Barry’s Blog # 416: Who is an American? A Timeline, Part Eight of Eight

Posted on September 21, 2022 by shmoover

Part Eight: 2010-Present

We have got to make the white population uncomfortable, because that is the only way to get their attention. – Bill Russell

2010-2017: Immigrants file over 1,200 sexual abuse complaints against ICE agents, only 2% of which it will investigate. Over $3.2 billion is spent over the past decade to resolve nearly 40,000 claims at 25 of the nation’s largest police and sheriff’s departments.

2011: DHS completes some 650 miles of border walls and fences. The government will later admit that illegal border-crossers had simply found new routes, that the fences had been breached thousands of times, and that the Secure Fence Act had caused at least 2,000 additional deaths. California first observes “Fred Korematsu Day.” Whites believe they are victims of racism more often than Blacks. Native tribes are running 460 gambling operations, with annual revenue of $27 billion. At its height, the NYC “stop and frisk” program stops 685,000 people in one year. Worldwide, multi-racial Occupy movements protest the corporate control of national economies, while polls report that most Americans support racial profiling.

2012: Most whites again do not vote for Obama. Trayvon Martin is murdered in Florida. An Arizona Border Patrol officer shoots across the border, killing a Mexican teenager.  Six people are murdered in a racially motivated attack at a Sikh temple.  Obama announces that he will stop deporting undocumented immigrants who match certain criteria included in the proposed DREAM Act. He initiates the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which will eventually register 750,000 young people who entered the country as children, the vast majority of whom speak fluent English, have no connection to the countries of their birth, and have committed no crimes. Meanwhile,  2,000-3,000 non-citizen veterans, promised that they would automatically become citizens through their service, face deportation.

2013: Asserting that racism is history, the Supreme Court strikes down the heart of the Voting Rights Act and enables states to again disenfranchise minorities. Florida re-introduces chain gangs. The Black Lives Matter movement begins. Black women are four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications. Black women and girls account for 33% of all women killed by police.

2014: Police murder Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, sparking mass protests. California stops sterilizing prisoners. In the Flint water crisis, 6,000-12,000 primarily black children face elevated blood lead levels. The percentage of churches throughout the nation with at least 20% diversity rises from 7.5% in 2000 to 13.7%. A million black children live in “extreme poverty” (a family of three with disposable annual income of less than $7,000). The “Blue Lives Matter” countermovement convinces Louisiana to make targeting police a hate crime. Protesting construction of a new telescope, Hawaiian activists occupy the road to Mauna Kea. Over 900 anti-Semitic incidents are reported.

2015: Citing the 1901 Insular Acts, Obama opposes full voting rights in areas with four million Americans (almost all of them people of color) living in Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands, thus ensuring a Republican victory in the next election. A racist murders nine Blacks in a South Carolina church. North Carolina protects Confederate monuments. Blacks make up 67% of Ferguson’s population but 93% of those arrested. The Army is 20% black, but ten of its bases (all in the South) are named after Confederates. The Confederate flag flies over the South Carolina capitol. Louisiana’s Angola prison holds thousands of inmates, 75% of whom are black. Most are serving life sentences; a third were convicted by non-unanimous juries. Convicts sue and achieve small improvements in treatment, but not air conditioning.

The National Park Service develops a narrative of the Reconstruction period and erects a marker documenting the 1866 Memphis massacre. The Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage.  Virginia establishes a compensation fund for victims of involuntary sterilization.

2016: Hillary Clinton is the first woman to run for President. The Border Patrol grows to 62,000 employees, with a $14 billion budget. The Supreme Court denies birthright citizenship to American Samoans. The murder rate for Native American women is 10 times the national average. Colin Kaepernick kneels during the National Anthem at football games, starting a movement to bring attention to police brutality. Team owners collude to blackball him. The North Carolina KKK parades in celebration of Trumpus’ election. Three-quarters of whites say police treat all racial and ethnic groups equally. The FBI reports on a fictional “black identity extremist” movement. Police murder Alton Sterling.  Native activists lead mass protests on the Standing Rock Reservation. Militarized police using water cannons clear an encampment in the path of the DAPL oil pipeline. Obama denies a construction easement, but Trumpus will reverse his decision.

2017: Police murder Philando Castille. White supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia protest removal of a Confederate monument, provoking conflicts with anti-fascists and one death. Racists harass a Palestinian bakery in Oakland. Trumpus rescinds protections for transgender students. The West Virginia Supreme Court rules that the state’s hate crime law does not cover anti-gay assaults. Attorney General Sessions reverses Obama’s policy to stop charging low-level nonviolent drug offenders with severe mandatory sentences.

2017-2019: Trumpus calls for building more walls, stopping all Muslim immigration (except for Saudi Arabia and other client states), removing citizenship from American-born children of non-citizens, ending DACA, imprisoning migrants in old internment camps, sending the military to stop Central American migrant caravans and pardoning Joe Arpaio. The Supreme Court rules that immigrants can be detained indefinitely. Comprehensive Health Services pays a $3.8 million fine for double-charging the government for its services but continues to charge $750 per detainee per day. Eleven statues in the Capitol Building commemorate Confederates, including several in uniform. Taxpayers are paying $40 million/year to support Confederate monuments. Melania Trump’s parents are the beneficiaries of “chain migration.”

2018: Homeland Security stops referring to the U.S. as a “nation of immigrants.” The Justice Department replaces the term “undocumented immigrant” with “illegal alien” and announces that 100% of border-crossing cases will be criminally prosecuted. The Border Patrol separates 3,000 children from their parents, including from those legally applying for asylum. A White House official says, “The children will be taken care of – put into foster care or whatever.” The Supreme Court lifts an injunction against enforcing the Muslim travel ban. Sixty percent of Republicans agree that increased demographic diversity would “weaken American customs and values.” Forty-seven percent of them agree that “there is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views.” Eight percent of white students attend high-poverty schools while 45% of Blacks and Hispanics do. Eleven people are murdered at a Pittsburg synagogue. 

The foreign-born population reaches its highest share since 1910, and the new arrivals are more likely to be college-educated and Asian. Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland are the first Native American women elected to Congress.

2019: Trumpus declares a national emergency, giving him the power to direct $6 billion from other federal agencies for his border wall, closes all international offices of Citizenship and Immigration Services and bars all asylum seekers who pass through a third country. The government repeatedly prosecutes a humanitarian volunteer for providing food and water to immigrants in the desert. It spends $3.8 billion on new contracts related to “unaccompanied alien children.” Immigration officials use secretive and unreliable gang databases to deny asylum claims and remove live interpreters from immigration courts. Homeland Security admits that its use of abhorrent conditions is to deter immigrants from entering the country. Over half of the 20,000 Border Patrol agents, including its Chief, are members of Facebook groups that post hatred of immigrants.   Defying Congress, ICE opens three new migrant jails. Top executives of a “nonprofit” contracted to jail migrant children receive million-dollar paychecks. DHS disbands a domestic terror intelligence unit that had monitored hate groups. The government detains a record-breaking 70,000 children. The U.S. now has the world’s highest child incarceration rate. The Justice Department argues against providing soap, toothbrushes or beds for detained children. The Border Patrol orders agents to not hug children or even to allow siblings to hug each other. Investigators reveal a DHS intelligence-gathering operation in the San Diego-Tijuana area targeting journalists, immigration attorneys, and advocates working with the migrant caravans. The government revives a clause that kept Nazi-Era refugees out of the country. A federal judge rules that the FBI list of “known terrorists”, which has grown to over a million people, including thousands of American citizens, is unconstitutional.

Blacks, 13% of the population, are 24% of the poverty population. The NAACP warns Blacks to carry bail money with them if they travel to Missouri. Florida re-enfranchises ex-felons and then essentially re-institutes the poll tax. A racist burns down three Black churches in ten days. Flint still has 2,500 lead service pipes. Over 90% of adults with gang enhancements (additional prison time or release conditions tacked on to sentences) in California prisons are either Black or Latino.  82% of Blacks support reparations, while 75% of Whites do not.

Asian American students sue Harvard over race-based discrimination. The national women’s soccer team sues for gender and pay discrimination. Joy Harjo becomes the first Native American Poet Laureate. California apologizes for its genocide of Native Americans. Congress exonerates the Port Chicago Fifty. The number of interracial marriages as a proportion of new marriages increases from 3% in 1967 to 19%.

2020: The Border Patrol invites the press to watch it detonate explosives on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona, just as the chair of the Tohono O’odham Nation is offering testimony in Washington regarding the administration’s desecration of O’odham lands. Many U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents of Iranian descent are detained and interrogated when trying to return home from Canada. Trumpus tries to add a census citizenship question as part of a strategy for altering the population numbers used to divide up seats in Congress and the Electoral College. Polls find that a majority of Americans see an “invasion” at the southern border. The State Department discourages travel by foreign women who are pregnant to decrease “birth tourism”, (traveling to the U.S. solely to give birth in the country so that their child qualifies for citizenship). Although children are typically entitled to special protections under the law, including the right to have their asylum claims adjudicated by a judge, federal agents are expelling asylum seekers as young as 8 months, citing the risk of COVID-19. 138 asylum seekers sent back to El Salvador are killed. The government drastically increases fees for immigrants and asylum seekers.

Trumpus calls the coronavirus “Chinese virus” and “kung flu”.  Fifty-five percent of white women support him. 

Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are murdered, leading to a multi-racial uprising that spreads to 2,000 cities and towns in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. An estimated 15-25 million Americans participate in the demonstrations, making them the largest in U.S. history. Activists call for defunding the police. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, Kyle Rittenhouse shoots three anti-racists, two fatally. He will be acquitted and meet with Trumpus. Citigroup  concludes that the nation could have been $16 trillion richer if not for racial inequities in education, housing, wages and business investment over the past 20 years. Black workers have lost $113 billion in potential wages because they couldn’t get college degrees. The housing market lost $218 billion in sales and $13 trillion in business revenue never flowed into the economy because Blacks couldn’t access bank loans. Black-owned homes are more likely to be assessed at higher values relative to their sale price. Blacks pay 13% more in property taxes than white families in the same financial situation.  Latinos (almost 20% of the population and 25% of U.S. box office) are featured in under 1% of the stories told by entertainment media. Israeli police and military have been providing training to hundreds of police from 13 states.

Three Southern states remove their statues of Confederates from the U.S. Capitol. The Supreme Court rules that half of Oklahoma is Native American land. The Washington football team changes its name. Deb Haaland becomes the first Native American Cabinet secretary. North Dakota ensures that Indians are eligible to vote despite lacking ID’s with residential addresses. A federal court shuts down the Dakota Access pipeline, but the government opens the Alaskan refuge to drilling. The victims of the Flint water crisis win a $641 million settlement. Philadelphia apologizes for its 1985 aerial bombing of a black neighborhood.  The Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury law. Pete Buttigieg is the first openly gay cabinet secretary.

2021: Deportation of children increases by 30% under Joe Biden. During his four-year term, Trumpus used Title 42 to remove 500,000 asylum seekers. In under a year, Biden deports almost 700,000. Nearly 20,000 minors are returned to Mexico, 3/4ths of them unaccompanied by adults. In one nine-day period, the administration expels 4,000 Haitians, including hundreds of families with children, without allowing them to seek asylum.  Mounted Border Patrol agents intimidate children on a Texas riverbank.

Nineteen states enact 33 laws to make it harder for minorities to vote. Georgia criminalizes offering water to people in voting lines and reduces the number of voting drop off boxes in Atlanta from 107 to 25. The Supreme Court rejects D.C. voter representation in Congress. The Senate refuses to consider legislation on the filibuster or voting rights. Thirty-eight states have “Stand Your Ground” laws. Fox News mentions “critical race theory” 1,300 times in four months, provoking nine states to pass anti-CRT legislation. Oklahoma enacts a bill to protect drivers who run over protestors. A dozen states introduce similar measures. Thirty five states attempt to stop BDS boycotts against Israel.  Texas, Idaho and Oklahoma pass laws allowing residents to sue abortion clinics, doctors, nurses and even people who drive woman to get abortions. School districts in 26 states ban 1,586 books (713 in Texas). The most challenged books include Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer, Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.

Native American life expectancy drops by 4.7 years during the Covid pandemic, three times that of whites. The Department of Agriculture rejects hundreds of loan applications from Black (42%) and Asian (37%) farmers while denying only 9% of white applications. Rejections increase under Trumpus but also in Biden’s first year. The USDA admits that nearly all the billions in federal farm bailouts to offset the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have gone to white farmers.

Antioch, California apologizes to descendants of early Chinese immigrants for forbidding them to go outside after sundown in 1851 and then burning down its Chinatown in 1876. The Cleveland baseball team drops the name “Indians”. Biden restores protection to the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. California offers compensation to surviving victims of its 70-year forced sterilization program. A federal court holds that the Constitution’s Citizenship Clause applies to persons born in American Samoa. Prior to this point, since many laws required citizenship as a condition for public employment, 100,000 “non-citizen national” American Samoans could not work as police officers, firefighters, paramedics or public school teachers. They couldn’t be court reporters in Utah, optometrists in New Mexico or funeral home directors in Oklahoma. As servicemembers they couldn’t vote for president, serve in specialized services or become officers. New York City bans qualified immunity for police who use excessive force.

2022: The Supreme Court strikes down Roe vs Wade. A Republican congresswoman calls the decision a “historic victory for white life”. Idaho’s abortion ban gives more rights to the rapist’s family than to the pregnant victim. Women turn to Mexico for abortions.

Nearly 400 police officers respond to the shooting of Latino children in Uvalde, Texas without intervening. COVID-19 drives violence against Asian Americans, who sue a Northern California County, alleging racism in traffic stops and enforcement of cannabis-related property liens. Florida instructs civics teachers to teach students that slaveowners Washington and Jefferson opposed slavery. A federal court upholds an 1890 Jim Crow law in Mississippi. Twenty-two Republican state Attorneys-General sue the administration for pushing schools to follow anti-discrimination practices.  A North Carolina town hires a Black woman as city manager, prompting its entire, all-white police force to resign. House Republicans unanimously refuse to investigate Nazis in the military.

Nine migrants drown in one day trying to cross the Rio Grande. The administration claims to have reunited 400 migrant families separated under Trumpus. Biden criticizes Texas and Florida for sending thousands of migrants to Washington, Massachusetts and New York,  but his administration prepares to finish building the border wall.

A federal court denies relief to 80,000 first-time DACA applicants who have been waiting for over a year. Immigration Services keeps their $495 applicant fees. Border agents lie that a two-year old asylum seeker is “looking for work”. The U.S. rejects over 90% of Afghans seeking to enter the country, including relatives of those who had aided the occupation of their country. Biden accepts 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, shortly after deporting thousands of Haitians.  Yuma’s Border Patrol confiscates and discards the headwear of 60 Sikh men.

Florida passes a “Don’t Say Gay” Law. Anti-LGBTQ hate surges online. A federal judge rules the government cannot require companies to cover the cost of HIV prevention drugs.  A group of Georgia mothers alleges that by not being allowed to read sexually explicit material aloud at school board meetings, they themselves are being censored. Arizona bans recording of law enforcement within eight feet. Following the raid on Trumpus’ Mar-A-Largo, Republicans call for defunding the FBI. Oklahoma charges 26 women with felony child neglect for using cannabis during their pregnancies. Conviction can result in life in prison.

California asks Indian tribes to bring back the once-prohibited practice of lighting controlled burns to help prevent devastating wildfires. The Gullah Geechee people of the Georgia Sea Islands win compensation because the state had failed to provide adequate services to members of the community.  Patricia Guerrero becomes the first Latina Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court rules that the government can suspend Trumpus’ “Remain in Mexico” policy. A Federal court requires the administration to proactively reconsider denied visa applicants to Muslims and Africans. Congress requires the military to report on white supremacy in the ranks. Florida voters oust a judge who had ruled that a 17-year-old isn’t mature enough to have an abortion but is mature enough to have a baby. Federal judges block Ron DeSantis’ “Stop Woke” Act and rule that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to the transgender community. Mary Peltola becomes the first Alaska Native American elected to Congress. Brown University acquires the papers of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The bison population has been brought back up to around 500,000.  The Department of Veterans Affairs announces that it will provide abortions, even in states that have outlawed them. Congress finally passes an anti-lynching law and bans discrimination against black hairstyles. Ketanji Brown-Jackson is the first Black woman Supreme Court Justice. Jim Thorpe is reinstated as the sole winner of his 1912 Olympic golds. Mary Bethune is the first African American to have a state-commissioned statue unveiled in the U.S. Capitol.


Of 245 million adults, 220 million are eligible to vote. Over twenty million – at least half of them people of color – cannot vote. This includes most prisoners, ex-felons, territorial residents and college students on campuses not in their home districts. The more African Americans a state contains, the more likely it is to ban felons from voting. The average state disenfranchises 2.4% of its voting-age population but 8.4% of blacks. In fourteen states, the share of blacks stripped of the vote exceeds 10%, and in five states it exceeds 20%. Over 60% of Republicans want the U.S. declared a Christian nation.

Police kill over a thousand people per year. Blacks are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than whites. Every 28 hours, a person of color is shot dead by a policeman, a security guard or a self-appointed vigilante. 43% of the shootings occur after incidents of racial profiling, and 80% of the victims are unarmed. One in six L.A. deputies is in a gang. Litigation related to their excesses has cost the county over $50 million.

One in every thirty adults is in the corrections system. With five percent of the world’s population, the U.S. has a quarter of its prisoners. Blacks are incarcerated in state prisons at over five times the rate of whites. 80,000 prisoners dwell in solitary confinement, one third of whom, because of this treatment, are or will become psychotic. One in seven incarcerated people are serving life sentences, and 2/3rds are people of color. Three hundred veterans are on death row. Louisiana imprisons a higher percentage of its people than any democracy on earth.  Five thousand persons there, 2/3rds of them Black, are serving life without parole, and 344 have served over two decades. The U.S. is the only nation that sentences people to life without parole for crimes committed as minors (currently, nearly 1,500), and ignores any international laws restricting the juvenile death penalty.  Over 500,000 Americans work in corrections. Around 63,000 inmates work for over 4,000 companies that have benefited from cheap prison labor.

The U.S. has spent $100 billion on border and immigration control since 9/11. Legal immigrants are at their highest level ever, at 37,000,000. 50,000 Irish reside in the country illegally. Indigenous, Latino, Pacific Islander and Blacks all have significantly higher COVID-19 mortality rates than either White or Asian Americans.

After decades of white flight and neglect by state officials, predominantly Black Jackson, Mississippi lacks drinking water.  Three plaques above the entrance to a science hall at West Point Military Academy honor the KKK and Confederate generals Lee and Stuart. The Catholic Church has still not rescinded the Doctrine of Discovery. Nine states have banned race-based affirmative action. Seven still ban atheists from holding office.  Chapter 7 of Title 8 of the United States Code is still headed, “Exclusion of Chinese.”

Some insurance companies are refusing to provide coverage for police departments unless they change their policies on matters such as body cameras and chokeholds.  A majority of citizens in Florida, New Mexico, Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, Texas, California and the District of Columbia are no longer Caucasian. For the first time in its history, the United States has a Native American, Native Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian serving in the House of Representatives.

To be continued.

