Retro-Post number 5: “Race–and History–Matter” (April 1, 2013)

[Note: Anyone who has followed this blog for a while is surely aware that one of my constant themes is the significance of race in the history of the United States. Here is an early example of that dictum, from the Spring of 2013, a post entitled “Race–and History–Matter.” The theme of the post is that when folks deny the significance of race in this nation’s past, they’re wandering off into the weeds of historical misunderstanding.

This is one of my favorite posts, and it also has attracted many readers of “Retired But Note Shy” over the past decade or so. “Race–and History–Matters” is, thus, an obvious candidate for inclusion among my “retro-posts,” that hardy band of (mostly early) essays intended to inform visitors to the blog of, um, “where I was coming from.” [Please excuse the “1960s-ism.”]

I hope that you’ll enjoy it!]

Posted in Age of Jim Crow, American History, Books, building a classroom persona, Civil Rights Movement, Constitution of 1787, Current Events, Dr. Martin Luther King, Education, Georgia History, Historical Reflection, History, History Curriculum, History Teaching, Interdisciplinary Work, Martin Luther King, Popular Culture, prep school teaching with a PhD, Research, Retirement, Southern (Georgia) History, Southern History, Teaching | 4 Comments

Blogging Through the Pandemic 2.0: “Retired But Not Shy” at Twelve (revised)

https://georgelamplugh.com/2022/06/30/blogging-through-the-pandemic-2-0-retired-but-not-shy-at-twelve/

[Note: In June, I put up a post supposedly summarizing the twelfth year of this blog. Problem was, though, that I wasn’t really ready to do it, yet my self-set deadline pushed me onward. I was not happy with the result, but I did nothing through the rest of June, nor did I think about it again when the time came to create a post for July.

Now, however, I am ready. I hope to put up a more detailed post of what I tried to achieve between July 2021 and June 2022.

Any comments, pro- or con-, will be welcomed by yours truly.

The following listings do not include visits to either “Home Page,” “Archives,” or “About.”]

* * * * *

New Posts, Year Twelve, 2021-2022:

Fourth of July Orations in Antebellum Georgia, 2

The Civil War in Fifty Minutes, Part 1

The Civil War in Fifty Minutes, Part 2

Yazoo and Upcountry Georgia, Part 1

Yazoo and Upcountry Georgia, Part 2

“Retro-Posts,” 1: An Introduction: “About” page; First Post

MLK Day, 2022, and “Retro-Post,” 2

“Retro-Post,” 3

Reflections on Race, Part 1

Reflections on Race, Part 2

“Retro-Post,” 4

Shakespeare’s Plays as a Pandemic Project

[Note: “Retired But Not Shy” has just finished its twelfth year. When I began back in June 2010, I was worried that I would not be able to provide fresh material for the blog. But, boy, did I ever surprised myself: by now, I’ve put up more than two hundred posts! Still, I wondered how many of those posts loyal visitors had read. So, this year, to help readers of “Retired But Not Shy” along, I created “Retro-posts.” For these, I dived into the blog’s archives and retrieved several early posts that I hoped would inform current readers of what I had wanted to achieve “back in the day” (i.e., when I launched the blog but had scarcely a clue as to what that entailed). I’m not sure how helpful this strategy was, but I shall probably continue “Retro-posts” at least through year thirteen.]

Top Ten Posts, Year Twelve, 2021-2022:

Mississippi Blues Trail, Part 1

Howlin’ Wolf

Post for the 4th of July for in Georgia, 2019

My Vietnam War and Welcome to It

Prep School Teaching with a PhD, Part 1

Skip James

Blues Theology, Part 1

Yazoo Land Fraud, Part 1

The New South: Myth and Reality

Teaching History “Backwards”

Top Ten Posts of All Time, 2010-2022:

Prep School Teaching with a PhD, Part 1

Teaching History “Backwards

Georgia Governor Wilson Lumpkin, 1831-1835

Son House

Blues Theology, Part 1

Yazoo Land Fraud, Part 1

Mississippi John Hurt

Bobby “Blue” Bland

Skip James

Chitlin’ Circuit

* * * * * *

For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

Rancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

Posted in American History, Historical Reflection, History, History Teaching, Interdisciplinary Work, Retirement, Southern History, Uncategorized, Year in Review | 4 Comments

The Making of a Racist

[Note:  This post is another in a series examining the Jim Crow-mindset of southern Whites after the Civil War, this time through the eyes of Williams College history professor Charles B. Dew, who grew up in the Jim Crow South.  The title he has selected for his memoir, The Making of a Racist is in some ways misleading; more apt to his topic might be the subtitle: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade.]

* * * * *

Author Charles B. Dew describes this book as “a strange combination of autobiography and history—the story of my growing up on the white side of the color line in the Jim Crow South, my engagement as an adult with southern history, and the power of the past, and on occasion a single piece of documentary evidence, to rock us back on our heels and send us off in a quest for understanding.” (ix-x)

In writing this volume, Dew was inspired by primary sources he has encountered on the slave trade, especially one:  an 1860 broadside on “market conditions” from a Richmond, Virginia, slave auction firm. He has spent his career trying to understand the South, especially the role of race in its formation and the impact of that development up to the present.  One of Charles B. Dew’s ancestors, Thomas Roderick Dew, wrote in 1832 that “Virginia is in fact a negro raising state; she produces enough for her own supply and six thousand for sale.” (2)  This proved to be a heavy legacy for Professor Dew.

About half the book is an autobiography, emphasizing how Dew was taught what to believe about race as he was growing up, which, he claims, made him an “accidental racist” (i.e., he didn’t realize what was happening to him until it was too late).

