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Historian Annette Gordon-Reed: The Culture Wars, Juneteenth, and 1/6

Credit: Tony Rinaldo Photography

Nationally renowned American historian Annette Gordon-Reed has been everywhere this past year speaking out on history and the culture wars. Actually she has not been anywhere except for her home in New York City.  It just seems that way because during the COVID pandemic she has been everywhere virtually without having to leave home. That also means I have had the opportunity to hear her virtually without having to leave home either (and read her as well).

This blog is dedicated to highlighting a year of Gordon-Reed. I do not claim to have watched all her performances, read all her articles, or articles about her, but there are enough examples to provide a good insight into the thinking of one of America’s foremost historians discussing some of the hot-button cultural war topics of the times. To include all her performances would make for a very long blog.

Spoiler alert: Annette Gordon- Reed speaks normal.

July 2, 2020: Erasing History or Making History? Race, Racism, and the American Memorial Landscape 

The AHA executive director James Grossman hosted David W. Blight, Yale University, and Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard University. The interview is available online.

In this blog, I will focus on the comments of Gordon-Reed and given the space limitations will not be able to cover everything. One notes that the interview occurred shortly after the murder of George Floyd.

She commented that the culture war fight over monuments shifts attention from economic and social concerns. While that is true, symbolic acts are important, too. For example, the toppling of the statue of King George III in lower Manhattan after the signing of the Declaration of Independence was not simply a mere “symbolic” act. The challenge is to use the symbolic to further the other issues and not diminish them.

Gordon-Reed took great issue with the lumping together of the founders of the United States of America and the founders of the Confederacy. The founding documents of the Confederacy typically are overlooked compared to the military exploits of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Although the names of two political entities are similar and both share the American Revolution in common, the values expressed in the two sets of founding documents are not the same.

One could go one step further than she did. If England had ever freed the colonies on its own initiative as it later did Canada, it is quite possible that it would have divided the colonies into multiple nations. Without the shared experience of the American Revolution and leadership of George Washington, little held the 13 colonies together in 1776 beyond the previous allegiance to England. The Confederate Constitution provides us with a glimpse of how the South might have been governed as an independent country right from the start if there had not been a United States.

She considers July 4, 1776, to be the birthday of the country. She said there was nothing inevitable from the arrival of the English in 1607 in Virginia to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. She adds that 1776 also unleashed the anti-slavery movement (although it took until Juneteenth for it be fulfilled nationally). Although she did participate in The New York Times 1619 Project, her comments indicate she does not support replacing 1776 with 1619.

On the subject of memorials, monuments, and flags, Gordon-Reed said we need to have this kind of discussions [referring to the vote in Mississippi on changing the state flag] because people do terrible things. She opposes taking down monuments outside the law but supports the Jeffersonian idea of having periodic discussions about the monuments we do have. For the statue of Teddy Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History, she favors the removal the two people on his side due to the impact on children who see it. Personally, I favor adding a (white) Rough Rider of the same size and musculature as those two.

October 29, 2020: Jefferson: Then and Now (Massachusetts Historical Society)

The reputations of all of the founders have changed dramatically over the course of American history, none more than that of Thomas Jefferson. Historians Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard University, and Peter Onuf, University of Virginia, will discuss the implications of recent political and social developments for our image of the slave-owning author of the Declaration of Independence, emphasizing the importance of situating Jefferson in his own historical context for a better understanding of the history and future prospects of democracy in America. Online here.

Sometimes, Gordon-Reed really tells it like is us with no sugarcoating. For example, there could not have a United States of America without slave states – get over it. This observation may be too real for people who prefer two-dimensional history. She comments that in the real world, Jefferson didn’t know what to do about slavery. He had faith in science and the enlightenment. Change would continue. We had defeated the most powerful nation on earth and there was an optimism that good things would happen as time went on. The idea of infinite possibilities seems naïve today but not then – the Founders thought things could become better.

One telling comment rings especially true: we need to believe in a shared past.

Gordon-Reed, as a biographer, tends to think of Thomas Jefferson as a person and not a cliché. He was both a slave-owner and author of the Declaration of Independence. Both aspects are part of who he was an individual human being. She suggests we think of him as a complex person who wanted to make a mark in the world and did.

