Category Archives: U.S. History

Braddock Road: Twelve Springs Camp, Pennsylvania.

National PikeThe Braddock Road, south-central Pennsylvania, March 20, 2010.

The Braddock Road was a military road built in 1755 in what was then British America and is now the United States. It was the first improved road to cross the barrier of the ridge lines of the Appalachians. It was constructed by about 2,500 troops of the Virginia militia and British regulars commanded by General Edward Braddock (1695-1755), part of the expedition to conquer the Ohio Country from the French at the beginning of the French and Indian War (1756-63). George Washington, who was aide-de-camp to Braddock, had pioneered this route a year earlier when he traveled into the Ohio Country and met Native American leader, Tanacharison (1700-1754).  The expedition gave Washington his first field military experience as well as other American military officers whose numbers profited from this military outing later during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783).

Braddock’s men had to cut a road wide enough to accommodate the wagons and draft animals that accompanied them, as well as the siege artillery that they brought along to use against the new Fort Duquesne established by the French in 1754 at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers.  Progress was painstakingly slow until Braddock split the force into a lead column of about 1,500 men and the rest as a support column to drag artillery and supplies. The flying column made rapid progress, and with each day, the distance between it and the support column increased. This marker is on the (later) National Pike (Route 40) between Elk Park and Farmington, Pennsylvania.

Robert F. Kennedy’s Politics of Inclusion: Fifty Years Later.

RFK.

By John P. Walsh

It was fifty years ago today (June 8, 1968) that Senator Robert F. Kennedy had his funeral in Manhattan and a train procession to Washington D.C., for his burial after being shot on June 5, 1968 after winning the California Democratic primary for president of the United States. His assassination, funeral, and the long train ride to Arlington National Cemetery are seared into the national memory as well as my own who heard and watched on radio and television all these historic events unfold as a child. It is a memorable series of life-changing happenings for the nation, similar to when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and his long funeral train procession from Washington, D.C. to Illinois took place in 1865. Before Lincoln’s funeral train went on to its final destination of Springfield, Illinois, the president’s body lay in state in Chicago. There, as it experienced in its other stops across several states, throngs greeted the Civil War president and, as History would have it, my great-grandfather who was in the Union army at that time served as one of Lincoln’s honor guards.

RFK Mississippi Delta April 1967

On June 8, 1968, brides and bridesmaids tossed their wedding bouquets at RFK’s funeral train when it passed in order to make their final good-byes. Though weddings and funerals are very different, they have similarities for being one of humanity’s great milestones, a significant rite of passage, where what was or has been, has died and what lies ahead is mysterious. It is recorded that one of RFK’s favorite songs was Where have all the flowers gone?, the modern folk song written by Pete Seeger which became a big hit, a number one musical sensation, in 1962, when RFK was Attorney General of the United States. The song is its own meditation on life’s transience – with its carriage of universal mortality – and whose lyrics, which Bobby Kennedy’s intuition understood perhaps more than he knew – grew more and more prophetic as the 1960’s moved forward.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago…

In the JFK Library in Boston, there’s a multi-page document which is RFK’s campaign schedule for president from June 7 to June 17, 1968. Typed and single-spaced for over 11 pages, it became immediately moribund as the candidate who in just the last 10 weeks had won four out of five state primaries he entered – both in the Midwest (Indiana, Nebraska, and South Dakota) and the West (California) – had his unexpected and premature rendezvous with death.

kennedy campiagn itinerary

Ted Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy at Bobby Kennedy's funeral

On June 7, 1968, Senator Kennedy of New York was not to be lying in state at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan but on a 6 a.m. flight from L.A. to St. Louis for a luncheon with convention delegates. He then was to fly to New York State for a flurry of campaign appearances starting at Niagara Falls which would literally take him working into the early hours of the next day. On June 8, 1968, RFK was not to be funeralized with a train procession to follow for burial at Arlington, but making campaign appearances all over New York State from dawn to dusk. On June 9 he was not to lay silent on a hill below Custis House, not far from his brother, the slain 35th President of the United States, but…

RFK funeral train Paul Fusco

RFK funeral train photograph Paul Fusco

Perhaps RFK’s legacy for Democrats in 2018 and beyond is not that, as many insist, the New Deal Democratic coalition died along those rails on June 8, 1968 – fifty years ago today – but that it continues inherently with every progress and advancement made in society and, importantly, from and for all sides of American life. RFK’s brand of American politics for the Democratic Party is one that looks to include more of a wide array of political viewpoints than one would easily imagine possible or manageable. On June 8, 1968, Cecil Smith, of Charleston, South Carolina, was quoted in The Washington Evening Star as calling Kennedy “a wonderful man — a man of everybody.” Kennedy would never stop trying to govern from a grassroots political perspective which is creative and critical of extremes or mere pragmatism on behalf of the noble pursuit to be elected to high office so to effectively lead a diverse and great nation into a better future for all.

RFK funeral train photograph Paul Fusco

In today’s moribund politics of division, RFK’s ideals for America were no less difficult to achieve in 1968 than in 2018 – or beyond. After RFK was killed, an already-polarized presidential election of 1968 led to a predominance over the next fifty years of a strong brand of partisan politics. Kennedy’s more inclusive approach turned up historically truncated and, with decades of often mean-spirited political partisanship, even chafed at as exotic or, at least, futile. Yet that Kennedy brand of Democratic politics would never accept such defeatism then or now.

robert kennedy 6/5/68

RFK’s last words to the American people moments before he was shot speaks volumes to his governing approach or methodology for the future and which absolutely requires the many hands and votes of the American people to accomplish, whether it is 1968 or 2018. RFK said: “What I think is quite clear is that we can work together in the last analysis. What has been going on in the United States for the last three years – the divisions, the violence, the disenchantment with our society – the division, whether it’s between blacks and whites, the poor and the more affluent, or between different age groups or the war in Vietnam, that we can start to work together, that we are a great country, an unselfish country and a compassionate country. And I intend to make that my basis for running over the next few months… The country wants to move in a different direction. We want to deal with our own problems in our own country and we want peace in Vietnam…The fact is all of us are involved in this great effort – and it’s a great effort not on behalf of the Democratic Party – it’s a great effort on behalf of the United States – on behalf of our own people- on behalf of mankind all around the globe and the next generation of Americans… What we are going to do in the rural areas of our country? What we are going to do for those who still suffer in the United States from hunger? What we are going to do around the rest of the globe? And whether we are going to continue the policies that have been so unsuccessful, in Vietnam of American troops and American marines carrying the major burden of that conflict I do not want to and I think we should move in a different direction. So I thank all of you who made this possible this evening, all of the effort that you have made, and all of the people whose names I haven’t mentioned but did all of the work…So I thank all of you…And now it’s on to Chicago and let’s win there…”

kennedys

RFK funeral train photograph Paul Fusco

RFK

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

The Doughboy statue (1921) by sculptor John Paulding in Wheaton, Illinois, memorializes veterans of World War One.

“Over the Top to Victory” is a bronze sculpture that depicts an American infantryman in World War I (known popularly as “doughboys”) that was created by American sculptor John Paulding (1883-1935). The statue was cast in 1921 by the American Art Bronze Foundry in Chicago and stands in Memorial Park in Wheaton, Illinois. Paulding studied sculpture at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is best remembered today for his World War I memorials. When the United States entered World War I in April 1917 they fought valiantly until an armistice was signed in November 1918 which ended the over four-year-old conflict in victory for the Allies. Four months before the statue was dedicated in honor of all Wheaton World War I veterans on Armistice Day, November 11, 1929, the Wheaton Illinoian opined: “The statue is a fitting memorial to the soldiers of the community who died fighting for our cause. Let us not forget so easily!”

"Over the Top to Victory" Doughboy Statue

“Over the Top to Victory,” 1921, bronze, John Paulding (American, 1883-1935), Memorial Park, Wheaton, Illinois.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Ray Kroc’s very first McDonald’s franchise restaurant started in 1955 in Des Plaines, Illinois, is slated to meet the wrecking ball.

First McDonald's franchise restaurant, 1955, May 2018.

McDonald’s very first franchise restaurant on its original site, 1955 (replica, 1985) is slated to be razed by McDonald’s Corporation immediately. — John P. Walsh, May 6, 2018.

By John P. Walsh

A closed-down weather-beaten replica of the very first McDonald’s franchise restaurant started by Ray Kroc (1902-1984) on April 15, 1955 standing on its original site in Des Plaines, Illinois, is slated to be demolished by McDonald’s Corporation with its land donated or possibly sold.

It was not long ago that McDonald’s touted that approximately one in every eight American workers had been employed by the company (Source: McDonald’s estimate in 1996) and that even today McDonald’s hires around 1 million workers in the U.S. every year. By 1961 there were 230 McDonald’s franchises in the United States. In 2017 there was 37, 241 McDonald’s restaurants worldwide. Not only historians and historic preservationists decry the imminent demolition of the first McDonald’s restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois, just west of Chicago, but others impressed by its direct significance to the growth and impact to U.S. labor history as well as the American restaurant industry and American automotive culture in the post-World War II era. Further, McDonald’s restaurants today reach into 121 other countries around the world influencing and being influenced by global cuisine. That all of this cultural and business import was born on a now-threatened patch of land on Lee Street in Des Plaines, Illinois, is impressive.

It appears that if and when McDonald’s follows through on its November 2017 decision to raze the building and give up the site, this originally-designed McDonald’s restaurant on Ray Kroc’s original site in Des Plaines will be forever lost. The story of how that planned demolition of this unique piece of Americana came to be began 35 years ago. It was on March 3, 1984 that after 29 years of continual operation the original franchise restaurant on the original site was permanently closed and demolished. Founder and former McDonald’s Corporation chairman Ray Kroc had died less than six weeks before in January 1984 at 81 years old in San Diego, California.

The McDonald’s restaurant brand opened its first burger bar called McDonald’s Bar-B-Q in California in 1940 – and, by 1953, brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald started a small franchise business in Phoenix, Arizona and Downey, California. Today’s nationwide and global franchise empire that serves 75 burgers every second (Source: McDonald’s Operations and Training Manual) began when Oak Park, Illinois-born Ray Kroc, a paper-cup-turned-milkshake-machine salesman, convinced the McDonald brothers to let him franchise their business nationwide. Kroc offered to manage the franchises in the U.S., excepting the brothers’ first franchises in Arizona and California, and the pair were to receive a tiny percentage of gross sales nationwide in return.

Kroc’s first walk-up franchise McDonald’s restaurant at the “Five Corners” intersection in Des Plaines, Illinois, served an assembly-line format menu of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, french fries and a selection of drinks. In 1955, he founded McDonald’s System, Inc., a predecessor of the McDonald’s Corporation, and six years later bought the exclusive rights to the McDonald’s name and operating system. By 1961, Ray Kroc’s vision had clearly paid off for the now 59-year-old former paper cup salesman. That same year, Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers for $2.7 million and launched his strict training program, later called “Hamburger University, ” in nearby Elk Grove Village, Illinois, at another of his 230 new McDonald’s restaurants. Ray Kroc’s original vision was that there should be 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the United States. When Kroc died in January 1984, his goal had been exceeded six fold — there were 6,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. and internationally in 1980.

The Des Plaines suburban location of Ray Kroc’s very first McDonald’s franchise retains its relatively humble setting even as the McDonald’s Corporation it spawned earns $27 billion in annual sales making it the 90th-largest economy in the world (Source: SEC). Kroc, the milkshake machine salesman who convinced the McDonald brothers to let him franchise their fast-food operation nationwide, saw his original McDonald’s franchise at 400 Lee St. in Des Plaines open for business until, shortly after his death, it closed on Saturday, March 3, 1984.

47-ray-kroc-quotes

Ray Kroc (1902-1984) with his highly successful McDonald’s franchise restaurant. The franchise started in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 1955 has had a significant impact on U.S labor history as well as the American restaurant industry and automotive culture in the post-World War II era. 

In 1984 there were no plans to preserve the site – its golden arches and road sign had been carted away –  but a public outcry prompted McDonald’s in 1985 to return the restaurant’s restored original sign designed by Andrew Bork and Joe Sicuro of Laco Signs of Libertyville, Illinois, and dedicate a restaurant replica that still exists today on the original site though it is now slated for demolition. The historic red neon-lettered sign turned on for the opening of Kroc’s first store on April 15, 1955 – there is one similar to it preserved in The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan dating from 1960 – proclaimed “McDonald’s Hamburgers” and “We Have Sold Over 1 Million” and, intersecting with an iconic golden arch displayed a neon-animated “Speedee” chef, the fast food chain’s original mascot. (The clown figure of Ronald McDonald first appeared in 1963).

Newspaper advertisement

Newspaper advertisement announcing the opening of Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s in Des Plaines, Illinois. It featured the franchise’s first mascot, Speedee who was significant to the assembly- line format menu and prevailing automotive culture.

Ray Kroc_s first McDonald_s restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois April 15, 1955.

Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois on April 15, 1955.

McDonald's first franchise Des Plaines IL.

The replica of McDonald’s first franchise restaurant is missing its golden arches, “McDonald’s” sign over the entrance, and original 1955 Speedee neon lettered sign. In January 2018 they were dismantled and removed by McDonald’s to an undisclosed location out of public view – John P. Walsh, May 6, 2018.

The day after the original restaurant closed –  Sunday, March 4, 1984 – a McDonald’s restaurant franchise moved across the street into a state-of-the-art new building on a site that once accommodated a Howard Johnson’s and, after that, a Ground Round. The full-service McDonald’s in Des Plaines, Illinois, today continues to operate out of that 1984 building. It may confuse the visitor which exactly is the original site of the first McDonald’s as the newer 1984 building not on the first site displays inside a high-relief metal sign that reads: “The national chain of McDonald’s was born on this spot with the opening of this restaurant.” Though undated, it is signed by Ray Kroc which points to it being brought over from the original restaurant when it was closed. At the replica restaurant on the original site two metal plaques (dated April 15, 1985) properly proclaim: “Ray A. Kroc, founder of McDonald’s Corporation, opened his first McDonald’s franchise (the ninth McDonald’s drive-in in the U.S.) on this site, April 15, 1955.”

A few months after the first franchise restaurant was closed and demolished in 1984, the parcel of land on which it sat – it had only always been leased since 1955 – was purchased by McDonald’s at the same time they announced plans for the replica landmark restaurant.

The original architectural plans by architect Robert Stauber from the mid1950’s were lost, so 1980’s planners applied architectural drawings of McDonald’s restaurants built in the late 1950’s for the replica. Its kitchen included refurbished equipment brought out of storage, including the restaurant’s original six-foot grill. It also displayed one of Ray Kroc’s original multimixers like the ones he sold to Maurice and Richard McDonald that started a fast-food partnership in the 1950’s which by the mid-1960’s inspired many well-known copy cats of McDonald’s model, including Burger King, Burger Chef, Arbys, KFC, and Hardee’s.

Soda_fountain_Multimixer_5-head_malt machine_mfgd_by Sterling_Multiproducts (1)

Soda fountain multimixer.

The original restaurant had been remodeled several times during its almost 30 years of operation but never had much in the way of indoor seating or a drive-through. It did feature a basement and furnace built for Chicago’s four seasons and was used by the replica museum to exhibit items. The McDonald’s Museum was open for tours until September 2008 when the site experienced record-setting flooding from the nearby Des Plaines River. In April 2013 another record flood in Des Plaines submerged the McDonald’s Museum and produced serious speculation that the site would be moved or permanently closed.

Aerial 2013 Des Plaines

An aerial view during the April 2013 Des Plaines River flood shows the replica first McDonald’s franchise restaurant (right) with its original Speedee neon sign that was first lit on April 15, 1955 — Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2013

In mid-July 2017, only four years since the last significant flood, the area experienced its worst flooding on record. In November 2017 McDonald’s announced it would raze the replica restaurant structure and by May 2018 the site had had its utilities disconnected and its golden arches, Speedee sign, and main entrance McDonald’s sign dismantled and removed. These historically valuable items were taken by McDonald’s out of public view to an undisclosed location. Once again, and this time more seriously it appears, the prospect of pleas by Des Plaines municipal authorities, historic preservationists, social media and others for McDonald’s Corporation to preserve the site intact is murky at best.

first night Des Plaines

The original Des Plaines McDonald’s restaurant (pictured here in 1955) was demolished in 1984. A replica restaurant built in 1985 was based on architectural plans of later McDonald’s restaurants. The historic site is awaiting demolition announced by McDonald’s in late 2017.  

Notes:

number of franchises in U.S. 1961 – http://sterlingmulti.com/multimixer_history.html# – retrieved May 8, 2018

number of restaurants 2017- https://www.statista.com/statistics/219454/mcdonalds-restaurants-worldwide/ -retrieved May 8, 2018.

121 countries – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_with_McDonald%27s_restaurants – retrieved May 8, 2018.

McDonald’s System, Inc; McDonald brothers for $2.7 million; Hamburger University; Kroc’s 1,000 restaurant vision – https://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/about-us/our-history.html – retrieved May 8, 2018.

6,000 McDonald’s restaurants by 1980- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_McDonald%27s#1980s – retrieved May 8, 2018

original architectural plans lost – http://www.dailyherald.com/news/20171120/mcdonalds-plans-to-tear-down-des-plaines-replica-retrieved May 6, 2018.

2008 Des Plaines River flood- http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-18/news/chi-des-plaines-roads-flooded-after-storm-20130418_1_des-plaines-river-big-bend-lake-water-levels- retrieved May 8, 2018.

2013 Des Plaines River flood – https://patch.com/illinois/desplaines/bp–des-plaines-river-flood-information-03bfa82b– retrieved May 8, 2018.

2017 Des Plaines River flood

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

 

 

Chicago Harbor Lighthouse (1893).

Chicago Harbor Lighthouse, September 14 2017.

Chicago Harbor Lighthouse, Chicago, Illinois.

Known as the “Chicago Light,” the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is an active automated lighthouse that stands to the north of the Chicago Harbor main entrance about one-half mile beyond the end of Navy Pier. This Lighthouse played a significant role in the development of Chicago and remains an active aid to nautical navigation. For more than a century the U.S. Coast Guard staffed this vital lighthouse at the breakwater outside the Chicago Harbor Lock that separates the mouth of the Chicago River from Lake Michigan. The lock, built in the mid-1930’s, is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is one of two entrances into the Illinois Waterway system at the Great Lakes. That system provides a commercial and recreational shipping connection to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The Chicago Light starts (or ends) that adventure as it sits in the outer harbor that was constructed in 1880. Through the breakwaters the main entrance into Chicago Harbor is 580 feet wide. The Chicago Light’s conical tower dates from 1893. Twenty-five years later the base building (a fog-signal room and boathouse) was constructed and the tower was reconstructed. The architect is not identified. It was designated a Chicago Landmark on April 9, 2003. The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is the only surviving lighthouse in Chicago and one of only two remaining examples in Illinois.

SOURCES:

The Chicago River: an illustrated history and guide to the river and its waterways, David M. Solzman, Wild Onion Books, Chicago, 1998, pp.126-128.

Chicago Landmarks Map [Brochure], City of Chicago, 2006.

https://web.archive.org/web/20070410173708/http://www.ci.chi.il.us/Landmarks/C/ChicagoHarborLighthouse.html – retrieved December 2, 2017.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

5 African-American Classical Composers: William Grant Still, Florence B. Price, Harry T. Burleigh, William Levi Dawson, and Mary Lou Williams.

mary lou williams

African American pianist, composer and arranger, and vocalist Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981). She  demonstrated remarkable musical talent in modern genres as diverse as classical, free jazz, hard bop, swing, big band, and gospel.

By John P. Walsh

Following the tradition set down by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, the White House officially announced that June 2017 was to be African American Music Month. The proclamation in part reads: “During June, we pay tribute to the contributions African Americans have made and continue to make to American music. The indelible legacy of these musicians who have witnessed our Nation’s greatest achievements, as well as its greatest injustices give all Americans a richer, deeper understanding of American culture. Their creativity has shaped every genre of music, including rock and roll, rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel, hip hop, and rap.” A very nice tribute although I would hasten to attach onto its last sentence – “and all other American musical genres.” This could then include the significant contributions by African American artists to classical music such as William Grant Still (1895-1978), Florence B. Price (1887-1953), Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949), William Levi Dawson (1899 – 1990), and Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981). 

William Grant Still (1895-1978).

william-grant-still-9495333-1-402.jpg

WILLIAM GRANT STILL (1895-1978) is the “dean” of African-American classical music composers. Born in Mississippi, William Grant Still grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and attended Wilberforce University and Oberlin Conservatory of Music, both in Ohio. In addition to composing over 150 works— including five symphonies and eight operas— William Grant Still is an African American composer with several musical “firsts” to his name. He is the first African American composer to conduct a major American symphony orchestra—the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1936. He is the first to have a symphony performed by a leading orchestra—his Symphony No. 1 in A-flat, “Afro-American” (1930) by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in 1931. William Grant Still is the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company—his Troubled Island (1939) by The New York Opera Company in 1949. And the first to have an opera performed on national television—his A Bayou Legend (1941) in 1981.

WILLIAM GRANT STILL (1895-1978): In Memoriam of the Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy (1944) performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by George Szell (9.22 minutes). 

Florence B. Price (1887-1953).

Florence B. Price.

FLORENCE B. PRICE (1887-1953) is the first African-American female composer to have a major symphonic composition performed by a leading American symphony orchestra. This occurred on June 15, 1933 in Chicago in conjunction with the city’s A Century of Progress International Exposition (Chicago was founded in 1833). Visitors can still see the Auditorium Theatre on Michigan Avenue where the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed Price’s Symphony No. 1 in E minor completed in 1932 in a world premiere performance. That historic concert also included musical works by Harry T. Burleigh, tenor Roland Hayes (1887-1977), and mixed-race English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) who was known as the “African Mahler.”

Florence B. Price was born in Little Rock, Arkansas into a mixed-race family (her father was a prominent dentist and African American) and later studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and taught piano, organ and voice at Clark Atlanta University in Georgia as well as privately. In 1927 she moved to Chicago where in a musical career as a composer that produced over 300 works, her métier blossomed. Price’s music often incorporated rhythms expressed in Africa-based musical traditions and African-American folk tunes and spirituals arranged in elaborate orchestrations derived from the European Romantic composers.

In addition to Symphony No. 1 in E minor (1932)some of Florence B. Price’s best known works include her Fantasie Negre (1929), Mississippi River suite (1934), and Symphony No. 3 in C Minor (1940). In 1940 Florence B. Price was the first female African American composer  inducted into the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

A word on Florence B. Price’s well-known Mississippi River suite (1934).  She was composed it in 1934 with a dedication to one of her prominent teachers at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago where Price continued her musical studies after she arrived to the city in 1927. The suite uses the contrivance of a boat navigating the Mississippi River and along its path experiencing its various and diverse expressions of human life and history as told in musical sections.

The first part depicts dawn on the river.
The second part portrays its American Indian heritage by using an array of percussion.
The third part expresses the African American experience along the river utilizing well-known negro spirituals— such as, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen; Stand Still Jordan; Go Down, Moses; and Deep River.
The suite concludes with a melodic cacophony of contemporary tunes during the 1930’s including River Song, Lalotte, and Steamboat Bill.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers
by Langston Hughes (1902-1967).

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes, who was born in Joplin, Missouri, said he wrote the poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, after he was crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois in 1919 and inspiration struck. Even after he helped lead the Harlem Renaissance in New York City as a poet, novelist, and playwright in the 1920’s, Hughes, who grew up in the American Midwest (Kansas, Illinois and Ohio), said he always knew the Heartland best.

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
     flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln 
     went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy 
     bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

William Levi Dawson (1899 – 1990).

William L. Dawson American composer

WILLIAM L. DAWSON (1899-1990), born in Alabama, was a composer and arranger, trombonist, and music educator. He continually was learning so to use the rich heritage of African American music and later African music as the basis for many types of music that he composed and arranged. After graduating with highest honors from Tuskegee Institute he studied music and composition in Kansas City and Chicago and performed for many years as first trombonist with the Chicago Civic Orchestra. It is Dawson’s work as music director with the 100-voice Tuskegee Institute Choir that led to many distinguished and fêted national and international choral engagements throughout the mid-twentieth century. William Dawson is most famous perhaps as the composer of his Negro Folk Symphony which he wrote in 1934 but revised in 1952 after studying indigenous African music throughout West Africa. The three movements of the symphony are entitled: “The Bond of Africa,” “Hope in the Night” and “O, le’ me shine, shine like a Morning Star!”

William Dawson conducts the Tuskegee Institute Choir in 1955 in his arrangement of the negro spiritual Listen to the Lambs written by R. Nathaniel Dett first performed in 1913.

In 1952, Dawson visited several countries in West Africa to study indigenous African music. The experience inspired him to revise his Negro Folk Symphony which was first written in 1934. The new work was recorded in 1961 by Leopold Stokowski for Decca Records.

Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949).

burleigh

HARRY BURLEIGH (1866–1949), born in Erie, Pennsylvania, was an eminent African-American baritone, and influential classical composer and arranger. As a student at New York City’s National Conservatory of Music of America, Burleigh became associated with Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) who heard the baritone sing spirituals and encouraged him to create arrangements for these melodies. With the Czech composer’s active interest, Burleigh developed into one of America’s most important composers and arrangers of spirituals. He created arrangements for more than 100 songs including “Deep River,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” which are classics today. Burleigh’s “In Christ there is no East or West” remains a church hymnal standard. Burleigh set poems by Walt Whitman to music also. When Burleigh was accepted in 1894 as baritone soloist at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan—a post where he stayed for over 50 years—the tie vote of the congregation which had never allowed African-Americans to worship there before—was broken by J. P. Morgan in Burleigh’s favor. While Burleigh’s advocacy of negro melodies through writing, speaking engagements and new arrangements remained indefatigable, he found time to coach many well-known singers, including Caruso, Roland Hayes, Marion Anderson, and Paul Robeson.

Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981).

Mary Lou Williams,

A self-taught pianist, by the time she was 20 years old MARY LOU WILLIAMS  was a professional musician and touring bandleader. In these formative years she looked for inspiration to Chicago bandleader and composer “Lovie” Austin (1887–1972) but Williams’ own records as a pianist and arranger began to sell briskly. In a 50-year-plus career she wrote and arranged music for bandleaders as famous as Duke Ellington (1899-1974) and Benny Goodman (1909-1986) and was a beloved mentor to slightly younger African-American musical artists who became household names in the world of jazz: Thelonious Monk (1917-1982), Charlie Parker (1920-1955), Miles Davis (1926-1991), Tadd Dameron (1917-1965), Bud Powell (1924-1966), and Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993), to name a few. Though Mary Lou Williams’ musical talents fly under the popular culture radar almost 40 years after her death, to her admirers—many of which are artists and institutions—her recordings remain a treasure to listen to and she is much honored for her inspiring work

Mary Lou Williams’ album, Zodiac Suite, released in 1945 and remastered here from the original acetates, is a 12-part interpretation of the astrological zodiac composed and performed on the piano by Mary Lou Williams who is accompanied by two of her hand-picked session musicians—all innovators from the clubs of New York—namely, Canadian jazz double-bassist Al Lucas (1912-1983) and American jazz and rhythm & blues drummer Jack “The Bear” Parker. Each movement is a set of classically-inspired jazz tone poems for the signs of the horoscope: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

On Trump’s North Korea Crisis (2017) and Kennedy’s Cuban Missile Crisis (1962).

By John P. Walsh, dated August 9, 2017

In addition to Twitter, the media tells us that U.S. President Donald J. Trump loves to watch a lot of TV. I hope he has seen this film: Virtual JFK (2008). “Does it matter,” the film’s narrator states, “who is president on issues of war and peace? Can a president make a decisive difference in matters of war and peace? Can a president decisively lead his country into war or keep his country out of war? Or are the forces that drive nations into conflict far more impersonal (and) out of the control of any human being, even a president?”

In 2014 nine nations around the world—including North Korea—have around 16,300 nuclear weapons. Estimates are that North Korea’s arsenal today may be about 20 warheads or higher. In descending order of warhead amounts, the other nuclear states are Russia (8,000 warheads), the U.S.A. (7,300), France (300), China (250), the UK (225), India and Pakistan (about 100 each) and Israel (80). According to the National Security Archive, the last tactical nuclear weapons left Cuba in December 1962. For a rogue state such as North Korea to possess nuclear weapons is dangerous and unpredictable to the region and world.

Like JFK in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the U.S. must use its military and moral strength to seek and find a conclusion so that North Korea changes course on their nuclear weapons peacefully. Exactly what that change should look like is an important debate not explored here, but the U.S. must NOT and NEVER start or provoke a nuclear war to achieve it. Kennedy prepared for nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but always carefully did not pull the trigger. There can be no close analogy between Cuba in 1962 and North Korea in 2017. Cuba is 90 miles off American shores and North Korea about 6,500 miles from the Continental U.S. In the Cuban Missile Crisis, those were clearly Russian nukes. The Cold War by the early 1960’s was a well-worn competitive geopolitical game that hadn’t yet completely played out. The Russians built a wall in Berlin in 1961; Kennedy quarantined Cuba in 1962. In 2017 what is the multiplicity of sources Trump can hold accountable for the North Korean weapons deployment in addition to the rogue regime? China? Russia? Iran? If Pyongyang is today as remote and obscure as the Kremlin was in Kennedy’s time, today’s political and military equations are even more tangled and complicated.

Any calculations for war must include those who may or will get killed – and how many. Is American “hyper” power any good if its allies are casualties on a massive scale? No nuclear exchange must result with a hermit kingdom dictator who is not a friend of the U.S. or its allies in the region – especially if war may incalculably spread. If the U.S. has allies in the true meaning of the word then an attack on them by North Korea (or China or Russia) is equal to an attack on the homeland – otherwise what’s the point of the U.S. having allies at all? We must protect our allies in the region to the highest degree so to defend and preserve our esteemed alliances. In this dangerous politico-military crisis there are ramifications with severe strong risk for the U.S. as a global power and markedly in that part of the world. North Korea must somehow stand down for there to be success from the perspective of the U.S and its allies.

Similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis that endured for 13 straight days—the Korean crisis has gone on arguably for over 60 years — patience and cool-headed leadership joined to a perfect calibration of carrot and stick (preferring the carrot) should serve as worthwhile qualities so to craft a necessarily peaceful and successful outcome. “Because of the ingenuity of science and man’s own inability to control his relations one with another,” said JFK in 1961 in Virtual JFK, “we happen to live in the most dangerous time in the history of the human race.” The film states that experienced military advisers believed that whenever Americans committed military force – they won the conflict. But as frequent and strong pressure by many advisers is put on Kennedy to commit the U.S. to a war, the president time and again chose to avoid both conventional and nuclear war.  It may not be remembered today but after the failure of the Bay of Pigs in 1961, there was talk of John Kennedy’s impeachment for incompetence. Many in his own Democratic party wouldn’t support him because they had convinced themselves he wasn’t a serious political leader.

In 2017 the defeat of 33-year-old Kim Jong-un’s nuclear threat short of war will not be simply a victory for the status quo but a step forward in terms of American leadership in that part of the world. An actual war, unless it could be completely nonnuclear, contained, and successful – which is improbable – cannot be in any civilized people’s self-interest. Of course if Kim started a nuclear war, which is hopefully very remote but possible, war will come, as Trump said plainly on August 8, 2017, with “fire and fury.” In October 1962 Kennedy’s speech to the nation on the Cuban Missile Crisis included this “fiery” rhetoric: “Third: It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” JFK concluded with the overall purpose of his actions: “Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right – not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.” In 2017 we may look for a resolution to the North Korea crisis where history repeats itself.

All through the Cold War Kennedy looked into the face of strategic MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) without blinking and then chose to evoke the better angels of our nature. At the United Nations in his first year as president (September 25, 1961) Kennedy exhorted the world’s representatives: “Together we shall save our planet – or together we shall perish in its flames. Save it we can.  Save it we must. Then shall we earn the eternal thanks of mankind and, as peacemakers, the eternal blessing of God.” President Trump would do well to aspire to the same.

NOTES:

Nine nuclear nations – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/nine-nations-have-nuclear-weapons-here-is-how-many-each-country-has-a6827916.html

about 20 warheads – http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/791436/north-korea-nuclear-weapons-kim-jong-un-how-many

Last Cuba warheads removed – http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB449/

Iran and North Korea – http://thediplomat.com/2016/04/the-iran-north-korea-connection/

fire and fury – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/09/world/asia/north-korea-trump-threat-fire-and-fury.html?_r=0

United Nations speech – https://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/JFK-Speeches/United-Nations_19610925.aspx

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.