Tag Archives: constitution

Remembering a 1939 sit-down strike

On this date in 1939, Samuel Wilbert Tucker and six collaborators staged what has got to be one of the cleverest civil rights sit-ins of all time. One by one, William Evans, Otto L. Tucker, Edward Gaddis, Morris Murray, and Clarence Strange went to the circulation desk at the Alexandria (VA, US) Public Library and requested library cards. As each was refused a card to use the library his taxes supported, he quietly went to the stacks, selected a book, sat at a table, and began to read it. Then the next followed with the same request, result, and action.

S. J. Ackerman’s 2000 account, published as “Samuel Wilbert Tucker: The Unsung Hero of the School Desegregation Movement” in Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, begins with the priceless description of these events shown at the right. Eventually, of course, library managers and city officials summoned the police. Meanwhile, according to story, Robert Strange (the sixth collaborator) raced to Mr. Tucker’s nearby law office and alterted him about how the events were occuring.

Inside the library, the police arrested the miscreant readers and led them outside. When they emerged from the library, the officers and five collaborators found 300 spectators, according to Mr. Ackerman. Mr. Tucker’s ploy had worked spectactularly on the ground, though it didn’t generate as much press as one might have hoped. According to Mr. Ackerman’s account, “The media paid scant attention to the episode. Preoccupied with the Hitler-Stalin pact, disclosed that same day, the Washington Star missed the story. The Post reported that ‘five colored youths’ had staged a ‘sit-down strike.’ The Times Herald and the African-American Washington Tribune used similar terminology.”

Even if it didn’t make a big splash, the 1939 sit-down strike in a public library sounds like an early incident in something pretty important. Civil rights. Non-violence. Rule of law. Access to public services. The list could go on and on….

There are sequels to this story: Mr. Tucker was later offered a library card for a “colored library,” and he refused it. He later co-founded an eminent law firm in Richmond (VA, US) and argued important civil rights cases, many before the US Supreme Court (including Green v. County School Board of New Kent County). He served for many years as the representative of Virginia’s NAACP. And very much more.

You can read more about Mr. Tucker including Mr. Ackerman’s account and the Wikimedia biographical entry about him.

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Throw out which DC officials?

Are you aghast about, alarmed by, or just plain ticked off with the elected officials in Washington? Do you find yourself wondering what they must be thinking? Do you wonder why we elected some of them?

Whom would you dismiss from the US government?

I’ve got a little poll running for the next couple of days here. You may select multiple individuals. So, take a couple of seconds, scan the list of contenders. Note that you can only vote one time, but you can (as I indicated) vote for more than one individual when you vote—in fact, you can recommend they all go!

This is a time-limited poll. It’ll close on Saturday. Sorry you can’t vote often, but you may vote early! You can tell your your Republican’t or Spendocrat pals to vote, too; just send ’em this link: http://bit.ly/1hXtKDW (sorry, a previously posted link was wrong).

Your votes are anonymous, but you are welcome to—ahem—expose yourself (or not) in the comments section. For example, you could wonder why I omitted certain dead people from the options.

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Ms. Clinton on religious freedom

Many people who know me will know that I hold little truck with religion. At best, I consider religions woe-begotten variations on reasoned ways to live one’s life humanely. However, as much as I find religions untenable, I shall defend folks’ right to espouse religious—or anti-religious and especially non-religious—views. Thus I was thrilled to hear the US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “Remarks at the Release of the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report” in which she delivered one of the most inspiring defenses of religious freedom I can remember hearing.

Whether you might agree or disagree with Ms. Clinton’s political positions, I think most people will agree that the core of her remarks are a spirited defense of foundational principles of human freedom. I hope people everywhere, regardless of political stripe, can watch or read this talk. There are, to be sure, the usual segments of the talk that have to do with thanking contributors to the talk, thanking allies, and calling out miscreants. But there are, as I heard it live while driving home from a meeting yesterday AM, sections of the talk that discuss fundamental human aspirations. Reminders of the ideas of principles on which the US and other democracies were based hundreds of years ago.

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Who’s the 99%?

Rev. Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir have an answer to that question. It’s actually pretty obvious, ’cause the 1% (really the one-tenth of one percent) are all those folks you and I see pretty much every day. May Day is just around the corner.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrOCJ9Np8wc%5D

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Those dang TJ muzzles must be here somewhere

TJ Muzzle Image

O.K. I hope I’ve set this up correctly so that this delightful image by artist Sam Welty is linked to the page that will show the TJ Center muzzles when they are announced on Mr. Jefferson’s B’day, 13 April 2011.

HB, Mr. Jefferson. Thanks for thinking about things.

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I reverse a position on religion and politics

I read with interest Damon Linker’s column in the Washington Post on Sunday 19 September 2010, “A religious test all our political candidates should take.” Given my resistence to mixing political and religious views, my first reaction when I read the headline was to disagree. After all, I know quite well that Article VI of the US Constitution very plainly states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification [for] any office or public trust under the United States.”
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It sez “freedom of speech”

It does. It sez it righ’ cheer:

Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech….
Amendement I of the U.S. Constitution, ratified 15 December 1791

And I have the good fortune of living in a community that has (since 2006) a monument dedicated to that very idea and (since 1819) a university founded on quite similar ideas:

“This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”
Thomas Jefferson in a letter to William Roscoe, 27 December 1820

I plan to run past geographical spots marking both these ideas this morning for my 4 July 2010 run: The TJ Center’s “Community Chalkboard” and the University of Virginia (where I have the privilege of working). Although I’ll celebrate other things during my run and later today (including the other clauses of the first amendment to the US Constitution, which are in the words surrounding those I’ve excerpted in the first extraction here), I’ll be especially grateful for this one. In an era when powerful financial forces have nearly free reign to amplify their political opinions, at least I still have the authority to speak my own.

Of course, I mostly speak my views in this nearly chaotic medium we call the Internet where people turn to learn lots of things, including misinformation. That’s the importance of the second excerpt. We, the people, just need to “follow truth,” that is, learn to winnow sense from nonsense. Free speech means that people are free to say things that simply are not true. And, I fear, we too often do not recognize that we are saying things that are not true (see my earlier post about Thomas Kida’s marvelous book, Don’t Believe Everything You Think), ’cause there’s a lot of nonsense on the Internet.

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