Hidden Cholesterol in “Healthy” Foods by Vianesa Vargas

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

With more African Americans concerned about overall health, this often includes taking steps to limit cholesterol intake; when not lowered, cholesterol can set one up for a variety of disease conditions. Cholesterol is one part of the diet that can sneak in easily as it’s not visible to the naked eye. While you can clearly see a thick chunk of fat on the side of your steak and assume it is high in cholesterol, in other foods it’s not this obvious. Learning the worst cholesterol offenders in the diet is key.

Here are the top cholesterol-rich foods that should be eliminated now.

Baked Goods

Typically the worst offenders on the baked goods food list are cookies, sponge cakes, cream puffs, and other cream or custard filled goods. These all contain around 100 mg of cholesterol each and many people eat more than just a single serving in a sitting.

Fish and Fish Products

While fish is typically thought to be one of the healthier protein sources, this isn’t always true when it comes to cholesterol. Choosing the wrong type of fish can mean a dish that’s filled with heart disease-promoting cholesterol. Mollusks or squid are the worst offenders, coming in at over 500 mg of cholesterol per serving. Shrimp also pack a cholesterol punch, as do crayfish, lobster, and crab. Stick with “white fish” such as cod, salmon, tilapia, or perch. They still contain some cholesterol, but much less.


Poultry is another meat that is thought to be leaner; again, if one doesn’t watch the type, it could be much more cholesterol than you bargained for. The highest cholesterol containing poultry foods include chicken, goose, and duck liver. After that, the other kind to avoid is poultry giblets. If you typically eat breast or thigh, then take the time to cut off any visible skin or fat.

Dairy Foods

Dairy foods are the most common type of food that has been linked to high cholesterol levels. Egg yolks are the worst offenders. After eggs comes full fat milk or cheese, as they contain very high amounts of saturated fat which can also raise cholesterol levels. Provided you do make the effort to consume skim or 1% milk and cheese, you should have no problem consuming dairy products on a cholesterol-lowering diet in an effort to get needed protein and calcium.

Processed Meats

Another important group of foods to watch out for are processed meats. Of particular importance is any type of pate, which tops the list for cholesterol. Also beware of sausage, ham, pastrami, cured beef, and other processed sandwich meats. Always double check that you read the label before purchasing these, as you will help safeguard yourself from purchasing one that contains an overabundance of cholesterol. So be sure you keep these points in mind. You don’t necessarily have to avoid cholesterol if you are currently healthy, but you should always be sure you’re maintaining the right cholesterol profile (good versus bad).

About Vianesa Vargas

Vianesa Vargas is the former wellness consultant at Take Care Project, Inc. In 2010, Vargas founded Capital Food Coaching, a wellness company that helps dieters achieve optimal health by making better food choices for life. Read her Food Hell! blog at http://www.CapitalFoodCoaching.com.

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The Flipper Brothers by Krewasky A. Salter

In the mid-1800’s, Festus Flipper and Isabella Buckhalter were married in south Georgia, probably in Thomasville, Georgia.  Festus Flipper, a black man, earned his living as a skilled laborer making shoes.  He also worked as a cobbler and carriage trimmer. Isabella was a mulatto woman who may have worked as a housekeeper.

Festus and Isabella had five sons who all achieved notable success.  What is interesting about the Flippers and the timing of their marriage and initial child rearing years?  Well, it was during antebellum America when the “Peculiar Institution” of slavery was still deeply engrained in the fabric of America.  In fact, to compound the difficulties of living within the Peculiar Institution, Festus and Isabella were both enslaved and owned by different men.

Because of his skills, Festus did earn enough money to eventually purchase his wife and, what were then, two sons from their owner so that the family could stay together under the services of Festus’ owner.  In 1859, not long before the Civil War began, the family of four moved to Atlanta with their owner Ephraim G. Ponder.  There they survived the Civil War, experiencing General William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea Campaign.

