9 Little-Known Facts about the Declaration of Independence

Since Independence Day in the United States falls on a Monday this year, I thought it only fitting to blog about it today. Next Monday, I’ll do my usual first-Monday-of-the-month blog about the books I read the previous month.

In an effort to take a slightly different approach to today’s topic, I decided to write about a few of the little-known facts about the Declaration of Independence.

Photo credit: Tim Mossholder on unsplash.com

1. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776. The Second Continental Congress voted on it on July 4, but it would be August 2 before most delegates signed it. One reason for the delay was that it took two weeks for the document to be written in a clear handwriting on a piece of parchment.

2. Five men – including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin — were given the task of overseeing the reproduction of the document. The copies were printed by John Dunlap in his Philadelphia print shop and distributed to each of the 13 American colonies. Of the perhaps hundreds of copies printed at that time, only 26 remain.

3. When a copy of the Declaration of Independence reach New York City, George Washington read it aloud from in front of City Hall. That was on July 9. Before the day was over, a riot of sorts broke out and resulted in the tearing down of a statue of King George III. (That 4,000-pound statue was sent up the East River before British troops in New York harbor could stop them. It was eventually melted down and turned into 42,000 musket balls for the Continental Army.)

4. Richard Stockton, one of the Declaration signers from New Jersey, was captured by the British on November 30, 1776. For months, he was mistreated and nearly starved until he broke down and recanted. He swore his allegiance to King George III and was subsequently released. (He took an oath of loyalty to New Jersey in December 1777.)

5. In 1989, a man in Philadelphia purchased a picture frame for $4.00 at a flea market. Much to his surprise, in the back of the frame was an original John Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence! It was sold to TV producer Norman Lear in 2000 for $8.1 million.

6. In 2009, an original John Dunlap copy of the Declaration was found in a box of papers the British captured from the Americans during the Revolutionary War. It has since found a home at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

7. Just two or three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were moved from the National Archives in Washington, DC to Fort Knox in Kentucky. The Declaration was encased in 150 pounds of protective material to ensure its transport by train from Washington to St. Louis. From St. Louis, it was taken by the 13th Armored Division of the U.S. Army to Fort Knox. Those documents were returned to the National Archives late in 1944.

8. Two signers of the Declaration of Independence were just 26 years old. They were Thomas Lynch, Jr. and Edward Rutledge, both of South Carolina.

9. The University of Virginia owns two rare copies of an early printing of the Declaration of Independence. One of those possibly belonged to George Washington. After Washington died in 1799, Tobias Lear (I wonder if he’s an ancestor of Norman Lear?) who was a personal secretary of Washington’s in his later years, is thought to have stolen some of Mr. Washington’s papers.


On this 4th of July, I wish all Americans at home and abroad a Happy Independence Day! On this 246th anniversary of the creation of the Declaration of Independence, this experiment in democracy is under attack from within the nation.

The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution held fast and survived the attempted coup on January 6, 2021, but there are those within our country’s borders who still believe “the big lie.” They proved on January 6, 2021 that they are willing to trample on the very ideals and human rights verbalized in those documents. Democracy is far more fragile than any of us realized until that infamous day.

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence (and the women in their families!) were willing to risk their reputations, their earthly possessions, and their very lives. The least we can do 246 years later is to stand up against our country’s enemies – both foreign and domestic — by letting our voices be heard in the public arena and, most importantly, at the polls.

Be sure to vote in all elections. You owe it to future generations. Otherwise, they might not have the luxury of voting, and July 4 could just become an insignificant average day for them. Don’t let that happen.

Happy 4th of July!

Photo credit: Jim Strasma on unsplash.com

Janet

P.S.   Remember the people of Ukraine and the people of Uvalde, Texas.

#Idiom: Pleased as Punch & #Idiom: Horse of a Different Color

It’s been a while since I blogged about an idiom, so I selected “Pleased as Punch” and “Horse of a Different Color” for today. Idioms come and go, usually without notice. Then, one day, you think about one and realize you haven’t heard it said in a long time. It’s probably been replaced by a new one.

“Pleased as Punch”

“Pleased as Punch” is a saying I heard growing up, but I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard it. It’s probably been decades. I had no idea how it came about. I thought it was just an example of alliteration that caught on as a saying.

I also didn’t know that “Punch” was supposed to be capitalized. Again, I thought it came about only because “Pleased” and “Punch” both started with the same, strong “P” sound. Shows what I knew.

I recently learned that this idiom dates back to the mid-1800s and the character named Punch in the Punch and Judy shows. According to The American Heritage dic-tion-ar-y of Idioms,by Christine Ammer, Punch “is always happy when his evil deeds succeed.” (Images of a smiling Donald J. Trump, Sr. come to mind.)

Now, I know, and so do you. File this tidbit away in case you’re ever a contestant on “Jeopardy” or “The Chase.”

“Horse of a Different Color”

Photo credit: Gene Devine on unsplash.com

This idiom popped into my head last week, and I realized I hadn’t heard it said in quite some time. Curious about its origins, I reached for my trusty reference book, The American Heritage dic-tion-ar-y of Idioms,by Christine Ammer, which I purchased for either fifty cents or a dollar several years ago when the public library was drastically weeding its collection.

The saying, “Horse of a Different Color” or “Horse of Another Color” means, “Another matter entirely, something else,” according to Ms. Ammer’s book.

She goes on to say that, “This term probably derives from a phrase coined by Shakespeare, who wrote, ‘a horse of that color’ (Twelfth Night, 2:3), meaning ‘the same matter’ rather than a different one. By the mid-1800s the term was used to point out difference rather than likeness.”

My conclusion

It seems we don’t hear as many idioms as we used to. Is that a result of the homogenization of American English? Society presses us to drop our regional accents. As a southerner, I’ve felt that, and it makes me sad. I think our regional differences in our speaking make the United States a more interesting place to live. I hate to see us losing those little differences. I hear it in the voices of my great-nieces who live in Georgia. My accent is much more southern than theirs even though they have lived in Georgia their entire lives. It makes me sad.

