Battle of Brewery Gulch, 1919

It was high summer in Bisbee, and tensions were high. Two years before, posses of policemen and citizens had rounded up hundreds of copper miners and driven them out of town – to New Mexico, in fact – and the federal government was investigating. The year was 1919 and it was early July. The Independence Day parade was set to happen tomorrow, and the 10th Cavalry, made up of World War I veterans, was in town for the event.

While the white officers were attending a dance, the Buffalo soldiers, who were “colored” or black, went to town. The Police chief, with the aid of a police officer, was not comfortable with the soldiers carrying weapons and began disarming them. One of the Tenth Cavalry’s officers informed them that the soldiers were permitted to carry if Chief Kempton didn’t object – but object he did. Instructions were given to leave weapons at camp, but evidently not everyone followed orders.

Later that evening, a confrontation that was certainly influenced by alcohol happened between a white military policeman and five of the Buffalo soldiers. Chief Kempton immediately acted to round up all the Buffalo soldiers and their weapons. A shoot-out street battle on Brewery Gulch ensued.

Ironically, though more than 100 shots were fired, only 8 were shot or wounded – and not all of those by gunfire! The regiment marched in the parade the next day, and no formal charges were brought (despite the surrender of about 50 soldiers!)

Why tell this sordid tale of segregation, guns, and senseless violence? This was one more chapter in the Red Summer of 1919, one that illustrates the tensions, though (thankfully) with less bloodshed.

Unfortunately, there are far too many others still to be told.

“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” a.k.a. “The Black National Anthem”

“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” is a deeply religious song originally written to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The writer was the principal of a school who was asked to speak at the birthday memorial event. His brother composed the music. A choir of 500 children first sang the song in 1900 at their school. The song spread quickly and was widely sung, primarily in black communities and settings.

The National Association for Advancement of Colored People officially adopted the song in the wake of the racial violence of the Red Summer of 1919 as the “Negro National Anthem”. It is a song expressing hope and love for the country as well as a deep love for God and His faithfulness.

“God of our weary years,

God of our silent tears,

thou who has brought us thus far on the way;

thou who has by thy might,

led us into the light,

keep us forever in the path, we pray

lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee,

least our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee,

shadowed beneath the hand,

may we forever stand,

true to our God,

True to our native land.”

– James Weldon Johnson (“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” 3rd verse)

The writer of the song resisted the term “anthem” for his hymn, as there was just one national anthem, Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner”. Ironically, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was not officially made the national anthem until 1931, although it had been in use in some capacities since 1892 and President Wilson had ordered it played at military occasions beginning in 1916.

“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” has made its way into the broader culture as well; in recent years Beyonce performed an except of the song during her performance at Coachella, and it was quoted by the Reverend Joseph Lowery at the 2009 inauguration of President Obama. Most recently, the NFL announced that it plans to play the song before gameplay during the first week of the season.


Church Arsons and the Prevention Act – 1996

Approximately five years ago, Mt. Zion church in Greeleyville, South Carolina burned down. Though it is believed to have been a lightning strike that burned the church, it was not the first experience church members had with rebuilding after a fire. Back in 1995-1996, during a rash of church arsons, the church building had been set ablaze by a pair of Ku Klux Klan members.

One hundred forty-five of the bombings or fires set in 1995 and 1996 targeted African American (black) churches, and 207 white churches were also bombed or burned during the same time frame. The most prolific arsonist, with two companions, was believed to have burned 50 of those churches as part of satanic cult ritual.

Twenty-four years ago on July 3, (1996) the Church Arson Prevention Act was passed, which made it illegal to deface, damage, or destroy religious property or interfere substantially with religious practice. Due the to number of black churches affected for racial reasons, it was noted that such actions taken for reasons of the race or ethnicity of the people associated with that property were included in the law. The law increased the maximum sentence to deter this kind of destruction.

Sources and more information:

Longview, Texas – 1919

1919 was not a good year for race relations in the United States. If you are like me, the term “Red Summer” is new to you. The term is used to describe the many racial conflicts that happened all over the US that year.

