Archive for the ‘History’ Category

The 1873 Colfax Massacre

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

Another bit via Timothy Sandefur’s book on Frederick Douglass: In 1873, in the midst of a political clash in Louisiana between rival governments, the April Colfax Massacre ended in the death of some 150 Black people. Wikipedia has an entry with numerous references. Smithsonian also has an article on the matter.

Douglass and Reparations

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

In his book on Frederick Douglass (starting on p. 64), Timothy Sandefur outlines Douglass’s attitudes toward various forms of assistance for freed slaves, which today I’d bundle with the reparations debates.

Charles Sumner, Sandefur writes, had a plan “to confiscate plantation land and divide it among the former slaves.” Here’s how Sandefur summarizes Douglass’s view: “Although government could legitimately provide the freedmen with less intrusive forms of aid, the power to redistribute land, however well intentioned, was dangerous: it could easily fall into the hands of the politically powerful—which meant racist whites—who would then exploit that power for their own benefit.”

At this point Sandefur offers a note (#10): “That is ultimately what happened a century later, when racially restrictive zoning laws, and then federal and state ‘urban renewal’ projects, sought to sequester and then evict black landowners to eradicate ‘urban blight.'” Sandefur recommends Clarence Thomas’s dissent in Kelo v. New London.

Douglass’s refrain, with respect to what whites should do with freed slaves, was, “Do nothing with us!” Still, Douglass “supported the work of the Freedmen’s Bureau, established by Congress to protect blacks from violence and to promote their economic status by providing them with clothing, food, health care, and jobs. He even proposed a plan to use government funds to buy southern land and sell it in small lots to freedmen at discounted rates.” He said, “It is not fair play to start the negro out in life, from nothing and with nothing.”

Of course Douglass called for equal treatment under the law, which was not achieved then.

The discussion about compensation involves concerns about justice and about political expedience. If I could go back in time and make my will hold, I’d require former slave holders to seriously compensate former slaves, which in many cases probably would mean selling off plantations, or distributing plantation lands among former slaves, to cover the costs. This no doubt would leave many former slave holders destitute. It’s easy to see how such an outcome would have meant political trouble in those precarious times.

Cases of Racist Discrimination

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

As I’ve written elsewhere, I found an 1895 case in Aspen, Colorado, involving a man accused of violating the state’s anti-discrimination law.

In his book on Frederick Douglass (p. 39), Timothy Sandefur discusses how Douglass would be refused service and that his fellow white Abolitionists also would decline to use the service. One time, when Douglass “refused to yield his seat on the train to a white man, a mob tore the bench on which he was sitting from the floor of the car,” Sandefur writes.

Later (p. 75), Sandefur notes that Douglass was concerned with private discrimination, such as “the boycotting of black businesses by white customers” and the practice of some labor unions of “admitting only white members as a means of limiting competition for jobs.” And “black entrepreneurs were often excluded from access to capital.” (And of course government discriminated in various ways too.)

Sandefur also discusses (starting on p. 78) the 1875 national Civil Rights Act promoted by Charles Sumner. “It prohibited discrimination in hotels, theaters, restaurants, and other places of public accommodation,” Sandefur summarizes. Douglass argued that a person “has the right to walk, ride, and be accommodated with food and shelter in a public conveyance or hotel.” But the Supreme Court gutted the act with its Civil Rights Cases of 1883. Wikipedia summarizes, “The decision has never been overturned, but in the 1965 case of Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, the Supreme Court held that Congress could prohibit racial discrimination by private actors under the Commerce Clause.” In 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson established the “separate but equal” doctrine (which pertained to government policy). While I’m mentioning infamous Supreme Court cases: In 1857 the court under Roger Taney ruled in Dred Scott v. Sandford that Black people do not have U.S. citizenship.

Sandefur (p. 86) writes: “Douglass and Wells might break up segregation in a Chicago eatery, but an ordinary farmer who tried to do the same in any rural Mississippi coffee shop might very well be murdered.” (Douglass once took wells to a “whites only” restaurant for lunch.)

Debates on Founding Principles

Sunday, August 30th, 2020

C. Bradley Thompson replies to Christopher Flannery regarding America’s Lockean Founding. (Trace back the links for other articles related to the discussion.) Thompson argues that neither Harry Jaffa nor Leo Strauss got Locke totally right.

Thompson also appeared on Dave Rubin’s show to discuss his book on the Founding and the issue of slavery.