Since my last blog post

My blog post today is short and light-hearted because I’ve been spending every spare minute (when not reading!) to work on my family genealogy. My sister and I are working on a project that we want to finish this fall. Time is not on our side!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have one or more good books to read and a rewarding and relaxing hobby.

Make time to read and enjoy that hobby. And, by all means, make time to enjoy family and friends.

Remember the people of Ukraine and Uvalde, Texas.

Janet

A Book Chock-Full of Gems

Early last summer, I finished reading Madeleine L’Engle {Herself}: Reflections on a Writing Life, compiled by Carole F. Chase. It’s a collection of Ms. L’Engle’s statements about writing and other topics. You might be familiar with her Newberry Medal winner A Wrinkle in Time or one of her other 49 books.

Madeleine L’Engle {Herself} is a book to be savored. Each page is a quote of something Ms. L’Engle said or wrote about life.

Each quote is a gem. Therefore, I allowed myself to read no more than two pages per day. I wanted the reading of the book to last as long as possible. My few minutes with the book each day soon became my favorite part of the day. I’ve tried finding another book of equal quality and richness that I can read in tiny snatches each day, but nothing has measured up to this book.

It’s one of those rare books that I visit again and again. I enjoy just reading and savoring each random page.

I considered making memes of Ms. L’Engle’s words of wisdom for Facebook, Twitter, or my blog, but there was no way to settle on just a few. To use all of them or even a sizeable percentage of them would put me under the jail for copyright infringement.

Therefore, I’ll share just a few quotes from the book with you, and leave it to you to pamper yourself by reading the entire book.

From page 19, “Again and Again”

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“With free will, we are able to try something new. Maybe it doesn’t work, or we make mistakes and learn from them. We try something else. That doesn’t work, either. So we try yet something else again. When I study the working processes of the great artists I am awed at the hundreds and hundreds of sketches made before the painter begins to be ready to put anything on the canvas. It gives me fresh courage to know of the massive revision Dostoyevsky make of all his books – the hundreds of pages that got written and thrown out before one was kept. A performer must rehearse and rehearse and rehearse, making mistakes, discarding, trying again and again.”

From page 164, “Creativity in Children”

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“I don’t think all children have to write, but I think they all have to read. Reading is an incredibly creative act. Once a schoolchild asked about all the illustrations in my books and was a little bit surprised that they’re not illustrated. He’d read them and seen the illustrations in his own mind. So to read a book is to create a book. To read a book is to listen, to visualize, to see. If the reader, child or adult, cannot create the book along with the writer, the book is stillborn.”

From page 145, “Story Is Revelatory”

“Your point of view as a human being is going to come over in your work whether you know it or not. There’s no way you can hide it. So if you are a Christian, your work is going to be Christian. There’s no way you can hide that. If you’re not, you can talk about Jesus all you like and it’s not going to be Christian. If you are someone who cares about human beings, that’s going to come over in your work. If you are indifferent to the fate of other people, that’s also going to show.

“You cannot hide yourself, and that’s a very scary thing – particularly true, oddly enough in fiction. Sometimes in nonfiction you can hide yourself behind statistics and facts, but in fiction you are writing story, and story is revelatory. One of the wonderful things that comes out of story is that you not only find out more about your characters, ultimately you are helping to write your own story.”

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re like me, you have more books you want to read than you have time to read them.

Madeleine L’Engle {Herself}: Reflections on a Writing Life, compiled by Carole F. Chase

After reading the above quotes from Madeleine L’Engle {Herself}: Reflections on a Writing Life, compiled by Carole F. Chase, I hope you’ll decide to add that book to your collection. You’ll want to read it more than once.

Make time for a hobby. I’ve let my dulcimer sit in its case in the corner of the room for so long that the case needs to be dusted. That’s never a good sign if you’re trying to learn how to play a musical instrument.

Remember the people of Ukraine and Uvalde, Texas.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Miranda v Arizona, 1966

It was just a month ago that I blogged about the 1954 US Supreme Court landmark decision, Brown v Board of Education of Topeka. I referred to the fact that our legal framework is under attack by the current sitting US Supreme Court. I fear the overturning of Roe v Wade will be just the tip of the iceberg. Time will tell.

Americans now know that we cannot take any of our freedoms for granted. The Trump-inspired insurrectionists’ attack on the US Capitol on June 6, 2021 surely taught most of us that, if nothing else.

“Miranda Rights”

One of the assurances we have in the United States stems from a landmark decision issued by the US Supreme Court on this date in 1966: Miranda v Arizona. I’m sure you’ve heard of “Miranda Rights” if you watch any police procedural television series set in the United States.  

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Since the Miranda v Arizona decision, “you have the right to remain silent…” when being arrested. I’ve never been arrested, and I hope I never will be. You never know, though, when something like that might happen. Many people are falsely accused and arrested due to that or by cases of mistaken identity or are falsely singled out due to the color of their skin or for having the same name as someone for whom there is an arrest warrant. That last one can happen to anyone.

If you’re ever arrested in the United States of America – rightly or wrongly – you’ll be glad that on June 13, 1966, the US Supreme Court proclaimed that you must be informed of your rights by the arresting police officer. You have the right to remain silent. If you relinquish that right, anything you say can be held against you in a court of law. You have a right to legal counsel – either a lawyer you hire or one appointed for you by the court if you cannot afford to hire one yourself.

Miranda v Arizona was decided by a 6 to 3 majority of the US Supreme Court. The majority ruled based on the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution. Dissenting justices argued that the law wasn’t necessary and that police officers inclined to conduct questionable interrogations would just ignore the decision.

I think most Americans know enough about the law now that they are aware that they “have the right to remain silent” and that they “have a right to legal counsel.” An informed citizenry will help keep police officers with questionable motives and tactics in check. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. My black friends can attest to that.

