Sunday, November 12, 2017

Moving Forward: Civil Rights

Jim Crow Laws (noun): Legislation enacted in southern states after emancipation to restrict Black rights and enforce segregation.
Following the Civil War, many white southerners were not happy with the end of slavery. In order to keep the peace, a series of new laws were created, commonly known as the Jim Crow Laws. These laws worked well for the south for a time, but eventually the African Americans that it restricted acted out against them.
Rosa Parks, after having attended a school in Tennessee for labor activism and civil rights, was inspired to challenge the Jim Crow system, which had limited her all throughout her life. On December 1, 1955, Parks refused to move seats on a segregated bus. This action inspired E.D. Nixon, head of the NAACP, not only to challenge the Montgomery bus law, but “to bring the national spotlight upon Jim Crow, believing -accurately, as events proved- that a system that had grown up in the regional shadows of Southern life couldn’t long survive the glare of national television cameras” (H.W. Brands, American Dreams, 87). Nixon started a boycott of the bus system, putting Martin Luther King Jr. to lead. The APUSH theme of “Peopling” fits with Rosa Parks’ actions and the following boycott because it shows how people throughout America had the ability to act and change the country over time. This boycott and other events regarding the rights of African Americans began unfolding as Nixon had suspected. In the novel American Dreams, H.W. Brands details, “The city refused to relent, and the impasse stretched into the spring and then summer of 1956. Only after the Supreme Court intervened, ruling in November that the Montgomery ordinance violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, were King and the boycotters able to declare victory. The city acted vindictively petty in defeat, fining King $85 for violating a special anti-boycott measure. On principle he refused to pay and kept the boycott going. The city backed down, and in December 1956, more than a year after it began, the Montgomery boycott ended" (88).
Notice that this boycott occurred in the South.
Another racial conflict happened February 1960 in North Carolina. A few college students from an all-black school walked into Woolworth’s department store and sat at the lunch counter that was reserved for whites only. The employees were bewildered by this and did not know how to react. Finally the manager closed the store in an attempt to resolve the issue. However, the conflict carried over to the next day and many days that followed as blacks gathered to silently protest, and all throughout the South dozens of “sit-ins” occurred. This resulted in much violence, as white crowds gathered around the protestors and disrespected them by shouting and even physically assaulting. Due to all of the chaos, the movement received national attention regarding the Jim Crow system, although it did not solve all of the problems.
This movement occurred in the South.
Many other conflicts and movements, such as Sweatt v. Painter and CORE’s sponsored “Freedom Ride” (when blacks tested Supreme Court’s ban of segregating the interstate buses and trains by riding them), took place in the South. Why is it that a majority of the African American-related conflicts happened in the South and not often in the North? One key point is that slavery was majorly an issue for the South compared to the North. The Americans in the South have always had a different perspective on African Americans, so when laws got changed, it took a longer time to adjust.

Even after the Civil Rights Movement, blacks weren’t always seen equally. Laws were changed and restrictions lifted, but people were still racist towards other ethnicities, and still are today. With all that this country has been through, all the voices spoken out and sacrifices made, what will it take for Americans to treat each and every citizen equally?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

