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Welcome

The Alliance of Ethics & Art (AEA) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. We are grateful to join with others in the fight against racism, and to seek solutions based on principles of Aesthetic Realism, the education founded by philosopher Eli Siegel: (1) Every person's deepest desire is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis. This desire is the source of education and all the arts and sciences. (2) The greatest danger of people is to have contempt--"the addition to self through the lessening of something else." All human injustice is caused by contempt--from a child's sarcastic "put down," to lying, bullying, economic exploitation, voter suppression, war. These principles when studied make it possible for racism to end. Our title is based on Eli Siegel's statement that "Ethics is the art of enjoying justice."
— Alice Bernstein

           Bishop James shows the interior of the Rosenwald school         Bishop Frederick James in Rosenwald Howard Junior High School-Prosperity, SC. Photo credit: AB
From the Director

I've just returned from South Carolina with photographer and Aesthetic Realism Associate Allan Michael, after conducting interviews with unsung pioneers for the Alliance's oral history project, "The Force of Ethics in Civil Rights." The project's title derives from what Eli Siegel, the great philosopher and founder of the education Aesthetic Realism, explained:  there is a "force of ethics" working in reality and in people throughout history. I'm grateful for the honor of interviewing men and women whose choices on behalf of respect and justice are evidence of ethics as alive, immediate, powerful. 
Bishop Frederick James and the Rosenwald School
in Prosperity

The central purpose of this trip was to videotape an interview with AME Bishop Frederick James (shown above) about efforts to fully restore Howard Junior High School (HJHS)--the Rosenwald School built in 1923-24 in Prosperity, SC, which he attended from 1st-10th grades in 1927-37. The fine education he received led to a distinguished career as theologian, educator, and community leader. His dream, at age 92, is to preserve this beloved school as a community resource for education, culture, and economic uplift in the 21st century.
Rosenwald School photo by Jimmy Wayne        The history of the Rosenwald schools is hardly known and needs to be. Briefly: Early in the 20th century, the Jewish philanthropist Julius Rosenwald learned from Booker T. Washington about the utter neglect of education for black children in the segregated South. Rosenwald established a Foundation which matched funds contributed by black and white populations in local communities. Over 5500 schools were built in 17 Southern states, enabling hundreds of thousands of black children to be educated in finely constructed, airy, sun-filled buildings. HJHS, which is on the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is among very few (about 500) Rosenwald buildings still in existence, and is considered to be particularly significant and beautiful.
       "Restoring this school has kept my hopes alive, and my expectation is to finish this job in my lifetime," said Bishop James.
           ShilohAME photo of interview participants
Interview participants at Shiloh AME Church in Prosperity, adjacent to HJHS, were: (seated, l-r)
Rudy Barnes, local attorney; Mike Bedenbaugh, Executive Director of the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation; Bishop Frederick James; Rev. Dr. Elaine Eskew, pastor of Shiloh AME Church;
(standing, l-r) Cecil Williams, noted Orangeburg civil rights photographer and videographer for this interview; Rev. Eddie Mayes of Columbia; Alice Bernstein; Allan Michael.  Photo credit: Barbara Williams.

         The Alliance is honored that our work is a means of furthering knowledge about and preservation of the legacy of Rosenwald schools. We are proud to join with Bishop James and other distinguished South Carolinians to explore programs, based on Aesthetic Realism, which enable education to succeed for every child, and for justice to all people to become a living reality now and in the future.
More Interviews, History--and Art
I'm also grateful to have interviewed Dr. Tom Crosby of Columbia, SC, whose oral history collection of 44 interviews with men and women who attended Rosenwald schools is in the archives of the University of South Carolina, and who himself attended a Rosenwald school.
                    Teacharage-AB,Zisholtz,Crosby,Harnett
          Rosenwald Teacherage at SCSU (l-r) Alice Bernstein, Ellen Zisholtz, Tom Crosby, Jannie Harriot. 
          Photo credit: Allan Michael.