The original Miranda Case

In a nutshell, Ernesto Miranda was convicted after confessing under police interrogation that he was guilty of kidnapping, rape, and armed robbery. The conviction was overturned by the Miranda v Arizona US Supreme Court decision. Mr. Miranda was tried again, convicted, and sentenced to 20-30 years in prison.

Seeing Miranda v Arizona in action

I served on a jury in my county’s Superior Court in the 1970s. The case before us was a child neglect matter due to a mother keeping her children out of school based on a religious belief that the world was going to come to an end on a specific date in the near future.

The mother’s reasoning was that her children didn’t need an education, since the world was going to end in a few months. It appeared to be an open-and-shut case until the woman’s attorney informed the judge that his client hadn’t been read her Miranda Rights. The case was immediately dismissed.

Since my last blog post

I had the privilege of watching and listening to four free webinars offered by Chad R. Allen. He offered lots of useful information about book publishing and, specifically, how to write a successful book proposal.

I also watched and listened to a free webinar by Geoff Affleck about how to advertise on Amazon.

Until my next blog post

Keep reading! I hope you have a good book to read this week.

Make time to enjoy a hobby.

Remember the people of Ukraine and Uvalde, Texas.

Janet

4 Books Read in May 2022

I read a somewhat odd combination of books last month. I’m sharing my thoughts about them in today’s blog post.


The Last Green Valley, by Mark Sullivan

This historical novel is based on the story of a real family. In light of the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, I think this was the perfect time for me to read it.

a novel of Ukraine
The Last Green Valley, by Mark Sullivan

With the backdrop of the history of the Holodomor (“The Horror”) of 1932-33 during which Joseph Stalin starved to death more than four million Ukrainians, the book demonstrates a deep-seated anger between Russia and Ukraine. After World War II, Stalin sent millions to work camps (including many to Siberia) and they were never heard from again. This history puts this year’s Russian invasion of Ukraine in perspective. No wonder Ukrainians would rather die than live under Putin’s thumb! They’ve tasted freedom, and they aren’t going back!

During World War II, Ukrainians were caught between Stalin and Hitler. That is where The Last Green Valley begins with the Martel family.

The Martels are of German ancestry and they live in Ukraine in the early- to mid-1940s. They’ve survived Stalin’s attempt to starve them. Now, World War II rages on and the Martels are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Do they take their chances with Stalin’s Russian Army or do they trust Hitler’s troops to guide them safely out of Ukraine? They choose the Germans and there begins the family’s horrendous trek across Ukraine, Hungary, and Poland.

This book is a novel of the human spirit, faith in God and in our fellow human beings. It is also a book of man’s inhumanity to man. In the end, it is also a story of the dream called America.

The book’s “Afterword” will refresh your memory about Ukrainian-Russian history.

You might recall that I read Mark Sullivan’s novel, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, in December 2019 and blogged about it on January 13, 2020: The Other Books I Read in December 2019. I tried listening to The Last Green Valley last May and wrote about that experience in my May 14, 2021 blog post, 3 Books I Tried to Listen To in May. I found reading it to be a much better experience than trying to listen to it on CD. It’s great to have options.


Finding Me: A Memoir, by Viola Davis

I rarely read a memoir, but I was drawn to Finding Me: A Memoir, by actor Viola Davis. I’ve admired her acting talents since seeing the movie, “The Help,” or perhaps before on TV, but I had no idea how bad her childhood was until I read her new book.

Finding Me, by Viola Davis

Ms. Davis grew up in a poor, abuse-filled home in a predominantly white town in Rhode Island. Her father regularly beat her mother and the children were unable to shut out the noise of those beatings. There were rats in the house they rented and extensive times when there was no electricity of hot water. She writes about how hard it is for a poor child to compete in school when they have no way to stay clean and they’re always hungry. These are things I’ve never faced in my entire life. I’m incredibly blessed.

A few key teachers, mentors, the Upward Bound program, and her first taste of theater pulled Ms. Davis out of that deadend environment and enabled her to see where her talents lay. And we are all now reaping the benefits of her incredible journey.

She writes about the racism she experienced in Rhode Island and New York City. She was accepted at Juilliard in New York City, where they tried to train all acting students to be white actors. There was only other other Black person in her class at Juilliard and only 30 Black students in the entire student body of 856 (all disciplines.)

The students at Juilliard were forbidden to perform anything but opera, ballet, and the European classics.  They were told singing Gospel music, playing jazz, participating in tap or modern dance, etc. would “ruin your instrument.”

Ms. Davis writes about a life-changing and life-affirming experience she had after her second year at Juilliard when she was awarded a scholarship to travel to The Gambia with a group led by Chuck Davis, an African dance choreographer out of the North Carolina School of the Arts.

She continued two more years at Juilliard and graduated from that prestigious fine arts school, but her heart and soul were opened by the beautiful innate talent she saw and heard in The Gambia, and it was really through that experience that she found herself.

In later life, her father got himself under control and Ms. Davis was able to have a loving relationship with him and her mother that she had been denied as a child.


The Rowan Story, 1753-1953: A Narrative History of Rowan County, North Carolina, By James S. Brawley

I was delighted to be able to check out a copy of this book from the Cabarrus County Public Library. It contains many tidbits of information that will enrich the historical novel I’m writing.

The Rowan Story, 1753-1953: A Narrative History of Rowan County, North Carolina, By James S. Brawley

The novel I’m writing now actually comes before the one I wrote first. Now, Book One is Book Two, since the one I’m working on now needs to be Book One. I got so involved in imagining the backstory for the first one I wrote, I decided that backstory needed to be a book of its own. Will either book ever be published? That remains to be seen, but I enjoy the process of writing and doing the research.

What does any of this have to do with Rowan County? In Book One, Sarah and her brother and their father leave the mountains of Virginia and travel down The Great Wagon Road. A stopover in Salisbury in Rowan County turns into the family settling down there. Book Two finds Sarah living in The Waxhaws settlement in Lancaster County, South Carolina.


Slow Dancing with a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer’s, by Meryl Comer

This is probably the saddest book I’ve ever read. At its publication in 2014, the author’s husband had had early onset Alzheimer’s Disease for nearly 20 years. He was diagnosed at the age of 58 and had been a physician and medical researcher at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, DC.