The most famous of Festus and Isabella’s five sons was without doubt Henry Ossian Flipper.  Henry was born enslaved in 1856, in Thomasville, Georgia, just five years before the start of the Civil War. In 1877, Henry became the first black person to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Henry served in the 10th United States Cavalry Regiment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and at Fort Davis, Texas.  At Fort Sill Henry engineered the now famous “Flipper Ditch.”  While at Fort Davis he participated in several battles and skirmishes during the Indian Wars (1866 – 1891).  During his service at Fort Sill and prior to a permanent change of duty stations to Fort Davis, Henry also spent short tours of duty at Fort Elliot and Fort Concho, both in Texas. After he was unfairly forced out of the Army in 1882, Henry went on to several successful careers. He worked for the Department of Justice as a Court of Private Claims Special Agent, for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as a consultant and as an assistant to the Secretary of Interior.

The brother closest in age to Henry, Joseph Flipper (1859-1944), became an African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church bishop and also served as president of Morris Brown College in Atlanta from 1904 to 1908. Early in life, Joseph had been commissioned a captain in the Georgia State Militia in 1879, but his life’s passion was in the ministry.  In 1882 he was ordained a deacon in the A.M.E. Church and in 1884 he was ordained an elder and became a bishop. Joseph was an avid speaker, and many of his speeches were published.  As a result, he was a known scholar and as mentioned above, ascended to the presidency of Morris Brown College. Henry went to reside with Joseph in Atlanta upon retirement.  Henry died there in 1940.  Joseph, who was two years Henry’s junior, died in 1944.

The other three brothers, Festus, Jr., (b. 1868) Emory (b. 1873), and Carl (b. 1876), each achieved success in their own right as well.  Festus became a wealthy land-owning farmer, civic leader and businessman in Thomasville, Georgia, where he ultimately inherited his father’s shoe shop; Emory worked as a medical doctor in Jacksonville, Florida; and, Carl served as a professor Savannah State College in Savannah, Georgia.

What an amazing story of success and achievement by five black brothers born into slavery and during the period of Reconstruction (1865-1877). The Flipper family is motivational for at least two reasons.  First, Festus and Isabella put their hearts and souls into raising solid men.  They strived to attain freedom and education for their sons, which was their primary focus. 

The message for parents today is that we play a great role when parenting our children.  We must motivate, encourage, and set high standards for our posterity.  Like Isabella and Festus, we must put our hearts and souls into our children achieving an education, whether that is college, trade or vocational school does not matter.  What matters is that we create an atmosphere for them of “wanting to learn and achieve.”  We must make them our priority, especially in their formative years.

Secondly, if these five young black man—all born into slavery or shortly thereafter, survived the American Civil War, and lived through Reconstruction and Jim Crow in America—can achieve the levels of success that they did in an era of significant hurdles and barriers; then, in a time when freedom is ours at birth and educational and other opportunities abound, then we can achieve phenomenal results in 2011 and beyond!  Do hurdles and barriers exist today?  Absolutely!  Nonetheless, if we seek to pattern ourselves, even if only in some small way, after the Flippers, and reduce and eliminate our own “individual” hurdles and barriers, I am positive that we, too, will succeed!

Krewasky A. Salter earned his Ph.D. from Florida State University.  Among others, he has taught at the United States Military Academy at West Point and at Howard University in Washington, DC.  He retired as a Colonel after serving more than 25 years on active duty in the United States Army. If you are interested in Dr. Salter speaking to your organization, firm or class on this or any other subject that uses “History to Motivate”—i.e. making history relevant—please contact him at ret-las@hotmail.com.  His complete bio is available upon request.

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Preventing Heart Disease with Food by Vianesa Vargas

If there is a history of heart disease in your family, or are getting worried about this condition yourself, it’s vital that you begin doing everything you can to prevent heart disease. Maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle are two of the most critical ways to beat heart disease.  The following are some of the best foods to include in your diet regularly to prevent heart disease.

