History

Booker T. Washington National Monument, April 10, 2011

Posted on April 11, 2011. Filed under: Civil Rights, Education, History, Travel |

Statue Depicting Booker T. Washington as a Slave Child

Statue Depicting Booker T. Washington as a Slave Child

Restored Kitchen House Like That Inhabited by Booker T. Washington's Family

Restored Kitchen House Like That
Inhabited by Booker T. Washington’s Family

Restored Kitchen House Like That Inhabited by Booker T. Washington's Family

Restored Kitchen House Like That
Inhabited by Booker T. Washington’s Family

Stream, Booker T. Washington National Monument

Stream, Booker T. Washington National Monument

Booker T. Washington Bust

Booker T. Washington Bust

Inscription: A RACE, LIKE AN INDIVIDUAL,
LIFTS ITSELF UP BY LIFTING OTHERS UP.

Gravestone, Sparks Cemetery

Gravestone That Reads "SID DID, The 30 August 1893"
(Maybe "1873"), Sparks Cemetery

Stable, Booker T. Washington National Monument

Stable, Booker T. Washington National Monument

Sleeping Rare Pig, Booker T. Washington National Monument

Sleeping Rare Pig, Booker T. Washington National Monument

Photos copyright 2011 VisualInfo.Biz, Inc.

Booker T. Washington National Monument Web Page (National Park Service)
Some quotations by Booker T. Washington
Note: Use Google Maps or MapQuest to plan your journey beforehand, as there are not many road signs leading to this park. Or use GPS! The park is about thirty minutes east of Roanoke in western central Virginia.

The Booker T. Washington National Monument made such a strong impression that the next morning I imagined myself waking up with Booker T. Washington, his mother, brother, and sister, on the dirt floor of the kitchen house in which they all lived. As Chris and I walked miles through the beautiful park the day before, we visualized ourselves walking with Booker as a child.

You don't just read about Booker T. Washington's life here — you live it. You feel what this tobacco farm was like when Booker T. Washington lived here from 1856 to 1865.

We spent a good four hours walking the complete trail, taking in the restored period buildings, farm animals, Gills Creek, and Sparks Cemetery. While we walked, obviously happy and curious kids bounced in and out of the exhibits and ran to look at farm animals. Even small toddlers were energized by the place. This park is so well set up that it offers something for everyone — all ages; all backgrounds.

The park guides are unusually friendly and helpful. The information about Booker T. Washington's life and the times in which he lived is presented in many ways — art work, informational tableaus, well-written brochures, a movie (which we did not even watch; we spent four hours absorbing everything else they had to offer).

The guides give you a number to dial on your cell phone and, as you walk through the hiking trail, you can listen to pre-recorded information about certain trail stops. There is a lot of very interesting information presented in many different ways.

For instance, did you know that slaves introduced licorice to the United States in necklaces made out of licorice seeds? There are so many little details to absorb.

We hiked by a cemetery about which almost nothing is known. Only one gravestone had very simple letters carved into it; the rest of the stones were unmarked but positioned like gravestones. Perhaps the Sparks Cemetery is a slave cemetery; no one knows. The National Park Service guides know its name from oral history.

The Booker T. Washington National Monument is on a section of the 207 acres owned by the Burroughs family. It was a tobacco farm on which Booker T. Washington was born to a slave named Jane. He knew very little about his father, a neighboring white plantation owner. As a slave child, Booker worked hard literally as soon as he could walk.

I find it ironic that at birth his mother Jane named him "Booker" and that early on he developed a love for learning that persisted throughout his life. It was a prophetic name. Booker T. Washington also always believed in the value of hard work. Perhaps a little too much so — I read online that after his death, doctors discovered that his blood pressure was twice the normal range; they thought that he had developed congestive heart failure from overwork.

The Burroughs Farm was a smaller farm where the master and slaves worked side by side. Young Booker did not experience the extreme cruelties known at the larger plantations. When Booker was nine years old, Master Burroughs read the Emancipation Proclamation to him and his family on the porch of the "Big House."

As you walk through the park, you see this man's humble beginnings — sleeping on a dirt floor in a scratchy flaxseed slave shirt he hated — and you take in information about what he later became. He strove on to remarkable achievements. Booker T. Washington became a famous educator, author, orator, influential advisor, and civil rights activist.