Slow Dancing with a Stranger, by Meryl Comer

The author is an advocate for more research into Alzheimer’s Disease and is pushing for more studies of people before they show signs of the disease. Her hope is that such studies will help researchers to discern how to diagnose the illness earlier – while the patient can still have a good quality of life.

She writes in detail how the disease not only destroyed her husband’s life and stole his personality, his ability to control bodily functions, his ability to talk or communicate in any way, his ability to swallow except for droppers of water, etc. She also details the care she provided 24/7 and the caregivers she hired to assist her. The toll it took on her was incalculable.

I’m glad I read it. When I started reading it, I thought it would be a book I’d recommend to my family members who are dealing with the early stages of the disease in their mother. By the time I finished the book, I thought their reading it would only be profoundly depressing at this early stage in their journey.

An online search revealed that the author’s husband died in 2020.

Since my last blog post

I took a week off from writing my blog last week. Since my last blog post of May 23, there was yet another mass shooting in a school in the United States. This one was in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. In addition to two teachers, 19 precious children were massacred.

We have to find the courage to stop the madness in the United States of America. Until the National Rifle Association and its clones/wannabes stop financing political campaigns, nothing will change. Until elected officials on Capitol Hill and in the state legislatures develop backbones, nothing will change. Their “thoughts and prayers” ring hollow.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have at least one good book to read or write. I received a complimentary copy of the hot-off-the-presses 3rd edition of LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, by Janet Givens. I look forward to reading this edition and seeing the changes Ms. Givens made from an earlier edition I read.

Find time to relax and enjoy a hobby.

This afternoon I’ll watch/listen to the fourth in a series of four free webinars about writing a book proposal offered by Chad R. Allen. The three sessions so far have been very helpful.

Remember the people of Ukraine and the people of Uvalde, Texas.

Janet

Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, 1775

In case you think I’m spending too much time this month blogging about our local history, just keep in mind that May is an important month of historical events in Cabarrus County, North Carolina.

My May 2, 2022 blog post, __#OnThisDay: 251st Anniversary of 1771 Gunpowder Plot__ was about patriots’ blowing up the king’s munitions just off the Great Wagon Road in present-day Cabarrus County.

Today, my blog is about the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence in 1775 while present-day Cabarrus County was part of Mecklenburg County and its citizens played just as important a role in the declaration as anyone living in what is present-day Mecklenburg County.

Friday, May 20, 2022 was the 247th anniversary of the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

A recreation of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

But what about the 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence?

I blogged about the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 21, 2018. To refresh your memory, or to introduce you to the topic if you aren’t aware of it, the following nine paragraphs are reblogged from that post:

My immigrant ancestors were among the Scottish Presbyterian pioneers who settled old Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Years of discontent in the American colonies were piled on top of the anti-British Crown feelings they brought with them across the Atlantic.

Weary of unfair taxes imposed by the Crown and the discrimination they were subjected to as Presbyterians slowly brought the settlers to the boiling point. An example of the persecution these Presbyterians felt were the Vestry and Marriage Acts of 1769. Those acts fined Presbyterian ministers who dared to conduct marriage ceremonies. Only Anglican marriages were recognized by the government.

In May of 1771 a group of young men from the Rocky River Presbyterian Church congregation in the part of Mecklenburg County that later became Cabarrus County, disguised themselves by blackening their faces and under the cover of darkness ambushed a shipment of Royal munitions traveling north on the Great Wagon Road. The supplies were destined for Rowan County to put down the Regulator Movement.

Blowing up three wagons loaded with gunpowder and other supplies, the teens and young men who perpetrated the deed were declared outlaws by the Royal Governor and had to go into hiding until May 20, 1775 when all the citizens of Mecklenburg County were declared to be rebels against the British Crown.

On May 20, 1775, the citizens of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina declared themselves to be free and independent of the rule of Great Britain. It was a sober and sobering declaration not entered into lightly. Those American patriots meant business, and they knew the risks they were taking.

Archibald McCurdy, an Elder in Rocky River Presbyterian Church, heard the document read from the steps of the log courthouse in Charlotte. When he got home, he and his wife, Maggie, listed everyone they knew of who could be trusted in the coming fight for American independence.

No original copies of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence survive today. The local copy was lost in a house fire at the home of one of the signers. The copy taken to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia by Captain James Jack on horseback was also lost. Later, signers of the document recreated it from memory.

Nevertheless, those of us who were raised on stories of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and the brave souls who risked their lives to sign it know that the document was real. The blood of the American patriots still flows in our veins and their spirit of freedom still beats in our hearts.

Don’t mess with our freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or our freedom of assembly!

Until my next blog post

I’m considering taking a week off from writing my blog, unless something interesting comes along and begs to be written. Next Monday, May 30, is Memorial Day in the United States of America. It is a day to remember all the men and women who have lost their lives while serving in the armed forces of the United States.

I hope you have a good book to read until I blog again on June 6.

Take time for a relaxing hobby and spend some time with friends and family.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, 1954

The recent “leak” that the United States Supreme Court is on track to abolish the 1973 landmark decision Roe v Wade should stand as a wake-up call to all Americans.

Even a 49-year-old Supreme Court decision that has stood the test of time and numerous challenges, can be undone by five Supreme Court Associate Justices who claimed under oath before Congress that they had no intention of voting to undo that 1973 Court decision.

This begs the question, “What comes next? What other US Supreme Court decisions will be wiped away by this Court which was “stacked” by our former president and the radical “right” in Congress?

If I just “stepped on your toes,” so be it.

Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, 1954

This brings me to the topic of today’s blog post, which I chose months ago because it is the anniversary of another landmark US Supreme Court decision, Brown v Board of Education of Topeka. It was 68 years ago today that the Court published its unanimous decision on that case, which made it illegal to have separate public school systems based on race.