* * * * *

Charles B. Dew was born in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1937, to middle class parents, Amy Meek and Jack Carlos Dew, both of whom had southern roots. Dew’s mother was called “Dear,” his father Pop, by him and his siblings. Pop’s brothers, who put him through college and law school at the University of Virginia, were businessmen. Jack Carlos Dew met Amy Meek at UVa; they had planned to marry, but the Great Depression forced a postponement until 1931.  Pop established his law practice in St. Petersburg, where young Charles had a “Confederate youth.”  For instance, his paternal grandmother belonged to the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), and she presented him with a subscription to the UDC magazine.

When Charles turned fourteen, he received from Pop a .22 caliber rifle and a set of Douglas Southall Freeman’s Lee’s Lieutenants. Pop’s law partner presented the youngster with Facts the Historians Leave Out: A Youth’s Confederate Primer, which blamed everything on the North, including slavery! (17-19). Both Charles and his older brother were offered the chance to attend Woodberry Forest School in Virginia, and each accepted. Charles admits that he “grew up,” to some extent, during his time at Woodberry Forest, but the place also solidified his “Confederate” views of the South and its history, thanks in part to his American History teacher.

Summing up what he learned as a youngster, Dew asserts that his “education” made him “part of the problem, the major problem of the South of my era: racial injustice on a massive scale, cradle-to-grave segregation. I had become a son of the Jim Crow South.” (60)

* * * * *

In explaining how he became a racist, Charles Dew recalls a book of stories about Ezekiel by Elvira Garner (1937) that his mother read to him when he was young. In retrospect, he sees the volume as the beginning of his education about the southern view of race—told in Negro dialect, it reinforced White folks’ stereotypical view of Black people. Growing up, Dew also could see examples of southern White social customs regarding Blacks all around him—separate eating utensils; no use of titles in addressing Black employees; the requirement that Blacks come to the back door if they needed to communicate with White members of household.

One of Pop’s favorite books, frequently quoted, was an anti-Eleanor Roosevelt screed, Weep No More, My Lady, apparently set off by Mrs. Roosevelt’s view of the South and the Negro as revealed in her newspaper column, “My Day.” The southern White male fear of interracial sex (instigated by “lusty” Black males, of course) was made explicit in this volume. The lesson Charles Dew drew from the volume was that “absolutely nothing was more important to white southerners, and particularly white southern men, than defending the purity of white southern womanhood.” (42) Moreover, Pop and other White southerners viewed Black women as sex-crazed “Jezebels” who set their caps for southern men. 

Dear believed that segregation was best for both races, as did Pop.  And yet, when their Black maid, Illinois, and her husband Joe Culver could not find “decent” housing, the Dews pulled some strings to get them into “better” quarters. (47)  Another book young Charles received when he turned fourteen was Eneas Africanus, by Harry Stillwell Edwards, a collection of stories about a grown-up version of Elvira Garner’s Ezekiel that reinforced “Sambo” or “good darkie” stereotype. Dew argues that books like Ezekiel and Eneas Africanus circulated widely among White southerners. He claims that they did yeoman work in shaping White southern racial views, serving as “the equivalent of a Jim Crow blogosphere, confirming crude and outrageous stereotypes, validating sulfurous misinformation and historical myth, and elevating our prejudices and our bigotries to the status of revealed truth.” (52)

* * * * *

Dew was, like every high school senior everywhere, caught up in the chase for the perfect college; as a consequence, the U.S. Supreme Court’s epochal Brown decision pretty much went over his head. Still, Pop made no secret of his “rock-ribbed conservative” ideas on that and other subjects. Pop also was increasingly a drinker, and eventually an alcoholic. However, when the time came for college, Mr. Dew, perhaps surprisingly, urged his sons to attend Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  He was a believer in the power of education, especially of the liberal arts variety at colleges that were “first-rate teaching” institutions. Once again, he left the choice up to his sons, and they did as he wanted. While he never asked Pop why he was so high on Williams College, Charles Dew speculates that his father believed Williams would provide the sort of education he favored, but without affecting their views about the South and race.

Dew admits that his views on race changed, but he contends that the process took a very long time. He argued with books that challenged his beliefs, while also being embarrassed by a defender of “the southern way of life” who spoke at Williams and delivered “one of the most intellectually barren and boring talks I had ever heard.” (30)  Dew also told a racist joke within hearing of a Black Williams classmate, who might, or might not, have heard it, which brought him up short and remains a painful memory. So, yes, eventually Charles Dew would emerge from his racism, but the process—and his memories of it—raise an even more painful question: “How had I, we, all of us white southerners, become such unthinking racists to begin with?” (32)

* * * * *

Dew credits his mother, Dear, who had instilled kindness in both him and his older brother, with playing a key role in his escape from racism, though that happened gradually. He was so relaxed about race while living at Williams that he only noticed the change when he returned home for vacation, when he saw the “Jim Crow curtain” descend upon the dining car in his train.  Dew also started to pay attention to race-related current events like the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Massive Resistance in Virginia. He found out that his Uncle Jimmy, a physician in Orangeburg, South Carolina, felt that he “had to” join the local White Citizens Council to protect his livelihood and his family.