In the Middle of the Money

America is known for several things. If I were a foreigner, I would associate America with words such as freedom and patriotism, but would also think of the less significant things like the fast food McDonalds. However, when thinking of the economy, instantly, the middle class comes to mind, and there’s reason for that. The middle class is what runs our country’s economy. Why is this? According to the novel American Dreams by H.W. Brands, “Starting around the beginning of World War II the disparity between the wealthy and the rest of America diminished drastically. Wartime taxes took much of the income of the really rich, and jobs in war industries boosted incomes of wage workers” (79). Due to World War II changing up citizens’ money situations, many people became middle class citizens. Even today the United States’ economy is made up of roughly 50% middle class residents. This is easily relatable to the APUSH theme of “Identity” because America is largely known for it’s huge middle class economy, and it all got started in the mid 1900s.
The United States had a huge middle class economy throughout the 50s, 60s, 70s, and even up till now. Brands states, “...most Americans came to consider themselves middle class. Some distinguished between the blue collars of the factory floors and the white collars of the office suites, but equally often the former were thought of as lower middle class and the best-compensated of the latter as upper middle class” (79). If there was upper middle class and lower middle class, then why isn’t there just an upper class and a lower class? Sure, in America that does exist, but most people are a part of the middle class, and not so much the other two. Why do we focus so much on the middle class?
That question has been asked by many different people as has it been answered by many, but the results are too diverse to prove that one answer is correct. There are many other topics to discuss on the issue of the middle class though that are not left unanswered. In the book American Dreams, it tells that because of the large middle class, “Americans thought they were equal because they were equal -at least much more equal than they had been in their recent history” (80). Since a majority of United States citizens were part of the middle class, they felt equal with each other. Although there was an upper and lower branch inside the middle class, they were all middle class nonetheless and felt uniform.  “In the 1950s factory workers and office workers alike earned enough money to support a thoroughly respectable middle-class lifestyle” (80).Since the 1940s, the middle class has been the backbone of the United States; it supported the American economy well and it still does to this day.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Look into the 50s

       When one thinks of the 1950s, images of sock hops and poodle skirts may come to their mind, but what about all the horrors? The fifties weren’t all sunshine and rainbows, they had real problems as well.
       Let's take it back to a town in West Virginia known as Wheeling. The day is February 9, 1950 and Joseph McCarthy gets up to give a speech before the Ohio County Women's Republican Club. It is during this speech (known as “Enemies From Within”) that McCarthy claims to have a list of government workers who are communist. That accusation is just the beginning of what will tear apart many American citizens’ lives as fingers are pointed at them for supporting communism. This movement is known as McCarthyism.
Communism was a serious problem in the world during this time period, so calling people out as Communists was a huge deal. Those that were accused would lose almost everything: their job, their friends, their reputation, all of it. One issue inside of McCarthyism is that Joseph McCarthy would accuse a large number of people, and everyone else believed him. But why would they listen to him? What gives him the authority to waltz around the country destroying others’ lives? Well, that’s just the case; he didn’t have authority to do any of this, he used the tactics of knowing what was going through a majority of Americans’ heads during the time and acting on their thoughts and fears. In American Dreams, author H.W. Brands explains,
“McCarthy clearly tapped into anxieties current in the American psyche. Some of the anxieties were perfectly rational. Soviet communism was a threat. Spies did exist...Other emotions evoked by McCarthy were less directly connected to the communist question but no less effective in mobilizing political support” (53). McCarthy knew people were scared and vulnerable, which is just the time they will run to anyone who can bring comfort. Having people accused of being communists made Americans feel safer, knowing that with more exposed, less were out there.
With every communist charged and every life impaired, McCarthy gained even more power. The best APUSH theme for this situation is “Politics and Power”. McCarthy majorly affected politics as he claimed a large amount of people working for the Department of State were part of the Communist party. As people listened to McCarthy’s accusations, he gained more power and continued to impair the lives of innocent citizens. However, as we can tell by the fact that McCarthyism isn’t really around today, McCarthy’s power eventually came to an end. H.W. Brands describes to us in American Dreams, “In time McCarthy overreached, to no one’s great surprise. It was in the nature of his style that his allegations had to grow ever more outrageous, simply to retain the attention of the press and the public...McCarthy eventually assaulted the U.S. Army as an institution” (54). McCarthy didn’t know where his boundaries were, as it seemed he called people out left and right, and in the end it came back to bite him. After accusing the Army, Joseph Welch, special counsel for the U.S. Army, lashed out at McCarthy during a hearing about communism and following that, the awful days of McCarthyism came to an end.
As I read the chapter that highlights McCarthyism in American Dreams, I learned a lot about this movement and how out of hand it became. I enjoy reading about all the many details of big events in history that tend to get left out and I also love that I am increasing my knowledge on United States history, as I don’t read many nonfiction books. It is slightly hard to make it through each chapter being that there is a lot of detail and many words that I’m unfamiliar with in the book, but the outcome will be (and already has been) worth it and I am excited to continue to learn with every new page I turn.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The War that Never Ended