Thompson also discussed his book at a Princeton talk.

In response to a government report ordered by Mike Pompeo and to debate that generated, Roger Pilon and Aaron Rhodes discuss, “The American Understanding of Natural Rights.”

Hogeland Versus Hamilton

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

Among my friends and associates are Jeffersonians and Hamiltonians. One friend recommends William Hogeland’s 2007 article that harshly criticizes Hamilton. Hogeland is especially interested in Hamilton’s role in the Newburgh Crisis and in the creation of taxes on domestic goods, which Hogeland characterizes as “taxes that straitjacket markets, restrict opportunity, reduce competition, punish small operators, cripple local economies, and offer government cronies bonanzas at the direct expense of other citizens.” Hogeland also harshly criticizes Hamilton’s response to the whiskey rebels: “Using the military to trounce the rule of law and violate civil rights was integral to his vision of federal power, national wealth, and a strong union.”

Douglass on the Freedmen’s Monument

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

David W. Blight has a really nice op-ed about the Freedmen’s Monument, which some people want to tear down: “A huge parade involving nearly every black organization in the city preceded the dedication of the monument on April 14, 1876. . . . Horse-drawn carriages transported master of ceremonies and Howard University law school dean, John Mercer Langston, and the orator of the day, Frederick Douglass, a resident of that neighborhood. . . . The $20,000 used to build the monument had been raised among black Americans, most of them former slaves.”

The Smithsonian has the text of Douglass’s speech.

Timothy Sandefur has more on Douglass’s views of the memorial.

Racial Terror

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

White domestic terrorists murdered some 2,000 Black Americans between 1865 and 1876, and an additional 4,400 from 1877 to 1950, reviews the Guardian. See the Equal Justice Initiative’s report.

Denver’s Black Press

Sunday, June 21st, 2020

When working on my article about early Colorado legislator Joseph H. Stuart, I relied heavily on articles published by the Statesman. Corey Hutchins offers some good history of the Black press in Denver. The Statesman was founded in 1888 and was rebranded the Denver Star in 1912. History Colorado reviews the story: “The Statesman/Denver Star flourished under the direction of notable editors and publishers. Joseph D.D. Rivers, the first proprietor of the Statesman, was a former student of Booker T. Washington. . . . Edwin H. Hackley, who took over as editor in 1892, was the first African American to be admitted to the Colorado bar. . . . In 1898, George F. Franklin bought the Statesman from Hackley and served as editor until his death in 1901, after which his widow, Clara Williams Franklin, and his son, Chester Arthur Franklin, acted as editors/publishers. In August 1906, the Statesman became Franklin’s Paper, The Statesman. Then in November 1912, C.A. Franklin announced that the Statesman would become the Denver Star . . . in order to distinguish it from the similarly titled Colorado Statesman, edited and published by J.D.D. Rivers, the original editor of the Statesman. In March 1913, Franklin sold the Denver Star to the Denver Independent Publishing Company, which published the paper under this name until 1963.” The newspaper archives lists the Statesman and the Star but not the Colorado Statesman.

Incidentally, an overtly racist newspaper also ran out of Boulder during part of 1925, the Rocky Mountain American. The Denver Library offers more detail about this.

The Tulsa Mass-Murders

Sunday, June 21st, 2020

In 1921, a white mob murdered hundreds of Black people in Tulsa, Oklahoma, injured thousands more, and burned down “Black Wall Street.” Some of the perpetrators “were deputized and given weapons by city officials.” This is not that long ago. I personally knew people who were alive back then. This level of moral atrocity is difficult to process. This is severe domestic terrorism.

Colorado History Hidden in Microfilm

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

It’s the year 2020. And yet many of the important documents of Colorado’s history are hidden in hard-to-access microfilm. The online Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection is a fantastic resource. But, as I recently learned, not all the historic newspapers have been digitized. History Colorado relates, “The Colorado Historic Newspapers website features some of our collection. We were able to digitize them thanks to many grants and collaboration with the the State Archives. We have active digitization newspaper projects, but we need financial support to do even more. We have the largest collection of Colorado newspapers, over 22,000 reels of microfilm containing millions of pages of Colorado stories. Since 2016 we have received over $400,000 in funding from [the National Endowment of the Humanities] which has helped us digitize around 200,000 pages.” As I replied, can’t “we” organize a state-wide fundraising effort to finish the job, or organize a volunteer effort to scan the documents?

