MLK Day and the Fiery Cross

We must meet hate with love.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.

mlk-removing-burned-cross-from-his-yard-1960

(photo of MLK removing a burnt cross from his yard in Atlanta, Georgia 1960)

If I found this symbol of hatred in my front yard, I would probably call anyone who would listen, post it all over social media, get the police involved, and generally throw a fit. Then, I would pack and move, which is exactly what the haters wanted to happen.

MLK didn’t do any of those things. Look at his body language. He doesn’t show hatred, anger, or fear. He seems very calm, though undoubtedly very perturbed. He hasn’t even told his small boy to “go back into the house,” as he refused to cower from the danger that obviously existed.

Though we all know MLK was quite an incredible man, my thoughts on the photo revolve more around history. What does religion, Jesus, crosses have to do with racism? Where and when did cross burning start?

The first recorded instance I could find is in the poem The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott, published in 1810.

In the third part of the poem, a burnt cross was used to summon Scottish clans to rise up against King James. In the poem, the chieftain made a cross of wood and lit it on fire. He then killed a goat and extinguished the fire with the goat’s blood. The burnt cross was then carried by a messenger to a nearby village. The messenger spoke only one word, the place to meet. The village would then send a messenger to the next village and so on. Any man who failed to show up at the appointed battle was to meet the same fate as the goat and cross.

This, however, wasn’t something new the author created. Using a “fiery cross” or a “bidding stick” was the common way to rally people to an assembly as far back as the 1500s, and commonly in the 1700s to rally Scottish clan members to arms. It was even used with Scottish settlers in Canada during the War of 1812. All of the above examples were never a form of racism, only of communication.

The burning cross became a symbol of the Ku Klux Klan when this public way of rallying supporters was adapted by them in the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation. They used cross burning as a rallying cry, but this time, it was not to stand up against monarchs or battling neighbors. This time it was accompanied by hymn singing and prayer and was used to rally supporters to create/maintain white supremacy. It became an anti-Catholic, anti-Jew, anti-immigrant, prohibition symbol.

By the 1950s, the Klan and its burning cross was more focused on an anti-black rhetoric. This is where they lost me. I hate to leave you here, dear reader, without the answers, but I have yet to find why this symbol was used to show hatred by placing it on black people’s lawns.

Please let me know what you think.

 

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Girls Can’t Run Marathons! Oh, Yeah?

sweet-strong-women-quotes

Girls can’t run marathons. Girls can’t do much of anything. They’re just…girls.

Young women today need to realize that women have not always been equals in the world, and in many ways, we still aren’t. We’ve only had the right to vote for the last 94 years. Think about that, ladies. Your great grandmother and perhaps your grandmother couldn’t vote for the next president, a privilege you take for granted. Up until fifty years ago, a woman couldn’t get a loan or open a bank account without her husband’s signature (and permission).

One woman who bravely and boldly paved the way for us is Katherine Switzer.

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At the age of nineteen, Ms. Switzer decided she wanted to run the Boston Marathon. Guess what? Sorry, it’s a boy’s club. You can’t run.

She did it anyway. I don’t know how she got past the registration desk, but somehow, she got her number, pinned it on her sweatshirt, and started the race. She got many kind acknowledgements from the male runners, but at some point during the race, reporters got wind of a woman running and caught up with her, asking her stupid questions like, “Are you going to run the whole race?” and “What are you trying to prove?” Eventually, a man tried to grab her and throw her out of the race. He turned out to be the race manager. He is the guy pictured below in the dress shoes behind her. Fortunately, he was tossed to the side of the road by Ms. Switzer’s boyfriend.

boston marathon race organizers attempt to stop kathrine switzer from running 1967. she finished the race

At that point, Ms. Switzer realized she needed to finish the race – for all women. If she quit or allowed them to throw her out of the race, it would be a blow to all women who desired to compete, and she would become a joke, a tabloid headline. At the time, there were no intercollegiate sports for women, no scholarships, no prize money. Women competing physically was almost unheard of.

In the freezing rain and frigid temperatures on April 19, 1967, Katherine Switzer finished the Boston Marathon in four hours and twenty minutes, forever changing the face of sports opportunities for women.

If you’d like to read more about Ms. Switzer and the Boston Marathon event in her own words, you can find it on her webpage HERE.

The Most Popular Actress You’ve Never Heard Of

Annette_Kellerman_1907Annette Kellerman (6 Jul 1887 – 6 Nov 1975) was a professional swimmer, a vaudeville star, a writer, an actress, and a multiple-business owner. She had her own line of one-piece bathing suits for women and helped popularize the sport of synchronized swimming. She performed in many aquatic-themed movies, most depicting her as a mermaid. Her mermaid costume designs are still mimicked today in mermaid shows around the world. Ms. Kellerman performed all her own stunts including a ninety-two-foot dive into the sea and a sixty-foot dive into a pool of crocodiles. She was a life-long vegetarian and in her later years, she owned a health-food store in Long Beach, California.