Moreover, young Charles began “really talking” to his family’s maid, Illinois Culver, about Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement when he drove her home after work during his last two summer vacations while in college.  He began to see the color line from her side, until one day she posed the question that would push him towards the study of southern history: “Charles, why do the [White] grown-ups put so much hate in the children?” (73)

* * * * *

Two events during Dew’s senior year at Williams also proved crucial. One involved extending the hand of friendship to a Jewish student who had initially been barred from the college’s fraternities. Then, a national officer for Dew’s own fraternity told him, “Charles, I hope the house here will have the good sense never to pledge a nigger.” (77)  Dew also took “a life-changing seminar on the history of the Old South” as a junior, in which his professor showed him that there was much more to the history of race in the pre-Civil War South than had been handed down to him when he was younger. He did his honors thesis under this professor, which determined him to major in history and aim for graduate school. 

In March 1958, while speaking with Pop after dinner, Charles finally had had enough of his father’s denigration of the Brown decision, and he lashed back. When Charles returned to Williams, his mother called and begged him to call Pop and apologize, which he did. This was toward the end of his senior year, when he had already been accepted for grad school at Johns Hopkins University, where he would study under renowned southern historian C. Vann Woodward. 

Thereafter, relations between Pop and Charles warmed some, although Charles learned that it was wiser to discuss professional football than politics.  Pop died of leukemia in 1975, at the age of 72. His death also freed Dear to leave Jim Crow behind—she died in 1991, at 86. Her son concluded that, “In the end, despite everything that had gone before, my parents helped me bend the arc of my own moral universe, my personal moral universe, toward justice.” (86)

* * * * *

At a conference after publishing his second book, about a Virginia iron manufacturer and his slave workers, Charles Dew was stopped in his tracks by a Black participant, who asked how someone as white as he, was writing about Black history. After dancing around the question for a bit, Dew replied that he’d been drawn to the study of slavery because he wanted to know how southern Whites had been able to come to terms with, first, slavery, and then, Jim Crow segregation—how could they see the evil around them every day and say so little about it? 

In the late 1970s, Professor Dew was offered a permanent post at Williams College, where he found a document in the special collections section in the library that metaphorically smacked him across the face, and he’s never forgotten it.  It was a printed broadside reviewing the slave market prices at the Richmond, Virginia, firm of Betts & Gregory, dated August 2, 1860, which, to Dew, encapsulated in one page “what lay at the core of the South’s slave system—the chattel principle, human beings as property, as commodities, as merchandise.” (97)  Dew put the document into context: it was issued in the summer of 1860, with civil war seemingly looming on the horizon. This broadside listed categories of slaves as merchandise, the prices for each (without consideration of the slaves’ humanity).  In sum, the broadside illustrated “a world of unspeakable human degradation and exploitation.” (105)  Professor Dew used this broadside with his history students thereafter, meanwhile realizing that he needed to discover how such a world came to pass.

Greed was certainly part of the answer, he believed. At its heart, Dew argues, it was all about race, beginning with, of course, belief in White supremacy, from which flowed everything else. Nevertheless, Charles Dew asserts that “we are not doomed by it.  We can do better, we have done better.  But we must do better still.” (167) 

And all of this is what he’s being telling his students for decades now—and through this book, the rest of us.

Professor Charles B. Dew

* * * * * *

For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

Rancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Blogging Through the Pandemic, 2.0–“Retired But Not Shy” at Twelve

[Note: Ah, yes, the end of another blog year at “Retired But Not Shy”! Twelve years and counting, I guess. This past year has been difficult, what with the continuation of the pandemic and the need to create new posts for this blog. I’ve tried my best, but I’m still not sure how well I’ve fulfilled my responsibilities. Oh, well, we’ll see, I suppose!]

* * * * *

The top ten posts for year twelve (July 2021-June 2022)

Mississippi Blues Trail, Part 1

Howlin’ Wolf

Post for the 4th of July for in Georgia, 2019

My Vietnam War and Welcome to It

Prep School Teaching with a PhD, Part 1

Skip James

Blues Theology, Part 1

Yazoo Land Fraud, Part 1

The New South: Myth and Reality

Teaching History Backwards

The top ten posts all-time (June 2010-June 2012):

Prep School Teaching with a PhD, Part 1

Teaching History Backwards

Georgia Governor Wilson Lumpkin, 1831-1835

Son House

Blues Theology, Part 1

Yazoo Land Fraud, Part 1

Mississippi John Hurt

Bobby “Blue” Bland

Skip James

Chitlin’ Circuit

* * * * * *

For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP Cover

Rancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Taking on Shakespeare’s Plays as a “Pandemic Project”

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.  New York:  Barnes & Noble, 1994. (Based on Arthur Henry Bullen’s Stratford Town Edition, Shakespeare Head Press, 1904.)

            [Note:  When I retired in May 2010, after teaching for thirty-seven years at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, GA, the first thing I did was to purchase two hefty volumes that I hoped would grease the skids into my retirement. An entry from my journal, written a decade later, reveals that the completion of that plan was long delayed:

25 May 2020:

            Yes!  I’ve finally begun my long-delayed project to read all of Shakespeare’s plays.  I bought the book at Barnes & Noble as I retired from Westminster in late May 2010, along with Tolstoy’s War and Peace, which I read early on. 

            The Shakespeare volume was surprisingly inexpensive, I guess because it was based on a 1904 version printed in Great Britain and was presumably now in the public domain.  Except for a fairly thin glossary in the back, this version includes no essays, notes, or other scholarly apparatus.  It’s lovely to look at and handle, though: heavy, faux leather covers; a generous use of gold leaf on front and rear covers, spine, and the edges of the pages; and colorful “marbled” end pages suggesting a large flock of peacocks viewed close-up from above, with tails spread.

