#Kickstarter Campaign to save history

I have a new Kickstarter campaign and I’d love your support! Besides the  for-profit motive, I have a non-profit motive as well. No one likes studying, and least of all a subject like history, which has little application to people’s lives…or so they think.

But it does, because knowing who we are and how we got here helps us ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes. As Spanish philosopher George Santayana said, “those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Thus I’m proud to announce the Kickstarter campaign for the Heroes of History Collectible Card Game, my new idea to provide an alternative way to learn history. Find reading thick textbooks boring? Not inspired by the old-school documentaries that speak in a monotone and recite lots of facts that have little to do with you? Well, I’m introducing a new way to learn the facts.

my babies

My game has battlefields, weapons, people, and things from history. Each card has a historical fact and most have a special ability to accompany them. It’s up to you to decide how you will make the moves.


The goal is simple: Build an army and destroy your opponent before they destroy you. Your deck comes with a brigade of both heroic and villainous men and women from history, several weapons for you to provide your soldiers for extra firepower, and supply cards and real-life battleground bonuses to enhance your army or crush your enemy.

Win the battle with legendary Shawnee war chief Tecumseh trading his bow and arrow for a cannon to blow Geronimo up. Or, put Andrew Jackson on the literally-indestructible USS Constitution to knock enemies out before taking refuge in King’s Mountain. You can even give George Washington the Gatling Gun (predecessor to the machine gun) and let him go for a joy ride on your opponent. Not only can you power your army with buffalo chips (that’s buffalo poop for you youngins), but you’ll learn something you probably didn’t know about people, places, and things which made a real difference to our world.

But, we can’t distribute this card game without your support. While a small number of cards have been made, we need an awesome community of people like you to help us get more units printed, shipped, and into the hands of our fans. Please support this campaign and take home a box (or more) that will give you, or someone you know, hours of entertainment for the price of just a few dead presidents, four of whom are actually playable cards. You can actually say you were studying while you were gaming.

This game is manufactured in the USA and is approved for all ages. All rights reserved. We thank you in advance for all your support.

Visit my campaign by clicking below: I promise you, if my autograph is worth something someday, this will be the best investment you ever made.




Being Realistic about George Washington’s Slave Views

illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Published by Scholastic Press

You may have missed this little tidbit from the Huffington Post on a new children’s book that some say makes our first president’s slaves look happy and content.

“Scholastic is pulling a new picture book about George Washington and his slaves amid objections it sentimentalizes a brutal part of American history.

“A Birthday Cake for George Washington” was released Jan. 5 and had been strongly criticized for its upbeat images and story of Washington’s cook, the slave Hercules and his daughter, Delia. Its withdrawal was announced Sunday.

“While we have great respect for the integrity and scholarship of the author, illustrator and editor, we believe that, without more historical background on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn,” the children’s publisher said in a statement released to the AP.

The book, which depicts Hercules and Delia preparing a cake for Washington, has received more than 100 one-star reviews on Amazon.com. As of Sunday evening, only 12 reviews were positive. The book also set off discussions on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere on social media.

While notes in “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” from author Ramin Ganeshram and illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton had pointed out the historical context of the 18th century story and that Hercules eventually escaped, some critics faulted Ganeshram and Brantley-Newton for leaving out those details from the main narrative.

“Oh, how George Washington loves his cake!” reads the publisher’s description of the story. “And, oh, how he depends on Hercules, his head chef, to make it for him. Hercules, a slave, takes great pride in baking the president’s cake. But this year there is one problem — they are out of sugar.”

As someone currently working on a historical card game for kids and as someone who has read several biographies on Washington, it is true the “father of our country” owned slaves. First, as the owner of a (comparatively) small plantation in Virginia he inherited from his brother Lawrence (this is Mount Vernon), who inherited it from their father Augustine. He then married Martha Custis in 1759 and acquired her massive plantation she inherited from her deceased first husband Daniel Custis. As a member of Virginia’s gentry in the 18th century, Washington was surrounded by slaveowners and those who justified it. Mount Vernon had 318 slaves at the time of his death in 1799 and he himself purchased slaves over the course of his lifetime.