At South Carolina State University (SCSU) in Orangeburg, we videotaped a tour of the exhibition of works from the museum's African art collection.
Benin sculptures, Stanback Museum
Stanback Museum It was led by Ellen Zisholtz, Director and Curator of the I.P. Stanback Museum: Africa Revisited: The Art of Power and Identity. Above are shown three magnificent bronzes from the African kingdom of Benin. The tour was narrated by SCSU graduate Davion Petty (shown right). We then walked on the campus to a Rosenwald Teacherage (Teachery) building, originally used as a home for single teachers. There we were joined by Jannie Harriott of the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission, and thanked her in person for the commission's support of our People of Clarendon County/Answer to Racism project. 
Samuel Tenenbaum      Our trip concluded with a far-ranging and lively interview with retired businessman and president of Palmetto Health Foundation, Samuel Tenenbaum (shown right). Originally from Georgia, he spoke about his work for civil rights in Atlanta and far beyond, including with Dr. Martin Luther King and other leaders.
       I look forward to saying much more later on. For now, I'm grateful to close with a poem that Bishop
James read aloud to conclude the interview at Shiloh AME Church. I see this poem as standing for the purpose of all our work, and of my grateful life:

     Something Else Should Die:
     A Poem with Rhymes

     In April 1865
     Abraham Lincoln died.
     In April 1968
     Martin Luther King died.
     Their purpose was to have us say, some day:
     Injustice died.
     —Eli Siegel

     From Hail, American Development (Definition Press) 
     © 1968 by Eli Siegel

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Celebrating the 20th year of this Emmy award-winning public service announcement, The Heart Knows Better, by filmmaker and Aesthetic Realism consultant Ken Kimmelman.

A victory on the side of respect for humanity took place on May 19th in Washington, DC as the Library of Congress launched its Civil Rights Oral History Project website in The American Folklife Center. This site came to be as a result of a 2009 Act of Congress (Public Law 111-19), directing the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture, to identify and preserve civil rights history. It is a tremendous resource on one of the great democratic movements in American--and world--history. The Alliance is honored that through this LOC website our oral history project will now be accessible as a resource worldwide.
  Dr. Guha Shankar, introducing LOC website
        Among the speakers at the launch was Dr. Guha Shankar, Program Director and Folklife Specialist, shown above, who gave an overview of the website's functions and exciting samples of digital interviews. Currently on screen is Alice Bernstein's interview with civil rights activist Bill Saunders.
       And the LOC hosted a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer (1964), and its beginnings in Mississippi, where the vicious racism of Jim Crow was endemic and included the Emmett Tillbrutal murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till (left). Revered activists Charles Cobb, Robert "Bob" Moses, Dorie Ladner and Joyce Ladner (sisters) spoke of their experiences in the Mississippi struggle and of many people and events which led to the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Their firsthand accounts of the brutality and terror, and of choices made in behalf of justice by courageous people, were stirring, often very personal, and made for enormous respect. Shown at right are civil rights pioneer Dorie Ladner and educator Ayize Sabatar.
        Seeing how large and far-reaching the activism known as Mississippi Freedom Summer was, and how it led to a national movement, is tremendous evidence for what Eli Siegel identified as "the force of ethics."  The answer to racism, I am convinced, is in the study of Aesthetic Realism, which can have people everywhere and of all ages proud of how they see other people.
Joyce Ladner and ABIt was a moving experience to be at the LOC, and to meet men and women from across the country: activists, historians, educators, artists, librarians, and others committed to preserving our nation's civil rights history. It was a pleasure to have met Joyce Ladner (shown above, with AB) who I had earlier been privileged to interview by phone about Dr. Ernst Borinski, one of the Jewish Refugee Scholars, who taught at Tougaloo College in Mississippi and who was a major influence in her life and career. I look forward to writing more about these events and people in future updates.
We are grateful to announce  that the Alliance was awarded a grant for our oral history project, The Force of Ethics in Civil Rights from the Kovler Fund at the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. It enables us to continue research and interviews on as aspect of our oral history: the little known story of how Black colleges in the South helped to save the lives of Jewish refugee scholars and their families who attempted to flee the Nazi Holocaust in the 1930s-40s, by giving them jobs and safe haven. And we thank the Puffin Foundation whose support through the years has been central to continuing our oral history project.
       What made for the Holocaust and what makes for racism, Aesthetic Realism explains, is contempt: "the disposition to think we will be for ourselves by making less of the outside world." It is the source of every injustice--from a sarcastic taunt to lying, from indifference to another's pain to lynching. Respect, wanting to see the inner life and feelings of another are as deep and immediate as one's own, is the basis of all education, all the arts and sciences, every instance of justice. And being educated about these two choices in us, we can make the choice for respect! 

"The People of Clarendon County"— A Play
by Ossie Davis & the Answer to Racism! presented in the nation's capital.

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