Notes on Joseph H. Stuart

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

My recent article features my preliminary research on Joseph H. Stuart, Colorado’s (I think) second black legislator and an extraordinary man by all accounts. Here I’m going to summarize the research from that article and add new items. Note that in some cases I’m quoting from old newspapers that used language that offends the modern ear.

Annie Nelson writes for the Denver Library, “1881 – In November, John T. Gunnell becomes the first African American to sit in the Colorado Legislature.” I believe that Gunnell was elected in 1880 and served a single term starting in 1881. I found almost nothing more about him. Interestingly, this source also says that Frederick Douglass’s sons Lewis and Frederick Jr. lived in Denver and “established Denver’s first black school.” And it briefly summarizes the contributions of various other important African Americans in Denver. But it doesn’t mention Stuart.

The Colorado Daily Chieftain, October 27, 1894, describes a Republican campaign event where Stuart spoke.

Various newspapers, including the Silver Cliff Rustler (December 1, 1897), mention that Stuart was “admitted to practice before the federal courts,” according to the paper the first African American “to be given this privilege.”

The Statesman (July 20, 1906) describes an absolutely jaw-dropping legal victory (criminal defense) of Stuart’s.

And the Statesman (April 16, 1910) memorializes Stuart’s death, confirming he was in the legislature.

Now for some additional sources (that I didn’t mention in my article).

The Denver Library has a biography of Elizabeth Piper Ensley, who “was born the child of a former slave and spent her life fighting for women’s suffrage and the rights of African Americans.” The biography continues, “In 1904, Elizabeth founded the Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. This was an attempt to unite various organizations around Colorado, push for greater equality, and provide educational opportunities. Part of Elizabeth’s work included gaining the support of black men on issues like national women’s suffrage. She even helped unite men and women of all races to elect Colorado’s first [I think second] black legislator, Joseph Stuart.”

An old book by R. G. Dill (p. 61) lists John T. Gunnell as part of Colorado’s Third General Assembly, which squares with other information. An overtly racist article by the Leadville Democrat (February 24, 1881) says that a “Representative Gunnell, of Arapahoe,” is African American.

A book by Quintart Taylor lists “Nineteenth-Century Black Western Legislators” as including John T. Gunnell (1881–83) and Joseph H. Stuart (1895–97), suggesting that each man served a single term. Another reference to both men comes in a book by (lead) Arturo J. Aldama.

A Swedish paper lists Stuart as a candidate in 1894.

The Statesman later turned on Stuart, accusing him of “treachery” (August 22, 1908) for apparently not supporting another black legislative candidate. This seems like a deeply personal dispute where the paper took the side opposite Stuart.

Apparently Stuart sought to run for the legislature again in 1906. The Statesman was highly critical of Stuart at this time (September 7, 1906).

The Colorado Daily Chieftain (November 2, 1898) discusses a rally in Bessemer (now Pueblo) where Stuart spoke. The subhead notes, “Two prominent colored speakers from Denver made stirring appeals to the audience to support the Republican ticket.” The article reports, “J. J. Jennings made a stirring address to open the meeting, and he was followed by J. H. Stuart, of Denver, a prominent colored man, who is running for representative on the republican ticket in Arapahoe county. . . . He laughed at the idea of the democrats accomplishing anything that was good for the people, even the free coinage of silver.”

The Colorado Daily Chieftain runs an article (February 22, 1895), reporting that, on February 21, Stuart introduced resolutions in the state house honoring Frederick Douglass, who died February 20.

The Statesman reports (November 30, 1907), “A delegation of colored lawyers called on the governor in support of Joseph H. Stuart” for a Supreme Court position, which went instead to Joseph C. Helm.

The Colorado Transcript (September 12, 1894) notes that Stuart was nominated.

Stuart participated in the State Business League (Statesman, July 31, 1909).

The Fort Collins Courier (November 15, 1894) notes Stuart was elected as representative in 1894.

On February 25, Governor Jared Polis posted the following note to Facebook (with a really outstanding photo of Stuart): “During #BlackHistoryMonth, we honor people like Joseph H. Stuart, the first African American to be elected to serve in the state’s House of Representatives in 1894 and fought to end housing discrimination and other forms of racial intolerance.”