Richard Parkinson, an Englishman who lived near Mount Vernon, once reported that “it was the sense of all his [Washington’s] neighbors that he treated [his slaves] with more severity than any other man.”( Parkinson, Richard. A Tour in America, in 1798, 1799, and 1800 (London: Printed for J. Harding and J. Murray, 1805), 420. Having that said, he did own slaves.

However, Washington became increasingly distant from slavery as a practice beginning in the 1770s and continuing until his death. While not a true abolitionist (he never freed his slaves during his lifetime), he expressly turned away from slavery as Revolution became inevitable. It boiled down to one question: How can we as people say we want a nation full of liberty for all if we keep certain folks in chains?

In 1778, not long after breaking camp at Valley Forge, Washington, who was then forty-six years old and had been a slave owner for thirty-five years, confided to a cousin that he longed “every day…more and more to get clear” of the ownership of slaves. (George Washington to Lund Washington, 15 August 1778, The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 12, 327.) He vowed never to separate slaves by purchasing one individual and not the others (a common practice at the time). He was further influenced by the views of the Marquis de Lafayette, an ardent opponent of slavery.

Not only did his views evolve on black people, but Washington was one of the first people to stand up for other groups as well. In a letter to Moses Seixas, a leader of Newport, Rhode Island’s Jewish community, Washington wrote “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.” (read more here)

As Washington neared the end of his life, which is the time when “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” takes place, he signed a will saying that, upon Martha’s death, all slaves they owned together were to be freed. He also stipulated in the will that money be left to those enslaved to provide for education or for living expenses.

The conclusion we are left with is that Washington was a product of his time, whether we like it or not. 250 years ago, slavery in most parts of America, especially the South, was considered acceptable and that’s what you did if you were among the better off who could afford vast tracts of land. A good comparison is to how many people today may think poverty is immoral, but do little to make the kinds of changes we need to raise the poor up. For example, opposing or not supporting school choice programs that would allow impoverished children who attend poorly performing schools to attend another school for reasons that have nothing to do with the child or that school, but have everything to do with money and who gets it.

I wish those who are commenting on this book in anger would take the time to understand Washington’s evolving views and recognize that, while hardly perfect, Washington was still ahead of his time and overall one of the greatest men who has ever lived. These attacks are part of a widescale effort to demonize our Framers as “evil old white men” whose Constitution we should ignore because women, blacks, and First Nation peoples (among others) were not granted equal privileges right away.

To be fair, I haven’t read this book, and I do not know whether the slave called Hercules was “happy and content”, though I doubt there were many slaves happy to be treated like inhuman beings. I personally think the author should have considered this before writing a book following a few of Washington’s slaves and making them look happy. (update: In hindsight, the author probably did consider this and did what we love- generate drama to boost sales).

But I’m sure the people attacking Washington for his slave-ownership haven’t read the book either. And few of them will take the time to study the Framer’s views on this issue or the tumultuous Constitution conventions where slavery was a major source of contention between those who supported the institution and those who wanted to see it banned. Keep in mind in that time tarring and feathering were common forms of punishment, and most doctors treated illnesses with leeches, cold baths, or beliefs in “negative energy” because they were not aware of viruses and bacteria like we are today.

Read more about Washington’s views on slavery HERE

Thanksgiving Turkey Facts

Here in the States it’s Thanksgiving Day, which means Go Eagles and Lions! Here are a few interesting facts about Thanksgiving, courtesy of trove.com:

1. There are three places in the US named Turkey. 
Three small towns in America are named after the nation’s favorite bird. There is Turkey, Texas; Turkey, North Carolina; and Turkey Creek, Louisiana, according to the US Census Bureau. Turkey Creek, Louisiana is the most populated, with 441 residents.
There are also two townships in Pennsylvania called Upper Turkeyfoot and Lower Turkeyfoot.