Photo credit: CDC on unspash.com

Until Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, it was legal for states to have “separate but equal” school systems for the different races. Everyone knew there was nothing equal about them, but they were legal in the eyes of the law.

The Brown v Board of Education of Topeka decision overturned the 1896 US Supreme Court case, Plessy v Ferguson. Plessy v Ferguson is proof that the US Supreme Court can make terrible mistakes. That decision ruled that having “separate but equal” school systems for each racial group was all right, and now it was deemed legal under the U.S. Constitution.

I grew up in the racially-segregated South. Before you get too puffed up about being from one of the other sections of the United States, though, take a moment to consider your childhood. Segregation might not have been mandated where you lived, but were your community and schools racially-integrated prior to the 1960s?

In a recent conversation with a friend from the Midwest, I said that our public schools here in Cabarrus County, NC were integrated when I was in the seventh grade. That was 1965. The person I was talking to made an interesting remark: “I lived in a non-segregated state, but I didn’t go to school with black students until high school. I lived in a farming community and there just weren’t any black people.”

Since I also grew up in a farming community, I found it strange that there weren’t a mix of white people and black people where she grew up. It was interesting to hear her perspective on the issue.

To our more-enlightened 21st century minds, it seems ridiculous that prior to Brown v Board of Education of Topeka it was legal to have racially-segregated public school systems. Since I was born in 1953, 1954 doesn’t seem very long ago. (Please stop rolling your eyes. If you don’t already understand, you will someday.)

The dual school systems didn’t disappear overnight – not by long shot. They continued here in Cabarrus County until the beginning of the 1966-67 school year. The previous school year, students had the option of attending the school not designated for their race. Few students chose to do that. For instance, in the previously all-white school of 1,000 students that I attended, only three black students chose to enroll in 1965. Looking back on it, I can’t imagine the courage it took for them to do so.

The following school year, the previously all-black schools in the county were closed. The buildings weren’t even used! I believe that’s proof in and of itself that the school board members knew that previously all-black schools weren’t on par with the previously all-white schools. Or, perhaps they knew that most white parents wouldn’t want their children assigned to those previously all-black schools. They carried a stigma which was based on racial bias and a deep-seated prejudice.

What a luxury the school board had then to let school buildings sit empty. It was just a couple of years before the county’s population started growing so fast that the school board was never again able to build schools fast enough to keep up.

The mid-1960s were volatile years as school desegregation took place. Southern states were held up by the national media as a backward place where white people resented black people and wanted their schools kept separate. That’s what we were told and we didn’t know any better until race riots broke out in Boston in September 1974 when the public schools there were ordered to desegregate.

In conclusion

In light of this history and what I read last week in Viola Davis’ memoir, Finding Me, I’m left to conclude that people everywhere are prejudiced against people who don’t look like they do.

We see racial profiling and discrimination all over the United States. Housing redlining takes place every day as mortgage lenders find ways to disguise such practices which limits where people of color can purchase homes. Every time I think this no longer takes place, investigative reporters uncover proof that I’m wrong.

I’ve come to realize that the desegregation of public schools didn’t always translate into equal opportunity. Students of all races and economic backgrounds experience different levels of support and nurture at home. Those of us who grew up in happy homes were blissfully unaware that some of our fellow students were subjected to abuse and neglect in their homes. Teachers — knowingly or unknowingly — bring their own prejudices into the classroom. So do students. It’s human nature, and it’s something we all need to be aware of as we interact with one another in our daily lives. You don’t know what the other person might be going through in his or her personal life.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have one or more good books to read this week.

Take time for a hobby, family, and friends.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

Janet

6 Books Read in April 2022

In case you checked out my blog post last week expecting it to be about the books I read in March, I’m sorry you were disappointed. I hope you found last Monday’s topic of interest, though. It dealt with my favorite local history story.

Today I’m writing about some of the books I read last month. There was quite a variety, as this is all part of my journey as a writer.

The Man from St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett

The Man from St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never read a Ken Follett book until last month. I don’t really know why. What prompted me to read this particular novel by him was another book I was reading, Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman. The Zuckerman book was recommended by author A.J. Mayhew of The Dry Grass of August and Tomorrow’s Bread fame.

The Man from St. Petersburg was filled with political intrigue during the early years of the 20th century. A Russian anarchist comes to London to assassinate a Russian prince who is in England trying to work out an alliance between Great Britain and Russia against Germany. It is assumed that war is coming, so it’s time for countries to choose sides.

Personal secrets are revealed along the way in this novel that will keep you turning pages. It was written in 1982, but I hope your public library still has a copy in case you haven’t read it.

Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman

Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman

This book, referenced above, has been very helpful to me. It takes The Man from St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett; The Godfather, by Mario Puzo; The Witness, by Nora Roberts; and Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell and examines how they were outlined and written. The main focus is on Ken Follett’s book. It was interesting to see four different outlines of The Man from St. Petersburg to see how even a good writer like Follett went through the process of outlining, making changes, and making more changes before he produced the final product.

The Younger Wife, by Sally Hepworth

The Younger Wife, by Sally Hepworth

I became a fan of Sally Hepworth’s novels when I read her third novel in 2017, The Mother’s Promise. Shortly thereafter, I read her second novel, The Things We Keep. Since then, I’ve read The Family Next Door, The Mother-in-Law, The Good Sister, and last month I read The Younger Wife.

The Younger Wife is Hepworth’s seventh novel. I just realized I’ve never read her first one, The Secrets of Midwives. It’s been on my to-be-read list for years.

The Younger Wife deals with several difficult issues, including Alzheimer’s Disease and how it affects the entire family and not just the person who has the illness. It also deals with physical and psychological abuse. I can see how, if a person is living with those traumas or has lived with them, this might not be a book for them to read.

A History of Rockbridge County, Virginia

I was delighted to find an online copy of this book online because it supplied me with little tidbits of information that I found interesting as I continue to research life along the Great Wagon Road in Virginia for the historical novel I’m writing.

Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out, by Jennie Nash

Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out, by Jennie Nash

If there ever was a bargain “how-to” book for fiction writers, this book is it. I paid $2.99 plus tax for it for Kindle. In it, Ms. Nash spells out how to “outline” a novel. I never have followed the old outline model we had to use in elementary school (and probably high school, too) because it was too confining. I could never write an outline that way for a book.

I usually write my outlines in paragraph form if I’m writing a novel or short story. I’ve taken a number of writing classes and I’ve read more how-to-write-a-novel books than I care to admit. For some reason, some things fell into place as I read Ms. Nash’s book.

The idea that if something happens there has to be a reaction finally fell into place for me. I already knew it, but Ms. Nash’s book drilled it into me that as I’m planning/outlining a novel I have to make a conscious effort to make sure everything happens for a reason and everything that happens has consequences.

I know, you’re probably saying, “Well, duh!” Perhaps it was Ms. Nash’s explanation, but I finally got it! In the past, I concentrated on the actions in my outlines and didn’t always give equal consideration to planning every reaction.

One of the points Ms. Nash makes in the book is that if you’ll use her way of outlining – which she calls “the inside-outline,” your novel won’t fall apart in the middle. If you follow her advice, there will be tension throughout your novel and your reader won’t lose interest.

Power Penmanship: An Illustrated Guide to Enhancing Your Image Through the Art of Handwriting Style, by Janet Ernst

I mentioned this book in passing in an earlier blog post. I checked it out of the public library out of curiosity. I soon found myself doing the writing exercises and enjoying it. My handwriting isn’t terrible, although taking shorthand in high school nearly ruined it. I thought I could probably improve on my penmanship, so it was worth reading the book. It has made me aware of several letters I’ve become sloppy with, so I’m trying to do better.

Since my last blog post

In last Monday’s blog post, I promised to write a little more today about my trip to a bookstore in Concord, North Carolina. Since the big-box bookstore at the shopping mall closed years ago, Concord had been in need of a bookstore. A husband-and-wife team opened Goldberry Books at 12 Union Street, South in downtown Concord in November 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit the store until recently.

It is a beautiful, store that offers both new and top-quality used books. My sister and I browsed for probably an hour. It was very quiet when we arrived, but by mid-afternoon customers were flooding in. The best I could tell, although I couldn’t see all of the children’s section in the back, there were at least 25 people there when we left. The best part was the excitement exhibited by the numerous children. It made my heart sing.

If you’re traveling on Interstate-85 through North Carolina, take a break and drive into Concord. It has a quaint downtown with various restaurants and shops and many Victorian homes on both ends of Union Street have been lovingly restored.

Disclaimer: I wrote this about Goldberry Books and the city of Concord on my own free will just because I thought they both needed an endorsement. Here’s the link to Goldberry Books: https://www.goldberrybooks.com/.

I love public libraries, but I also love independent bookstores! Goldberry Books is an excellent one.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. As usual, I’m reading several at the same time.

Make time for a hobby, friends, and family.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

Janet

#OnThisDay: 251st Anniversary of 1771 Gunpowder Plot

When the first week of May rolls around every year, I’m reminded of a bold, dangerous, and exciting event in our local history in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. It dates back to the early days of the American Revolution. In fact, it predates the American Declaration of Independence by five years. Most Americans have never heard of it.

Gunpowder Shipment

As the Regulator Movement reached the boiling point in Alamance County, North Carolina in April 1771, word came to the Rocky River Community in present-day Cabarrus County (but then part of Mecklenburg County) that a shipment of gunpowder was on its way from Charleston, South Carolina to General Waddell in Salisbury (in Rowan County.)

Knowing that the gunpowder was destined to be used to put down the Regulator Movement in counties north of Mecklenburg, eight or nine youths and young men from the Rocky River Presbyterian congregation put their heads together and designed a plan to make sure the gunpowder never reached General Waddell.

While making plans in secret to intercept the gunpowder shipment, the young men took cover from a late April 1771 thunderstorm in the springhouse on the Andrew Logan farm near where Reedy Creek now passes under Lower Rocky River Road.

Photo credit: Jonas Kaiser on unsplash.com

Not all sources agree on the names or even the number of conspirators, but it is believed they were as follows, based on the sworn testimony of James Ashmore: James White, Jr.; John White, Jr.; William White; Robert (Bob) Caruthers (who was married to a sister of James White, Jr.); Robert Davis; Benjamin Cochran; William White (cousin of the other Whites and son of the “Widow White”); James Ashmore; and Joshua Hadley, a half-brother of James Ashmore.

Photo credit: Mick Haupt on unsplash.com

One source credits Joshua Hadley with producing a New Testament on which each one swore that if anyone should ever divulge their plot that a ball might be shot through his heart and his soul sent to the lowest hell. Furthermore, they swore that if one of them ever revealed the names of the participants, he might die where no one should see him and that he should be denied a Christian burial.

Meanwhile…

Three munitions wagons from Charleston arrived in Charlotte but, upon learning that the gunpowder was destined to be used to put down the Regulators in Alamance and Rowan counties, the teamsters refused to take the munitions any further. It is said that Militia Colonel Moses Alexander had difficulty securing volunteers to take the wagons on to Salisbury.

An informant took word to the conspirators at Rocky River that the wagons were in Charlotte and they would stop for the night at the muster grounds near the present-day intersection of US-29 and Poplar Tent Road in Concord. (Since US-29 essentially follows the route of The Great Wagon Road, that’s the route the wagons would have taken to Salisbury.)

Thursday, May 2, 1771

The conspirators met at the home of James White, Sr. They blackened their faces to disguise themselves and set out for the muster grounds. They cut across the county and sometime on the night of May 2, 1771, converged on Phifer’s old muster grounds.

Can’t you just image those teenage boys and young men nervously waiting from a vantage point near the muster grounds? Can’t you imagine their hearts pounding as they ran down the hill and approached the wagons?

It is thought that James White, Jr. was the ringleader. The signal was given! The band of patriots surprised the guards! One of the teamsters was James Caruthers. He recognized his brother, Bob, as one of the attackers. In a low voice he said, “You’ll rue this, Bob.”

