Category Archives: Profiles

Biographical commentary on famous people – of note – and maybe not so.

Activist, Brigitte Bardot

Last year, singling out screen legends such as Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich, who died alone, Bardot told Dalya Alberge: “The majority of great actresses met tragic ends. When I said goodbye to this job, to this life of opulence and glitter, images and adoration, the quest to be desired, I was saving my life.”

However, Bardot’s views and her strong opposition to Islam in France have led to her being condemned by French courts for anti-Muslim comments, and fined. She faced French judges five times for “incitement to racial hatred” between 1997 and 2008.

In 1996, she pointed to her grandfather and father’s battles against German invaders in two world wars, and to her own rejection of lucrative Hollywood offers during her “cinematic glory.” Ms Bardot wrote: “And now my country, France, my fatherland, my land, is, with the blessing of successive governments, again invaded by a foreign, especially Muslim, overpopulation to which we pay allegiance. Continue reading

Descendants of Frederick Douglass Read From One of the Greatest Speeches in American History

Without leadership, the mob may win and the resulting chaos will benefit no one except those who foment it.

Americans used to have great reverence for the spoken word. Before radio and TV, there were political speeches and the great orators were prized for their ability to move audiences to laughter, to tears, or to rage.

It’s ironic that some of the most famous and beloved Americans were terrible public speakers. Jefferson stammered his way through his first inaugural. Washington hated to speak in public — partly because his teeth kept slipping.

Abraham Lincoln’s speaking voice was a high-pitched, nasally whine. But what he said moved mountains. The Gettysburg Address redefined freedom and liberty in a way that everyone understood and believed. His second inaugural address (the shortest in history) — “With malice toward none and charity for all” — became public policy the minute he uttered it. Continue reading

JFK’s Cold War Chains

President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev took the measure of each other when they met for the first time, in Vienna in 1961. (Google Images)

Editor’s note: The past is prologue. The stories we tell about ourselves and our forebears inform the sort of country we think we are and help determine public policy. As our current president promises to “make America great again,” this moment is an appropriate time to reconsider our past, look back at various eras of United States history and re-evaluate America’s origins. When, exactly, were we “great”?
Continue reading

Don’t Cheer Woodrow Wilson’s Cancellation

Rather than taking scalps of our own, what the right needs is an arms-linked defense of our history, culture, art, and institutions, imperfect though all that might be.

First things first: Woodrow Wilson was a deplorable bigot and one of the worst presidents in American history. He re-segregated the federal government, glamorized the Ku Klux Klan, screened The Birth of a Nation at the White House, and opposed Reconstruction and black suffrage (Dylan Matthews has more on Wilson’s racism). In common with many progressive intellectuals of his time, he was a champion of eugenics. He sank the United States into the pointless carnage of World War I. He viewed the Constitution as outmoded and sought to snap its restraints on executive power. Continue reading

Charles Mason: A Voice of Reason

Charles Mason

Today, as it was a hundred and sixty years ago, America stands on the edge of an ever-widening chasm of cultural, ideological, political, racial and sectional divisions. In 1860, there was at least one prominent voice of reason that cried out to end the nation’s mad rush into the abyss, that of Charles Mason of Iowa. Mason was a Northern Democrat who not only understood the conflicting issues that were then pulling the nation apart, but reasonably viewed the rights and wrongs of both secession and slavery, as well as strongly opposing Lincoln’s invasion of the South to militarily force the departed States back into the Union. Like many others in both the North and South, Mason did not approve of secession, but felt that as there was nothing in the Constitution to bar a State from abrogating its contract with America and peacefully withdrawing from the Union, that it was solely a matter for the people of each State to decide on their own. His fervent hope though was that if secession did become a reality and a new Southern nation created, that the two countries could then begin to negotiate their differences in a peaceful manner, somehow resolve them and ultimately reunite. Continue reading

Benjamin Salinas Westrup: The Strange Turns of Life

In 1840, the young Queen of England, Victoria, married her first cousin, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, nephew of Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, King of the Belgians. Victoria and Albert were of the same age, both born in 1819.