What I did not expect, however, was that reading Shakespeare’s plays would become a “pandemic project” for me, once Covid-19 shut the country down.  But it did—you can’t make this stuff up, right? What follows explains how it happened.]

* * * * *

The first thing I need to mention is that I was not an English teacher, though once upon a time I had wanted to be.  Rather, I was a historian.  So, where did my interest in the works of the Bard come from? Well, first of all, I had of course read “the usual suspects” in the Shakespearean canon in high school and college.  But, still, memories of those “warhorses” did not whet my interest to read the complete plays.  So, what did?

One of the “what” was a “who”: Eddie DuPriest, an English teacher at Westminster and a good friend.  Eddie is a Shakespeare fanatic.  He inherited the Shakespeare course from Westminster’s legendary Shakespeare teacher, David T. Lauderdale, and for the rest of his career at the school, DuPriest labored to make it his own.  And he largely succeeded.

Eddie loves to talk, as I do, and we spent hours over our years at Westminster discussing curriculum.  I was not a big fan of interdisciplinary learning, though, and I missed a real chance to broaden my horizons.  Eddie and one of my History Department colleagues, Dave Drake, agreed to co-teach a Shakespeare course wherein Eddie would handle the plays from the English teacher’s perspective, and Dave would provide the historical context.

* * * * *

And then there was Covid-19. For a decade after I retired, the lovely volume of Shakespeare’s complete works was on my desk, a daily challenge that I managed to avoid confronting, at least until the nation “shut down” because of the pandemic. That was the proverbial “last straw”: I decided to read all of Shakespeare’s plays in chronological order of publication (at least according to the editor of the volume I’d purchased).

* * * * *

I completed the earliest play, “The First Part of King Henry the Sixth,” over Memorial Day weekend in May 2020.  By early October of that year, I had read fifteen of the plays, through “The First Part of King Henry the Fourth.”  Then I took the first of several breaks.

I returned to my self-appointed pandemic task on May 2, 2021, with “The Second Part of King Henry the Fourth.” This success touched off a spurt of Shakespearean energy on my part that carried me through six additional plays over the next month, ending with “Twelfth Night” on June 2.  Time for another break, though a shorter one. 

I resumed with “Hamlet” in late July, finishing it on August 1. Another burst of activity ensued, which carried me through “Troilus and Cressida,” “All’s Well That Ends Well,” and “Measure for Measure” by the end of August.

My next break lasted for seven months, until March of 2022, when I read “Othello,” followed by “Macbeth,” “King Lear,” “Anthony and Cleopatra,” and “Coriolanus” through the end the month.

April 2022 featured several less well-known (to me, anyway) works:  “Timon of Athens,” “Pericles,” “Cymbeline,” and “The Winter’s Tale,” none of which thrilled me, though they were part of the Shakespeare canon. 

On May 11, I finished “The Tempest”; four days later, on May 15, I added “King Henry the Eighth.,” and, thus, completed reading Shakespeare’s plays, which meant that the project had lasted almost exactly two years. (Of course, Covid-19 still hung on stubbornly, though the panic associated with its outbreak had diminished by then.)

* * * * *

            Assuming that my “pandemic project” to read the complete plays of William Shakespeare had been successful, so what? 

            Well, first of all, my self-appointed task carried me through the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, no mean feat when you think of it.  (Occasionally, I’d think about that group of Italians who, in Boccaccio’s Decameron, took refuge in the supposedly “safer” Italian countryside in hopes of escaping the Black Plague.)

Moreover, I have to wonder how many other folks out there can honestly say that they’ve read every play by William Shakespeare, pandemic or no pandemic.

            Finally, there was the review of Elizabethan English I received every time I opened the Shakespearean tome and began to read.  Yes, there was that minimalist glossary at the back of the book; but, because it was less than exhaustive, reading each drama or comedy could occasionally become difficult.  In the end, though, I welcomed the challenge, and the closer I got to the end of the “project,” the more excited I became. 

* * * * *

Do I wish the collection had included a more detailed glossary?  Sure!  Can I tell you much about the Bard’s plays that I read for the first time during this unplanned exercise?  No, though, if pressed, I could list the plays that disappointed me, because, although they were by Shakespeare, they were not nearly as engrossing as the ones I was more familiar with. Put another way, his perhaps less than scintillating plays simply reminded me that, before he became a world-renowned playwright, William Shakespeare was just another English dramatist trying to make ends meet.

But, looking back on this two-year journey into the art of William Shakespeare, am I glad I did it?  Absolutely!  Like education in general, reading Shakespeare’s plays, once you’ve done it, is something that no one can take away from you, even if, like me, you’ll not have much of an opportunity to share that knowledge with anyone.

Oh, wait–that’s what I’ve just done! Who says blogging is an empty exercise?  Certainly not me!

* * * * * *

For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP Cover

Rancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

Posted in Education, Interdisciplinary Work, memoir, Prep School, prep school teaching with a PhD, Retirement, Shakespeare's Plays, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Retro-Posts, 4: Assault and Battery on the Mother Tongue–“Business-Speak” [September 25, 2012]

[Note: This relatively brief post is almost a decade old, and it remains one of my favorites. Back in the Fall of 2012, as I was reading our daily paper, I ran across a couple of items that got my dander up: the first was a quote from a bank official offering the company’s line on an increase in their ATM fee; the second was an advertisement for a newly-opened “memorial park.” The blog post that resulted from this encounter with what I call “business-speak” helped launch me into the airy realm of [occasional] “cultural criticism.”]

