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Telling Their Stories
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Mary Lee Brady, Ph.D.










What's Your Story?

Which ancestors of yours or mine do you deem good enough for you or me to research and write about?  Do you regard any of them as possessing virtues such as courage and faith?  Is there a single person passed that you can view as good enough to have their life's story told, ... by you?  How is it that only one movie "Home of the Brave" was made in the 1940-1970s era about the one million Black men who served in World II; and the sole Black man featured in the movie was cast as a cowardly Navy Seabee who fell apart in the midst of Japanese enemy attacks? 

Mind you, it was well documented and known about the heroism of Dorey Miller at Pear Harbor who despite his denigrated position aboard ship fostered the courage to fight the Japanese attack and actually shoot down attacking aircraft while thousands of men of lesser courage fled for their lives. "Enough already" in the Yiddish vernacular of Brooklyn Jews.  Writers like Melvin Van Peebles and so many others in the recent past "Up From Slavery" famed the flames of contempt by writing about Black men always as less than others, whether in the roles of police, soldiers, farmers or any other endeavor. Literary prostitutes is a mild description of the character of writers who denigrate Black men in the cultures of entertainment and minstrel traditions.


Max Robinson, first national new anchor at ABC News was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia with many friends who were serving honorably in the Vietnam War even though he and many Americans did not like the war, ... but Max very much understood that Black men should not be portrayed as cowardly, crazy and unworthy simply because most audiences expected them to be that way.  And, he refused to the consternation of ABC news bosses to broadcast news that denigrated Black men in Vietnam. Perhaps the worst case of prostitution was that of the other brother from Philadelphia who graduated from a historically Black college, avoided the draft by hiding out in France and then accepting a national news broadcasting job to interview and photography Black men in Vietnam as utterly unfit to serve in anyone's army.  And, he was richly rewarded. 

Ed Bradley's "Bloods of Vietnam" documentaries of immature young Black men assigned as depot cargo handlers in Saigon was intended to reflect the worst of us, ... not the fact that thousands like future generals Colin Powell and Chappie James were serving admirably in America's first fully racially  integrated war.  Of the 50,000 plus young men who died in Vietnam, ... did Bradley ever tell their stories as meaningful in the context of courage and devotion to duty?

Ed Bradley.jpg

He literally ignored the young men like Private Milton Olive of Chicago who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor after throwing himself on a grenade to save the life of his brothers in Christ.  According to friends, Olive wanted to become a minister of the gospel after his discharge from service in America's airborne forces.  The follow-up story that Ed Bradley neither knew or cared about was that of Olive's buddies brought to Christ by a a young man they so admired.  Rather, ... Bradley put images in place exactly what his CBS superiors imagined that Blacks did in all of America's wars, ... menial services and misbehaving like what could be expected in a Melvin Van Peebles "Broadway money-maker."  New York audiences, including a lot of African-Americans, flocked to see his plays that often portrayed Harlem as a sheer gutter and no place to be anybody worthy of jobs which they did not have.

Black actors and actresses, and journalists, regardless of how ambitious or hungry they are for work, ... ought to stop accepting roles that portray people of African heritage as less than others in settings where everyone else, including enemies, are viewed favorably by audiences.  We remember well that our own beloved Maxwell Robinson who the first African-American network news anchor for ABC News was adamant about the need for Black professionals to hold onto their own sense of integrity in an environment not only in the struggle for opportunities but also "the least of us."  Men who knew him well noted that one thing for certain was his Robinson character of courage; and, were not surprised from ABC fired him for insisting that Blacks not be daily negatively portrayed as unworthy of what Dr. King and others wanted.  Max Robinson, like his uncle Spotswood and brother Randall, ... was not a coward.

Cowardice is a terrible label to pin on any man; and, you can bet your last dollar that no Jewish actor would ever portray holocaust victims or any Jews of past, present or future as cowards.  Doing so would be a Freudian expression of self-hatred.  Our argument is that far too many Black writers, knowing full well that "courage" is the principal classical virtue according to Aristotle, ... deliberately choose to portray Black men as cowardly unless they just stupid and stumble into doing the right thing. 


Now, I can make my point.

Classical scholarship has bred the history of utter contempt for men and women like William Lee and Betty Hemings who contributed courageously and faithfully in the American Revolution.  So, who decided that we are not good enough to be sons and daughters of the American Revolution?

For those of my cousins by dozens outlined on this site and others who would write well for their family offspring and other readers, ... try to research the good in the lives lived. 

Don't let anyone turn you around! Your existence is ultimate documentation that ancestors whose names and bodies you bear lived just as surely as any other person claiming to be descendents of American patriots!

The following excerpts from Microsoft might be helpful in the attitudes facing writers about goodness in "the least of us."

The Megarians, Euclid's followers, posited that although good may be called wisdom, God, or reason, it is "one," and that good is the final secret of the universe, which can be revealed only through logical inquiry.  According to Plato, good is an essential element of reality. Evil does not exist in itself but is, rather, an imperfect reflection of the real, which is good. In his Dialogues (first half of the 4th century BC) he maintains that human virtue lies in the fitness of a person to perform that person's proper function in the world.

The human soul has three elements-intellect, will, and emotion-each of which possesses a specific virtue in the good person and performs a specific role. The virtue of intellect is wisdom, or knowledge of the ends of life; that of the will is courage, the capacity to act; and that of the emotions is temperance, or self-control.  The ultimate virtue, justice, is the harmonious relation of all the others, each part of the soul doing its appropriate task and keeping its proper place. Plato maintained that the intellect should be sovereign, the will second, and the emotions subject to intellect and will. The just person, whose life is ordered in this way, is therefore the good person.

Aristotle, Plato's pupil, regarded happiness as the aim of life. In his principal work on ethics, the Nicomachean Ethics (late 4th century BC), he defined happiness as activity that accords with the specific nature of humanity; pleasure accompanies such activity but is not its chief aim. Happiness results from the unique human attribute of reason, functioning harmoniously with human faculties.  Aristotle held that virtues are essentially good habits, and that to attain happiness a person must develop two kinds of habits: those of mental activity, such as knowledge, which lead to the highest human activity, contemplation; and those of practical action and emotion, such as courage.

Moral virtues are habits of action that conform to the golden mean, the principle of moderation, and they must be flexible because of differences among people and conditioning factors. For example, the amount one should eat depends on one's size, age, and occupation. In general, Aristotle defines the mean as being between the two extremes of excess and insufficiency; thus, generosity is the mean between prodigality and stinginess.  For Aristotle, the intellectual and the moral virtues are merely means toward the attainment of happiness, which results from the full realization of human potential. "Ethics," Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 99.

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