Fierce

The Little-Known History Of Grace Wisher, The Black Teen Girl Who Helped Craft The American Flag

Smithsonian

The United States was built on the forced labor of enslaved Africans. This isn’t hyperbole, either. The strenuous work of Africans who were violently shipped to the US laid the foundation of the country, from laboring on plantations — the mainstay of the early US economy — to building streets and railroads to literally constructing the White House and the US Capitol. Less known: a young Black girl is also behind our Star-Spangled Banner.

Grace Wisher, a 13-year-old indentured servant of Mary Pickersgill, a famed flag-maker credited with designing the US flag that inspired our national anthem, helped sew the original flag, Teen Vogue reports.

According to the news outlet, Wisher was a free girl in Baltimore, Maryland who became a servant after her mother, Jenny, signed a contract with Pickersgill in 1810.

The contract details that Wisher was expected “to learn the art and mystery of housework and plain sewing,” abilities her mother believed would better prepare her for life.

“It seems as though Jenny wanted Grace to be able to learn a trade, especially as a free African-American girl,” Amanda Shores Davis, the executive director of the Star-Spangled Flag House in Baltimore, told Teen Vogue. “It would have been important for her to learn skills that could carry her through the rest of her life.”

Information on Wisher is hard to come by. Not only were the early stories of African Americans intentionally left out of history, as an indentured servant, not a slave, Wisher’s name was not mentioned in Pickersgill’s title for the house or her belongings, like the flag-maker’s enslaved servants were, Sally Johnston, former executive director of the Flag House and a Mary Pickersgill biographer, says.

In recent years, historians have been working to ensure that the young Black girl’s role in the creation of the Star-Spangled Banner is no longer erased.

In 2014, the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House in Baltimore started to include the little information they had about Wisher in their exhibitions. Currently, an outline of a young girl representing Wisher sits on a plexiglass covering a popular oil painting depicting the creation of the flag. Additionally, in 2014, an exhibition titled For Whom It Stands and housed at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, which documents Maryland’s African American history and culture, included Wisher’s story.

“A name like Grace Wisher, unless you’re deep into the story about the Star-Spangled Banner itself, doesn’t often come to the fore,” Wilkinson tells Teen Vogue. “That’s why I think it’s important that there’s not a single narrative. There are things we think we know, but there’s more we need to know. And certainly, Grace Wisher’s life and her contributions should not go unknown. It should be acknowledged and presented in our historical displays about this era.”

Wilkinson, who is now a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMHAAC), believes spreading this hidden history could allow African Americans and other Black Americans to see themselves, perhaps for the first time, as part of the American dream.

“The flag and the anthem are not the same thing. But because they’re related in terms of these symbols of American identity, these are places where people are invested,” she said. “And African-Americans are as invested as any other American and understand the potency of these symbols to call attention to issues that they want to see change in.”

Read: These Surprising Facts Will Explain Why Latinos Ought To Celebrate Juneteenth

Lost KKK Tapes Have Been Uncovered By A Journalist And They Are As Bad As You Might Imagine

Things That Matter

Lost KKK Tapes Have Been Uncovered By A Journalist And They Are As Bad As You Might Imagine

Invaluable Auction / Thad Zajdowicz / Flickr

Back in 2012, the daughters of Eugene B. Sloane, a photographer and journalist, came across a piece of uncovered Martin Luther King Jr. history, a never-heard-before recording. After their father’s passing, the women had begun to sort through his belongings, and they’re tucked away in a box sat his original Sony reel-to-reel tape recorder and two reel-to-reel audio tapes. The two tapes, although recorded in 1967, have content that is still relevant today. 

Eugene B. Sloane was a respected reporter for the South Carolina newspaper, The State, who was most well-known for his coverage during the civil rights era.

One of the tapes found is a rare recording of a Klan meeting, that took place the night before a Dr.  Martin Luther King event. 

Credit: Invaluable Auction

That evening, in the summer of 1967, there was a public announcement that a Klan meeting would be taking place; Sloane then taped the recorder to his waist and hid it under a Klan robe, then placed a hood over his head and began to tape the entire meeting. In the recording you can hear the Klan leader, spewing false rumors and hate, making wild accusations that black men are coming to their city to rape white women, this is eerily similar to Donald Trump’s presidential announcement when he stated all Mexicans rapist and criminals. The man on the tape goes on to inflate the crowd sizes saying there will thousands coming the following day, which is exactly the same type of mob mentality that Trump creates when he spreads the same hate-filled lies about “invasions” happening on the “southern border.”