Gordon-Reed adds a personal note on her attraction to Jefferson.  She became Jefferson fan in school. She learned that life and people are not simple. Jefferson had to have had a curious mind and that appealed to her. Yes historical researched shows people are flawed people but that does not eliminate the human need for heroes. We can recognize the importance of people and commemorate them without the adoration. She predicts that if we can revive a civic sense of democracy, then Jefferson will be an important figure.

She considers patriotism to mean being critical and telling the truth. After all, you can love your children without believing everything they do is right.

May 4, 2021: Black America’s Neglected Origin Stories (Atlantic, online, print June issue)

She begins her article with the revelation that she took Texas history in the fourth and seventh grades. I wonder how many states teach state history even once. In a book review on her new book, On Juneteenth, University of Texas Professor H. W Brands notes that the 7th grade teaching of Texas history to Texans occurs at the same age Catholic children are confirmed and Jewish kids are bar- and bat-mitzvahed (NYT May 9, 2021).

In those grades, she learned about the period of Spanish exploration in Texas. In particular, she recalls “stray references to a man of African descent—a ‘Negro’ named Estebanico—who travelled throughout Texas. She calls him “one of the first people of African descent to enter the historical record in the Americas.” Estebanico’s facilities with languages garners additional attention leading to more generalized comments about Africans as language-learners in American history. She notes that the 1520s is roughly a century earlier than when the most popular stories date the arrival of Africans. Gordon-Reed devotes a paragraph to observing the Virginia origin story [meaning 1619] leaves out this earlier time.

Next she turns to the origin stories of Jamestown in 1607 and Plymouth in 1620. She recognizes the importance of origin stories for individuals, groups, and nations. While these two stories include interactions with the local people, she laments the absence of Africans in either one. Gordon-Reed suggests St. Augustine, Florida, beginning in 1565, to be added to the mix.

Her next point is more crucial. In her studies of American history, the British and its colonies tend to be privileged in the narrative. Spain, France, and the Dutch tend to be historical footnotes, ignored or minimized. England was the winner in all these relationships. The implication of Gordon-Reed’s observations is that beside the traditional issue of the role of Africans in American history, there is separate issue of the privileging of English or Anglo history in American history. I would refine that further to privileging the New-England-Massachusetts-Harvard perspective based on where these histories were written. White people from New York to the Confederates can be shortchanged in these histories as well.

May 9, 2021: Texas on Her Mind (NYT)

In the aforementioned book review, Brands makes a telling point about her. He cites the story she would have learned about Cynthia Ann Parker. This staple of the 7th grade class tells of “a white girl stolen by Comanches on the Texas frontier and adopted into the tribe. She bore a son, Quannah, who became the last great warrior of the Comanches.”  He quotes Gordon-Reed realizing “that so many wrong things were packed into this one narrative.” Such as the Comanches “defending from the whites … land they had seized from other Indians. She discovered that Indians held slaves, with some [of them] for this reason siding with the Confederacy during the Civil War.” Kidnapping girls to make them brides also offended her.

I would comment that for Gordon-Reed, the curious individual growing up in this milieu in Texas of Africans, Comanches, Confederates, Indians, Spanish, and (white) Texans helped prepare her to tackle a subject like Thomas Jefferson. She has the perceptive ability to see beyond the two-dimensional stereotypes. She was blessed with encountering to many of them they could not all be true.

June 18, 2021 On Juneteenth — A Virtual Discussion with Annette Gordon-Reed (American Philosophical Society)

Her new book, On Juneteenth, combines history and family memoir of her life in Texas. As a child, Juneteenth was a fun day of drinking soda pop to excess, fire crackers, visiting family and friends like July 4 is a national holiday. Gordon-Reed identifies family as the essence of the holiday and separation of family as enslavement.

Given all the current fuss about the Alamo and slavery, she comments that it is impossible to teach Texas history and the Alamo without including slavery. The Texas Constitution differs from the U.S. Constitution in that it is explicit about slavery and racism. Mexico had outlawed slavery. The Texas slaveholders wanted to be part of the Cotton Kingdom with slavery and not Mexico without it. Mexico’s desire for a buffer with the Comanche often is overlooked as well.

Slavery in Texas predates slavery in Virginia. It began in the 1500s (1528) with Spain. The story was not one of plantation but exploration. One African even reached the Pacific as one of four survivors.  Gordon-Reed wonders what the impact would be if these Spanish/African memories were added to America’s origin story that didn’t privilege the English and Virginia. She wants such an adjustment to be considered.