Avoid Saturated Fat

One of the prime culprits of heart disease is a diet that is high in saturated fat.  While trans fats are fats that you must avoid at all costs, saturated fats are not that much better.  When taken in larger quantities they increase the level of bad cholesterol in the body which puts you at risk for heart disease.

The simplest way to reduce the intake of saturated fat in the diet is to avoid packaged foods, baked pastries, and deep fried foods.

Choose Lower Fat Protein Sources

Another way to avoid heart disease is to choose leaner protein sources.  Often higher fat protein sources such as steak, beef, bacon, eggs, and full fat dairy products will increase cholesterol levels, which also promotes high levels of heart disease.

Better options to choose include chicken, fish, turkey, skim milk products, and seafood.

Choose Fruits and Vegetables with Each Meal

On the other hand, two types of foods to eat more of are fruits and vegetables.  These contain a higher amount of dietary fiber, which is a primary nutrient that helps fight heart disease and keep your weight in check.

Since maintaining a healthy weight is one of the key influences of heart disease protection, everything you can do to prevent weight gain will help.

Limit Carbs to Whole Grains Only

Making smart choices with carbs will also help to lower your risk while setting you up for overall good health.

Whole grains are a rich source of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, iron, and fiber, all which help to promote proper blood pressure and energy levels.

Diets completely devoid of all grains often leave you feeling tired.  This will not be the best option for better results since exercise is also critical to ward off heart disease. By adding in the right grains in the right quantities, you are doing everything you can to maintain your weight and keep energy levels where they need to be.

Lower Salt Intake

Finally the last thing you should be doing in an effort to lower your risk of heart disease is being sure that you watch your sodium intake. High sodium diets will also increase blood pressure and set you up for heart disease, so choose wisely.

If you take the above advice and add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, you’ll be limiting salt intake naturally, but if you’re also consuming a fair amount of canned or processed foods, be sure you are reading nutrient labels as these are typically the worst salt offenders.

So keep these points in mind. You can make dramatic improvements to your risk of developing heart disease if you start now and stay on the bandwagon. Far too many individuals who are concerned about this issue initially make the proper changes to their diet and lifestyle, but then over time let that slide and go back to their old ways.

To really see results, you must think of this as a permanent lifestyle change.

Vianesa Vargas is a former military officer and Iraq War veteran with over ten years of personal training and nutrition counseling experience, and is the former wellness consultant at Take Care Project, Inc.  In 2010, Vargas founded Capital Food Coaching, a wellness company that helps dieters achieve optimal health by making better food choices for life.  Read her Food Hell! blog at www.CapitalFoodCoaching.com.

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Exercise and Muscle “Failure” by Bruce Croom

June 12, 2011 7 comments

Often people think the term “failure” only refers to something negative, as by its own definition “to fail or not succeed at a given task.” However, in fitness, it actually can refer to something that is either negative or positive. The two aspects I’ll explain will be exercise failure and muscle failure.

Let’s explore the negative connotation first. One of the first negative references to the word is when exercise or strength training does not show results.  Almost 100% of fitness professionals would agree that the number one reason people do not achieve any results in the gym is due to bad form.

Bad form occurs for many different reasons. The lack of fitness education and misinformation stands out the most. An individual can execute bad form for years and not be aware of it. The most common long term effect from executing bad form is injury. Instead of good and bad form, as fitness professionals, we like to use the terminology “less effective and more effective.” Performing an exercise in a less effective manner can, for example, result in a minor injury. Then continuing to do so may lead to a more definitive injury, causing one to stop or not be able to do that given exercise which caused the initial injury. This in turn often leads to more injuries due to the bodies’ natural compensative ability, putting more exercises on the list that your body can no longer naturally perform. Improper stretching also falls in this category as well. Ultimately, the end result is that you stop coming to the gym, stop being fit, gain extra weight, so on and so on, and thus “exercise failure.”

Along with misinformation about exercises, contraindicated exercises can also be a culprit of exercise failure. Misinformation can easily be tackled by just learning how your body works, and by doing a little research on strength training as it relates to you. Books and the Internet are perfect to help with this, or you could simply hire a personal trainer like me!

