Although writing can help decipher history, it’s our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

3 Odd Ball Things About Christmas


The New York Knickerbockers helped create the modern Santa

 
The biggest influence on Santa's modern look and demeanor came more from a popular group of writers who drew inspiration from an Episcopalian saint. The Knickerbockers of New York wanted to reintroduce Saint Nicholas to society to provide a "cultural counterweight for the commercial bustle and democratic misrule of early nineteenth century New York." Contributors to the Saint Nicholas project included 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' author Washington Irving, who wrote a Christmas story about giving and generosity for his fictional 'Bracebridge Hall' series in which he described Santa as a large man in a red suit smoking his favorite pipe. Clement Clarke Moore, a contemporary of Irving's, was inspired by this depiction of Santa for his 'A Visit from St. Nicholas' poem, in which he also described the traditional Santa we know today.

How's Christmas celebrated in the Netherlands & the United Kingdom?

Black Pete

Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, is the side-kick of Sinterklaas, the Dutch St Nicholas, who comes on 5 December, traveling from his home in Spain, on a steamboat called Madrid. Until the 19th Century, Sinterklaas did his own dirty work, bringing good children presents, but taking bad ones away in his sack for re-education and a beating. But in 1850, children's author Jan Schenkman drew him with a black servant, who later became known as Zwarte Piet. It is now Zwarte Piet's job to go down the chimney to deliver presents and catch the less fortunate children. Zwarte Piet has become increasingly controversial in the Netherlands due to a tradition of painting on a clownish black face, which many people find offensive, rightly so!
                                         

Christmas is only a recent Family Holiday

Christmas was originally celebrated as an adult form of "trick or treat," but with the "treat" consisting of booze and the threatened "trick" consisting of bodily harm or destruction of property. "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" was originally a threat. The ever-popular song was originally sung, loudly and repeatedly, by crowds of rowdy, lower-class servants demanding booze from their masters... or else. "We won't go until we get some!" Up to the 1950s, in the UK, many Christmas customs were restricted to the upper classes and better-off families. The mass of the population had not adopted many of the Christmas rituals that later became general. The Christmas tree was rare. Christmas dinner might be beef — certainly not turkey. In their stockings children might get an apple, orange and sweets. Full celebration of a family Christmas with all the trimmings only became widespread with increased prosperity from the 1950s.
                                         






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mailing address is:
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Sunday, December 14, 2014

10 Things You May Not Know About George Armstrong Custer

 


Born on December 5, 1839, in New Rumley, Ohio, George Armstrong Custer first achieved renown as a young Civil War hero before gaining everlasting fame a decade later from his spectacular defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn. On the 175th anniversary of Custer’s birth, explore 10 surprising facts about the general who remains one of the most controversial figures in American history.
1. Four other members of the Custer family died at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Among the force of more than 200 men wiped out by the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne warriors on June 25, 1876, were Custer’s 18-year-old nephew, Henry Reed, brother-in-law James Calhoun and two younger brothers, Boston and Thomas (a Civil War veteran and two-time Medal of Honor recipient).

2. His nickname was “Autie.”
Custer’s mispronunciation of his middle name when he first began to speak was adopted by his family as his nickname. The moniker stuck with him for his entire life and was used by his wife, Libbie, as a term of endearment.


Custer as a West Point cadet
Custer as a West Point cadet

3. Custer graduated last in his class at West Point. 
Custer was known by his fellow cadets at the U.S. Military Academy as the “dare-devil of the class” who devoted more energy to pranks than to his academic studies. Custer’s voluminous record of demerits earned him extra guard duty on most Saturdays, but he did manage to graduate from West Point in 1861, albeit as the lowest-ranking cadet, now known as “the goat.”

4. Custer was the youngest Civil War general in the Union Army. 
Although Custer struggled in the classroom, he excelled on the battlefield. After joining the Army of the Potomac’s cavalry following his graduation, he gained notice for his daring cavalry charges, bold leadership style and tactical brilliance. In June 1863, Custer was promoted to the rank of brigadier general at the age of 23, and he cemented his reputation as the “Boy General” days later at the Battle of Gettysburg when he repelled a pivotal Confederate assault led by J.E.B. Stuart. By the end of the Civil War, Custer had risen to the rank of major general.