The San Diego History Center has a write-up of Stuart by Robert Fikes, Jr.: “Rail connections had been completed to the east and north, and San Diego appeared to be on the verge of a population boom when Joseph Henry Stuart (1849-1910) arrived in 1890 via Kansas City, having earned his law degree at the University of South Carolina fifteen years before. The San Diego Union, a newspaper that routinely allowed biased racial terminology referring to African Americans in its headlines and articles, took notice when the ambitious 31-year-old registered with the bar [Stuart] announcing under the headline ‘A Colored Attorney Admitted’ [San Diego Union, January 7, 1891, p. 5]. . . . But despite some positive regional economic indicators and the presence of some determined and accomplished ex-slaves and their descendants, Stuart’s year-long stay ended because a legal career could not prosper serving a ‘colored’ population of only 289, representing fewer than one percent of the city’s residents [Robert L. Carlton, “Blacks in San Diego County, 1850-1900” (Master’s thesis, San Diego State University, 1977), p. 83]. And it was particularly difficult for a black attorney to launch a successful practice in this era of egregious racial segregation when he had to prove his competence even to his own people, working solo without the advantage of professional consultation, and probably forced to do more pro bono work than he would have preferred. So Stuart, a social activist with a taste for politics, packed his bags and moved to Denver, Colorado, then with ten times the black population of San Diego, where eventually he was elected to the Colorado State Assembly and, in 1900, was privileged to sit at the table of honor with Booker T. Washington and Paul Laurence Dunbar when these celebrities visited the Mile-High City [David L. Erickson, Early Justice and the Formation of the Colorado Bar (Denver: Continuing Legal Education in Colorado Inc., 2008), pp. 97-108].”

“In 1942, Earl Mann became the second black man [I think third] elected to Colorado state office when he won a position in the Colorado state house of representatives” (Summer Marie Cherland).

J. Clay Smith, Jr. has out a book, Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer 1844–1944, that discusses Stuart. Smith is the only source I found claiming that Stuart was elected twice to the state house. Smith says that Stuart graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1877, and on “December 1, 1891 . . . became the second black lawyer admitted to practice in Colorado,” having “previously been admitted to the Kansas bar in 1883. Smith claims Stuart “was elected to the Ninth and Tenth Colorado General Assemblies as a representative from Arapahoe County. He served in this capacity from 1893 to 1897. Among Stuart’s major achievements in the Colorado legislature was the sponsorship of a bill to strengthen the state’s existing civil rights legislation.” However, in a different section, Smith says Stuart “was elected to the state legislature in 1895.”

The Herald Democrat (March 27, 1895) mentions that, on March 26, “Stuart’s civil rights bill, prohibiting discrimination, passed third reading” (apparently in the state senate).

The Indicator (February 16, 1895) offers more detail about Stuart’s bill: “The House then went into committee of the whole on the civil rights bill, and Mr. Stuart made an extended speech in its favor. The bill amends the law so that colored persons cannot be excluded from hotels or theaters. Mr. Stuart said that colored citizens were constantly discriminated against in Denver, confined to certain objectionable portions of the theaters, and refused a place in restaurants. The bill passed unanimously, the decision being greeted by a brisk round of applause from colored citizens who thronged the galleries. They could be seen smiling, shaking hands and congratulating each other vigorously as they filed out. The bill fixes a minimum fine of $10 and [text obscure; perhaps, a maximum fine of $200 for violations].”

The Saguache Crescent (April 4, 1895) describes House Bill “175, Stuart, an act protecting citizens in the full and equal enjoyment of privileges of inns, restaurants, barber shops, theaters, and all places of public accommodation and amusement.”

Wallace F. Caldwell says that Colorado first past “public accommodations laws” in 1885. It’s unclear (to me) how the law changed in 1895.

A story in the Aspen Weekly Times (November 16, 1895) discusses a case of a person who professed to discriminating against a black patron but who has let off by a jury: “John O’Riley, proprietor of the Delmonico restaurant, was placed on trial in Justice Leahy’s court yesterday afternoon for having refused to permit a negro to enjoy equal advantages with white men at his boarding house. The case was heard before a jury, which, although the defendant acknowledged by his own testimony that the charges were true, returned a verdict of not guilty after half an hour’s deliberation.” The article goes into the trial in substantial detail.

The Klan in Colorado

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

We cannot understand the present unless we understand the past. In that spirit, I have started to look more deeply into a rotten element Colorado’s past, the rise of the Klan in the ’20s.

In a recent article, I look at the life and work of the remarkable Joseph H. Stuart, an African American Colorado lawyer elected to the state house (I believe) in 1894. Back then, the Republican Party still was the party of Lincoln, and most black people were Republicans.

Distressingly, the Klan rose in Colorado in the 1920s and, for a time, took over the Republican Party. James S. Davis tells this story for Colorado Magazine (1965). “Grand Dragon” John Galen Locke established the Klan in Colorado in 1922, Davis writes. By 1924, the Klan selected “almost all” of the Republican Party’s candidates. By 1925, “In both the Senate and the House there was a majority of members elected from the Klan-controlled Republican party,” Davis writes. Governor Clarence Morley had close ties to the Klan.

Let’s pause here on Morley. The state’s biography of him notes that he didn’t actually enjoy many legislative successes. “Despite his apparent lack of legislative success, Morley was responsible for ratifying the Colorado River Compact, strengthening prohibition laws, developing a successful inmate labor program, and promoting legislation that allowed the state to carry its own insurance on its public buildings.” He developed “a police force, that many felt, enforced the prohibition laws too aggressively.” Morley was arrested in 1935 on mail fraud and later spent five years in Leavenworth. Wiki has Morley down as serving as governor from January 1925 through January 1927, after which he was succeeded by rival Democrat William “Billy” Adams. (I’m not sure how governor’s terms worked back then.)

Lynn Bartels quotes a document from the Center for Colorado and the West (a document that, unfortunately, I cannot find): “His [Morley’s] vitriol toward all things un-American was thinly veiled as an attack on Catholics, and further, on immigration. His goal wasn’t simply to eliminate the use of demon alcohol by banning the use of sacramental wine; it was to stop key elements of Catholic practice, thus the religion itself. Morley espoused the view that if public schools weren’t good enough for Catholic children, then Catholics should not teach in public schools. He agitated for the University of Colorado to fire all non-Protestant (that is, Catholic and Jewish) professors.”

Ed Quillen discusses Morley, Denver mayor Benjamin Stapleton, U.S. Senator Rice Means, U.S. Senator Laurence Phipps, and others in Colorado government associated with the Klan. Quillen notes (I don’t know where he got this), “Colorado, in a perversely progressive way, was the only Klan realm with a women’s auxiliary.” Quillen notes that the ’20s iteration of the Klan was inspired by the infamous and racist film, The Birth of a Nation. Quillen says the Klan’s “national leader, Imperial Wizard William Joseph Simmons . . . himself went to Denver to start building the Colorado Klan” in 1921. Here is an important detail: “Dr. Clarence Holmes, president of the Denver NAACP chapter, started a drive to integrate Denver’s theaters. The Klan burned a cross in front of his office and sent a threatening note, but he persisted.” The Klan chased one black man out of Denver with threats and (people suspected) bombed houses. The Klan in Denver kidnapped and beat two men, Patrick Walker and Ben Laska (a Jewish lawyer). Quillen quotes Robert Alan Goldberg: “Just two Klan-endorsed bills became state law: one requiring schools to fly the American flag and the other making ownership or operation of a still a felony.” (This doesn’t perfectly square with Davis’s account.)

Quillen writes that, in the ’20s, some of Colorado’s Italian “immigrants ignored Prohibition in favor of their traditional wine-making, which quickly evolved into bootlegging and violent struggles for control of the liquor trade.” The Klan actively participated in sheriff-sanctioned liquor raids. However, Quillen writes, “Colorado Springs Police Chief Hugh Harper was one of the few Colorado peace officers to fight the Klan from the moment it arrived.” Quillen notes, “C. C. Hamlin, publisher of the city’s two leading newspapers [and a Republican], The Gazette and the Evening Telegraph . . . flayed the Klan on the front pages and the editorial pages.”

Reviewing Phil Goodstein’s In the Shadow of the Klan, Sandra Dallas writes, “The Klan organized boycotts of stores owned by Catholics and Jews, although many female Kluxers refused to stop patronizing Neusteter’s, the high-fashion store that was owned by Jews.”