One of the less deadly conflicts – with only 1 death recorded – happened in Longview, Texas. To start the story, a black man and a white woman were caught together in a bedroom. The man was jailed, and then killed. Exactly how he was killed is disputed but it was not in the course of justice. The situation was reported in a newspaper. The report was believed to have been written by Samuel Jones, and the woman’s brothers beat him with a wrench for it, despite his denial that he wrote it.

Naturally, tensions were high following this. Late at night a group of men approached Mr. Jones’ home. A group of black men had gathered there to defend Mr. Jones and the doctor attending him, Dr. Davis, while Mr. Jones was physically fragile from the beating he had gotten. These guards shot at the approaching mob and injured three out of 25. One of the white men hid nearby and he was severely beaten when he was found.

Enraged, the white men rang the fire bell to gather more people and returned to Mr. Jones’ home. They found no one home, so they burned not only his house, but several other buildings as well, including a dance hall where it was rumored that ammunition was kept, and at least one vehicle too.

The one man who died in all of this was the Doctor’s father in law, Marion Bush. He had run away from the sheriff. The sheriff called a farmer who lived in the direction the man ran, and the farmer shot and killed him.

A unique aspect of this incident is that when the federal troops came in, requested by the sheriff and a judge, and then additional forces requested by the Mayor after Mr. Bush’s death, all residents of the city including law enforcement were asked to turn in their weapons. Once the unrest passed, the guns were returned.

old photo of many guns Photo source.

Sources and more information:

East St. Louis Massacre -1917

Prior to World War 1, workers had unionized. During the war, workers were scarce, so companies, like those in East St. Louis, recruited rural blacks to come and work in the factories and join a thriving and growing black community. Once soldiers returned to their jobs after the war, there was some resentment between white union workers, and the black workers who were seen as, and used as, scabs or strike breakers. During a union strike at the Aluminum Ore company in the spring on 1917, thousands of blacks were hired to break the strike, just as they had in other situations before.

In late May of 1917, a union meeting of 3,000 people devolved into a mob, destroying buildings and assaulting black people. One report said it was sparked by a report of a robbery of a white man by an armed black man. In any case, the response was violent. The National Guard was called in to quell the destruction, but so little was done that the black people – some of them recently returned from war as well – resolved to protect themselves.

On July 1, some white men in a Ford drove through a black neighborhood, shooting into buildings. The black men organized, then fired on a Ford with a couple of white men that drove into the neighborhood and stopped. But these white men were not the same men who had fired guns; in fact, they were detectives, some plain clothed, coming to calm the situation and investigate the shooting.

The death of the two detectives sparked a horrible massacre beginning the next day. After seeing the two dead officers, a white mob began destroying everything they could, hunting down and killing black people, burning homes and buildings, and causing incredible destruction. As the black neighborhoods were burning, the residents fled across the bridge to St. Louis. But the police closed the bridge, leaving many trapped between burning buildings and a river.

Many still crossed the river. 6,000 black people fled to St. Louis, displaced by the destruction of their neighborhoods, and 39 black people and 9 whites were killed. That’s the official count, anyway. Many believe that the death count was much higher, because the real number of deaths was obscured by those who tossed victims into rivers or mass graves. Some of the black residents may have hidden in basements of buildings that were burned and died there. Some estimate that the death toll was actually between 100-200 black people. There was also approximately $400,000 worth of damage done to buildings and homes as well.

The stories are brutal. Hanging on streetlamps. Buildings burned with people in them, and people with guns waiting for them to be forced out. People pulled from street cars and beaten to death. Holes in heads. Blood spattering on stockings. Women and even children took part in the brutality.

Just a few days after their neighborhoods were burned, East St. Louis officials told the former residents that it was safe to return and tried to recruit workers. Strangely – or not so strangely – the vast majority did not believe them and very few went to work for them.

A silent march was held late in July (28th) in New York City to commemorate this atrocity.

For more information: (This is a collection of news articles about the massacre) (Note: These are files transcribing the publication “The Crisis” – and African American magazine. The coverage of the massacre is vivid and chilling.) An article from the Smithsonian Institute.

Introduction: Why history?