* * * * *

Once upon a time, I wanted to teach English, and, though things didn’t work out that way, I’ve maintained a love affair with the language.  Nothing gets me hotter under the collar faster than writing that is sloppy, imprecise, deceptive, or unclear–for example, those well-worn, cliche-filled statements issued every couple of months by the public relations “flacks” retained by Big Oil to “explain” the unexplainable, the “reasons” for the latest rise in the price of gas, to American consumers. However, many drivers understand all too well what’s going on–the motoring public is being asked, once again, collectively to lie on their backs and think of England.

Well, this morning’s AJC (the local fish wrapper) contained a two-fer in this category of assaulting the intelligence of the American public in pursuit of higher profits:

First, from a story in the Business section headlined “Atlanta high for ATM, overdraft fees,” we find this gem of mindless volubility from a spokesman for a local bank, um, “explaining” his employer’s recent decision to increase the fee for a customer’s first overdraft from $25 to $36:  “We are constantly evaluating our product mix and making price adjustments as necessary based on numerous factors including our cost of doing business and the competitive marketplace, balanced with meeting the needs of our clients.”  Translation:  “Why do we screw the banking public at every opportunity?  Because we can. . . .”

The second example of murdering the language in the service of capitalism comes from an ad by a local “memorial park” announcing, in language reeking of what I’ll call “precious-ness,” a new “development”:  “a private community area with a botanical garden feel.  A custom pavilion surrounded by immaculate landscaping is the focal point of this upscale garden and includes options for cremation, traditional burial and private family areas.  Each traditional burial space is inclusive of the necessary outer burial containers and a custom designed granite memorial to minimize the decision making process.” I don’t know about you, but, after reading that, I can hardly wait to go to my reward, especially since these wonderful folks have done their darndest “to minimize the decision making process.”

As more than one observer has noted, you can’t make this stuff up, or, if you did, it wouldn’t be nearly as smarmy as the real thing.

* * * * * *

For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP Cover

Rancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Reflections on Race, Part 2 (Teaching Civil Rights, 15)

[Note: This is the concluding part of a look at how, in retrospect, I came to terms with the question of race in the history of this nation, which I taught for forty years; its present, where I live; and its future, which will be the world my children will inherit. It has been a life-long journey.  In Part 1, I identified key moments in my early life that shaped this experience—the dramatic events, and stunning pictures, of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s; my love of history, which would lead me into the classroom; and my first real exposure to living in an integrated world, as an officer in the U.S. Army between 1966 and 1968.]     

* * * * *

Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia (1968-1973)— At the end of my tour of active duty in the U.S. Army, I enrolled in  graduate school in History at Emory University. I was not born in the South, nor, except for Army training at Fort Lee, Virginia, had I spent any time in the “real South” before we moved to Georgia. And I came here with certain preconceptions about Georgia (whose Governor at that time was the ever-popular Lester Maddox, who had been elected largely on the strength of his determination to use axe handles to drive Black customers from his chicken restaurant!), and about the region as a whole. 

For example, I had arrived in Atlanta under the impression that its Black citizens were probably being treated as second-class citizens, but that turned out to be more complicated. Soon after I entered grad school at Emory, I also began undergoing a long-term treatment at an orthodontist whose practice was in downtown Atlanta. I traveled there every couple of weeks, by bus. Now, this was the late 1960s and the early 1970s. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were “old news” when I arrived. But, here’s what I observed during my regular bus rides to Dr. Morrison’s office:

When older Black adults, who had grown up during the Age of Jim Crow, boarded the bus, most of them seemed automatically to pick up their ticket at the front of the bus, then move to the rear, as had been mandatory before the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Younger Black riders, on the other hand, paid their fares, took their tickets, then sat anywhere they wanted, even right behind the bus driver.

When I began to teach American History at Emory as part of my fellowship, I mentioned this, to me, interesting dichotomy, and, later, when I was teaching the same course across town at a prep school, I continued to use that example to suggest some of the long-term effects of the Age of Jim Crow on Black folks who had lived under its mandates, as well as of the freeing effect of the Civil Rights Act on younger African Americans.

[Note: The Greater Atlanta Area always has been, in some ways, in the “real South” but not of it.  Even after my wife and I arrived in Atlanta and read The Atlanta Constitution, local journalists continually pointed out that there was Atlanta, and then there was the rest of the state of Georgia.]

* * * * *

Looking back on it, what I learned about the South at Emory as a student came primarily from a combination of, first, my training there as a southern historian, and because we continued to live in the Greater Atlanta Area after grad school.

There were not a lot of African American students at Emory during these years, and only a handful among the History grad students I knew.  There also were no Black faculty members in the History Department. During my five years at Emory, I became a historian of the South, thanks mainly to two professors: Dr. James Z. Rabun, from whom I took courses on the American Revolution and the Old South, and who directed my dissertation; and Dr. Bell I. Wiley, whose legendary course on the Civil War drew throngs of undergraduate and graduate students each year. Moreover, preparing for comprehensive exams, required before I could begin research on a dissertation, enabled me to fill in gaps in my historical knowledge, including what was then called Black History.

It was also while in graduate school that I finished the rest of the military obligation I had accepted when I enrolled in the Advanced ROTC program at the University of Delaware in 1964.  Those remaining two years in uniform came as a member of an Army Reserve Quartermaster unit in Rome, Georgia, northwest of Atlanta.  Once more, I experienced life in an integrated environment, at least one weekend a month and two weeks each summer, which reinforced the impact of my first two years of Army duty on my view of race. The Army was the most integrated organization I had been involved with in my life to that point, and it played a major role in enabling me to come to terms with the question of race in American society. Working together in an integrated, interracial Army unit opened up a broader view of American society.  

