Bridges of Unity over Division; American Heritage

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What Divides Society and What Unites Society?


The Preamble of the United States Constitution states the following: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Although we claim we are dedicated to forming “a more perfect union” there is a lot that has divided us over the years. If you think about it in simple terms a lie is nothing more than division. There is a wholeness and a unity to the truth but no one individual can know the truth perfectly. The best moments in our history have been moments of progress where we gain new understandings of the truth. The most shameful moments in our history are based on lies or an unwillingness to face the truth.

What would you consider to be moments of truth in American History and for American society?


#1 Declaring our Ideals

The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson and signed in Philiadelphia in 1776.  It boldly proclaims “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This philosophy of natural rights remains a light of truth for all democratic governments today. While these words remain true, they were written in the shadow of hypocrisy. The very founding fathers who wrote theme and agreed to them were in fact slave owners. 

Democracy Guardian; Judging the Founding Fathers on Slavery

John Trumbull’s Famous 1818 Painting Declaration of Independence Virtually Defaced to Show Which Founding Fathers Owned Slaves

#2 Civil Rights for All

The actions of Reconstruction taken in the shadow of the Civil War brought the truth of justice as President Lincoln issued the  Emancipation Proclamation and Congress ratified the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The origins of Black History Month over 100 years ago came at a time when women were making progress in the expansion of the right to vote and scholars of American History wanted to recognize the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Even as we made progress towards a more perfect union it must be noted that the divide of racism was still being crossed by the bridge of unity in Martin Luther King’s dream a century after the Civil War.


#3 From Cold War Destruction to the Promise of Global Preservation

As the promise for a more perfect union was being enacted by the mountain top moments of civil rights in America the world was facing another great divide known as the Cold War.  The first international space station was proposed by President Ronald Reagan in January 1984. The very idea of it came out of the long divide of the Cold War and the stress of competition between two superpowers known as the Space Race.  This great bridge of unity over division became a reality by the end of the 20th century and in the 21st century it remains a symbol of peace for all people.  The diligence and hard work of people who came together despite many differences endures as one of our highest achievements in the global community. 


The Human Evolution; Leading the Fight for Unity

In this month of February we reflect on the narratives of bridge builders facing the divide of racism and we realize that human history is lit up with stars of hope in the darkness.  Shining the light of truth is like a fight in the face of all adversity but it is also an evolution of knowledge that comes from a shift in perspective. Ghandi and King called this evolutionary enlightening through action “TRUTH FORCE“. 

The individual American citizens below have contributed to bridging the divide of racism created by the shame of slavery in our American history.  They have faced the division with hope and determination.  They each achieved something that contributed to creating a more perfect union because they had a network of healthy relationships supporting them.  The common thread of connection is the increase in educational awareness, the experience of difficult dialogue, and the creative actions in the face of destructive prejudice.

A key to strengthening the bond of healthy relationships in society is equal access to the human right of quality education.  As students, we learned this directly in our case study of school integration through the story of Ernest Green.  Ernest Green demonstrated a healthy network of understanding as he was motivated by the relationships with and powerful examples of others such as; Emmett Till , Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, the N.A.A.C.P., Daisy Bates, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr , Gandhi and his close friends and family.

It is good for us to recognize how far we have come as a society because of these individuals; just a few of the bright stars of hope in our American and Global Heritage.


Robert S. Abbott; Successful Chicago Newspaper Man


Robert Sengstacke Abbott, ca. 1920

Robert S. Abbott was born on December 24, 1870 to parents who were slaves in St Simon, Georgea and later graduated from law school in Virginia. In 1889, from May to 1905, he began publishing the Chicago Defender, the first years in which he personally went from door to door.

There are times that they canceled the newspaper for that after having the victory of their inequality, black men began to have their rights and then the first millionaire men of color appeared, they could already have money and a house like white men.

He was among the first to bridge the divide of racism through journalism.  The Chicago Defender gave a voice where there had been silence and led to greater equality in American society.


Mary Jane McLeod Bethune;educator, philanthropist, humanitarian, womanist,[2] activist. 1875-1955

Mary McLeod Bethune was born on July 10, 1875, near Maysville, South Carolina. She was the daughter of former slaves, she became one of the most important black educators, civil and women’s rights leaders and government officials of the twentieth century.

The college she founded set educational standards for today’s black colleges, and her role as an advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave African Americans an advocate in government. She was a champion of racial and gender equality, Bethune founded many organizations and led voter registration drives after women gained the vote in 1920, risking racist attacks. In 1924, she was elected president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, and in 1935, she became the founding president of the National Council of Negro Women.

There were many people who did not like what Mary was doing. They especially disliked her thoughts on race segregation and gender equality. This made her a target of many extremist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan. But Mary never gave up and remained focused. Mary was honored by her peers and community. In 1974, she became the first black woman and leader to have a monument in Washington DC which let others to strive for unity and remove division of society.


Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Leader and Martyr of the Modern Civil Rights Movement.


Martin Luther King, Colorblind Radical - WSJ

 WHO? Martin Luther King, Jr., was a Baptist minister and social rights activist in the United States in the 1950s and ’60s. He was a leader of the American civil rights movement. He organized a number of peaceful protests as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, including the March on Washington in 1963. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and, at the time, he was the youngest person to have done so.

WHEN? Born Michael King Jr.January 15, 1929 Atlanta, Georgia, U.S….Died April 4, 1968 (aged 39) Memphis, Tennessee, U.S  Assassination by gunshot. 

WHAT? King helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott, a yearlong campaign touched off when seamstress Rosa Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. After the Supreme Court overturned Alabama’s bus segregation laws in 1956, King co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and promoted nonviolent action for civil rights throughout the South. He was influenced by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and traveled to India in 1959.

Joining his father as co-pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, King continued to use his oratorical gifts to urge an end to segregation and legal inequality. Throughout the 1960s, he was arrested during non violent protests in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. While incarcerated after one such arrest, in 1963, King penned The Letter from the Birmingham Jail , outlining the moral basis for the civil rights movement. That August, he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to more than 200,000 people gathered on the National Mall.

Resting place; 

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park


Thurgood Marshall; Civil Rights Lawyer and Supreme Court Justice


Thurgood Marshall was a civil rights lawyer known for fighting for black rights and being against segregation and Jim Crow Laws. His work began in the 1930s he started helping black kids go to school. He is most famous for being the first black supreme court justice. On June 13, 1967 he was picked to BE a supreme court justice by President Johnson. He was born in Baltimore, MD in 1908, then he went to law school at Howard University law in 1933. Thurgood Marshall died in Bethesda, Maryland on January 24,1993.

“His mission was equal justice for all. Marshall used the power of the courts to fight racism and discrimination, tear down Jim Crow segregation, change the status quo, and make life better for the most vulnerable in our nation”.  NAACP

 Marshall became one of the nation’s leading attorneys. He argued 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, winning 29. Some of his notable cases include:

  • Smith v. Allwright (1944), which found that states could not exclude Black voters from primaries
  • Shelley v. Kraemer (1948), which struck down race-based restrictive housing covenants
  • Sweatt v. Painter(1950), which deemed separate facilities for Black professional and graduate students unconstitutional

Marshall’s most famous case was the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case in which Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren noted, “in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”  You can not argue with the impact of Thurgood Marshall’s legacy in American Civil Rights among colored people.  


Ella Baker; Student, Teacher, and Human Rights Activist


Ella Baker was born in December 13,1903 and died on her birthday in December 13,1986. She worked alongside with some civil rights leaders of the 20 century in New York City and the south. She was and advocate for economic justice as she said, “People cannot be free until there is enough work in this land to give everybody a job.” She knew that the divide of racism was always an economic divide.  Economic opportunity brought the power of action for equal justice. She also knew that people would not be motivated to act unless they were educated and aware.

“The major job was getting people to understand that they had something within their power that they could use, and it could only be used if they understood what was happening and how group action could counter violence…”  – Ella Jo Baker

Ella brought more unity to society because she taught people like Rosa Parks to stand up for themselves and the rights for all people. Ella provided leadership in the fight for equal rights.



Rosa Parks; Courageous Citizen and Civil Rights Activist


Rosa Parks was born on February 4, 1913, Tuskegee, Alabama, U.S. and she died on October 24, 2005, Detroit, Michigan. She was famous for helping initiate the civil rights movement in the United States when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955. Her actions inspired the leaders of the local Black community to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She was led by a young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the boycott lasted more than a year during which Parks not coincidentally lost her job and ended only when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional.

Raymond and Rosa, who worked as a seamstress, became respected members of Montgomery’s large African American community. Rosa also joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP and became chapter secretary. On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks was commuting home from a long day of work at the Montgomery Fair department store by bus and she was arrested for remaining in here seat when a white man asked her to move.

Rosa was a very important figure, she was the woman who got up from sitting down. The woman who taught us that the world can be changed in a day and with a simple gesture.


Daisy Bates; NAACP Activist, Journalist and Mentor of the Little Rock 9



When? : in 1914-1999 Daisy Bates?

Where? :  She was born in Huttig, Arkansas.

She faced the ugly division of racism at age 3.

Her mother was killed by three white men. 


She faced the ugly division of racism at age 3.  Her mother was killed by three white men. 

In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled segregated schools unconstitutional.  After the ruling Bates began gathering African American students to enroll at all white schools. She used her newspaper to show schools in Arkansas that did not follow the law. 

Daisy Bates faces the division of segregation in education. .She was an activist for equal justice.


Emmett Till; The face that sparked a movement.


Emmett Till was born July 25 1941 in Chicago IL. While visiting family in Mississippi,  he went to a white family owned grocery store. There was a white woman behind the counter who Emmett had made uncomfortable by speaking to her; later that night 2 white men came to the home where Emmett was staying at and took him, they then beat him to death and finished him off with a gunshot to the head.  The men responsible and the woman who accused him never had to pay for what they did. Emmett was unjustly killed august 28, 1955.

Emmett brought a little unity to society after his death because some of the whites who had a heart kind of felt remorse for him and his family, and for what had happened, so that event was able to make everyone agree with each other for a certain amount of time. Emmett faces division as a young black male in Mississippi while coming down to visit from Chicago. 

In the ugly darkness of this violent crime Emmett’s mother shined a light of knowledge and awareness by allowing the press to photograph his beaten face and body.  When people around the world saw the ugly hypocrisy of the crime of racism they demanded action.  It was a type of truth force that brought some meaning to the suffering.


Ruby Bridges; First Elementary School Student to Integrate in New Orleans.


Ruby Bridges Shared Rare Video, Message on Selena Gomez's Instagram

At the tender age of six, Ruby Bridges advanced the cause of civil rights in November 1960 when she became the first African American student to integrate an elementary school in the South.

Born on September 8, 1954, Bridges was the oldest of five children for Lucille and Abon Bridges, farmers in Tylertown, Mississippi. When Ruby was two years old, her parents moved their family to New Orleans, Louisiana in search of better work opportunities. Ruby’s birth year coincided with the US Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka Kansas, which ended racial segregation in public schools.


Mahatma Gandhi; Global Citizen and Philosophical Mentor of Nonviolent Activism


Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Karamchand was the name of his father. The honorific title Mahatma, or “Great Soul,” was given to him in 1914. Gandhi fought for much more than independence. His causes included civil rights for women, the abolition of the Caste System, and the fair treatment of all people regardless of religion. His mother and father had different religious traditions. Mahatma Gandhi have is similar to Martin Luther King Jr. by fighting segregated society in South Africa Apartheid and in India Caste system. He was also a civil rights activist, a philosopher, and a religious leader all in one.

He was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist and political ethicist who employed nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from British rule, and to later inspire movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Wikipedia


Muhammad Ali; Fly Like a Buterfly, Sting Like a Bee

 1942 – 2016

Muhammad Ali, born in 1942, was an African American boxer, who worked hard to become “The Greatest”.

When his bike was stolen at 12 years old, he expressed how he wanted to beat up the thief. Officer Joe Martin then told him that he better learn to fight. He then pursued a boxing career all through high school, and eventually took the Heavyweight championship title from Sonny Liston in 1964. When finding his way in life, he states that he wants to be addressed as “Muhammad Ali” as he saw his birth name “Cassius Clay” as a “slave name”. In 1966, Muhammad Ali was banned and stripped of his title after refusing to participate in the Vietnam draft. The courts eventually ruled that he was following his religious beliefs in the case of Muhammad V.S. the United States (1971), and he gained his title back, as well as the right to box.

Muhammad Ali’s Focus on Racial Justice     

‘I’m Free to be Who I Want to Be’

An African American man from Louisville, Kentucky faced racism and discrimnation since he was a child. Muhammad Ali took the nickname “The Greatest” after being the best boxer for heavyweight. His contributions in boxing made him one of the best boxers in the entire world if not the best. At the same time Muhammad Ali’s contributions did not become limited by sports, Muhammad Ali known as the fighter for the people’s freedom. His fights out of the arena were with discriantions and racism gave him many nicknames and one of The People’s Champion. Ali’s contributions in equal rights for black people and Muslims made him win the Liberty Medal in 2012.


Jerry Rice; Professional Footbal Player and Community Activist



refer to caption

Jerry  Rice was born on October 13, 1962, in Starkville, Mississippi. One of eight children, he was the son of a hardworking bricklayer who emJployed Rice and his brothers as his assistants during the hot Southern summers. It was grueling work, but and became an offensive threat for the team Rice later came to be grateful for it. “It taught me the meaning of hard work,” he said Rice quickly caught on to the game. His talent was enough to catch the- eyes of a few college scouts, and in the fall of 1981, he enrolled at Mississippi Valley State University.

Jerry Rice is actively involved in supporting various foundations and organizations for good to others. The Jerry Rice Foundation 127 provides financial support. Jerry, in addition to all that, is a person who likes to help children, his belief was that children have a better future and that children make better decisions about their lives. Also Zones 8-80 is a collaboration between Steve Young (8#) and Jerry Rice (80#), bringing esports, gaming and media to youth living in underserved communities. Zones 8 through 80 also provide students with the opportunity to obtain training in radio hardware and software, voice recording, graphic design, and game development.

What Jerry Rice brought to society was that regardless of his roots and his color, he always followed his dream and became just another person of his color in the hall of fame, even coming from the bottom and ending up becoming in one, of the most important players, in an American sport being African-American, being his father an African-American bricklayer, who always educated him regardless of his economic condition, the most important thing in his history is that he taught his society that no matter where you come from, Even so, you can become someone important to your society and leave your mark on it, because when you come from below you learn to value what you have more, regardless of your color and your religion. thus being one more example in his society of color,giving value to his society and taking away a little more the fear of standing out in society, which in those times discriminated against people of his color, in my opinion what he gave to their partnership was trust, courage, valor, and letting them know that if he could do it, they could too.


Michael Jackson; King of Pop who had respect and love for his music in society.



Leaving Neverland: Is Michael Jackson's legacy ruined? - BBC News


I think he composed good music and made history and even when he died we still remember him in our hearts but also at the time he was criticized for his drastic change in skin color because he was black and turned white. He was judged by everyone, but he actually had a disease called vitiligo that has no cure. He said that he loved his dark skin tone and was not ashamed of it. He faced the division of prejudice and he created respect and understanding with his music.

MJ was an American singer, songwriter and dancer dubbed the “King of Pop“. He is regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century. Over a four-decade career, his contributions to music, dance and fashion, along with his publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture. Jackson influenced artists across many music genres; through stage and video performances, he popularized complicated dance moves such as the moonwalk, to which he gave the name, as well as the robot. He is the most awarded individual music artist in history.

The eighth child of the Jackson family, Jackson made his professional debut in 1964 with his elder brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon as a member of the Jackson 5 later known as the Jacksons. Jackson began his solo career in 1971 while at Motown Records. He became a solo star with his 1979 album Off the Wall. His music videos, including those for “Beat It“, “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” from his 1982 album Thriller, are credited with breaking racial barriers and transforming the medium into an artform and promotional tool. He helped propel the success of MTV and continued to innovate with videos for the albums Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991) and HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (1995). Thriller became the best-selling album of all time, while Bad was the first album to produce five U.S. Billboard Hot 100.