5. His wife received the table on which the Civil War surrender terms were drafted.
Custer served the Army of the Potomac with distinction from the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861 to Appomattox Court House four years later. Custer’s forces blocked Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s final retreat, and he received the white truce flag signifying Lee’s wish to meet with Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Custer was present in the front parlor of Wilmer McLean’s home on April 9, 1865, when Lee surrendered to Grant. General Philip Sheridan purchased the small spool-turned table used by Grant to draft and sign the terms of surrender and gave it to Libbie Custer in gratitude for her husband’s service. “Permit me to say, Madam,” Sheridan wrote to Libbie, “that there is scarcely an individual in our service who has contributed more to bring about this desirable result than your gallant husband.” After Libbie’s death in 1933, her will specified that the table be given to the Smithsonian Institution.


george and libbie
George and Libbie Custer

6. Custer scented his hair with cinnamon oil.
The flamboyant Custer paid great attention to his appearance. He wore a black velvet uniform with coils of gold lace, spurs on his boots, a red scarf around his neck and a large, broad-brimmed sombrero. Custer took particular pride in his cascading golden locks, which he perfumed with cinnamon oil.

7. Custer was twice court-martialed.
Prior to graduating from West Point, Custer was court-martialed for neglect of duty in failing to stop a fight between two cadets when he was officer of the guard and received a light punishment. Much more serious was his 1867 court-martial in which he was convicted on eight counts that included conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline, and absence without leave from his command after he left part of his regiment on the Kansas frontier while he returned without orders to Fort Riley in order to see Libbie. Custer was suspended from rank and command without pay for a year, but Sheridan reinstated him after 10 months to lead a bloody campaign against the Cheyenne.

8. Buffalo Bill helped to mythologize Custer’s Last Stand. 
After Custer’s death, his widow devoted the remaining 57 years of her life writing books and delivering lectures that cast her husband as a martyr who gallantly staged his “Last Stand.” William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, who had briefly scouted for Custer, also contributed to the mythmaking. Weeks after the Battle of Little Bighorn, he killed and scalped a Cheyenne warrior named Yellow Hair and declared it “the first scalp for Custer.” Buffalo Bill replayed the scene repeatedly throughout his theatrical career and incorporated a re-enactment of “Custer’s Last Rally,” complete with several Native Americans who had actually been present at the Battle of Little Bighorn, into his famed Wild West show.


Battle of the Little Bighorn
Battle of the Little Bighorn

9. Custer was thought to have lived a charmed life.
During the Civil War, the “Boy General” seemed to have such a streak of good fortune, which included his avoidance of serious injury in spite of his daring command and having 11 horses shot out from under him, that is was referred to as “Custer’s luck.” The revival of his military career after his 1867 court-martial furthered the perception that Custer lived a charmed life, but Custer’s luck ran out at Little Bighorn.

10. Ronald Reagan played Custer on the big screen.
The future president played the role of a young Custer in the 1940 western “Santa Fe Trail,” a box-office success that abounded in historical inaccuracies. Reagan starred opposite Errol Flynn, who played J.E.B. Stuart, on the hunt for abolitionist John Brown in pre-Civil War Kansas. A year later, Flynn starred as Custer in the highly mythologized biopic “They Died With Their Boots On.”

Friday, December 5, 2014

15 HISTORICAL FIGURES YOU DIDN’T KNOW WERE BLACK



BETTY BOOP

They might have drawn Betty Boop white, but her history is black. The character was actually stolen from Cotton Club singer Esther Jones — known by her stage name “Baby Esther” and the baby talk she used when she sang songs like “I Wanna Be Loved By You (Boop- Boop-BeDoo). Her act later “inspired” cartoonist Max Fleischer to create the character Betty Boop and Esther tried to win the rights back to her character until the day she died. http://www.littlethings.com/real-betty-boop-baby-esther/




J. EDGAR HOOVER
Hitler’s Jewish ancestry isn’t the strangest twist in racial history. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover — the man who plagued the black liberation movement from Marcus Garvey to the Black Panther Party — was known by his peers as a passing black man. His childhood neighbor writer Gore Vidal famously quoted, “It was always said in my family and around the city that Hoover was mulatto. And that he came from a family that passed.” And apparently that was a closely-guarded secret. Millie McGhee, author of Secrets Uncovered: J. Edgar Hoover Passing For White, said, “In the late 1950’s, I was a young girl growing up in rural McComb, Mississippi. A story had been passed down through several generations that the land we lived on was owned by the Hoover family. My grandfather told me that this powerful man, Edgar, was his second cousin, and was passing for white. If we talked about this, he was so powerful he could have us all killed. I grew up terrified about all this.”

THE MEDICI FAMILY
It’s hard to get through any school lesson about the Italian Renaissance without talking about the Medici family. What history doesn’t like to talk about is that the financial ruler of the western world — Alessandro de Medici, Duke of Penne and Duke of Florence and commonly called “Il Moro” (Italian for Moor — a term commonly used to describe anyone with dark skin) — was born to an African-Italian mother (a servant) and a white father (who would later become Pope Clement VII).

