Thank God for Daisy Bates

Daisy Gatson Bates

Thursday morning I was blessed to join a tour group from Baltimore’s Civil Rights Movement at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. They are teachers, leaders, and powerful women traveling the civil right trail — next stop Memphis at the National Civil Right Museum at the Lorraine Hotel.

Great women have made significant contributions to democratic societies. Daisy Bates is one of these women. As our talented NPS Interpreter stated today, “If it hadn’t been for Daisy, there would not have been a Little Rock Nine or desegregation as it unfolded in Little Rock.”

Central High School, Little Rock, AR

Daisy Bates was the President of the Arkansas NAACP at the time of the Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs the Board of Education which desegregated public schools in the U.S. Nine children were identified by the Little Rock School Board to integrate Central High School. At the time, Governor Orval Faubus was not supporting the federal mandate and called in the National Guard to keep out the black students. Daisy realized that the nine teenagers would need protection and help and she organized meetings and support to help them on the first and subsequent days of their trials and tribulations. This story, and the life of Daisy Bates, is chronicled in her memoir, The Long Shadow of Little Rock, which I am currently reading. The individual stories of the nine students are each dramatic and many are told in their memoirs. What white students did inside the school to the nine black students, following integration, and the teachers who turned their backs, is horrendous and rarely told. I highly recommend that you visit this national historic site to reset your compass on American history and the long struggle of all American people for fulfillment of basic rights. As we see today, that struggle if still in progress. But, looking back to such pillars of courage and decency as Daisy Bates gives me renewed hope for a future all of us can make happen together.

Book Sales and Readings in Tucson

Tomorrow I will be a Bookman’s on Wilmot and Speedway from Noon to 2 pm for their Authors’ Fair. Hope you can drop by and chat and take a look at Threshold.

If you have a church group or book club that might wish to read a story about Tucson, with familiar settings and characters, give me a call at: 520-400-4117 or email me at susanleefeathers@gmail.com

Threshold makes an enormous contribution to contemporary literature by teaching readers—in engaging and utterly consumable terms—about the physics of “the planet’s human induced fever.” Susan Feathers stages the need to know as part of the narrative dynamic. Key characters —academics, school teachers, museum biologists—understand only too well the processes by which the earth is growing hotter, while others don’t. The latter are in some cases too young or inexperienced to know; in other cases they’re complacent or too far in denial to face them. Those who know teach those who don’t. Through lively dialogues concerning, for example, how sunlight gets converted to electricity; or how oceans absorb solar energy; or how neighborhoods can set up electrical generating systems, we learn along with the characters. We’re invited to go through the same processes of recognition and assimilation that the various students in the story experience. READ A REVIEW     ~ Mary Lawlor, Muhlenberg College

 

Autobiography of Values: Charles Lindbergh

charles-lindbergh-t12762This Christmas my son, Tom, gave me Winston Groom’s terrific new book, The Aviators. Groom paints a detailed portrait of Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, and Charles Lindbergh.

Each was an extraordinary person. Besides their enormous personal courage , they displayed a generosity of spirit in their willingness to improve aviation, make better airplanes and instruments, test pilot experimental designs, and play key roles in aviation and space after the war – all for love of country.

Groom writes with the easy rhythm of a old storyteller about the historical events of the 20th century’s technological transformation, and studies the influences in the development of boy to man, and the personal struggles and triumphs of each  of these iconic American heroes.

In exploring the inner lives of his subjects the author exhibits a good dose of fairness. This was never more true than how he handled the complex life of Charles Lindbergh.

Lindbergh, like Rickenbaker and Doolittle, began with the belief that aviation would change the world for the better. But as Lindberg’s life unfolded he experienced a series of blows that caused him to change his values nearly 180 degrees from where he started.

The first blow came not from his young son’s kidnapping and death (though personally traumatic), but from the American public’s relentless thirst for tabloid sensationalism. Haunted day and night, even suspected of murdering his own son, Charles and his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh, fled America to Europe for personal peace.

Groom then follows a complex series of invitations to the Lindberghs by heads of state – including Nazi leaders like Goering who asked him to fly various new planes Germany was turning out by the thousands.

Due to a series of events including a medal from Hitler in honor of his courage and accomplishments, Americans and especially FDR accused him of being a traitor to his own country – which only served to drive the Lindberghs into further isolation from the press.

Lindbergh opposed America’s participation in WWII because he observed first hand the superior technological capabilities of Germany in aviation. He believed America would suffer great losses. This opposition led to Lindbergh plummeting from national hero to villain in the minds of many Americans.

But Lindbergh joined in helping America after Pearl Harbor, even though the President would not let him reenlist (Lindbergh gave up his commission when he fled to Europe). Lindbergh worked for aircraft companies in the states and engineered improvements in aircraft that saved thousands of aviators’ lives and increased the capabilities of the US military.

After the war he was invited to reenlist, and during a top secret mission for the U.S. military, Lindbergh observed the terrible destruction of Europe. of the land, and was among the first eye witnesses to Nazi death camps. These experiences shook him to his core.

While reading Grooms’ magnificent book, I learned that Lindbergh asked the publisher William Jovanovich (a friend and publisher at Harcourt, Brace, and Janvanovich) to edit and publish essays and journal notes from across his life in a book after his death. Lindbergh had just learned he was dying from lymphoma.

The book chronicles the evolution of his ideas about technology and the environment. Lindbergh had become an advocate for wild lands and wildlife. The book that was published is Autobiography of Values. Lindbergh had spent years traveling the world learning cultural values from indigenous tribes.

He noted that in each culture the relationship with the land and with wildlife was very different than in the so-called civilized nations. He concluded that man’s pursuit of science must be guided by other, deeper values – values that relate to our responsibility to the land, wildlife, and each other. He described his journey as one of finding true values. (Read a perceptive book review in the New York Times from 1978.)

Visit the Lindbergh Foundation to see how Reeve Lindbergh – Charles and Anne’s youngest daughter – with notables like Neil Armstrong – has carried the traditions of her parents into the 21st century by establishing awards and collaborations supporting, among many exciting initiatives, development of an electric plane. The intent is to fly a plane from NY to Paris but with no gas! Explore the website to learn about many visionaries carrying the flame of innovation but with a new, informed set of values.

Thanks, Tommy. This gift given to honor your grandfather (a WWII bomber pilot) will always hold an important place in my heart. Its also a great read that I know I will return to again and again.

Hope Beneath Our Feet

Just a note for local folks in the Pensacola area, two stores are carrying Hope Beneath Our Feet: Barnes and Noble and  Ever’mans Natural Foods

Hope Beneath Our Feet, Restoring Our Place in the Natural World is a new anthology of essays by well-known and lesser known authors who responded to this question: In the midst of environmental crisis, how can we live NOW?

I am unabashedly promoting the book because I am one of the lesser known authors. To be published along with the writers and thinkers to whom I have turned for inspiration over the last twenty years, is a huge honor for me. Some of these mentors are: Frances Moore Lappé, Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, Barry Lopez and Howard Zinn.

The book’s genesis is the work of Martin Keogh, its Editor.  In the forward, Martin describes how his children expressed a sense of hopelessness about the future as they considered climate change or nuclear war—challenges that dwarf our sense of being able to make a difference. He wondered how human beings can keep hope and live well in very uncertain times. In 2006 Martin issued a call to writers to submit an essay answering the question above.

The book is published by North Atlantic Press and is now in its third printing – barely a month after its release.