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The Westminster Schools, Atlanta, Ga. (1973-2010)—When, in the Spring of 1973, I signed on to teach History at an Atlanta prep school, I felt very well prepared, especially in American History.  Whether that would prove true, though, was by no means guaranteed.

Atlanta was, in the 1970s, the self-proclaimed “Capital of the New South,” but a good many White Atlanta residents, even some who were college-educated and affluent (including a number of Westminster parents), seemed to be looking for a pro-Southern Civil War version of the past, as portrayed in Atlanta native Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind (1936) and the blockbuster film based on it that premiered there in 1939.

As part of my preparation to teach American History at Westminster, I began to read more widely about the role of African Americans in the making of the South and the nation. During my early years at the school, based upon my experience in college, I told my senior American History classes that, if they really wished to learn about the power of racism, a Klan meeting was a great place to do so.  At that time, the Ku Klux Klan still advertised in Atlanta newspapers their annual meeting atop Georgia’s Stone Mountain each Thanksgiving night (where the Klan had been reborn early in the twentieth century following release of D.W. Griffith’s epic film, “Birth of a Nation”). The ads were low-key, simply inviting those curious about the Klan and its beliefs to attend. To my knowledge, none of my students took me up on that recommendation, although a few parents were unhappy with my suggestion when they learned of it!

At Westminster I helped develop and teach a course, “The South and the Sectional Image” that had originated in an assignment in an “Education” course that I was required to take in order to become certified to teach History on the high school level in Georgia. One year, a colleague and I even arranged to show “Birth of a Nation” after school to our classes.  To do this, we had to contact parents, explain our rationale for showing the film, and agree not to penalize students who opted out of the viewing.  As I recollect, the evening, while a bit tense at the outset, turned out pretty well, and we received little negative feedback.

I also had several opportunities to speak with local independent school teachers and other audiences about the significance of race in trying to understand the history of the South. (See, for example.)

My study of one African-American contribution to this nation’s cultural history, the Blues, and of the historical context in which it arose, convinced me that, to understand the Modern American Civil Rights Movement, it was absolutely essential to treat the Jim Crow South, so that my students would understand what it was that the Civil Rights Movement was trying to escape from, and why. (See, for example).

That view definitely carried over into the course I inherited a few years before I retired, “The History of the Modern American Civil Rights Movement.” When I revised the syllabus, I opened the course with several weeks on the “Age of Jim Crow.”  Probably because of my undiminished admiration for The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the wealth of material available to supplement our texts, though, I never got much past King’s assassination over the remainder of the course.

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Retirement (2010-Present)—when I retired from Westminster, I had “all the time in the world” to work on scholarly projects, which eventually produced two books, published in 2015 (see below).  Moreover, because I missed my role as editor of the school’s History Department Newsletter, I decided to launch a blog. Now in its twelfth year, “Retired But Not Shy,” has allowed me to continue researching the Age of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement and share what I’ve learned. 

More recently, in this era of Covid 19 and of “Black Lives Matter,” I found myself following all sorts of online clues about modern racism, Confederate monuments, and related topics, including Zoom discussions of pressing current issues. These too found their way into the blog.

It’s been a long road, one I plan to continue exploring. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

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For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

Rancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

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Reflections on Race, Part 1 (Teaching Civil Rights, 15)

[Note:  This is another in a series of  posts about a white person who grew up in the South during the Age of Jim Crow and managed to come to terms with the question of race, though usually much later in life.  The difference here is that, while I grew up during the Age of Jim Crow, I did not (exactly) live in the South.  Rather, I resided in Maryland and in Delaware, both so-called “Border Slave States” at the outbreak of the Civil War.  But the race issue was still a factor, and coming to terms with it has been a constant effort in my life over the past half century or so.]

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Middle River, near Baltimore, Maryland (1950s)—Victory Villa was a jerry-built development originally constructed to house workers at the nearby Martin Aircraft Company plant during World War II.  By the time my family moved there after the war, the area was a White working-class neighborhood.  And yet, the “N-Word” was heard frequently, especially from the lips of one of our neighbors, from New England, who had a large family and taught his sons not to take any “stuff” off of Black kids.  Instead, he encouraged them to fight back, swiftly and effectively, if threatened or challenged. 

The strange thing was that, as best I can remember, there were no Black people either in Victory Villa or in our local elementary school, but somehow that didn’t seem to matter. In short, I was raised in an atmosphere where Black people, though not actually present, were still somehow deemed distant threats.

I was a child of the television age, and a young “news junkie” as well.  I found TV news film in the 1950s about civil rights simply mesmerizing.  I watched a lot of it, and the experience reoriented my view of our American world:  To me, Blacks became heroes, and angry southern Whites, villains. And, by the late 1950s, I fretted that the nation was headed down the road to a new Civil War (not that I understood much about the original Civil War, since I had just entered my teenage years in 1957).

I don’t recall a lot of comments from my parents about African Americans during this period.  In retrospect, it seemed that they, like many of our neighbors, took for granted that Black people were exotic creatures who did not (thank God!) live around us, but who nevertheless represented some sort of vague threat.  On the other hand, Blacks could be figures of fun:  there was the “Amos and Andy” show on TV, for example; and I remember that, in elementary school, my grade put on a “play” portraying the story of “Little Black Sambo” (I was a tree).

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Newark, Delaware (late 1950s-early 1960s)—In my ninth grade year, our family moved fifty miles or so north of Baltimore, to Newark, a small town in Delaware where my maternal grandparents, Ike and Isabel Knighton, lived. Before our move, my siblings and I had spent time in Newark on the occasional Sunday, and, more importantly, during the summers, perhaps a week or two for each of us each year.  But our parents, Ben and Betts, decided to relocate there, we kids were excited.