I would like to see the government admit that they were wrong and do something about it so this will never happen again to any American citizen of any race, creed, or color…If anyone should do any pardoning, I should be the one pardoning the government for what they did to the Japanese-American people…One person can make a difference, even if it takes forty years. – Fred Korematsu


Barry’s Blog # 415: Who is an American? A Timeline, Part Seven of Eight

Posted on September 20, 2022 by shmoover

Part Seven: 2000-2010

…the ultimate measure of health in any community might well reside in our ability to stand in awe at what folks have to carry rather than in judgment at how they carry it. — Father Gregory Boyle

2000-2010: Since officers have qualified immunity and police unions protect perpetrators,  New York City will pay $964 million to resolve excessive force and brutality claims, including seven times for one officer. The country will lose a third of its manufacturing jobs during the decade.

2000: The Osage Nation sues the Department of the Interior for fraudulent management of their assets, settling in 2011 for $380 million. Alabama is the last state to repeal its anti-miscegenation law. The census allows respondents to list themselves in one or more of fifteen racial/ethnic identities. California, followed by twelve other states, requires insurance companies to report on their roles in slavery. The South posts its first black population increase in over a century. Joseph Lieberman is the first Jew to be nominated for Vice-president. Almost two million ballots are disqualified because of faulty vote-counting machines. The Supreme Court throws the election to George W. Bush.

2001: Whites murder nineteen Sikhs, Muslims, Arabs and South Asians in response to the 9/11 attacks. The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, which would grant residency status to qualifying foreign immigrants who had entered the U.S. as minors, is first introduced. Congress will debate it for the next 16 years, until Trumpus rescinds it. The No Child Left Behind Act prioritizes student testing over integration.

2001-2002: The FBI entraps large numbers of impressionable young men of color and then prosecutes them as terrorists.

2002: Congress creates the Department of Homeland Security, which by 2017 will have 240,000 employees, a $40 billion budget and persistent allegations of waste, brutality and fraud. Drafted partially in reaction to the controversy surrounding the 2000 election, the Help America Vote Act mandates that the Election Assistance Commission improve and certify voting equipment. 

2003: Congress creates the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which will eventually have 20,000 employees and a $7.6 billion budget. It will detain about 34,000 people on any given day, in over 500 detention centers and jails nationwide, and deport two million people.

The American school system is nearly as segregated as it was in 1960. Eighty percent of Latino students and three-quarters of black students attend schools that are majority nonwhite. A sixth of all black students attend schools in which minorities make up 99% of the population. The percentage of black students attending majority white schools is at its lowest point in fifty years. Minority high schoolers are performing at academic levels equal to or below those of three decades ago.  Police use racial profiling to stop Black and Latino drivers on the basis of less evidence than used in stopping white drivers, who are searched less often even though they are more likely to be found with illegal items. The resultant fines, arrests, legal fees and time spent in court mean that people of color have even less disposable income relative to whites. In New York City alone, the stop-and-frisk program will make over 100,000 stops per year between 2003 and 2013. Ninety percent of those frisked will be Black or Latino.

The Supreme Court rules that a Law School can consider race as a plus-factor when evaluating applicants and maintains the prohibition on the use of quotas. Fourteen states still retain their sodomy laws. Conviction in Idaho can result in life imprisonment until the Supreme Court strikes down all such laws.

2005: DHS’s bogus national database of “critical terrorist targets” grows to 300,000 localities, including thousands of non-critical sites such as doughnut shops and petting zoos. Indiana will have more than California and New York combined. Surveys find that 35% of foreign-born Hispanics and 36% of Blacks hold strong antisemitic beliefs. North Carolina apologizes for its mass sterilization program; several states follow suit. Congress gives gun manufacturers immunity from legal liability.

2005: Operation Streamline  initiates a “zero-tolerance” approach to unauthorized border-crossing by engaging in criminal prosecution of immigrants. Up to 70 people are tried together, sometimes wearing shackles in the courtroom. The number of prosecutions will increase from 4,000 annually in the early 2000s to 16,000 in 2005, 44,000 in 2010 and 97,000 by 2013. The Minuteman Project, a borderlands militia, claims 1,000 members. The Real ID Act waives local laws that interfere with construction of physical barriers at the borders. Fred Korematsu dies.

2006: California apologizes for deporting Mexicans between 1925 and1931. The Secure Fence Act authorizes additional fencing, vehicle barriers, checkpoints, lighting, cameras, satellites and drones. Conservatives claim that undocumented immigrant mothers are having children in the U.S. (“anchor babies”) only to gain citizenship. Three months after Hurricane Katrina, 20% of whites deny that the government’s failure to respond had anything to do with race. Ninety percent of Blacks disagree.

2006-2017: The nation’s largest police departments will fire 1,900 officers for misconduct. But on appeal, they will be forced to reinstate over 450.

2006-2020: Over 1,200 women are arrested for self-induced abortions and other claims of fetal harm.

2007: Over 9,500 children are still attending Indian boarding schools. High School students in Ashburn, Georgia attend their school’s first racially integrated prom, while their parents protest. The Supreme Court prohibits the use of racial classifications in student assignment plans to maintain racial balance. Four states officially apologize for slavery and Jim Crow, followed in the next nine years by five others.

2008: Congress estimates that Homeland Security has wasted roughly $15 billion.   Barack Obama wins the presidency even though most white voters do not vote for him. Pennsylvania convicts two judges are for sending children to for-profit jails in exchange for kickbacks. The recession increases racial disparities when long-term patterns of discrimination and fraud provoke the subprime mortgage crisis. While 6.2 % of qualified whites had received high-risk mortgages, 21% of blacks had. Wells Fargo had motivated loan officers to aggressively market in minority neighborhoods. Women of color were the most likely to receive subprime loans. Banks will foreclose on 240,000 black homeowners. In Washington they are 20% more likely to lose their homes than whites with similar incomes. The net worth of black households will decline by 53%, compared to 16% for white households,

2009: The KKK burns a cross in a black Alabama neighborhood. A Louisiana official denies a marriage license for an interracial couple. Obama refuses to revive the Fairness Doctrine. A local insurance risk pool warns the 60-officer Maywood, California Police Department that it will lose its coverage if it does not enact a dozen changes focused on reducing violent encounters with the public. When police fail to do so, the risk pool pulls its coverage, and the department disbands.

2009-2016: Obama will deport 2.5 million immigrants, 40% with no criminal conviction. Following police murders of unarmed black men, blacks and whites protest together in OaklandAnaheimFergusonCharlotteBaltimore and Milwaukee.

2010: In the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court allows corporations and unions (with far fewer assets) to spend unlimited money on political ads, finding that funds not being spent in coordination with a candidate’s campaign “do not give rise to the appearance of corruption.” States introduce 1,400 immigration measures – exceeding the total of the previous ten years – and 246 become law. The United Nations determines that the Doctrine of Discovery is the foundation of the violation of indigenous human rights. An “End Racial Profiling Act” is defeated in Congress. Arizona bans Ethnic Studies programs from schools. Nearly 60% of African Americans are living in the South – the highest percentage in 50 years.

Read Part Eight here.


Barry’s Blog # 414: Who is an American? A Timeline, Part Six of Eight

Posted on September 19, 2022 by shmoover

Part six: 1950-2000

As long as you are south of the Canadian border, you are South. – Malcolm X

1950: Congress bars immigration by communists or fascists, (the Nazi scientists have all been naturalized) requires communists to have their literature stamped as propaganda, bans them from holding passports or government jobs and establishes a board to investigate persons suspected of joining their groups, members of which cannot become citizens. Immigrants found in violation can have their citizenship revoked. The government builds six concentration camps to hold anyone deemed a threat during state emergencies. Truman appoints a former head of the Japanese internment camps as Commissioner of Indian Affairs.  Amendments to the 1948 Displaced Persons law extend the total allotment of visas to 400,000, including 80,000 Jews. Louisiana erects a monument near the site of the 1873 Colfax Massacre. Its inscription claims that the mob violence that killed 150 Blacks “ended carpetbag misrule” in the state.

1950-Present: The median household in public housing earns 57% of the national median income. That number will fall to 41% by 1960, 29% by 1970 and 17% by the 1990s, when, relatively speaking, residents will be three times as poor as they had been in the 1950s.  The G.I. Bill finances 90% of the 13 million houses constructed in the 1950s. Southern politicians ensure that 98% of those homes go to whites, even in the North. Only one Black family can buy a home between 1950 and 1960 in the white neighborhoods that dominate California’s San Fernando Valley. Of 350,000 federally subsidized homes built in Northern California between 1946 and 1960, fewer than 100 go to blacks, as do none of the 82,000 homes built in Levittown, New York. People of color remain locked in the inner cities, their dwellings and businesses often torn down to make room for the interstates that will shuttle whites to the suburbs. Over 100 Black churches will be bombed or burned across the South.

1951: Pope Pius XII first uses the phrase “right to life”, launching the modern anti-abortion movement. State restrictions grow tighter, leading to a black market in abortions. Truman establishes a committee to ensure that employers working for the federal government comply with all previous non-discrimination laws. The Martinsville Seven, a group of young black men, are accused of raping a white woman. When the Supreme Court twice refuses to hear the cases, they are executed. They will be pardoned 70 years later.

1952Congress abolishes all racial immigration restrictions and allows Japanese and  Korean Americans to naturalize. However, these countries receive only small annual quotas. The law defines three types of immigrants: those with special skills or relatives of U.S. citizens who are exempt from quotas; average immigrants; and refugees. It again bars suspected subversives, even those who had not been active for decades. The Supreme Court rules that alien land laws in over a dozen states are unconstitutional. The Air Force is the first branch of the military to fully integrate.

1953: The Refugee Relief Act admits more Southern Europeans, including 60,000  Italians, 17,000 Greeks and 45,000 from communist countries, after thorough security screening and proof of guaranteed homes and jobs. President Eisenhower fires 5,000 federal employees as suspected homosexuals. Congress begins a 13-year period of disbanding Native tribes and selling their lands. The largest tribes terminated are the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin and the Klamath in Oregon. Over a hundred Native groups in California lose federal protections and services. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Jews convicted of spying for the Soviet Union, are executed. Illegal abortions are not reported, but the Kinsey Report asserts that 90% of premarital and 24% of married pregnancies are aborted. Vice President Richard Nixon imposes on government contractors the primary responsibility for desegregating their own companies, thus ensuring minimal outcomes.

1954: Ellis Island closes. Operation Wetback deports over 250,000 Mexicans annually. The Border Patrol changes its language from “policing unsanctioned laborers” to “policing criminal aliens.” Agribusiness, however, continues to recruit cheap labor. The continuation of illegal immigration, along with public outcry over many U.S. citizens removed, dooms the program.

The Supreme Court declares racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional, overturning the “separate but equal” doctrine. Two months later, the first White Citizens’ Councils form in opposition. By 1957, these councils, operating in 30 states with 250,000 members, will use social pressure and economic retaliation to intimidate supporters of integration. The massive resistance successfully prevents integration as parents transfer over 500,000 children to private schools, or “segregation academies”. In the five Deep South states, all 1.4 million Black schoolchildren will attend segregated schools until 1960. By the 1964-65 school year, fewer than 3% of the South’s black children will attend school with white students, and in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina that number will be below 1%.

1955: The Southern states phase out the use of chain gangs. Martin Luther King Jr. leads a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.  Emmett Till is murdered.

1956: King’s home is bombed. A mob blocks school integration in Mansfield, Texas. The original GI Bill ends, having supported nearly 8 million World War II veterans with education and 4.3 million home loans worth $33 billion. As employment, college attendance and wealth surges for whites, disparities with their black counterparts widen. The first Mexican American in 36 years is elected to the Texas legislature. Detroit, St. Louis and New York begin to de-industrialize, with job loss hitting minorities hardest. Urban centers decay further. Aided by the construction of the Interstate Highway System, more whites retreat to the suburbs. Detroit will lose 60% of its population.

1956-1958: California terminates 41 Native Rancherias. 

1957: Utah becomes the last state to permit Native Americans to vote. Construction of the Kinzua Dam floods Seneca traditional lands protected by treaty. In a suburb of Chicago 6,000 whites attack 100 blacks picnicking in a portion of a park that had previously been white-only. Congress establishes a Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department.

1958: 94% of whites disapprove of inter-racial marriage. Residents of Little Rock, Arkansas vote to close their public schools rather than comply with federal desegregation orders. Eisenhower will deploy federal troops to escort the students to school.

1959: Twenty-one black teenagers burn to death in an Arkansas reform school. Organizers of an American fashion show in Russia remove scenes that feature black and white models together after forty fashion editors protest the representation of racial integration. Eleven of the top twenty-five TV shows are westerns, which comprise a quarter of all prime-time network hours.

1960: A mob riots against integration of a New Orleans elementary school. Landowners in Greene County, Alabama evict 75 black families attempting to register to vote. In Fayette County, Tennessee, 700 blacks who register are evicted. Yale ends its unwritten policy to restrict its Jewish student body at 10%. Interracial marriage is illegal in 31 states.

1960-1980: The 1960s will see 160 riots. Of the one million persons displaced from their homes by the Interstate Highway Program, 3/4 will be black. A fifth of all black housing in the nation is destroyed for highways even as the government expands housing for whites. As public schools in the Deep South desegregate through federal court orders, private school enrollment increases by over 200,000. The South’s 11% share of the nation’s private school enrollment increases to 24%.

1961: Residents of largely black Washington receive the right to vote in presidential elections but can only elect a non-voting delegate to Congress. Whites riot when the University of Georgia integrates. Mobs attack the freedom riders in Alabama. A Virginia judge upholds racial segregation in courtrooms.  Birmingham closes its parks rather than permit integration. President Kennedy establishes yet another committee to force companies to comply with anti-discrimination orders, and a Commission on the Status of Women.

1962: New Mexico allows natives to vote in state elections.  Chicago has over 100 “blockbusting” real estate companies actively changing the racial status of two blocks/week. Readers Digest and Look publish sensational stories about welfare cheaters. Illinois is the first state to decriminalize sodomy.

1963: Over 700 Black children protest segregation in Birmingham, beginning a movement that sparks widely publicized police brutality. All the white students withdraw from the newly integrated Tuskegee High School. Five days later, terrorists bomb a Birmingham church, killing four Black girls. Such bombings are so common that some nickname the city “Bombingham.” The next month, hundreds of Black Selma residents attempting to register to vote are met with violence by state and local officials. Louisiana merchants protesting integration deny service to all members of the military, regardless of their race. Dr. King comments: “The most segregated hour in this nation is Sunday at 11:00 am”. The March on Washington is the decades-long culmination of a mass movement against racial and economic injustice.

1964: The 24th Amendment bans poll taxes. Two-thirds of California voters support Proposition 14, which allows property sellers and landlords to openly discriminate. Integrated groups of pastors attempting to enter segregated churches on Easter Sunday in Mississippi are beaten and jailed. Three civil rights workers are murdered in Mississippi. Over 7,500 whites protest integration of New York City schools. Patsy Mink is the first woman of color elected to Congress. President Lyndon Johnson pressures defense contractors to sign voluntary affirmative action agreements; many corporations in the South largely ignore him. The Civil Rights Act aims to end discrimination in all firms with 25 or more employees, as well as public schools, hospitals, libraries, etc. It has 70% public approval. Johnson’s War on Poverty funds welfare and employment programs, food stamps, Head Start, Medicare and Medicaid.

1965: The Voting Rights Act enfranchises racial minorities. The Immigration and Nationality Act abolishes “national origins” as the basis for quotas and welcomes immigrants from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. It gives priority to relatives of U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents and professionals and other individuals with specialized skills, but for the first time it limits immigration from Mexico to 20,000/year. This results in the beginning of large-scale illegal immigration. The INS continues to deny entry to homosexuals on the grounds that they have a “constitutional psychopathic inferiority.” Blacks riot in Watts (Los Angeles). Malcolm X is assassinated. Cezar Chavez and Dolores Huerta lead the United Farm Workers in their first agricultural strike. Alabama State Troopers and the Ku Klux Klan attack 300 nonviolent protesters on a bridge in Selma. The Supreme Court declares sex a private affair. The government lists 235 deaths from abortion attempts. In the last major literary censorship battle, Boston bans W.F. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.


Issur Danielovitch

No longer needing to appear to have Anglo-Saxon names, film actors begin to use their real, ethnic names. At its peak, urban renewal displaces 50,000 families annually.

1966: Congress expands Cuban immigration. “White Supremacy” is the motto of the Alabama Democratic Party. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale found the Black Panther Party in Oakland. When Panthers march armed in Sacramento, California quickly passes strict gun control. Alabama forbids school desegregation. Blacks are assigned to combat units in Vietnam in greater numbers than their percentages in the population. Making up 11% of the forces, their casualties are over 20%. Black leaders convince Johnson to order that Black participation be cut back. By 1969, Black casualties will drop to 11.5%. Medicare functions as an effective integration tool; within a year of its passage, no American hospitals or doctors’ offices are segregated. The Supreme Court prohibits tax payment and wealth requirements for voting in state elections.

1967: In Loving vs. Virginia the Supreme Court rules that Virginia’s interracial marriage ban violates the 14th Amendment, but interracial marriage is still illegal in 16 States. The Court justifies qualified immunity for police officers from being sued for civil rights violations. The Detroit uprising is the worst of sixteen major race riots. The Bracero Program ends. Thousands of “Sundown Towns” still exist.

1967-1973: Twelve states liberalize their abortion laws. The FBI spends years monitoring Aretha Franklin. 

1968: Dr. King is assassinated; 125 riots follow across the country. Two days later, Oakland police murder Black Panther Bobby Hutton. The Fair Housing Act declares housing covenants illegal. The Supreme Court prohibits racial discrimination, including blockbusting, in private housing markets. William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols perform American TV’s first interracial kiss on “Star Trek”. The Young Lords model themselves after the Panthers as a civil rights organization for Puerto Ricans and other Latinos. Spreading to thirty cities, they will be repressed by the COINTELPRO program.

1969: President Nixon’s Operation Intercept requires customs agents to search every vehicle entering the U.S. for drugs. It throws border crossings into chaos and ends after three weeks. The Stonewall riots in New York begin the modern fight for LGBT rights. HUAC becomes the House Committee on Internal Security. FBI Director Hoover describes the Panthers as “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and covertly sabotages them with surveillance, harassment and the assassination of Fred Hampton. By 1982, at least 20 Panthers will be dead. The administration lobbies against expanding welfare and proposes a Family Assistance Plan requiring all welfare recipients except mothers with children under age three to find work.

1970-1980: Newark, Dayton, Tallahassee, Cincinnati, Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington and New Orleans elect their first black mayors.

1970: Congress passes the Equal Rights Amendment and sends it to the states with a seven-year deadline to acquire ratification. The Family Planning Services and Population Research Act is intended to assist poor people with limiting the size of families. But over the next six years the Indian Health Service will single out full-blooded Indian women of childbearing age, sterilizing 3,400 of them, often without their knowledge. Mississippi police open fire at Jackson State College, killing two black students and injuring dozens.  The 1970s will see 16 riots. Hawaii is the first state to legalize abortion. Los Angeles police riot against the Chicano Moratorium, killing four.The IRS removes tax-exempt status from segregated private schools. To retain that status, schools must publish non-discrimination policies and not practice overt discrimination. Many refuse to comply.

1971: Massacre at Attica prison. The 26th Amendment lowers the voting age to 18. Alaska Natives contest the state’s violation of native land rights by opening their lands for lease to private oil companies. Congress ultimately gives them a land grant of 44 million acres and $962 million in compensation for giving up claims to nine-tenths of Alaska. For the first time since 1902, the five “Civilized” tribes win the right to elect their own leaders and reconstitute their own tribal government systems.

Nixon declares a “War on Drugs,” which will shape crime policy and – through the loss of voting rights for ex-offenders – every presidential election for the next half century. The prison population will increase from 200,000 to 2.2 million, 60% people of color. Blacks will be incarcerated in state prisons at five times the rate of whites. With only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. will have 25% of the world’s prisoners, nearly half for nonviolent drug offenses.

The Supreme Court rules that federal courts can integrate schools, sometimes requiring the racial composition of individual schools to reflect the composition of their districts. This is generally achieved by busing. White families respond by moving to the suburbs, while many others transfer their children to private or parochial schools. These effects further increase the non-white percentages in many urban schools.

1972: Police arrest the “Abortion Seven.” Nixon integrates the construction workforce on federally regulated projects. Construction unions protest. The U.S. experiences over 2,500 domestic bombings in just 18 months.

1973: Enrollment at Indian boarding schools reaches its highest point, 60,000. American Indian Movement (AIM) activists occupy the Wounded Knee massacre site to support Oglala traditionalists against corrupt tribal leaders. Over 2000 Indians resist a siege by the FBI, U.S. Marshals and eventually the army. The 10-week standoff ends with 185 Native people indicted on federal charges. Los Angeles County first acknowledges the existence of a gang with 47 members within the Sheriff’s Department.  In magazines depicting welfare, 75% of pictures feature African Americans even though they make up only 35% of welfare recipients. Louisiana changes its life-in-prison sentences from “10/6” to a 20-year minimum. Nixon creates the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and blames the anti-Vietnam War movement and leaking of the Pentagon Papers on Jews.  The Supreme Court legalizes abortion and bans federal agencies from discriminating against disabled candidates.

1973-2005: 413 women will be arrested for self-induced abortions and other claims of fetal harm.

1974: In the largest Indian removal since the 1830s, Congress forces relocation of 12,000 Dine’ who are blocking strip-mining interests. North Carolina is the last state to end its sterilization policy. The government compensates survivors of the Tuskegee experiment. Residents of the District of Columbia regain the right to vote for mayor and city council but still lack voting representation in Congress. The Supreme Court first addresses the issue of school busing, confirming that segregation is allowed if it is not considered an explicit policy of each school district. The Boston School Committee disobeys orders to develop a busing plan. Boycotts and over 40 riots ensue.

1975: The Pine Ridge shootout occurs.  Congress ends the House Committee on Internal Security and calls for decentralizing students from Indian boarding schools to community schools, but many large boarding schools will remain open until the early 1990s. The Civil Services Commission announces that it will consider applications by gay people. Congress restores full citizenship rights to Robert E. Lee. In addition to establishing a permanent ban on literacy tests and other discriminatory voting requirements, amendments to the Voting Rights Act require districts with significant numbers of non-English-speaking voters to be provided with assistance in registering and voting.

1976: President Gerald Ford terminates Roosevelt’s 1942 internment order and apologizes to Japanese Americans. Over 35 years, North Carolina has sterilized 7,600 people, 40% minorities. A third of Puerto Rican women have been sterilized. The Supreme Court rules that political money is free speech, protected by the First Amendment. It also rules that plaintiffs must prove discriminatory intent behind any challenged action, thus reducing constitutional protections due people of color. Kentucky ratifies the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. The Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions. The Supreme Court prohibits racial discrimination in private schools and holds that states do not have authority to tax or regulate Native activities on their reservations. Tribes soon open bingo operations. Ronald Reagan speaks of “welfare queens”.

1977: Racists attack a synagogue in St. Louis.

1978: The Supreme Court allows corporations to contribute to ballot initiative campaigns. President Jimmy Carter approves $4.3 million to build a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border. White supremacist groups establish camps and train hundreds of vigilantes. Federal authorities ignore them, accost migrants in the desert and investigate the Sanctuary Movement. The militia camps will expand well into the 21st century.

The National Socialist Party of America seeks a parade permit in Skokie, Illinois because of the many Holocaust survivors residing there. Skokie refuses to allow it, but the American Civil Liberties Union intercedes on behalf of the Nazis, who march in Chicago. Congress restores full rights of citizenship to Jefferson Davis, 30 years before apologizing to African Americans for slavery. Congress restores basic civil liberties to Native Americans, Inuits, Aleuts and Native Hawaiians, allowing them to practice traditional religious rites and cultural practices.  The Mormon Church allows blacks to be priests. The Supreme Court upholds affirmative action in college admission policy but rules that specific racial quotas are impermissible.

1979: The Equal Rights Amendment fails to receive enough support in the states before its deadline. The largest nuclear accident in the U.S. occurs on the Navajo (Dine’) reservation in Church Rock, New Mexico.  The contaminated river groundwater spreads through the Rio Puerco alluvium and the cleanup continues to this day. Klansmen and neo-Nazis murder five members of the Communist Workers Party in Greensboro, North Carolina. Carter requires government agencies to take affirmative action in support of women’s business enterprises. Job growth in the U.S. peaks and begins to decline. Boston attempts to ban the film Caligula. Louisiana removes parole eligibility for anyone with a life sentence.

1980-1990: The Supreme Court repeatedly employs the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause to support white claims of reverse discrimination from affirmative action programs while demanding proof of intent to discriminate before supporting black plaintiffs.

1980-2000: Successive administrations will allow massive immigration of Cubans while turning back those escaping fascism in El Salvador and Guatemala. Defining the Haitian boat people (as opposed to Vietnamese boat people) as economic rather than political refugees allows the government to refuse asylum to thousands. Israelis are another special case, with unlimited immigrant privileges, unique among Middle Eastern countries.

1980: A commission concludes that the internment of the Japanese Americans occurred because of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership” and that the military had lied to the Supreme Court. The Mariel Boatlift brings 100,000 Cubans to the U.S. and solidifies Republican control in Florida.  The Government offers compensation to the Sioux for taking the Black Hills. The Sioux refuse the award, valued at over $1 billion as of 2011, because acceptance would legally terminate their demand for their return. Calling affirmative action “reverse discrimination”, Reagan reduces funding for equal employment opportunities. However, courts continue to reaffirm hiring quotas.

1981: Reagan cuts welfare (AFDC) spending and allows states to require recipients to participate in workfare programs.

1982: Congress enacts a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court makes voting easier for people with disabilities. Reagan expands the war on Drugs, further fueling mass incarceration, particularly in targeted Black communities. He triples the federal drug enforcement budget, hires 4,000 additional prosecutors, triples the number of drug cases prosecuted, and doubles the conviction rates for drug crimes.  Albert Sabo, the judge in the Mumia Abu-Jamal trial, is overheard saying, “I’m gonna help ’em fry the nigger.”

1982-1992: The crack cocaine epidemic results in a doubling of the homicide rate for young Black males. Eleven Southern states enroll 675,000-750,000 white students in private schools. An estimated 65-75% of them attend schools in which 90% or more of the student body is white. 

1983: Corrections Corporation of America becomes the first for-profit prison company, managing 65 correctional and detention facilities. Louisiana repeals its “Negro” definition of “one thirty-second Negro blood”. Over 3,500 segregated private academies operate in the country, with over 750,000 children enrolled.

1985: Reagan attempts a partial border closure with Operation Intercept II. Philadelphia police fire 10,000 rounds of ammunition into a house occupied by MOVE, a black liberation group, before dropping a bomb from a helicopter, igniting a fire that destroys an entire black neighborhood, killing eleven and destroying 61 homes.

1985-present: The war on drugs will disenfranchise over six million people, two million of whom will be black. The more blacks a state contains, the more likely it will be to ban felons from voting. The average state will disenfranchise 2.4 % of its voting-age population but 8.4 % of its blacks. In 14 states, the share of blacks stripped of the vote will exceed 10%, and in five states it will exceed 20%. While 75% of whites will register, only 60% of blacks will be able to. In each Senate over the next 35 years over a dozen Republicans will owe their election to these laws.

1986: The Supreme Court upholds Georgia’s sodomy law.

1987: The Supreme Court rejects a Black man’s death penalty appeal grounded in claims of racial inequality and instead accepts proven racial sentencing disparities as “an inevitable part of our criminal justice system.”

1986: Congress gives amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. As a compromise, it becomes illegal to knowingly hire or recruit illegal immigrants. Thousands of businesses and individuals will ignore the new law. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act creates a significant disparity in the sentences imposed for crimes involving powder cocaine (used primarily by whites) versus crimes involving crack cocaine (used by minorities), with mandatory minimum sentences set at a 100:1 ratio. Black prison populations swell, while there is little change in the number of whites. Disparities in sentence lengths also increase; in 1986, Blacks receive drug sentences 11% longer than whites, but that disparity will increase to 49%. Congress establishes the National Indian Gaming Commission.

1987: Boston’s school district has shrunk from 100,000 students to 57,000, only 15% of whom are white. A federal court rules that it has successfully implemented its desegregation plan, even though 80% of the student population in 13 schools is either white or black. Reagan’s abolition of the fairness doctrine quickly leads to the rise of right-wing talk radio.

1988: Congress pays $20,000 each in reparation to tens of thousands of Japanese American survivors of the internment camps. The government, however, refuses to pay Japanese Latin Americans. California criminalizes membership in street gangs and imposes greater punishments for criminal offenses committed by members. “Gang enhancements” can add 10 years to a sentence. The process for identifying members is notoriously subjective and can include “frequenting gang areas”. Over 85 percent of people validated as gang members in California are Black or Latinx. Southern senators amend the Fair Housing Act to allow landlords to refuse to rent to anyone with a single conviction for drug dealing. Presidential candidate George Bush uses the Willie Horton case as coded racialized language to defeat Michael Dukakis.

1989: A white mob murders a Black teen in Brooklyn. Boston police scour Black communities searching for anyone who fits the description provided by a white man who had lied, claiming a Black man had shot his pregnant wife.

1990: Congress prohibits discrimination based on disability and revises all grounds for immigration exclusion, including homosexuality and language requirements. It increases total immigration to 700,000/year for 1992–94, and 675,000/year after that. It provides family- and employment-based visas and a lottery for immigrants from “low admittance” countries. This benefits Salvadorans by also creating temporary protected status for those unable to return home because of ongoing violence. The Border Patrol begins to erect  barriers south of San Diego, ultimately erecting fourteen miles of fencing. Congress declares that Native Americans are entitled to use their own languages and requires the Attorney General to collect data on crimes committed because of the victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity. This is the first statute to recognize LGBTQ people. Twelve percent of young people now call themselves multiracial. Lake Forest, Illinois finally ends its anti-Jewish and anti-Black housing covenants.

1990-2019: Fifty predominantly black churches will be bombed or burned across the South. Courts began relaxing judicial supervision of school districts, calling for voluntary efforts to achieve racial balance. Partly due to widespread belief in the “welfare queen” stereotype, 22 states pass laws that ban increasing welfare payments to mothers after they have more children. In order to receive additional funds after the birth of a child, women are required to prove to the state that their pregnancies were the result of contraceptive failure, rape, or incest. Seven states will later repeal these laws.

1991: The Supreme Court lifts a desegregation decree, authorizing one-race schools in Oklahoma City. The Los Angeles Times reports on L.A. Sheriff gangs. Bush prevents an attempt to revive the Fairness Doctrine.

1991 to 2000: The U.S. admits more legal immigrants, (ten to eleven million), than in any previous decade. Criminologists speak of black youth “superpredators” and “crack babies”.

1992: Los Angeles experiences over 1,000 gang-related homicides. A white jury acquits three of the four police officers who beat Rodney King, provoking the Los Angeles uprising. Gangs in Watts establish a peace treaty to challenge police brutality and end the mass violence.  After two years, gang violence will drop by 44 percent. Peace treaties spread to 15 cities, despite repeated attempts by police to undermine them. Presidential candidate Bill Clinton, promising to “end welfare as we have come to know it,” wins the election only because George Bush and Ross Perot split the conservative vote.

1993: Clinton begins Operations Hold the Line and Gatekeeper, which focus on intercepting illegal entries at the border. Then, with the “Prevention Through Deterrence” strategy, the Border Patrol attempts to control immigrant movement by rerouting it away from urban ports of entry and into wilderness areas, thus heightening the risks. These programs will cause over 7,000 deaths without halting the mass movement of people.

Congress requires state motor vehicle agencies to offer voter registration opportunities. States must offer mail-in voter registration applications and opportunities to register to vote at certain offices and maintain accurate voter registration lists. In its first year, over 30 million people update or complete their registration. 

Washington state passes the first modern “three-strikes” law mandating life imprisonment, followed eventually by 25 other states. Under such mandatory sentencing laws, black offenders will grow from under 10% in 1984 to 28% of mandatory minimum drug offenders by 1990.  Congressional acknowledgement of federal involvement in the 1893 overthrow of Hawaii’s government serves inspires the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement. 

1993-2017: Joe Arpaio, Sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, oversees what the Justice Department will call the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history, including the re-introduction of chain gangs, until he is convicted and removed.

1994: Clinton’s North American Trade Agreement floods rural Mexico with subsidized American corn, bankrupting two million Mexican farmers. The result is a massive increase in migration northward.

1995: Clinton institutes the “wet foot, dry foot policy.” For the next two decades, any Cuban caught on the waters between the two nations (with “wet feet”) is summarily returned to Cuba, while one who makes it to shore (“dry feet”) gets a chance to remain in the U.S. and qualify for expedited residency status. Mississippi ratifies the 13th Amendment. Alabama and Arizona re-introduce chain gangs. White flight begins to reverse as returning affluent suburbanites gentrify decayed neighborhoods, raise property values and force poor minorities out.

1996: Clinton authorizes mandatory detention of illegal immigrants. All illegal aliens convicted of serious felonies are placed in expedited removal proceedings. He also authorizes further border fencing, but environmental concerns slow construction. The number of immigrants in detention increases dramatically. Congress criminalizes online discussion of abortion. Attorney General Janet Reno refuses to enforce the provision, which remains on the books. Nine states begin to ban affirmative action, leading to a 23% drop in the chance of college admission for minority students relative to non-minority students, compared with a 1% drop in other states. The Supreme Court supports racial disparities in conviction rates. Congress replaces AFDC with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, ending individual entitlement for poor families and signifying that no one can make a claim for assistance just because they are poor. “Work first” programs impact Black women in racialized and gendered ways by emphasizing the need to place employment above all else to qualify for support.

1997: A study finds that “the three-strikes law did not decrease serious crime or petty theft rates below the level expected on the basis of preexisting trends.”

1998: Japanese Latin Americans who had sued for reparations ten years before receive $5,000 each.

1999: A Memphis jury finds that the MLK assassination plot was a conspiracy that included “governmental agencies.”

Read Part Seven here.


Barry’s Blog # 413: Who is an American? A Timeline, Part Five of Eight

Posted on September 18, 2022 by shmoover

Part Five: 1900-1950

History is not the past. History is the present. We carry our history with us. To think otherwise is criminal. – James Baldwin

1900: Most adult men in Manhattan are foreign-born. Courts determine that all persons born in the U.S. or its territories are citizens, except for those born in American Samoa, a U.S. territory, who are considered “non-citizen nationals.” The Assistant Attorney General for Indian Territory reiterates that tribal laws are still in place and are to be enforced. No one pays attention, and the ruling has no effect. Louisiana adopts a new constitution with  restrictive provisions intended to exclude blacks from civic participation, including a poll tax and literacy and property-ownership requirements. Women of all races remain barred from voting. Every state now has laws forbidding abortion. Most allow physicians to use their discretion, putting a woman’s decision whether or not to be pregnant in the hands of men.  The Boston Public Library keeps books deemed objectionable in a locked room accessible only to scholars. An estimated 325 bison are left on the plains.

1901: A series of Supreme Court decisions determines that full citizenship rights do not extend to all places under American control, especially islands where people of color live (“savage and “alien races”) who cannot understand “Anglo-Saxon principles.” This permanently excludes Puerto Ricans, Samoans and many others from voting for President.  Delaware finally ratifies the 13th Amendment. Alabama prohibits interracial marriage and mandates separate schools for black and white children. The AFL denounces Chinese workers. The decade will see eleven large race riots.

1902: The government funds 25 non-reservation schools in 15 states and territories, forcibly enrolling 6,000 Native students. Anti-Semitic riots occur in New York City. Congress passes a series of Allotment Acts to further break up communally held tribal lands, force the sale of surplus land to non-Indians, and select disposition of town sites in what is now Oklahoma. Cherokees are given a homestead assignment and “away lands” to reflect land use patterns, but white settlers invade the away lands. Thousands of whites get themselves illegally listed on tribal rolls. The Choctaws and Chickasaws challenge those lists, and remove 3,200 people from the rolls. The Department of the Interior removes all identified mineral-rich lands in Indian Country from the allotment process and releases them to mining companies and the railroads.

1902-1904: Chinese exclusion is extended and then made indefinite.

1903: The Immigration Act adds four inadmissible classes: anarchists, people with epilepsy, beggars, and importers of prostitutes. The Sunday Closing League is formed. Its members patrol the streets looking for violators of the Blue Laws.

1904: The government renews prohibition of the Sun Dance among Plains Indians. The advent of the railroad, which reaches the border city of Brownsville, Texas, makes Anglo expansion onto historically Mexican land possible, shifting the balance of power along the Rio Grande. Tax assessments soar. In just two Texas counties over 187,000 acres of land transfer from Latino to Anglo hands.

1905: The Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, and Choctaw nations create a constitution for a proposed state of Sequoyah, which would be distinct from Oklahoma. Congress ignores them. Real estate agents in Berkeley, CA and Kansas City, Mo begin recording racial covenants to sell house lots in high-end subdivisions. Los Angeles soon becomes the national leader in using such deed restrictions.

1906: Atlanta race massacre. Theodore Roosevelt declares in his State of the Union Message, “The greatest existing cause of lynching is the perpetration, especially by black men, of the hideous crime of rape – the most abominable in all the category of crimes, even worse than murder.” The Burke Act dissolves sovereign tribal governments and communal lands and requires the federal government to assess whether individuals are “competent and capable” before granting them their allotted land. Citizenship is not to be granted to Native Americans until the end of a 25-year probationary period. The first of 120,000 Filipino workers (“nationals”, not citizens) arrive in Hawaii. San Francisco’s large Chinatown is destroyed by fire following the great earthquake.

1907:  Anti-Asian riots occur in San Francisco, Bellingham, Washington and Vancouver. Oklahoma becomes a state. Congress again lowers the threshold for immigration exclusions to include “All idiots, imbeciles, feebleminded persons, epileptics…persons who have been insane within five years previous…persons likely to become a public charge; professional beggars; persons afflicted with…loathsome or dangerous contagious disease…” The Expatriation Act decrees that any naturalized citizen residing for two years in one’s foreign state of origin or five years in any other foreign state or any American woman who marries an alien loses their citizenship. Diplomats informally agree with Japan that it will not allow further emigration to the U.S., which will not impose restrictions on Japanese immigrants already present in the country. The Michigan Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church refuses to ordain black bishops.

1908: Springfield, Illinois race riot. New York City holds voter registration on the Jewish Sabbath and during Yom Kippur as a way of keeping Jews, who are often socialists, away from the polls. The popular stage play The Melting Pot instructs recent immigrants that the route to happiness is through whiteness, individualism, “pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps” and distancing oneself from ethnicity.

1909: Nativists destroy a Greek immigrant community in South Omaha, Nebraska. The Census Bureau classifies Jews as their own race, Hebrews. Pittsburgh police arrest over 200 Black men for being unemployed and consign them to forced labor.

1909-1979: Under state eugenics laws, 60,000 residents of California state-run institutions will be sterilized.   Even after 1979, forced or coerced sterilizations will still be performed on people in custody at state prisons.

1910: Slocum, Texas race riot. The Angel Island Immigration Station begins operation in San Francisco Bay to monitor the flow of Chinese entering the country. It will eventually hold hundreds of thousands. By 1915, Japanese immigrants will outnumber Chinese. At Ellis Island on the east coast, only 1-3% of all arriving immigrants will be rejected, while at Angel, due to anti-Asian discrimination, the number will be 18%. While Ellis arrivals enter the country almost immediately, Asians are frequently imprisoned on Angel for many months. Riots in dozens of cities follow the championship victory of black boxer Jack Johnson over a white opponent.  Louisiana prohibits blacks and whites from living together under any circumstances. An appellate court in D.C. rules that an eight-year-old girl cannot attend a local public school because she is 1/16th Black. Nine percent of the population are of German parentage. Over 40% of white farmers in Georgia own land, compared to 7% of the state’s black farmers.

1911: The final massacre of Native Americans occurs in Nevada. Arkansas makes interracial sex a felony, going beyond the “1/16” rule to determine a Black person as having “any Negro blood whatever”. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York kills 146 sweatshop workers, mostly Italian or Jewish immigrant women. President Taft orders black soldiers out of Texas for protesting segregation. The government outlaws controlled forest burnings in Native communities. For the next hundred years, the Forest Service will focus on putting out fires rather than managing them. Partially as a result, the entire West will experience massive fires every summer. Ishi, the last surviving member of the Yahi tribe, emerges from a northern California forest and lives five more years.

1913: A mob lynches the Jew Leo Frank in Georgia. Several western states enact laws that ban “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning land. The Supreme Court upholds these laws.  The 17th Amendment finally gives voters rather than state legislatures the right to elect senators. It conducts intelligence tests on new immigrants. Thirty-five Blacks die in a Mississippi prison camp fire. Los Angeles completes its first aqueduct and begins to export water from the Owens Valley, ultimately turning the lake dry and wrecking the once-lush Paiute reservation. The L.A. Housing Commission laments that Mexican Americans can secure housing only if racial restrictions “were not placed upon every new tract of land where lots are sold.”

1914: The AFL demands that “all races native to Asia” be excluded permanently from the U.S. and urges Blacks to “form colored workers’ unions”. The third edition of Stedman’s Practical Medical Dictionary still includes an entry for “drapetomania”.

1915: Alabama bars treatment of Black men by White nurses. The Supreme Court upholds the Expatriation Act of 1907. Under that act, women who lost their U.S. citizenship could apply to be naturalized if their husbands later became American citizens. But since virtually all Asian immigrants are barred from becoming citizens, an American woman who marries an Asian man will still lose her citizenship permanently. Similarly, women of Asian descent born in the U.S. have no means of regaining their U.S. citizenship if they lose it through marriage to a foreigner – even if the foreigner is white – because Asian men and women are ineligible for naturalization in all circumstances. Congress authorizes mounted border guards to pursue Chinese aliens.

1915-1920: The Texas Rangers and vigilantes murder several thousand Mexicans and Mexican American citizens (“Tejanos”) along the borderlands and push many more across the border. Tejanos call this new era of racial segregation “Juan Crow”. 

1916: A government official estimates that three-fifths of Indian children are dying before age 5.  “Patriotic” societies such as the National Security League and the American Defense Society demand compulsory military training at schools, the end of foreign-language instruction and “100 percent Americanism”.

Opposing candidates Woodrow Wilson and Charles Hughes each declare “hyphenated Americans” to be potentially disloyal and view German Americans as potential spies and saboteurs. Winning the Presidency, Wilson orders 110,000 National Guardsmen from state militias to the Mexican border. He shows the film The Birth of a Nation, which presents Ku Klux Klansmen as saviors of white civilization, at the White House. This immediately provokes a vast expansion of the Klan. He goes on to defend racial segregation of government workers, a policy that will harm Blacks for decades. The federal government will require photographs on civil service applications until 1940.

1917: White mobs kill 200 black residents of East St. Louis. Congress bars immigration from the Asia-Pacific Zone and creates new categories of inadmissible persons, including: “alcoholics,” “feebleminded persons,” “persons with constitutional psychopathic inferiority,” “political radicals,” “polygamists,” “prostitutes” and “vagrants.” The government extends citizenship to Puerto Ricans and other territorial residents – but not presidential voting rights. Tens of thousands of rural blacks begin to leave the South in the first Great Migration, with 1.5 million arriving in northern and midwestern industrial cities by 1940. Wilson proclaims all German citizens “alien enemies.” An army manual for war recruits states that, “The foreign born, and especially Jews, are more apt to malinger than the native-born.” The Selective Service Act imposes mandatory conscription. As a result, over 18,000 Puerto Ricans are forced to serve, in segregated units.

Over 200 women, the Silent Sentinels, are arrested while picketing the White House, some of whom go on hunger strikes. Despite representing a quarter of the Navy during the Civil War and the latter half of the 19th century, Blacks’ opportunities in the Navy are abruptly curtailed. They now represent 1.2% of the Navy, and are only allowed in the galleys or coal rooms of ships. Of the 380,000 blacks who serve in the Army, only 40,000 are allowed to see battle. One regiment (the “Harlem Hellfighters”) spends more time at the front than any other American unit. Other units serve honorably in the French army. Black soldiers clash with Houston whites in the “Camp Logan Mutiny,” the only riot in U.S. history to result in more white than black casualties. Nineteen Black soldiers are hanged and 63 receive life sentences. No white civilians are charged.

1917-1925: Four states unsuccessfully attempt to make their anti-birth laws less restrictive.

1918: Porvenir massacre: Texas Rangers and ranchers murder 15 Tejano men. White mobs aided by federal troops and the Ku Klux Klan massacre several hundred Blacks near Elaine, Arkansas. Germans who fail to be fingerprinted are placed in internment camps, along with conscientious objectors. German-language services in churches are disrupted and German-language newspapers are shut down. Churches housing German congregations are painted yellow and schoolchildren are forced to sign pledges promising not to use any foreign language. Citizens of German descent are dragged out of their homes at night and forced to kiss the flag or sing the national anthem. Acts of vigilantism include the tarring and featherings of war opponents and at least one lynching.

The government asserts the power to quarantine any woman suspected of having a sexually transmitted disease. If a medical examination reveals an STD, this can constitute proof of prostitution. Authorities detain 30,000 women and imprison 15,000 with no due process. They can be detained and examined for not being properly attired at beaches; for sitting at restaurants alone; for changing jobs; for being with a man; for walking down a street in a way male officials find suspicious; and for refusing to have sex with police officers. By 1921, every state will institute similar statutes. The program will last into the 1970s, with perhaps hundreds of thousands of women – and only women – being forcibly examined for STDs, many of them sterilized. Each state still has the power to examine and isolate “reasonably suspected” people. Women are allowed to use birth control for therapeutic purpose.  Cherokee and Choctaw soldiers serve as the first code talkers. War veterans of Asian ancestry receive the right of naturalization.

1918-1931: Sixty wealthy Osage are murdered for land, oil, and timber in Oklahoma.

1919: A hundred thousand Black veterans move north. Subject to racially discriminatory administration of benefits, many are denied medical care and other assistance; some who complain are discharged with no disability pay. At least thirteen are lynched. 

White-on-black race riots occur in ChicagoWashington, Houston, East St. Louis, Omaha, Tulsa, Charleston, and 18 other cities. In the largest strike wave in U.S. history, one in five workers walks off the job. The Palmer raids during the Red Scare result in the arrest of several thousand citizens and deportation of 500 non-citizens. American Indian soldiers and sailors receive citizenship.

1920: The Supreme Court upholds California’s Alien Land Laws. The “100 Percent Americanism” campaign exploits post-war anxieties by promoting the KKK as a defender of the nation from defilement by Blacks, Catholics, Jews, foreigners and “moral offenders.” Within 16 months, it will attract 100,000 new members. Racial terror displaces entire Black communities throughout the South and hundreds of thousands flee, creating a mass migration northward that will last into the 1970s. The 18th Amendment prohibits alcoholic drinks, half a year before the 19th Amendment grants women (but not Native women) the right to vote. Boston is so notorious for banning books that authors intentionally print their books there,  hoping for publicity boosts.

1921: The Emergency Quota Act establishes numerical limits “to preserve the ideal of American homogeneity.” It prohibits the immigration of Arabs, East Asians and Indians and restricts the number of immigrants admitted from any country annually to 3% of the residents from that country living in the U.S. in 1910. This ensures that northern Europeans have a higher quota than people from eastern or southern Europe or non-European countries. The number of new immigrants admitted will fall from 800,000 in 1920 to 300,00 in 1921.

In the worst incident of racial violence in American history, white mobs attack blacks in Tulsa, Oklahoma,  destroying 35 square blocks, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. The disaster will influence racialized economic disparities between whites and blacks in Tulsa – and the dozens of places that experience similar violence – for a hundred years.

Three months later, a racially integrated force of 10,000 coalminers fight a private army in the Battle of Blair Mountain, the largest labor uprising in U.S. history and the largest armed uprising since the Civil War. Private planes are hired to drop poison gas bombs on the miners. A hundred are killed.

The American Eugenics Society is formed. Soon, the Nazis will copy the American system. The Chicago real estate board expels members who sell to Black families in White neighborhoods. Feminists win passage of an equal rights law in Wisconsin. They will subsequently introduce an Equal Rights Amendment in every congressional session between 1921 and 1972, but it will rarely reach the floor of either the Senate or the House.

1922: Congress allows women to retain their citizenship after marrying a (non-Asian) alien if they stay in the country. The Supreme Court finds a Japanese American who was born in Japan but had lived in the U.S. for 20 years ineligible for naturalization. Various cities implement dress codes on public beaches. Police with tape measures identify women who aren’t covering enough of their legs. Violators may be arrested.

1923: White mobs destroy the Black town of Rosewood, Florida, killing 150.  A Klan rally opposing interracial marriage draws a thousand participants in upstate New York. The Mississippi Supreme Court allows a school to expel a Chinese American student,  citing an earlier case in which it had upheld the right to expel children whose great-aunts are rumored to have married nonwhites.

1924: The government grants Native Americans the right to vote. Congress establishes the Border patrol on the Mexican border and further restricts immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe, requiring for the first time that immigrants have visas. This introduces the concept of “having papers” (few of those who immigrated prior to this point would be admitted under these far more stringent standards). It establishes deportation courts for non-white immigrants and Eastern and Southern European immigrants who exceed their national quotas. Subsequent court rulings will determine that Asian Indians are not white and cannot immigrate. It also mandates that quotas are to be filled not by counting immigrants but by counting immigration certificates issued at consular offices abroad. By keeping migrants far from American soil, this prevents them from using the courts to apply for asylum or challenge decisions by consular officials. From this point forward, the main barrier to entering the U.S. will be obtaining a visa, not avoiding a border patrol agent. This ends the period of open borders.

Since persons of mixed white and Native American ancestry are considered white, the law continues to allow Latin Americans to immigrate as “whites” in unlimited numbers, despite being ineligible for citizenship. While it spares Mexico a quota, secondary laws, including one that makes it a crime to enter the country outside official ports of entry, give border and customs agents on-the-spot discretion to decide who can enter legally. This turns what had been a routine daily or seasonal event – crossing the border to go to work – into a ritual of abuse with degrading hygienic inspections, literacy tests and entrance fees.

Virginia passes the first eugenics-based sterilization law, bans interracial marriage and codifies the “1/16th” rule to determine African blood. It makes an exception for several officials who claim descent from Pocahontas. The KKK now has 4 million members nationwide, including thousands of Protestant ministers. It elects several congressmen and state governors.

1925: A North Carolina mob castrates the Jew Joseph Needleman after a woman accuses him of rape. Tennessee bans the teaching of evolution. Ads in the Los Angeles Times boast that “the residents of Eagle Rock are all of the white race.” People of color, effectively excluded from 95% of housing, pay 20% more for the same quality unit. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first union led by blacks to receive a charter in the AFL, will grow to 18,000 members, but most AFL unions rigorously continue to exclude blacks.

1925-1936: The government deports nearly two million Mexicans, most without due process, 60% of whom are U.S. citizens.

1926: The Supreme Court rules that racially restrictive housing covenants are legal and enforceable. 

1927: The Mississippi river overflows in the most destructive flood in U.S. history. Authorities force 2,000 black men at gunpoint to repair the levees without pay. Planters prevent homeless blacks from boarding evacuation barges to keep their cheap labor force. The Red Cross establishes racially segregated refugee camps. The anarchists and Italian immigrants Sacco and Vanzetti are executed after a prejudiced trial. The Supreme Court upholds a law banning Chinese Americans from white schools.

1928: Following a Florida hurricane, white victims receive proper burial while the bodies of 674 Black victims are bulldozed into mass graves.  Alabama is the last state to abolish its convict leasing system.

1929: Congress allows aliens to register as permanent residents if they can prove they have lived in the U.S. since 1921 and are of “good moral character.” Between 1925 and 1965200,000 illegal Europeans will use this law to legalize their status. During the Depression, more people will emigrate from the U.S. than to it. Boston bans Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Strange Interlude.

1930s: Numbers of women equal those of men as legal immigrants. Considering the possibility of war with Britain, the government makes plans to invade and annex Canada. Initially formulated in 1924, “Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan – Red” is approved under Herbert Hoover in 1930 and updated under Franklin Roosevelt. The plan authorizes the use of chemical warfare and the bombing of Halifax, Montreal and Quebec.

1930: White mobs attack Filipino farmworkers in Watsonville, California after Filipino men dance with white women.  The national unemployment rate for blacks and whites is the same, but by 1965, the black rate will be double that of whites.

1931: Two Black women die after a segregated Georgia hospital refuses care. 

1931-1936: The Smithsonian exhumes and carries off 800 Alaska Native remains. The Bureau of Indian Affairs destroys 250,000 sheep and goats without any Dine’ consultation.

1932: Birth control activist Margaret Sanger publishes a book supporting eugenics. The Public Health Service and the Tuskegee Institute persuade 600 black sharecroppers to participate in an experiment examining the effects of untreated syphilis. The infected are not informed and receive no treatment, even after penicillin is discovered. Over 40 years, 128 participants will die. In over 40 other experiments doctors deliberately infect healthy black patients with various diseases including cancer cells. Some experiments recruit black children exclusively. Black doctors will be barred from some chapters of the American Medical Association until the 1960’s.

1933: Nazi Germany passes a eugenics law based on the American system. A Mexican diplomat and several farmworkers are killed during a California labor strike. Frances Perkins is the first woman Cabinet member. Roosevelt prohibits hiring discrimination in public works and defense. In uniting northern liberals and southern conservatives, he maintains silence on the question of race, fearing that the coalition will disintegrate. Southern politicians, who will defeat over 200 anti-lynching bills, support Social Security only if it excludes agricultural laborers and domestic servants. This compromise excludes 2/3 of blacks from welfare state protections.

1934: Congress agrees to grant Philippine independence in ten years, limiting quotas to 50/year. However, in case of labor shortages, It authorizes Hawaii to recruit Filipinos. Between 1946 and 1965, 10-12,000 will arrive there. It establishes the Federal Housing Administration to aid the public in buying homes. But its own policy of redlining and mandating of restrictive covenants ensures that subsidies will go almost exclusively to whites. Some developers try to make their housing projects seem less risky by building barriers and even highways to separate them from predominantly Black neighborhoods.

1935: Congress guarantees the right of private sector employees to form unions, engage in collective bargaining and take collective action. It first uses the term “affirmative action” and requires contractors to employ fixed percentages of Black workers and give equal pay for women. The army holds its largest peacetime military maneuvers in history, with 36,000 troops at the Canadian border.

Several Ivy League medical schools retain rigid quotas for Jews; Yale accepts 5 of 200 Jewish applicants. Detroit’s major auto manufacturers violate the Civil Rights Act by forcing a clause in union contracts that locks Black workers into de facto segregated job classifications. Blacks account for under one percent of the skilled labor force while making up 42% of the entire workforce. The Supreme Court rules in the case of the “Scottsboro Boys” that Blacks must be included on juries. The Federal Writer’s Project collects over 2,300 firsthand accounts of slavery. Boston police break up a performance of Clifford Odets’ play Waiting for Lefty, arresting four actors.

1936: Black athlete Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics. Upon the team’s return, Roosevelt invites all white members of the U.S. team to the White House, but not Owens, who writes, “Hitler didn’t snub me; it was our president who snubbed me”. Doctors are allowed to distribute contraceptives across state lines.

1936-1945: The U.S. refuses to admit most Jewish refugees.

1937: Oliver Law is the first African American to command white American troops in battle (in the Spanish Civil War).  Congress creates the Housing Authority. The government begins to build highways and single-family suburban homes with cheap mortgages for whites, while segregating blacks into urban high-rises that will come to be called “the projects”. Some geography books still refer to the entire western hemisphere as “America”.

1938: The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) investigates alleged disloyalty. A Polish refugee organizes the first “I Am an American Day”, which eventually becomes “Citizenship Day”. The German American Bund  parades in New York wearing Nazi uniforms. Bund leaders refer to Roosevelt as “Frank D. Rosenfeld” and call his programs a front for a Bolshevik-Jewish conspiracy. Two thousand followers of Father Charles Coughlin march in New York protesting potential asylum law changes that would allow Jewish refugees into the country. Forty percent of poll respondents agree that Jews have “too much power in the U.S.” This figure will rise to 58 percent by 1945. The administration expresses concern about the fate of the Jews in Europe but consistently refuse to increase immigration. The government takes control over mineral development on Indian lands. Federally subsidized works projects clear slum populations; New York City alone tears down 9,000 buildings. Most public schools in the country are de jure or de facto segregated.

1939: Over 20,000 people attend a Bund rally in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Five thousand riot in San Antonio to prevent the Communist Party from holding a public meeting.  The SS St. Louis with 936 Jews seeking asylum is refused permission to unload in Florida and forced to return to Europe, where 254 will die in the Holocaust. The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers forces out 600 Black workers. Similar purges occur at New Orleans shipyards and at the Boeing Aircraft plant in Seattle. The Justice Department establishes its Civil Liberties Unit. The government decides that no further planning to invade Canada is required, but War Plan Red will not be declassified until 1974.

1940: Blacks (ultimately, 5-6 million) move north and west in the Second Great Migration to work in war industries. Southern resistance to the loss of cheap labor forces some northern recruiters to act in secret or face fines or imprisonment. Police try to prevent black flight by arresting migrants at railroad stations for vagrancy. By 1960, all major Northern and Western cities will have sizable black populations. Racial antagonisms heighten due to urban overcrowding and segregation. Blacks are not allowed in the Marines or the Army Air Corps. Angel Island closes.

1941: The U.S. provokes Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt outlaws racial discrimination in the war industry. But the enforcement body – the Fair Employment Practices Committee – has no authority to regulate employment practices. Southern states refuse to cooperate. The Boston Housing Authority actively segregates the city’s public housing developments and will continue to do so into the 1960s despite repeated court orders.

1942: Roosevelt  forces 110,000 Japanese Americans – as well as 2,200 Latin Americans of Japanese descent, mostly residents of Peru – into concentration camps. Few German or Italian Americans are affected, nor are Japanese Americans in Hawaii, who are deemed necessary to the war effort. Fred Korematsu challenges the policy, but the Supreme Court upholds it.

The government establishes the Bracero Program, which ultimately imports over four million temporary laborers, mostly from Mexico. However, by excluding women, it guarantees that women and children have no access to legal routes of migration and can only follow their men illegally. The result is a bifurcated labor system; one is legal and male, and the other is unlawful, female and young.

A million Black men and women will serve in the military, and six million more will work in the defense industry. A white mob riots against integration in Detroit. Police arrest 200 blacks and three whites. Alabama refuses to assist the war effort, because the nondiscrimination clause in federal contracts could require integration. Allison Davis becomes the first Black professor at a major university. White faculty members at U. of Chicago openly debate whether he should be allowed to teach white students.

All Native men are required to register for the draft, even though they cannot vote in many states. The military destroys several Aleut villages, forcibly transports 880 Aleuts 1,500 miles to internment camps in southeast Alaska and holds them throughout the war. One in ten die. The government uses 900,000 acres of Alaska native lands and 16 Indian reservations for artillery ranges and nuclear test sites. Connecticut’s high court upholds the state’s contraceptive ban for married couples.

1943: Congress repeals the Chinese Exclusion Act but limits Chinese immigration to 105 persons/year. Race riots occur in over a dozen cities. Thousands of white servicemen rampage for a week through East Los Angeles, attacking Latinos in the “Zoot Suit Riots.” Police arrest only Latinos. Strengthening its existing ban on interracial marriage, the California legislature requires that all marriage licenses indicate the race of those to be married.

Second-generation Japanese American men from Hawaii and the internment camps (ultimately over 12,000) form the 442nd Infantry Regiment, which will become the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. Navajo, Lakota, Meskwaki, Mohawk, Commanche, Tlingit, Hopi, Cree, and Crow soldiers serve as code talkers, while Japanese and German Americans serve as translators and interrogators. War movies such as Bataan present the “melting pot platoon,” a cinematic convention in which ethnic and racial harmony is predicated upon racist hatred for the Japanese enemy. Other films (briefly) present Russians as allies.

1944: Roosevelt finally creates a War Refugee Board. The military, however, refuses to bomb the railway lines leading to Auschwitz. The Port Chicago disaster occurs in Northern California. Following a massive munitions explosion that kills 320 mostly black sailors, hundreds refuse to continue loading ships. Fifty are convicted of mutiny. Congress creates the G.I. Bill to aid returning servicemen with college tuition, low-cost home loans and unemployment insurance. But Southern Democrats insist that individual states, rather than the federal government, administer the program to prevent Blacks from participating. Black military policemen stationed in the South cannot enter restaurants where their German prisoners of war are allowed to eat or use the latrines meant for white soldiers and Germans. Twenty-two unions still refuse to admit Blacks. Boston bans Lillian Smith’s novel of interracial romance, Strange Fruit.

1944-1986: Mining companies blast four million tons of ore out of Navajo land searching for uranium for atomic weapons. Later, when Cold War tensions reduce, the companies will leave, abandoning 500 mines and leaving Native miners with high cancer rates.

1945: The War Brides Act permits immigration of 100,000 Asian spouses and children of American servicemen.

1945-1959: Operation Paperclip, administered by American intelligence agencies, admits 1,600 German scientists, including many Nazis.

1946: Congress grants naturalization rights and small immigration quotas to Asian Indians and Filipinos. The Japanese Latin Americans who had been held in the camps attempt to return to their home countries, which deport half of them to Japan. Jews are still seen as a greater threat than any other ethnic group. Five white men are freed in a Mississippi lynching case, despite a confession. Congress creates the Indian Claims Commission to hear tribal grievances. The last mass lynching occurs in Georgia.

1947: The postwar housing boom almost entirely excludes people of color. Veterans’ Administration loopholes allow banks to refuse loans to Blacks. Consequently, only two of 3,200 VA-guaranteed home loans in 13 Mississippi cities go to Blacks. In New York and northern New Jersey, fewer than 100 of 67,000 mortgages support purchases by non-whites. Northern universities delay admitting Black students, while Southern colleges bar them entirely. Fully 95% of Black veterans are shunted off to underfunded, often unaccredited Black colleges that must turn away thousands. Realtors in Chicago manipulate white anxiety through “blockbusting”, deceiving whites into believing that blacks are moving into their neighborhood. They convince whites to quickly sell at a loss, before property values decline. Realtors then sell to middle-class blacks at a premium. Crowds attack Black veterans as they move into Chicago housing developments. Major League Baseball de-segregates.

1948: The Displaced Persons Act admits 200,000 European refugees who have reached certain safe zones by certain dates. However, it deliberately discriminates against some 250,000 Polish and Russian Jews who have not yet done so. Harry Truman integrates the Armed Forces and is the first president to address the NCAAP. He mandates the end of employment discrimination in the federal government, reaffirming FDR’s earlier order. The Supreme Court rules that housing covenants are unenforceable, if not illegal. Developers respond by recording hundreds of thousands of new covenants to restrict minority buyers, including in the new suburb of Lakewood, CA, which by 1960 will have 67,000 residents, seven of them Black. Senator Eastland of Mississippi blocks another anti-lynching bill. Georgia executes a black woman for killing an armed white man in self-defense. 

1948-1960: HUAC engages in a reign of terror that demonizes much political activity and speech as “un-American.” The FBI investigates thousands of citizens, resulting in hundreds fired from government and academia, many suicides and the Hollywood blacklist. 

1948-1973: The CIA’s secret MKULTRA program administers hallucinogenic drugs on hundreds of  unwitting prisoners, disproportionately Black.

1949: Following the Chinese Revolution, the government grants refugee status to 5,000 anti-communist Chinese. Whites riot in Peekskill, N.Y. following a concert by Paul Robeson. The Fairness Doctrine requires broadcasters to air contrasting views on controversial matters of public interest.

1949-1974: Urban renewal policies enable local officials to clear out entire Black neighborhoods. In 1,200 projects, federal subsidies go to over 400 cities, displacing 300,000 families, or 1.2 million people. Over 550 urban square miles are razed. Blacks (13% of the population in 1960) comprise at least 55% of those displaced. New York City’s Lincoln Center displaces 4,000 families, mostly Puerto Ricans.

Read Part Six here.


Barry’s Blog # 412: Who is an American? A Timeline, Part Four of Eight

Posted on September 17, 2022 by shmoover

Part Four: 1850-1900

You cannot lynch me and keep me in ghettos without becoming something monstrous yourselves. And, furthermore, you give me a terrifying advantage. You never had to look at me. I had to look at you. I know more about you than you know about me. Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. – James Baldwin

1850s-1890s: The “Ley Quinto” Indian scalp bounties in the Mexican state of Chihuahua set a price of $200 for the scalps of warriors. Durango and Sonora pass similar laws. Sonora sets the price at $100 for women and children. To prevent fraud, states officially define “scalps” as one or both ears and the crown of the head. All Mexican nationals and foreigners are eligible to be Indian hunters. Many Texas Rangers supplement their income this way. Hunters are allowed to keep any possessions of those they kill, including livestock. Bounties are advertised widely both south and north of the Rio Grande. Scalpers slaughter any natives they can find, including peaceful tribes. The Mexican laws will not be repealed until 1886.

California’s first American governor announces a “war of extermination” against Indians, appropriating $1.3 million to underwrite genocide. Over 370 massacres occur in California, most with no names. Congress passes legislation to steal prime land from the Plains tribes for white settlement and to confine Indians to undesired land, restrict their movement and make them dependent on the government. Prohibited from leaving reservations, even for traditional food gathering, they receive food rations, but starvation is common.

1851: TehamaMariposa  and Wintu Massacres. San Francisco forms its first vigilante committee, initially to suppress Australian criminals. Physician Samuel Cartwright invents a mental illness – Drapetomania – that causes slaves to flee captivity. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is publicly burned and banned.

1852: Hynes BayWright and Bridge Gulch Massacres.

1853: Howonquet, YontoketAchulet and Ox Massacres.

1853-56: The U.S. acquires 174 million acres of Indian lands through 52 treaties, each of which it will subsequently break. Congress includes 43 members of the Know-Nothing party. With its single platform that resists Irish Catholic immigration, it is the first time that large numbers of citizens display intolerance of other white people.

1854: NasomahChetco River and Asbill massacres. Seven states elect Know-Nothing governors and 75-100 congressmen. Massachusetts enacts a nunneries inspection bill.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowing both territories to vote on whether to be slave or free, effectively repeals the Compromise of 1850. Both pro- and anti-slavery supporters convince settlers to move to Kansas to sway the vote. Extreme violence over the next five years leads to the period becoming known as “Bleeding Kansas.”

In Boston a force of 1,600 soldiers is required to repulse a large-scale attempt to rescue a fugitive slave. Its population is now 1/3 foreign born, mostly Irish, leading to the term “paddy wagon”.

1855: Klamath RiverHarneyLupton and Little Butte Creek massacres. California enacts an anti-vagrancy law (also known as the Greaser Act). The slavery issue causes a split between Northern and Southern Know-Nothings. Election riots occur in Louisville.

1856: Grande RondeShingletownCascades and Cayuse massacres. North Carolina is the final state to abolish the property requirement for voting. Previously barred Catholics and non-Christians are enfranchised. Some states allow white immigrants not yet naturalized to vote. Know-Nothing presidential candidate Millard Fillmore gets a fifth (800,000) of the popular vote.

1856-1859: Round Valley Massacres.

1857: Mountain Meadows Massacre.  In the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court decides that no black person, slave or free, can be a U.S. citizen, with “…no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” It also strikes down the entire Missouri Compromise.

Oregon is admitted as a state with a law (not to be abolished until 1927) that excludes all Blacks from settling there. The newly formed American Medical Association lobbies to outlaw abortion and midwifery to eliminate competition. Maryland sentences free Black minister Sam Green to 10 years in prison for owning a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 

1858: Fraser Canyon massacre.

1859: Pitt RiverChico Creek and Jarboe massacres. Abolitionist John Brown is executed for attempting to incite a slave rebellion.

1860: Bloody RockIndian Island and Pease River massacres. One in seven Caucasians is foreign-born. Of the ten million slaves who have lived in the country, four million are alive. Over 1,700 congressmen have owned slaves.  The last slave ship arrives in Alabama despite the ban on trafficking.  Several states pass ambiguous anti-abortion laws. After 1860 stronger laws will be more vigorously enforced. Most Southern states prohibit educating slaves and bar them from possessing reading material or writing instruments. Some of these laws authorize death as punishment, but 5% of slaves secretly learn to read and write. Due to forced breeding, 57% of slaves are younger than twenty.

1861: Horse Canyon and Fort Fauntleroy massacres. Eleven states decide to secede from the Union rather than end slavery. The Union Army organizes itself along national lines, with Irish, German and Italian units. Rebels in California attempt to annex the Mexican state of Sonora for the Confederacy.

1862: Upper StationBig Antelope CreekGallinas Springs and Konkow massacres. The Army Medical Museum collects Indian remains. Some newspapers accuse Jews of financing the Confederacy. General Grant expels Jews from areas under his control (Lincoln rescinds the order a few months later). Minnesota offers a bounty of $200 for the scalp of each fleeing or resisting Indian. Around 1,700 Dakota are force-marched into a concentration camp. The first Homestead Act opens up millions of acres for white settlement, which will ultimately result in 45 million descendants of the recipients.  The Union Army presses liberated slaves into “contraband camps.” Over 185,000 blacks will serve in the army (over 37,000 will die), and 200,000 black civilians will work as laborers, cooks, teamsters and servants, but Congress will not equalize their pay with that of whites until 1864.

1863: Bear River and Keyesville massacres. Irish terrorize blacks in the New York City Draft riots.  The hanging of 38 Dakota men at Lincoln’s order, the largest mass execution in U.S. history, takes place the same week he signs the Emancipation Proclamation. The army forcibly removes 1,000 Paiute from California’s Owens Valley 200 miles to Fort Tejon.  Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation frees only those slaves held in the rebellious states. It exempts Tennessee and portions of Virginia and Louisiana, and it leaves slavery wholly intact in the border states of Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri.

1864:Oak RunBloody Tanks and Skull Valley massacres. Colorado militia attack a peaceful Cheyenne village at Sand Creek, killing over 500. The Confederates under Nathan Bedford Forrest massacre 300 mostly Black Union soldiers who had already surrendered at Fort Pillow. The army, under Kit Carson, forces 10,000 Navajo (Dine’) to march 300 miles in winter from their homeland to a concentration camp in New Mexico; 1,500-4,000 die while interned there for four years. Idaho bans interracial marriage, with a 2-year prison punishment, later increased to 10-years. The Fugitive Slave Law is repealed.

1865: Three Knolls, Mud LakeOwens Lake and Grass Valley massacres. The Enrollment Act penalizes draft evasion or desertion with denationalization (loss of citizenship). Up until the war’s end, Southern newspapers continue to advertise slave auctions.

 The 13th Amendment frees 4 million slaves. But since it does not apply to those convicted of a crime, it leads to massive detention and forced labor of Blacks. The “except as a punishment for crime” clause essentially re-invents slavery. “Convict leasing” will continue for another forty years and justify mass incarceration for another century.  Kentucky, Mississippi and Delaware reject the Thirteenth Amendment. South Carolina explicitly prohibits black people from performing any labor other than farm or domestic work. Whites murder over 2,000 blacks in southern Louisiana, 200 in New Orleans. General Sherman’s Special Field Order # 15 confiscates 400,000 acres along the South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida coasts and divides it into parcels of 40 acres on which 18,000 formerly enslaved families are to be settled. After Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson reverses the order, pardons certain Confederates, evicts the blacks and returns the land to its previous owners. Johnson’s policies usher in sharecropping, a new practice that soon replaces slavery as a primary source of agricultural labor and Black exploitation.

Southern states enact the first “black codes” to force blacks back onto the plantations as defacto slaves.  Violation requires offenders to pay fines. County courts can hire out those unable to pay until they work off their balances in slavery-like environments with high fatality rates. Refusal to work off debts leads to vagrancy charges, resulting in more fees and forced labor. Since licenses are required for offenders to perform skilled labor, blacks have few opportunities to learn trades. All blacks are subject to local curfews and must carry passes from their employers. Local officials oversee all meetings of blacks, including church. Any blacks desiring to live in town require white sponsors.

Indian Territory is entirely reconstructed. The government justifies taking Native lands as punishment for the tribes having supported the Confederacy, although most had done so under duress. All five tribes are forced to cede the western half of Indian Territory and agree to the construction of two railroads across it. Those Indians who had sided with the Confederacy are the only group of former slaveholders compelled to provide their former slaves with land. The Cherokee, Muscogee, and Seminole are forced to provide citizenship to former slaves and the Choctaw and Chickasaw have the option to adopt the freedmen or provide for their removal from their territory. The Choctaw adopt the freed slaves, but the Chickasaw do not.

1865-1868: At least 34 documented mass lynchings occur during Reconstruction. Whites murder over a thousand blacks in Texas. None of the five hundred who are indicted are convicted.

1865-1872: In the 76 years prior to 1865, the Supreme Court had struck down just two Congressional acts. Between 1865 and 1872, it will do so 12 times. Most of these decisions will rob the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of their purpose.

1865-1903: Hunters working for the military annihilate the buffalo to deny basic food to the plains Indians. All the Southern states introduce the use of chain gangs.

1866: Circleville  and Memphis massacres. The first Hawaiian leprosy patients are sent to Moloka‘i Colony. Andrew Johnson pardons over 7,000 Confederates. The Ku Klux Klan is founded as a domestic terrorist force serving the interests of the Democratic Party. It will murder at least 10% of the black members of the constitutional conventions of 1867-8. Black veterans in particular are targeted for mistreatment and murder. A White mob attacks a Black voting rights convention in New Orleans, killing 35 Black marchers and three white Radical Republicans. Texas restricts Blacks from testifying in court.  Congress adopts a bill to invade and annex Canada and creates permanent all-Black regiments, to be remembered as the “Buffalo Soldiers”. Florida’s Black Code prohibits blacks from possessing firearms, punishing violators with public whippings. Police are posted at train stations throughout the South to seize black veterans’ guns.

The first Civil Rights Act, passed over Johnson’s veto, declares all persons born in the U.S. (except Indians) to be natural citizens. For the first time, some people other than whites are accepted. A second Homestead Act encourages blacks to participate, but rampant discrimination slows black gains.

1867: Aquarius Mountains massacre.  New Jersey allows voter registration only on the Thursday before election. Buffalo Bill Cody singlehandedly kills 4,000 buffalo. Nathan Bedford Forrest, the butcher of Fort Pillow, becomes the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. His statue will stand in Nashville from 1998 until 2021. Johnson offers further pardons to Confederates. Congress passes the Reconstruction Acts, imposing military rule on the South. In ten of the eleven former Confederate states, 80% of eligible Black male voters register to vote.

 1868: Campo Seco, La PazOpelousas and Washita massacres. The first Jew is lynched in Tennessee. A white mob in Georgia, armed by the local sheriff, fires upon an election parade, killing two dozen. Hundreds of Black veterans are driven from their homes.

The 14th Amendment establishes equal protection under the law but allows states to decide what crimes will allow the loss of voting rights. The southern states are forced to ratify it in order to regain representation in Congress. The Supreme Court opts for a narrower interpretation of this and the 13th Amendment, focusing on African Americans. For Indians and Alaska Natives, involuntary servitude persists through debt peonage. Before the war, 3/5ths of Southern slaves had been included in calculating Congressional representation.  However, as free persons, all blacks are now counted, and this change significantly enhances Southern power in Congress and the Electoral College. Meanwhile, only eight Northern states allow blacks to vote. Johnson pardons almost all of the remaining Confederates, further establishing the logic of the U.S. racial state: providing civic inclusion for treasonous whites and exclusion for newly liberated Blacks. Oakland becomes the west coast terminus of the transcontinental railroad. Ultimately, thousands of Black Pullman Porters will retire there, transforming the city.

1869: Wyoming Territory is the first to grant women suffrage in state elections. The House of Representatives votes against seating John Menard, the first Black man ever elected to it  (Joseph Rainey will be seated the next year). The first national women’s suffrage organizations are established.

1870: Marias massacre. The 15th Amendment establishes black male suffrage but does not forbid literacy, educational tests or poll taxes and does not question the notion that voting is a privilege that states can regulate as they see fit.

