Episodes

  • On today’s episode of Sharon Says So, we hear about the wife of Thomas Jefferson, Martha, who is listed as an official First Lady, but who passed away nearly twenty years before Jefferson’s presidency. Thomas Jefferson never remarried, but he did rely on two very important women to support him through the years as a widower. Learn about who they were and how their lives were destined to be connected, even before they were born.

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  • In this episode, Sharon is joined by economic policy expert and author Heather McGhee. McGhee began her career as an economist but when she took a trip across the country and back, she began to ask herself, “Why can’t we have nice things?” We’re not talking about robot maids, but rather, the social stability of programs like affordable healthcare and well-funded public schools. While puzzling out the answer to this question, McGhee realized that racism was a major driver of stagnant economics for ALL Americans, not just for Brown and Black Americans. Listen in to find out why, and how we must rethink our zero sum mindset–my progress over yours–to gain the most amount of prosperity.

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  • Today, on Sharon Says So, Sharon talks about one of the most famous American historical figures: Benjamin Franklin. The history books are not wrong about the incredible accomplishments Benjamin Franklin made during his lifetime. He was a man with an unparalleled mind and an electric personality. He was a champion of charitable causes and really good at making strategic political connections. But he was also a man who undervalued his family and made some questionable personal life choices. Listen in to find out more.

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  • Today, on Sharon Says So, we revisit a favorite first lady, Abigail Adams. Follow along as Abigail travels across the Atlantic, adventuring in Paris and France with her husband, John Adams. The power couple ultimately lands back in Boston only to move again into new roles, as President and First Lady of the United States.

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  • On today’s episode of Sharon Says So, Sharon takes us deep into the lives of the women who greatly influenced the same man: Aaron Burr. Theirs are stories of great minds, insatiable appetites for knowledge, grief in motherhood, and untimely tragedy. Listen in as Sharon turns over the stones of their lives and hear about a disappearance at sea, a mysteriously scavenged portrait, and a family secret.

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  • Over the next several weeks Sharon will be sharing stories about the lives of American first ladies and the different ways in which they have influenced their families, the presidency, and the whole of the nation.


    During her lifetime, Martha was never given the title of First Lady as we know it. Instead, she was called “Lady Washington” and was held in high esteem as George’s “worthy partner.” Today, Sharon dives into many of lesser known details of her life like her first marriage, her open home policy, and her views on slavery.


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  • On the last episode in our series, Momentum, Sharon ties up a few loose ends. The 1950s was a decade full of change, but the Civil Rights Movement didn’t end when the calendar flipped to 1960. Most of the people we’ve followed throughout this series continued their crusade for–or against–civil freedoms well into the next several decades.


    We hear about Barbara Johns and the next steps in integrated schooling, about Earl Warren and the gains his Supreme Court made in the 60s. We also learn about the reason behind his rift with J. Edgar Hoover, and how the FBI evolved over the years. Finally, Sharon returns to a Civil Rights power player, and we visit her in a new city, and with a new approach to activism.


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  • On our second to last episode in our series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, We learn about the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the commission born of it. For two years, the United States Commission on Civil Rights researched and released a 600+ page report about the state of voting rights in the US.


    They found, time after time, accounts of Black Americans who faced roadblocks and threats of violence or economic punishment when they tried to register to vote. Fear played a large role in preventing Black Americans from voting. But the tides are slowly changing, and there are many dedicated people working to make civil rights gains. We return to learning about Thurgood Marshall as his career–and influence–evolves over time.


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  • On today’s episode in our special series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, we learn about the women who gave the movement its backbone. Listen in as Sharon speaks about the Queen of the Civil Rights Movement, Septima Poinsette Clark, and another woman, Bernice Robinson, who, together, were effective teachers and leaders in the Civil Rights community.


    Septima knew that education was the key to gaining political, economic, and social power and she devoted her activism to improving the education of both Black children and adults. Literacy tests were roadblocks to gaining voting cards, so Septima and Bernice organized citizenship education workshops at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. What did they teach in their classes? Were they successful in helping Black Americans pass their literacy tests?


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  • On today’s episode in our special series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, Sharon talks about some of the most important components of a successful movement: money and reputation. Movements take a lot of financial support and many of the organizers worked day jobs with humble salaries. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? He made $8,000 a year in his position as a minister. But organizing rallies and marches and lectures… filing lawsuits and traveling from city to city? It all costs money.


    Learn who supported the work of some of the most influential Civil Rights leaders and organizations. Their celebrity status may surprise you!


    Sharon also talks about the 1958 and 1959 Youth Marches for Integrated Schools. Hear how organizers planned effective, large-scale demonstrations, how they were received in Washington D.C., and what newly published book threatened the reputation of the marches and potentially had a hand in their outcomes.


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  • On today’s episode in our special series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, Sharon tackles the vast topic of religion within the Civil Rights Movement. During the Civil Rights Movement, religion was used as a tool of oppression and an excuse for many white people, especially in the South, to remain firm and justified in their belief of white supremacy.


    But religion was also a catalyst for change. Black churches and congregations invigorated communities by encouraging people to gather, to plan, to organize, and to keep the faith for small, incremental wins in the fight for equal access and rights. In fact, the Civil Rights Movement may not have seen the success it did without the empowerment of Black American Christian culture.


    Sharon takes a closer look at the role of religion, especially how it was practiced in many Southern states in the 1950s. What led to church-sanctified mob violence? How did the role of the church sermon become a catalyst for a movement of civil liberties and freedom? Stick with us to find out more.


