue in our politics as you well know, with gerrymandering, with various ID and other voter suppression laws. Citizenship, how relevant can you be on our border today? This is being debated all the time. Who has the right to be an American citizen? For example, does the child born in the United States of a undocumented immigrant, is that child automatically an American citizen? Well, language of the 14th Amendment is pretty clear. Yes. Any person born in the United States. Your parents can be bank robbers. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be a citizen of the United States. But President Trump, among other things, has said that he feels he has the right as president to abrogate the first sentence of the 14th Amendment, the birthright citizenship sentence for the children of undocumented immigrants.

Eric Foner: I don’t personally think the president can all by himself eradicate part of the constitution, but some people have tried to do that. So these issues are certainly on our political agenda today and I think an understanding of how the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were enacted, what they were intended to accomplish, can help us think through the implications of that today.

Ed Ayers: Eric Foner is professor emeritus of history at Columbia University. His latest book is The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution. That’s going to do it for us today, but you can keep the conversation going online. Let us know what you thought of the episode or ask us your questions about history. You’ll find this at backstoryradio.org or send an email to backstory@Virginia.edu. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter at Backstory Radio. Special thanks this week to Jerry [inaudible 00:34:10] and Katie Gary.

Ed Ayers: Backstory is produced at Virginia Humanities. Major support is provided by an anonymous donor, the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial foundation, the Johns Hopkins University and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this podcast do not necessarily represent those that the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support is provided by the Tomato Fund, cultivating fresh ideas in the arts, the humanities, and the environment.

Speaker 6: Brian Balogh is professor of history at the University of Virginia. Ed Ayers is professor of the humanities and president emeritus of the University of Richmond. Joanne Freeman is professor of history and American studies at Yale University. Nathan Connolly is the Herbert Baxter Adams associate professor of history at the Johns Hopkins University. Backstory was created by Andrew Wyndham for Virginia Humanities.

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Aeon_LogoAeon es una revista digital que se publica desde del año 2010, dedicada  a la producción y diseminación “of the most profound and provocative thinking on the web.” Semanalmente publican artículos de temas muy  variados, donde destacan la filosofía, las ciencias y las artes.

En su edición del 8 de agosto de 2019, Aeon comparte con sus lectores un documento de gran utilidad para entender los debates raciales y sociales en la sociedad estadounidense de la década de 1960. El 26 de octubre de 1965, el escritor y activista afroamericano James Baldwin y el intelectual conservador William F. Buckley debatieron en la famosa Cambridge Union Debating Society. La discusión giró alrededor de una de las preguntas claves de la historia estadounidense: Has the American Dream been achieved at the expense of the American Negro? Este interrogante va directo al papel que jugó la esclavitud en el desarrollo de lo Estados Unidos.

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La Cambridge Union Debating Society fue fundada en el año 1815, y desde entonces ha sido una foro para la discusión y debate de ideas. En  sus más de doscientos años de vida, la Union ha contado con figuras como Anthony Eden, David Lloyd George,  Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Jawaharlal Nehru, el Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Judi Dench,  Vanessa Redgrave, Stephen Hawkings, entre otros.

El debate entre Baldwin y Buckley se da en el contexto de la lucha de los afroamericanos por sus derechos civiles, la guerra de Vietnam y el desarrollo de la contracultura. Buckley y Baldwin reflejan las grandes diferencias en como los progresistas y  los conservadores entendían (y entienden)  la historia estadounidense, la justicia social y el racismo. 

No puedo dejar de citar a Baldwin, que con la claridad que lo caracterizaba señaló lo siguiente:

This means, in the case of an American Negro, born in that glittering republic, and the moment you are born, since you don’t know any better, every stick and stone and every face is white. And since you have not yet seen a mirror, you suppose that you are, too. It comes as a great shock around the age of 5, or 6, or 7, to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance, along with everybody else, has not pledged allegiance to you. (1)

Los interesados en esta joya pueden acceder aquí.


(1) https://www.rimaregas.com/2015/06/07/transcript-james-baldwin-debates-william-f-buckley-1965-blog42/

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red-summer-chicago

Chicago, 1919

Este año conmemoramos el centenario de uno de los episodios de violencia racial más vergonzosos de la historia estadounidense, el llamado Red Summer. En 1919,  se registraron en Estados Unidos 89 linchamientos y 25 motines raciales en un periodo de siete meses.  El peor de estos motines duró trece días en la ciudad de  Chicago y causó 38 muertes y 537 heridos, dejando a mil familias sin casa. El regreso de miles de veteranos negros de Europa fue visto por muchos blancos como una amenaza contra el orden racial predominante. Los veteranos negros regresaron pensando que sus sacrificios en defensa de la nación serían recompensados con un trato más justo de parte de su sociedad. Desafortunadamente, sus expectativas no se cumplieron, pues a su regreso continuaron siendo víctimas del racismo y la discriminación. Sus justos reclamos fueron respondidos con violencia.

A-white-mob-attempts-to-abduct-a-black-man

Turba de hombres blancos tratando de secuestrar a un negro.

Se desconoce el número exacto de afro-americanos que fueron asesinados durante los siete meses que se extendió la violencia en su contra. Se sospecha que fueron cientos. Tal nivel de violencia inspiró al poeta afroamericano Claude McKay su famoso poema “If We Must Die”.

If We Must Die

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

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