July 12, 2021: Jan. 6 was a “turning point” in American history

 Interview by Chauncey DeVega, Salon

Gordon-Reed sees January 6 as “potentially a turning point in the country’s history….The whole concept of democracy and the republic are at stake. Confederates have not abandoned the “Lost Cause.” The defenders of Confederate statues have not repudiated that past. They have not changed.

Strangely enough, the Confederates actually seem to have won the cultural battle over the Civil War. When Gordon-Reed was growing up in Texas, she only occasionally saw a Confederate flag. Now she sees them more than she ever had in her entire childhood. In the constant battle for power, she points to the plantation weddings as an example of how white people today can block out the real meaning of plantations in American history. She might have added that to some extent that has been going since the book and the movie Gone with the Wind in the 1930s  Just because people admire the chivalry, nostalgia, and romantic setting of a medieval castle does not mean people want to live in the Middle Ages.

July 4, 2021: Between Juneteenth and the Fourth of July (NYT)

Let me conclude this overview with her own words:

Almost as soon as they were published, Jefferson’s soaring words in the Declaration’s preamble took on particular meaning to African Americans: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”,,, Every major Black leader or commentator on Black life in the United States, from the 18th century until today, has used the Declaration to analyze and critique the status of Black Americans.

What does all this mean as the Congressional investigation of 1/6 is set to begin? Gordon-Reed is right to point out the importance, I would say necessity, of having a shared story for the country. Obviously we do not have one. The January 6 Commission will show for the record that we live in two separate countries making little pretense that we are united. Whether or not we can create that shared narrative by July 4, 2026, is highly problematical. But if the history organizations want to contribute to that effort, then Annette Gordon-Reed would be an excellent choice to spearhead that effort.

[F]ortunately, the Declaration does not belong solely to historians. Like all good writing, the words took on a meaning outside the context in which they were written.

The notion of equality referred to in the Declaration has become an animating principle in American life. Indeed Jefferson, by the end of his life, understood that his words on the subject had taken on a larger meaning. They even influenced Gen. Gordon Granger and, thus, played a role in Juneteenth….

It may be hard for some to do this in our fractious times, but both holidays should be used to reflect upon the common value that Juneteenth and the Fourth have come to express: the recognition of the equal humanity and dignity of people the world over.

History Legislation Update

New York State Capitol (New York Senate)

The State budget has been passed. There is light at the end of tunnel. The world is opening up. What better time to look at history-related legislation and see what has happened during the lost year! Below lower are various bills identified by their Senate number and a description. The major new one concerns the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution. Some of the older ones relate to anniversaries from 1619 to Juneteenth.

S9031 American Revolution 250th Commission

This proposed bill has been in the Senate Rules Committee since October 5, 2020. Creating this Commission is a prerequisite for federal funding which will be funneled through state commissions. The bill provides detailed definition of terms and the specifications of 31 people identified by function or position for the commission. The people include

– Commissioner of the Commission
– Commissioner of the Department of Education
– President of Empire State Development plus representatives of the ten regions
– Director of New York State Military Museums
– 5 directors of heritage parks and areas
– 9 representatives of various Indian Nations
– Humanities New York
– Association of Public Historians of New York State
– Preservation League of New York State.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

– conduct historical, economic, and cultural studies
– conduct education programs
– make recommendations on heritage organizations, historical signs, and monuments
– protect and promote the heritage resources.

There will be federal funding and funding from the State as well one presumes. The expiration date for the Commission is December 31, 2033. That date means the last major event probably will be Evacuation Day, November 25, 2033 in lower Manhattan. Just when events in Massachusetts will be wrapping up, events in New York will be taking off. These include the Battle of Saratoga, the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, Benedict Arnold, Rochambeau, and Evacuation Day. New York will be observing the 250th for years to come. What should we be doing now for the pre-July 4, 1776 250th?

S6948 400 Years African-American History Commission

As the 250th Commission heads towards likely approval at some [because it is required to obtain federal funding], it is worth considering the status of the 400 Year commission for 1619. That proposed commission has been the subject of several blogs already (Slavery Quadricentennial: The 400 Years of African-American History Commission). It was finally signed into law on February 16, 2020, about six months after the August 2019 anniversary. Apparently the now-15 Commissioners had been chosen and it was only a question of arranging the photo-op to announce the launching. We all remember what happened in March 2020. Suffice it to say the 400 Year Commission is on hiatus. The original expiry date was pushed back from June 1, 2020 to June 1, 2021 which is in a few weeks. So far there is no indication of pushing back the date again. I do have a copy of the Memorandum of Support from sponsor Senator Comrie from February 2020 when I stopped by his office in Albany. That document was marked up to shift the expiry date to June 1 2022. However the New York State Senate website still has June 1 this year so time is running out.