“Hold your tongue, Jim,” came his brother’s reply.

The conspirators moved the guards and teamsters to safety. They emptied the wagons and put the gunpowder and blankets in a pile. A train of powder was laid. James White, Jr., fired his pistol into the train.

Photo credit: Cee on unsplash.com

The resulting explosion was heard nine miles away in the vicinity of Rocky River Presbyterian Church. Some people thought it was thunder, while others mistook it for an earthquake.

Photo credit: Andy Watkins on unsplash.com

It is said that James White, Jr. carried a scar for the rest of his life where a flying stave from one of the gunpowder barrels hit him above his eye and cut to the bone before he could run from the explosion.

Photo credit: Christopher Burns on unsplash.com

The conspirators got home the best way they could in the wee hours of Friday, May 3, cleaned themselves up, and said nothing of their overnight adventure.

The Consequences

The Battle of Alamance took place on May 16, 1771, and the Regulator Movement in North Carolina was effectively put down by the royal government. Gov. William Tryon proclaimed on May 17 that he would pardon the rebels if they would turn themselves in by May 21. Bad weather and other circumstances prompted Tryon to postpone the deadline.

Some of the Regulators were put on trial on May 30. The trial was expected to last three weeks. No doubt, news of all this was moving up and down the Great Wagon Road and the conspirators from Rocky River were anxiously awaiting the outcome.

Photo credit: Jon Toney on unsplash.com

Giving in to exhaustion, at one point some of the gunpowder conspirators set out for Hillsborough to take the governor up on his offer of pardon. Before they reached their destination, they were warned that it was a trick and were told the Governor Tryon intended to hang them. Some returned to the canebrakes of Reedy Creek, while others fled to Georgia and Virginia.

June 11, 1771

Governor Tryon proclaimed that he knew some of the rebels in the colony wanted to turn themselves in, so he extended the deadline by which they could do so to July 10, except for “all the Outlaws, the Prisoners, all those concerned in blowing up General Waddell’s Ammunition in Mecklenburg County” and sixteen named Regulators.

The Governor sensed that he was losing control of North Carolina. He wanted the young men who destroyed his gunpowder brought to justice, but he didn’t know who they were.

In mid- to late-June, the Regulators’ trial came to a close. Twelve Regulators were tried and found guilty of high treason. Six were hanged while the other six waited for the King to decide their fate.

Photo credit: Alireza Jalilian on unsplash.com

Perhaps word of the Regulator trial results reached Rocky River, or maybe James Ashmore and Joshua Hadley simply feared that one of the other conspirators would disclose their identities. For whatever reason, Ashmore and Hadley went independently to tell Colonel Moses Alexander (who lived on a plantation at the present-day site of Charlotte Motor Speedway) what they knew.

Imagine their surprise when they ran into each other on Colonel Alexander’s front porch!

The two half-brothers jockeyed for position. James Ashmore eventually pushed his way into the house and told Col. Alexander that he was ready to talk.

June 22, 1771

James Ashmore was taken to Charlotte, where he gave a sworn deposition before Thomas Polk, a Mecklenburg County Justice of the Peace. That’s when things went from bad to worse for the conspirators.

Photo credit: Alessio Fiorentino

In his deposition, Ashmore told Polk how the conspirators had met at Andrew Logan’s old plantation after James McCaul advertised a sale or something to be held there. It was there that James White, Jr. asked Ashmore if he would be interested in helping to blow up the gunpowder shipment.

Ashmore said in his deposition that he was asked in the planning stages if he thought there was any harm in blowing up the gunpowder. He said he didn’t see any harm in it. He said the next morning between ten and eleven o’clock he stopped working on his plantation and went three-quarters of a mile to look for his horses.

Photo credit: Aurelien Faux on unsplash.com

Ashmore claimed it was there that he met six men on the road “who in appearance resembled Indians.” One was either recognized or identified himself as James White, Jr. White persuaded Ashmore to come back and join them after taking his horses home and recruiting his half-brother, Joshua Hadley.

They joined the men later about a half-mile from the Ashmore home. It was at that point in the deposition that Ashmore named six men with whom he and Hadley assembled.

Ashmore’s deposition goes on to describe the attack on the munitions wagons and how the conspirators had been sworn to secrecy.

In hiding

Once the names were revealed, the search for the men began in earnest. As stated earlier, some escaped to Georgia and Virginia. Others hid the canebrakes of Reedy Creek in the vicinity of the bridge on present-day Lower Rocky River Road where the women of Rocky River Presbyterian Church took them food and clothing.

Photo credit: Gorrin Bel on unsplash.com

When in need of something, one of the young men would pop up in a ravine and whistle. Nearby resident of around 40 years of age, William Spears, would acknowledge the fugitive by removing his hat. He would then walk off in the opposite direction so he would not be seen as aiding the conspirators.

Agnes Spears, William’s wife, would then take them food. For nearly one year the women of Rocky River Presbyterian Church fed and concealed the young men who took refuge along the banks of Reedy Creek. The authorities would never think to question the women because they couldn’t imagine that the women of the community had anything to do with the plot or its aftermath.

Photo credit:

The Rev. Hezekiah James Balch openly prayed for the safety of the young men from the pulpit of Rocky River Presbyterian Church.

The participants in the gunpowder plot were fugitives until independence was declared. After the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was issued on May 20, 1775, all Mecklenburg County citizens were considered to be in rebellion. After the Declaration, the conspirators were finally able to move about as freely as anyone else and prepare to fight in the coming Revolutionary War.

When May 2 and July 4 roll around every year, think about those brave young men from Rocky River who risked their lives to help gain our freedom in America.

Since my last blog post

Is it me, or are the weeks just flying by? I’m hard-pressed to remember what I’ve done since last Monday. I just know I’ve been busy. I visited a bookstore in downtown Concord, North Carolina on Friday. More on that in next week’s blog post. I’ve done some reading and quite a bit of brainstorming over the plot of my novel-in-progress. I work out many of the plot twists and some of the dialog while on my daily walks.

