Juneteenth: A National Holiday


Today is the first nationally recognized, federal holiday commemorating Juneteenth, the day two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, ending the Civil War despite some branches of the Confederate Army did not officially surrender until June. Juneteenth (originally known in some areas as Jubilee Day) had been commemorated in Texas officially since 1980, although celebrations had occured since 1866. Today’s holiday signed into law by President Joe Biden is called the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.

It is thought of by many as the Second Independence Day. According to Gladys L. Knight in the Juneteenth entry of the Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture, Juneteenth is the “longest-running African American holiday.”

As the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and the Fourteenth recognizes the enslaved population as United States citizens, Juneteenth is equally important to their descendants. I firmly believe that all of us should be celebrating and commemorating Juneteenth the way we celebrate the 4th of July. The 4th commemorates our independence from the British, and Juneteenth commemorates those not included at that time despite their long standing contributions to the country’s advancement.

I see some controversy online and in the week’s news that Juneteenth is meant to replace July 4th and we should be “offended” by its declaration. That is not the case at all, and we should not let pettiness and bigotry get in the way of knowing our own history.

It is not anymore reasonable than suggesting that September 11th replaced our commemoration of Pearl Harbor Day. Or that Memorial, Veterans’, and Armed Forces Days are interchangeable. Each one represents a different aspect of our country’s past and observes its tragedy and its renewed purpose.

There is plenty of room in our calendars and our communities to commemorate the day that all of those enslaved Africans were free and became American citizens by virtue of their birth.

Take some time today to think about what the holiday represents, how meaningful it is, not only to African Americans, but to all Americans who value freedom and liberty.

For those who think we have too many holidays, and wonder: who’s next? I have a suggestion for you. Perhaps we should find a way to commemorate the first Americans, the Native Americans, those who cared for the land and lived valuable lives before the Europeans came to their continent and disrupted them, to put it mildly.

We, as a country have a lot to think about, and those thoughts and future decisions shouldn’t feel threatening to anyone in this country.

When I was growing up, it was a world of embracing the melting pot and the encouragement of learning the cultures that surround us in our lives, that aren’t our own, learning about our differences and relishing in how much we are alike.

We should all be able to celebrate African American freedom and the abolition of slavery. We should all want to celebrate that. What is there for us to celebrate that is more important than that?

Travel – Harriet Tubman – William Seward Statue, Schenectady, NY


Statue of Harriet Tubman and William Seward installed at the Schenectady (New York) Public Library. Dedication May 17, 2019. (c)2019

Attending the dedication and unveiling of this new statue was an incredibly moving and surprisingly learning experience. I thought I knew who Harriet Tubman was and her place in history, but in listening to the speakers, the experts in African-American history and the history of Harriet Tubman in particular, I was more than a little surprised at how insufficient my knowledge of Harriet Tubman was. My knowledge was merely on the periphery, and lacked a more indepth substance of her life and who she really was. I was pleased to have had the opportunity to impart this new found information on someone at the statue the following day.
Unless we’ve taken electives in high school or college that focus on the African-American experience, much of this substance is missing. I knew the basics. My daughter is currently studying for her seventh grade finals which include the Civil War, and I don’t think that Harriet Tubman is included much beyond those bare facts that I remembered. Her knowledge (and mine prior to this event) could fit into a thimble.

This would be a travesty in any study on the plight of the slaves, but it is even more so in my home state of New York, where Harriet Tubman eventually made her home.

Put simply, her life was a miracle. She was born on a Maryland plantation where her parents were slaves and where she was forced to work as well as being loaned out. She was named Araminta and called Minty. He didn’t change her name to Harriet until later on in her life, naming herself after her mother.

She was hit on the head by a large object by a slave owner in town. She was unconscious and bleeding, and it is believed that she sustained a concussion. From that time on, she would involuntarily fall asleep at all sorts of unpredictable times. She also had dreams and visions that she took as signs from G-d, calling them revelations. He guided her and she her people to the promised land of the North. She was often referred to as Moses because of her embracing of the Bible’s Exodus story.

Timeline of Harriet Tubman

She was illiterate, and never learned to read or write. I think that her statute outside a public library is such a testament to how far you can come and who you can be when you use whatever skills you have.

She made thirteen trips back and forth to get slaves north, her final rescue in 1860. Because of the Fugitive Slave Act, she brought the slaves in her charge including her parents further north to Canada, to St. Catherine’s where they lived for a time but found it too cold.

One of the things I didn’t know was her role in the Civil War after her time with the Underground Railroad. She was a cook, a nurse, scout and a spy. She carried a pistol. She guided a raid that liberated seven hundred slaves at Combahee Ferry, and that was after helping John Brown plan and recruit for his Harpers Ferry raid. Despite her service for the Union Army, she didn’t receive a government pension until 1899. She was also involved in women’s suffrage with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

She was unstoppable.

Harriet Tubman Historical Society

Harriet Tubman in Auburn, New York, 1911. Public Domain. (c)2019

William Seward, in addition to buying Alaska, was the governor of New York and the Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln. On the night of Lincoln’s assassination, he was also attacked as part of the same plot, and stabbed several times, but survived the attempted assassination and brutal assault.
He was an early abolitionist and provided monies for their works including the Stephen and Harriet Myers home in Albany, NY.

He and Harriet Tubman became close friends. Seward sold Harriet land in Auburn, New York where she settled and moved her parents there when it was relatively safe and St. Catherine’s became too cold. I’m not sure they found the Upstate New York climate much warmer than southern Canada. The land she owned became a refuge for her family and other former slaves. She sold some of it for the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and founded a home for the aged for African-Americans. She lived there until her death in 1913. She was buried in Auburn with semi-military honors. 

She and Seward had become so close that she trusted he and his family to care for her niece while she continued her work as conductor on the Underground Railroad and her Union Army service, although the girl may have actually been Harriet’s daughter.

It was this friendship that formed the inspiration for the statue at the Schenectady Public Library.

Video of the Dedication

L-R, Top to Bottom: 1/2. Two views of Tubman-Seward Statue, 3. The three men who worked tirelessly to make this project happen, 4. Rev. Paul G. Carter, former pastor at the AME Zion Church in Auburn, NY, 5. Rev. Paul G. Carter, his wife and the sculptor with the statue, 6. The plaque on the statue, 7. Historian Marsha Mortimore with the statue.

National Tea Month – Adagio’s Fandom Tea Blend


Today’s Tea:

The Walking Dead Daryl

This tea consists of mambo, honeybush vanilla, mocha nut mate, cocoa nibs, and cloves. This blend is perfect both for a morning, get ready for work drink or a late afternoon treat. It’s a dark blend that works with and without milk. (I prefer without.) The cocoa nibs give it a bit of sweetness, but adding sugar perfects the flavor in my opinion.

This was a gift from a close friend. It came in a sampler box with four other teas from four other fandoms. Also included in this custom made set were Loyalty House Blend (Harry Potter/Hufflepuff), Supernatural Survival Tea (Supernatural), Donna Noble (Doctor Who), and Civil War Remedy Tea (Captain America). What was so very funny about the Civil War one was the box was a light sepia color and had a picture of an old-fashioned medicine bottle. When I didn’t look very closely at it, it took me until I actually tried it to realize that it wasn’t tea in retrospect of the American Civil War, but of the Captain America movie subtitled Civil War.

Each tea has its own unique flavor that is ver reminiscent of the fandom and characters it is made to represent. These are all loose teas, but for those new to loose tea, there are make your own tea bags, tea balls, tea strainers, and other methods for brewing loose tea.

Fandom teas is something of a specialty of Adagio, although they also offer all of the regular teas and tea blends that you might be looking for as well as accessories and teaware. Their teas are reasonably priced as is shipping and they run sales throughout the year. It’s definitely worth a visit to their website to see what interests you.

Sampler size tin, tea strainer, mug. (c)2019

50-23 – Bike Week


We do not ride motorcycles, so imagine our surprise to find ourselves in the middle of bike week in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania during the summer of 2008.

I’m a meticulous planner.My oldest son was going to be studying the Civil War when he returned to school in the fall, so I decided that we’d visit Gettysburg and see some of the places that I went to as a child and that would correspond with his upcoming social studies class.

We planned to see the battlefields, the Jenny Wade house, and the interactive light up map that shows the battles in action.

For some reason, there were no hotels that we could afford in Gettysburg proper, so we ended up staying just over the border in Maryland. It wasn’t too far, and we were able to get into Getyysburg every day that we were there.

We thought it was weird. It was the first week of July, but it was after the Battle of Gettysburg anniversary and reenactment, so we couldn’t figure out what was going on in town.

We knew immediately once we arrived in Gettysburg that there was something going on in town.


Motorcycles everywhere.

Big ones, small ones, loud ones. Ones with flags, leather jackets, demin jackets, vests, every combination of bike and biker.

I have never seen so many bikes in one place before.

It was a great vacation and we got to enjoy somethng that we wouldn’t normally have been a part of.

We did all of the things that we planned on doing and a few extra.

While we were outside eating ices at Rita’s, the kids waved at the passing motorcycles and they waved back. I wasn’t surprised by that, but the kids were and they loved it.

We stopped by one of the battlefields that had an observation tower. My husband and oldest son climbed up while I stayed in the car with the two little ones, and suddenly a man got off his bike and began to play Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. The air was still, and there was a palpable feeling of nearby spirits. It was silent except for the occasional bike coming or going. It was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced.

Had we noticed that the town was going to be so crowded we probably would have changed the dates of our visit. Luckily for us, I had no idea and we were able to enjoy things that we wouldn’t have seen.

Even without our own bikes, we still felt very much a part of the bike week.

50-19 – Ghost Stories


​As skeptical and full of cynicism as I am, I still believe things. While it’s still in the mainstream, I don’t need to see G-d to know He exists, but I also believe in other spirits. I’ve seen them and felt them, and unexplained things are unexplained for a reason. Sometimes, it just is.

One of the reasons I never watched The X-Files or came so late to Supernatural and hated The Twilight Zone is how much of it I believe can be reality. The supernatural and unexplained aspects of shows like that, of seeing things in the corner of your eyes, of hearing things that others don’t – I could never accept it as fiction because I’m a believer in those spirits and happenings. Some of those types of stories are just too real. For me, there is no suspension of disbelief; my disbelief is already suspended and I clutch one hand to my armrest, and one over my eyes with barely separated fingers.

The first experience that I can recall was as a child visiting the Jenny Wade house in Gettysburg. Jenny Wade was the only civilian casualty of the Battle of Gettysburg. A bullet propelled through her street facing closed door and hit her, killing her instantly while she was kneading bread. As a child, there was a mannequin of a soldier in the kitchen that told her story. They projected a talking face onto the mannequin that creeped me the fuck out. Even as a kid, I knew it wasn’t a ghost or ghostly figure, but it was still scary for me. The promotion of the house was that the walls could talk as the only eyewitness to the death.

I visited there again with my husband and later on with my kids when they were younger, and I remember a distinct feeling of not being alone in the cold cellar of the house. The simple act of opening the doors tilted and facing outside, and descending down the stone steps left a profound feeling.

Gettysburg is full of spirits, though. Out of all my encounters, three have taken place in Gettysburg or areas of the Civil War battles. I distinctly remember waking up to find a soldier in a Civil War era uniform standing at the edge of my hotel room bed. I still get shivers when I picture him; like now.

The third time, my husband took my son exploring some of the gravestones on the Battlefield while I stayed in the car with the two younger kids, and I could feel it all around me – the unrest.

I think of all the battles we’ve experienced as a country, the Civil War has the most unrest, the most restless, the most tragic spirits still roaming about.

Once, after college, I was driving my car and was stopped at a red light. I think I drifted off to sleep. My foot stayed on the brake and there was no one behind me to honk, but when the light turned green or just after, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It just nudged me and I was awake. I’m not sure, but it felt like my grandmother. She had recently died, and of course, no one was in the car with me.

In 2010, I kept a dream journal on post-it notes. I had been having odd dreams, and so I kept track of them at that time. I didn’t discover it until several years later, but one of those dreams was of my friend getting shot. When I looked at the date, it was exactly one year before he was actually shot by a mutual friend’s ex. That definitely gave me pause.

That mutual friend was murdered, and a few of us, some who knew her and some who didn’t, drank a variety of teas and wrote or journaled about them and/or our friend, B. There were five different varieties of tea that we were all sharing at different times and in different places, and I could definitely feel her presence during those tea drinking moments, and while journaling about them. She was very present for about a year after she died; maybe a bit longer than a year, but it was palpable, almost a tangible feeling of her spirit, encouraging me to taste the tea with all my senses and keep writing about the feelings. Her spiritual presence was one of the many influences on this blog coming together more consistently.

There have been others, including the moment that my belief in Jesus Christ came upon me in cliched and literal glowing white light and sudden understanding, but other than that the other moments were much less, just there nudging me forward, sometimes a comfort and sometimes a question, but my mind and my heart are both open to these and other encounters.

Vintage Supernatural


One week ago, Supernatural (Episode 11.5) took the brothers to the site of the grisly 19th century murders of Andrew and Abby Borden, father and step-mother of Lizzie Borden. There is much controversy as to who murdered them in their home, the popular nursery rhyme sing-songing one theory:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
and gave her mother forty whacks,
when the job was finally done
gave her father forty one

Amazing what lurks in the childhood memories and recesses of our minds. It comes unbeckoned as if I were still jumping rope in the grassy courtyard where I grew up far, far away from the murder of her parents. Lizzie was put on trial and acquitted. She died of pneumonia in 1927. Her sister died nine days later. Despite having not seen each other in many years, they are buried side by side. There is a monument that marks Lizzie’s final resting place.

In her will, Lizzie left money to pay for the perpetual care of her father’s cemetery plot.


Lizzie Borden

In viewing the previews for this episode, titled Thin Lizzie, they mention the family home in Fall River, Massachusetts, not all that far from where I live. I thought the Bed & Breakfast mentioned was a joke – was there really a place? One Google search and there it was. And before anyone asks, no, I have no desire or intention of visiting, no matter how close it is.


Borden Family Home that is now a Bed & Breakfast & Tourist Attraction

Some things should be left, and this is one of them.

On the morning after the episode aired, the Washington Post had an article, Would you buy a murder house? I personally don’t know, and I hope I don’t find out. I certainly do believe that houses can have spiritual remnants of previous owners, not to mention other places where spirits dwell. I’ve had my own encounters, the most visceral being in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, both on the battlefield and in the Jennie Wade House, one of the places that is always on my to see list. I had gone as a child, and again while on vacation with my husband, and then went again while on vacation with my three children. There is something compelling about Jennie’s house and her story that calls to me. I’ve been searching for the last week to find the photos that I’ve taken at the house, both in the 70s with my family and again in 2008, I believe with my children. I have a memory in a darkened stone masoned cellar that you had to climb down into from the outside. I’m not sure why that flashed through my head as I’m writing this.


The house where Jennie Wade was killed

The Jennie Wade House is located on a major road in Gettysburg; one that is extremely busy with traffic. It is in a tourist area, and directly across from a Rita’s Italian Ices Shop. My kids sat on the benches eating ices, and I watched the house, seemingly waiting for something to happen. Her death created the name of the landmark, although it is not actually Jennie’s house; it is her sister’s. Her sister had just had a baby, and Jennie and their mother came to help her. Jennie was baking bread, kneading the dough in the kitchen that adjoined the street. A stray bullet came through the front door, lodging in Jennie’s back, severing her spine and killing her.

She is the only civilian casualty in the city during the Battle of Gettysburg.


Jennie Wade

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always felt a presence in this house. Despite the obvious, poor special effects in the kitchen that give the soldier mannequin his face as he narrates the story of that fateful day, there is still something powerful in the “talking walls”. His projected face scared me beyond belief as an adolescent, and I still had that creepy vibe when I went there as an adult. I know much of the sounds and creaks were theatrics, but you couldn’t help but feel something in this house and that some of those “theatrics” weren’t all faked.

In the preview and then last week’s episode, Supernatural showed some artifacts from the house. I don’t know if they were really artifacts of the Borden murders or props made to look like the actual items, but the photo of Lizzie reminded me both of Jennie Wade and Laura Ingalls; possibly because of the camera techniques of the 19th century, the black and white, head and shoulders, the pose, the lace collars and pinned hair. It led me down a rabbit hole of googling and reading various accounts from both times of both of their lives, Lizzie and Jennie. They couldn’t have been more different, and I wondered at what point childhood me decided to devote so much of my time to Jennie rather than the nursery rhyme. Maybe I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of killing my parents. For a variety of reasons, I would never, but still why was I compelled to ignore her? I almost skipped the episode because the subject matter bothered me. I still wonder why I was never interested in Lizzie’s story – did I think she was guilty? I don’t know. I was much more compelled to the story of poor Jennie, baking bread for the soldiers. Her fiance was killed hours before she was. Neither of them knew the fate of the other.

I do love a good mystery, but I think I might need to not only have compelling characters, but also ones that are easier to feel compassion for, to put myself in their shoes, and I suppose, no, as I’ve said, I know that I could much more easily do that with Jennie Wade.

History Recs


Partial list of links posted this week:

The D-Day Memorial and Museum
Wikipedia – Normandy Landings
Wikipedia – USS Slater
USS Slater
The Washington Post article about Dutch WWII American Cemeteries
These Women Pilots During World War II Went Unrecognized for Nearly 35 Years
Henry Johnson at Arlington Cemetery
Harlem Hellfighters Visit Henry Johnson’s Grave
It Took 97 Years to Get These Soldiers the Medal of Honor
Two World War I Soldiers to Posthumously Receive Medal of Honor
Video of Medal of Honor Ceremony, June 3, 2015
Shaker Site
Mother Ann Lee
Video of Simple Gifts

Books (including Historical Fiction (HF)):

1014: Brian Boru & The Battle for Ireland – Morgan Llewellyn
4000 Years of Uppity Women: Rebellious Belles, Daring Dames, and Headstrong Heroines Through the Ages – Vicki Leon
A History of the World in Six Glasses – Tom Standage
Anything by Bernard Cornwell (HF)
Anything by Sharon Kay Penman (HF)
Castle – David Macaulay
Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawning of a New America – Gilbert King
Did Prince Madog discover America? – an investigation by Michael Senior
Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World – Matthew Goodman
History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of all Time – Brad Meltzer with Keith Ferrell
How the Scots Invented the Modern World – Arthur Herman
Johnny Tremain – Esther Forbes
Lies They Teach in School: Exposing the Myths Behind 250 Commonly Believed Fallacies – Herb Reich
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer – James L. Swanson
Moon Shot – Alan Shepard & Deke Slayton with Jay Barbree
My Beloved World – Sonia Sotomayor
Summer of ’49 – David Halberstam
The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt
The Dust Bowl – also a documentary
The Jet Sex – Victoria Vantoch
The List (fictionalized) – Martin Fletcher
The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee’s Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History – Jonathan Horn
The Presidents’ War: Six Presidents and the Civil War that Divided Them – Chris DeRose
The Truth and Legend of Lily Martindale – Mary Sanders Shartle  (HF)
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration – Isabel Wilkerson
Twelve Years a Slave – Solomon Northrup
Upstairs at the White House: My Life With the First Ladies by J. B. West with Mary Lynn Kotz
While the World Watched – Carolyn Maull McKinstry

Visual Media:

The Dust Bowl
John Adams
Ken Burns’ The Civil War
Prince of Egypt

Memorial Day


The holiday that we celebrate with barbeques and fireworks began much differently than that. I also know that it is a popular day to remember our veterans, and that is admirable, but that is not what today is about. Today is about memorializing and remembering those men and women in our armed forces who died in service to their country.

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in 1861 during the Civil War and continued with the commemoration and dedication of the Battle of Gettysburg Battlefield Cemetery. There were annual decoration day activities with potluck picnics at individual cemeteries. Until 1868, many of these days were separated into Union and Confederate observations.

The name Memorial Day was changed from Decoration Day in 1882 but didn’t become popular until after World War II. It was celebrated on May 30th or the first time in 1868 (beginning in the North) and continued on that date until 1971 when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, passed in 1968 became federal law. It wasn’t adopted by all of the states until 1974.

As a personal aside, my mother’s birthday was May 30th, so she was disappointed by this change in holiday dates, although on some years instead of having her only birthday off, she got a whole weekend, which she definitely enjoyed!

The Confederate Memorial Day observance began in 1866 and eventually became a commemoration of the Lost Cause as it shared the spotlight with the American nationalism.

With the nationalized and reinternment of soldiers at both Gettysburg and Arlington National Cemeteries, Memorial Day in May soon became the norm and the annual event, the date chosen both because it was not the anniversary of a particular battle and because flowers would be in bloom and could be placed on the graves of the fallen servicemen.

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May.