 

 

 

She advocated for the right of women to wear one-piece swimwear, and in 1907, on Revere Beach, Massachusetts, she was arrested for public indecency for wearing this skimpy little number.

arrested for public indecency Annette Kellermann on Revere Beach Massachusetts 1907

Apparently, Ms. Kellerman didn’t learn her lesson, and the powers-that-be missed her next photo. It’s a publicity picture for the 1916 Fox Pictures film “A Daughter of the Gods.”

Annette_Kellerman_in_tree,_arms_spread

 

Ms. Kellerman was the first major actress to appear fully nude, and the film was the first million-dollar film in history. No copies are known today. The only remaining full film of hers in existence today is the 1924 “Venus of the South Seas” that was restored by the Library of Congress in 2004. In 1908, a professor at Harvard University named her the “Perfect Woman” due to her resemblance to the Venus de Milo. She was portrayed by Esther Williams in “Million Dollar Mermaid” in 1952, and she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She also has a swimming complex in Marrickville, Australia named after her.

She died in 1975 in her home country of Australia and her cremated remains were scattered over the Great Barrier Reef.

Otto Frank Visits Anne Frank Museum 1960

I came across some old photos and have been inspired to write blogs about them. This one is a photo of Otto Frank upon his return to the attic where his family hid from the Nazis for two years. I can’t even imagine the emotions he felt upon seeing the place fifteen years later.

1960 otto frank visiting attic the only survivor

 

His daughter, Anne Frank, was born in Frankfurt, Germany on 12 June 1929. She was the second daughter of Otto and Edith Frank, and she had a sister, Margot, who was three years older.

diaryIf you haven’t read The Diary of Anne Frank, I’ll shorten it for you.

Hitler came into power in the 1930s, and Otto thought his family would be safer in Amsterdam, away from the Nazis. All went well for a while, but in May of 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. The first step they took against the Jews was to force them to register with the ‘state,’ thereby identifying and isolating them. As a Jew, Otto Frank was no longer allowed to own his own business, and soon, teenage Margot was called up for  duty at a ‘work camp.’ Otto needed to protect his family, so they went into hiding in the attic of the family business. Friends took care of them while they were in hiding, and this is the place Anne wrote her diary.

Anne made the last entry in her diary on August 1, 1944, and on August 4th, the family’s hiding place was found out. Anne was now fifteen years old and had been in hiding for two years. Anne, Margot, and their mother were initially sent to a concentration camp in Holland, then moved to Auschwitz, and then they were split up and the girls moved to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Their mother, left behind at Auschwitz, took ill and died in January of 1945. Both of the girls caught typhoid in the deplorable conditions of the camp. Margot died in February and Anne died in March of 1945.

Otto was the only survivor. When he returned to Amsterdam, he was given Anne’s diary, which had been overlooked by the Nazis in the raid and held in keeping by a former employee who had help guard the family.

The diary was published in 1947 and has been translated into more than fifty languages. The hideaway in Amsterdam was eventually turned into a museum in 1960, and this is when Otto visited. The photo of his visit is very haunting.

A to Z – W (part 2) is for Wolsey

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]April 2016 A to Z Challenge – I’m writing about history.

W (part 2) is for Wolsey

 

 

 

Since I wrote about Whitehall Palace yesterday and mentioned one of its owners, Thomas Wolsey, I thought I’d stick here in W for a minute and go a little more in depth about Mr. Wolsey, his amazing rise to status and his total and swift downfall.

wolseyThomas was born the son of a butcher in England in March 1473. In his twenties, he studied theology, eventually becoming a priest and a chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1509, he went to work for King Henry VIII. That’s where the fun begins. Keep in mind, young Henry was only 18 years old at the time, and I’m sure the 36-year-old Wolsey figured he’d lead the king in righteousness with his mature and prudent ways.

Things went along rather well for Wolsey. You saw his house in the Whitehall Palace blog. Obviously, he was well taken care of by the king. Having the young king’s ear, Wolsey quickly became the controlling force behind all matters of state, and when Pope Leo X appointed Wolsey Archbishop of York in 1515, he became the second most important cleric in England. Henry even appointed him the highest political post possible – Lord Chancellor – which is the king’s chief adviser.

Things proceeded well for about a decade, but Henry was young, egocentric, and distraught by the fact that his wife Catherine had not delivered him a son and heir. Catherine was older than Henry and nearing forty, Henry didn’t think he’d get a son out of her, and I imagine his bitterness grew. Simultaneously, he met and fell in love with another woman, Anne Boleyn, and he decided to rid himself of his wife. But how? He couldn’t have her killed. He couldn’t just sent the queen away. He’d have to divorce her, but divorcing someone meant you couldn’t marry another. That wouldn’t work. There was only one thing to do. He’d have the marriage annulled. There was only one HUGE problem. The Pope refused to annul his marriage to Catherine on the grounds that one can’t throw away a wife because one desires a different wife.

