Presidential Biographies: James Madison

Like his friend Thomas Jefferson, James Madison is another one of history's great contradictions. Like Jefferson, Madison preached liberty and freedom, and is regarded as the father of the Bill of Rights, a document which enshrines many of these great freedoms. Also like Jefferson, Madison enslaved people based on the color of their skin and thought of them as "property" rather than as human beings. He was someone who tended to change his position on issues and who sometimes tried to cater to both sides. For example, he worked with Alexander Hamilton to write and publish the Federalist Papers, but later joined with Jefferson to form the Democratic-Republican Party in opposition to Hamilton's Federalist Party, doing so while in the service of George Washington, a man who detested the notion of political factions. In his later years he sought to rewrite history, going so far as to alter letters he had written earlier, in hopes of being more though of more kindly by historians and also in hopes of erasing some of his mistakes.

Among the leading biographies of Madison are Ralph Ketchum's 1990 book James Madison: A Biography, which American Historical Review dubbed as "an excellent biography." More recently there's Richard Brookhiser's 2013 work simply entitled James Madison, praised for its brevity (304 pages). One of my favorite Madison bios is Lynne Cheney's James Madison: A Life Reconsidered, often panned by those who can't get past their feelings concerning the author's husband. A more rounded assessment of Madison is found in Noah Feldman's 2017 book The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President.

Some historians have written about Madison's relationship with other Presidents. For instance, authors Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg explore Madison's friendship with Jefferson in their 2010 book Madison and Jefferson, while Chris DeRose examines Madison's friendly rivalry with fellow Virginian James Monroe in his 2011 book Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, the Bill of Rights and the Election that Saved a Nation, a book that I very much enjoyed.

Like many of the other founding fathers who turned a blind eye to the problem of slavery, James Madison's life is that of a flawed but otherwise brilliant leader and thinker, whose ideas forged the birth of a nation, for better or worsee.

Presidential Biographies: Thomas Jefferson

One revered as one of the greatest of the Presidents, Thomas Jefferson's reputation has trended downward in recent years as people take a closer look at the glaring contradiction at the center of Jefferson's life: how could a man who preached so strongly for liberty and freedom, at the same time, hold other men and women in slavery? This is something that was glossed over by earlier historians, who gave Jefferson a pass because "everyone else was doing it" (not John Adams!) Instead most of the better know Jefferson biographies focus on their subject's authorship of the Declaration of Independence and his work as a diplomat and as the first Secretary of State. These accomplishments have been literally etched in stone as Jefferson's visage has been immortalized on Mount Rushmore.

Published on the 250th anniversary of Jefferson's birth, Williard Stearne Randall's biography entitled Thomas Jefferson: A Life is thorough, but hardly objective, in that is preceded DNA testing that subsequently proved Jefferson's impregnating Sally Hemings, a person he enslaved, something that Randall dismissed as "preposterous." Randall attempts to suggest that Jefferson espoused sincere antislavery sentiments, a hard case to make when actions speak louder than words.

Fawn Brodie, in her 2010 work Jefferson: An Intimate History presents a fairer picture of Jefferson and does not shy away from his less presentable side. Similarly, Annette Gordon-Reid has written a trio of Jefferson books that attempts to get a closer and more realistic look at who Jefferson was. These include her 2017 work Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination and her two earlier books, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, written in 1998, and The Hemings of Monticello, a Pulitzer Prize winning book from 2009.

Three other older Jefferson biographies include Claude Bowers' two volume set written in 1945 Volume 1: The Young Jefferson and Volume 2: Jefferson in Power; Nathan Schachner's 1960 book Thomas Jefferson: A Biography and the more critical work by Alf Mapp Jr. from 1995 entitled Thomas Jefferson: A Strange Case of Mistaken Identity.

As for a best Jefferson biography, my vote goes to the volume written by the esteemed and intellectually honest historian Jon Meacham, published in 2013, entitled Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, another Pulitzer Prize winning book.

One fascinating aspect of Jefferson's story is how he almost never became President in 1800, when he and his supposed running-mate Aaron Burr tied for votes in the electoral college, and Burr decided that he wanted the big chair for himself. The amazing story of this election is told in two wonderful books, Edward Larson's 2007 book A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 and the book from the University of Kansas's presidential election series by James Roger Sharp, published in 2010, entitled The Deadlocked Election of 1800: Jefferson, Burr and the Union in the Balance.

Finally, one other interesting aspect of Jefferson's political career was his ongoing feud with Alexander Hamilton, and to get the full story on that, I recommend that you read John Ferling's 2013 book Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry that Forged a Nation.

It is remarkable that over 200 years after his Presidency, Jefferson's legacy remains controversial, so much so, that there are calls to remove his name from public monuments. For this reason it is all the more important to find an objective assessment of the man's life and political career, something that gets more and more difficult as objective history writing seems to be becoming harder to find.

Presidential Biographies: John Adams

It will come as no surprise that the best biography on the life of the second President (and first Vice-President) of the United States, John Adams, is David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize winning 2002 work simply titled John Adams. It spawned an HBO mini-series and awoken the world to the amazing life and character of a man overlooked and overshadowed in history by other giants of his era. What is not well known, is that McCullough set out to write a book not about Adams alone, but about Adams and Thomas Jefferson and their on-again off-again friendship and working relationship. In an interview on Independence Day of 2002 with Gwen Ifill of PBS, McCullough said this:

I began thinking I would do a book of the intertwining lives of Jefferson and Adams, who as I know you know died on the same day. And not just any day, but their day of days, the 4th of July in 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. And my initial concern was that Jefferson with his fame and his aura and his glamour would outshine, outbalance, overbalance, stout short John Adams, who has been in the shadows of the two tall Virginians — Washington and Jefferson — all these years.

But I very quickly realized that the pull for here was John Adams, because to me he was a far more compelling subject, a more, a more fascinating story because of the letters you just mentioned. They really take us into his life and we can know him and his wife, Abigail, which is very important, better than we can know almost anybody of that whole time.

It is understandable why Adams would make such a compelling subject. He was a great thinker in a time of war; he took up unpopular causes, including his defense of the British soldiers accused of murder during the Boston Massacre; he was far ahead of his time when it came to seeing the immorality of slavery and the need for women's rights, but practical enough not to crash the fragile union over his minority position.

He was not perfect when it came to being a people person. Benjamin Franklin once said of Adams, "I am persuaded however that he means well for his Country, is always an honest Man, often a Wise One, but sometimes and in some things, absolutely out of his Senses." Adams was mocked sometimes for his pomposity and was accused of being a monarchist, or at least of wanting a monarchy for his new nation. His faults pale in comparison to his strength of character, his practical morality, as well as for being a good husband who valued his wife and saw her as a partner.

Beside McCullough's excellent work, the potus_geeks library has a number of other great biographies of the second president. These include Page Smith's 1962 two-volume set, once again plainly titled John Adams, as well as the more recent cleverly titled (2002) John Adams: Party of One by James Grant (so named because although he was a Federalist in the two-party system of his day, he was often at war within his own party.) While scouring a used book store in St. Louis recently, I found a copy of the 1973 Founding Fathers series bio of Adams entitled John Adams: A Biography in His Own Words.

A very special biography of Adams is the one written by his son John Quincy Adams and his grandson Charles Francis Adams, once again simply titled John Adams.

Other works about Adams focus on certain aspects of his life. The story of his defending the British soldiers is told by Dan Abrams in John Adams Under Fire. His role in the Revolution is explored in Catherine Drinker Bowen's 2001 work John Adams and the American Revolution. The relationship between John and Abigail Adams (sometimes called Washington DC's first power couple) is explored wonderfully in John Joseph Ellis's 2011 work First Family. The complex relationship between Adams and Jefferson is best explained in their own words in The Adams-Jefferson Letters, edited by Lester Cappon. Author Gordon Woods explores that relationship from a historian's point of view in his 2018 book Friends Divided.

Consideration of Adams impressive life and service to his country brings to mind a sad and unfortunate example of modern day gridlock in Washington DC, and how times like ours need a man with the integrity of John Adams. As Adams Memorial has been a proposed presidential memorial on the National Mall to honor Founding Father and second President John Adams; his wife and prolific writer Abigail Adams; their son, the sixth U.S. President John Quincy Adams; his wife Louisa Catherine Adams; their son, American Civil War diplomat, politician, and editor Charles Francis Adams, Sr.; and Charles' two sons, noted historian and autobiographer Henry Adams and academician Brooks Adams. On November 5, 2001, the United States Congress authorized the Adams Memorial Foundation to proceed with the design and construction of the memorial. The foundation was given permission to raise private funds to construct the Adams Memorial on federal land in Washington, D.C. Once established, the memorial was to be turned over to the federal government. As of today, eight of the twelve members of the Adams Memorial Commission have yet to be appointed, with vacancies to be filled by members of Congress. The commission expires December 2, 2025.


In the 1969 musical 1776, John Adams (played by William Daniels) said, "In my many years, I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a congress." John Adams might have agreed.

Presidential Biographies: George Washington

The potus_geeks library (my personal collection of books about the Presidents) has grown to over a thousand volumes, though I would be less than truthful if I said that read every word in every volume. They are organized on shelves in a small room that's supposed to be a small bedroom, starting with generic volumes about all of the presidents, and then going from Washington to Biden in order of the subject's presidency. (Grover Cleveland follows Chester Alan Arthur, his aren't split in two.) Often I get asked to recommend a biography of certain presidents and in most cases there is one that stands out. For the more popular presidents like Lincoln or FDR that gets a little harder to do. This month I'll try to go through each of the Presidents and mention which biographies might be of interest to anyone wanting to learn about each President.

It will not come as a surprise that George Washington is one of the most popular subjects for history writers, being both the first president, as well as the general who defeated the greatest army in the world with a rag-tag group of untrained, under-equipped and often unruly volunteers. Over two centuries later, the legend of Washington's greatness remains as strong as ever, though as historians often point out, sometimes the stories about the man are exaggerated or even outright false (as in the case of Parson Weems' biography, where the myth of Washington and the cherry tree originated.)

The leading biography of Washington is Ron Chernow's 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning biography entitled Washington: A Life both for its thoroughness as well as for its intellectual honesty. At over 800 pages, it can take some time to get through, but it gives the reader a full picture of the man. Before there was Chernow, there was the 1994 work by James Thomas Flexner entitled Washington: The Indispensable Man or Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation, published in 1993 by Richard Norton Smith.

There are a number of terrific books that focus on certain aspects of Washington's life. For instance, Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fisher focuses on Washington's generalship, as does Revolutionary: George Washington at War by Robert O'Connell; For Liberty and Glory by James Gaines looks at the lives of Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette and their remarkable relationship; A Crisis of Peace by David Head looks at Washington and the Newburgh Conspiracy, the incident at the end of the war in which Washington prevented an insurrection by the Continental Army, and Washington's Circle by David and Jeanette Heidler looks at the many firsts in Washington's Presidency including the creation of the cabinet. There are books that explore Washington and his network of spies during the revolution (such as Washington's Spies by Alexander Rose), and others that look at his post presidency (such as Washington's Farewell by John Avlon or Washington's End by Jonathan Horn.

There is no shortage of good reading material about the first president, and all of it makes for interesting reading.

Black History Month: The Election of Barack Obama

Our series on Black History Month will end with a look at the election of Barack Hussein Obama, who, on November 4, 2008, became the first African-American to be elected President of the United States. Many people were expecting this election to bring about a first, but the "first" those people were expecting was the first female president. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York was the presumed nominee of the Democratic Party, and with incumbent President George W. Bush hemorrhaging popularity because of an unpopular war in Iraq, criticism of his government's response to Hurricane Katrina, a mortgage crisis and a ballooning debt and deficit, Republicans knew that the odds were against their keeping the White House.


Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were seen by many as the Democratic candidates with this most support. This did not deter others from seeking the nomination, including former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, Delaware Senator Joe Biden, Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Edwards was one of the first to formally announce his candidacy for the presidency, on December 28, 2006, making his second attempt at the presidency. Clinton formally announced her intentions to run on January 20, 2007. On February 10, 2007, Obama announced his candidacy in front of the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois. The location for the announcement was chosen for its symbolism because it was where Abraham Lincoln delivered his historic "House Divided" speech in 1858. In the speech Obama emphasized issues of rapidly ending the Iraq War, increasing energy independence, and providing universal health care. His campaign themes were "hope" and "change".

Clinton led in nearly all nationwide opinion polling until January 2008. In 2008, Florida and Michigan moved their primaries into January against the Democratic Party's rules, and the results of those primaries were disputed. At the start of the year, support for Obama began rising in the polls. He won the Iowa caucus, with John Edwards coming in second and Clinton third. After the Iowa caucus, Biden and Dodd withdrew from the race. Obama became the new front runner. Clinton narrowly won the New Hampshire primary by 2% of the vote, marking the first time a woman had ever won a major party's presidential primary for delegate selection. On January 30, 2008, after placing in third in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, John Edwards announced that he was suspending his campaign.

On Super Tuesday, which took place on February 5, 2008, Obama won 847 delegates to Clinton's 834 from the 23 states that held Democratic primaries. Obama had captured celebrity endorsements that included Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy and Stevie Wonder. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's then wife, Maria Shriver, also endorsed Obama. Following Super Tuesday Obama's momentum grew. He won victories in primaries in Louisiana, Nebraska, Hawaii, Wisconsin, U.S. Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia as well as the Washington and Maine caucuses. Clinton won the primaries in Ohio, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Texas, but Obama won the Texas caucuses held the same day, giving him more delegates from the state than Clinton. Obama had outspent Clinton three to one in Pennsylvania, but his comment at a San Francisco fundraiser that small-town Americans "cling" to guns and religion attracted criticism.

By this point Obama had a higher number of delegates and popular votes than Clinton did and was still in a stronger position to win the nomination. Clinton, however, had received the endorsement of more superdelegates than Obama. On May 6, North Carolina and Indiana held their Democratic presidential primaries. Obama won in North Carolina and lost by only 1.1% in Indiana.

On May 31, 2008, the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic Party reached a compromise on the Florida and Michigan delegate situation. The committee decided to seat delegates from Michigan and Florida at the convention in August, but to only award each a half-vote.

Clinton formally withdrew as a candidate on June 3, 2008, and endorsed Obama. At first Clinton refused to concede the race, but she finally conceded the nomination to Obama on June 7.

no title

On August 23, Obama announced his selection of Joe Biden as his vice presidential running mate. At the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, Hillary Clinton called for her supporters to endorse Obama, and she and Bill Clinton gave convention speeches in his support. Obama delivered his acceptance speech at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium to a crowd of over 75,000. The speech was viewed by over 38 million people worldwide.

During both the primary process and the general election, Obama's campaign set numerous fundraising records, particularly in the quantity of small donations. On June 19, 2008, Obama became the first major-party presidential candidate to turn down public financing in the general election since the system was created in 1976.

In November 2006, Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani led in polling for the Republican nomination, followed closely by Arizona Senator John McCain. Giuliani remained the frontrunner in the polls throughout most of 2007, with McCain and former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson fighting for second place. Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Giuliani, Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul announced their candidacies on January 28, February 5, February 13, and March 12, respectively. McCain officially announced his candidacy on March 1, 2007.

But it was Huckabee, who scored the first victory, winning in Iowa. He came in third, behind McCain and Romney in New Hampshire. Giuliani made the mistake of opting out of these contests until the Florida primary. The strategy hurt him as McCain displaced Giuliani as the front runner in New Hampshire. McCain's unexpected victory in New Hampshire gave his campaign momentum after he had been written off by the pundits and polling in single digits less than a month before the race. McCain managed a small victory over Huckabee in South Carolina, followed by a victory over Romney in Florida, which held a closed primary on January 29. Giuliani conceded from the nomination race and endorsed McCain the next day. McCain was also endorsed in February by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger before the California primary took place on Super Tuesday. On Super Tuesday, McCain won his home state of Arizona, taking all 53 delegates. He also won nearly all of California's 173 delegates, the largest of the Super Tuesday prizes. McCain also scored wins in seven other states, picking up 574 delegates. Huckabee won 5 states and 218 delegates. Romney won 7 states and 231 delegates. Two days later, Romney suspended his presidential campaign. Romney endorsed McCain on February 14. After Super Tuesday, John McCain had become the clear front runner, but by the end of February, he still had not acquired enough delegates to secure the nomination. In March, John McCain clinched the Republican nomination after sweeping all four primaries, Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island, putting him over the top of the 1,191 delegates required to win the GOP nomination. Huckabee then conceded the race to McCain, leaving Ron Paul, who had just 16 delegates, as McCain's only remaining opponent. John McCain was nominated as the Republican candidate at the Republican Convention held from September 1-4 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

McCain surprised many by selecting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin's speech at the Convention was very well received and initially gave the McCain campaign a boost. However a series of embarrassing gaffes in interviews quickly changed public perception of Palin in the minds of many voters from that of someone who would shake up the system to someone who was in over her head. This was especially the impression left in an interview that Palin gave with Katie Couric of CBS.


The war in Iraq was a key issue during the campaign that followed. John McCain supported the war while Barack Obama opposed it. Obama's early opposition to the war helped him stand out against the other Democratic candidates during the primaries. McCain stated that the United States could be in Iraq for as much as the next 50 to 100 years. He meant this as a peacetime presence, but the remark was used by the Obama campaign to tie McCain to the President Bush. McCain's support for the troop 'surge' employed by General David Petraeus, helped McCain in the minds of some voters, but Obama told voters that there would have been no need for a "surge" had there been no war in the first place.

Bush had become increasingly unpopular by this time. In March 2008, Bush endorsed McCain at the White House, but Bush did not make a single appearance for McCain during the campaign. Bush appeared at the 2008 GOP convention by a live video broadcast. McCain expressed his disagreement with Bush on other issues such as climate change. During the campaign, Obama reminded voters that McCain had voted with Bush 90% of the time.

Obama's campaigned on a theme that be would bring change to Washington and to the nation. He promised universal health care. Conversely, McCain contrasted his experience in government with the relative inexperience of his opponent. Polls found the electorate divided on the issue of 'change' vs. 'experience'.

Polls taken in the last few months of the presidential campaign showed the economy as the top concern for voters. In the fall of 2008, many news sources were reporting that the economy was suffering its most serious downturn since the Great Depression. On August 20, John McCain said in an interview with Politico that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, owned. stating "I think—I'll have my staff get to you." Obama's political ads gave the number as seven, in an effort to portray McCain as unable to relate to the concerns of ordinary Americans. On September 15, the day of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, at a morning rally in Jacksonville, Florida, McCain declared that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong," but the perception among voters was to the contrary.

On September 24, 2008, after the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, McCain announced that he was suspending his campaign to return to Washington to help craft a $700 billion bailout package for the troubled financial industry, and he stated that he would not debate Obama until Congress passed the bailout bill. He later decided to attend the first presidential debate on September 26, despite Congress' lack of immediate action on the bill. Days later, a second version of the original bailout bill was passed by both the House and Senate, with Obama, his vice presidential running mate Joe Biden, and McCain all voting for it. The financial crisis caused McCain to experience a large drop in support in mid-September that he never recovered from.

Obama called for universal health care. His health care plan proposed creating a National Health Insurance Exchange that would include both private insurance plans and a Medicare-like government run option. A poll released in early November 2008, found that voters supporting Obama listed health care as their second priority


On November 4, Obama won the presidency with 365 electoral votes to 173 received by McCain. Obama won 52.9% of the popular vote to McCain's 45.7%. He became the first African American to be elected president. Obama delivered his victory speech before hundreds of thousands of supporters in Chicago's Grant Park. A record 131.2 million votes were cast, reflecting voter turnout of about 63.0%, the highest since 1960.

Black History Month: Jesse Jackson

Jesse Louis Jackson is an American civil rights activist and Baptist minister, who ran for President twice, in 1984 and in 1988. In 1988 he finished second in the race for the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination, both in primary votes and in convention delegates. He was also present in Memphis, one floor below, when Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and killed.

He was born with the name Jesse Louis Burns on October 8, 1941 in Greenville, South Carolina. His mother was Helen Burns, a 16-year-old high school student, and his father was her 33-year-old married neighbor, Noah Louis Robinson, a former professional boxer who was worked for a textile brokerage. A year after Jesse's birth, his mother married Charles Henry Jackson, a post office maintenance worker who later adopted the child. Jesse was given his stepfather's surname in the adoption, but he also maintained a close relationship with Robinson.

He was raised in a time of Jim Crow segregation laws. He attended the racially segregated Sterling High School in Greenville, where he was elected student class president and played baseball, football and basketball. Upon graduation from high school in 1959, he passed up an offer from a minor league professional baseball team in order to attend the University of Illinois on a football scholarship. Following his second semester, he transferred to the North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, North Carolina. According to Jackson, he changed schools because racial prejudice prevented him from playing quarterback and limited his participation on a competitive public-speaking team. While attending A&T, Jackson played quarterback and was elected student body president. He was active in local civil rights protests against segregated libraries, theaters and restaurants. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in sociology in 1964 and then attended the Chicago Theological Seminary on a scholarship, but dropped out in 1966, three classes short of earning his master's degree.

Jackson became an ordained minister in 1968, and in 2000, was awarded his Master of Divinity Degree based on his previous credits earned and his subsequent work. It was in the mid 1960s that he began his affiliation with Martin Luther King Jr. In 1965, Jackson participated in the Selma to Montgomery marches organized by James Bevel and Dr. King and other civil rights leaders. Jackson was given a role in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and assigned the task of establishing a frontline office for the SCLC in Chicago. In 1966, Jackson was chosen to head the Chicago branch of the SCLC's economic arm, called Operation Breadbasket. He was promoted to national director in 1967. Under Jackson's leadership, he organized boycotts by black consumers against white-owned businesses to hire African-Americans and to purchase goods and services from their businesses.

Jackson was present with Dr. King on April 4, 1968 when King was shot on the balcony of a motel in Memphis. Jackson was in the parking lot one floor below. After King's death, Jackson worked on SCLC's Poor People's Crusade in Washington, D.C., and managed its 15-acre tent city. There was said to be tension between Jackson and Ralph Abernathy, King's successor as chairman of the SCLC. In the spring of 1971, Abernathy ordered Jackson to move the national office of Operation Breadbasket from Chicago to Atlanta and sought to place another person in charge of local Chicago activities. Jackson refused to move. In December 1971, Jackson and Abernathy had a falling out, after Abernathy questioned the handling of receipts from the Black Expo, an event Jackson had organized in Chicago. Abernathy suspended Jackson as leader of Operation Breadbasket. As a result, Jackson, his entire Breadbasket staff, and 30 of the 35 board members resigned from the SCLC and began planning a new organization.

The new organization was called People United to Save Humanity (Operation PUSH). It officially began operations on December 25, 1971. Jackson later changed the name to People United to Serve Humanity. Jackson wanted to have Operation PUSH be politically active and pressure politicians to work to improve economic opportunities for poor people of all races. In 1978 Jackson called for a closer relationship between African Americans and the Republican Party. He said, "Black people need the Republican Party to compete for us so we can have real alternatives. The Republican Party needs black people if it is ever to compete for national office."

In 1984, Jackson organized the Rainbow Coalition. He resigned his post as president of Operation PUSH in 1984 to run for president of the United States. On November 3, 1983, Jackson announced that he was campaigning for President of the United States in the 1984 election, making him the second African American (after Shirley Chisholm) to mount a nationwide campaign for president. In the Democratic Party primaries, Jackson, had been considered by many to be a fringe candidate with little chance at winning the nomination. He surprised many when he took third place behind Senator Gary Hart and former Vice President Walter Mondale, who eventually won the nomination. Jackson received 3,282,431 primary votes, or 18.2 percent of the total, in 1984, and won five primaries and caucuses, including Louisiana, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and one of two separate contests in Mississippi. More Virginia caucus-goers supported Jesse Jackson than any other candidate, but Walter Mondale won more Virginia delegates.

During the campaign Jackson was criticized for referring to Jews as "Hymies" and New York City as "Hymietown" in remarks to a Washington Post reporter. Jackson mistakenly believed that he was speaking off the record. Matters were made worse when Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan publicly declared, in Jackson's presence, that if any Jews harmed Jackson, "it will be the last one you harm." Jackson made a public apology for his remarks, but would not denounce Farrakhan's warning. Jackson made his apology during a speech before national Jewish leaders in a Manchester, New Hampshire synagogue. Other anti-Semitic remarks were attributed to Jackson, including a statement that President Richard Nixon was less attentive to poverty in the U.S. because "four out of five of his top advisors are German Jews and their priorities are on Europe and Asia". He also said that he was "sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust" and also said that there are "very few Jewish reporters that have the capacity to be objective about Arab affairs".

In 1988, Jackson once again ran for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Once again most political analysts give him little chance of being nominated, This time however he was better financed and better organized than in 1984. In early 1988, Jackson organized a rally at the former American Motors assembly plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin, approximately two weeks after new owner Chrysler announced it would close the plant by the end of the year. In his speech, Jackson spoke out against Chrysler's decision. As a result, the UAW Local 72 union voted to endorse his candidacy. For a brief period, after he won 55% of the vote in the Michigan Democratic caucus, he was considered the frontrunner for the nomination. But Jackson's campaign suffered a significant setback less than two weeks after the UAW endorsement when he narrowly lost the Colorado primary to Michael Dukakis. He was defeated handily the following day in the Wisconsin primary by Dukakis. These two victories established Dukakis as the clear Democratic frontrunner, and he went on to claim the party's nomination, but lost the general election in November.

At the end of the Democratic primary season, Jackson had captured 6.9 million votes and won 11 contests: seven primaries (Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and Virginia) and four caucuses (Delaware, Michigan, South Carolina and Vermont). Jackson also won victories in Alaska's caucuses and Texas's local conventions, despite losing the Texas primary.

In the mid-1990s, Jackson was approached about being the United States Ambassador to South Africa by President Bill Clinton, but he declined the opportunity. Instead he helped his son Jesse Jackson Jr. run for the United States House of Representatives. Jackson was critical of the moderate policies of Bill Clinton, and even contemplated challenging Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination in 1996. But Jackson became closer to Clinton, especially after his son became a member of the United States House of Representatives from Illinois.

On May 2, 1999, during the Kosovo war, three US soldiers who had been held captive were released as a result of talks with Jackson. Jackson's negotiation was not sanctioned by the Clinton Administration. On January 20, 2001, Bill Clinton's final day in office, Jackson had petitioned Clinton for the pardons of Congressman Mel Reynolds, John Bustamante, and Dorothy Rivers, all of which were approved. Jackson's request for a fourth pardon for his half-brother Noah Robinson, who had been convicted of murdering Leroy Barber and sentenced to life imprisonment, was not approved.

In March 2007, Jackson declared his support for then-Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 democratic primaries. But he was later critical for Obama over a number of incidents. On July 6, 2008, during an interview with Fox News, a microphone picked up Jackson whispering to fellow guest Reed Tuckson: "See, Barack's been, ahh, talking down to black people on this faith-based. I want to cut his nuts off." When this became public, Jackson apologized and reiterated his support for Obama. He commended Obama's 2012 decision to support gay marriage.

More recently Jackson has experienced some health issues. In November 2017, Jackson was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. In August 2021, he and his wife were hospitalized with COVID-19 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Jackson was moved to a rehabilitation facility while his wife was transferred to the intensive care unit. On September 4, his wife was released from the hospital.

Black History Month: Jackie Robinson and Richard Nixon

Jack Roosevelt Robinson, better known as Jackie, was an professional baseball player who became the first African American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era. Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball when the Brooklyn Dodgers put him in the lineup at first base on April 15, 1947. When the Dodgers signed Robinson, it was the beginning of the end of racial segregation in professional baseball that had previously only allowed African American players to play in the Negro Leagues since the 1880s. Progress in integrating major league baseball would be slow and painful, but it all began with Jackie Robinson.

Robinson had an exceptional 10-year career as a Major League ball player. He was the recipient of the first MLB Rookie of the Year Award in 1947. He was an All-Star for six consecutive seasons from 1949 through 1954, and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949. Robinson played in six World Series and was a member of the Dodgers' 1955 World Series championship team. Robinson's character, especially his belief in nonviolence, and his exceptional ability as a baseball player contributed to his success in changing the status quo of segregation in baseball.

The worlds of baseball and politics intersected in 1949, when Robinson was called to testify before the Congressional House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The hearings concerned African-American entertainer and international civil rights activist Paul Robeson. That year, at an international student peace conference held in Paris on April 20, 1949, Robeson made a speech in which he suggested that African-Americans would not support the United States in a war with the Soviet Union, because of their status as second-class citizens in the eyes of United States law. This led to a HUAC investigation of Robeson. Robinson, in his capacity as a famous African-American sports figure, was called on to testify before the committee on the subject of whether or not there was in fact the anti-American sentiments in the African-American community that Robeson claimed. Robeson had been under investigation by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, due to his vocal support for the Soviet Union. Robeson had spoke about the absence of negative racial attitudes shown towards him during his visits to the Soviet Union. During the Cold War years, McCarthyism and the Red Scare were prominent and many artists, scientists or academics with leftist affiliations who failed to denounce communism were blacklisted.

Robinson did not want to testify before HUAC on this subject, in part because of Robeson's previous advocacy calling for integration in professional baseball. At the annual winter meeting of baseball owners in December 1943, Robeson had addressed baseball owners on the subject of integration. He had told them that baseball, as a national game, had an obligation to end segregation. The owners applauded Robeson's speech, but after the meeting, Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis said that there was no rule on the books denying African Americans the opportunity to play major league baseball, failing to see the problem.

Robinson struggled with his decision to testify against Robeson before HUAC, but he believed there would be repercussions if he did not. In July 1949, Robinson eventually agreed to testify before the committee. He was afraid that refusing to do so might damage his career and impede the future integration of professional sports.

Robinson's testimony was a major media event. He began with a carefully worded statement, which was reproduced on the front page of The New York Times the following day. The statement was prepared with the help of Dodgers' General Manager Branch Rickey, who had to released Robinson from a prior agreement not to make any political statements during his baseball career. In his statement, Robinson said that Robeson “has a right to his personal views, and if he wants to sound silly when he expresses them in public, that is his business and not mine. He’s still a famous ex-athlete and a great singer and actor. The fact that it is a Communist who denounces injustice in the courts, police brutality, and lynching when it happens doesn't change the truth of his charges." He said that racial discrimination is not "a creation of Communist imagination." Robinson left the capital immediately after his testimony.

In general, Robinson's testimony was positively received in the media. In an article by Eleanor Roosevelt, the former first lady wrote, "Mr. Robeson does his people great harm in trying to line them up on the Communist side of political picture. Jackie Robinson helped them greatly by his forthright statements." Reaction in African-American newspapers was mixed. The New York Amsterdam News was supportive, saying that "Jackie Robinson had batted 1,000 percent in this game." However the newspaper Afro-American ran a disparaging cartoon depicting Jackie Robinson as a frightened little boy with a gun attempting to "hunt" Robeson.

Robeson called Robinson's testimony a "disservice" to the black community, but declined to criticize Robinson personally. He said, "I am not going to permit the issue to boil down to a personal feud between me and Jackie. To do that, would be to do exactly what the other group wants us to do."

Near the end of his life, Robinson wrote in his autobiography about the incident:

"However, in those days I had much more faith in the ultimate justice of the American white man than I have today. I would reject such an invitation if offered now. I have grown wiser and closer to the painful truths about America’s destructiveness. And I do have increased respect for Paul Robeson who, over the span of twenty years, sacrificed himself, his career, and the wealth and comfort he once enjoyed because, I believe, he was sincerely trying to help his people."

Robinson's anti-communist stance attracted the friendship of California Senator Richard Nixon, who met Robinson in Yankee Stadium’s locker room after Game 5 of the 1952 World Series. At the time Nixon was the Republican nominee for vice president. In 1960, Robinson endorsed Nixon for president. By this time, Jackson had been retired from baseball for almost four years, but he was still nationally admired. Robinson called the civil rights commitment of Nixon’s Democratic rival, John F. Kennedy, “insincere.” In the previous election of 1956, about 39 percent of African-American voters had supported the re-election of President Dwight Eisenhower and Vice-President Nixon.

In October 1960, Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed in Georgia. John F. Kennedy made a famous telephone call to King’s wife, Coretta, which helped to get King released. Nixon had declined Robinson’s calls for Nixon to intervene in the case. Nixon said to Robinson that Kennedy had acted opportunistically. He told Robinson, Kennedy had made "a grandstand play." Robinson remained loyal to his friend Nixon, despite strong pressure (including from his wife, Rachel) to switch allegiance from Nixon to Kennedy, as Dr. King's father had done. Robinson later attributed his decision to "stubbornness." He was called a “sellout” and an “Uncle Tom” by those in the African-American community that were critical of him. In the election that November, Nixon won only a third of the African-American vote according to exit polling.

Robinson remained loyal to the Republican Party, even after Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson adopted a civil rights policy that resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the spring of 1964, Robinson quit his executive job at Chock Full o’ Nuts to campaign for New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican. He said, “we must work for a two-party system, as far as the Negro is concerned.”

When the Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater that summer, a man who had opposed the 1964 civil rights legislation as unconstitutional, Robinson felt considerable discomfort within the party. His candidate Rockefeller denounced political extremism at the party’s San Francisco convention. A conflict between the two wings of the party developed and Robinson almost got into a fist fight with an Alabama delegate on the convention floor. He later wrote that when he left the convention, “I had a better understanding of how it must have felt to be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.” That fall, Robinson changed parties and joined the 94 percent of the African-American voters that backed President Johnson.

In 1968, Robinson was furious about Nixon's invitation for the support of Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Thurmond had once led the segregationist “Dixiecrats” in the 1948 election. Instead Robinson backed the Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey.

Jackie Robinson died of a heart attack at age 53, two weeks before the 1972 election. Despite Nixon’s civil rights record which was actually somewhat liberal on things like public schools desegregation, Robinson was still unimpressed with Nixon's effort to carry the five Southern states that had supported George Wallace’s third-party candidacy in 1968. Nixon knew he had little chance to win much of the African-American vote. In March of 1972, Robinson complained in a letter to Nixon by letter that the president was “polarizing this country.” He added in the letter, “I want so much to be a part of and to love this country as I once did.”

In 1997, MLB retired his uniform number 42 across all major league teams. Robinson was the first pro athlete in any sport to be honored in this way. On April 15, 2004, MLB began a new annual tradition, "Jackie Robinson Day", a day on which every player on every team wears No. 42. After his death in 1972, Robinson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon.

Black History Month: Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice broke barriers when she became the first female African-American to hold the most senior position in cabinet, that of Secretary of state. A former Political Science professor, she served as the 66th United States Secretary of State. She was also the second African-American Secretary of State (the first being Colin Powell), and the second female Secretary of State (the first being Madeleine Albright). Before being appointed to this position, she was President George W. Bush's National Security Advisor, the first woman to serve in that position.

no title

Rice was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up while the South was racially segregated. Her parents were both teachers and her father was an ordained Presbyterian Minister. She obtained her bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Denver and her master's degree in political science from the University of Notre Dame. She worked at the State Department under the Carter administration and before holding an academic fellowship at Stanford University, where she later served as provost from 1993 to 1999. She was a Democrat until 1982, when she changed her political affiliation to Republican, in part because she disagreed with the foreign policy of Democratic President Jimmy Carter. Speaking at the 2000 Republican National Convention, she told the audience, "My father joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did."

Rice worked at Stanford University as an assistant professor of political science from 1981 to 1987. She was promoted to associate professor in 1987, a post she held until 1993. She was a specialist on the Soviet Union. At meeting of arms control experts at Stanford in 1985, Rice attracted the attention of Brent Scowcroft, who had served as National Security Advisor under Gerald Ford. President George H. W. Bush appointed Scowcroft as his National Security Adviser in 1989, and Scowcroft asked Rice to become his Soviet expert on the United States National Security Council. The first President Bush relied heavily on Rice's advice in his dealings with Soviet leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin.

She returned to Stanford in 1991 and developed a working relationship with George P. Shultz, who had been Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State from 1982 to 1989. At this time Schultz was a fellow at the Hoover Institution. In 1992, Shultz, who was a board member of Chevron Corporation, recommended Rice for a spot on the Chevron board. Chevron was pursuing a $10 billion development project in Kazakhstan and Rice personally knew the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. She traveled to Kazakhstan on Chevron's behalf. In 1993, Chevron named a 129,000-ton supertanker SS Condoleezza Rice. During this period, Rice was also appointed to the boards of Transamerica Corporation (1991) and Hewlett-Packard (1992).

In 1993 Rice was appointed as Stanford's Provost, the chief budget and academic officer of the university. She also was granted tenure and became full professor. Rice was the first female, first African-American, and youngest Provost in Stanford's history. She was also named a senior fellow of the Institute for International Studies, and a senior fellow (by courtesy) of the Hoover Institution.

During George W. Bush's 2000 presidential election campaign, Rice took a one-year leave of absence from Stanford University to serve as his foreign policy advisor. The group of advisors she led called itself The Vulcans in honor of the monumental Vulcan statue, which sits on a hill overlooking her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. On December 17, 2000, Rice was named as National Security Advisor and stepped down from her position at Stanford. She was the first woman to occupy the post.

During the summer of 2001, Rice met with CIA Director George Tenet to discuss the possibilities and prevention of terrorist attacks on American targets. On July 10, 2001, Rice met with Tenet at the White House at Tenet's request to brief Rice and the NSC staff about the potential threat of an impending al Qaeda attack. On September 11, 2001, Rice was scheduled to outline a new national security policy that included missile defense as a cornerstone and played down the threat of stateless terrorism.

On April 8 2004, Rice testified before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission). She thus became the first sitting National Security Advisor to testify on matters of policy.

Rice supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. After Iraq delivered its declaration of weapons of mass destruction to the United Nations on December 8, 2002, Rice wrote an editorial for The New York Times entitled "Why We Know Iraq Is Lying". In a January 10, 2003, interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Rice addressed the issue of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's nuclear capabilities and said: "The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." In October 2003, Rice was named to run the Iraq Stabilization Group. After the invasion, when it became clear that Iraq did not have nuclear WMD capability, Rice was criticized for this position.

On November 16, 2004, President Bush nominated Rice to be Secretary of State. On January 26, 2005, the Senate confirmed her nomination by a vote of 85–13. As Secretary of State, Rice championed the expansion of democratic governments and called for the advancement of democratic reform throughout the Middle East. She restructured the State Department, as well as US diplomacy as a whole. As Secretary of State, Rice traveled extensively. She holds the record for most miles logged in the position.

Previously, in 1986, Rice was appointed special assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to work on nuclear strategic planning as part of a Council on Foreign Relations fellowship. In 2005, when Rice became office as Secretary of State where a major responsibility of hers was trying to address the nuclear threat from North Korea and Iran. North Korea had signed a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1985, but in 2002 it was discovered that they were operating a secret nuclear weapons program that violated the 1994 agreement. In that agreement North Korea had agreed to freeze and eventually dismantle its graphite moderated nuclear reactors, in exchange for international aid which would help them to build two new light-water nuclear reactors. In 2003, North Korea officially withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Rice promoted the concept of “six-party talks” that brought China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea into discussion with North Korea and the United States. During these discussions, Rice urged North Korea to dismantle their nuclear power program. In 2005, North Korea agreed to give up its entire nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and economic benefits. But despite this agreement, the following year in 2006, North Korea test fired long range missiles. The UN Security Council demanded North Korea suspend the program. In 2007, Rice was involved in another nuclear agreement with North Korea. She negotiated an agreement involving North Korea and four other nations in which North Korea agreed to close its main nuclear reactor in exchange for $400 million in fuel and other foreign aid.

In 2008, Indian prime minister announced the Agreement for Cooperation between the United States and India involving peaceful uses of nuclear energy. As Secretary of State, Rice was involved in the negation of this agreement.

Rice is a very talented and accomplished pianist. At the age of 15, she played Mozart with the Denver Symphony, and while Secretary of State she played regularly with a chamber music group in Washington. She performed at diplomatic events at embassies, including a performance for Queen Elizabeth II, and she has performed in public with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and singer Aretha Franklin. In 2005, Rice accompanied Charity Sunshine Tillemann-Dick, a 21-year-old soprano, for a benefit concert for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

After the end of the Bush Administration, Rice returned to Stanford and joined the Council on Foreign Relations. She appeared as herself in 2011 on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock in the fifth-season episode "Everything Sunny All the Time Always". She is a strong football fan and in October 2013, Rice was selected to be one of the 13 inaugural members of the College Football Playoff, Playoff, Postseason, Selection Committee. In an interview in October 2014, she said that she watches "14 or 15 games every week live on TV on Saturdays and recorded games on Sundays." She has appeared four times on the Time 100, Time magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people. In 2004 and 2005, she was ranked as the most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine and number two in 2006 (following the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel).

In October 2016 Condoleezza Rice called on Donald Trump to withdraw from the presidential race a month before he was elected president. After Trump was elected, the two met in the Oval Office in March of this year. Rice had recommended that former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson be appointed to serve as Secretary of State.

Black History Month: Frederick Douglass

The great African-American social reformer Frederick Douglass was born with the name Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey sometime in February 1818. (He was unsure of the exact date, and decided that he would celebrate his birthday on St. Valentine's Day). He died on February 20, 1895 (129 years ago, and shame on me for not posting this entry about him on the 20th) and in the 77 years that he lived, he was one of the most influential men of his time. His resume includes the jobs of reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, preacher and statesman, but it began as a slave. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. Douglass was a man far ahead of his time. He firmly believed in the equality of all peoples, whether black, white, male, female, Native American, or recent immigrant.

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Talbot County, Maryland. His birthplace was likely his grandmother's cabin. In his first autobiography, Douglass wrote "I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it." After escaping to the North years later, he took the surname Douglass, having already dropped his two middle names. When Douglass was about twelve he was taught the alphabet by Sophia Auld, wife of Hugh Auld, the slave-owner Douglass was working for. Douglass wrote that Sophia was a kind and tender-hearted woman, who treated him "as she supposed one human being ought to treat another". Hugh Auld disapproved of the tutoring, feeling that literacy would encourage slaves to desire freedom. Douglass secretly taught himself how to read and write. He later taught other slaves to read the New Testament at a weekly Sunday school until this was discovered and ended. As punishment, Douglass was sent to work for Edward Covey, a farmer who had a reputation as a "slave-breaker". There Douglass was whipped regularly.

On September 3, 1838, Douglass successfully escaped Covey's farm by boarding a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland, in Harford County, in the northeast corner of the state. Dressed in a sailor's uniform, he carried identification papers and protection papers that he had obtained from a free black seaman. Douglass traveled to Wilmington, Delaware, and went by steamboat to Philadelphia, an anti-slavery stronghold. From there he traveled to the safe house of noted abolitionist David Ruggles in New York City. His entire journey took less than 24 hours.

Douglas had met Anna Murray, a free African American woman from Baltimore who had helped him in his escape. After Douglass arrived in new York, he sent for Murray and the couple were married on September 15, 1838. The couple settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He joined the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, an independent black denomination first established in New York City. Other church members were Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. Douglas became a licensed preacher in 1839.

In 1840, Douglass delivered a speech in Elmira, New York, then a station on the Underground Railroad. He regularly attended abolitionist meetings and subscribed to William Lloyd Garrison's weekly journal The Liberator. Douglass wrote of Garrison, "his paper took a place in my heart second only to The Bible." In 1841, Douglass heard Garrison speak at a meeting of the Bristol Anti-Slavery Society. At another meeting, Douglass was invited to speak and after telling his story, Douglass was encouraged to become an anti-slavery lecturer. Soon after, Douglass spoke at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society's annual convention in Nantucket at the age of 23.

In 1843, Douglass joined other speakers in the American Anti-Slavery Society's "Hundred Conventions" project, a six-month tour at meeting halls throughout the Eastern and Midwestern United States. At a lecture in Pendleton, Indiana, an angry mob chased and beat Douglass before a local Quaker family came to his rescue. His hand was broken in the attack. It never healed properly and bothered him for the rest of his life.

In 1845 Douglas published his first autobiography entitled Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. The book received positive reviews and became a bestseller. Within three years, it had been reprinted nine times, with 11,000 copies circulating in the United States. It was also translated into French and Dutch and published in Europe. Douglass published three versions of his autobiography during his lifetime, each time expanding on the previous one. In 1855, Douglass published My Bondage and My Freedom. In 1881, after the Civil War, Douglass published Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, which he revised in 1892.

Douglass embarked on a tour of Ireland in the summer of 1845. He spent two years in Ireland and Britain, where he gave many lectures in churches and chapels, speaking to large crowds. Douglass wrote that in England he was treated not "as a color, but as a man." In 1846 Douglass met with Thomas Clarkson, one of the last living British abolitionists, who had persuaded Parliament to abolish slavery in Great Britain's colonies. During this trip British supporters led by Anna Richardson raised funds to buy his freedom from his American owner Thomas Auld. Douglass returned home in the spring of 1847.

After returning to the U.S. in 1847, Douglass started publishing his first abolitionist newspaper, the North Star, from the basement of the Memorial Zion Church in Rochester, New York. Douglass's abolitionist newspapers were mainly funded by English supporters. It was at this time that Douglass split with Garrison, considering Garrison to be too radical. In September 1848, Douglass published an open letter addressed to his former master, Thomas Auld, criticizing Auld for his conduct, and asking Auld how he would feel if Douglass had come to take away his daughter Amanda as a slave, treating her the way he and members of his family had been treated by Auld.

In 1848, Douglass was the only African American to attend the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women's rights convention, held in upstate New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton asked the assembly to pass a resolution asking for women's suffrage. Douglass stood and spoke eloquently in favor, telling the crowd that he could not accept the right to vote as a black man if women could not also claim that right. He made the case that the world would be a better place if women were involved in the political sphere. After Douglass spoke, the attendees passed the resolution. Douglass wrote editorials in his paper, the North Star, to support women's rights.

In 1851, Douglass merged the North Star with Gerrit Smith's Liberty Party Paper to form Frederick Douglass' Paper, which was published until 1860. He continued to make abolitionist speeches. On March 12, 1859, Douglass met with radical abolitionists John Brown, George DeBaptiste, and others at William Webb's house in Detroit to discuss emancipation. He met Brown again, when Brown visited his home two months before leading the raid on the federal armory in Harpers Ferry. Douglass disapproved of Brown's plan to start an armed slave rebellion in the South and he told Brown that attacking federal property would enrage the American public. After the raid, Douglass fled to Canada, fearing that he would be arrested as a co-conspirator. In March 1860, he traveled to England, but soon returned home after the death of his youngest daughter Annie.

By the time of the Civil War, Douglass was nationally well known for his advocacy about the conditions of slaves and on other issues such as women's rights. Douglass and the abolitionists argued that African Americans should be allowed to engage in the fight for their freedom on the side of the Union in the war. Douglass publicized this view in his newspapers and several speeches. In 1863 Douglass conferred with President Abraham Lincoln on the treatment of black soldiers, and later with President Andrew Johnson on the subject of black suffrage.

President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect on January 1, 1863, declared the freedom of all slaves in Confederate-held territory. Enslaved persons in Union-held areas and Northern states were freed with the adoption of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865. Despite Lincoln's progressive views, during the U.S. Presidential Election of 1864, Douglass supported John C. Frémont, who was the candidate of the abolitionist Radical Democracy Party. Douglass was disappointed that President Lincoln did not publicly endorse suffrage for black freedmen. Douglass believed that since African-American men were fighting for the Union in the American Civil War, they deserved the right to vote. However during the war, Douglass worked with Lincoln to move liberated slaves out of the South. During the war, Douglass also helped the Union cause by serving as a recruiter for the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. His eldest son, Charles Douglass, joined the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. His son Lewis Douglass fought at the Battle of Fort Wagner. Another son, Frederick Douglass Jr., also served as a recruiter.

When Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, Douglass mourned the loss of the slain president. Speaking on April 14, 1876, Douglass delivered the keynote speech at the unveiling of the Emancipation Memorial in Washington's Lincoln Park. In that speech, Douglass spoke frankly about Lincoln, noting what he perceived as both positive and negative attributes of the late President. Douglass criticized Lincoln for not joining the cause of emancipation sooner, but Douglass also asked, "Can any colored man, or any white man friendly to the freedom of all men, ever forget the night which followed the first day of January 1863, when the world was to see if Abraham Lincoln would prove to be as good as his word?" Lincoln's widow Mary Lincoln gave Lincoln's favorite walking-stick to Douglass in appreciation.

After the Civil War, Douglass continued to work for equality for African-Americans and women. Due to his prominence and activism during the war, Douglass received several political appointments. He served as president of the Reconstruction-era Freedman's Savings Bank. He also became chargé d'affaires for the Dominican Republic, but resigned that position after two years because of disagreements with U.S. government policy.

After the end of the war, many white insurgents had banded together in the South, organizing first as secret vigilante groups, including the Ku Klux Klan. Powerful paramilitary groups included the White League and the Red Shirts, both became active during the 1870s in the Deep South. They operated as "the military arm of the Democratic Party", turning out Republican officeholders and disrupting elections. They called for white supremacy, enforced by a combination of violence, Jim Crow laws imposing segregation and a concerted effort to disfranchise African Americans. In an effort to combat these efforts, Douglass supported the presidential campaign of Ulysses S. Grant in 1868. Grant sent a Congressionally sponsored commission, accompanied by Douglass, on a mission to the West Indies to investigate if the annexation of Santo Domingo would be good for the United States. Grant believed annexation would help relieve the violent situation in the South allowing African Americans their own state. Douglass and the commission favored annexation, but Congress was opposed to annexation. Douglass criticized Senator Charles Sumner, who opposed annexation, stating if Sumner continued to oppose annexation he would "regard him as the worst foe the colored race has on this continent."

After the midterm elections, Grant signed the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (also known as the Klan Act), and the second and third Enforcement Acts. Grant used their provisions vigorously, suspending habeas corpus in South Carolina and sending troops there and into other states. Under his leadership over 5,000 arrests were made. Grant's diligence in fighting the Klan made him unpopular among many whites, but earned Douglass's praise.

In 1872, Douglass became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States. He was chosen as Victoria Woodhull's running mate on the Equal Rights Party ticket. He was nominated without his knowledge and did not campaign for the ticket or even acknowledged that he had been nominated. That same year his home on South Avenue in Rochester, New York, burned down and arson was suspected. Following this, Douglass moved to Washington, D.C.

When Republican Rutherford B. Hayes was elected President, Douglass accepted an appointment as United States Marshal for the District of Columbia, which helped assure his family's financial security. In 1877, Douglass visited Thomas Auld, who was on his deathbed. The two men reconciled. Douglass had met Auld's daughter, Amanda Auld Sears a few years earlier and she had requested the meeting. She had also attended and cheered one of Douglass' speeches. Her father was said to be grateful to her for reaching out to Douglass. Some abolitionists criticized Douglass for doing so.

In 1881, Douglass both published the final edition of his autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. He received another political appointment, as Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia. His wife Anna died in 1882. He remarried in 1884 to Helen Pitts, a white suffragist and abolitionist from Honeoye, New York. The marriage was controversial at the time because Pitts was white and was almost 20 years younger than Douglass. Her family stopped speaking to her and his children also disapproved, but feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton congratulated the couple. Douglass responded to the criticisms by saying that his first marriage had been to someone the color of his mother, and his second to someone the color of his father.

Douglass also continued his speaking engagements and travel, both in the United States and abroad. He and his wife Helen traveled to England, Ireland, France, Italy, Egypt and Greece from 1886 to 1887. Douglass also spoke on behalf of Irish Home Rule. In 1888, at the 1888 Republican National Convention, Douglass became the first African American to receive a vote for President of the United States in a major party's roll call vote. President Benjamin Harrison appointed Douglass to be the United States's minister resident and consul-general to the Republic of Haiti and Chargé d'affaires for Santo Domingo in 1889, but Douglass resigned the commission in July 1891. He served as Haiti's co-commissioner of its pavilion at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

On February 20, 1895, Douglass attended a meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C. During that meeting, he was brought to the platform and received a standing ovation. But he was not feeling well. Later that day, after he returned home from the meeting, Frederick Douglass died of a massive heart attack. He was 77 years of age. His funeral was held at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. Thousands of people passed by his coffin to show their respect. Douglass' coffin was transported back to Rochester, New York, where he had lived for 25 years. He was buried next to his first wife Anna in the Douglass family plot of Mount Hope Cemetery. Helen joined them in 1903.

Black History Month: Colin Powell

Colin Luther Powell was the first African-American to serve in the position of Secretary of State. He served as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, serving as its Chairman from 1989 to 1993, during the first Gulf War.

Powell was born in the Harlem section of New York City on April 5, 1937. His parents were Jamaican immigrants Luther Theophilus Powell and Maud Arial Powell. His father worked as a shipping clerk and his mother was a seamstress. Powell was raised in the South Bronx and attended Morris High School, graduating in 1954. He worked at a baby furniture store, where he learned to speak Yiddish. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from the City College of New York in 1958 and later earned an MBA degree from the George Washington University in 1971, after his second tour in Vietnam. Powell married Alma Johnson on August 25, 1962. They had a son, Michael Powell, who was the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from 2001 to 2005. They also had two daughters: Linda Powell, an actress, and Annemarie Powell.

Powell was a professional soldier for 35 years, rising to the rank of General. He joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) during college. As a cadet he joined the Pershing Rifles, the ROTC fraternal organization and drill team begun by General John Pershing. Upon graduation, he received a commission as an Army second lieutenant. After attending basic training at Fort Benning, Powell was assigned to the 48th Infantry, in West Germany, as a platoon leader. He served a tour in Vietnam as a South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) advisor from 1962 to 1963. While on patrol in a Viet Cong-held area, he was wounded by stepping on a punji stake, injuring his foot, causing an infection that made it difficult for him to walk. This ended his first tour of duty, but he returned to Vietnam as a major in 1968, serving in the 23rd Infantry Division. He became assistant chief of staff of operations for the Americal Division. During the second tour in Vietnam he was decorated for bravery after he survived a helicopter crash, single-handedly rescuing three others from the burning wreckage, including division commander Major General Charles Martin Gettys. While in Vietnam, Powell was in the unit that was responsible for the My Lai massacre, but he joined the unit after My Lai.

When he returned home from the war, Powell served a White House Fellowship under President Richard Nixon from 1972 to 1973. During 1975 to 1976 he attended the National War College, Washington, D.C. In the early 1980s, Powell served at Fort Carson, Colorado. After leaving Fort Carson, Powell became senior military assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, whom he assisted during the 1983 invasion of Grenada and the 1986 airstrike on Libya. In 1986, Powell took over the command of V Corps in Frankfurt, Germany.

Following the Iran Contra scandal, Powell became Ronald Reagan's National Security Advisor, serving from 1987 to 1989 while retaining his Army commission as a lieutenant general. In April 1989, after his tenure with the National Security Council, Powell was promoted to four-star general under President George H. W. Bush and briefly served as the Commander in Chief, Forces Command (FORSCOM), headquartered at Fort McPherson, Georgia, overseeing all Army, Army Reserve, and National Guard units in the Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Later that year, President George H. W. Bush selected him as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Powell served as Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff from October 1, 1989, to September 30, 1993, becoming the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the Department of Defense. At age 52, he became the youngest officer, and first African-American, to serve in this position. Powell was also the first JCS Chair who received his commission through ROTC. During this time, he served during 28 military crises, including the invasion of Panama in 1989 which removed General Manuel Noriega from power. He was also Chairman during Operation Desert Storm in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. During these events, Powell earned his nickname, "the reluctant warrior." His reputation was as someone who rarely advocated military intervention as the first solution to an international crisis, instead urging diplomacy and containment. As a military strategist, Powell advocated a military approach that minimized casualties through the use of overwhelming force, which he applied to Operation Desert Storm in 1991. This approach has been called the "Powell Doctrine".

Powell continued as chairman of the JCS into the Bill Clinton presidency but considered himself a bad fit for the Clinton administration. He disagreed with U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright over the Bosnian crisis, stating that he opposed any military interventions that did not involve US interests.

Like many popular Generals in the aftermath of a victorious war, Powell was considered as an attractive presidential candidate by both major political parties. Democrats admired his moderate stance on military matters, while Republicans associated him with the successes of past Republican administrations. It was suggested that he replace Vice-President Dan Quayle on the Republican ticket in the 1992 U.S. presidential election, but this did not happen. However Powell eventually declared himself a Republican and began to campaign for Republican candidates in 1995. He was considered to be a possible opponent of Bill Clinton in the 1996 U.S. presidential election and for a time he led in polls for the New Hampshire primary for the GOP nomination, but Powell declined to run. He said that he had no passion for politics.

In 1997 Powell founded America's Promise, an organization whose objective was to help children from all socioeconomic sectors. That same year saw the establishment of The Colin L. Powell Center for Leadership and Service. The mission of the Center is stated as being to "prepare new generations of publicly engaged leaders from populations previously underrepresented in public service and policy circles, to build a strong culture of civic engagement at City College, and to mobilize campus resources to meet pressing community needs and serve the public good."

Powell was once again mentioned as a potential candidate in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, but decided against running. When Texas Governor George W. Bush secured the Republican nomination, Powell endorsed him for president and spoke at the 2000 Republican National Convention. When Bush eventually won the election, Powell was appointed Secretary of State.

As Secretary of State in the Bush administration, Powell was seen as a moderate. He was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate. On September 11, 2001, Powell was in Lima, Peru, attending the special session of the OAS General Assembly that subsequently adopted the Inter-American Democratic Charter. After the September 11 attacks, Powell's job was to manage America's relationships with foreign countries in order to secure a stable coalition in the War on Terrorism.

Powell was criticized for his role in building the case for the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. In a press statement on February 24, 2001, he had said that sanctions against Iraq had prevented the development of any weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein. Powell opposed the forcible overthrow of Saddam, preferring to continue a policy of containment. But once the decision was made to remove Saddam, Powell supported the president. He had clashed with others in the administration, who were reportedly planning an Iraq invasion even before the September 11 attacks. Before he would offer his full support for the Iraq War, Powell insisted on the involvement of the international community in the invasion, as opposed to a unilateral approach. He persuaded Bush to take the case of Iraq to the United Nations. Powell's chief role was to garner international support for a multi-national coalition to mount the invasion. He addressed a plenary session of the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003, to argue in favor of military action. Citing numerous anonymous Iraqi defectors, Powell asserted that "there can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more." He also stated that there was "no doubt in my mind" that Saddam was working to obtain key components to produce nuclear weapons.

The Bush administration came under fire for having acted on faulty intelligence. Powell later said that Vice President Dick Cheney had joked with him before he gave the speech, telling him, "You've got high poll ratings. You can afford to lose a few points." Powell later called the speech a "blot" on his record. After Saddam Hussein was deposed, Powell's role was to establish a working international coalition, this time to assist in the rebuilding of post-war Iraq.

Powell announced his resignation as Secretary of State on November 15, 2004. Powell announced that he would stay on until the end of Bush's first term or until his replacement's confirmation by Congress. The following day, Bush nominated National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as Powell's successor.

After retiring as Secretary of State, Powell returned to private life. In July 2005, Powell joined Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, a well-known Silicon Valley venture capital firm, with the title of "strategic limited partner." In September 2005, Powell criticized the response to Hurricane Katrina, stating that thousands of people were not properly protected, because they were poor. On January 5, 2006, he participated in a meeting at the White House of former Secretaries of Defense and State to discuss United States foreign policy with Bush administration officials. In September 2006, Powell sided with more moderate Senate Republicans in supporting more rights for detainees and opposing President Bush's terrorism bill. In 2008, Powell served as a spokesperson for National Mentoring Month, a campaign held each January to recruit volunteer mentors for at-risk youth.

In September 2009, Powell advised President Barack Obama against surging US forces in Afghanistan, but despite Powell's advice, Obama announced the surge the following December. Powell endorsed President Obama in 2008 and again in 2012. But on the television show Meet the Press he said, "I’m still a Republican. And I think the Republican Party needs me more than the Democratic Party needs me. And you can be a Republican and still feel strongly about issues such as immigration, and improving our education system, and doing something about some of the social problems that exist in our society and our country. I don’t think there's anything inconsistent with this."

In March 2016, Powell denounced the "nastiness" of the 2016 Republican primaries during an interview on CBS This Morning. He stated that the campaign had gone "into the mud". But during the campaign he also criticized Hillary Clinton. He accused the Clinton campaign of trying to pin Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's email controversy on him. Powell said, "The truth is, she was using [the private email server] for a year before I sent her a memo telling her what I did." In an email, he wrote, "I have told Hillary's minions repeatedly that they are making a mistake trying to drag me in, yet they still try."

Powell was more critical of Donald Trump however, calling him a "national disgrace", with "no sense of shame". He referred to Trump's role in the birther movement as "racist". Powell endorsed Clinton on October 25, 2016, stating it was "because I think she's qualified, and the other gentleman is not qualified." Despite not running in the election, Powell received three electoral votes for president from faithless electors in Washington who had pledged to vote for Clinton, coming in third overall. After Barack Obama, Powell was only the second African American to receive electoral votes in a presidential election. He was also the first Republican since 1984 to receive electoral votes from Washington in a presidential election, as well as the first Republican African American to do so.

Powell died on October 18, 2021. He was being treated for multiple myeloma. He died at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center from complications from COVID-19. He was 84 years of age.