I am sure most are familiar with the saying, “Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it,” or, “History repeats itself” or some such comment. More recently, I have heard several people comment that you must face history and acknowledge it before you can learn from it.

Considering these comments, I am writing a series of posts – I do not know how many – about events in the history of racism, primarily in the US.  Many of the posts will be about events I am only now learning about myself, so they fit my overall theme well.  These posts will be written near the time of year that they occurred, usually.

There will be posts like those I have already written as well, mixed in. Life is complex, and interesting, after all.

But I think that it is important that we face history squarely and understand where we have been. It is often quite illuminating of where we are. I do not intend to add commentary or make extensive editorial comments, though I suppose I reserve the right to do so. I plan to share links to my sources and to places where you can read more information. I also welcome your thoughts in response and suggestions regarding events I may not yet have learned about.

I would say that I hope that you enjoy the posts, but the truth is, I do not wish that anyone would enjoy these types of posts. They are intended to confront, to challenge, to present the history that is the foundation for so much of what we see today. My hope is that we will learn from the past and stop repeating it.

But even more than that, I hope that we can see people around us with compassion and care. Because sometimes the best way to avoid repeating the atrocities of yesterday is simply to care today.

I hope that we might also find a few new heroes along the way.

Thank you for joining me in my journey of discovery.


Most of us are probably familiar with the game of Candyland – that sugary trek on a colorful path to the ultimate sugar rush castle! Thanks to a tip from a friend, I learned the backstory.

The game was invented in 1948 by a (retired) school teacher, Eleanor Abbott, while she was recovering from polio. She created it to entertain children who were also sick in the hospital with polio, and it was such a hit that they suggested she submit it to Milton Bradley. Rumor has it that her artwork may have been used for the original game – although I did not find that to be confirmed anywhere.

Milton Bradley bought the game and produced it as a temporary fill-in in 1949. Their primary product was school supplies. But the game became an instant hit, – outselling their previous best-selling game and making them a competitor with the Parker Brothers.

The game itself has seen a few changes over the years. The original version had black dots that left you stuck until you got the same color you were on again. A more recent version just has you lose a turn. In 2013, the game was made with a spinner instead of all the cards. There are even electronic versions of the game!

One of the first disputes over an internet domain name rose over An “adult content” provider registered the name and Hasbro (who had bought out Milton Bradley) objected to the intended use. Hasbro was able to keep the site from being used to distribute adult content.

If you have children during this pandemic, I am sure you can understand the need to entertain children. Thanks to Eleanor Abbott and Milton Bradley, children have been drooling over the candy castle and competing to arrive first for over 70 years!

The First EMTs

Today when we call 9-1-1 for a medical emergency, a vehicle equipped with life-saving equipment is dispatched to your location, staffed by medically trained staff to treat you while you travel. But it was not always that way. As recently as the 1960s, if you called for emergency transport, you might travel in a paddy wagon or a hearse and receive no medical treatment during your ride. It was after such a transport that the 37th Governor of Pennsylvania, David L. Lawrence died in 1966, in fact.

The modern concept of the emergency response technician (EMT) came about due to the collaborative efforts of Doctor Peter Safar, credited with pioneering the Cardio-pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) response and Philip Hallen, founder of the Freedom House in Pittsburgh. The Hill District of Pittsburgh was a black community plagued by drugs, crime, and poverty, and the response to emergency calls was weak or non-existent. To alleviate the dire need for treatment and transport, Dr. Safar and Hallen created the Freedom House Ambulance Service in 1967. It was the first civilian ambulance service staffed by trained paramedics and equipped with a wide range of medical equipment.

In addition to providing much needed medical services, the Freedom House Ambulance service also provided much needed jobs to people in the area.  The paramedics were people from the neighborhood who had been considered unemployable. Dr. Safar trained them in emergency response. The training was intense and took a full year. The service was a great success. The paramedics reportedly took 5,800 calls their first year!

In addition, Dr. Nancy Caroline took this opportunity to study and try to expand the treatments that could be given outside of the hospital setting. Her compiled findings became the national standard paramedic curriculum.