S8598 Juneteenth Public Holiday

This bill was signed into law last July 22, 2020, shortly after the events in Tulsa. So next month will be the first observance of it in the State as a public holiday. Whether it is a public holiday like New Year’s Day, Christmas, and Thanksgiving or like Flag Day or Lincoln’s Birthday, and George Washington’s Birthday remains to be seen. This date refers to an event in Texas and not New York.

SXXXX 1827 Bicentennial 1827 Commission

Speaking of New York, the bill I initiated and helped write for the bicentennial in 2027 of the end of slavery in New York State never made it to the Senate (1827 Freedom Bicentennial Commission Covid-19 Casualty… This Year). It appears to have been a casualty of the Covid pandemic and has vanished from sight.

It should be noted that there are other upcoming anniversaries with state-wide implications including the return of Lafayette (1824) and the Indian Citizenship Act (1924) worthy of remembrance and celebration. These are in addition the bicentennial of the building of the Erie Canal (ongoing, culminating in 2025) and the centennial of the New York State Council of Parks created by legislation adopted on April 18, 1924.

S3951 Civic Education Fund

This bill was vetoed on December 13, 2019. I respectfully submit that given the insurrection on January 6, 2021, there is a desperate need for civics education in the state and the country. There is an urgent need to revisit the issue of civics in the school curriculum.

By coincidence, as I am writing this blog, I received an email from the Preservation League of New York State containing Preservation updates on State legislation. I include two bills below.

Support for Legislation Relating to Operations and Preservation of the National Historic Landmark New York State Canal System Memorandum of Support A.7044 (Buttenschon)/S.5958 (May) 

We commend the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation for their ongoing restoration, maintenance, and stewardship of our National Historic Landmark canal system. This bill supports their work while providing important consistency for those who use the canal, whether for recreation, tourism, or commercial purposes.

Read our support letter here.

Support to Make Mandatory Quarterly Meetings of the Canal Recreationway Commission
Memorandum of Support A.7045 (Buttenschon)/S.5959 (May)

The Canal Recreationway Commission currently meets subject to the call of the chairperson. By setting a regular quarterly meeting schedule, this bill will establish consistency and give the Commission the tools to focus on important future planning efforts to support our Canal System and chart a new path forward, supporting our National Historic Landmark Canal System’s ability to leverage the economic benefits of tourism, recreation, and commercial use now and into the future.

Read our support letter here.

This brief review of some history-related legislation shows that the time of the advocacy hibernation is over and the history community needs to think about how to organize for legislative action and what action it would like to see.

1827 Freedom Bicentennial Commission Covid-19 Casualty… This Year

In 1827 Rev. Nathaniel Paul, a minister in Albany, New York, hails the final abolition of slavery in that state. His address given on July 5, 1827 in Albany marks that occasion. (

Without the Covid-19 pandemic, there would have been an 1827 Freedom Bicentennial Commission passed this legislative session. The bill would have been passed by both the Senate and the Assembly. It would then have been sent to the Governor for signature. Between the summer and December, it would have remained on the Governor’s desk. At some point in December, he would either have signed the bill or sent it back for revisions. But because of the coronavirus, that is not what happened.

I can speak with some authority on this bill, because I suggested it. Back in 2019, I suggested to my State Senator Shelley Mayer, Chair, Education Committee, that there was a need for such a bill. She agreed. She spoke about it to the teachers at the Lower Hudson Valley Social Studies conference back in December when we could still meet in person. It would have been submitted this past legislative session.

I was asked to write the Purpose and Justification of the bill. Here is what I submitted:


The purpose of this bill is to highlight the New York story of Africans and African Americans from their first arrival here with the Dutch in 1613 to the legal end of slavery on July 4, 1827. The story involves the intersection of African, European, and Indian Nations, peoples, and people here in New York State. To do so, the Commission will partner with the scholars, history organizations, schools, and community organizations that research, exhibit, tell, and teach this story. The events and activities carried out by the commission can foster learning and developmental environments for youth, adults and seniors of all backgrounds and cultivate opportunities to foster a better understanding of the development of our state through the continuous contributions of Africans and African Americans during this period.