Sadly, the most parallel wording in the recording is when the Klan leader calls for King’s death, “for God help that —- He ought to be shot.” His call to action is then followed by audience applause and honking in solidarity. 

Eight months later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would end up being assassinated by a white supremacist, with a rifle. 

Credit: Courtesy of Yolitzma Aguirre

On August 3, 2019, fifty-one years after white supremacy took the life of Dr. King Jr., in a mirrored action, the largest massacre of Latinos (in modern history) took place in El Paso, TX, when a supremacist drove 8 hours from Plano, TX – with a rifle – and murdered twenty-two innocent people. In the shooter’s own words, his objective was to “kill as many Mexicans as possible.”

During the most recent Democratic debate, the candidates were asked their thoughts on Trump’s responsibility in the El Paso massacre. Senator Kamala Harris’ response spoke volumes of truth. 

In both assassination of MLK and the massacre in El Paso, white men pulled the trigger and white supremacy was the ammunition.

Credit: @KamalaHarris / Twitter

In 1967 (much like today) racial tensions were at an all-time high. The Detroit riots had taken place a week before King’s Charleston visit. Yet despite all the racist hate hurled his way, Dr. King continued with the Poor People’s Campaign, he believed in the greater good and the work that must be done in order to truly attain equality. 

The second recording in Sloane’s belongings spoke exactly to that purpose. In this newly discovered recording, King discusses the very same issues that we are still battling today. On the topic of racism, he states, “…wherever we live in America, you have to face the fact honestly that racial discrimination is present. So don’t get complacent; certainly, we’ve made some strides, we’ve made some progress here and there but it hasn’t been enough; it hasn’t been fast enough; and although we’ve come a long long way, we still have a long, long way to go.

The 45-minute speech had profound key points on a range of issues, including the fundamental racism in this country, that must be changed, otherwise, freedom is not “free” for us all. He explains the pitfalls in the system, how America likes to say everyone is equal yet not everyone was allowed equal opportunity to attend school, therefore not everyone has equal opportunity to equal jobs, which means not everyone has equal opportunity to earn income, and not everyone has equal opportunity to afford food or a home…and the cycle continues.

If you look at the United States today, it is sad to say, not much has changed since King gave this Charleston speech.

Credit: @Nikki_Lew / Twitter

What the recording leaves us with, is the very essence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, that in the end, love beat out hate and fuel our movement. “so I’m not gonna give you a motto or preach a philosophy burn, baby burn. I’m gonna say build, baby build organize, baby, organize. I’ve decided to stick with love…Somebody’s gotta have some sense in this world. And a lot of white folks have demonstrated eloquently that they don’t have no sense and why should we be that way? The reason I’m not gonna preach a doctrine of black supremacy is because I’m sick and tired of white supremacy.

These two tapes that have now surfaced, have been cared for by Sloane’s daughters and will now be released to the public at auction. The sisters reached out to Guernsey auction house – who has handled many civil rights memorabilia, including Rosa Parks’ archives – and made the arrangements to personally hand deliver the tapes themselves, in order to assure the tapes arrived undamaged. 

The tapes, photos, and other items will be placed for auction on September 19th, 2019. 

Over fifty years after his death, Dr. King Jr. continues to be a beacon of hope, a light shining in the darkest hours. 

It has been a little over a month since the massacre took place in El Paso, TX, and in the month, we have seen different communities come together, to support each other in this dark hour, and as the next presidential election approaches we can listen to Dr. King’s words from that 1967 in recording, “build, baby build, organize, baby organize.” 

Already we have seen many groups begin to roll out their 2020 plans for engagement and voter registration. Democratic leaders like, Stacey Abrams – whose midterm race for governor of Georgia became national attention due to voter discrimination – has launched Fair Fight 2020, a voter protection program which will run across 20 states.