2. The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade used live animals from the Central Park Zoo.
Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York took place in 1914 when Macy’s employees dressed in vibrant costumes and marched to the flagship store on 34th street.
The parade used floats instead of balloons, and it featured monkeys, bears, camels, and elephants all borrowed from the Central Park Zoo.
It was also originally called the Macy’s Christmas Parade, but was renamed the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1927.

3. Jingle Bells was originally a Thanksgiving song. 
James Pierpoint composed the song in 1857 for children celebrating Thanksgiving. The title was “One Horse Open Sleigh,” and it was such a hit that it was sung again at Christmas. The song quickly became associated with the Christmas holiday season, and the title was officially changed in 1859, two years later.
4. The night before Thanksgiving is the best day for bar sales in the US.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is responsible for the most bar sales in America, more than New Year’s Eve, the Super Bowl, or even St. Patrick’s Day.
It makes sense, since nearly all Americans have Thanksgiving off and dealing with family members can be very stressful. (But at least stuffing your face with fatty Thanksgiving foods is a perfect hangover cure.)
5. Thanksgiving leftovers inspired the first-ever TV dinner. 
In 1953, the TV dinner company Swanson overestimated the demand for turkey by over 260 tons, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
The owners of the company had no idea what to do with all the leftovers, so they enlisted the help of company salesman Gerry Thomas.
Taking inspiration from airplane meals, Thomas ordered 5,000 aluminum trays, and loaded them with the turkey leftovers to create the first TV dinner.
6. Thomas Jefferson canceled Thanksgiving during his presidency. 
George Washington was the first to declare Thanksgiving as a holiday, but it was on a year-to-year basis, so presidents had to re-declare it every year, according to the Washington Post. Jefferson was so adamantly against Thanksgiving that he refused to declare it a holiday during his presidency, and many say that he called the holiday “the most ridiculous idea ever conceived.”
Most historians agree that Jefferson really refused to declare the holiday because he fervently believed in the separation of church and state, and thought that the day of “prayer” violated the First Amendment.
It wasn’t until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a federal holiday, that our beloved turkey day was officially scheduled to fall on the fourth Thursday of every month.

9. FDR tried to change the date of Thanksgiving — and it caused a lot of problems. 
In 1939, Franklin Roosevelt changed the date of Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the second-to-last, according to the US National Archives.
The change was made in an attempt to lift the economy during the Great Depression, the idea being that it would give people more time to shop for Christmas.
But it ended up making everybody confused. Most states held Thanksgiving on its original date, and three states — Colorado, Mississippi, and Texas — celebrated the holiday in both weeks, according to the Wall Street Journal.
It caused such a public outcry that people began referring to it as “Franksgiving.” After two years, Congress ditched the new policy and set the fourth Thursday of November as the legal holiday.

two more from The Blaze site:

Many credit Harry S Truman for being the first president to pardon a turkey, but the Truman Presidential Library admits there’s no documentation to substantiate that claim.

Truman’s successor, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, admitted he ate the two turkeys presented to him at the White House for Thanksgiving each year during his two terms in office.

When President John F. Kennedy was presented with a turkey wearing a sign reading, “Good Eatin’, Mr. President,” Kennedy simply responded, “Let’s just keep him.”

When President Ronald Reagan was asked about possible pardons for Lt. Col. Oliver North and national security advisor John Poindexter in the Iran-Contra affair in 1987, he joked about pardoning a turkey, but the practice of “officially” pardoning the bird wasn’t formalized until 1989. Since then, each president has “pardoned” a turkey each year, allowing it to be spared from the roaster to instead live out the rest of its natural life.

One of the most ardent advocates for an annual national day of Thanksgiving was Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Ladies Magazine and “Godey’s Lady’s Book.” Hale began lobbying for such a day in 1827 by printing articles in her magazines and writing to elected officials. After 36 years of persistence, Hale won her battle. Buoyed by the Union victory at Gettysburg, President Lincoln proclaimed that Nov. 26, 1863 would be a national Thanksgiving Day and that Thanksgiving would be observed each year on the fourth Thursday of November.

So there you have it. To all Americans, Happy Thanksgiving! And if you’re not American or you aren’t celebrating, Happy Thursday!