Contraindicated exercises are a bit tricky, however. This list consists of exercises in the industry which was introduced long ago where doctors and experts deemed them inappropriate or unsafe in recent studies. There are some that stand out, for example, “behind the neck pull downs,” or “the ab and adduction machines”. This list is not a huge one, but there are some that people still do today. So the best ways to avoid making the mistake of doing these exercises is a little reading or again, hire a personal trainer!

For the positive connotation, let’s begin with the “rep” and the “set.” A rep is one complete repetition of a given exercise. A set is a series of those repetitions. So the question often is “how many sets and reps do I do?” Well there is no right or wrong answer. The best answer to that age old question is based on so many variables. One’s fitness level, gender, age, and goals are, to name only a few.

As fitness professionals, we often take clients to a new level beyond a fixed number of reps and sets, called “muscle failure.” The definition is simply doing a given exercise to the point in which your muscles actually fail to complete a given movement. Once you get to this point, you practice a normal “recovery” or rest period, then you keep repeating this process until you feel it’s time to do a different exercise. This method is also commonly referred to as “burn out.” So why do we practice this?

By counting your reps and sets, your body can easily become complacent with doing the same fixed routine over and over again, resulting in a muscular “plateau.” Working to burn out will always be far more reps then you would normally count in a fixed series of an exercise, which in turn gives your body a challenge. The beauty of this is working out in this manner will never be the same. The variables surrounding your workout change constantly, making muscle failure workout results very positive. We witness these positive results from this method everyday with our clients in their overall progress and strength gains in short periods of time.

Clients who have habitually done the same types of mediocre workouts for years always wonder why they don’t see specific changes in their fitness level. They just maintain a normal level of fitness. By adding muscle failure to your workout regiment, you take a giant step forward from mediocrity, to finally see changes in your fitness level and physique. There is nothing wrong with counting reps and sets. Burn out is simply a modality that you should add in your normal routine every now and then to challenge your body.

Remember that the human body wants and needs to be challenged mentally and physically. Boot Camp style programs, group exercise classes and, of course, personal trainers, are excellent ways to achieve both. The human body responds most to change, and that’s what these gym aspects bring. You’ll find an extra push beyond your known limit is exactly what you will need to get over those humps! So let’s avoid exercise failure by incorporating muscle failure in your routine today!

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Igniting the Ambassadorial Spirit in Our Leaders by Cathy L. Royal, PhD

I have been a professor, a teacher and a dean in my career as an educator. I have written about education and the global community on several occasions.  I have lectured to students taking my social justice certificate programs.  I have interviewed teachers, parents, students and community activists on the topic.  My family and I have had debates that would scorch the halls of Congress if delivered in the congressional chambers.  We are all passionate about education; we are all concerned about what to do to increase the participation and success of students in educational venues around the country.  We have separate ideas and methods as to how to shift the work, the learning and the activities that seem to be keeping education as a topic of many citizens across the country.

Education departments and scholars from around the country are addressing the issue.  Perhaps we will have multiple community focus groups in the coming months.  There will be several specials made for television highlighting the topic.  So, with all this being said, this education columnist for The Urban Voice heads into the fray.

The importance of education is rarely disputed. Sometimes we will hear a disgruntled columnist, teenager, or activist speak about the relevance of today’s education curriculum, or the state of teacher education.  We don’t often hear anyone say that it is not important to the success of an individual or to the progress of “the race” or of any of the various populations of oppressed people. Now what??  This column is NOT another bad news briefing.  Let’s discuss the future of the “next great thinkers” that I referenced in my last column.  What does it mean to be a great scholar, a thought leader, or thinker in these modern times?

What are the next education actions that will take your student, or you, as a lifelong learner, beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary?   Exposure and challenge that takes her or him into the realm of learning and understanding that opens up creativity, instills in young minds the expectation that they will do great things.  We must develop and implement actions that will instill in students the assumption, the belief that they are capable of making decisions that will bring honor and respect to their work and their community.  The belief that they can lead, and that others will accept and follow their decisions.  The belief that they have been given the skill and knowledge that creates the “ambassadorial spirit” in these young citizens.  Skills that one day position them to make decisions on behalf of the citizens of the United States of America; and they have confidence that they have the ability to act creatively and with diplomacy in any situation they encounter. 

Students develop these skills through the practice and reflection that comes with working simulations, visiting scholars, discussing history with elders and community leaders.  We must develop curriculums that address the work of diplomacy and leadership.  It is clear that the nation will need scientists and technical experts; but we will also clearly need leaders who have diplomacy, aka people skills, and knowledge of skills that address the needs of the people beyond “counting and measuring”.

What activities do we want in our preferred future that will take our learning to a global experience?  Why this perspective, you might wonder; why take the position that we need to “go global”?

Much of the conversation that I hear about education reform is focused on the urgent need to reform our underachieving and failing school systems.  This is an emergency!  I am totally in agreement about this imperative.  What is also necessary as we focus on the work of reform is the need to create actions and initiatives that keep the interest and imagination of young scholars who are ready for a leap, ready now for experiences that take their skills and learning forward.  The programs we currently focus on are preparing students with the basics, reading skills, and math competency. This is step now.  The actions that we also want in place are “step next”.

We must put in place innovative activities that stimulate curiosity about research and scientific developments, international negotiations, peace and reconciliation skills, historical awareness, a love of ancestry and the implications of population demographics on the global stage.  As these reforms are designed and implemented we must also nurture and expose young people to leadership initiatives, and skill building that helps student develop strong decision making and personal integrity. There are young people in our classrooms that are waiting for activities that carry them from the ordinary to the extraordinary. They are waiting for us to provide the spark that will carry their learning toward greatness.  This means that we must help students see the value of becoming world leaders. 

And, we want to make sure that they are world leaders who understand heritage and the contributions of many people to the success of the United States and the global community.  We want leaders who are children of color, black and brown children, to understand their greatness, to be aware that no matter where they are obtaining their education they have something to contribute to the world.  They have cultures that contributed to the world.  They are the heirs of scientists, explorers, warriors, poets, writers, inventors and world leaders.  They must see the value of preserving heritage, culture and community.  We can use our commitment to children and culture to create the next curriculum shift in urban education.  It is this shift that will create breakthroughs in learning for young students and lifelong learners as well.

These children are the great minds sitting in our classrooms.

How do we prepare for citizenship that speaks to the presence of women and men of color in the western hemisphere? 

We will need to create a clear understanding in our communities and in ourselves that we are responsible for the future.  The global community needs each of us to be at the top of our citizenship game.  We must be prepared to make educated and informed decisions about politics, social responsibility, ecological dilemmas, and all matters involving the security and safety of our communities.

We must create an expectation of success and value in each young citizen of the United States of America.  It does not matter the circumstance of their current situation, whether that circumstance is fledgling scholar in an urban school, low achievement student in areas of urban blight, or a young person living with immigrant status in the US.  It doesn’t matter about their sexual orientation, their financial status or their gender.  It matters that they are shown the importance of the logic of their mental strength, intelligence and skill at decision making.

We must instill in each student, and believe ourselves, that students can and do achieve! We the educators and parents must hold this belief for each of the young people in our community.  Learning is a right of each citizen of this nation.  Learning that allows young men to establish themselves as intelligent, strong, athletic, and capable.   We must instill in young women that they are the prize in our communities; they are intelligent, strong, capable and special to the welfare of the culture.

We must be prepared to work with parents, students, relatives, community agencies and all members of the education and global cultural community to develop and implement programs that collaborate and connect the vision of renewed educational outcomes for America’s schools.

We must be prepared to listen, listen, and listen again to the views of the stakeholders we engage with during this renewed commitment to education that is relevant and focused on the 21st century student.  The key will be to start early, stay late, and talk often about the value of self respect, culture and heritage, personal responsibility, and lifelong learning.

We must be willing to shift our own perspectives about what is “good education”.  We can learn in this process as we seek to teach others.  We will need everyone involved to be willing to retool with new language and fresh eyes on how to reignite the creativity we know is present in our youth and ourselves.

This is a task that urban communities are ready to tackle.   This is work that The Urban Voice will continue to promote in our commitment to education for the 21st century.

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The 21st Century Civil Rights Issue by Kelvin Lassiter

Each generation throughout the history of time has experienced certain obstacles.  In the 19th century, the battle fought was abolishing slavery.  The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863.  This legislation made it illegal for another human being to own blacks as if they were material property.

One hundred years later, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 became law, giving blacks the right to vote without any restraints such as poll tax, literacy tests, intellectual or physical intimidation.  Ironically, in the 21st century, the main ingredient that kept us then and still keeps us now from experiencing spiritual, physical and emotional emancipation is education.  The 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education declared separate but equal education unconstitutional.  Not only was this a landmark decision in our nation’s history, it set the tone for today’s issue. 

In order for laws and policy to take effect, the minds of the oppressor must be challenged and forced to comply.  Today, minds are still oppressed, people and schools are still segregated, and if a minority even attempts of thinking about pursuing higher education, he may be ostracized by being labeled as “acting white” (snobbish, academically inclined black students shunned by their peers), according to Roland G. Fryer in 2006.  This mentality is damaging and psychologically worse than being in slavery. 

The effects of our history has desensitized us to the current method of bondage; the promotion of more entertainment and less “info-tainment.”  I guess mainstream America may label this as “acting black.” 

It’s common knowledge that blacks were not afforded the same educational qualities 100 years ago that are available today.  At this time, in most cases, some are reluctant to pursue educational opportunities.  They would rather massage the ego of the “dream stealer” (someone who discourages success, education or happiness).

Our educational system is in need of desperate repair.  Our mentality as a people is in greater need of repair.  The days of succeeding with just a high school education are a thing of the past.  According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, over a million students who enter ninth grade each fall fail to graduate with their class four years later.  “No Child Left Behind”, really?  Real education starts in the home, not in the classroom.

Here are a few things to do to improve your educational situation:

Believe in yourselfReceiving a decent education is essential; however, believing in yourself before you start will give you the experience and tools necessary to achieve your goal.   Do not listen to those who doubt your abilities including people who are close to you. No one will believe in your dream more than you will.

Read every dayPlease abide by the popular slogan “reading is fundamental.”  Read books that are spiritually uplifting to build your confidence.  Also, you want to read books that relate to your desired goal.  Teaching yourself how to study will train your mind to prepare for your future.

Decrease the entertainment and increase the informationThe fastest way to keep people in bondage is the lack of information.  There is an old adage that states: “If you want to hide something, put it in a book.” The entertainment industry has the ability to allow the human mind to “hide” its true potential.  The design of videos, video games, and playstation is portrayed as entertainment.  The addiction to these things keeps your attention off of the prize, your desire to succeed.

Know your talents and strengthsFind out the thing you enjoy most.  Examine if this is something you would do for free and that will determine if the profession is for you.  An obstacle to success is doing something just for the money.  That’s the mentality of a job.  If you do what you enjoy, you will never work a day in your life.  Utilize all your God given talents.  Do not shortchange yourself.

There is no time like the present to go after what you dream of.  You can do it!  Your life depends on making and shaping the dream of destiny!  Your family depends on it!  The will to win has to be greater than the skill to lose.  This is a lifelong journey and your children’s children must benefit.  The internal fire inside of you should never die; just throw some wood on it from time to time. “Victory” awaits you!

Kelvin Lassiter is a motivational speaker, author, and consultant based in Washington, DC.  For more information about his books, programs, and seminars, visit www.kelvinspeaks.com. He can be reached by email at info@kelvinspeaks.com.

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The Story of America’s Black Patriots by Frank Martin & Jeff Stetson

The role of African Americans in the Civil War is a part of this nation’s history that is yet to be fully explored. While some attention has been paid to the outfit that inspired the movie “Glory”, the depth of involvement is far deeper than the exploits of one courageous troop. What follows is an attempt to tell some of that story.

“The Negro is not equal to the white man. Slavery is his natural and normal condition. The new Confederate government is the first in the history of the world to be based upon this great physical, philosophical and moral truth.”  (Confederate States of America Vice President Alexander Stephens) 

The first shot in The War Between the States was fired by Confederate troops in Charleston, South Carolina on April 12, 1861. The next day, the Union Army surrendered Ft. Sumter.

In Boston, a group of black citizens passed a resolution pleading for an opportunity to serve the cause of liberty.  “Our feelings urge us to say to our countrymen that we are ready to stand by and defend the government as the equals of its white defenders – to do so with our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor, for the sake of freedom. We ask you to modify your laws that we may enlist – that full scope be given to the patriotic feelings burning in the colored man’s breast.”

The North, however, believed the war would end quickly and saw no need for black soldiers. President Lincoln rationalized, “To arm the Negroes would turn fifty-thousand bayonets from the loyal border states against us.” Union General William Tecumseh Sherman didn’t want them either: “The Negro is in a transition state and is not the equal of the white man.”  Newspapers like The Milwaukee Sentinel thought their service undignified. “Certainly we hope we may never have to confess to the world that the United States government has to seek an ally in the Negro to regain its authority.”

While officially prohibited from serving in the Army, many northern free men of color fought anyway. William Henry Johnson was one such man. In a letter to a Boston newspaper dated July 24, 1861, he wrote of his participation in the first major fight of the war, the Battle of Bull Run, and the Union Army’s subsequent defeat. “We lost everything – life, ammunition and honor. We were driven like so many sheep into Washington, disgraced and humiliated.”

Northern confidence was shaken and President Lincoln issued a call for black volunteers to join the Union cause as laborers, longshoremen, servants and cooks, but specifically not as soldiers. Boston northern abolitionist Frederick Douglass demanded more: “Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S.; let him get an eagle on his buttons, a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States.”

Early in the war, the Union navy had blockaded Charleston in an effort to isolate Fort Sumter. Inside the harbor, a slave named Robert Smalls was forced to serve as wheelman aboard the Confederate gunboat “Planter.” Smalls explained, “I often talked with other black sailors on board the Planter about the possibility of our stealing the ship and delivering it to the Union forces. Our chance came when all the white members of the ship’s crew went to town leaving me and seven other black sailors on board. At 3 a.m. we began our journey along the heavily guarded coast. We hoisted the ship’s Confederate flag, giving the appropriate whistle signal as we passed Fort Sumter. I wore the captain’s hat and imitated his walk. As we approached the fleet of Union ships, we raised a white sheet, signaling surrender.”

Robert Smalls’ heroic feat was heralded in newspapers throughout the North. From The New York Tribune…“If we must remember with humility that the confederate flag yet waves where our national colors were first struck, we should be all the more prompt to recognize the merit that has put into our possession the first trophy from Fort Sumter.”

Four months later President Lincoln announced that, effective January 1, 1863, all slaves held in rebel states would be considered free by the American government. This was the Emancipation Proclamation.

The document read, in part, “I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves…henceforward shall be free; and that the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.” The Proclamation also permitted African Americans to serve in the military. “I further declare that such persons of suitable condition will be received into the armed services of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.”

Fredrick Douglass seized the opportunity to demonstrate once and for all the black man’s commitment to the principles of liberty. “Men of color, to arms! We can get at the throat of treason through the State of Massachusetts. She was first in the War of Independence; first to break the chains of her slaves; first to make the black man equal before the law; first to admit colored children to her common schools. She was first to answer with her blood the alarm‑cry of the nation when its capital was menaced by the rebels. Massachusetts now welcomes you as her soldiers.”

In the next installment of For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots, the USCT are put to the test at Port Hudson and Ft. Warner. 

See this story and much more at www.forloveofliberty.org

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