Claire and I took a U.S. History course online this summer. And yes, I am using “we” quite liberally, because of course, it was her class, and I was just an innocent stand-by-er. (I “took” an online Anthropology class with Grace this summer as well, but wasn’t quite such a grand student in that one, and tried to take a writing online class with Lucy but she wasn’t about to let me get in her business and did most of it herself). But I have to document this history class because it was pretty fascinatingly right on topic for so many things going on in the world right at the moment.
We started our studies smack dab in the middle of the founding fathers muddling around trying to found a country. Gosh that was messy work, trying to create principles which would become basic American beliefs. The Declaration of Independence, the rise of nationalism, the era of expanding suffrage, amendments and ratifications, everyone trying to figure out how in Heaven’s name to navigate life in a new independent nation.
I’ve thought a lot about that messiness before (and written a little about it back HERE), but the thing that hit me the most with this history class was the mess involved with slavery and then the Civil War and the reconstruction period following the war. That and Grace’s Anthropology class dug us right into the middle of all the racial controversy going on. I have read all that before, of course. Studied it over and over through the years. But it was so interesting to read with the Black Lives Matter movement all around, a history to be examined so much more closely, giving me a different vantage point this time around. The Black Codes became so much more real to me mixed in with the Jim Crow Laws, the brutality of it all, the Freedmen’s Bureau, the education reform and schools for freed African Americans. Humanity trying to figure things out, the hindered and pushed down mixed in with the elite , all trying to find a path in a newly forged world.
We studied the Native American slaughterings, the immigrants trying to make their way, the Tweed Ring interwoven with people like Washington Gladden and Florence Kelley fighting for social reform.
And as much as so much of our history is dark and horrific, interwoven with racism and crime, discrimination and poverty, it is also infiltrated with so much light and beauty and goodness. So much strength and beauty reverberating out as voices for change. Inspiring people like Jacob Riis and Jane Addams, W.E.B. DuBois who brought inequality and awareness to the forefront. I was so inspired by women like Ida B. Wells and Susan B. Anthony who fought for justice and what was right.
As Claire and I read about these individuals I was caught up once again in the difference that ONE PERSON can make. Even in a world of confusion and floundering. We can all be our own kinds of Lewis Hines and Carrie Chapman Catt’s. I think in times like these it is easy to forget our own unique power to make a difference. And that sometimes all we need to do is take a step forward. One step leads to hundreds of steps and gigantic movements. We have the power. Perhaps we won’t be written about in history books that our children and grandchildren will pour over (or maybe we will, who knows??), but our courage to reach out and to do good will do something to us and to our posterity that can change the fabric of their souls. We are powerful beyond measure. Powerful beyond what we can comprehend. When we just take courage to take a step…and do it with love.
I need to write a whole post about the book I just finished (The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates…it is so good), but some of my new favorite quotes are from that book, especially with current events filling up the airwaves…so much division and anger being hurled out into the world, but also so much awareness and learning and growing happening…people who aren’t afraid to step out and stand up like all those heroes Claire and I read about this last summer.
“The most profound human need is our need to take care of one another.“
“If you can’t bear the pain of your neighbor’s suffering then one way or another you are going to push them to the margins.“
“As we bring gender bias out from behind its disguises, more and more will see bias and will stand against it….we have to see biases before we can end them.“
Now I’m on to reading How to Be an Antiracist, so far so good, I’ll have to come back to report on that one some day.
I loved having the opportunity to be so present with my girls this summer, our heads tilted in together, learning, discussing and growing in the middle of all the things swirling around us in the news.