Diversity Has to Mean More than Just “and Minorities”

Yesterday, over at Southern Alpha, they put up a post titled “5 Nashvillians Who Changed The Course of History For Entrepreneurs.” On the one hand, it’s heartening to see people like R.H. Boyd on the list. On the other hand, they also put Ray Danner on there. Ray Danner, as you may recall, is infamous for using his company, Shoney’s, to oppress black people. He wasn’t just a racist. He was a racist who went out of his way to ruin black people’s lives.

From the Baltimore Sun.

Shoney’s said Mr. Danner would not comment on the settlement, but according to his own deposition in the suit, he was not shy about sharing his theories about hiring blacks.

“I have on occasion given my opinion that a possible problem area was that the specific store in question had too many black employees working in it as compared to the racial mix of the geographical area served by the store,” Mr. Danner said in the deposition.

According to a deposition by Mike Vinson, a manager of Shoney’s restaurants in the Prattville, Ala., area, managers with what were considered too many black employees were often told with a wink that it was “too cloudy” in the restaurant and were directed to “lighten it up some.” At other times, a white manager, Daniel Gibson, said in his deposition, Mr. Danner was more blunt, saying, “I don’t like niggers, and I don’t want to see them in my stores.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said blacks accounted for 38.6 percent of Shoney’s kitchen workers in 1989, 8.4 percent of servers, 3.7 percent of midlevel managers and trainees, and 1.8 percent of managers.

I’m not sure how Southern Alpha missed this part of Danner’s career history. Books have been written about it. And yes, Danner was an important entrepreneur but, holy Jesus, it’s not like he was racist a million years ago. The Shoney’s settlement was in my adult lifetime. What lessons, exactly, are entrepreneurs supposed to learn from Danner’s example? That, if you hate a group of people, you can use your power to deny them decent jobs and fire anybody who works for you who objects? And what kind of message are black entrepreneurs supposed to take from this? That white guys, no matter how racist, will be celebrated by your peers as long as they’re successful? I mean, maybe that’s true, but you’d think it wouldn’t be so blatant.

A commitment to diversity can’t just mean “and now we include minorities.” It has to mean, “and we make some value judgements about the guys who actively thwarted minorities.” I mean, think of it this way. If you were a young African-American entrepreneur who one day wanted to open your own restaurant chain, so you thought you’d go work at Shoney’s for a few years and move up the ranks and see how Danner did things, you could not. You could work in the kitchen, but look at those statistics. Were you going to ever be a manager? No.

The most obvious path to learning the skills you need–model yourself after a success like Danner–was closed to you because Danner didn’t want to see people like you in his stores.

Fuck this dude.

Was he successful? Obviously. Did he pave the way? For a lot of people in his communities, not only didn’t he pave the way, if he found a paved way, he tore it up so that the black people in his communities couldn’t benefit from him. We don’t have to make Danner an eternal villain, but come on! Why is anyone praising him like he’s a hero? And why would anyone who wanted to show the South as a diverse, inclusive place where anyone can be a successful entrepreneur celebrating a dude who actively worked to make sure that wasn’t true?

The Tennessee Democrats Depress Me

This is so depressing:

But he said the lack of viable alternatives to Herron, a former state senator and congressional candidate who was just elected to the chairmanship in January, makes it difficult to go in another direction.

“I don’t know what our options are,” Cheek said. “I’m not going to vote to just hold an election in January and have a jump ball. If that makes me an ally of Roy’s, I guess I am. It’s really a matter of whether or not something like that makes sense, and to me it really doesn’t.”

The chair has never faced an unopposed election, so the idea that there aren’t any viable alternatives is a slap in the face to all the people who ran and didn’t get elected. Wade Munday wasn’t a non-viable candidate. Dave Garrison wasn’t a non-viable candidate.

You can’t get one or the other of them to take another bite at the apple?

Because, I’ll say this, if we don’t have any up-and-coming folks ready to take on leadership positions, forget being twenty years in the wilderness. We’re looking at a more biblical forty.