The contributions that Africans and African Americans have made to the founding and creating of New York State are often overlooked. Besides the events in Virginia in 1619, the Amistad in Connecticut in 1839, and Juneteenth in Texas in 1865, there is a New York African story to tell. There are events that happened here. There are people who were born, lived, and died here. There are buildings and burials that are located here. There are sites which need to be preserved, markers, memorials, and statues which need to be maintained or created. There is curriculum which needs to be revised to integrate the African story in New York’s and the nation’s story. There is cultural heritage tourism to be developed and/or promoted and field trips to be taken. As the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the country approaches, it is important that the African and African American contribution to that event be told as part of the celebration. It is even more important in a state of as many peoples as our own that we come together on this bicentennial anniversary of freedom and celebrate the contributions African Americans have made from 1613 to 1827 since they first arrived on the shores of the east coast to the creation of this country and the end of slavery in the state.

The idea that it is necessary stems from the fact that African American contributions to the founding of our state and country are great and expansive and as such, we should establish a commission with a purpose to highlight and integrate them into our education, tourism, and cultural heritage. In addition, that it should be done in ways in which, entire communities can unify and commemorate an anniversary such as this one.

I borrowed some of the wording from the existing 400 Year Commission bill written in recognition of 1619. That event had nothing to do with New York. If we want to recognize the quadricentennial of slavery in New York, we should have a 2026 commission. There still is time to create one.


The 1619 Quadricentennial Commission bill ironically was passed by the Senate and Assembly on June 19, 2019. That passage was not in recognition of Juneteenth, it just happened to be the final day of the 2019 legislative session. The bill then went to the Governor where it sat until December. Needless to say, this commission which had no funding and was for an anniversary which already had occurred in August 2019, already was behind schedule. A revised bill to give the Governor more power was passed in January 2020 with a new expiry date in June 2021. The commission was to have 15 members. I was informed in February, 2020, that these individuals had been selected.  The main issue left was arranging for the proverbial photo-op. In March, of course, everything changed. To the best of my knowledge, nothing has happened since. Given that the commission has not been formed, it expires in less than a year, it commemorates an event already a year late, and the events that have transpired since then, it seems unlikely that this commission will ever amount to much.


My first blog on Juneteenth was back in 2016 (Forgetting July 4, 1827). My concern was that an event in Texas that had nothing to do with New York was being celebrated while New Yorkers were generally ignorant about 1827 when slavery legally ended here. Flash forward to 2020 and suddenly Juneteenth became a national story. As a result of George Floyd and a proposed campaign rally in Tulsa, everybody became aware of Juneteenth.

In New York, Juneteenth became a state-recognized holiday. The Governor issued an Executive Order stating so:


NOW, THEREFORE, I, Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, by virtue of the Constitution of the State of New York, specifically Article IV, section one, and the laws of the state of New York do hereby recognize June 19, 2020 as Juneteenth, which shall be a holiday for state employees, who if not required to work, shall be entitled to leave at full pay without charge to existing accruals and for those employees who are required to work, they shall receive one day of compensatory time.

So this year when we could not gather in groups, have parades, and when many people were home from work, Juneteenth was a holiday for state employees.


1827 was finally recognized this year in a bill that “Designates the second Monday in July each year as a day of commemoration, to be known as Abolition Commemoration day.” The title of the bill is:

An act to amend the executive law, in relation to the designation of Abolition Commemoration day as a day of commemoration.

It, too, has a Purpose and justification sections just as I had written for the 1827 commission.


 Establish a day of commemoration to be known as Abolition Commemoration Day in New York State which will be observed annually on the second Monday of the month of July. The commemoration day will solemnly remember the abolishment of slavery in New York State on July 4, 1827 and honor the bravery and sacrifices of abolitionists of the state; those known and those whose names will never be known.


The United States has a long, complicated, violent and lucrative history in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Our nation, including New York State, has never fully acknowledged or atoned for the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, nor has the State honored those leaders who fought to abolish slavery with a day of commemoration. By designating a day of commemoration, New York will commemorate the Abolition Act that was passed by New York State legislators on March 31, 1817, which abolished slavery in New York State effective July 4, 1827.