“Communism” was a word that you couldn’t use lightly in the late 1940s, not that you should now either, but because of this word, the “War that Never Ended” occurred. People were on one side or another; there was no in between. The sides were to be for or against communism; being for it meant supporting the Soviet Union and being against it meant being with America. As written in my current historical read, American Dreams by H.W. Brands, “By dividing the world rhetorically into communist and non communist spheres, Truman tended to confirm the actual division of the world. The United States had been trying to get the Russians out of Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe; Truman’s policy would give them an excuse to stay” (36). Even after World War II, the world was still split amongst itself with the idea of communism. President Harry Truman decided that communism wasn’t needed in existence so he got the United States involved with attempting to get it out. This applies to the APUSH theme of “America in the World” as the United States are intervening in the politics of the Soviet Union. This created what is known as the Cold War.
President Harry Truman was the leader of the United States of America at the time and he got things done the way he wanted. At one point, Stalin backed out of a promise he had made with the US president, which did not go over well with most Americans. H.W. Brands tells of how Truman handled the situation, “In the bluntest language he told Molotov that Moscow had better do what it had promised. The Soviet foreign minister was shocked. ‘I have never been talked to like that in my life,’ he said, according to Truman’s account. Truman retorted: ‘Carry out your agreements and you won’t get talked to like that’” (30). It’s so interesting that Truman would have the courage to talk to a leader, and a leader from one of America’s greater threats at that, with such a sassy and somewhat patronizing tone. There are many other places in chapter 2 of this book that show what people have to say and their point of views, and I find that so fascinating! There’s another man, by the name of Robert Taft, who took a different view than President Roosevelt on the topics of big governments and foreign affairs. He tried to keep America out of the second world war, and later “challenged Truman on the subject of military aid to Greece and Turkey” (36). Taft is another example of having a different point of view than most do.
Speaking of having contrasting views and bringing it back to communism, Truman and Stalin did not get along. That’s not all of it though, because it wasn’t just Truman and Stalin, it was the United States and the Soviet Union. There was a great separation between the two nations, all because of some silly perspectives. What caught my thinking was that nations don’t have 100% support on all their decisions, which means not everyone in Russia supported being communist, and vice versa for the United States, yet these two countries hated each other. It was the leaders that chose their country’s stance, not each individual, and yet the Soviets and the Americans did not get along. Why does it happen like that? Why do the individual decisions of each country's leader affect how each nation sees each other? Truman says that America is anti-communism and Stalin’s country is communist and suddenly everyone involved with that country is hated by the other. That’s not fair to the people who can’t speak out for themselves or even for those who just don’t care.
American Dreams has so much more to say about the Cold War, and that’s just Chapter 2. That’s what’s great about this book is that it’s a timeline, but not like some brief line that you skim over; no, it gives history from 1945 to present day in such unique detail. It keeps me drawn to the pages to find out what subject will be covered next and what stories will be told that the history books have forgotten to include. I’m enjoying this read and cannot wait to continue with it!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Just Keep Dreaming

We all have dreams. Some are as big as Martin Luther King Jr. when he preached about dreaming of an equal nation where blacks would be treated the same as whites. Others are as small as hoping your APUSH homework doesn’t keep you up past midnight...but, they are all dreams nonetheless. Dreams keep us going; they are a light at the end of the tunnel. People have had dreams since the beginning of time and they will continue to till the end. In the book, American Dreams by H.W. Brands, we see a glimpse of many dreams Americans have had and how those dreams have shaped our nation today.