I was in ninth grade in Newark Junior High; I quickly made some friends, all of them White.  The next year, I entered Newark High School, where, once more, the overwhelming majority of the students were White.  In my graduating class, for instance, I only remember two Black males.  One, Arnie, was an outstanding athlete.  The other, Marvin, I got to know rather well, though perhaps for the wrong reasons.  We were in the same physical education class, and each year we were the two heaviest boys.  Thus, during the winter, when we had our PE unit in wrestling, Marvin and I invariably were paired as opponents.  It was no contest—I landed on my back virtually every time we wrestled.  But, still, I liked both Marvin and Arnie, though I didn’t socialize with either of them outside of class.

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The University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware (1962-1966)—one of two universities in the state, the University of Delaware was overwhelmingly White (in southern Delaware, there was a historically Black university, Delaware State).  The Black students I remember from my UD years were athletes, some even fraternity men (in predominantly White frats).  I recall no Black professors.  All my friends were White, and I cannot recollect any Black students in my classes.  I do, though, remember being surprised to learn that the paperback text on Reconstruction we used during the second semester of the American History survey course, Reconstruction: After the Civil War, had been written by a Black man, John Hope Franklin. That explained to me why Franklin’s account of Reconstruction was so different from the one I’d grown up with.

And then there was the Ku Klux Klan meeting I and a few college friends attended, when the KKK was trying to expand its reach into Delaware in the mid-1960s. That gathering enabled all of us to see White racism up close and personal and made an indelible impression on me. Although I still can’t believe that my friends and I had the nerve to attend that gathering, I consider the decision to do so a turning point in my understanding of the power of race.

Another important aspect of college for me was the ROTC program (Reserve Officers Training Corps), which all male students were required to take for the first two years, and were “encouraged” to take for their last two years. The era of the Vietnam War comprised years of incredibly shrinking draft exemptions, none of which seemed to apply to me, so I enrolled in Advanced ROTC. This enabled me to graduate on time, in June 1966.  A month later, I entered the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps.

* * * * *

The U.S. Army: Fort Lee, Virginia, and Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland (1966-1968)—my two years of active duty in the Army (1966-1968) put me into the first thoroughly integrated situation I’d ever experienced.  During my basic officer course, my roommate was a Black graduate of Prairie View A&M in Texas.  During his time at Fort Lee, my roommate had an unforgettable experience. He and a date were driving on a back road when they saw lots of lights nearby.  Later, my roommate learned that he had cruised past a Klan rally!

As the home of the Quartermaster Center and School, Fort Lee offered numerous opportunities to African American officers and enlisted men. They were enrolled in courses, enlisted as instructors in the school’s offerings, and visible everywhere one turned.  I got to know numerous Black troops, officers and enlisted men and, as a result, was launched into a thoroughly integrated world.

My next active duty assignment was at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Maryland, a short drive from Baltimore.  APG was the Army’s Ordnance Center and School, where officers and enlisted men learned about new weapons and equipment, how to use and repair them. Because so many of the enlisted men on post were students at the Ordnance School, kitchen police (KP) duty in the mess halls was not required of them.  Instead, the Army arranged for kitchen workers to be bussed to the post daily from Baltimore.  Many of these civilian KPs were young African Americans, working on a contract basis. 

During my last six months at APG, I was assigned to the mostly-civilian Post Quartermaster Office.  I spent time each day visiting dining halls, trying to ensure that the work being performed by the civilian KPs met standards specified in their contract. It was an interesting experience for me, an opportunity to watch integrated KP crews work together, more or less, and to get to know at least some of them “behind the scenes.”

My interest in the modern Civil Rights Movement had arisen in the mid-1950s, and, during my time at APG a decade later, it held pride of place, along with the Vietnam War, in “current events” I followed when my day job allowed.  I well remember the assassination of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968, and the civil unrest that followed.

End of Part 1

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For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

Rancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

Posted in ""state rights", "Education Courses", Age of Jim Crow, American History, Civil Rights Movement, Delaware, History, Interdisciplinary Work, Martin Luther King, Research, Retirement, Southern (Georgia) History, Sun Belt, Teaching, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Retro-Posts, 3: “Well, We’ve All Got to Start Somewhere, I Suppose”

[Note: Last month, I introduced “Retro-Posts,” an occasional series from this blog, which is now in its twelfth year. In that post, I treated two brief items, the current “About” page and what I called the “first post,” “Hello, World,” published on June 14, 2010. This time, I am “Retro-Posting” an essay from eight months later that I think does a better job of explaining the genesis of “Retired But Not Shy” than either (or both!) of those initial efforts. I hope you’ll enjoy, “Well, We’ve All Got to Start Somewhere, I Suppose. . . .]

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Well, We’ve All Got to Start Somewhere, I Suppose. . . .

Posted on February 1, 2011 by georgelamplugh

[Note:  This was my first blog entry, created in June 2010, but for some reason (an error on my part, I’m sure) it was not actually “published” (as a post) but (evidently) was “uploaded” (as a “page”) instead, which, I eventually found out, was not exactly the same thing–I guess.  (Have I mentioned that I was new to the blogging business in June 2010? Well, duh!) Anyway, I’m hoping this will clarify the (perhaps) mysterious origins of RBNS.  I have now updated it to carry the story of “doing history outside the classroom” to the end of 2015.]