JACQUELINE ONASSIS
Was Michelle Obama our first African-American First Lady? Or was it Jackie O? Jacqueline Onassis is a member of the van Salee’s family, famous for their “mulatto” heritage. Jackie O’s ancestor John van Salee De Grasse was the first black American formally educated as a doctor; her socialite father was nicknamed “Black Jack” Bouvier because of his dark complexion. Either Professor Hershkowitz, or Tim Beard, former head of the Genealogical Department of the New York Public Library related this incident regarding van Salee genealogy. At the time the Kennedy administration began implementing its civil rights agenda, the New York Genealogical and Historical Society approached Mrs. Kennedy hoping to discuss the opportunity her African ancestry, through the Van Salees, could have in possibly assisting her husband to realize his social goals regarding race relations. Mrs. Kennedy insisted on referring to the van Salees as 'Jewish,' and the New York Genealogical Society did not push the subject further.


ANATOLE BROYARD
American writer Anatole Broyard passed as white his entire life. It wasn’t until his daughter, Bliss, published One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life — A Story of Race and Family Secrets was the truth revealed: The famous New York Times book reviewer was born to light-skinned black parents in New Orleans and started passing once he grew up and moved out of his predominantly black Brooklyn neighborhood.


QUEEN CHARLOTTE
This 18th century painter got into hot water when he painted Queen Charlotte’s features a little too realistically. The painting stirred up long-standing rumors about King George III’s wife’s African heritage. And those rumors turned out to be true. Queen Charlotte was the member of a Portuguese royal family begun by Alfonso III and his lover Madragana “a moor“. Because this makes Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince William technically mixed race, many historians have tried to cast doubt on the nature of Queen Charlotte’s heritage. But her personal physician has noted her “true mulatto face” and the public report released before Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953 acknowledges the monarchy’s African heritage. It is a great "what if" of history. "If she was black," says the historian Kate Williams, "this raises a lot of important suggestions about not only our royal family but those of most of Europe, considering that Queen Victoria's descendants are spread across most of the royal families of Europe and beyond. If we class Charlotte as black, then ergo Queen Victoria and our entire royal family, [down] to Prince Harry, are also black ... a very interesting concept."


ALEXANDER PUSHKIN
The man considered the father of Russian literature was he great-grandson of an Ethiopian prince. Among Pushkin’s more famous unpublished works (left after his death in a duel) is an unfinished novel about his Ethiopian great-grandfather. Ossip Abramovich Gannibal's father, Pushkin's great-grandfather, was Abram Petrovich Gannibal (1696–1781), a Black African page kidnapped and brought to Russia as a gift for Peter the Great.





BEETHOVEN
The famous classical composer’s mother was a moor. It’s a fact that became popular again after this cast of his African facial features contradicted the “idealized” paintings of the man history likes to re-imagine.
The question was brought to modern science, but recent DNA evidence was inconclusive. For more information, please refer to the related link from the Washington Post.  The research team also said that future DNA analysis might answer lingering questions about Beethoven's ethnicity. As a young man, the dark-complexioned Beethoven sometimes was called "the Moor," and some historians have questioned whether he had African blood. Walsh said his analysis of the hair strands showed "no wrinkles or bends" typical among people of African descent, but that more tests may be conducted.





KING TUT
The Boy Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt is often depicted as fair skinned. But these images recovered from his tomb (in addition to several other artifacts) have identified him as a black African. The panelists believe the Egyptians of Tut's time had, for the most part, very dark skin, like people from sub-Saharan Africa. Charles Finch is the director of International Health at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. "Whenever ancient writers, Hebrew or Greek, make any reference to ancient Egyptians' color, it's always black," Finch said. "There was no issue back then. There was no discussion. There was no debate. It only became a debate in the last 200 years."




SANTA CLAUS
The real story of Santa Claus begins with Saint Nicholas (270 – 343 AD), who was born in the village of Patara, an area which was once Greek but is now part of Turkey. He was born to wealthy parents, who died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Nicholas used his entire inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering.






HANNIBAL
Hannibal of Carthage — one of the greatest military strategists in history is often depicted with much… narrower features. But these coins depicting Hannibal and his famous army of elephants leave little doubt in the minds of many historians of his African ancestry. Here, the focus is the Mediterranean world in antiquity -- things were different then. Hannibal came from an area we refer to as northern Africa, from a Carthaginian family. The Carthaginians were Phoenicians, which means that we would conventionally describe them as a Semitic people. The term Semitic refers to a variety of people from the ancient Near East (e.g., Assyrians, Arabs, and Hebrews), which included parts of northern Africa. [SeeSemitic Languages in Their Original Homelands Map.] The world view was very different.