Victoria came to the throne in the nick of time; she turned 18 in 1837, and thus became heir to the throne of England just a few months before the decease of her uncle, King William IV of England. Her father, Prince Edward, son of King George III, and heir to the throne, had died when she was a baby. Thus, Queen Victoria was a grand-daughter of King George III. Continue reading

Nancy Green ~ Aunt Jemima

Portrait of Green as Aunt Jemima, by A. B. Frost

Nancy Green (November 17, 1834 – August 30, 1923 was a storyteller, cook, activist, and the first of several African-American models hired to promote a corporate trademark as “Aunt Jemima”.

Green was born into slavery on November 17, 1834, near Mount Sterling in Montgomery County, Kentucky. She was hired in 1890 by the R.T. Davis Milling Company in St. Joseph, Missouri, to represent “Aunt Jemima”, an advertising character named after a song from a minstrel show. Davis Milling had recently acquired the formula to a ready-mixed, self-rising pancake flour from St. Joseph Gazette editor Chris L. Rutt and Charles Underwood and were looking to employ an African-American woman as a Mammy archetype to promote their new product. In 1893, Green was introduced as Aunt Jemima at the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, where it was her job to operate a pancake-cooking display. Her amicable personality and talent as a cook for the Walker family, whose children grew up to become Chicago Circuit Judge Charles M. Walker and Dr. Samuel Walker helped establish a successful showing of the product, for which she received a medal and certificate from the Expo officials. Continue reading

The pardon of Jefferson Davis and the 14th Amendment

On October 17, 1978, President Jimmy Carter officially restored the full citizenship rights of former Confederate president Jefferson Davis, signing an act from Congress that ended a century-long dispute.

Davis is most remembered today as one of the leaders of the Confederacy, along with General Robert E. Lee. In 1976, Lee’s citizenship was restored by Congress, also about a century after Lee’s death after the Civil War. The restoration of Davis’ citizenship soon followed.

In posthumously restoring the full rights of citizenship to Jefferson Davis, the Congress officially completes the long process of reconciliation that has reunited our people following the tragic conflict between the States,” the resolution read on October 17, 1978. Continue reading

God’s Country Shall Not Be Damned

In Memory of Dr. Neil Compton, Arkansas Hero, 1912-1999

Neil Compton of Bentonville, Arkansas, my beloved hometown, stands as a paragon of civic virtue. Born in Falling Springs, western Benton County, he lived with his family on Upper Coon Creek until the age of eleven, when he moved to Bentonville upon the election of his father, David, as Benton County Judge. After his undergraduate and medical education at the University of Arkansas, Compton served as a health officer with the State Board of Health, and later served in the Medical Corps of the United States Naval Reserve in the Fiji Islands during the Second World War. His former home, just off of the Bentonville Square, serves as the center of Compton Gardens, comprised of nearly seven acres of walking trails and native woodland plants. Compton Gardens now connects to our world-renowned Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, as well as the rest of the magnificent Bentonville trail system. I have many a fond memory there, and vividly remember my first visit in the fourth grade. Incidentally, it was this fourth-grade teacher that instilled in me my passion for the natural world. Continue reading

The Enslaved Household of the Grant Family

Caricature of Ulysses S. Grant inebriated. (Library of Congress

Women are often overlooked in history for their role in the institution of slavery. First Lady Julia Dent Grant, wife of President Ulysses S. Grant, was a steadfast slave mistress for more than half of her life—an often forgotten part of her identity. Though Grant himself grew up in an abolitionist family in the free state of Ohio, his marriage to Julia Dent led him to become involved in slavery while the two lived in Missouri on Julia’s family estate. As a result, Ulysses Grant was the last U.S. president to have owned an enslaved individual. Grant’s legacy as the respected Commanding General of the Union Army, and his efforts as president to protect black citizenship have long obscured his personal slave-ownership, as well as that of his beloved wife. Continue reading

Lincoln: The Aggrandized Log-Splitter

President Lincoln has been all but deified in America, with a god-like giant statue at a Parthenon-like memorial in Washington. Generations of school children have been indoctrinated with the story that “Honest Abe” Lincoln is a national hero who saved the Union and fought a noble war to end slavery, and that the “evil” Southern states seceded from the Union to protect slavery. This is the Yankee myth of history, written and promulgated by Northerners, and it is a complete falsity. It was produced and entrenched in the culture in large part to gloss over the terrible war crimes committed by Union soldiers in the War Between the States, as well as Lincoln’s violations of the law, his shredding of the Constitution, and other reprehensible acts. It has been very effective in keeping the average American ignorant of the real causes of the war, and the real nature, character and record of Lincoln. Let us look at some unpleasant facts. Continue reading

The US President Who Became a Confederate

While certainly not one of the best-known presidents, John Tyler holds several incredible distinctions. He inherited the Presidency after being elected Vice-President under William Henry Harrison, who famously died only 32 days after taking office. Tyler’s presidency was full of the turmoil that would split the Union decades later, and while an ardent States’ Rights supporter, he did show a willingness to compromise. Continue reading

A Long Farewell: The Southern Valedictories of 1860-1861

This essay was originally published in Southern Partisan Magazine, 1989.

As we conclude bicentennial celebration of the drafting and adoption of the Constitution of the United States, it may be hoped that we have finally arrived at the proper moment for looking back and ap­preciating the importance of those even more heated discussions of the document which occurred in the nation’s capital during what Henry Adams called the “great secession winter” of 1860-1861. Continue reading

Moses… also known as Charlton Heston

Heston and his wife Lydia

Earlier, I watched “The Ten Commandments” on television. That was always an Easter tradition in my family. I was remembering stories I’ve heard about Charlton Heston and his connection to Asheville. John Charles Carter (1923-2008), as he was born, and his wife Lydia Clarke (1923-2018), were married in Greensboro, NC in 1944. (I suspect she was a student at either Women’s College or Greensboro College, but I don’t know that for a fact.) After his service in the Army Air Corps (Air Force) during WW II, they were living in New York, attempting to find work as professional actors. In January, 1947, they were hired to manage the newly founded Asheville Community Theatre here in Asheville. Continue reading

The Difference One Racist Made: Margaret Sanger’s World

“On the other hand, the mass of ignorant Negroes still breed carelessly and disastrously, so that the increase among Negroes, even more than the increase among whites, is from that part of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear their children properly.” ~ W.E.B. DuBois, Professor of Sociology, Atlanta University. “Black Folk and Birth Control.” [Margaret Sanger’s] Birth Control Review, Volume XXII, Number 8 (New Series, May 1938, the “Negro Number”), page 90.

The Early Years
Margaret Sanger was born in 1879 in New York, one of 11 children born into an impoverished family. Her mother was Catholic, her father an atheist. Her mother had several miscarriages and died at an early age. Though the cause of death was listed as tuberculosis, Margaret always attributed her early death to the fact that her mother was weak from bearing so many children. This deep-seated disdain for large families would encompass her life and contribute to a belief that women should limit – or be limited – in the number of children they have. Continue reading

Emma Goldman ~ “Patriotism – a menace to liberty.”

~ Prologue ~
The contention that patriotism is a poison for the minds of free men is the keynote of a recent speech successfully delivered before audiences across the country by Miss Emma Goldman, the Russian immigrant who has become one of the leading voices of anarchism, permitted free rein under the liberties of her adopted country.

Miss Goldman, at age 46, is a well educated Russian woman who came to the United States in 1886 and, after a preliminary period of hard labor in the looms and mills of New York and New England, turned to the movement of radicals that preaches the total destruction of organized society as the means of “freeing” individuals.

She is notable as an anachronism in American development, gaining vast audiences for her spell-binding talks, primarily from amongst the more recently arrived immigrant groups, who are apparently are entertained by her ideas, but who, with few exceptions go from her meetings back to their jobs and their sober political beliefs. Continue reading

Alexander H. Darnes ~ With Remembrance and with Respect

For those Yankees who like to beat the dead horse of “slavery” and “denial” about Blacks in the Confederate Army. Not only did we have numerous colored Brother’s, but imagine how minds would EXPLODE if they knew about our Black CONFEDERATE GENERAL?? ~ M.R.F.

Alexander H. Darnes (c.1840 – February 11, 1894) was an African American who was born into slavery in St. Augustine, Florida and became the first black doctor in Jacksonville, Florida.

As a youth and young man, he served Edmund Kirby Smith, the son of his master, in Texas with the United States Army, and during the War Between the States when Kirby Smith served as a Confederate general. Continue reading