* * * * *

In a galaxy far, far away, many years ago, the author of this blog got mugged by reality.  It was the 1972-73 school year, and I was finishing  my doctoral work, writing–and typing, by myself, on a portable electric typewriter purchased just for the purpose–my dissertation, in American History.  As I did so, I was at the same time looking for an ivy-covered college or university to shelter me from the storm of “real life.”

But there were no colleges or universities out there interested in my services, so I went to “Plan B”:  a job teaching History at the secondary level, but not in public schools, oh, no.  I still remembered my first semester in undergraduate school, as a “History Education” major, when the head of the School of Education came to speak to us and to explain what our curriculum would be over the next four years.  As I understood it, I would be studying History, sure, but not beyond the survey level; most of my upper level courses would be in “Education,” along with student teaching.  And I thought:  you’ve got to be kidding me!  I’m going to spend the next four years preparing to teach History in high school by learning only about History on the survey level and devoting most of my time to courses in “Education,” whatever that is?  I don’t think so!

As a result, I changed from the School of Education to the School of Arts and Sciences, and became just a plain “History” major.  But what could I do with it?  As it turned out, that really wasn’t an issue, because, in order to be sure of graduating in 1966, I had enrolled in the Advanced Army ROTC program, which also meant that I would enter the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant upon graduation for two years, during (as we now know in hindsight) the height of our adventure in Southeast Asia.

I did that, survived (which was easy, since I was one of only two new lieutenants [out of perhaps 28] in my advanced officer training course who did not go to Vietnam.  Remember Vietnam?  Oh, well, a topic for another time. . . .)  Anyway, once I finally decided to look into “prep school” teaching, I was lucky enough to land a job at a prominent school on the other side of town from where I was in grad school.  I took the job excitedly, but also with reservations (as I said at the time, I’m only going to be there “until something better comes along“).  But nothing better came along, and I spent the next thirty-seven (that’s 37!) years at the same fine institution.

Fortunately, in my prep school job, I was able to continue doing all those things my grad school professors had taught me to do in a college post: review books for historical journals; write articles for professional publications; give the occasional public lecture or paper presentation; even turn my doctoral dissertation into a book, published in 1986; and, beginning around the time the Olympics came to Atlanta in 1996, use a three-summer sabbatical grant to begin research on my second book–the sequel to the first one.   This volume would, I hoped, carry the theme of the first book at least thirty years further along.  And so–yes, you’re reading this right–I spent the next fourteen years–summers only, of course, being the dedicated prep school teacher I was–researching and writing about the topic, before hanging up my whiteboard in 2010, the magnum opus still in embryo.

Another thing I owe to my school was the opportunity to do something my grad school professors had not prepared me for.  During the last few years before I retired, I served as the editor of the history department newsletter.  I enjoyed putting the publication together, with the help of the template supplied by Microsoft Publisher:  soliciting contributions from departmental colleagues; writing some pieces myself; and publicizing other things that might be useful to the department, like new books, local events of interest to historians, even summer programs available in various exotic, if academic, locales.  I knew I’d miss this newsletter work once I retired, and that awareness led me to explore the possibility of creating a blog.  And the rest, as they say, is history. . . . or more precisely, “doing History after leaving the classroom,” otherwise known as “Retired But Not Shy.”

With “all the time in the world” to complete that second book once I’d retired, I worked steadily over the next five years, taking advantage of a lot of primary sources on the Web (mainly newspapers) and actually beginning to “write” the thing, though, believe it or not, I didn’t realize this at first!  And, in the summer of 2015, the “big book,” as well as a collection of essays on Georgia history, were finally published.

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For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP Cover

Rancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A Post for Dr. Martin Luther King Day, 2022: A Prayer for “Social Justice,” and “Retro-Post” number 2, from January 2018.

[Funny thing about being born in 1944: as it turned out, I grew up with the modern Civil Rights Movement, and, as a result, one of my heroes has been–and remains–The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And, because of that, I began to equate King’s work almost solely with the concept of “civil rights.”

Little did I–or, apparently, many of my contemporaries, realize that King’s mission eventually would broaden to include a more inclusive category of reforms, “social justice” (think, for example of his coming out against the war in Vietnam, and of the decision to launch the “Poor People’s Campaign,” the fulfillment of which Dr. King did not live to see).

In past years, as I’ve put up posts each January commemorating Dr. King’s life and achievements, I’ve focused almost exclusively on his role as the voice of the modern civil rights movement. This year, when the King Holiday is celebrated on Monday, January 17, I thought I’d try something different: I want to offer, first, not a prayer for “civil rights,” but a prayer for “social justice.”]

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[Prayer 27, “A Prayer for Social Justice” (Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, p. 823)]:

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease, that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer offers several prayers for “social justice.” This one is my favorite, because it seems designed to reach the broadest audience. Any thinking person surely can identify with one or more of the prayer’s summaries of the troubles in the modern United States: “barriers which divide us”; “suspicions”; “hatreds”; and “divisions.”

So, will this simple prayer bring an end to our divisions? Surely you jest! The point is that the quest for “social justice” is ongoing, and all of us should support it.

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Yet, this still is a post for the King Holiday, so I want to offer an additional opportunity to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy. This one comes from a King Holiday post I put up four years ago. I hope you enjoy it:

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For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP Cover

Rancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

Posted in American History, Civil Rights Movement, Current Events, Dr. Martin Luther King, Education, Episcopal Church, Georgia History, Historical Reflection, History Teaching, Interdisciplinary Work, Martin Luther King, memoir, Retirement, Southern History, Theology, Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments