Delta Blues Pilgrimage:

Photographs by Scott Ainslie
Exhibited In Lafayette & Lake Charles Galleries

[DATELINE: LOUISIANA, Spring & Summer 2011]

Scott Ainslie, blues musician, songwriter and scholar, was traveling through the Mississippi Delta in the Spring of 2010, when he shot the photographs that make up his “Delta Blues Pilgrimage,” currently on exhibit through August 20, 2011 at The Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center in Lake Charles, LA. The show was first exhibited at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette, LA. These are the first exhibits of Ainslie’s images and constitute his debut as a visual artist.

See photos of the show, and a slide show of the images
with captions at the Delta Blues Pilgrimage website.

Here we find the Tutwiler railroad tracks where W.C. Handy – the man billed as “The Father of the Blues” – first heard a slide guitarist in 1902. And then there’s Dockery’s Plantation where Charley Patton influenced three generations of bluesmen, the black river town of Friars Point, and the towns of Robert Johnson’s birth and death.

Ainslie first came to Louisiana more than a decade ago under the auspices of the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette where his work helped inspire the development of the Louisiana Crossroads concert series.

The Louisiana Crossroads season 11 series poster and program guide contain many of Ainslie’s images as well as his essay “The Walkin’ Blues: Tracing Robert Johnson.” 2011 marks the centennial of Johnson’s birth.

Ainslie appeared on stage in a live broadcast at Central School Theatre in Lake Charles in January 2011 with noted Louisiana songwriters/musicians David Egan and Sam Broussard as they retraced the life and music of blues legend Robert Johnson.

Ainslie is also the author of “Robert Johnson: At The Crossroads,” a book of transcriptions of Johnson’s recordings with annotated lyrics, an overview of Johnson’s biography, and historical notes.

Ainslie has released five solo recordings and produced “Care For All,” a benefit CD for the ‘Healthcare Is A Human Right’ campaign in Vermont. His latest CD, “Thunder’s Mouth,” features Lafayette’s own Sam Broussard on guitar.

Branford Marsalis and Friends:

 A Benefit for the NC Symphony

Branford Marsalis and Friends After the ball was over: (L-R) NC Symphony VP for Artistic Operations Scott Freck and Conductor/Musical Director Grant Llewellyn;  Musicians Joe Newberry, Branford Marsalis, Scott Ainslie and Phil Wiggins enjoy each other’s company at the reception following the Branford Marsalis & Friends Benefit for the NC Symphony. (photo: Michael Zirkle)

Marsalis Benefit for the NC Symphony raises $143,000

About a year ago, my friend Joe Newberry, began taking part in a series of conversations with the NC Symphony about broadening the symphony’s musical focus as a way of developing new fundraising opportunities. In addition to being a sturdy and brilliant old-time musician and songwriter, Joe also happens to be the Public Information Officer for the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

Facing $8 million in budget cuts this year, the North Carolina Symphony enlisted Branford Marsalis and his longtime collaborator, pianist and composer Joey Calderazzo to help them out with a ‘Branford & Friends’ sort of concert. A lot of the pieces were in place, but the artistic staff at the symphony thought that something else was needed to round out the program.

In late April, I got a message on my answering machine from Joe. He was apparently sitting with conductor Grant Llewellyn puzzling over what the last piece of the musical puzzle might be, when he thought of me.

“Scott: this is Joe, buddy. Listen, I’ve got a proposition for you – and I want you to say ‘Yes’ without thinking about it. Just say ‘Yes,’…..” and Joe briefly laid out the date, the players, and the cause.

Yes, was the word.

So, we emailed mp3 files and song ideas back and forth and came up with a program. When asked, I wrote that in a perfect world, I would love to hear Joey and Branford play “It’s Gonna Rain” with me, a song off my latest release, “Thunder’s Mouth,”– a paean to New Orleans. Branford’s a Breaux Bridge boy. I got friends – actually more family than friends – on Bayou Teche. It’s a song I hoped we could meet in.

We all assembled at Meymandi Concert Hall in downtown Raleigh at around 2:30 on the day of the show. And we rehearsed all afternoon. Really. Until almost 6:00.

These guys are good.

So, on the evening of June 8th, a sold out crowd of 1700 enjoyed a varied program featuring Marsalis playing original jazz pieces with Calderazzo, Mozart with the symphony’s string quartet, an old-time string band, a female gospel soprano, a blues singer-guitarist, and a harmonica virtuoso. The evening raised more than $140,000 as the symphony closed in on narrowing the budget gap with sacrifices from the musicians, donations from the corporate world, and the sustaining support of musicians, patrons and the community.

Under the title, “Jubilant Success for Marsalis Fundraiser,” on June 10th, NC Symphony President and CEO David Worters, wrote:

“From the first minutes of our June 8 benefit concert, I think everyone in that sold-out concert hall suspected they were in for a musical adventure like none other. Some three hours later, the audience knew that to be true, having heard an amazing array of music performed by some of the most brilliant artists in the world.

“I don’t know how to really do justice to what took place, so let me just start by saying thanks to everyone who played a role on stage: our leader Branford Marsalis and his stupefyingly talented pianist Joey Calderazzo, Joe Newberry and his incomparable string band Big Medicine, our NCS string quartet of Rebekah Binford, Karen Strittmatter Galvin, David Marschall and Bonnie Thron that played so beautifully, the unstoppable Phil Wiggins on harmonica, Tina Morris-Anderson and her heart-stopping vocals, our new best friend Scott Ainslie – and of course our own Grant Llewellyn: emcee, host, pianist (!), and guest vocalist.