When his money ran out for train transportation to the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) in Hampton, Virginia, he walked the rest of the way to begin his education.

He was the first principal of the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama at the age of twenty-five. He obtained funding for thousands of small African-American community schools and higher education institutions from Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, George Eastman, and many other famous self-made businessmen of the time. He also obtained support for these schools from prominent African-American educators, ministers, and businessmen. He was an advisor to President Theodore Roosevelt.

Booker T. Washington wrote fourteen books, including the classic, Up From Slavery. In 1895, he was thrust into national prominence by his famous "Atlanta Compromise" speech.

These are all admirable achievements for any man, but how did someone born a slave bring his idealistic visions to life while the Ku Klux Klan was on the rise and segregation was becoming the new norm? (There is a disturbing photo of lynching victims and other information about racism's harsh realities on display at the park to remind you of the general sociopolitical climate.) Once the bizarre economic system of slavery was abolished, how was American society to be organized? This had to be a difficult transitory period.

Booker T. Washington seemed to size up a given situation's limitations and possibilities, and magically transform it into new opportunities no one else had envisioned. Blessed with unusual intelligence, inner strength, resourcefulness, interpersonal skills, and a persistent need to see concrete results, Booker T. Washington negotiated pathways even more remarkable in light of the time in which he lived.

Washington became one of the most famous men in the country during the last twenty years of his life; his opinion was sought by many. He had become a spokesman for civil rights. Some thought his message should be less compromising. W.E.B. Du Bois was perhaps his most outspoken critic, wishing that Booker T. Washington would talk and write less conservatively about civil rights. A man who knew how to get things done, Washington believed that outright confrontation would harm African-Americans. After his death, it came to light that Booker T. Washington had secretly been financing litigation for civil rights cases.

Optimistic and idealistic, but also a pragmatic man of action, Booker T. Washington strongly felt that men could lift themselves up by hard work. He thought that if they first contributed to society by educating themselves and developing skills so that they could make a living, African-Americans could move forward in other areas. His own life experience was that economic strength was the necessary first step, the base from which to spring forward. An unusual Renaissance man, he wrote, "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."

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Cyrus McCormick Farm and Workshop, April 9, 2011

Posted on April 11, 2011. Filed under: History, Travel |

Grist Mill and Workshop, Cyrus McCormick Farm and Workshop, Raphine, VA

Grist Mill and Workshop, Cyrus McCormick Farm and Workshop, Raphine, VA

Reaper, Cyrus McCormick Farm and Workshop, Raphine, VA

Reaper, Cyrus McCormick Farm and Workshop, Raphine, VA

Grist Mill Wheel, Cyrus McCormick Farm and Workshop, Raphine, VA

Grist Mill Wheel, Cyrus McCormick Farm and Workshop, Raphine, VA

Grist Mill Machinery, Cyrus McCormick Farm and Workshop, Raphine, VA

Grist Mill Machinery, Cyrus McCormick Farm and Workshop, Raphine, VA

Workshop, Cyrus McCormick Farm and Workshop, Raphine, VA

Workshop, Cyrus McCormick Farm and Workshop, Raphine, VA

Photos copyright 2011 VisualInfo.Biz, Inc.

Lexington, Virginia, Web Page
Commonwealth of Virginia Web Page

On Saturday Chris and I stopped at the Cyrus McCormick Farm and Workshop in Raphine, Virginia, a little south of Lexington, Virginia, in western central Virginia. We quickly walked around the beautifully landscaped grounds and through a couple of the buildings — we need to go back and explore it more thoroughly.

Cyrus McCormick was most famous for his invention of the reaper, a precursor to the harvester. His reaper, which he developed with members of his family, was patented in 1834. Cyrus McCormick is often called the “father of agriculture,” since his reaper was the beginning of agricultural mechanization.

He founded the McCormick Harvester Company, which eventually was bought by International Harvester Company. He became a prominent Chicago businessman.

The McCormick family farm was known as Walnut Grove. The 620-acre farm now belongs to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (“Virginia Tech”) and is part of Virginia Tech’s Shenandoah Valley Research Station. The beautiful grounds include nine renovated buildings. We walked through the grist mill and blacksmith shop.

The McCormick family used the grist mill to grind wheat into flour. It was built around 1800 and was operated through the late nineteenth century.

The blacksmith workshop was used to repair farming tools. The McCormicks also built their reapers there.

We are going back to look at the McCormick Farm and Workshop in the future to look through the museum, carriage house, slave quarters (nine slaves lived at Walnut Grove), smokehouse, schoolhouse, and other buildings. We read online that eight of the nine original buildings remain. Robert McCormick, Cyrus’ father, created the farm in 1822.

I like the working miniature reaper models that were used by the McCormick Harvester Company salesmen. Most of all, I love the beautiful landscaping at this site.

Admission is free to this pleasant byway. You can stop by any day when the weather is good. One web site lists the hours as 8-5; another one says 8:30-5:00.

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History and Cherry Blossoms, April 3, 2011

Posted on April 9, 2011. Filed under: History, Travel |

Magnolia Blossoms Along the Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C.

Magnolia Blossoms Along the Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C.

Looking Up at the Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington, VA

Looking Up at the Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington, VA

Jefferson Memorial Through the Cherry Blossoms, Washington, D.C.

Jefferson Memorial Through the Cherry Blossoms, Washington, D.C.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Statue, Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Statue, Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Cherry Blossoms Along the Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C.

Cherry Blossoms Along the Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C.

Eleanor Roosevelt Statue, Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Eleanor Roosevelt Statue, Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Washington Monument Cherryscape, Washington, D.C.

Washington Monument Cherryscape, Washington, D.C.

Photos copyright 2011 VisualInfo.Biz, Inc.

Locals by transplant, Chris and I became tourists last Sunday, April 3, probably the best day in 2011 to view the almost four thousand cherry trees in full bloom around the Tidal Basin. Washington, D.C. was so jam-packed with tourists and traffic that our bus could not make all the stops on the itinerary. Still, it was exciting to be among the throngs of people from all over the world.

We took a bus tour where we stopped at several attractions. We got out at each destination, walked along the gounds, and listened to our guide, Ralph. We walked along the Jefferson Memorial, the Roosevelt Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, and the D.C. wharf down on the Potomac River.

On the tour we learned that historical documents from the National Archives were lowered fifteen feet below the ground into a sealed vault for security on 09/11/2001.

Also Ralph told us that President Grant smoked cigars in the Williard Hotel lobby near the White House because his staff didn’t like them. He would cut deals with movers and shakers there in the Williard Hotel lobby — this was the origin of the term “lobbyist.”

The Smithsonian Institution was created from $500,000 willed by a British scientist named James Smithson. James Smithson was born illegitimate, worked himself up through an impressive scientific career, and had never been to the United States.

The Roosevelt Memorial — very inspiring and peaceful to walk through — is the largest Washington, D.C. memorial, sixteen acres in size.

As we drove through the crowded streets that included homeless people’s belongings, Ralph noted that there are about 6,500 homeless peope in Washington, D.C.

One good tip Ralph gave us is that the best hotel deal in Washington, D.C. is the historic Hotel Harrington, which never charges more than $128 per room.

I know most people rave about the cherry blossoms, but I have always been captivated by the magnolia flowers since I moved to the Washington, D.C. area from New England and New York state. Magnolia trees seem so southern to me.

It was a fun and relaxing day. We always like learning a few facts along with enjoying scenic beauty and getting good exercise.

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Organ Cave: Finally Got the Bat Picture

Posted on March 28, 2010. Filed under: Environmental Issues, History, Nature, Travel |

 
Hibernating Bat in Organ Cave    Organ Cave Hopper used by Confederate Soldiers  
Hibernating Bat, Organ Cave   Hopper Used by Confederate Soldiers

Click for Organ Cave’s web site

Saturday Chris and I drove to Organ Cave, West Virginia to take the Organ Cave Tour. It was well worth the trip. (Organ Cave is about a four-hour drive from northern Virginia.)

Chris and I have been touring many, many caverns in Virginia and West Virginia over the last couple of years. We found Organ Cave most memorable for its history, fossils, naturalized state, wildlife, and extended tours.

We prefer more natural caves over the showy, commericialized caverns. Organ Cave has lights reminiscent of old-style lanterns so you get a feeling of how people visited and interacted in the cave in times past.

The cave is unusual in its many hoppers which soldiers left behind after the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The soldiers refined saltpeter with these hoppers. Saltpeter is derived from bat guano found in the caverns.

Many fossils have been discovered at Organ Cave. Most famous is the giant three-toed sloth, the remains of which were sent to Thomas Jefferson. Also the remains of a sabre-tooth cat, nine-banded armadillo, reindeer, and other prehistoric animals have been found.

We finally obtained our elusive bat picture. We have seen plenty of hibernating bats at Endless Caverns (New Market, VA) and Dixie Caverns (Salem, VA) but have not gotten good photos of them yet. The bats hibernate in caves in Virginia from November through April. During the spring and fall, they may go into the caves to sleep during the daytime. During the summer they tend to sleep outside of the caves.

Organ Cave also has many extended tours where you can do “real” hiking and caving to explore deeper parts of the caverns. The tours that we are going to go back for seem to range around $50 per person. Also they have an “undernighter” where you can even sleep in the cave overnight!

Our tour guide and the people running the gift shop were very knowledgeable and obviously enthusiastic about Organ Cave.

We recommend a visit to Organ Cave. There are also many other attractions in the area, so it is worth an overnight trip to allow time to explore everything.

Photos copyright 2010 Organ Cave, Inc.
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Movie:  “I.O.U.S.A.”

Posted on September 9, 2008. Filed under: Entertainment, History, Movies |

“I.O.U.S.A.” web site
Peter G. Peterson Foundation web site (David Walker)
The Concord Coalition web site

* * * * * (5 out of 5)

I am so glad my colleague Jonathan mentioned this movie to me.

“I.O.U.S.A.’s” subtitle reads “One Nation.  Under Stress.  In Debt.”

This movie is very important.  It is a disturbing must-see.  It brings home the point that our own fiscal mayhem is as dangerous to us as terrorism.

It’s also very well done — how many people can make economic theory entertaining and even humorous?  Talk about an unusual talent.

David Walker pre-empted his government service as Comptroller General of the U.S. because he felt he could not serve the country well enough in that post.  He needed to bring his message to the grassroots level.  So he took to the road on the “Fiscal Wake-Up Call Tour” with Robert Bixby of the Concord Coalition.  They travel to town meetings around the U.S.

They discuss four deficits that affect us: our budget deficit, our savings deficit, our trade deficit, and our leadership deficit.  They clearly illustrate how these deficits are endangering our future in many, many ways.

They emphasize that their message is non-partisan.  They also offer some solutions.

I signed up for the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and Concord Coalition e-mail lists tonight.

What did you think of this movie?

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Movie:  “Man on Wire”

Posted on September 8, 2008. Filed under: Entertainment, History, Movies |

“Man on Wire” web site
About Philippe Petit

* * * * (4 out of 5)

I’m so glad my niece Sarah pointed out this movie to me.

While most of this documentary rolled along, the thought “this is one crazy Frenchman” (our family’s mostly French, a bit Native American) grew stronger and stronger in my mind.

But when I watched twenty-four-year-old Philippe Petit walk a tightrope between the two World Trade Center towers, I realized how beautiful and inspirational that act was, and why he became famous for it.

This film skillfully unfolds the story, weaving back and forth between slices in time, of how Philippe, his girlfriend, his friends and some acquaintances worked for six years to illegally set up the tightrope between the tops of the Twin Towers so he could walk across it eight times in 1974.

How did you like this movie?

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Movie:  “Brideshead Revisited”

Posted on September 8, 2008. Filed under: Entertainment, History, Movies |

About “Brideshead Revisited”
About the TV serial “Brideshead Revisited”
About Evelyn Waugh

**** (4 out of 5)

This is a well acted and very interesting interpretation of the 1945 classic novel by British author Evelyn Waugh.  It is the poignant story of a man in a love triangle with a brother and sister.  So sad.

It also reveals different flavors of selfishness and the dominance of a higher faith, Catholicism.

Emma Thompson and Ben Whishaw are completely believable as, respectively, the be-yotch mother Lady Marchmain and her tortured homosexual son Sebastian.

How did you like this movie?

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