Naturalization of black immigrants (but not Asians or Mexicans) is permitted. The 1870s will see 16 major race riots, all of them white-on-black. Utah women, who have previously had the right to vote, lose it. Nearly every black church or schoolhouse in the Tuskegee area is burned. Tennessee prohibits school integration. Hiram Revels of Mississippi is the first African American elected to the Senate. During Reconstruction, 2,000 Black men will serve in elected office in the South (16 in Congress), almost half in South Carolina and Louisiana, where Blacks have had the longest history of political organization. They (briefly) repeal discriminatory laws, rewrite vagrancy statutes, outlaw corporal punishment and sharply reduce the number of capital offenses. Over 90% of Blacks reside in the South but only one percent (30,000) in the region own land.

1871: Kingsley Cave and Camp Grant massacres. Residents of the District of Columbia lose the right to vote for mayor. Congress ends treaty-making with tribes and forbids Western tribes to leave reservations without permission. Congress makes violence infringing on civil and political rights a federal crime. Southern states refuse to comply, forcing the major burden of enforcement onto the federal government. Violence by the KKK in South Carolina forces President Grant to declare martial law. The government indicts over 700 Klansmen in Mississippi, but most receive suspended sentences.

1872: Skeleton Cave massacre. Congress returns the right to hold office to most former Confederates, excluding only 500 leaders, and returns confiscated property. The General Mining Act allows the staking of Indian lands without their consent. Susan B. Anthony is arrested for voting. A single railroad company ships 500,000 bison hides east.

1873: Cypress Hills massacreWhites massacre 150-280 blacks in Colfax, La.  Newspapers first use the word “communist”. The Federal Comstock laws criminalize use of the Postal Service to send contraceptives, abortifacients, sex toys or personal letters with any sexual content. Half of the states will enact similar laws. Boston officials follow by banning anything that they find to be  inappropriate, leading to the phrase “banned in Boston”.

1874: A white militia overthrows an integrated Louisiana government. White mobs massacre Blacks at political meetings in Mississippi and Alabama. Alabama restores former Confederate leaders to legislative and executive authority, ending Reconstruction in the state and mandating school segregation.

1874 – 1983: Congressional white supremacists will use the filibuster against civil rights and anti-discrimination bills in 1874, 1875, 1945, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1954, 1957, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1984, anti-lynching litigation in 1921, 1922, 1925, 1935 and 1938, the creation of a monument to Black World War I soldiers in 1926, an extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1982 and the creation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday in 1983.

1875: Sappa Creek and Clinton massacres. New York and Boston crowds welcome Confederate military units. The Page Act bars entry of Chinese, Japanese, prostitutes, felons, and contract laborers, to “end the danger” of cheap labor and Chinese women, “…few of whom,” says President Grant, “are brought to our shores to pursue honorable or useful occupations.” The American Medical Association argues that Chinese immigrants carry deadly disease. The Supreme Court rules against women’s suffrage. The Civil Rights Act provides for equal treatment in public accommodations and transportation and prohibits exclusion from jury service. It will be struck down eight years later, and no new Civil Rights legislation will be enacted until 1957.

1876: Thousands of municipalities (“Sundown Towns”) begin to exclude non-whites, and in some cases, Jews, after sunset.  The Supreme Court overturns the only three convictions resulting from the Colfax massacre and rules that the Fourteenth Amendment protects citizens only from state action and not from violence committed by private individuals. The Justice Department drops 179 Enforcement Act prosecutions in Mississippi alone. In the presidential election the national platforms of both the Democrats and the Republicans single out “Mongolian” immigration as a problem. Mississippi strengthens convict leasing. Recently amnestied Confederate veterans regain political control through terror and intimidation.

1877: Big Hole and Buffalo Hunters massacres. White San Franciscans riot against Chinese residents. Jews can finally vote and hold office in all states, though they still face obstacles if voting is held on Saturdays or if they don’t speak English (there are no Yiddish translations of ballots). Many courts continue to judge the veracity of witnesses based on their Christian beliefs and don’t allow Jews to swear oaths according to their own religious customs. The Compromise of 1877 finally settles the Presidential election, resulting in the removal of federal troops from the South, the end of Reconstruction, the beginning of the Jim Crow era and a new wave of violence that overwhelms the few remaining protective structures for Black people.

1878-1930: Over 6,500 people, overwhelmingly African American, will be lynched.

1879: Fort Robinson massacre. The Carlisle Indian Industrial School becomes a model for others to be established by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It utilizes forced assimilation to Christian culture and abandonment of Native American traditions. A federal judge rules the Ponca tribe are “people” who can bring petitions for habeas corpus, and that Indians who had severed their relationships with their tribes cannot be ordered to a reservation against their will. Nearly 40,000 black “Exodusters”  settle in Kansas and Oklahoma, creating many Freedman’s towns.  Henrietta Wood receives $2,500, the largest verdict ever awarded for slavery reparations.

1880: Louisiana mandates that the votes of only nine of twelve jurors are enough to convict a defendant, thus nullifying the votes of any black jurors and condemning thousands. The 1880s will see seven major white-on-black race riots.

1882: The U.S. Navy bombards Tlingit villages in Alaska. The Chinese Exclusion Act   suspends immigration of Asian laborers for ten years and prohibits “any convict, lunatic or idiot ” from entering the country. Prior to this date, nearly anyone except for the Chinese and Japanese who crossed the borders had been considered legal. It is possibly the first time in recorded history that a country denies entrance to people based exclusively on their skin color or country of origin and will remain in effect until 1943. The term “illegal immigrant” is first used. New York City police arrest 137 persons for violating the Sunday Laws, or Blue Laws,  which are still in effect in many states.

1883: The Supreme Court declares the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional, legitimating segregation and racial violence, and upholds criminalization of interracial sexual relationships.  The Religious Crimes Code deprives Indians of their first amendment rights and bans their dances and ceremonies, including the Sun Dance, the Ghost Dance, potlatches, and the practices of medicine persons. It gives Indian agents authority to use imprisonment and the withholding of rations to stop any cultural practices they deem immoral or subversive. Courts of Indian offenses are created to replace Native governance. Intellectuals introduce the term “eugenics.” Hula performance is revived in Hawaii.

1884: San Francisco public schools deny admission to Chinese American children.

1885: Rock Springs massacre and Tacoma Riot. The Alien Contract Labor Law prohibits importing of foreigners to perform labor, including “professional actors, artists, lecturers, or singers (and) persons employed as strictly personal or domestic servants.”  Ohio allows voters to register on only seven select days during the year.

1885-1888: Racist mobs lynch several uniformed Black “Buffalo soldiers”. Over 100,000 Chinese  work on the railroads, in agriculture and mining and as domestics and service workers.

1885-1908: All 11 former Confederate states rewrite their constitutions to restrict Black voting rights using poll taxes, literacy tests and felon disenfranchisement. In Louisiana the number of Black registered voters drops from 130,000 during Reconstruction to 5,000 by 1900 and 1,000 by 1904.

1886: White mobs in Vancouver and Seattle riot against Chinese residents. Idaho expels its 4,000 Chinese residents. 

1887: Hell’s Canyon Massacre. The Thibodaux Massacre leaves 60 Blacks dead and ends unionized farm labor in the South for decades.  The Dawes Act grants citizenship to Native Americans who disassociate themselves from their tribe and subdivides communal landholdings into individual allotments. Utah is the second territory to allow women to vote, but Congress repeals woman’s suffrage there. The Indian Affairs Commissioner bans Native languages in schools. Plantation owners force Hawaiian King Kalakaua to sign the “Bayonet Constitution”.

1888: The Supreme Court affirms (and will repeatedly re-affirm) that corporations have all the rights of people.

1889: Oklahoma’s first “land rush” occurs as the federal government opens nearly two million acres to settlement. Additional land rushes will occur in 1891 (twice), 1893 and 1895.

1890-1920: Eleven million rural people move to the cities of the North and the Midwest as twenty million European immigrants arrive.

1890: Buffalo GapStronghold and Wounded Knee massacres. Whitecappers force blacks in mixed-race areas to move out. As a result, Oklahoma becomes quite segregated, with some formerly mixed towns becoming all-white. The government assumes control of immigration and constructs the Ellis Island Inspection Station. It will eventually process 12 million immigrants, who will become the ancestors of 100 million Americans. The Bureau of Immigration is created to enforce federal immigration laws, especially the ban on Asians. All reservations in Indian Territory are annexed into the new Oklahoma Territory. Mississippi amends its constitution to permanently disenfranchise people who commit certain crimes they believe are more likely to be committed by Black people. They do not include murder and rape, which will not be added until 1968. The 1890s will see nine major (white-on-black) race riots.

1891: A New Orleans mob lynches a group of eleven Italian Americans, whom they call “white niggers”.  The word “Mafia” enters the American lexicon. Federal officers forcibly take Indian children from their homes and reservations. In Oklahoma territory a land lottery is held instead of another land rush. Night riders attack Jews in Louisiana and Mississippi.

1892: The Geary Act extends the Chinese Exclusion Act, requires all Chinese to carry resident permits on penalty of deportation and prohibits them from testifying in court. The Supreme Court upholds it.  The Commissioner of Indian affairs imposes prison penalties for those who repeatedly participate in religious dances or act as medicine people.

1893: White planters and businessman overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy.

1895: Federal authorities imprison 19 Hopi leaders on Alcatraz Island for opposing the government’s forced education and assimilation of indigenous children. The United Daughters of the Confederacy is founded.

1896: The Plessy vs Ferguson decision (“Separate but equal”) legalizes segregation. The teaching of the Hawaiian language is prohibited in schools. A white mob murders an interracial couple in Louisiana.

1898: White supremacists stage a military assault on the last bastion of biracial government in the South, killing scores of Blacks and driving thousands out of Wilmington, North Carolina.  The Supreme Court rules that a child born in the U.S. of parents of Chinese nationality is a citizen.  The Curtis Act breaks up tribal governments and communal lands in Oklahoma. White settlers are given license to ignore tribal laws, evade permit taxes, fence lands illegally and refuse to vacate lands claimed by Native allottees. The “Five Civilized Tribes” who had suffered the Trail of Tears lose control of over 90 million acres. The U.S. annexes Hawaii. The convict lease system supplies 73% of Alabama’s entire state revenue.

1898-1934: Congress creates the nation’s only “Institution for Insane Indians”, the Canton Insane Asylum, confining many for resisting government regulations or to steal their mineral rights. For the first two years, there are no doctors or nurses. Tourists come to view the “insane Indians.” At least 121 patients die.

1899: The Oklahoma Legislature prohibits the practices and healing ceremonies of native medicine men. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) admits the rigidly all-white International Association of Machinists.

Read Part Five here.


Barry’s Blog # 411: Who is an American? A Timeline, Part Three of Eight

Posted on September 16, 2022 by shmoover

Part Three: 1800-1850

What is ghastly and really almost hopeless in our racial situation now is that the crimes we have committed are so great and so unspeakable that the acceptance of this knowledge would lead, literally, to madness. The human being, then, in order to protect himself, closes his eyes, compulsively repeats his crimes, and enters a spiritual darkness which no one can describe. – James Baldwin

1800-1801: Congress allows the Sedition and Alien Friends Acts to expire. But the Alien Enemies Act remains in effect. It will be revised  in 1918 and remains in effect today. Congress extends Virginia’s and Maryland’s slavery laws to the District of Columbia.

1802-1803: Thomas Jefferson signs the Georgia Compact, which creates Alabama and Mississippi from land that was formerly part of Georgia. As compromise, he promises to extinguish title to Cherokee lands in Georgia. Any lands to be vacated by Indians will become the possession of the state. The Louisiana Purchase provides western land for Indian resettlement and determines that millions of people will become unknowing subjects of American rule, if not citizens. All presidents thereafter encourage Indians to emigrate west. The question of slavery now becomes both geographical and highly political.

1805: Canyon del Muerto massacre.

1807:  The kidnapping of Africans escalates dramatically. Anticipating a constitutional ban on the transatlantic trade, traffickers in Charleston import over 40,000 Africans. Ohio prohibits blacks from testifying in cases involving whites. New Jersey, which had previously allowed wealthy, unmarried (white) women to vote, disenfranchises all women.

1808-1829: North Carolina prohibits slaveowners from legally freeing their slaves; many Quakers move away to free their slaves in “free states.”

1808-1860: Congress prohibits the further importation of slaves and forbids Americans to engage in the international slave trade but does not ban slavery itself. The domestic slave trade emerges to fill the void. Virginia will transition from a slave-dominated tobacco plantation society into a more diverse economy needing fewer slaves. At the same time, slave demand in the West couples with the excess supply of slaves in the Upper South and the cotton boom in the Deep South propelled by the invention of the cotton gin. This will link the price of cotton with the price of slaves for the next fifty years. The potential profit to be made from selling Blacks already enslaved in the country skyrockets and results in the trafficking of millions – including many free Blacks kidnapped and sold – and fuels a massive increase in the Deep South’s enslaved population. Some slave owners breed their slaves to produce more workers. Two of the largest breeding farms are in Richmond and Maryland. At least 30,000 (possibly as many as 300,000) slaves are transported hundreds of miles west and south to New Orleans by riverboat, on foot and eventually by train. The nation’s slave population will increase fourfold. Cotton exports will grow from 100,000 bales to over a million, comprising half of all U.S. exports and driving Britain’s industrial revolution. As a result, slaves become a legal form of property used as collateral in business transactions or to pay off outstanding debt.

 1812-21: Six western states join the union with full white male suffrage. Maryland will exclude Jewish Americans from state office until the law requiring candidates to affirm a belief in an afterlife is repealed in 1828.

1813: TallushatcheeHillabee and Autossee massacres.

1815: Andrew Jackson promises free blacks who join him equivalent pay to whites, while enslaved men are promised freedom. Around 900 freemen and slaves fight at the Battle of New Orleans. Afterwards, Jackson reneges on his promise and sends the enslaved men back to their masters.

1817: The Cherokee Nation makes its first land exchange, accepting a western tract in present-day Arkansas for one in Georgia. Most Cherokees refuse to emigrate.

1818:  Chehaw massacre. Virginia disestablishes its official state religion.

1819: Congress creates a fund to “civilize” Native Americans.

1820: The U.S. first compiles immigration statistics. From this date, no nation will contribute more legal immigrants than Mexico. The Missouri Compromise regulates slavery in the western territories and recognizes that Congress cannot impose upon states seeking admission to the Union conditions that do not apply to those states already in the Union. After Missouri’s admission in 1821, no other states will be admitted until 1836 when Arkansas will enter as a slave state, followed by Michigan in 1837 as a free state. In California, 20,000 Indians live in virtual slavery on the Catholic missions.

1821: New York State ends its denial of citizenship to Catholics. Connecticut punishes the use of  herbs to induce abortions with life imprisonment.

1822: Whites burn down the Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Over half of the goods shipped from New York to Europe are being produced by Southern slave labor.

1823: Skull Creel massacre.  The Supreme Court decides the first  case to set the foundation for Indian law, invoking the Doctrine of Discovery as a foundation for Indian removal and seizure of Native lands. The title to land ownership lies with its “discoverer,” not the long-term inhabitants.

1824:  Fall Creek massacre. The Office of Indian Affairs is formed.

1826: Dressing Point massacre.

1827: The New Jersey Supreme Court permits the sale of black children as so-called “apprentices.” Georgia begins to nullify Cherokee laws and appropriate Cherokee lands. The Supreme Court refuses to enforce the treaties. New York abolishes slavery, but allows non-residents to have slaves in the state for up to nine months.

1828: The beginning of “Jacksonian Democracy”. Barriers such as property requirements preventing white men from voting fall across the nation. Voters, not state legislatures, begin to choose presidential electors. Nowhere else in the world can such a large proportion of the (white) population exercise the franchise. At the same time, some states add new restrictions preventing blacks and women from voting. Some northern states that had permitted free black citizens to vote now strip them of that privilege or add property requirements that effectively bar them from voting.

1829: Irish immigrants riot against free blacks in Cincinnati. That city requires black residents to adhere to earlier laws aimed at preventing fugitive slaves and freedmen from settling in Ohio. The first wave of thousands of blacks leave for Canada.

1830: The Hawaiian royalty, influenced by Protestant missionaries, bans public hula performances. North Carolina mandates the death sentence for repeated dissemination of anti-slavery pamphlets.

1830-1839: The Indian Removal Act demands relocation of all Native Americans to west of the Mississippi River. The Cherokees contest it. The South again favors robust federal action. The Supreme Court decides for the Cherokees, but Jackson ignores the decision. The Army then forces tens of thousands of the civilized tribes and other indigenous peoples into concentration camps (called “emigration depots”) and then onto what will become known as The Trail of Tears.

1831: Following Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, white mobs kill hundreds of blacks.  Virginia requires black congregations to meet only in the presence of a white minister. The Choctaw are the first to be forcibly relocated to Indian Territory. Thousands – nearly one-third of the Choctaw Nation – die on the 500-mile journey.

1831-1853: The Supreme Court decides additional cases in favor of aboriginal rights. Most will not be enforced.

1832: Bad Axe massacre.  Alabama claims sovereignty over the Muscogee and Cherokee people and bars tribal customs.

1833: Massachusetts ends taxation of Catholics to support state-supported Protestant churches.

1834: Lyman Beecher preaches three violently anti-Cathlolic sermons in Boston, prompting a mob to burn down a convent school. A wave of church burnings follows in New England and the Midwest. Alabama bans free Blacks from living in the state.

1834-1880: The native population will plummet from 150,000 to 18,000.

1835: The “Native American” Party appears in New York City. Missouri requires free Blacks to apply for a license to remain in the state. A white mob attacks abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison in Boston. 

1836-1860: The sensational, pornographic book Disclosures of Maria Monk: The Hidden Secrets of a Nun’s Life in a Convent Exposed becomes second only to Uncle Tom’s Cabin as antebellum America’s most popular book, selling 300,000 copies. Some 270 books, 25 newspapers and 13 magazines carry the anti-Catholic message. Most other best-sellers will be captivity narratives written by white women formerly kept captive by Indian tribes.

1836: The Texas Rangers are founded to fight Indians and capture slaves who escape to Mexico. David Crockett and the other defenders of the Alamo become America’s first martyrs for the cause of manifest destiny and westward expansion.

1837: Miwok and Johnson massacres. Congress prohibits direct payment to tribes for ceded lands. The Whitecapping movement begins in Indiana as whites form secret societies to deliver frontier justice.  The House of Representatives prohibits any discussion of the abolition of slavery in its chamber. The rule will remain in effect until 1844.

1838: Boston establishes the first urban police force.

1840: Council HouseClear Lake and Red Fork massacres. Due chiefly to the slave trade, New Orleans becomes the fourth-largest city in the country, and the richest.

1840-1860: James Sims, the “father of gynecology”, pioneers new medical techniques by conducting them on unanesthetized female slaves.

1841: Whereas previous legislation to help encourage settlement of the West on public lands had no racial restrictions, Congress now stipulates that the General Pre-Exemption Act is for Whites only. The first black Catholic church is founded. Baptist churches allow blacks to become leaders and preachers, but Anglican or Episcopal churches do not. The Supreme Court frees the Africans who had taken over the slave ship Amistad and allows them to return to Africa.