Back to Davis: Davis quotes the Denver Times, January 13, 1925 (p. 1) to summarize Morley’s inaugural address. (Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be part of the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection and is apparently only on microfilm at History Colorado, which seems crazy to me. It’s 2020 and we’re still using microfilm?) Morley laid out the following goals: “the establishment of a state reformatory for women, appropriation of funds to carry on negotiations for interstate river treaties, a minimum wage law for women, assistance in revival of the mining industry, elimination of further taxation on gasoline,” and so on. Klan-inspired items “included the passage of acts excluding certain aliens from residing in the state, eliminating from the prohibition law the right to obtain intoxicating liquors for sacramental use, amending the primary election law so that members of one political party could not participate in the primaries of an opposing party, and abolishing many state boards, bureaus, and commissions.” (Davis goes on to explain why the Klan favored some of these proposals.) A detail: The legislature passed a bill that “eliminated primary elections entirely,” but Morley vetoed it. Although the House was friendly to Morley, Davis writes, a coalition of Democrats and disaffected Republicans blocked most of Morley’s program in the Senate.

An odd detail: Morley gave a pre-inaugural address by radio, surreal to read, in which he touted Colorado’s treasures and told a dumb joke about “dry farming” as not relating to Prohibition.

Another Klan aim, writes Davis, was “repealing the civil rights laws, which would allow discrimination against Negroes.” (Here Davis cites the House Journal, p. 216, and the Denver Post, January 24, 1925, p. 14.)

A document from the Mesa County Library notes a curious detail: “Even people like future Oscar winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo” contemplated joining the Klan; he “thought about joining but didn’t.” (I have no idea what the source for that is.) Here’s what IMDB says: “Of his early politics, a much older Dalton Trumbo told how he asked his father for five dollars so he could join the Ku Klux Klan, a mass organization after the First World War. He didn’t get the five dollars.”

See also a write-up from the Denver Library.

Denver even had it’s own Klan newspaper for a few months, the Rocky Mountain American.

Westword‘s Conor McCormick-Cavanagh has a couple of informative write-ups on Twitter about the Klan in Colorado (one and two), specifically about Stapleton. Why did the Denver airport get named after a KKK mayor? McCormick-Cavanagh quotes Colorado state historian William Wei: “I suspect that it was, in part, a reaction to the civil-rights movement that was occurring at that time, during the mid-1960s. They came up with this way of honoring him and were implicitly opposing the efforts of civil rights.” See also McCormick-Cavanagh’s article in Westword.

This is some grim and distressing history to review. But review it we must, to prevent something similar from happening again.

Critiques of Dinesh D’Souza

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

Kevin Kruse rounds up criticisms by various historians of the work of Dinesh D’Souza. (This is from 2019.)

Walter Walker’s Sin and Reform

Monday, June 15th, 2020

Colorado Mesa University’s Walker Field will be renamed. The airport in Grand Junction used to be called Walker Field, and its address remains Walker Field Drive. So who is Walter Walker? Dan West reviews, the president of the college, Tim Foster (a former Republican legislator) said Walker is “the leader of the Grand Junction Klan, the founder of the Grand Junction Klan.” West writes, “According to interviewees from the Mesa County Oral History Project, Walker helped bring the Ku Klux Klan to Grand Junction and was a member. He later turned against the group and published editorials in the Daily Sentinel attacking the KKK and was even the target of violence from Klan members.” On one hand, I have no problem with changing the name of the field due to Walker’s sins. On the other hand, I hope that we don’t lose the lesson of Walker’s reform.

A Daily Sentinel editorial provides important context: “Walter Walker . . . was the second owner and publisher of The Daily Sentinel who helped establish Mesa Junior College and the local veterans hospital, built The Avalon and brought air service to Grand Junction. . . . He was also responsible for bringing the Ku Klux Klan to Grand Junction in the 1920s. . . . Noel Kalenian provides a thoughtful treatment of Walker’s story [here] based, in part, on audio recordings of interviews with Walker’s contemporaries included in the Mesa County Oral History Project housed at the Mesa County Libraries. . . . The Klan was proving to be a political force in Colorado — and across the country — in the 1920s. Prohibition provided the Klan with a new platform to spread its anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, white Protestant nationalist rhetoric. It promised to clean up communities and rid them of bootleggers and moonshiners. But that’s not how the Klan operated here. Beer was served at meetings. It was more of a men’s social club. . . . Under Walker’s leadership, the club refused to take an activist position on the Klan’s tenets. But at some point, Walker was stripped of his leadership position and the club took a sinister turn. That’s when Walker started writing editorials warning of an organization ‘that preyed on prejudice to incite hatred,’ Kalenian wrote. . . . In September 1925, several local Klan leaders including a deputy sheriff and a police officer assaulted Walker as he walked from a barber shop to his newspaper office. But that didn’t stop his anti-Klan campaign and membership dwindled to insignificance by 1926.”