Well, Thomas Wolsey is so important in the church, let’s let him handle it. Surely he can convince the Pope to grant an annulment, especially for the freakin’ KING. OF. ENGLAND.

The divorce went on for years, and each passing message that Wolsey was getting nowhere with the Pope, enraged Henry even more. All for the love of Anne, Henry decided to split from the Catholic Church and become his own religious leader in his own newly formed Church of England. He would grant his own divorce and get rid of his wife. He also decided to get rid of the useless Wolsey. Anne had convinced Henry that Wolsey was slowing down the proceedings on purpose. In 1529, Wolsey’s fall from grace was sudden and total. He was run out of town and stripped of all his titles except Archbishop of York.

Within the year, Catherine was banished from the court. Wolsey was charged with treason and faced beheading. Fortunately for him, he died of natural causes en route to London to answer to the charges. Henry confiscated Wolsey’s Whitehall Palace and married Anne there in 1533.

If all that isn’t sick and twisted enough, Henry had Anne beheaded three years later.

A to Z – Whitehall Palace or How Many Bathrooms Does One Need?

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]April 2016 A to Z Challenge – I’m blogging about history.

W is for Whitehall Palace or How Many Bathrooms Does One Need?

 

 

 

2006_tud_whitehall_1In the 11th and 12th centuries, the center of the action in London was Westminster Palace. Since 1049, the king had lived there, and subsequently, government held their operations there. As you can imagine, the surrounding neighborhood became too expensive for any normal person to afford. So, in 1240, the Archbishop of York bought a more affordable piece of land a little further away and called it York Place. He built a pretty nice house on the 23-acre property. So much so, that King Edward I stayed there while Westminster was being rebuilt to accommodate his large entourage. It must have been a large and splendid house. The photo is a depiction of the property from the show Tutors.

Years later in the late 1400s, Cardinal Wolsey owned the property (confiscated and passed down through a couple wars), and he expanded and expanded and expanded it. For some reason, this guy wanted bigger and bigger. In 1530, Wolsey got on the wrong side of the king, and King Henry VIII removed Wolsey from power and confiscated his house. It is suspected that Henry’s girlfriend Anne Boleyn wanted the house for herself and had something to do with Wolsey’s downfall. Neither here nor there, Henry married Anne Boleyn in 1533, and the two lovebirds moved into the house. Due to the building stones being white, they renamed it Whitehall.

anne and henry monogramHenry expanded the house even larger than York and Wolsey had done, adding a bowling green, indoor tennis courts, and a full tiltyard for jousting. After dumping beheading Anne, Henry married Jane Seymour in the house in 1536. Masons spent the next few years removing Anne’s monogram from all the woodwork and stonework as embroiderers replaced it in the needlework. A decade and much drama later, Henry died within the walls of the great estate in January of 1547. By then, the palace had grown to 1500 rooms, overtaking the size of the Vatican.

Following Henry’s death, the palace passed from his children Mary to Elizabeth, to their cousin James, who in 1622 constructed the Banqueting House, and finally to Charles I who was beheaded on the lawn of the Banqueting House by Parliament during the English civil war, and to his son Charles II, who also died in the house, but of a stroke.

This brings us to 1691. On April 10, a fire broke out and destroyed much of the living quarters and damaged much of the rest. In 1698, a second fire took what remained. Sadly, it is said that Michelangelo’s Cupid, a mural of Henry VIII, and a marble sculpture of Charles I was also lost in the fire.

The only thing left today is the Banqueting House.

A to Z – Valentine’s Day or Slap Me with a Goat Hide

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]April 2016 A to Z Challenge – I’m writing about history.

V is for Valentine’s Day or Slap Me with a Goat Hide

 

 

 

 

heartAs with most holidays, Valentine’s Day is nested in pagan roots. February 15 was the pagan festival of Lupercalia. To begin the festival, members of the Luperci (an order of Roman priests) would gather at a sacred cave and sacrifice a goat which represented fertility. They would then cut the goat’s hide into strips and dip the strips in blood. (Romantic so far, no?) They would then march through the town, gently slapping women with the goat hide. Instead of beating the priests to death with rocks, women actually welcomed the slap of the hide, believing it would make them more fertile in the coming year.

Fortunately for us girls, in the 5th century Pope Gelasius replaced the pagan goat-hide-slapping celebration with a Christian holiday – St. Valentine’s Day. It was still a celebration of love and fertility, but without all that goat nonsense. I’m sure the goats were happy about it, too.

Today, 150 million Valentine’s cards are exchanged every year, and not one goat hide in the bunch!

goat