SAINT AUGUSTINE
No course covering Philosophy 101 is complete without referencing Christian theologian Saint Augustine. What’s less commonly covered is his African origins and birth place of (modern-day) Souk Ahras, Algeria. He was the eldest son of Saint Monica of Saint Augustine. Aurelius Augustinus (his birth name) was born in Africa, educated in Rome, and a Milanese by baptism. He spent his early years in what is now know as Souk-Ahras, Algeria. Often called Augustine of Hippo, "The knowledgeable one," by the Roman Catholic Church, he was considered by Evangelical Protestants to be (together with the Apostle Paul and the Bible) the theological fountainhead of the Reformation teaching on salvation and grace.




THE AUTHOR OF THE THREE MUSKETEERS AND THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Alexandre Dumas was the son of the General Dumas born in 1762 to a white father and an enslaved mother. General Dumas was such a good general that he made his rival — Napoleon Bonaparte — nervous. Thanks to Napoleon’s machinations, the General ended up imprisoned in a dungeon for years — the story that inspired Alexandre to write The Count of Monte Cristo about his father.


THE MAN ON THE $10 BILL
For black history buffs, it’s really all about the Hamiltons. Alexander Hamilton isn’t just the man on the $10 bill, he was the United States’ first Secretary of the Treasury. His mother, Rachel Fawcett Lavain, was said to be of “mixed blood” and his father was the son of a Scottish Duke. Alexander’s older brother was dark-skinned and treated as black. But Alexander was light enough to pass and went on to establish the first national bank in the American colonies, founded the U.S. mint and wrote most of the Federalist Papers. Hamilton was born as the illegitimate son of Rachel Fawcett Lavien on a Carribean island the size of the town of Kirkland called Nevis. His mother was divorced for infidelity long before Hamilton was born, casting question onto Hamilton's father. Some claim that it was James Hamilton, the man who lived with Rachel. Others claim it was Nicolas Cruger, a Carribean merchant with connections in New York who employed an eleven year old Alexander Hamilton after his alleged father left him and his mother died. Some claim that Hamilton's mother had affairs with her slaves. Additionally, many claim that Hamilton's mother was herself part black, newspapers record Hamilton being called a mustee (implying his mother was a quarter black) by political enemies.



CLARK GABLE The original “tall, dark and handsome” actor didn’t hide his Black and Native American heritage. And when he saw “colored” and “white” bathrooms on the set of Gone With The Wind, he refused to continue working until all of the cast members were treated equally.
Resource: madamenoire.com

Sunday, November 23, 2014

5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Thanksgiving

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

How did the funny-lookin' fowl get stuck with the label "turkey?"
Oh boy, this will take some explainin'. Back in the day, the Europeans took a liking to the guinea fowls imported to the continent. Since the birds were imported by Turkish merchants, the English called them turkeys. Later, when the Spaniards came to America, they found a bird that tasted like those guinea fowls. When they were sent to Europe, the English called these birds "turkeys" as well.
A Tradition is Born:
TV dinners have Thanksgiving to thank. In 1953, someone at Swanson misjudged the number of frozen turkeys it would sell that Thanksgiving -- by 26 TONS! Some industrious soul came up with a brilliant plan: Why not slice up the meat and repackage with some trimmings on the side?Thus, the first TV dinner was born!
Break out the Menurkeys:
The first time of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving come together was in 1888. Scientists say the confluence won't occur again for another 70,000 years, give or take a millennium.
Leaving a Legacy:
When Abe Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, it was thanks to the tireless efforts of a magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale. Her other claim to fame? She also wrote the nursery rhyme, "Mary had a Little Lamb."
This Land Is Your Land:
There are four places in the U.S. named Turkey
. Louisiana's Turkey Creek is the most populous, with a whopping 440 residents. There's also Turkey, Texas; Turkey, North Carolina; and Turkey Creek, Arizona. Oh, let's not forget the two townships in Pennsylvania: the creatively named Upper Turkeyfoot and Lower Turkeyfoot!

 

 

 
Copyright © 2014 KP KOLLENBORN*, All rights reserved.
mailing address:
kpkollenborn@gmail.com

    

"Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, over our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future."
KP Kollenborn

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Even though I am from Kansas, I enjoy venturing into other worlds from around the globe which is why my writing focuses on diversity. With fluid accessibility to modern media and traveling opportunities, my Midwestern world can expand and explore beyond my own backyard. In addition to studying cultures, I take pleasure in studying history. Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, over our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.

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