 While many enslaved Africans were ultimately taken to the southern colonies, New York State was a major importer of slave labor. In 1703, more than 42 percent of households in New York City had slaves – second behind Charleston, South Carolina – and slaves made up approximately 20 percent of New York City’s population. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, much of the State economy and institutions throughout New York State, were dependent upon and built on the backs of slave labor. Enslaved Africans lived their entire lives in captivity, never having experienced a moment of freedom, from birth to childhood, to adulthood and finally death. The wounds that were manifested for over 200 hundred years by oppressive government laws and regulations will never begin to heal until a meaningful, respectful, and earnest effort is made by the State of New York to start the healing process and honor those that fought for the abolishment of slavery.

 The American abolitionist movement started as early as the 1600s and was first led by the Quakers and Mennonites who held a belief that all human beings were worthy of equality and respect. However, it wasn’t until several decades later that the abolitionist movement started gaining support in New York State. In New York, there were many voices who called for the abolishment of slavery, some called for a gradual end like those of the New York Manumission Society.  While others called for an immediate end. The literary works produced by abolitionists helped grow and sustain the antislavery conversation and gain widespread public support. Abolitionists John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish established the first African American newspaper in the United States, “Freedom’s Journal,” in New York, which was also established during the same year slavery in New York was abolished.

 Additionally, a number of abolitionist newspapers were published by African Americans, such as “The Elevator,” published in Albany, New York by Stephen Myers and backed by Horace Greely (sic), Garret Smith and other white abolitionists. Steven Myers and his wife Harriet Johnson also operated the Albany Station of the Underground Railroad, which helped fugitive slaves make their way to Canada and was known as the most-organized section of the Railroad. The great Frederick Douglass was also well-known for his publication, “The North Star,” as well as his famous speeches.  Others, like Sojourner Truth used their voices to advocate nationally for the abolishment of slavery and to ensure that the contributions and plight of women was included in the narrative around emancipation. And while New York later came to be known as a free-state, many abolitionists like Harriet Tubman helped African slaves escape on the Underground Railroad throughout the country and specifically in New York State. Tubman and others also used their platforms in New York State to call for the abolishment of slavery throughout the United States.

 There were also countless documented and undocumented uprisings by enslaved Africans who fought for their freedom and the many unsung heroes who spoke out against slavery when it was unpopular and dangerous to do so. For these people, New York State owes a great debt and must acknowledge their sacrifices that contributed to a more unified and stronger state. The abolishment of slavery was not the result of one person’s doing, rather it was a collective movement.  Nothing can remove the generational damages created as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. However, a civilized state can do no less than set aside one day a year to honor the brave abolitionists and atone for having engaged in the process of maintaining an exploitative, abusive, slavish society for countless generations.

There is a lot of good material here. Certainly a lot more than I included in my one-paragraph narrative. It makes me wonder which politically-active slavery historian(s) might have written/contributed to it.

Before getting too excited, it is worth noting the commemoration days in the existing law which this bill amends. See how many you recognize.

January sixth: Haym Salomon Day
January twenty-seventh: Holocaust Remembrance Day
February fourth: Rosa Parks Day
February fifteenth: Susan B. Anthony Day
February sixteenth: Lithuanian Independence Day
February twenty-eighth: Gulf War Veterans’ Day
March fourth: Pulaski Day
March tenth: Harriet Tubman Day
March twenty-ninth: Vietnam Veterans’ Day
April ninth: POW Recognition Day
April twenty-seventh: Coretta Scott King Day
April twenty-eighth: Workers’ Memorial Day
first Tuesday in May: New York State Teacher Day
May seventeenth: Thurgood Marshall Day
first Sunday in June: Children’s Day
June second: Italian Independence Day
June twelfth: Women Veterans Recognition Day
June nineteenth: Juneteenth Freedom Day
June twenty-fifth: Korean War Veterans’ Day
Second Monday in July: Abolition Commemoration Day
August twenty-fourth: Ukrainian Independence Day
August twenty-sixth: Women’s Equality Day
September eleventh: Battle of Plattsburgh Day” and also to be known as “September 11th Remembrance Day
September thirteenth: John Barry Day and also to be known as “Uncle Sam Day in the State of New York
September seventeenth: Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben Memorial Day
third Friday in September: New York State POW/MIA Recognition Day” except if such date of commemoration cannot  be  observed  due to a religious holiday, such observances shall then be conducted on the second Friday of September
last Saturday in  September: War of 1812 Day
fourth Saturday of September: Native-American Day
last Sunday in September: Gold Star Mothers’ Day
October fifth: Raoul Wallenberg Day
October eleventh: “New Netherland Day in the State of New York
October eighteenth: Disabilities History Day
October twenty-seventh: Theodore Roosevelt Day
November ninth: Witness for Tolerance Day
November twelfth: Elizabeth Cady Stanton Day
third Tuesday in November to be known as “New York State School-Related Professionals Recognition Day
November thirtieth: Shirley Chisholm Day
December third: International Day of Persons with Disabilities
December seventh: Pearl Harbor Day
December sixteenth: Bastogne Day
day of the Asian lunar calendar designated as new  year  to  be known as “Asian New Year”

I confess that I was not aware that New York State had all these official dates of commemoration. It makes me wonder what exactly the State does on these days. It also makes me realize once again that we need a robust New York State Historian Department with the staff and resources commensurate with the responsibility of commemorating New York State history.

Before returning to 1827, let me mention once again the other event that frequently is mentioned in connection with this subject – Amistad. No, I am not referring to the failed New York State Amistad Commission. It lingers on as a defunct website that no one puts out of its misery. Instead I am referring to the active and robust New Jersey Amistad Commission which puts New York to shame.

The Amistad Commission Virtual Summer Institute Professional Development Course

The Amistad Commission – NJ Department of Education is excited to launch our inaugural on-line class, our virtual Summer Curriculum Institute Course for Educators and Administrators. Please join us.

This summer’s online course will include virtual experiential learning, primary and secondary resources, lectures, multimedia presentations, curriculum development, and teaching strategies, lesson plan writing and methodology structuring sessions, we will assemble NJ K-12 teacher, content specialist, administrators, and community stakeholders together enlisting expert scholars in the varied topic areas of each lecture.

 As a condition of acceptance and full attendance teacher-scholars may: • earn up to 40 professional development credit (CEU) and • design curriculum materials. In addition, all teachers completing the training must develop lesson plans and structure content for their classrooms and agree to serve as their school and/or district resource. The Amistad Commission highlights and trains teachers every Summer on the usage of the Amistad Commission on-line textbook and model curriculum in support of the legal mandate for the teaching of American History infused with the African narrative, the web-based curriculum resource for k-12 classrooms; “An Inclusive Journey Through American History” which is available free of charge to every NJ school ( All teachers registered for the on-line course are expected to turn-key all information and resources within their respective districts as a condition of their course admittance.

The New Jersey example reveals what can be done if one goes beyond designating days and appointing commissions for show.

The Underground Railroad Consortium of New York State is pursuing an 1827 commission also.

If New York State ever got serious about celebrating its own history we need commissions of substance and resources for:

2024: 100th  anniversary Indian Citizenship Act
2025: 200th anniversary Erie Canal (which already is underway)
2026: 400th anniversary of beginning of slavery in New York
2026-2033: 250th anniversary of the American Revolution (which already is underway)
2027: 200th anniversary of the end of slavery.

August 28, 2020, marks the 8th anniversary of the Path through History Conference held in Albany to launch that initiative. You are keeping track aren’t you?  I am holding the paperweight from that event plus a NYS Executive Mansion napkin I took as a souvenir from the reception held there. In his plenary address, Ken Jackson said New York State was doing a lousy job touting its own history. What’s changed in eight years?

Play Ball: The Tulsa Template for Professional Sports

Tulsa Shows the Way (

The Tulsa template for professional political wrestling provides the way for professional sports to return to action. Since March, professional sports have ceased. Sports headed towards season-ending championships including at the college level came to an abrupt halt. Sports warming up for the coming season never got started. Tournaments were rescheduled or vanished for the 2020 year. The U.S. Open (tennis) aims for a regularly scheduled tournament this summer with no fans. It seems it also won’t have some of the top male players either and who knows if players will be willing to travel to New York. The U.S. Open (golf) coincidentally is scheduled this summer for New York as well. It plans to play but with no word on whether or not spectators will be allowed and if so, how many. Meanwhile, everyone holds their breath for Friday Night Lights high school football, Saturday college football, and Sunday-Monday-Thursday professional football.

The Tulsa template this June 20 shows how games can be played with full attendance. The model is for an indoor arena so surely it will work outdoors as well. The model is for 20,000 people so it certainly will work for smaller crowds and should work for larger crowds outdoors in larger arenas. Real men don’t wear masks and real Americans don’t get COVID-19 so since sports fans are real men and real Americans there is no risk there. Besides as everyone knows the coronavirus is yesterday’s news. It’s over…but just in case, make sure that all attendees sign an insurance waiver so we don’t go bankrupt!

Here is a model that all professional sports can follow. Once again, the very stable genius has solved a problem the so-called experts have failed to solve. Remember how he solved the problem of forest fires in California: MAKE AMERICA RAKE AGAIN. Remember how his uncle was a supergenius. Remember how Little Donnee Disinfectant visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and said:

I really get it. Maybe I have a natural ability.

Seriously, wouldn’t the world be a better place if he had become a scientist. Think of all the discoveries he would have made.

Tulsa is just the start of the summer and fall political campaign. It shows that a full season of sports events can be scheduled as well. Of course, matches only can be held in Trumpican states. The New York Yankees will be unable to play in New York as long as the Democratic New York State Governor follows the advice of real scientists. The Yankees will have to play their games in a Confederate State. Similarly, the New England Patriots will have to follow their former quarterback south if it wants to play. The Republican Massachusetts Governor is not a Trumpican.  At this point, no one knows if professional sports will follow the example of the professional political wrestling and conduct their seasons in the South. But they will know that they can and the fans will demand it.

So as things stand, America can look forwarded to a summer of rounding up Trumpicans and herding them into arenas. While there, they will breathe on each other for hours, inhale each other’s droplets, and prove that the so-called scientists don’t know what they are talking about. Anthony Fauci has complained of an anti-science bias in America (see Darwin and COVID-19: Science in America). Now there will be an opportunity for Trumpicans to expose the fallacies of Fauci and the medical advice on the coronavirus. Once that happens, it will be PLAY BALL for college and professional sports.

The Trumpican rallies can be seen as a counter to the post-George-Floyd protests that have rocked the land. And these rallies probably will be without the physical violence that has occurred elsewhere….unless you are a black female reporter with a mask! One should anticipate a rip roaring fusillade of insults to come gushing forth. Look how long it has been since he has been able to deliver a full-throated performance.

Regardless of your personal views, we are witnessing an historic event. If the accounts of 800,000 people wanting tickets to attend are accurate, that is an extraordinary event in American history. It is reminiscent of the attendance in the Great Awakening with George Whitefield. This is not a Frank Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, or Woodstock event. Trumpicans are not attending for mere entertainment. They are attending for hope and salvation.

Hundreds of thousands of people are eager to see their Lord and Savior, the Chosen One, Blessed Be his Name. They are more than willing to sign insurance waivers because of their complete faith that the coronavirus is gone and couldn’t affect them anyway. They are here because they support the last line of defense against chaos. Only one person stands between the America they love and the total breakdown of society. They can see the foreigners all around them eager for the chance to take over the country after the rigged November elections. They know how perilous the situation is.

We can anticipate from now to November, the arenas of the country will rock to “Four More Years (at least!), Make American Great Again Again, Save the country, Lock her up, Build a wall, Deep State. Maybe some new material will be tested to see what works. The drumbeat over rigged elections will start now. It will be repeated incessantly. By the time of the actual election, Trumpicans will know the one and only way their Savior can lose is if the game is rigged.

For Little Donnee Wannee, these professional political wrestling matches are a matter of life and death. His life and his death. He has been cooped up in the White House for far too long. He needs the energy of the crowd roaring as he does the penguin walk, mocks Biden, and distributes free bottles of disinfectant to anyone who wants it. He needs their energy to sustain him against the Socialist Democrats, to sustain him against John Bolton, to sustain him against his niece.

The stakes are quite high.

P.S. We need to clarify the issue of Juneteenth and the Tulsa riots. When I first heard about the June 19 scheduling, I never considered that it was a racist act. I know anti-Trumpers were quick to jump to the conclusion that the racist bigoted president had just committed a doubly offensive act. My reaction was quite different. It never occurred to me that anyone in the White House [except a black Secret Service agent] even knew about Juneteenth or Tulsa. We are dealing with a person who blames the Baltic states for the breakup of Yugoslavia, who thinks the Canadians burned down the White House in the War of 1812, who thinks 306 Electoral College votes is a landslide. If your first reaction is that his decision was a racist action and not the action of a genuinely ignorant person then you are no better than someone who didn’t know Britain was nuclear armed and that Finland was an independent country. Just because he is a racist does not mean all his actions are racist. Sometimes they are just those of an ignorant person. Tulsa on the 19th was one such example. To those who criticized the racist action, the proper response is FAKE NEWS!