Historian of the American Revolution, Thomas Fleming, died

American Historian and Historical Novelist, Thomas Fleming (July 5, 1927 – July 23, 2017)


“Novelists focus on the intimate side of life. This is the first time anyone has looked at the intimate side of the lives of these famous Americans, with an historian’s eyes.” Fleming said with regard to Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers, which examines the roles of women in the lives of these early leaders

Thomas Fleming was an historian and former president of PEN America and the Society of American Historians. When his tenure as president of PEN ended, he remained active in its Freedom to Write program. Fleming chaired the New York American Revolution Round Table and was an honorary member of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati. Fleming died last month on the 23rd.  He is survived by his wife, writer Alice Hoffman (literature and fiction, young adult, magical realism).

Thomas Fleming’s work reflects the foci of his interests –  the American Revolution and military history – with books including Liberty! The American Revolution And The Future Of America, Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the History of America and Washington’s Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge.

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ABOUT THE POET BY DAY

Footprints In Your Heart, Eleanor Roosevelt’s wisdom poem

Anna "Eleanor" Roosevelt from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3c08091.

Anna “Eleanor” Roosevelt from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division, ID cph.3c08091.

The White House Portrait of Mrs. Roosevelt painted by Douglas Chandor, 1949

The White House Portrait of Mrs. Roosevelt painted by Douglas Chandor, 1949

539px-eleanor_roosevelt_signature-svg

Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (32nd President of the United States,  is often referred to as an iconic first lady, as someone who changed the rules. She was active politically, advocated for social justice and human and civil rights, wrote and gave speeches, formed a White House press corp of women reporters and photographers and was the first Chair of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women (under John F. Kennedy). She is the gold standard for the first ladies who follow her.

 More details Roosevelt with the Spanish version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms.

Mrs. Roosevelt with the Spanish version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms.

One of the projects Mrs. Roosevelt was most proud of was the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which included her husband’s four freedoms:

  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of worship
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear

These are from what is known as President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech, which was his 1941 State of the Union address. He proposed these freedoms for everyone “everywhere in the world.”

Mrs. Roosevelt’s poem, Footprints in Your Heart, is chock full of wisdom, high ideals and good advice.  If you’ve never read it before, I hope you enjoy it here. If you have read it before, I know you’ll enjoy reading it again. It is not the most well-written poem or  perhaps it’s collection of her sayings that someone might have put together as a “poem.” Either way its sentiment is refined and there lies its value.

Footprints In Your Heart

Many people will walk in and out of your life,
But only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.

To handle yourself, use your head;
To handle others, use your heart.

Anger is only one letter short of danger.

If someone betrays you once, it is his fault;
If he betrays you twice, it is your fault.

Great minds discuss ideas,
Average minds discuss events,
Small minds discuss people.

He who loses money, loses much;
He who loses a friend, loses much more;
He who loses faith, loses all.

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature,
But beautiful old people are works of art.

Learn from the mistakes of others.
You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.

Friends, you and me.
You brought another friend,
And then there were three.

We started our group,
Our circle of friends,
And like that circle –
There is no beginning or end.

Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is mystery.
Today is a gift.

That’s why it’s called the present.

Eleanor Roosevelt

The photographs here were all taken as documentary record by government photographers and as such are in the public domain.


2015, Kevin Young at Library of Congress National Book Festival September 5, 2015 Washington, DC, by fourandsixty, CC BY SA 2.0

2015, Kevin Young at Library of Congress National Book Festival September 5, 2015 Washington, DC, by fourandsixty, CC BY SA 2.0

The recommended read for this week is The Art of Losing by Kevin Young.  I find this to be an extraordinarily beautiful anthology about grief and recommend it for all those who work with living and dying, clergy of all faiths, hospice workers, physicians and nurses as well as those grieving a lost family member or friend. It was conceived and edited by Kevin Young, a poet in his own right and the editor of four poetry anthologies. His book Jelly Roll: A Blues was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It won the Paterson Poetry Prize.

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Notes on Yesterday’s Phone Conference with Rev. Barber, “The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear”

The Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II is president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, pastor at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and founder of Repairers of the Breach.

The Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II is president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, pastor at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and founder of Repairers of the Breach.

Yesterday the call went out to clergy and lay leaders for a telephone gathering to discuss the U.S. presidential orders issued during the first week of the new administration, which I notice lately some are calling a “regime.” These orders are efforts to undermine voting rights, encourage racism and sexism, and to punish sanctuary cities.The concern is that if we don’t respond immediately to these threats, they will become the new normal.

The Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and author of The Third Reconstruction, Catherine Orsborn of Shoulder to Shoulder, Standing with American Muslims: Upholding American Values and Valerie Kaur presented. Valerie is an award-winning filmmaker, civil rights lawyer, media commentator, Sikh activist and interfaith leader who uses storytelling much as we use poetry – for social change.

The emphasis of the discussion was:

  • solidarity,
  • the upholding of American ideals, and
  • rapid response.

The combination of noise on the line and my hearing made it difficult for me to track the entire conversation, but as best I could determine among the encouraged actions were:

  • Frequent phone calls to members of Congress. Numbers for the members of the House of Representatives are HERE. Numbers for the Senate members are HERE.
  • Exercise resistance in our own spheres. Use social media and take part in local resistance efforts.

Rev. Barber said this is a historic moment but not a new moment in terms of extremism and hate and not the worst moment.

“In the great stream of injustice down through the ages, this is not the worst thing we have suffered. To say so is to dishonor those whose lives were dishonored in holocausts, lynchings and Jim Crow [and other human abuses].” 

Nonviolent civil disobedience is encouraged. Rev. Barber advises self-purification, prayer, and fasting to prepare for moral resistance, for nonviolent direct action against immoral public policy agenda at the state and federal levels. Suggestions for these processes are to be found at Repairers of the Breach.

“Now is not a time to wait and see. Now is a time for action.”

Here is a video in which Rev. Barber gives us some background on the Third Reconstruction and its place in history. It’s worth your time. (if you are reading this via an email subscription you will have to link through to the site to view the video) 

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The photograph of Rev. Barber and the description below it are from his Amazon page.


51qqbcpwhul-_sx332_bo1204203200_The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II is this week’s recommended read.  If you plan to purchase this book and use the link here it will help to support this site.
Thank you!

I, too, sing America … Langston Hughes poem at the opening of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African American History and Culture, opens September 24, 2016

National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Opens September 24, 2016

AMERICAN POETRY: Langston Hughes’ I, too, sing America will be used in the opening ceremonies on Saturday for the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian in DC.

The poem predates the Civil Rights Movement by about ten years:

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.

– Langston Hughes

The website with details on the grand opening is HERE.

The photograph is by Fuzheado under CC BY-SA 4.0 license