1844: New Jersey removes anti-Catholic provisions from its state constitution. Anti-Irish mobs in Philadelphia burn churches and kill thirteen. The Oregon Territory passes its first “Black exclusion” law banning free Blacks from moving there. Violators are to be whipped.

1845: Massachusetts makes any form of attempted abortion illegal.

1846-1860: A million and a half Catholic Irish arrive, 50,000 of whom (including many U.S. citizens) are deported back to Ireland. Thousands are drafted into the army, but when the U.S. invades Mexico, 200 Irish desert, join the Mexican army and form the “Saint Patrick Battalion.”  Irish-Black tensions increase. Irish American organizations actively oppose abolition of slavery. The foreign-born population more than doubles. The underground railroad comes into existence to assist slaves escaping to the North.

1846Sacramento River, Klamath Lake, Temecula and Sutter Butte massacres.

1847: Taos,  TuleaKern and Maidu massacres. In Mexico City, General Winfield Scott hangs fifty members of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion.

1848: Brazos River massacres. The first call for women’s suffrage takes place at Seneca Falls, New York.

1849-1869: Californians will murder 9,000-16,000 Native Americans.

1849: Battle Creek massacre.

1850: The Compromise of 1850 abolishes the slave trade in the nation’s capital (home to one of the largest slave markets) and allows territories recently acquired from Mexico to decide whether or not to allow slavery.  For the third time, the South embraces national power over state’s rights when the Second Fugitive Slave Act levies harsher punishments for interfering in the capture of runaways and authorizes judges to issue verdicts that cannot be challenged. Free Blacks accused of being escapees may not testify in their own defense. Since local laws cannot interfere, hundreds of armed blacks in Detroit force the owner of a fugitive to allow his freedom to be purchased. A second wave of 20,000 freedmen flees to Canada, which refuses to extradite them.

Federal Judges hear over 800 land-title cases, most ignoring the principle of aboriginal rights. The Donation Land Act provides free land to all white or mixed-blood Indigenous settlers who arrive in Oregon Territory. The law, which grants 320 acres to unmarried male citizens and 640 acres to married couples, split equally between them, is one of the first to allow married women to hold land under their own name. Massachusetts and Connecticut re-enact voter literacy tests, attempting to curtail immigrant Democratic Party voting power. The Supreme Order of the Star Spangled Banner is formed, better known as the “Know-Nothing” party. Its mobs beat up opposition voters in several cities.

Congress imposes a tax of $20/month on foreign miners. California is admitted to the Union as a free state and immediately passes the Indian Slavery Act.  It provides that Indians “found loitering and strolling about” can be enslaved without notice and cannot testify on their own behalf. Fort Utah and Bloody Island massacres.

Read Part Four here.


Barry’s Blog # 410: Who is an American? A Timeline, Part Two of Eight

Posted on September 15, 2022 by shmoover

Part Two: The 18th Century

I consider a woman who brings a child every two years as more profitable than the best man of the farm. What she produces is an addition to the capital, while his labors disappear in mere consumption. – Thomas Jefferson.

1704: Apalachee Massacre.  South Carolina creates the first slave patrols, which serve to apprehend and return runaway slaves to their owners and deter slave revolts

1705: Several colonies pass laws to prevent runaways from fleeing to Canada. Virginia limits the civil and land rights of Indians and Africans, based on blood degree: 1/2 Native ancestry = mulatto; 1/8 African ancestry = Black.

1706: Reverend Cotton Mather teaches Northern slaves that they are sinners, that slave owners perform the “greatest kindness” by overseeing their conversion to Christianity and that their property will be unaffected by conversion.

1712: French troops kill 1,000 Mesquaki (Fox) People near Detroit.  Tuscarora massacre.   

1713: Fort Neoheroka massacre. 

1718: Parliament passes the Transportation Act, which results in the expulsion of over 50,000 convicts and paupers, a quarter of all British emigrants to North America during the eighteenth century.

1723: Virginia removes all penalties for the killing of slaves during “correction.”

1724: Abenaki massacre.  New Hampshire authorizes scalp hunting. 

1730: Chawasha and Fox Fort massacres. 

1740: Following the unsuccessful Stono Rebellion, the Negro Law of South Carolina codifies white supremacy. It prohibits enslaved Africans from growing their own food, learning to read, moving freely, assembling in groups, or earning money. It authorizes white slavers to kill slaves for being “rebellious.” Other colonies copy the law.

1745: Russian fur traders enslave Unangan (Aleut) people. Walden massacre. 

1747: Chama River massacre. 

1759: St. Francis massacre. 

1763: Susquehannock and Conestoga massacres. 

1766: Aleut massacres. 

177o: South Carolina is importing an average of 3,000 enslaved Africans annually.

1771Bloody Falls massacre. 

1774Spanish Peaks and Yellow Creek massacres.  The Continental Congress leaves it to each state to decide who shall be a voting citizen.

1776: George Washington allows slaves to earn freedom through service, and 5,000 blacks join the Revolutionary Army.

1776- 1860: Abortion is viewed as socially unacceptable but remains legal in most states.

1780: Thomas Jefferson writes, “…if we are to wage a campaign against these Indians, the end proposed should be their extermination, or their removal beyond the lakes of the Illinois River.”

1782: The Pennsylvania militia massacres 96 Gnadenhutten pacifist Christian Lenapes.   The motto E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one) appears on the Great Seal of the United States.

1783: The revolutionary war ends. Treaties define U.S. territory with no reference to Native people. In the first example of reparations, Belinda Royall successfully sues for a pension from her former slave master. 

1784: White veterans receive land as a reward for their service, while most free Black veterans do not. Russians massacre 200-300 Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) people at Refuge Rock. 

1787: Massacre of Cherokee peace chiefs.  The new government identifies Indian tribes as sovereign nations and establishes the first formal treaties. The Constitution ensures that the international slave trade cannot end for twenty years and grants states the power to establish standards for voting rights. White, Protestant, adult, property-owning males (about 6% of the population) are the only group allowed to vote. Some states require membership in a specified religion. The “Three-fifths Compromise”, which counts three out of every five slaves as people, gives the South a third more Congressional seats and electoral votes than if slaves had been ignored. As a result, these states will have disproportionate influence on the presidency and Supreme Court for over fifty years. After the Civil War, when former slaves count as full persons, the Southern states will gain twenty congressional seats.

1789: Congress insists that Americans hold possession of all territory east of the Mississippi River, argues that tribes which had supported the British forfeit any claim to territory and places the Secretary of War in charge of Indian affairs.

1790-1800: Nearly 100,000 immigrants enter the country, including 20,000 Catholic refugees fleeing political repression in France, Santo Domingo (Haiti) and Ireland.

1790: All foreign “free white persons” are naturalized, and only two years residency is required before one can become a citizen. Freed male slaves can vote in four states. Women carry the legal status of their husbands. Property-owning women can vote in New Jersey only. New York is the only state with no restrictions on civic participation based on religion. The nation’s first census recognizes six categories: (1) the head of each household; (2) free white males over sixteen; (3) free white males under sixteen; (4) free white females; (5) all other free white persons by sex and color; and (6) slaves. Freed blacks begin to found their own churches.

1791: The first Constitutional Amendment stipulates that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. However, since it only specifies what the federal government can or cannot do, not what the states can do, establishment does not immediately disappear everywhere. Congregationalism will continue in New England. The Second Amendment gives citizens the right to bear arms, primarily to allay fears of armed black uprisings. Virginian Robert Carter begins to free his 500 slaves and is forced to leave the state. 

1792: Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson claims that the European Doctrine of Discovery is international law, applicable to the new U.S. government as well.

1792–1856: Various states abolish property qualifications for white men but retain them for blacks. Tax-paying qualifications will remain in five states until 1860 and survive in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island into the 20th century. Free black males lose the right to vote in several Northern states.

1793: The first Fugitive Slave Act authorizes local governments to seize and return escaped slaves to their owners and impose penalties on anyone who aids in their flight. The white South, usually vocal in defense of local rights, favors robust national action. Several Northern states pass laws prohibiting state officials from aiding in the capture of fugitives.

1795: The government extends the residency requirement to five years and encourages Indians to embrace mainstream white customs so they can assimilate into American society. The Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes do so, becoming known as the “five civilized tribes.”

1796: The first economic depression, or panic, occurs, as they will in 1796, 1815, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1890, 1901, 1907, 1920, 1929 and 2008.

1798: Congress raises the residency requirement to 14 years. Federalists, accusing Republicans of being in league with France against their own country’s government, pass the four Alien and Sedition Acts. The Alien Enemies Act permits the government to arrest and deport all male citizens of an enemy nation in the event of war, while the Alien Friends Act allows deportation of any non-citizen suspected of plotting against the government, even in peacetime. Only ten years after freedom of speech becomes part of the Constitution, the Sedition Act restricts speech that is critical of the federal government and results in the prosecution of many newspaper owners.

Read Part Three here.


Barry’s Blog # 409: Who is an American? A Timeline, Part One of Eight

Posted on September 14, 2022 by shmoover

Part One: The Beginning

History…does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. — James Baldwin


Item # one: June 2019. A Salvadoran father and his daughter drown trying to cross the Rio Grande River. Children endure inhuman conditions in concentration camps while their parents are deported. Toddlers are brought into court without translators. Mothers are told to drink from toilets. How, we wonder, can our government treat people with such gratuitous cruelty? Has it ever been this bad? Surely, say the pundits and many innocent liberals, this is not who we are!


Item # 2: July 4th, 2019. While Trumpus and his stormtroopers churn up the National Mall and the streets of Washington with military hardware, I take a break from writing and go for a walk in Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery. A series of chance turns takes me to the grave of Fred Korematsu, the Japanese American who fought his conviction for evading internment in World War Two concentration camps for forty years.

Item # 3: June 2021. On “Meet the Press”, Chuck Todd mentions Critical Race Theory:

…parents are saying, “Hey, don’t make my kid feel guilty”…And I know a parent of color is going, “What are you talking about?”

Nikole Hannah-Jones responds:

You said, “parents,” and then you said, “parents of color.”

Item # 4: January 2022. Mitch McConnell snorts,

African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.

But I’m not here to only bash Republicans; that’s too easy. Consider Joe Biden’s infamous “praise” of Barack Obama in 2007:

I mean, you got the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.

If you don’t get the irony, you really need to read this and take some time – lots of time – to consider how the nation has determined exactly who is privileged to live within the pale of “us” – the good, the true, the exceptional, the innocent – and who is not, how often those definitions have changed, and how violently whites have responded to them.

As I write in “The Myth of Immigration”:

…the immigrant plays a curiously ambiguous role in the narrative of American innocence. Immigrants are outsiders who in aspiring (or threatening) to be in transition to becoming insiders, force insiders to question something we quite ambiguously refer to as the American Dream. To the Paranoid Imagination, however, they threaten to pollute that dream.

A further ambiguity is that their condition is qualified by their skin color (and of course, for generations, by their gender, their sexual preferences and the degree of choice they had to come to this land – as conquerors, slaves, indentured servants, refugees, unskilled workers, graduate students or anti-communists). The story of American immigration announces a welcome to all that is enshrined on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” There may be no poetic line better known in the entire world. But this story – the Melting Pot, or the Ellis Island myth – is rife with such contradictions that for centuries its adherents have required an entire mythology to resolve them – a massive, ongoing, national, cognitive dissonance. Myths are powerful. When facts meet myth, it is the truth that must change to fit the myth.

One could also argue for the simple statement that the story of American immigration has always been about those (white) people who were welcomed and those others, including the conditionally white, who were merely tolerated.

Immigrants – those who are just arriving, and especially those of darker skin – also provide a convenient mirror for those who desperately need to convince themselves that they are the real Americans, that they are “nativists.” Such people consumed the earliest versions of the myth of American Innocence, in which the story, quite early on, utterly forgot about the actual, original inhabitants of the land.

We mythologists think in terms of the growth and triumph of a grand story Americans tell themselves about themselves, followed by its tantalizingly slow dissolution, along with the sense of how newer, more inclusive stories have yet to be formed. Individual people have always populated this story, have suffered, risen up against it or perpetrated inconceivably terrible violence to reconfirm it. But seen from this perspective – and we have to – all the players in this play, whether innocent or guilty, have been the victims of historical, generational trauma. And, as players in this story, they embody it for all of us. We are all Americans. No one is completely innocent, and no one has completely escaped the trauma.

Mythologists understand that every national narrative has its shadow, the part of the story we have suppressed so deeply that we’ve forgotten it, perhaps out of fear of what I have called the “return of the repressed” (see Chapter Four of my book). The shadow of E Pluribus Unum insists that we can’t speak about how we became one people without considering settler colonialism, genocide, slavery, capitalism and the construction of “whiteness.” We must address how those privileged enough to achieve entrance within the pale were granted permission to help determine who was outside the pale, how some might be admitted within the pale, and how they might be forced to impale others on the projection wall of otherness. We must understand how defining others as outside has been the primary way in which most of us have known who we are on the inside.

The Myth of American Innocence, built up as it was on a mountain of contradictions, is inherently unstable. In every generation, groups of people – the “Others” – rise up to point out these flaws in the national story and demand inclusion. In reaction, privileged groups circle the wagons to reaffirm the old stories, occasionally making the minimal possible effort to modify them.

Why should everyone become familiar with these events? What’s the big deal? Perhaps in looking at them from the perspectives of women, people of color, Native Americans, Muslims, people of unconventional sex or gender, disabled people or very recent immigrants, we can understand the base mode of American identity (white, male, Christian, able and heterosexual), why so many of us cling to it so tenaciously, why so many are so deeply threatened by anyone who questions it, why they persist in seeing people as “the Other”, and why they go to such efforts to try and maintain this story, even to the extent of supporting con-artist politicians and preachers who steal them blind. This of course is the story that Howard Zinn told in A People’s History of the United States. For a related story – how intellectuals, especially professional historians, have and continue to go to such great lengths to ignore or discredit writers like Zinn, see my essay, Old White Men: Historians as the Gatekeepers of American Myth.

We can read this story depending on the deeper narratives we subscribe to. Optimists will claim, “Look how far we’ve come!”, while pessimists (or realists) will see repeated examples of oligarchs persistently manipulating the dreams and desires of millions for their own purposes. Yes, it has been this bad before, and no, we cannot become who we were meant to be (if we can still think in such terms) without fully acknowledging who we are and who we have been.

So here is a detailed timeline of how America has negotiated that fine line – the border – between “us” and “them.” It’s a long and exhausting list, but I suggest that it falls into the “Don’t look away! Bear witness!” category. These events happened to real people. Notice two patterns of events that have regularly pointed out the discrepancies between values and norms, or between official policy and actual behavior, or between mythic narrative and reality:

1 – The regular occurrence of mass, genocidal violence (the word “mob” appears 25 times, “riot” 38 times and “massacre” 122 times), almost exclusively perpetrated by white people.

2 – The activity of the Supreme Court (composed for most of its existence by old, white – and for its first 70 years, primarily slave-owning – men) in the intermittent expansion and contraction of definitions of who is and who isn’t an American with full rights and freedoms:

Please take your time as you read, and consider Thom Gunn’s poem at the National AIDS Memorial in Golden Gate Park:

Walker within this circle, pause.
Although they all died of one cause,
Remember how their lives were dense
With fine, compacted difference.

The 16th and 17th Centuries

1452: Pope Nicholas V issues the papal bull Dum Diversas, which authorizes Portugal to conquer Saracens and pagans and consign them to “perpetual servitude”. Further bulls will determine that European powers may claim land not inhabited by Christians. France and England will also use this “Doctrine of Discovery” to justify their claims on the New World.

1507: Books begin to use the word “America” to describe the entire New World.

1525-1866: 12.5 million African slaves (30% of whom are Muslim)  will be shipped to the New World, of whom 10.7 million will survive the Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America. 388,000 will be shipped directly to North America. They will produce ten million offspring, of whom four million will be alive at the start of the Civil War.

1537: Pope Paul III forbids the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

1539: Hernando de Soto executes 200 Timucuan warriors in the Napituca massacre.

1540: De Soto massacres 200 Choctaw at Mabila.

1541Francisco Coronado massacres 200 at the Moho Pueblo.

1599: The Spanish massacre 800 Pueblo people at Acama.

1600-1800: Over half of all immigrants to the British colonies will arrive as indentured servants or slaves.

1601: Spaniards massacre 900 Tompiro Pueblo people.

1607: The English establish Jamestown.

1610: The English massacre several dozen Paspahegh people near Jamestown.

1611-1618: Virginia law institutes capital punishment for speaking ill of the King or missing church three times.

1619: The first African slaves arrive. Virginia recognizes the Church of England (Anglicanism) as its official religion.

1622: The Powhatan uprising kills a sixth of the English settlers, who retaliate by ordering the extermination of all Powhatans. In the Pamunkey Massacre, the English poison the wine at a peace conference with Powhatan leaders, killing 250.

1623: Massachusetts Puritans massacre the Wessagusset.

1624: Of the 300 children shipped from Britain to Virginia between 1619 and 1622, only 12 are still alive. One-fifth of New England immigrants are indentured servants.

1627: Carib slaves are brought to Jamestown from the West Indies. The Puritans ban maypoles.

1630: Virginia sentences a white man to be flogged for “defiling his body in lying with a Negro.” 

1636: Harvard College is founded. Connecticut Puritans kill 400-700 Pequot people in the Mystic River massacre.

1638: Puritans force the Quinnipiac onto the first reservation. 

1640: Raritan massacre.  The first African is sentenced to slavery for life in Virginia.

1641: The Dutch governor of Manhattan offers a bounty for Indian scalps. The Puritan churches are radically democratic, rejecting centralized authority. Their Massachusetts Body of Liberties is the first modern bill of rights, but it justifies slavery, which will be legal in the state until 1780.

1643: The Dutch kill 500 Lenape and Wappinger people in the Pavonia and Pound Ridge massacres. 

1644: Massapequa massacre.

1650: Puritans ban William Pynchon’s book The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption.

1656: The first Quakers arriving in America are beaten and imprisoned. Any ship arriving with Quakers on board is fined and forced to return them. Any male Quaker caught in Massachusetts will lose his right ear. Four will be hanged.

1657: New Netherlands upholds the Dutch Reformed Church and refuses to allow other denominations to establish churches.

1661: The Spanish outlaw Pueblo ceremonies in New Mexico.

1662: Virginia determines the free-or-slave status of all people born in the colony according to the race of the mother only and removes any penalties for raping Black women. With this change, enslaved people are forever, while servants completing their indenture will be freed with money and land.

1669: Virginia removes criminal penalties for enslavers who kill slaves resisting authority.

1670-1680: Of 5,000 indentured servants transferred to Virginia in the decade, 241 will manage to acquire their own land.

1675: The Great Swamp Massacre. 

1676: Occaneechi, Peskeompscut and Narragansett massacres. Bacon’s Rebellion occurs in Virginia. The alliance between white and black indentured servants nearly destroys Jamestown. Upon regaining control, the government responds by hardening the racial caste system to divide the two races from subsequent united uprisings.

1680: The Pueblo Revolt drives the Spanish out of New Mexico.

1688: The Spanish massacre the O’odham people.

1689: The Spanish destroy the Zia Pueblo, killing 600. England bans the persecution of Quakers in the colonies.