The Sentinel may be putting a positive spin on the “social club,” but its portrayal of Walker seems accurate. Here’s what Kalenian says: “According to [Robert Alan] Goldberg [author of Hooded Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Colorado, which seems to be out of print], the Western Slope’s geographic isolation from Denver in an age of poor roads allowed the Klan in Grand Junction to function as a kind of social club similar to the Elk’s Lodge, but with cross burnings, grotesque robes and dumb, pointy hats. Membership in the Klan was so popular among Mesa County’s white Protestants that it seemed like everyone wanted to join, even people like future Oscar winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (who thought about joining but didn’t), Al Look and Walker. Look and Walker later started an organization called the Soup Eaters to help poor and minority children in the Grand Valley. After leaving the Klan, Walker supported the presidential candidacy of Al Smith, a Catholic. The club under Walker’s leadership eschewed many of the Klan’s tenets, including prohibition. In fact, Goldberg says that the Grand Junction club served beer in their meetings. The club also refused to take an activist position on immigrants, African-Americans and Catholics, and kept the small minority of Klansmen who favored action against such people at bay.”

Catholic Bingo

Sunday, June 14th, 2020

Here’s a tidbit of Colorado history I didn’t previously know: “Catholics in the northwest Denver were able to build St. Catherine of Siena parish by holding lavish and lucrative bingo parties that eventually led to the nick-naming of ‘the carnival parish’ in the Harkness Heights area of North Denver.”

Colorado Klan

Sunday, June 14th, 2020

One of the most shameful episodes of Colorado history. . . “Clarence Morley, the Ku Klux Klan-picked Republican candidate, became Governor of Colorado in 1925. . . . [John] Locke, as Klan Grand Dragon controlled Morley as Governor, Ben Stapleton as mayor of Denver, obtained a majority in the House and Senate, elected the Secretary of State, and secured a Supreme Court Judgeship and seven benched in Denver District Court.” Morley later went to prison for mail fraud. See also James H. Davis’s haunting article about the Klan in Colorado.

King the Colorblind Radical

Sunday, June 14th, 2020

In a 2019 piece, Coleman Hughes calls Martin Luther King Jr. A “colorblind radical.” Hughes also posts a series of quotes from King showing that he saw the civil rights “movement in nonracial, universalist terms.” For example, King said, “The important thing about man is . . . not the texture of his hair or the color of his skin but the quality of his soul.”

La Mulâtresse Solitude

Saturday, June 13th, 2020

This is an amazing (if horrifying) story and an amazing work of art commemorating it:

A revolution of enslaved plantation laborers in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) begun in August 1791 forced France to legally abolish slavery in its colonies less than three years later. By 1802, however, Napoléon’s forces sought to resurrect the sugar-based economies of Saint-Domingue, Guadeloupe, and other French holdings in the Caribbean by re-enslaving freedpeople who had been living as French citizens for eight years. Africans and their descendants fiercely resisted French forces—successfully in Saint-Domingue, unsuccessfully in Guadeloupe. Though little is known of her early life, [La Mulâtresse] Solitude is celebrated as a heroine in Guadeloupe for her role in that struggle for lasting freedom in 1802. . . . Solitude, now pregnant, mobilized her followers to join the forces of Louis Delgrès against the French military. They struggled until they were surrounded and outnumbered by the French troops. . . . Solitude survived and was captured and detained in Basse-Terre prison. The French military brought Solitude and the other survivors before a military tribunal, which sentenced them all to death. Solitude was temporarily pardoned until she gave birth to her child, who became the legal property of her owner. One day after delivering her baby, on November 28, 1802, Solitude was executed. She was thirty years old.”

The statue (see also here) in her memory is spectacular; it shows a strong, defiant pregnant woman.

Woodrow Wilson’s Libertarian Enablers

Friday, June 5th, 2020

Jesse Walker discusses the people who enabled Wilson’s statism. George Creel said, “I took this position [as government censor] because I believed in the freedom of the press” and wanted to “be in a position where I could help to guard it.”

Belgian Oppression of Congo

Friday, June 5th, 2020

New Republic shares a horrific story of Belgian oppression of the Congo. A photo caption: “Father stares at the hand and foot of his five-year-old, severed as a punishment for failing to make the daily rubber quota, Belgian Congo, 1904.” See more here and here.