Baby Steps… A journey of a thousand miles…

August 13, 2021 by · Leave a Comment 

An old Chinese Proverb observes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. My grandfather would have said, “You can eat an elephant: just one bite at a time”. Perhaps both are true when discussing America’s progression from slavery to the 1st black president. This journey has taken thousands of  steps – some quite noteworthy (ex., Brown v. the Board of Education), moved us forward by leaps and bounds – multiple steps at a time. Others, although relatively unknown (ex., The United States v. Cruikshank) set us back – steps in the wrong direction.  The latter was recently brought to my attention through a report in the March 28, 1876 issue of The New York Times which reported the Supreme Court’s decision in this case which is described by Wikipedia as: “a major blow to Federal efforts to protect the civil rights of African Americans”. Perhaps “2 steps forward, one step back” better describes this journey of a thousand steps – the first which began with the declaration: “We the People”. Thankfully, what started as a crawl, at some point, broke into a sprint. However, the trek continues.

Big things (sometimes) come in small packages…

August 2, 2021 by · Leave a Comment 

A few weeks ago I was searching for a newspaper covering the Brown vs. the Board of Education case. Such searches can take anywhere from 15-20 minutes to hours, and not all are successful, so jumping in to such an effort is almost always accompanied by an interesting blend of enthusiasm and anxiety. I began my hunt by printing a list of the monthly volumes of the various titles within our archives which spanned May 18, 1954 – the day after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, and then headed off to our archives to search them one-by-one, starting at the top of the list. The New York Times? Sold. The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News? Both sold. After working through the volumes from the largest cities of the era I moved on to those from smaller locations: The Times-Picayune? Sold as well. The Springfield Union from Massachusetts? Again… sold. I was about to give up when I thought, “I might as well check The Fitchburg Sentinel (from where?)”. Without much hope, I pulled the volume and turned to the date. And in that moment my lesson was learned – sometimes even small city papers have GREAT content! The Fitchburg Sentinel from May 18, 1954  actually contained 2 articles covering the Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling. Fantastic!  If you have interest in this topic or other Supreme Court rulings, historic newspapers may be for you.

They Put It In Print… FDR “packs” Supreme Court… In his own words…

April 12, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

The Springfield Union (MA), dated March 10, 1937, has the complete text of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chat in which he defends his rationale for “packing” the Supreme Court. As we stand at the brink of perhaps yet another similar moment in American political history, it is timely to consider his thinking – in his own words, and thanks to the editors of The Springfield Union, they put it in print. Enjoy.