“It’s truly impossible to cite just a few moments as the highlights of what took place on stage at Meymandi Concert Hall…the evening was a spell-binding musical journey and made for a remarkable tribute to an orchestra – the North Carolina Symphony – that these artists all share as a common passion.”

Worters went on to thank the corporate sponsors and community leadership for their support of the symphony and this particular concert.

Late in the second set, Branford, Joey Calderazzo and I (all with heartfelt connections to Louisiana) did play “It’s Gonna Rain”– my song about lost love in New Orleans and south Louisiana that morphed into a requiem for the city after Katrina. The poignancy of the piece has been amplified by the oil continuing to pour into the Gulf of Mexico and the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire. The performance was greeted with sustained applause.

At the end of the evening, I had the privilege of leading off with the first verse in an encore of Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times, Come Again No More,” with the full string quartet, Calderazzo on piano and Marsalis on sax, the string quartet and all hands on deck. Even Grant Llewellyn took a verse. The show closed in a torrent of applause.

We are all hoping to be able to work together again. There is already some talk of a Blues program with the full symphony down the road. And I’ll drive or fly anywhere to play with Joey and Branford again. Many new friends made on-stage and off. Musical meetings and friendships are rarely so easy, so quick, and so deep. So much good came of the evening, it’s hard to know where to start counting.

More pictures on the Symphony website.

Continue Reading

Acoustic Guitar Interview, June 2010

Acoustic Guitar Magazine, June, 2010
Examples online at http://acousticguitar.com

Profile: Scott Ainslie
By Doug Young

Like his music, Scott Ainslie is a study in contrasts.

A soft-spoken gentleman offstage, his performances use an aggressive, bluesy playing style to support his powerful voice. Both a music historian and modern-day bluesman, Ainslie can channel Robert Johnson with the best, and his own compositions seem to convey a deep appreciation of tradition and a sense of cultural roots.

His songs can be hauntingly beautiful or gritty and brash, but they are always thought provoking, whether he’s interpreting traditional tunes or contemplating current social and political issues through his compositions.

A thoughtful scholar and schooled musician, Ainslie has recorded five albums including his latest, Thunder’s Mouth, which features originals and songs by Son House, J.B. Lenoir, and others. He is also the author of a book, Robert Johnson: At the Crossroads, and a DVD lesson about Robert Johnson’s guitar techniques.

I talked to Ainslie about his approach to arranging, including the use of tension and contrast, while exploring his version of the traditional tune “Wayfaring Stranger,” which he arranged for his first album, Jealous of the Moon. Continue Reading

Kerrville Folk Festival, 2008

Scott Ainslie: FolkAtFestival.com Interview
Kerrville Folk Festival, 2008

http://folkatfestival.com/Interviews/SCOTTAINSLIE2008INTERVIEW.htm

The Land That I Love: Social Activism and Music

Scott at Kerrville 2008Scott had been instructing in the Blues Guitar Workshop for several days, but in his first appearance at Kerrville’s Kennedy Theater, he showed his other side, that of activist songwriter.

FAF: You have a new song, which you performed for your encore.

SCOTT: This was the first performance of the song.

FAF: And you haven’t decided on the title for this song?

SCOTT: I haven’t quite decided yet. It’s a song that begins with the NAFTA Treaty and its impact on Mexicans. And what NAFTA has done, there were deals cut under the table that weren’t advertised, and that lowered the tariffs on American corn getting into Mexico.

And so great big huge corporate farms are competing with little tiny, hand [tilled] farms – family farms – in Mexico. And of course they are undercutting the sale of corn that’s grown an acre away from the market.

And people can’t stay on their farms and so they’re walking through the Sonoran Desert out in Arizona and crossing the border to try and make some kind of a living while the corporations are raking the cream off the market in Mexico. So this song, the working title for me is, “The Land That I Love,” which, it really is written from a migrant’s point of view. And it felt good to sing it tonight. I think it’s a song that works. Continue Reading

The Artful Mind Interview

THE ARTFUL MIND MARCH 2007
Interview with Scott Ainslie
by Barbara Dean

Barbara Dean: In 1967, while still in high school, you heard Virginia bluesman John Jackson play for the first time.He became your friend and mentor.Can you describe his influence on you?

John Jackson was an unadvertised guest at a Mike Seeger concert for the folk club at Groveton High School in the spring of 1967. At the time, John dug graves for his living, collected Civil War bullets, buttons, belt buckles and things that he found digging graves (later using a metal detector) in the battlefields around his home in Fairfax Station, Virginia. He very quickly made his money playing music. He toured Europe and all over the US.

John was a kind and happy man. He was like a Black Buddha. He tended always to excuse any sort of slight or insult. More than just a coping skill for a Black man growing up in Virginia in the early 20th Century, this was his personal kindness showing through. He loved to laugh and tell stories. And musically, he was a wonderful and spirited player and performer. Continue Reading

The Graham Weekly Album Review #1385

(http://georgegraham.com/reviews/ainslie.html)Scott Ainslie: The Feral Crow
by George Graham(Cattail Music 2004 As broadcast on WVIA-FM 12/8/2004)

In the music business, it pays to be versatile, to be able to play different kinds of music, since the opportunities for performing in any single genre tend to be limited. But at the same time, this can be confusing to audiences, who tend to like their performers to play one kind of music and maintain the sound that was won those fans in the first place.

This week, we have a CD by a performer who shows his versatility by jumping from one style to quite another. Scott Ainslie’s new release is called The Feral Crow.

Scott Ainslie, who was formerly based in North Carolina but relocated to Vermont recently, has developed a reputation as a blues historian, being the author of a book on Robert Johnson and having produced an instructional video on Johnson’s guitar technique. His previous releases also tended toward traditional blues. But his new CD is very much in the singer-songwriter vein, imbued with some lyrics in the folk protest song tradition. It’s also a particularly fine example of an intelligent, literate singer-songwriter with very tasteful instrumental backing.

As Ainslie points out in an interview, before he got into playing the blues and being a blues historian, he had developed a reputation as an old-time style fiddle player and clawhammer banjo player, and said that before that, he was a folk musician. Now that comes around again on The Feral Crow, and the result is a memorable album that recalls the style of Richard Shindell, with Ainslie’s rich baritone voice and often powerful lyrics, touching on subjects from a motorcycle accident to the kidnapping of a South African human rights advocate, with even a couple of love songs.

He is joined by a excellent backing band of musicians from the Woodstock, New York, area, including bassist and producer Scott Petito, plus drummer Jerry Marotta, who has worked with people like Peter Gabriel, Marc Shulman on guitars, Peter Vitalone on keyboards, and Leslie Ritter, a fine singer-songwriter in her own right and formerly half of the duo Amy and Leslie, on backing vocals.

In Ainslie’s own publicity material for the CD, he notes that even though it is not the blues stylistically, the songs touch on some of the same subjects. But The Feral Crow is more expansive lyrically. These are songs that Ainslie has been working on for a long time, some of which go back to the 1980s. There are also some semi-topical songs, including a song for peace, and one about the aftermath of Vietnam. And musically the songs get into some fairly sophisticated territory that is a long way from three-chord blues.

The CD commences with a song called Exit 178. One needs to go to Ainslie’s website to find out the background behind the unconventional lyrics of this piece. It turns out that the title is a reference to an exit on Interstate 85 near Durham, North Carolina, where one night, as he was driving along, he came upon a motorcyclist who had had an accident and was lying on the road. Ainslie and his friend tried their best to stop traffic. <<>>

Perhaps the CD’s most pointed protest song is Don’t Obey, which Ainslie said was inspired by a line by author C.P. Snow, “More heinous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than ever have been committed in the name of rebellion.” He invokes some of the events of recent history in this powerful song. <<>>

In the more conventional area of a love song is Over Again, which seeks to take things back to the way they were before a breakup. <<>>

The title track The Feral Crow is another protest song, in this case about a particularly destructive mining technique in West Virginia, it speculates on how it affects one particular species of wildlife. Ainslie combined a spacey synthesizer ambience with his traditional clawhammer-style banjo. <<>>

Another song that was inspired by the news is It’s My World Too, about steelworkers in Pennsylvania who lost their jobs to the forces of globalization. <<>>

One of the highlights of the album is another song that takes up the topics addressed by protest singers over the years, the Vietnam War. In this case, it takes a more hopeful tone. The song is called Rice Grows Again in Vietnam, which was inspired by a refugee Ainslie got to know. <<>>

Another song that pretty much requires the explanation provided by Ainslie’s website is Confession. It’s about the kidnapping and murder of South African civil rights leader Stephen Biko. It was inspired by the South African Truth Commission, who was looking into the crimes of the apartheid era. In the case of Biko’s murderers, they never convicted. <<>>

Looking for a Rose is a tasteful philosophical song whose thesis that to get at the roses, you have to go through the thorns. <<>>

Bluesman Scott Ainslie has definitely made a stylistic shift on his new CD The Feral Crow, but it shows his versatility. Far from being a bluesy album, the new CD is a particularly fine example of the singer-songwriter genre, with Ainslie doing both jobs very well. His lyrics are articulate and often powerful, and his vocal style is pleasingly warm. Add that to the very tasteful backing musicians, and one has a memorable album even in the very crowded singer-songwriter field.

Our grade for sound quality is an unqualified “A.” It’s one of those now increasingly rare examples of great care being taken with the sonic presentation, and the temptation was resisted to pump up the volume on the CD. It’s a treat on a good sound system.

Irrespective of Scott Ainslie’s reputation in the blues, his new CD The Feral Crow shows that he can also be counted upon as another worthy example of how the current period has become the golden age of singer-songwriters, with new music rivalling anything from the Sixties or Seventies.

(c) Copyright 2004 George D. Graham. All rights reseved.
This review may not be copied to another Web site without written permission.

<<>> indicates audio excerpt played in produced radio review

Comments to George: gg@georgegraham.com

 

Michael Witthaus Interview, The Eagle Times 2004

Scott Ainslie at the Windham Tonight
by Michael Witthaus, The Eagle Times

It’s common knowledge that the vast majority of popular music owes a debt to American blues, but few have set about repaying it with Scott Ainslie’s sense of purpose.  He brings his musical teach-in to the Windham on the Square in Bellows Falls tonight at 8.

Ainslie, whose live shows channel the ghosts of Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt and other icons of the blues canon, explains that it’s “about redressing our musical history,” and acknowledging that he’s made a career in “a musical culture I wasn’t born in – I played my way in.  Presenting blues to non-blues audiences is 90 percent of the work I do,” and  he tries to “introduce songs in ways that open them up to audiences both emotionally and historically.” Continue Reading

Dave Madeloni Interview, 2004

Scott Ainslie: The Feral Crow
An Interview with Dave Madeloni, The Brattleboro Reformer

Dave Madeloni: You not only play the blues, but you study its history and are an educator. Can you talk about how the playing and the teaching interface, in your performances, in your approach to choosing songs to interpret and in writing your originals, etc.

My passion for playing came initially from John Jackson, a grave digger from Northern Virginia, playing in front of me back in 1967. In my experience, when a tradition is transferred, it’s always personal. Seeing it on TV, even hearing it on record doesn’t quite do it. Being with someone does.

Having a passion for something qualifies you as a fan, playing, and singing especially, require some sort of apprenticeship to the tradition. My field work with older musicians and the scholarship both inform my choices: what and how I play. But it’s always dangerous to mention the scholarship, people figure you can’t play. The expression that some people are fond of using about reading music and music theory may apply here, too: “I know about music theory and reading music, but not enough to hurt my playing.” Continue Reading

Acoustic Live! Interview, 2004

Acoustic Live! Interview with Scott Ainslie

It’s mid-November, 2003, and I’m sitting in the darkened Starlight Room of Kutscher’s Hotel & Resort. We’re listening to blues singer Scott Ainslie preface a performance of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroad Blues.” He’s one of the featured main showcase performers at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference. In the middle of the brightly lit, circular stage, he gives us the facts behind this classic blues song. Continue Reading

Don’t Obey

cd cover: the feral crow by scott ainslie©2003, Scott Ainslie
All Rights Reserved

(For information on the names and places in this song, click on the links below or scroll down for all of the historical background information.)

As it was in Hitler‘s Army and Stalin‘s awful crew,
Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Pearl Harbor, too;
Across the sweep of history–There’s a truth they never tell:
There’s more horror in obedience than there’d be if we’d rebel.

So, when they speak to you of glory, and colors bright and true;
And using words like ‘good & evil’ say it all comes down to you;
When they offer you a weapon and send you out into the fray,
Don’t Obey. Don’t Obey.
Don’t Obey.

From Selma to Sharpeville; Chicago to Bei Jing;
From Kent State to Tiananmen SquareWe cry out, we bleed.
But from Tolstoy to Gandhi; from Gandhi to King.
From Malcolm, and Mandela, and Biko to me.

So, when they speak to you of glory, and colors bright and true;
And using words like ‘good & evil’ say it all comes down to you;
When they offer you a weapon and send you out into the fray,
Don’t Obey. Don’t Obey.
Don’t Obey.

Aren’t those your loved ones–huddled against the wall?
Can you hear the windows shatter? Feel the building start to fall?
Something’s gone wrong with us all——-.
There’s shooting in the alley, footsteps in the hall.

If every sin were tallied, if every mother knew
Just exactly what they’re asking; exactly what you do;
How long do you think they’d stand there, with their hands by their sides?
Even all wrapped up in bunting–A lie is still a lie.

So, when they speak to you of glory, and colors bright and true;
And using words like ‘good & evil’ say it all comes down to you;
When they offer you a weapon and send you out into the fray,
Don’t Obey. Don’t Obey.
Don’t Obey.

Personnel:

Scott Ainslie
Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Scott Petito
Bass
Jerry Marotta
Drums, Percussion
Marc Shulman
Electric Guitars
Peter Vitalone
Piano, Hammond B3
Leslie Ritter
Harmony Vocals
Beth Reineke, Scott Petito, Scott Ainslie
Background Vocals

The song “Don’t Obey” began developing after a reading of Howard Zinn’s marvelous Declarations of Independence: Cross Examining American Ideology in the spring of 2003. It is a song in the Gandhian tradition of nonviolent engagement and finds some of its inspiration more recently from the Israeli military men and women – now numbering over 1,000 – who have refused to serve or bomb in the occupied territories.

Historical Background Information

Adolph Hitler
(1889-1945)

The National Socialist German Workers’ Party or NSDAP, known as the Nazi Party, controlled Germany from 1933-45. Nazis labeled and isolated Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals, political prisoners, and the mentally and physically disabled. Some were passively killed by starvation and widespread disease. Millions were murdered in attacks by the Gestapo, the SA, and the SS, in exterminations of the Einsatzgruppen in and around Nazi concentration, and later, death camps.

Although Adolf Hitler is often perceived as the chief perpetrator, there were others. Perpetrators were Nazi party leaders, bankers, professors, military officials, doctors, journalists, engineers, judges, authors, lawyers, salesmen, police, and civil servants. Perpetrators committed crimes against Jews and other undesirables for many reasons. They wanted power. They believed in an ideology of racial cleansing.

Hitler’s war against Germany’s domestic enemies was waged with court decrees, a continuous flow of propaganda, and ever present violence. His war with the world cost approximately 61 million lives.

The excuse they gave, which didn’t save them at Nuremburg was that they were just “following orders”.

For concise information on Hitler and on World War II death figures cited by country, check out:

Adolf Hitler Biography
World War II Fatalities

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin
(1879-1953)

At least ten million Russians lost their lives under Stalin’s dictatorship. Many were executed or starved to death at the concentration camps he set up in what became known as the Gulag Archipelago.

After the Russian revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks unleashed a wave of terror against their ideological enemies, including the church. Monasteries and churches were closed; the clergy was killed or sent to prison camps.

Stalin’s Death Camps

Joseph Stalin was the architect of the Gulag Archipelago, the system of labour camps, which emerged from the camp in the Solovetsky Islands. Many millions of innocent Russians would disappear in the camps. They were teachers, writers, priests, and workers; peasants and soldiers; men, women and children.

Between 1934 and 1938 Stalin inaugurated a massive purge of the party, government, armed forces, and intelligentsia in which millions of so-called ‘enemies of the people’ were imprisoned, exiled, or shot. His armies and social servants also took advantage of World War II to persecute Gypsies and other minorities, killing millions.

Joseph Stalin (1878-1953)

Hiroshima, Japan
8:15 a.m.
August 6, 1945
“Little Boy”

President Truman issued the order to use nuclear weapons on civilian cities in Japan, causing the deaths of more than 270,000 non-combatants.

It is believed that more than 140,000 people died in Hiroshima by the end of the year. They were citizens including students, soldiers, as well as Koreans who worked in factories within the city. The total number of people who have died due to the bomb is estimated to be 270,000.

The July 24, 1995 issue of Newsweek writes:

“A bright light filled the plane,” wrote Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb.

“We turned back to look at Hiroshima. The city was hidden by that awful cloud…boiling up, mushrooming.” For a moment, no one spoke. Then everyone was talking. “Look at that! Look at that! Look at that!” exclaimed the co-pilot, Robert Lewis, pounding on Tibbets’s shoulder.

Lewis said he could taste atomic fission; it tasted like lead. Then he turned away to write in his journal. “My God,” he asked himself, “what have we done?”  –Special Report, Hiroshima: August 6, 1945

Note: Paul Tibbets was Colonel, not “Lt. Colonel,” when he was the pilot of the Enola Gay.

The weapon, nicknamed ‘Little Boy’ generated an enormous amount of energy in terms of air pressure and heat. In addition, it generated a significant amount of radiation (Gamma ray and neutron radiation) that caused devastating human injuries.

The people who saw Little Boy expode often say, “We saw another sun in the sky when it exploded.” The heat and the light generated by Little Boy were far stronger than any bombs they had seen before. When the heat wave reached ground level it burnt everything before it, incinerating people, in some cases burning their shadows onto walls.

The strong wind generated by the bomb destroyed most of the houses and buildings within a 1.5 miles radius. When the wind reached the mountains, it was reflected and again hit the people in the city center. The shock wave and wind generated by Little Boy caused the serious damage to the city and people.

The radiation generated by the bomb caused long-term problems for those exposed. Many people died within a few months of the explosion, and many more in subsequent years because of radiation exposure. Some people had genetic problems which sometimes resulted in having malformed babies or being unable to have children at all.

There are many sites with photographs of the devastation caused by America’s use of nuclear weapons on civilian populations in Japan and the much disputed history of the historical circumstances surrounding the Truman’s decision to use these weapons in this way. Some are listed here:

Critical History:Hiroshima

http://www.enola-gay.org

A-Bomb WWW Museum

“A Personal Record of Hiroshima A-bomb Survival” by Takeharu Terao is available.

Nagasaki, Japan
11:02 a.m.
August 9, 1945
“Fat Man”

Just three days after the bomb was dropped to Hiroshima, the second atomic bomb called “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki. Though the amount of energy generated by the bomb dropped to Nagasaki was significantly larger than that of the Little Boy, the damage given to the city was slighter than that given to Hiroshima due to the geographic structure of the city. It is estimated that all told, by the end of the year, approximately 70,000 people died because of the bombing.

For more information:

A-Bomb WWW Museum

Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum site:

The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

President Truman’s decision to drop atomic weapons on Japan has become increasingly controversial as more and more documents have become available concerning the Japanese suing for a settlement of the war through Russian intermediaries and the like. For more information on this part of our history, check:

The Atomic Bomb – Truman’s Decision

 

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
December 7, 1941

Just before 8:00 a.m. on the morning of December 7, 1941, a secret Japanese strike force bombed Pearl Harbor damaging all eight battleships, sinking five, and killing more than 2,400 American soldiers and sailors. This attack, without any diplomatic formalities or warning, enraged American determination and brought the nation into the war.

The impact of the killing of American service personnel in this ‘sneak attack’, in the absence of any actual or declared hostilities, may have set the emotional stage for the lack of compassion evident in Truman’s decision to use atomic weapons on Japan. It seems we all must heed the notion that ‘those who live by the sword, will die by the sword.’

The US Department of the Navy maintains a site on the attack at:

Pearl Harbor Raid, 7 December 1941

Selma, AL
Bloody Sunday
March 7, 1965

Alabama Police confront the Selma Marchers

The Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights ended three weeks–and completed three events–that represented the political and emotional peak of the modern civil rights movement.

On “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965, some 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on U.S. Route 80. They got only as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge six blocks away, where state and local lawmen attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas, driving them back into Selma.

Two days later on March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a “symbolic” march to the bridge. Then civil rights leaders sought court protection for a third, full-scale march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery. Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., weighed the right of mobility against the right to march and ruled in favor of the demonstrators.

“The law is clear that the right to petition one’s government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups…,” said Judge Johnson, “and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways.”

On Sunday, March 21, about 3,200 marchers set out for Montgomery, walking 12 miles a day and sleeping in fields. By the time they reached the capitol on Thursday, March 25, they were 25,000-strong. Less than five months after the last of the three marches, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

For more on the Selma marches check:

Selma and Civil Rights
Selma to Montgomery March

Sharpeville, South Africa
March 21, 1960

At least 180 black Africans were injured (there are claims of as many as 300) and 69 killed when South African police opened fire on approximately 300 nonviolent demonstrators, who were protesting against the extension of the onerous pass laws to women, at the township of Sharpeville, near Vereeniging in the Transvaal.

Following the massacre, members of the Gandhian organization, The African National Congress decided that Gandhi’s tactic of nonviolent resistance and engagement was no longer working: every increase in nonviolent resistance was met with an increase in government violence and brutality. At this point, the ANC formed an armed wing, “Umkonto we Sizwe,” and began a campaign of sabotage aimed at damaging government infrastructure without taking human lives.

Many children were killed at Sharpeville and the Sharpeville Massacre, as it has come to be known was a turning point in the struggle to end Apartheid in South Africa. Excerpts of a contemporaneous article about the attack by the BBC are below. The entire article is available at:

BBC: On This Day

“Between 5,000 and 7,000 people had gathered at Sharpeville police station to protest against the pass laws, which they claim are designed by an apartheid government to seriously restrict their movement in white areas.

The laws, which require all black men and women to carry reference books containing their personal details including name, tax code and employer details, have this year been extended to all black women as well as men.

The law states that anyone found in a public place without their book will be arrested and detained for up to 30 days.

PAC leader, Robert Subukwe, said today’s march was intended to be the first of a five-day, non-violent campaign by black Africans to persuade the government to abolish the laws.

The aim was for all black Africans to leave their pass books at home and present themselves at police stations for arrest.

This, said Mr Subukwe, would cause prisons to become overcrowded, labour to dry up and the economy to grind to a halt.

But three hours after it began, the ‘peaceful’ gathering had turned into a blood-bath.

It is understood police attempted to disperse the crowd with a squadron of low-flying aircraft before drafting in extra reinforcements.

Police Commander D H Pienaar said: “It started when hordes of natives surrounding the police station.

“If they do these things, they must learn their lessons the hard way.”

Chicago, IL
August 26-29, 1968
Democratic National Convention

In 1968, the Democratic Party was split between people who backed Lyndon Johnson’s candidacy and that of Eugene McCarthy. The police in Chicago, under the orders from Richard J. Daley, longtime mayor and Democratic party boss, moved in with astonishing brutality to attack anti-war protestors.

The city police arrested and jailed the men who were to become known as the “Chicago Seven”. Eight indictments were handed down against David T. Dellinger, Rennard C. Davis, Thomas E. Hayden, Abbott H. Hoffman, Jerry C. Rubin, Lee Weiner, John R. Froines, and Bobby G. Seale for their involvement in the protests in Chicago and the men were tried before Judge Julius Hoffman.

Because of his outbursts in the courtroom, Bobby Seale’s case was severed from the other men, leaving the Chicago Seven to be tried as co-conspirators. They were represented by William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass.

On February 20, 1970, Judge Hoffman sentenced the convicted defendants.

On May 11, 1972, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the contempt convictions of the Chicago Seven and their two defense attorneys, Leonard Weinglass and William Kunstler.

On November 21, 1972, The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the convictions of Hoffman, Rubin, Dellinger, Davis, and Hayden.

The brutality of the Chicago Police Department brought national and international condemnation. Along with Bloody Sunday and the Selma Civil Rights Marches, the actions of Chicago Police in those times still stand as a black mark on the history of the City of Chicago, and a bench mark for police brutality and the abuse of government powers in the face of a popular movement.

The Chicago Seven conspiracy trial is well covered at:

Univ of Missouri Kansas City: Trial Transcripts

An excellent site for this is the free online encyclopedia:

Wikipedia: 1968 Democratic National Convention

Kent State
Kent, Ohio
May 4, 1970

  • On direct orders from an unknown officer with the Guardsmen that day, United States National Guard troops used live ammunition on student anti-war protesters on the campus of Kent State University on May 4, 1970.
  • A total of 67 shots were fired in 13 seconds, wounding and killing fulltime students of the University.
  • Four students: Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder were killed.
  • Nine students were wounded. Of the wounded, one was permanently paralyzed and several were seriously maimed.
  • Distance (in feet) between  students and the National Guard at the time of the shooting:
Student Distance in feet
Joseph Lewis, Jr. 71′
John R. Cleary 110′
Thomas Grace 200′
Alan Canfora 225′
Jeffrey G. Miller (fatality) 265′
Dean R. Kahler 300′
Douglas A. Wrentmore 329′
Allison B. Krause (fatality) 343′
James D. Russell 375′
William K. Schroeder (fatality) 382′
Sandra L. Scheuer (fatality) 390′
Robert F. Stamps 495′

A comprehensive history with photographs and interviews is maintained by the KENT MAY 4 CENTER, a non-profit educational charity based in Kent, Ohio.

Since 1989, the KENT MAY 4 CENTER has been recognized by the state of Ohio and the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt, non-profit, educational organization. Although the KENT MAY 4 CENTER was organized and incorporated in 1989, all members of the Board of Trustees of the KENT MAY 4 CENTER have been long-standing activists at Kent for many years prior to 1989.

Alan Canfora, our volunteer KENT MAY 4 CENTER director since 1989, was among those wounded by Ohio National Guard bullets at Kent State on May 4, 1970.

Please visit their site to review their 10 point education mission:

http://www.may4.org/

“In the four days following the Kent State shootings, from May 5 to May 8, there were major campus demonstrations at a rate of more than 100 a day, students at a total of at least 350 institutions went on strike and 536 schools were shut down completely for some period of time, 51 of them for the entire year.

More than half of the colleges and universities in the country (1,350) were ultimately touched by protest demonstrations, involving nearly 60% of the student population (nearly five million students) in every kind of institution and in every state in the union.”