Here’s the only thing that can save the Democratic party in this state–black politicians. Black politicians are going to have to just say that the way the party is set up right now, not only can’t they win most white majority districts, they’re not set up to help black Democratic politicians run and govern effectively in their districts and, since they’re the Democrats who are winning, they’re the Democrats who get to reshape the TNDP to meet their needs.

Then we can flush these old farts out and get some new farts.

Time Out–Don’t We Know What the Harpe Brothers Were Doing in those Lost Years?

I’m going to go chat with Jim Ridley about what I know and surmise about Big and Little Harpe next week. So, I’m rereading Jon Musgrave’s article from American Weekend, because it is, as far as I can tell, the most comprehensive writing done on the brothers (which is strange, but I couldn’t find any good scholarly look at them).

Here’s the part I want to talk about:

Shortly after that, the Harpes left the British Army to go back with the Cherokees to their villages west of the Appalachians. During that trip they took part in the attack on Bluff Station (Fort Nashborough) at the present side of Nashville, Tenn., on April 1. Four hundred Cherokees took part in the raid. Nashville historians recalled a Capt. James Leiper among those who died in the assault. Leiper may have been a relative to the John Leiper who shot Big Harpe 18 years later. According to statements made after Big Harpe’s death, John Leiper and Harpe knew and distinctively disliked each other.
After the raid, the Harpes did not stay with the Cherokee’s long. About the first week of June they kidnapped Maria Davidson. A week later they took Susan Wood. After rendezvousing at a hunter’s cabin on the east side of the mountains, the Harpes, their captive and brutalized women, and four assistants crossed the mountains.
During the 20 day trip to the Cherokee-Chickamauga town of Nickjack located southwest of modern-day Chattanooga, the Harpes managed to find time to kill Moses Doss. Big Harpe apparently found a problem with Doss’ over-concern for the women’s well being. For the next 12 to 13 years the women and the Harpes stayed in the Indian village.
Twice each of the captive women became pregnant, and twice each the Harpes murdered their children.
When the British surrendered at Yorktown, not all fighting ceased. Groups of Indians including the Chickamaugas, a break-away band of Cherokee, continued to make war on the pioneers in the settlements west of the mountains. As guests in their village, the Harpes often followed them on the warpath, including the Battle of Blue Licks on Aug. 19, 1782, when a large group of British-backed Indians defeated an army of Kentuckians. They again joined the Indians in an attack on Bledsoe’s Lick in Tennessee, either on July 20, 1788, or April 9, 1793, dates of two major attacks on the settlement.
Finally, the Americans successfully took the offensive and struck back wiping out Nickajack in September 1794. Somehow, the Harpes found out about the attack through their white contacts and secreted their women out of the village the night before the battle. Taking their wives on a nearly two-day journey, they found a new camp where the women stayed for nine months. During which the Harpes pillaged and foraged in the more settled portions of Tennessee such as Powell’s Valley close nearer to Knoxville.

If what Musgrave says is true–that the Harpes were Scottish and sided with the British, isn’t it obvious what they were doing living with the Cherokee? They were probably fur trading, like the Scottish did among and with the Cherokee. And, if that’s the case, shouldn’t there be some British record of these transactions?

I Have So Many Questions about the Campfield-Ramsey Fundraiser Affair

Read this and then come back here. Please.

Okay, here are my questions:

1. Is this proof that Campfield can spell and use proper grammar when it suits him?

2. Or does he already have a new executive assistant doing this stuff for him?

3. Didn’t his last executive assistant get fired for campaigning on the taxpayer dime?

4. Why in the world would Ramsey fundraise with Campfield? Especially in Nashville? I would love to sit outside that fundraiser and see who from here is giving money to Campfield. Because I would laugh at those dumbasses every time I saw them.

5. Was sending this email really a mistake on Campfield’s part or a way to try to undo the sting of getting his executive assistant fired by showing that he hadn’t pissed off Ramsey so much that it personally hurt Campfield, even if it cost the job of the executive assistant?

6. If Campfield is trying to outmaneuver Ramsey, that’s going to be hilarious. But, if Ramsey is throwing his support behind Campfield, well, good luck with that.