What I think about the book so far is that it has potential. What I have read so far covers intriguing topics in depth, speaking of details most people wouldn’t know even existed. This book will definitely teach me a lot more about history than any of my history classes have so far.
One of the details I have learned regards healthcare. H.W. Brands, author of American Dreams, tells, “...companies turned to fringe benefits, among which employer-funded medical insurance proved the most popular. No one deliberately designed this system of linking health care to the workplace; ...But the result was that individuals and families came to expect that someone else -employers- would fund all or a substantial part of their health care.” (pg 17) Before reading this excerpt, I had little knowledge of the creation of healthcare, but now I have learned that not only did it come to be the way it is today in 1945, but also that it was by accident.
A new look at healthcare was just one of the changes of the 1940s that this book tells, and that’s what I love about this novel is it has so many little stories that complete the historical information I already know. It’s interesting to me how there are main points and huge events commonly talked about among our country and throughout classrooms in America, but then there are details and side-stories that I’ve never heard before that add so much color to the overtold events of history that often times seem black and white. For instance, we’ve heard about World War I, but have we heard how because of this great war a large number of African Americans moved to the north where they were able to find jobs that assisted our country in the war? And how because of that, Blacks had to live among Whites in tight areas which didn’t always work out well and many times resulted in conflicts such as when fighting broke out in Belle Isle and moved to mainland Detroit, requiring the presence of federal troops to break it up? I myself had never heard of these specifics before reading this book, but they are still a part of history and I’m glad I get to read more tales like it.
Setting aside these smaller stories real quick, let's look at the bigger picture. Of the seven APUSH themes given to me, my book American Dreams most relates to the theme of “America in the World” because (as of the first chapter) it has told a lot about military plans and how America interacted with the world back in the mid 1940s.
Anyways, back to the actual novel. As I read through I came across a passage that got me thinking. Brands quotes, “Roosevelt inherited a country almost incurably isolationist in its belief that America’s fate depended little on the fate of other countries. Slowly, painstakingly, he turned this attitude around…” (pg 17) This got me wondering: Had America been isolationists throughout their whole existence up to this point? I know that as the United States was first started, the founding fathers believed it would be best to keep out of the affairs of other countries, in order to keep their new nation running as smoothly as possible. However, I never really thought about when this isolationist mindset wore off; I didn’t think it lasted all the way to 1945. Sure, I wasn’t alive so it’s not super recent, but that was less than 100 years ago and in history’s eyes, that’s not too far back. The only America I’ve ever known has always been helping someone or teaming up against another country’s enemy, and other non-isolationist actions similar to those, so it was eye-opening for me to read that passage and realize the United States has changed a lot more than I thought.
-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -
That sums up the reflection I have of the first chapter of American Dreams by H.W. Brands. Basically, my opinion of it is overall positive and I’m going to continue to read it for my historical read.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Rise Up

     I'm back!! Wow, it's been a long time; hopefully my writing skills have improved since the last time I updated this…
     Let me start things off by saying I am not the best reader out there. I hate to break it to you, but I have lots and lots of homework and other activities that take up a majority of my time, so my reading occurs mostly while in English class. Since this blog has come around, however, I have been reading more frequently outside of class time (which may be the whole purpose of writing blogs.) I read a lot over the summer, especially compared to the amount I usually read during those three months. I'd say I read 7 books which is an accomplishment for my summer-self that never wants to do anything but watch Netflix.
     How I'm challenging myself in my reading right now is by 1- reading new genres and not just sticking to my favorite YA Fiction books, 2- not falling asleep while reading books that I am not particularly enthralled with (you'd think I'm kidding, but it's a struggle of mine,) and 3- writing these book blogs because I don't ever find myself thinking deeply about a specific passage and then writing a long reflection about it for the world (or maybe just my teacher) to see. Along with these challenges, there's also the aspect of reading comprehension and speed. I'm not the fastest reader I'll admit, and my comprehension isn't at its finest as I get easily distracted and occasionally have to read a passage multiple times before fully understanding the message the author is attempting to convey. Despite these obstacles, I'm excited to see how my approach to reading changes over the course of this year as I push myself to step out of my comfort zone.
     Now onto the book part of my blog.
     Recently, I started reading a historical fiction novel written by Ruta Sepetys called Between Shades of Gray. I have yet to finish it, but from the pages I've read so far, it is a really intriguing story.
     One part of the story is telling how one of the characters, Andrius, had run off from the trains they had been imprisoned in to find his father, which resulted in being beat horrendously by the Soviet soldiers. As he returns to the rest of the prisoners, his friend (and the main character of the book) Lina takes care of him. She is very angry with the Soviets and concerned for her own people as she wonders what lies ahead.
     “‘How could they do this?’ I asked aloud. I looked around the train car. No one spoke. How could we stand up for ourselves if everyone cowered in fear and refused to speak?” (55)
Later in the book, as they arrive at the camp they are to be staying at, Lina’s mother gets pulled aside by a Soviet soldier. As she returns briefly, Lina and her brother are nervous; for why would the Soviets need their mother? After being put into a meeting with those in charge of the camp, Lina’s mom explains what had previously occurred.
     “‘They want me to work with them,’ said Mother… ‘I'm not going to be their translator,’ said Mother. ‘I said no. They also asked me to listen to people's conversations and report them to the commander.’” (114)
     These two quotes contrast with each other. In the first one, Lina is worried about standing up for herself and everyone around her. In the second, they realize that they can't let the Soviets constantly push them around and they speak out for themselves. I chose these quotes because I feel it is important to stand up for yourself. Even though it can be hard, it will (more likely than not) be beneficial to you.
     A main idea of this text is standing up for yourself (and others) and what you believe in. This theme reminded me of the song “Rise” by Katy Perry. Some inspirational lyrics in the song are as follows,
     “I won't just survive
     Oh you will see me thrive
     Don't be surprised
     I will still rise.”

Rise by Katy Perry - AZ Lyrics

     This sums up perfectly that we can have determination and courage to stand up for what's right. I know it can be hard, but I also know it can be worth it!

MLA: Sepetys, Ruta. Between Shades of Gray. Philomel Books, 2011.
MLA: Perry, Katy. “Rise.” AZ Lyrics, 2016.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Music is the Voice of the Soul

Welcome back! Good news! I've started reading my AP book! I know, you were all worried... ;)
Well, besides that, I have a confession to make; since we just got back from Christmas break, I haven't done that much reading. I've only been reading this book from the AP list, Never Let Me Go. Let me tell you though, as for challenging myself with reading, this has been the book to do it! I feel like it's written more maturely/professionally, if that makes sense. The author, Kazuo Ishiguro, uses lots of words I've never heard before and comprehension of this book is more difficult than usual. It's just more difficult, I don't really know how to explain it, but I can tell that it came from an adult's mind.
I've been talking up this book so much, maybe I better write about a passage I read.
"What made the tape so special for me was this one particular song: track number three, 'Never Let Me Go.' ....I was eleven then, and hadn't listened to much music, but this one song, it really got to me. I always tried to keep the tape wound to just that spot so I could play the song whenever a chance came by" (Ishiguro 70).
Kathy is talking about a cassette tape she had that was very significant to her. She lived at a boarding school and didn't have very many possessions, but this was one of the few and it meant the world to her. That specific song though, it had a special place in her heart.
Some music I listen to has a relatable meaning for me, like it did for her. For instance, the song "All We Are" by OneRepublic says, "We won't say our goodbyes, you know it's better that way, we won't break, we won't die, it's just a moment of change," When I was moving I had to say goodbye to lots of great people. It was hard for me, but then I heard this song and fell in love with it! What it meant to me was that I don't need to say goodbye to my friends because I will see them again, just in a little while, and also that it didn't matter where I went, they'd always be my friends and be there for me.
So, that passage up there is one of my favorites because I often find myself being able to connect with music and clearly, so does Kathy.

Thanks everyone for reading my blogs! It's been fun to relate to and comment on passages I've come across in my variety of books I've read! I'm ending English class pretty soon, so I'm not sure if I'll be back here posting for a while, but who knows, maybe you'll be surprised! Thanks, and keep reading!!!