–from the book SDS, by Kirkpatrick Sale

Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China

June 4, 1989

Unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators–students, intellectuals, academics, shop keepers–were massacred by the People’s Liberation Army at the direction of the Communist Chinese government on June 4, 1989. A sample State Department cable from the American Embassy is quoted below. This cable is quoted from the full documentation of the declassified history of the mass murders in Tiananmen Square, currently housed at George Washington University’s
site:

Tiananmen Square: The Declassified History

Document 14: Cable,
From: U.S. Embassy Beijing,
To: Department of State, Wash DC,
SITREP No. 32: The Morning of June 4 (June 4, 1989)

The crackdown continued through the night, and by early morning June 4, as this cable reports, the PLA [People’s Liberation Army, ed.] was in control Tiananmen Square. Based on eyewitness accounts of the violence, this SITREP is the Embassy’s initial effort to provide some detail on the final PLA assault on the approximately 3,000 demonstrators who had not yet left the square.

“Some 10,000 troops,” the document says, formed a ring around the square, and “a column of about 50 APC, tanks, and trucks entered Tiananmen from the east.” Demonstrators shouted angrily, the cable states, and “PLA troops in Tiananmen opened a barrage of rifle and machine gun fire.”

Another column of military vehicles entered soon thereafter, and more gunfire ensued, “causing a large number of casualties.” The document also describes violent PLA clashes with demonstrators on Changan Boulevard, the main thoroughfare in the Tiananmen area, and in other parts of Beijing.

Embassy officials also report conversations with angry citizens, some “claiming that more than 10,000 people had been killed at Tiananmen.” One woman claimed to have witnessed a tank running over 11 people. She also told Embassy officers that she had seen PLA troops “breaking the windows of shops, banks, and other buildings.”

Leo Tolstoy
(1828-1910)

An iconoclastic Russian author from a moderate aristocratic background, Tolstoy wrote the astonishing antiwar novel “War & Peace” about the fate of five families during the Napoleonic wars and was published between 1865 and 1869.

Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi
(1869-1948, Assassinated.)

The work and writings of Mahatma Gandhi continue to inspire people of good will in the pursuit of nonviolent resolution of conflict. I read his autobiography in 1964, at fourteen, spurred to it by Dr. King’s work in the streets of our country. He has played a role in my life and my thinking ever since.

“Gandhi was inevitable.
If humanity is to progress,
Gandhi is inescapable.
He lived, thought and acted,
inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward
a world of peace and harmony.
We may ignore Gandhi at our own risk.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1959, Dr. Martin Luther King met with many of Gandhi’s followers, having studied Gandhi’s writings at Crozier Theological Seminary, and King became convinced that Gandhi’s methods of nonviolent resistance would be the most effective and potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.

More than once Gandhi used fasting to impress upon others the need to be nonviolent. India was granted independence in 1947, and partitioned into India and Pakistan. Rioting between Hindus and Muslims followed. Gandhi had been an advocate for a united India where Hindus and Muslims lived together in peace.

On January 13, 1948, at the age of 78, he began a fast with the purpose of stopping the bloodshed. After 5 days, the opposing leaders pledged to stop the fighting and Gandhi broke his fast. Twelve days later a Hindu fanatic, Nathuram Godse who opposed his program of tolerance for all creeds and religion assassinated him. He was mourned the world over.

The term ‘Mahatma’ was given to Gandhi later in life. No one is a born ‘Mahatma’, it is a status one earns by how one lives. The Webster 1913 Dictionary defines the term as follows:

Ma`hat´ma n. 1. (Theosophy) One of aclass of sages ,or “adepts ,” reputed to have knowledge and powers of a higher order than those of ordinary men .

The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence maintains a site at:

http://www.gandhiinstitute.org/

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
(1929-1968. Assassinated)

A winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King was assassinated just as he turned his attention to economic equality and after he had decided to condemn the Vietnam War—in essence globalizing his commitment to nonviolence (something that Buddhist leader Thich Nhat Hahn had encouraged him to do).  [See: http://www.seaox.com/thich.html] It seems no accident that King was assassinated while supporting a garbage worker’s strike and economic fairness.

With his death, the struggle for equality in America stalled with marginal legal and civil rights won, and failed to expand to monetary justice and to include all working people who have been exploited by the monied classes and big business free-market fundamentalists.

King’s developing commitment to issues of social and economic justice has been largely buried in the popular memory, as he is saluted each year for his “I Have A Dream” speech from 1963.

One would do well to examine the scope and breadth of Dr. King’s contributions, especially in these times when conscience seems to be taking a back seat to privilege and materialism.

Stanford University maintains a comprehensive site on Dr. King’s work and life with his letters and papers, a curriclum, biographical information, and the like, at:

http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/

Malcolm X
[Born: Malcolm Little]
Muslim name EL-HAJJ MALIK EL-SHABAZZ]
(1925-1965. Assassinated)

Malcolm X was a militant Black leader who, like Steven Biko in South Africa, articulated concepts of racial pride and black nationalism. After his assassination, the widespread distribution of his life – The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965) as told to Alex Haley (later of Roots fame) – Malcolm became an ideological hero, especially – though not exclusively – among black youth.

Growing up in Lansing, Mich., Malcolm saw his house burned down at the hands of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan. Two years later his father was murdered, and Malcolm’s mother was subsequently placed in a mental institution. Malcolm spent the following years in detention homes. In his early teens, he moved to Boston to live with his sister.

In 1946, while in prison for burglary, he was converted to the Black Muslim faith ( Nation of Islam ) – a sect that professed the superiority of black people and the inherent evil of whites. Released from prison in 1952, Malcolm went to Nation of Islam headquarters in Chicago, met the sect’s leader, Elijah Muhammad, and embraced its rigorous asceticism.

He changed his last name to “X,” a custom among Nation of Islam followers who considered their family names to have originated with white slaveholders.

Leaving the Nation of Islam after a falling out with Elijah Muhammad over the later’s affairs with young women in his custody and other hypocrisies, Malcolm went on the Haj to Mecca and became, as he termed it ‘a true Muslim.’

Eating, walking, resting, and praying with people with all colors and all races was a life changing experience for him. Suddenly, outside of America, on the pilgrimage Malcolm found a community of interest where color and race were not markers for stigmatization and came home to America with the very radical idea that it is not who you are born, but what you believe that unites or divides you from others.

Six weeks later he was killed by gunmen in a Harlem Ball room. Three Black Muslims were convicted of his murder.

In “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”, Alex Haley noted that whenever Billie Holiday saw Malcolm in the club she always put the great Don Raye/Gene DePaul song “You Don’t Know What Love Is” into the set, knowing it to be his favorite. I recorded it on my first compact disc “Jealous of the Moon”, not recalling the story.

There are many fine sites on Malcolm’s work and life. One is:

Malcolm X (with links to audio and video clips)

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
(1918-2013)

Nelson Mandela was born in the Transkei in South Africa. His father was the principal councillor to the Acting Paramount Chief of Thembuland. After his father’s death, the young Rolihlahla became the Paramount Chief’s ward to be groomed to assume high office. However, influenced by the cases that came before the Chief’s court, Mandela determined to become a lawyer. Hearing the elders’ stories of his ancestors valour during the wars of resistance in defense of their fatherland, he dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people.

Along with his peers, Mandela set out to transform the African National Congress—the organization that the young lawyer Mohandas K. Gandhi had established prior to his return to India—into a mass movement bent on the emancipation of the South African people.

South Africa had failed by just a few votes of joining the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan during World War II. After the close of the war, beginning in 1949, these same politicians began to set up racial purity laws and the murderous Apartheid regime. Fascism, defeated in Europe and Japan, took hold in South Africa and would not let go.

Mandela’s commitment to nonviolent resistance was shaken by the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 and he turned to help lead ‘Umkunto we Sizwe’, or the armed struggle which used a campaign of sabotage to try to put increasing pressure on a government that met every increased level of nonviolent engagement with increasingly brutal and lethal violence.

Mandela was arrested, tried and convicted of leaving the country illegally and inciting strikes. He began his 27 years of imprisonment on Robben Island in 1963. His closing statements at his trial were:

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Mandela was release in 1990 and quickly elected as the first President of the free, post-Apartheid South Africa. As one of the world’s great elder statesman, Mandela continues to inspire, work and speak for universal justice and freedom without regard for race, nationality, creed, or color.

This and more information is available at the ANC site:

Nelson Mandela Personal Page

Steven Bantu Biko
(December 18, 1946 – September 12, 1977)

Biko was a noted anti-apartheid activist in South Africa in the 1960s. Because he was dissatisfied with the National Union of South African Students, he helped found the South African Students’ Organisation in 1968 and elected its first president; in 1972 he became honorary president of the Black People’s Convention.

Biko was banned during the height of apartheid in March 1973, meaning that he was not allowed to speak to more than one person at a time and so could not make speeches in public or to publish his writings. It was also forbidden to quote anything he said, including speeches or simple conversations.

On September 6, 1977, Biko was arrested at a police roadblock. He suffered a major head injury around September 6th while in police custody and was chained to a window grill for a full day. On September 11, police loaded him into the back of a car and a Captain Siebert began the 740-mile drive across South Africa to another prison, removing him from the community to which he had been confined by his banishment orders. He died en route. Police claimed his death was the result of an extended hunger strike.

On October 7, 2003, South African Justice Ministry officials announced that the five policemen who were accused of killing Biko would not be prosecuted because of insufficient evidence. They said a murder charge could not be supported partly because there were no witnesses to the killing. Charges of culpable homicide and assault were also considered, but because the killing occurred in 1977, the time frame for prosecution had expired.

A sample of quotes from Biko’s writings are presented below. They were smuggled out of South Africa and subsequently published with a memoir in 1978 by a sympathetic priest and friend of Biko’s, Aelred Stubbs, C.R, in his book, I Write What I Like, (Harper Collins, © N. M. Biko, 1978)

The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. If one is free at heart, no man-made chains can bind one to servitude…” p. 92

Instead of involving themselves in an all-out attempt to stamp out racism from their white society, liberals waste a lot of time trying to prove to as many blacks as they can find that they are liberal. This arises out of a false belief that we are faced with a black problem. There is nothing the matter with blacks. The problem is WHITE RACISM and it rests squarely on the laps of the white society… Whites must leave blacks to take care of their own business while they concern themselves with the real evil in our society—white racism.” [p. 23 ]

To a revolutionary, State evil is a major evil for out of it flow countless other subsidiary evils that engulf the lives of both the oppressors and the oppressed.

“The revolutionary sees his task all too often as liberation not only of the oppressed, but of the oppressor. Happiness can never truly exist in a state of tension, even if the tension is only of conscience. Hence in a stratified society like ours, those who have placed themselves upon a pedestal spend far too much time on the lookout for disturbances and hence can never have peace of mind. [Our] society abounds with fear and is constantly in a state of frenzy. The revolutionary seeks to restore faith in life amongst all citizens of his country, to remove imaginary fears and to heighten concern for the plight of the people.” [p. 213]

–Steve Biko
‘I Write What I Like’ Harper Collins, © N. M. Biko, 1978.

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