The TNDP’s Woman Problem

I admit, I’d pretty much given up on writing about the TNDP’s inability to find and support female candidates because, you know, when the house is on fire you don’t really worry about the plumbing being shitty.

But then this happened. Listen, when two-thirds of the people who suddenly depart a place are young women and the boss is an older man and enough people are concerned that they’re like “Let’s do some exit interviews and make sure everything is on the up and up,” there needs to be a woman on the committee doing the exit interviews. Fine, Mary Patterson isn’t the right person for it, maybe. But there needs to be a woman present.

The fact that Roy Herron can’t see how important that is proves that the house being on fire is inseparable from the shitty plumbing. Perhaps a fire in the fireplace got out of control and no one could draw enough water to put it out before it caught the whole house. I don’t know.

But they are interrelated. The TNDP is a shithole that will not get its act together and will perpetually disappoint Tennessee Democrats because it’s still about protecting the few bases of power that are left, not about expanding opportunities for everyone. The sexism is not separate from that.

Snodgrass, continued

So, here’s what I realized–Snodgrass’s participation in the seance is incredibly important, basically because it clarifies what’s at stake. We’re used to a conflict between states rights and federal powers. How much can the states do what they want and when is the federal government allowed to set the rules for everyone.

But what I was not aware of, but which is obvious just from the participation of Snodgrass and the existence of lots of lawyers willing to protect lynchers is that there was a concurrent argument being had in Tennessee in the 1890s through to, I don’t know when. Okay, I don’t know when it started or when it ended, just that it was clearly happening from the time Snodgrass shot a dude at least through the Johnson lynching.

And that discussion was about how much power the state should have to dictate how white men acted. Should a white guy be allowed to shoot a white guy who offended him without going to jail? THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF OUR SUPREME COURT THOUGHT SO! Look at that seance–we have a bunch of guys who are judges and lawyers basically arguing that they or their clients aren’t really obliged to follow the law.

My mind is blown. I had no idea there was a third leg to the state vs. federal argument that mirrored that argument but at an individual vs. state level.

I mean, just spelling it out like that, it seems obvious. But it wasn’t clear to me just how much the “leave Tennessee alone to facilitate lynchings if it wants to; it’s not the Federal government’s job to step in” mirrors Snodgrass and them’s position which seems to be “leave me alone to carry out my own justice if I want to; it’s not the state’s job to step in.”

The Devil’s Toybox

The Butcher DVRed an episode of Ghostland Tennessee for me in which the ghost hunters made a “Devil’s toybox” which they claimed was on the cutting edge of paranormal research or some such shit. But it was just an old hoodoo mirror box!

I was so excited to see it redeployed for new purposes.

And I point it out because there’s a discussion of one in one of the October stories.

One Last Bit on Ed Johnson’s “Ghost”

The thing I keep mulling over is how Ed Johnson’s lynching was a big misstep for white supremacists. See, the thing is that white supremacy at the time wasn’t just some vague idea that white people were better than black people. It was, in part, a specific claim that this whole “wonderful” culture, especially the rule of law we lived under, was a product of, and thus a testament to white supremacy.

Lynchings had been in a strange rhetorical space already–an extra-legal way of enforcing white supremacy–but it would be hard to overestimate the effect Ida B. Wells had on white supremacists, nationally. She really was forcing them to put their money where their mouths were–if lynchings were just an early execution of a just sentence, what was wrong with the rule of law that lynch mobs couldn’t wait for the courts to work? Was the rule of law, this supposed white supremacist project, worth anything or not?

So, the interesting thing about the aftermath of Johnson’s murder is that it split the white supremacist power structure. That Baptist minister who objected to it objected to in precisely on the grounds that it was an affront to the rule of law

Which makes Dr. Baker’s stance most interesting. Dr. Baker, remember, is the spirit guide who showed up and chased off Ed Johnson’s “ghost” at the seance before “Johnson” could give more “details” about his “crime.”

Now, the way the book frames it, it’s as if a spirit definitively Johnson confesses. But reading the Daily Times article, I’m struck by the fact that Baker does not clearly identify the ghost as Johnson. He just calls him a “black spirit.” It leaves open the enormous possibility that Baker didn’t think it was Johnson and was not going to let the spirit lie.

