Saturday, September 24, 2016

"They’ll see how beautiful I am — and be ashamed — I, too, am America." -- Langston Hughes

Yesterday (by the time most of you read this, as I'm late in getting to it), at around noon-time, our 44th President spoke at the opening ceremony of what is certainly the definitive museum of African American History in these United States.

Like the countless stories of the peoples it documents, this project has traveled a slow and winding road. But now, it is open -- in D.C. -- and I will be there very, very soon to see it, with my own eyes.

As President Obama said, it is, in truth a series of stories that is the story of all of America. I might add that -- though tinged with significantly more adversity -- than the average American narrative, as these interlaced series of narratives unfolded over the last four hundred plus years in America -- astonishingly, far more often than not, they brought glory to all the people of this nation. Despite what the Ohio County Chairwoman (now replaced) for the Trump campaign has said, it is a story of immense successes -- against very, very long odds. Odds long stacked primarily by white men, and this nation's laws, against even a chance to read -- let alone advance. But as the museum's collection well-documents, advance so many did.

I'll choose just a small bit of the material that the White House historians themselves have contributed to the museum, as my imagery at right, and pull-quote focal point, below.

I know those of you with a real thirst for a non-sugar coated version of our history -- American history -- will visit in person. So I'll choose just this one smallish glass case that most of the MSM has overlooked, at least for today:

. . . .[The image is. . . the] Fisk Jubilee Singers, a choir from the Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee that first opened its doors during the Civil War for former slaves, became the first African American choir to perform at the White House in 1882. . . .

The group was originally organized as a fundraising effort for Fisk University. . . . At several points, the university faced serious financial difficulty. To avert bankruptcy and closure, Fisk's treasurer and music director, George L. White, a white Northern missionary, gathered a nine-member student chorus to go on tour to earn money for the university. On October 6, 1871, the group of students, consisting of two quartets and a pianist, started their U.S. tour under White's direction. They first performed in Cincinnati, Ohio. Over the next 18 months, the group toured through Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. . . .

After a concert in Cincinnati, the group donated their small profit, which amounted to less than fifty dollars, to the relief to the victims of the Great Chicago Fire of October 1871. As soprano Maggie Porter recalled, "We had thirty dollars and sent every penny to Chicago and didn’t have anything for ourselves. . . ."

The group was awarded the 2008 National Medal of Arts during the Administration of President George W. Bush. . . .

Lovely. Just. . . lovely. Here we learn more about several young people (at least a few of whom were very likely born into bondage) -- sent out on the road -- to try to keep this now storied Nashville institution of higher learning for people of color from going under, in its earliest days. They likely awoke one morning in October, only to read -- in the Cincinnati papers -- of the Chicago Fire of 1871. And they chose to send every penny on, to relief efforts, without any more self-interested thought.

That my friends is the history of America -- this is no separate history museum -- this IS American history. It is right well and good that the narrative be focused there -- on African Americans. Make no mistake (as the President said) -- this museum also shows us that love of country sometimes includes a need to speak out, when she is wrong -- to address her short-comings. That too is patriotic -- and that too is (as Mr. Hughes wrote). . . America. And we know Mr. Trump would be the polar opposite of all of that. I do trust that HRC completely understands how many voices, sometimes even rightfully discordant voices, are what makes America the great place that it is today. Still flawed, true -- but so much progress. So much. I do love America -- and I respect every story she tells.


No comments: