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LINK Letters From An American 02/01/2023

Heather Cox Richardson

On February 1, 1862, in the early days of the Civil War, the Atlantic Monthly published Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” summing up the cause of freedom for which the United States troops would soon be fighting. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” it began.

“He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:

His truth is marching on.”

Howe had written the poem on a visit to Washington with her husband. Approaching the city, she had reflected sadly that there was little she could do for the United States. She couldn’t send her menfolk: her husband was too old to fight, her sons too young. And with a toddler, she didn’t even have enough time to volunteer to pack stores for the field hospitals. “I thought of the women of my acquaintance whose sons or husbands were fighting our great battle; the women themselves serving in the hospitals, or busying themselves with the work of the Sanitary Commission,” and felt there was nothing she could give to the cause.

One day she and her husband toured the troops surrounding the city and, mingling with troops on the way home, sang a popular song: “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave; his soul is marching on.” A friend challenged Howe to write more uplifting words for the marching song.

That night, Howe slept soundly. She woke before dawn and, lying in bed, began thinking about the tune she had heard the soldiers singing the day before. She recalled: “[A]s I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind.... With a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen... I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper.”

Howe's hymn captured the tension of Washington, D.C., during the war as soldiers protected the government from invasion, strung in camps around the city to keep invaders from the U.S. Capitol.

“I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,

They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;

I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:

His day is marching on.”

Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic went on define the Civil War as a holy war for human freedom:

“In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.

As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,

While God is marching on.”

The Battle Hymn became the anthem of the Union during the Civil War, and exactly three years after it appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, on February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Joint Resolution of Congress passing the Thirteenth Amendment and sending it off to the states for ratification. The amendment provided that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." It gave Congress power to enforce that amendment. This was the first amendment that gave power to the federal government rather than taking it away. Three quarters of the states had ratified the Thirteenth Amendment by December 6, 1865.

When the measure had passed the House the day before, the lawmakers and spectators had gone wild. “The members on the floor huzzaed in chorus with deafening and equally emphatic cheers of the throng in the galleries,” the New York Times reported. “The ladies in the dense assemblage waved their handkerchiefs, and again and again the applause was repeated, intermingled with clapping of hands and exclamations of ‘Hurrah for freedom,’ ‘Glory enough for one day,’ &c. The audience were wildly excited, and the friends of the measure were jubilant.” Indiana congressman George Julian later recalled, “It seemed to me I had been born into a new life, and that the world was overflowing with beauty and joy, while I was inexpressibly thankful for the privilege of recording my name on so glorious a page of the nation’s history.”

But the hopes of that moment had crumbled within a decade. Almost a century later, on February 1, 1960, David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell A. Blair Jr., and Joseph McNeil set out to bring them back to life when they sat down on stools at the F.W. Woolworth Company department store lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. The men were first-year students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University who wanted to find a way to combat the segregation under which Black Americans had lived since the 1880s.

Woolworth’s would sell products to Black students but would not serve them food. So the men forced the issue by sitting down and ordering coffee and doughnuts. They sat quietly as the white waitress refused to serve them and the store manager ignored them. They came back the next day with a larger group. This time, television cameras covered the story. By February 3 there were 60 men and women sitting. By February 5 there were 50 white male counterprotesters.

By March the sit-in movement had spread across the South, to bus routes, museums, art galleries, and swimming pools. In July, after profits had dropped dramatically, the store manager of the Greensboro Woolworth’s asked four Black employees to put on street clothes and order food at the counter. They did, and they were served. Desegregation in public spaces had begun.

Exactly 63 years later, on February 1, 2023, Tyre Nichols’s family said laid their 29-year-old son to rest in Memphis, Tennessee. He was so severely beaten by police officers on January 7, allegedly for a traffic violation, that he died three days later.

Also today, the College Board released the official curriculum for a new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies. In January, right-wing Florida governor Ron DeSantis complained that the draft course was “indoctrination” and “lacks educational value and is contrary to Florida law,” and said he would ban it. The version released today has been stripped of information about Black feminism, the queer experience, incarceration, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Mine eyes have seen the glory.

Rest in power, Mr. Nichols.

HippieChick58 9 Feb 2

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America was built by theft. We came over here schwinging our holier than thou, cocky bawlz, stole this land, killed it's natives, and brought over slaves. Technically we're all still slaves by way of minimum wage & shit jobs. This country was founded on bullshit & it's still the same today. Now our own government is trying to kill us. It's all lies. No apologies.

Emme Level 7 Feb 2, 2023

Thanks for the history lesson. I never knew that background on Battle Hymn Of The Republic. It's timely, too, as I am currently reading Jon Meacham's new book.

Ditto the thanks and ditto Meacham’s book.

That looks like a good book. I'm going to try to remember to recommend that to my book club the next time when we run through our current read list. Yeah, that's going to be a few months...

@HippieChick58 It is good, but I spend too much time here, squashing trolls, instead of reading the book. 😂

@Flyingsaucesir I read every day while I'm eating lunch. If I have to be in the office it is a good way to discourage anyone from talking to me, not that I'm anti social or anything. I belong to a Humanist book club. The book club current selection is fascinating, The End of The World is Just The Beginning by Peter Ziehan. [] I am thoroughly enjoying this book, and OMG every day my brain just explodes. So many things have been explained, like why the US is the world's policeman, and what is going to happen when the population shrinks... and it's happening now.

@HippieChick58 Sounds fascinating 😎👍


I'm still too angry to form a coherent response to any of this.



An inspirational song must also be heard:


In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.”

What a bunch of god hooey. This song is little more than a Christian Hymn that should be forgotten in our modern age.

What disturbs me, is the undying belief of the AA community in the Gaawd that was used to enslave them, to justify that enslavement and foment our Civil War.


Beaten by cops for a traffic violation - then you die. It seems this is the way for fascists to retain power in America today. The rebellion is not in people like the late Tyre Nichols. It is in those wanting to retain power. Police departments, state governments, et al. Let's not let it spread all over America. We must stop this before it gets embedded into our nations government.

It's already fairly well-rooted in government.
We need to RIP it out and burn it like it's an invasive species.

Too late to keep it from getting in. But I believe we can excise it.

It's completely systemic within our governing bodies and socially..from the founding of the country via Slavery. The foundation of Policing is built on the notoriously violent Slave Patrols of the South. They operated through out all it's not surprising when put into context of Policing history..

News Flash Our nation was founded on embeded laws to make sure the men who received backing from investors in England made a return on their investments - cheap labor and the laws needed to keep plantations in the south and manufacturing in the north going. Well before the Civil War we had laws. Even after the Civil War there were laws that allowed states to make sure Black men did not get GI Bill benefits.


Rethugs time and again, have proven they loathe POC and the changing face of our electoriate..the only way for them to retain power is fear mongering and gerrymandering..thereby suppressing the vote..

The new war is a war against the whole of humanity and all major governments are involved.


If its any consolation people outside the states also find Desantis and his ilk sickening

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