It almost seems like a tepid defense of Johnson on Baker’s part.

I find that interesting.

Johnson Seance

The Truth of the Johnson Seance

This Daily Times article from January 17th, 1907 is remarkable. Not just about Ed Johnson–though that is interesting–but because it gives such good insight into how a spiritualist seance ran.

So, the medium was Raymond Harkins, who seemed to be well-known in Chattanooga for having seances. Interestingly, he had help from Bob Pease, a police officer who also appears to have done some mediumship. They had a music box that played to start things off and the two mediums “talk in the mysterious language supposed to be effectual in reaching ears that are not ears.”

Now, normally, then, Harkins’ familiar spirit, Dr. Baker, who had some kind of distinctive voice everyone recognized, would show up and guide the session. But, in this case, Baker doesn’t show up. Instead, after Harkins moans and groans and says he’s feeling the pain he feels when “the spirits ‘draw’ on him,” the spirit trumpet flies around the room and knocks against the light fixtures and the radiator and then against the people sitting around the table.

And then a police officer shows up wanting to talk to Judge Shepherd and then Johnson shows up and says his piece to Judge Shepherd. And just as they’re getting ready to ask him for more details that would confirm it was him and confirm the crime, Baker shows up and drives the “black spirit” away and then he, too, leaves.

And the seance is considered some kind of failure. The headline is “Night Off for Spirits.”

And The Ed Johnson Seance Continues

So, I went and grabbed Contempt of Court out of the library to see what Curriden and Phillips had written about the seance. I’m going to quote it at length from pages 289-290:

One evening, after several hours of working on the case, a group of the lawyers st around a law office drinking whiskey. Many drinks into the night, the attorneys decided to conduct a comedy. Witch Lewis Shepherd leading the way, they gathered around a table, dimmed the lanterns, lit a few candles, and announced they were conducting a seance. The whole thing was designed to poke fun at Ed Johnson and his claim of innocence.

With an audience that included a newspaper reporter, several local residents, and a handful of visitors from West Virginia, the lawyers sat around a table, held hands, closed their eyes, and began chanting. Within a few minutes, the people in the room heard a whisper.

“I want to speak with Judge Shepherd,” the voice supposedly said. Those present claimed the voice was that of a well-known policeman who had died several months ago.

“I know everybody in the room except three,” said the whisper. But before the voice could say anything more, another, stronger voice chimed in. This second alleged spirit also wanted to talk to the lawyer.

“I am Ed Johnson,” said the man’s voice. “I want to talk to the Judge [Shepherd], too. I want to tell you all that I was guilty, and they hanged the right man.”

A few seconds later, the whispering spirit of the police officer supposedly interrupted, denouncing Johnson’s spirit and commanding him to depart.


“Fly you away!”

“Get you back, you evil spirit, whence you came. How dare you?”

“I repeat to you, Skiddoo!”

And with that, witnesses said, the spirit of Ed Johnson disappeared into the night and his voice was never heard from again. Everyone in the room received quite a laugh from the skit. Shepherd would later contend that the entire episode was unplanned and unstaged. But then again, Shepherd was a known prankster who would never be handicapped by the truth.

The reviews I’ve read of Contempt of Court point to an obvious problem–in order to make the book readable, they render events into understandable prose and reconstruct scenes in order to give historical facts a narrative.

And here we are. There are red flags in this account That’s not what a seance would have looked like in 1907. They would have been held in pitch black. There would have been a medium. In fact, the Nashville American story says there was a medium. I haven’t seen the Chattanooga Times story yet, but let me just say that this rendition of the seance leaves me with more questions.

My concern is that it seemed so obvious to Curriden and Phillips that a seance was stupid and self-evidently fake that they could only guess that this strange event was a joke.

And yet, the least likely people to joke about seances at that time would have been rich white people–they’re the people who took seances most deadly seriously during the Spiritualist movement.

Curriden and Phillips conclude their discussion of the incident thusly:

This very attitude was the primary reason Parden said he would never return to Chattanooga. That Lewis Shepherd, a lawyer whom Parden respected and loved, would participate in such inappropriate shenanigans greatly disappointed him. The even demonstrated how even liberal-minded people like Shepherd would do certain things and act in different ways to remain politically and socially popular in a racially prejudice community.

Nothing in the notes says there they got this information–that Parden thought the seance was somehow emblematic of Chattanooga’s problems and that Shepherd’s participation disappointed him. I have no way of judging whether that’s an accurate interpretation. If the seance was a joke–and maybe the Chattanooga Times story will make it clear that it was–then it was a slap in the face for Shepherd to participate. But if it wasn’t a joke, I fail to see why it would be inappropriate for Shepherd to participate. And, in fact, if it wasn’t a joke and, considering that Shepherd worked hard to get Johnson some kind of justice, it’s not hard to see how the seance could have been a way to ease Shepherd’s guilt at failing.

A Little More on the Ghost of Ed Johnson

1. I need to find a way to search the Chattanooga Times archives to see if it also has the story. There’s just an appreciable difference between such a story being reported in Nashville only and in Nashville and Chattanooga.

2. U.S. v. Shipp was heard in Chattanooga. Rather than hauling everyone to Washington, they held the trial at the Customs House and the dude who heard it wrote up notes and sent them back to the Supreme Court to deliberate on. Look at this website, with the chronology:

December 24, 1906
In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Holmes, the Court announces that it has jurisdiction to try the 26 defendants.

February 12, 1907
James Maher, deputy clerk of the Supreme Court, begins taking evidence in the United States Custom House in Chattanooga in the trial of Shipp and the other defendants.  Testimony from 31 government witnesses concerning the lynching continues for five days, then the trial is recessed until June.

According to ProQuest, the seance was held either January 15 or 16 (the story says “the night before” but the dateline is unclear whether the day the story ran was the 16th or the 17th). This fills in a hole, timeline wise, and suggests that the seance was for the “benefit” of the people of Chattanooga–to convince them that the lynching had been deserved and that the national shitstorm that was about to descend on the city was because of justified actions. I think it also suggests something VERY interesting. It suggests that Ed Johnson was believed. That his last words, when he proclaimed his innocence, made some white people uncertain about this being the correct course of action.

This is an important turn of events–though god, poor fucking Johnson–because the way white supremacy worked in the Jim Crow South was that the word of black people didn’t count. We even see this at Johnson’s trial–he says he was someplace else, he has a ton of witnesses that say he was someplace else–and it isn’t enough to save him from a guilty verdict. Black people’s testimony literally wasn’t enough to clear someone’s name.

But Johnson’s profession of innocence at his lynching must have had some weight within the white community in a way that the white establishment found threatening. After his death, his word that he didn’t do it carried such weight that it had to be counteracted. They’d already killed Johnson and that hadn’t shut him up. So, I think, they had to commandeer his soul in order to give the white doubters the voice they’d believe. But this still shows you the shift–Johnson’s voice now carried weight in white society. It wasn’t enough for the courts and the lynchers to say that he was a liar, the lynchers’ lawyers needed him to say it.

Still, I’m left with this lingering question of whether the lynchers’ lawyers needed it for themselves as well.

In other words, does the ghost show up in order to scare the doubts about this white supremacist social order away?

Awesome Things I Learned at the TSLA Today

1. If the Allens had weekly seances, they weren’t talked about in the papers while the Allens were alive.

2. But when Ben Allen’s cousins contested his will, they did so on the grounds that his belief in spiritualism throughout his life showed he wasn’t in his right mind, ever, and any will he made shouldn’t count for shit. They lost and Sue inherited everything. Which probably goes to show that you shouldn’t fuck with a woman whose brothers-in-law were lawyers.

3. Ben died, it seems, because he had stomach troubles AND because he became so despondent over the death of one of his friends that he lost his mind.

4. In 1873, the Republican Banner sent a reporter to a seance who had, due to some kind of childhood episode (folks, I don’t know. The past is a strange place), the ability to see in the dark and he completely just debunked mediumship–here’s how it’s done, here’s what the medium is doing, etc.–but it did nothing, seemingly, to quell Nashvillians’ love of seances.

5. The Memphis Ledger also ran a story about a kid who had lit a match during a seance and revealed the medium up and doing shit. Here’s the best part. They explained this away by saying that the spirit took on so much of the medium’s essence that often they were indistinguishable. Conveniently.

6  Professor Gilman and his wife did have a couple of incredibly high profile seances at their house–145 North Cherry. Judging by the Sanborn map, 145 North Cherry is now under Commerce Street, which was an alley when the Gilmans lived there. (Cherry being 4th). More interesting is this tidbit from the Nashville history blog–”The site of 146 and 148 was previously occupied by the Church of Rev. Mr. Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson who was said to have been a brilliant orator, and a man of much personal magnetism, was a Campbellite (that is and obsolete word now but it used to be Campbellite, and as this sketch is largely about old names and old people I take the liberty to use it in this connection) but he became a convert to Spiritism or Spiritualism, and most of his flock went with him into the new faith. The church was totally destroyed by fire early one morning, about the year 1857.” This, as far as I can tell, is under the Batman building.

7. This is perhaps the most mindblowing thing–and I can’t decide how to read it–in 1907 (so after people had been pretty regularly debunking seances) the lawyers for the lynchers of Ed Johnson and the lawyer for Shipp (yes, Shipp of United States v. Shipp, though I suppose that was obvious once we were talking about Ed Johnson) and the former Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, Judge Snodgrass, had a seance in which the “ghost” of “Johnson” “admitted” to raping the woman he was lynched for raping. Someone–Bridgett?–help me understand this. Was this some kind of racist theater–oh, the black Chattanoogans are all upset about the lynching and we know how superstitious black people are. Let’s fake a seance, fake an admission of guilt, and that will calm them right down, since they’ll see justice was done? Or was this some kind of bizarre theater for the benefit of the court systems–Look, yes, these men are on trial for lynching a dude, but he says he was guilty of the crime and the Sheriff looks like he’s about to be in huge hot water with the U.S. Supreme Court, but maybe they’ll totally buy the testimony of a ghost? Or is this some kind of effort to appease the consciences of the lawyers? Like, did they know the tide of white public sentiment was turning against lynching, so they had to come up with some justification for themselves about why they were on the side of the lynchers that let them believe they were still good people? Who, exactly, needed to hear from “Johnson” here?

Fentress County Witches

I stumbled upon the stories of Old Man Stout (he has a lot of different first names depending on the story) and Marsha Millsaps, both of Fentress County who were accused of being witches. There seems to be a widespread belief that Stout was actually charged with witchcraft and seemed to fail (or pass, I guess) many of the tests for witchcraft, but was only saved because the judge and prosecutor refused to take up the case. He then, supposedly, sued his accusers. A short time later Millsaps was accused by “A Wizzard” (gosh, I wonder if he’s in the census) of being a witch and fucking dogs. She sued for defamation and won.

I’m Sure Obama is Crushed

Aside from the fact that 40% of the money in our state budget comes from the Federal government, if we’re trying to argue that Tennessee is somehow better off without the Feds involved, the way to do it is not to send a note to the President inviting him to “visist [sic] a few historial [sic], natural attractions like Ruby Falls, a true Chattanooga treasure” while he’s in town “celebrting [sic].”

My god, can we not even be petulant assholes competently?

From the Times-Free Press story:

Tennessee has attracted thousands of jobs during the Great Recession through a combination of business-friendly policies and strong tax incentives, but the state’s education system consistently ranks near the bottom of the pack.

Fewer than half of Hamilton County students in grades 3 through 8 can read at their grade level, according to standardized test results.


The Masonic Link, Up Close

Here’s the Masonic symbol (or a Masonic symbol):

masonic symbol

The compass part is making a 33 degree angle and the square is making a 90 degree angle.

???????????????????????????????The top part of the steeple, according to Fagan makes a 33 degree angle and the v parts are 90 degree corners. From an angle the steeple is shaped like a Masonic symbol.