Ironically, it was their own success that led to the demise of the program. Police called the ambulance service to help in a more affluent neighborhood, and when the people there saw the successful care given by these black EMTs, they clamored for their own ambulance services. In 1975, Pittsburgh launched its own service. They ended the contract with Freedom House and used their own EMTs, telling those who had worked for Freedom House Ambulance services that they were unqualified and would have to be retrained before they could be considered for the new service, despite their years of field experience.

Some of them did retrain. In fact, John Moon, one of the Freedom House EMTs, rose through the ranks to reach assistant chief before retiring in 2009. Another, Mitchell Brown, eventually ran the Department of Public Safety in Columbus, Ohio.

Freedom House Ambulance service no longer exists. However, the concept they pioneered of a well-equipped ambulance staffed by trained EMTs, is not only in existence, but EMTs today provide medical care during emergency transport around the country, and even around the world.


Also, for more information: “Freedom House: Street Saviors” documentary (2010)

Sodom and Gomorrah

There is an account in Genesis 19 of the destruction of two wicked cities – Sodom and Gomorrah.  Before that destruction, some angelic beings visit Abram’s nephew Lot, who lives in Sodom, to rescue him from the impending doom. The city’s inhabitants demand that these visitors be turned over to them for carnal reasons. Thanks to angelic urging, Lot and his daughters escape (though his wife is turned to salt when she looks back) and the cities are totally destroyed.

When I was younger, I understood that the wickedness of the city was in men wanting to know (in the King James sense) these visitors. That was also where the term “sodomy” came from.

But there are a few verses in Ezekiel that are quite clear regarding what their sin was. “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.” Ezekiel 16:49-50.

Jude 7 & 8 make it clear that sexual perversion was also part of the sin of these cities. “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”

If you read in the New Testament about the early church we see these same issues.

There was inequality surrounding the distribution of goods and eating the mutual meal. Some were eating and others who were hungry were not able to eat. The early church chose some to oversee the distribution and ensure that things were handled equally and well.

There were issues with sexual perversion in the early church too. There was an incestuous situation in Corinth that Paul addressed via letter, saying it is a situation “even pagans do not tolerate.” The church leaders reportedly did address it and purge that from the church.

Clearly these are issues that are common across cultures and time.

So how well is the culture I am in avoiding these sins of Sodom and Gomorrah? If we do not avoid the sins, should we expect to avoid the judgment?

Education: Abuse Prevention

In meeting friends who have experienced sexual abuse as children, as well as reading books and research, I have learned a few things about reducing the likelihood of sexual abuse. One of those things I’ve learned is that education is one way to help reduce abuse.

The sort of education that is appropriate at a young age includes the proper names of body parts, understanding that there are parts of the body that are special and not for public discussion or viewing, and bodily autonomy, or the ability to have a say in what happens to their body.

Teaching the proper names of body parts is not too difficult. One easy way is discussing what you are doing while changing a diaper or teaching while bathing. Starting with a young child is helpful as the parent can become comfortable with terminology while the child learns. While such teaching could have potential to be embarrassing if a precocious two-year old decided to over-share, the teaching that some parts are not intended for public discussion or viewing can help alleviate that concern. By the time a child potty trains, they are usually old to know the names of their body parts, including genitals, and also know that one should be discreet in discussing them.

When I grew up there was an emphasis on modesty to keep the private parts covered. While wearing clothing that covers the parts of the body that would be considered private is certainly helpful, it’s not fully sufficient. A child should know that it is also inappropriate for other people to touch those areas over clothing as well. And while it is common for children to show and tell with their genitalia, an appropriate response is a reminder that those areas are private.

It is important to note that there are times and places for help to be offered, such as in the case of a medical need, or for young children, assistance with bathing or dressing or toileting when needed.

Finally, it is helpful to give children say about who does what with their body. Ordering a child to give a hug when they do not want to do so teaches them that their discomfort with someone else’s desires is not sufficient to refuse. This leaves them more vulnerable to someone being abusive. It is entirely possible to teach a child to be polite and respectful without taking away their ability to make a choice about how others may interact with their body.

These things are not a guarantee that a child will not experience abuse. Another day, I will share some of the things I have learned about what to do if that does happen.