Yesterday we celebrated “May Meeting” at Rocky River Presbyterian Church. The tradition started as early as 1757. On the first Sunday in May, present members of the congregation, others associated with the church throughout its history, and other visitors from the community gather for worship, the Lord’s Supper, and Dinner in the Grove. It’s been a mainstay in my life since 1953.

We had perfect weather for Dinner in the Grove. Everyone brings food and spreads it out on a long four-foot-wide wire “table” that’s put up just for such occasions. It’s fun to try a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Some people bring special dishes they’re known for. There’s always good food and fellowship as we all eat together. After having an abbreviated version during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was exciting this year to get back to the way it used to be.

Until my next blog post

My blog post next Monday will be about some of the books I read in April.

I hope you have at least one good book to read and a hobby to enjoy.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

Janet

You should know who Julian Francis Abele was

Everyone reading my blog has probably heard of Duke University. It’s a world-renowned university located in Durham, North Carolina. You might not know of its meager beginnings, and you might not know that the architect responsible for its magnificent West Campus was a black man.

I’ve lived in North Carolina my entire life, and I only recently learned who Julian Francis Abele was.

First, here’s a very brief early history of the university.

In 1838, a subscription-supported school called Brown’s Schoolhouse was established in the Randolph County community of Trinity. The school’s name changed a couple of times over the years but was settled as Trinity College in 1859.

In 1892, Trinity College moved to Durham, North Carolina. With heavy financial support from Washington Duke and Julian S. Carr – both Methodists – the name was changed to Duke in December 1924. That was then James B. Duke, son of Washington Duke, established The Duke Endowment. It was a $40 million trust fund set up for its interest to be divided between various hospitals, orphanages, the Methodist Church, three colleges, and the university to be built around Trinity College. In today’s dollars, the $40 million endowment would be equivalent to more than $630 million.

But what did Julian Francis Abele have to do with this?

Julian Francis Abele was born April 30, 1881 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – so this Saturday will be the 141st anniversary of his birth. In 1902, Abele was the first black graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. All four years of undergraduate school there, Abele worked in the mornings as a designer at the Louis Hickman Architectural Firm and took afternoon and evening classes at the university.

Horace Trumbauer, a nationally-recognized Philadelphia architect, hired Abele. He sent Abele to study abroad for three years. Upon returning from Europe in 1906, Abele joined Trumbauer’s firm and by 1909 had become the company’s chief designer. When Trumbauer died in 1938, Abele became head of the company.

The company designed numerous buildings in Philadelphia, a number of mansions in Newport and New York, and the Widener Memorial Library at Harvard University.

But my interest in writing about Julian Francis Abele today is his contributions to the gorgeous English Gothic and Georgian buildings at Duke University. Over the 30-year period of 1924 to 1954, he was the primary designer of the university’s West Campus.

Photo credit: Pattern on unsplash.com

If you’ve not had the pleasure of visiting Duke University…

Photographs of the buildings on the Duke University campus don’t do justice to the beauty of the architecture. The centerpiece of the campus and grandest example of Julian Francis Abele’s work is Duke Chapel.

Exterior of Duke Chapel. Photo credit: Chuck Givens on unsplash.com

“Chapel” in this case is an understatement, for the chapel is more of a cathedral than a chapel in the common sense of the word. The chapel interior is 63 feet wide, 291 feet long, and the nave proper is 73 feet tall.

Inside Duke Chapel. Photo credit: Chuck Givens on unsplash.com

Standing on the highest point on the planned campus in 1925, James B. Duke said that it was on that place that the chapel should be built. It would be the highest point and the center of the campus. The cornerstone was laid in 1930, and it is said that students enjoyed watching the stone cutters and the progression of construction of the chapel over the next two years. Little did those white students know that the chief designer of the edifice was a black man.

In fact, it wasn’t until Julian Francis Abele’s granddaughter, Susan Cook, brought to public light in 1986 that a person of color had designed the magnificent focal point of the Duke campus. While students protested apartheid in South Africa, Susan Cook wrote a letter to the student newspaper to make it known that her grandfather had designed their beloved West Campus.

Portraits of Abele now hang in the main administration building on campus and in the Gothic Reading Room in Rubenstein Library alongside those of former Duke presidents and board chairs. In 2016, and the main quadrangle on campus, which stretches from the Clocktower Quad to the Davison Quad – and to the Chapel Quad – was named the Abele Quad.

As quoted from https://today.duke.edu/2016/03/abele, upon the naming of the Abele Quad in 2016, Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead said, “Julian Abele brought the idea of Duke University to life. It is an astonishing face that, in the deepest days of racial segregation, a black architect designed the beauty of this campus. Now, everyone who lives, works, studies and visits the heart of Duke’s campus will be reminded of Abele’s role in its creation.”

Shocking to our 21st century minds, is the fact that the racial prejudices of the early- and mid-20th century deterred Mr. Abele from visiting the Duke University campus to see his designs come to fruition and caused him not to be admitted to the American Institute of Architects until 1942.

Mr. Abele died in Philadelphia on April 23, 1950, which was 72 years ago this past Saturday.

Visit Duke University in person or virtually

If you’re ever zipping along on Interstates 40 or 85 in Durham, take several hours to leave the hustle and bustle behind and visit the Duke University campus. Duke Chapel is open every day from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Stroll around the campus and be sure to visit the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. (Visit https://gardens.duke.edu/ for information about parking and what’s in bloom.)

Visit https://chapel.duke.edu/about-chapel/history-architecture to take a virtual tour of the Duke University campus and to watch a tour of Duke Chapel. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the links to various aspects of the chapel to learn more about the 77 stained-glass windows, the portal, the carillon, and the four pipe organs (including the diminutive 2014 153-wooden pipe positive organ that can be moved about within the chapel for small concerts.

Since my last blog post

I continue not to be at my best, but as energy allows I work on my novel, read, or do online research.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read.

Remember the people of Ukraine and count your blessings.

Janet