This Week in History

There’s a part of me that thinks being an investigative reporter would have been a wonderful career. I’m probably dogged enough. I like sorting out puzzles and learning about new things. However, I didn’t have the nerve to ask the tough questions until later in my career, so I wouldn’t have made it very far in this work. That fascination with the work leads to me watching newspaper movies – over and over. All the President’s Men, The Post, and Spotlight are all favorite movies I have watched multiple times.

I started thinking about the first two movies today after reading Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletter. (If you aren’t reading her daily “Letters from an American”, I highly recommend it. In Monday’s essay she reminded us that it was on June 17th in 1972 that Frank Wills found tape on the lock of a door into the Watergate complex and started a chain of events that ultimately had constitutional repercussions. I never knew Wills’ name until recently (I think I learned it in the mini-series, Gaslit, with Julia Roberts playing Martha Mitchell).  Here’s his story

But that realization reminded me how many names that were famous, infamous, and important in one way or another during that time period, but are no longer known. I mentioned in an earlier newsletter that someone asked about Ann Richards, “she was a governor or something, right?” which floored me. But it’s also true that I told a story not too long ago about sharing the podium with Barbara Jordan many years ago and the people listening weren’t nearly as impressed by that as I was. They had no more idea of who she was than I did of Frank Wills.

It’s so clear in recent years that we don’t know or understand our own history and that’s both a shame and dangerous in many ways. Additionally, this newsletter will land in your mailboxes on Juneteenth, which until fairly recently was mostly unknown outside of Texas and some parts of the South. So, in case you haven’t met them, let me introduce you to two Texas women we should all remember and share a bit of Juneteenth history.

Barbara Jordan. “A Democrat, she was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, the first Southern African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives, and one of the first two African Americans elected to the U.S. House from the former Confederacy since 1901, alongside Andrew Young of Georgia.”

Here’s a link to her speech during the Nixon impeachment. “Texas columnist Molly Ivins said that Jordan would be the obvious choice in a casting call for the voice of God.”

Here are an article about her role in the impeachment hearings and a short clip of her remarks at that time.

Opal Lee and Juneteenth.
The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth

“Lee campaigned for decades to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. She promoted the idea by leading 2.5 miles (4.0 km) walks each year, representing the 2.5 years it took for news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach Texas. At the age of 89, she conducted a symbolic walk from Fort Worth, from which she departed in September 2016, to Washington, D.C., where she arrived in January 2017.”

When I googled ‘who’s responsible for Juneteenth being a national holiday?’, the first thing that came up was about President Biden signing the legislation and that’s important, but let’s not forget the story of Opal Lee and her dogged determination. It’s never too late to make a difference.

So many people whose names we don’t know or forget over time, who have made a difference in the world. We don’t have to be reporters to learn about the many people involved in making history, but we do have to stop on occasion and learn and share with others. History does matter and shared history is part of what creates community. I hope you’ll stop and wonder what history you don’t know and share the history you do remember with anyone who doesn’t know it.

Take care,


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