1691: Virginia outlaws marriage between blacks and whites.

1693: The Salem witch trials occur. Philadelphia police are empowered to stop and detain any Black person seen wandering about.

1693-1704: The Spanish re-conquer New Mexico. The American colonies are importing over 20 million pounds of mostly slave-grown tobacco per year to England.

Read Part Two here.


Barry’s Blog # 408 — Old White Men: Historians as the Gatekeepers of American Myth, Part Eight of Eight

Posted on June 15, 2022 by shmoover

Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them. – Albert Einstein

The visionary is the only true realist. – Federico Fellini

Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire. – W.B. Yeats

In remembrance is the beginning of redemption. – The Baal Shem Tov

Poetry is something more scientific and serious than history. – Aristotle

We are at the end of an age. We exist uncomfortably between those years when our historian gatekeepers provided stories about ourselves with a sense of shared meaning, and some unknown future when new stories might arise to express what we might become.

American culture raises sociopaths and psychopaths to the highest levels. As long as we prioritize stories of heroism, innocence, good intentions and exceptionalism (and still refuse to address the darker stories of white supremacy, empire, brutality and alienation below them), we will always have intellectuals who will be willing to police the boundaries of memory and acceptable thinking. Some of them will rise to become primary gatekeepers because they will enjoy manipulating other people; some for the rewards they will receive; and others because they will have been so well educated as to actually share those beliefs. This third group has always been the more persuasive. We need to imagine something better.

Those revisionists (from Beard to Zinn and beyond) who began to tell the truth about American history (from Columbus to Viet Nam and beyond) provided the first necessary step in a long process of waking up. Zinn wrote that memory

…can liberate us when the present seems an irrevocable fact of nature. Memory can remind us of possibilities that we have forgotten, and history can suggest to us alternatives that we would never otherwise consider…the past suggests what can be, not what must be. It shows not all of what is necessary, but some of what is possible…The only way to compensate for the bullying nature of history is to behave as if we are freer than our “rational” calculations tell us we are.

So here is something for us to do: we can begin the withdrawal of allegiance from the state and its machines of war, from business and its ferocious  drive for profit, from all states…all dogmas. We can begin to suggest, and to act out, alternative ways of living with one another. It is possible…that we can be a cause of change, that coming generations will have a new history.


Now it is possible, despite all the censoring, de-platforming and marginalizing that still continues and is actually increasing, to read the texts and know the dark truth of who we actually are as a nation and how the story of welcoming the Other into the Polis continues its agonizingly slow process.

But a second step is equally necessary.

Our task is to do more than simply deconstruct outmoded belief systems. They hold us not merely because of generations of indoctrination, but because of their mythic content. They grab us, as all myths do, because they refer to profound truths at the core of things. Although those truths have been corrupted to serve a culture of death, they still remain truths, and they remain accessible through the creative imagination. The methods for doing so are ritual, art and seeing through – de-literalizing. It means telling the same stories but reframing them until we discover their essence. In Native American terms, we will need to search for our original medicine.

America provides a unique challenge in the study of myth because, except for Native stories, our myths do not arise from this ground, nor do they easily invite us to the work of the soul. Still, they have no less a hold on us because they are only ten or fifteen generations old. Understanding their contradictions will not make them go away. But if we assume telos – purpose – we must imagine that even the myths of American innocence and violent redemption can lead us to the universal archetypes. If we can hold the tension of these opposites (the myths and the realities) perhaps we can begin to re-articulate meaning in a world that is descending alternately into chaos and fascism. If we cannot disengage from our myths, then we need to look deeper into them.

To speculate on the deeper meaning of our civil religion is to risk falling into a morass of cliché. For 400 years, apologists from preachers and dime novelists to Radio Free Europe and Tucker Carlson have presented an America divinely ordained to defend freedom (or: assassinations and military coups), nurture democracy (repress self-determination), spread prosperity (steal resources) and inspire opportunity (enforce oppression). But this mythic language tugs at our emotions. Even when we know better, we want America to be what it claims to be – we want to believe – or disappointed, we become cynical and disengaged.

But what if America were born so that freedom could spread everywhere some day? What if our uniquely good fortune has been the container for a story that has not yet been told? Why not look at history from the perspective of mythology, archetypal psychology and indigenous wisdom? What if we were to move from history to mystery?

My kind of history tries to seek out the mythic patterns that underlie events and ideas in areas as diverse as Psychology, Literature, Religion, Sociology, Anthropology, Economics, American Studies and Popular Culture. The writers I like proudly admit to being amateurs (Latin: amare, “to love”); we love stories. We aren’t scientists or theologians, but like Heinrich Zimmer, reckless dilettantes (“to take delight”). He writes:

The moment we abandon this dilettante attitude toward the images…to feel certain about their proper interpretation…we deprive ourselves of the quickening contact, the demonic and inspiring assault…What characterizes the dilettante is his delight in the always preliminary nature of his never-to-be-culminated understanding…We can never exhaust the depths – of that we may be certain…a cupped handful of the fresh waters of life is sweeter than a whole reservoir of dogma…

Our American cosmogony begins, as all do, with the original “deities” (the Pilgrims and founding fathers) who created a world out of “nothing.” Taking a radical perspective, we acknowledge that from the start, their “city on a hill” functioned to steal, concentrate and perpetuate wealth. American history becomes a series of conquests, painful expansions of freedom and counter-measures to protect privilege, culminating in today’s bleak realities. The rich vs. the poor, or the predatory and paranoid imaginations vs. the return of the repressed.

Alternatively, we can take a philosophical approach. Jacob Needleman insisted that the founding fathers were adherents of a timeless wisdom who created a system to “allow men and women to seek their own higher principles within themselves.” The nation was formed of unique ideals and potentials, not from ethnicity; and this explains its universal appeal, even if those ideals have been perverted into their opposites. The American Dream vs. the nightmare of dreams deferred.

Or we can muse poetically about what is approaching, if we could only recognize its song. Time (Kronos) vs. Memory (Mnemosyne). From this perspective, we could read our history as a baffling, painful, contraction- and contradiction-filled birth passage in which the literal has always hinted at the symbolic.

An unveiled look at American history reveals an enormous catalogue of injustice. As painful as it is to contemplate, knowing the truth enables us to see how the dominant myths of innocence and good intentions were constructed to serve the privileged few. But we can also use history as a springboard for imagining the story that has yet to manifest. In two profound essays, Psychologist Stephen Diggs and journalist Michael Ventura do that. Diggs (“Alchemy of the Blues”) proposes

…two histories of America: one is conscious and economic, the other unconscious and alchemical. Nowhere is this experienced more than in race. Africans were stolen into American slavery to satisfy the conscious economic desire to create wealth but also to satisfy the unconscious alchemical desire for psychological transformation…saving the Western soul from its psychotic flight from the body.

This story describes and predicts America’s slow process of transformation and descent from the Apollonian heights of the heroic, isolated ego and the abstract, distanced killing of life. It tells of America’s return to its body, to the communal experience of shared joy and suffering – through the unique forms of music created on this continent.

Michael Ventura’s  “Hear That Long Snake Moan” is indispensable to understanding this secret history of America. You can read it here. He writes:

Every true work of culture is a work of resurrection, a work of remembrance that creates the remembered moment anew and blends it with the present moment to create the possibilities of the future…(This) is the story of how the American sense of the body changed and deepened in the twentieth century – how Americans began the slow, painful process, still barely started now, of transcending the mind-body split they’d inherited from European culture.


This was the first necessary step in a process of healing that has been taking place at the deepest levels of our culture ever since, and that continues its difficult way…It is the great strength of this music that it has been able both to reveal the disease and further its healing. And the disease, again and again, whether manifesting itself as racism or an armaments race, is the Western divorce of consciousness from flesh.

The history of America is, as much as it is anything, the history of the American body as it sought to unite with its spirit, with its consciousness, to heal itself and to stand against the enormous forces that work to destroy a Westerner’s relationship to his, to her, own flesh. This music, largely unaware of itself; carried forward through the momentum of deeply rooted instinct; contradicting itself in many places; perverting its own purposes in many instances; sinking many times under the weight of its own intensity…and trivializing its own meanings at many a crucial turn – this music yet rushed and rushes through every area of this country’s life in an aural “great awakening” all its own, to quicken the body and excite the spirit, and, quite literally, to waken the dead.

That’s my kind of history. Here is some more:

When geometric diagrams and digits
Are no longer the keys to living things,
When people who go about singing or kissing
Know deeper things than the great scholars,
When society is returned once moreTo unimprisoned life, and to the universe,
And when light and darkness mate
Once more and make something entirely transparent,
And people see in poems and fairy tales
The true history of the world,
Then our entire twisted nature will turn
And run when a single secret word is spoken. –Novalis (Trans. Robert Bly)

This is not the age of information. This is not the age of information. Forget the news, and the radio, and the blurred screen. This is the time of loaves and fishes. People are hungry and one good word is bread for a thousand. — David Whyte


Barry’s Blog # 407 — Old White Men: Historians as the Gatekeepers of American Myth, Part Seven of Eight

Posted on June 14, 2022 by shmoover

After “The Vietnam War,” I’ll have to lie low. A lot of people will think I’m a Commie pinko, and a lot of people will think I’m a right-wing nutcase, and that’s sort of the way it goes…I want to bring everybody in. – Ken Burns

All governments suffer a recurring problem: power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. – Frank Herbert

…and academics in offstage clothes who watch, say nothing, and think they know, because they do not drink wine in the ordinary bars. – Antonio Machado

Academic historians, of course, whether consensus gatekeepers or leftist revisionists not named Zinn, have little impact on anyone (outside of the future gatekeepers they instruct), because their books don’t sell much. They don’t dirty themselves in the world where politics, popular art and entertainment have become almost indistinguishable.

That’s mostly the job and privilege of biographers and creators of historical fiction – gifted and ambitious writers who speak directly to the people – to convey digestible versions of American myth to mass audiences. The novelist E.L. Doctorow wrote, “The historian will tell you what happened; the novelist will tell you what it felt like”. Vladimir Nabokov, however, wrote:

Can anybody be so naïve as to think he or she can learn anything about the past from those buxom best-sellers that are hawked around by book clubs under the heading of historical novels? Certainly not…The truth is that great novels are great fairy tales.

Another novelist, novelist Hilary Mantel, writes that “history is not the past – it is the method we’ve evolved of organizing our ignorance of the past.”

We also have the genre of “popular” historians who emphasize consensus narratives and heroic personalities. This group includes Bruce Catton, Stephen Ambrose, Jill Lepore, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, Ron Chernow (whose sanitized Alexander Hamilton has been criticized as simplistic hagiography) and “Lost Cause” popularizer Shelby Foote. Some academics have demeaned popular history as “a seductive and captivating distraction that opens the heart but castrates the mind.”

Two popular historians have attained the status of household name. For better or worse, Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln has sold over 2.2 million copies and spawned an entire series (Killing Kennedy, Killing Jesus, Killing Patton, Killing Reagan, Killing the Rising Sun). Each has sold over a million copies. Andrew Bacevich laments that O’Reilly Is America’s best-selling historian:

In effect, professional historians have ceded the field to a new group of bards and minstrels. So the bestselling “historian” in the United States today is Bill O’Reilly…Were Donald Trump given to reading books, he would likely find O’Reilly’s both accessible and agreeable. But O’Reilly is in the entertainment business.

I would argue that whenever history books (popular, fictional or academic) set out to confirm the basic premises of our national mythology, all it takes is a decent writing style to make them “entertaining.” We want – sometimes desperately – to have our myths confirmed.

Finally, we have Ken Burns, and his massively popular (and massively promoted) historical documentaries. Time Magazine called him “the master film chronicler of America’s past”. Stephen Ambrose has said that “more Americans get their history from Ken Burns than from any other source.” Since he is America’s most famous historian, we need to spend some time on him.


His vast field of interests and subjects have opened him to much criticism, that he has consistently minimized alternative voices in favor of a highly sanitized vision of American exceptionalism. His hugely popular and influential The Civil War claims that the war was caused not by slavery but by a failure to compromise, that the Confederacy fought for a noble cause. He gave Shelby Foote 45 minutes of screen time and allowed him to praise the brute Nathan Bedford Forrest and idolize the slaveowner Robert E. Lee. Irrelevant? A quick image search for the series reveals four types: romantic pictures of canons, iconic 19th-century photos, pictures of Burns and pictures of Foote.

David Harlan writes that “Burns is a traditional liberal, clinging to that narrow ledge of psychic landscape that lies between the capacity for doubt and the will to believe.” Since Burns seems to believe in the possibility of national redemption, he is willing to discount or completely ignore radical critiques of America. And, since he really wants us all to get along with each other, his typical stance is to situate himself right in the center and create false equivalencies.   “In their ostentatious rejection of ideology,” writes Alex Shephard,

…they (Burns and his co-writers) have sneakily put forth their own: that these rival perspectives are of equal value…This is Burns’s reconciliation in action…the Confederates were just as human as the Union soldiers, and presented in the same sentimental light. The problem, as Charlottesville made abundantly clear, is that those divisions still define American life and keep roaring back.

Leon Litwack noted how the last episode jumps ahead to the gatherings of Union and Confederate veterans, at Gettysburg, in 1913 and 1938. The effect is “to underscore and celebrate national reunification and the birth of the modern American nation, while ignoring the brutality, violence, and racial repression on which that reconciliation rested.” Eric Foner, similarly, wrote that “Burns privileges a merely national concern over the great human drama of emancipation.”

Burns amplified his gatekeeping role in his series on the Vietnam war, which, writes Jeffrey Kimball,

…gathers testimony from over eighty people, including United States soldiers, intelligence officials, politicians, journalists, and an anti-war activist or two…In their zeal to reconcile these various factions, however, Burns and Novick handle division with kid gloves. They portray it, sure, but mournfully, as a kind of unavoidable, human tragedy. There’s a reluctance to assert that these divisions grow out of real forces that continue to influence American culture…While it can’t forgive the presidents who lied, it’s too forgiving of everyone else…It also betrays a flawed conception at the heart of Burns’s enterprise…a requiem for a time that never really existed – a period before the 1960s, when this country was supposedly unified.

His coverage of the antiwar movement has been described as “inaccurate, disjointed, incomplete, and fundamentally negative”. He never interviewed Zinn, Chomsky or any other radical historian. If he had, he might have heard Chomsky argue that America invaded Viet Nam, to prevent it “…from becoming a successful model of economic and social development…”

Burns completely ignored the questions of U.S. imperialism, the causes of the Cold War and capitalist economic motives in favor of the feel-good mythology of benign intentions and crusading idealism gone wrong. He portrayed this vast tragedy in exactly the same terms as any other centrist voice: We screwed up, but we meant well. His introductory statement – “It was begun in good faith by decent people…” – is the quintessential expression of the myth of American innocence.

The series on Country Music danced cynically around the issues of race. To not acknowledge the popularity of reactionary politicians from Tom Watson to George Wallace to Trumpus among Country fans was a sin of omission. Most recently, his series on Ernest Hemingway had plenty of time to address the writer’s lifelong leftist politics but chose instead to give excessive attention to his love life.

Burns’ work, while immensely entertaining, has established itself as a predictable, uncontroversial and much more palatable version of the MAGA narrative that surprised liberals, seemingly arising spontaneously in 2016. In fact, that narrative had been nurtured not only by right wing media and televangelists but also by centrist historians.

Meanwhile, even when those centrists get it right, they may still have to negotiate the real world of politics. In 1983 a coalition of academics warned that the U.S. was falling behind other nations and needed to define goals for history curricula. By 1994, however, a backlash deploring “political correctness” led to the U.S. Senate voting 99-1 for a resolution disavowing the proposed standards and demanding that any future guidelines show “a decent respect for the contributions of Western civilization”. Further pressure resulted in the Department of Education destroying 300,000 copies of a pamphlet, Helping Your Child Learn History. 


As mythology trumps facts, Academia reflects politics. Despite the common notion that university history departments are filled with younger progressives, those gatekeepers who have proudly proclaimed their conservative prejudices have continued to dominate intellectual discourse around empire, white supremacy and American innocence. The great majority have attended or taught at Ivy League universities: George Kennan (Princeton), Gil Troy (Harvard), Robert Tucker (Johns Hopkins), Robert Maddox (Penn. State), Bruce Catton (Oberlin), Victor Hanson (Stanford), Michel Oren (Harvard), Donald Kagan (Brown), Daniel Boorstin (Harvard), Daniel Yergin (Yale), C.V. Woodward (Yale), Niall Ferguson (Harvard), Oscar Handlin (Harvard), Timothy Snyder (Harvard, Yale), Kimberly Kagan (Yale), Fred Kagan (Yale), George Nash (Harvard), Richard Pipes (Harvard), Daniel Pipes (Harvard), Paul Gottfried (Yale), Walter Lord (Yale), Herbert Feis (Harvard) and Sean Willentz (Yale).

Ivy League historians such as these have instructed fifteen U.S. Presidents; all but one of the current Supreme Court Justices; six of Biden’s fifteen Cabinet members; politicians Ted Cruz (Princeton, Harvard), Elise Stefanik (Harvard), J.D.Vance (Yale), Josh Hawley (Yale), Ben Sasse (Harvard), Mitt Romney (Harvard), Amy Klobuchar (Yale), Kirstin Gillibrand (Dartmouth), Chuck Schumer (Harvard) and Tom Cotton (Harvard); and notable warmongers Madeleine Albright (Columbia), William Colby (Princeton), Zbigniew Brzezinski (Harvard), Dick Cheney (Yale), both George Bush’s (Yale), Prescott Bush (Yale), Donald Rumsfeld (Princeton), Anthony Blinken (Harvard), Max Boot (Yale), Michael Novak (Harvard), Nathan Glazer (Harvard), Steve Bannon (Harvard), Norman Podhoretz (Columbia), George Schulz (Princeton), Jeane Kirkpatrick (Columbia), Richard Perle (Princeton), Bill Kristol (Harvard), Charles Krauthammer (Harvard), Laura Ingraham (Dartmouth), David Horowitz (Columbia), Dinesh D’Souza (Dartmouth), Ann Coulter (Cornell), Pat Buchanan (Columbia), William F. Buckley (Yale), Elliot Abrams (Harvard), Robert Kagan (Harvard, Yale), Scooter Libby (Yale), John Ashcroft (Yale), John Bolton (Yale), Steve Forbes (Princeton), Victoria Nuland (Brown), Jake Sullivan (Yale), David Frum (Harvard, Yale), George Will (Princeton), Francis Fukuyama (Harvard), Paul Wolfowitz (Cornell), James Baker (Princeton), Michael Bloomberg (Harvard), Dick Cheney (Yale), Michael Walzer (Harvard), Robert Gates (Georgetown) and Lawrence Summers (Harvard). This is how prospective leaders and servants of empire are formed.

Please note that nowhere in this essay do I blame teachers, thousands of whom understand exactly what I’m talking about and persist within the system to educate – rather than instruct – their students. But in our demythologized world, we can only offer one of two possibilities about the institution of American education. Either it, like all our institutions, is collapsing as the myth of innocence itself loses potency; or that system, like all the others, was specifically designed to bring out the worst in us, not the best, and it’s working quite well.

We need to imagine something better. We need to re-imagine the telling of history itself.

Read the conclusion, Part Eight, here.