READ: These Surprising Facts Will Explain Why Latinos Ought To Celebrate Juneteenth

Archaeologists Found 250 Child Corpses In A Sacrifice Site In Peru And We Have Answers

Things That Matter

Archaeologists Found 250 Child Corpses In A Sacrifice Site In Peru And We Have Answers

Programa Arqueologico/AFP/Getty Images

Every once in a while, archaeologists make a finding so incredible, that headlines all throughout the world exploit the sensational aspects of the discovery. Such is the case of a recently unveiled mass grave containing the remains of 250 sacrificed children in Peru. The lead archeologist in the site, Feren Castillo, told AFP: “This is the biggest site where the remains of sacrificed children have been found. It’s uncontrollable, this thing with the children. Wherever you dig, there’s another one”. It is believed that more remains could be found.  

This is what you need to know about this amazing discovery that unearths more knowledge about the Chimú civilization from Northern Peru, specifically from the Moche Valley.  Alongside the Incas, the Chimú created a network of trade, political systems, religious institutions and enviable skills as craftspeople. 

So first things first, who were the Chimú people?

Credit: Instagram. @bygabrielagil

Chimú culture is responsible for much of the development of pre Columbine Northern Peru. Power was concentrated in the city of Chan Chan, a large adobe settlement on what is modern day Trujillo. They succeeded the Moche people and their civilization arose around 900 AD. Their downfall, around the year 1470, was product of an invasion by the Inca emperor Inca Yupanqui. The Spanish obliterated what was left of this proud indigenous civilization. 

We have to get rid of our colonialist gaze before reading the details of the finding!

Credit: Instagram. @isavillanuevav 

When we read stories like this our mind tends to judge them by current standards. Words like “savage” and “barbaric” often are used in media reports and everyday conversations. This inquisitive worldview is product of the mixing of European and indigenous moral and ethical standards. Latin America is largely a mestizo region where European worldviews prevailed. Yes, of course sacrificing children is appalling, but we should not perpetuate the idea that the original inhabitants of the continent were a bunch of blood-thirsty savages before colonization. Doing so only keeps racist ideas alive and this affects indigenous populations even today.

So who were the children and where were they found?

Credit: Programa Arqueologico/AFP/Getty Images

The finding is as important as it is perplexing: the remains of up to 250 underage individuals. According to scientists, the bodies indicate that the children were aged from 4 to 12 years old. As reported by Andina, the Peruvian state media agency, the remains of up to 40 warriors were also found. The sacrifices occurred between the 13th and 15th centuries.  The site is located in Pampa La Cruz, an archaeological site in Huanchaco-La Libertad, north of Lima. The reason for the ritual offering hits close to home in our turbulent times and the climate crisis we are experiencing.

The Chimú knew how to survive in the desert, so any change in the climate was devastating. This is the reason behind the sacrifices.

Credit: Instagram. @sheyllamoncada

Northern Peru is an arid landscape where human settlements need to run like clockwork to guarantee survival. The Chimúdepended on the replenishment of a network of rivers and streams that were fundamental for irrigation and human consumption. Too much water also brought disaster. Changes in the weather spelled doom for the Chimú. In an attempt to make peace with their gods they made an offering of children and warriors. Deutsche Welle reports: “Castillo said in this case he believes they were killed in hopes it would appease the gods and bring an end to El Nino, a cyclical climate pattern that can result in heavy rainfall and storms on the western coasts of South America. His theory is backed up by the fact that soil samples show that the children died during an extremely wet season, and that they were facing the sea”.

Human sacrifice was not uncommon in pre-Columbine civilizations. The Aztecs in what is now Mexico, for example, often sacrificed their own, as well as their adversaries, to their deities.

All hail Pacasmayo: they sacrificed their children to the moon.

Credit: Instagram. @andeanlab

Among the deities that the Chimú worshipped, the moon of Pacasmayo ruled supreme. Because the moon can be seen both during the day and at night, it was believed to be much more powerful than the Sun. Pacasmayo received animal and human sacrifices. Some parents even sacrificed their own children. They believed that through this ritual practice the children, often five years-old, would become deified. The Sun, Mars, Earth and some constellations were also worshipped. The magnitude of the recent discovery implies that the situation was urgent. As Sputnik News Service reports, Gabriel Prieto, professor of archeology from the National University of Trujillo, said: “This number of children, this number of animals—it would have been a massive investment on behalf of the state”.

The Chimú were also very skillful craftsmen, particularly with gold.

Credit: Instagram. @arts_premiers

The Chimú developed large civil engineering projects to irrigate the desert, and they were also very skilled working with metals such as gold, copper, silver, bronze and a mix of copper and gold called tumbaga. To get some of these metals they had to travel for more than three days, which speaks of the reaches of their political power.