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  • Today in our special series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, Sharon rewinds and takes us back to the origin story of a life lost far too soon due to a brutal and racist attack: the murder of Emmett Till in 1955. What began with a young boy who desired to connect with family and learn where his mother came from in Mississippi, ended in horror for the Chicago 14-year-old boy. Though no one will ever know exactly what happened in the grocery store co-owned by Carolyn Bryant leading up to the murder, history will show that what began with a lie from Bryant, resulted in the death of Emmett Till at the hands of Roy Bryant and JW Milam. Three days later, when his body was finally found, it was mutilated and nearly unrecognizable. 


    After viewing and personally identifying his body, his mother, Mamie, did something completely unexpected: She chose to have an open casket at his funeral. Photographs of his body circulated around the country, appearing in magazines and newspapers. “Time” later selected one of the photographs, showing Mamie over the mutilated body of her dead son, as one of the 100 most influential images of all time. They said, “For almost a century, African Americans were lynched with regularity and impunity. Now, thanks to a mother's determination to expose the barbarousness of this crime, the public could no longer pretend to ignore what they couldn't see.”

     

    The trial was held near where Emmett Till’s body was found. The courtroom was filled to capacity, and the town was overrun with reporters after the story captured national attention. The trial was electrifying. With all of the media attention, what did the all-male, all-white jury find in the verdict after 67 minutes of deliberation, and why? How can someone later admit to murder, yet believe they did nothing wrong? And what happened to Caroline Bryant and the unserved warrant after all this time? We hope you will join us to find out.


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  • Today in our special series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, Sharon talks about the rising popularity of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and how, with greater visibility comes greater threat. We follow Dr. King as he and his comrades persevere through bombings, arrests, scathing rumors, wiretaps, and assassination attempts. Who was one of Dr. King’s biggest adversaries? If you’ve been following along since the beginning of the series, it may not surprise you to know it was J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI.


    Dubbing him the most dangerous man in the country, they often used underhanded tactics to spy on King, discredit his authority, and sway public opinion. It didn’t work as well as they hoped, and King continued to organize, act, and inspire people to join the fight for Civil Rights. Through it all, King championed the redemptive power of nonviolence, a message that was a stark contrast to the brutality being inflicted upon Black Americans in the South.


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  • Today in our special series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, Sharon begins with a woman who is surely familiar to anyone who has received a crash course on the Civil Rights movement in America: Rosa Parks. While Rosa Parks earned her position in history, this story does not begin with a tired woman who simply needed to rest her feet on a bus in Birmingham, Alabama. Before Rosa Parks, there was Lucille Times. And before there was Lucille Times, there was Claudette Colvin. Before Rosa Parks, there was Aurelia Browder, and Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith. The Civil Rights Movement would be nowhere without the extraordinary and prolonged courage and efforts of women. In the words of Rosa Parks, “We must live our lives as a model for others.”


    Following the Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. the Board of Education, some leaders of the Civil Rights Movement believed this was their moment. A boycott of Montgomery, Alabama buses had been discussed for months, but leaders were afraid that the wrong person would stall their efforts if they became the face of the movement. This was one of several reasons why Rosa Parks was chosen for this role. But how did a bus boycott shape Civil Rights? And what does the arrest of another household name – Martin Luther King Jr. – have to do with this? Next time, Sharon will speak more on how M.L.K. Jr. played a prominent role in this surge of momentum.



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  • Today in our special series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, Sharon begins by picking up after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision was released. The courts ordered for integration “with all deliberate speed” which meant slowly and over time. This vague order left room for schools to drag their heels or ignore the ruling all together.


    A young student activist in Farmville, Virginia, Barbara Johns, organized and led a student strike, peacefully engaging with administrators to provide students with equal facilities, and later, integration. Fearing for her safety from angry community members, Barbara’s parents sent her out of town to finish high school. But Farmville wasn’t the only community that resisted integrated schools, and White Citizens’ Councils sprang up across Southern states. Many whites felt that integration was taking away states’ rights and causing chaos between the races. 


    Nevertheless, integration persisted as school districts and states lost cases in courtrooms across the country. Time and again, who do we see being the catalyst for civil rights change? Who pushed for brighter futures for themselves? Children. Next time, Sharon will introduce us to another young girl whose act of defiance and bravery lead to a tidal wave of change.


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  • On today’s episode of Momentum, Sharon talks about America’s push to eradicate communists during the Red Scare and Korean War. Many people working toward the goal of civil rights and liberties shared links to the Communist Party, like William Patterson and Paul Robeson. In 1951, Patterson submitted a 237-page petition to the United Nations, called We Charge Genocide. After Patterson and Robeson presented their petition, the U.S. retaliated by seizing their passports, smearing their public image, and labeling the Civil Rights Commission as a communist-front organization.


    Because of the country’s persecution of subversives and communists, the NAACP leaders were interested in assisting J Edgar Hoover in rooting out any “bad players” in the organization in order to protect it. In fact, Thurgood Marshall, who knew he was being spied on by Hoover, often acted as an FBI informant. He knew both the costs and benefits of cooperating. Do you think this was an effective strategy to distance the NAACP from the communist party? What about the organization’s push to rebrand themselves as an American organization? What exactly did Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King Jr. disagree about? Sharon reveals the source of their strife next time!



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  • On today’s episode of our special series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, Sharon establishes the foundation of another man who played a pivotal role in Brown v. The Board of Education. Today, in 2022, the idea of someone serving as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court with no previous experience working in the Judicial Branch of government, would be unheard of. And it would certainly be unheard of for a gubernatorial candidate to win both the Republican AND Democratic primaries when running for office in California. However, that is exactly what prosecutor, turned Governor, turned Chief Justice did, in what would become a 50-year career of public service for Earl Warren. 


    Justice Warren carried his national prominence to the Supreme Court, and was determined to have all 9 Justices agree on the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision. The makeup of the high court proved to be consequential, as the Justices brought a broad diversity of viewpoints, rather than consisting only of professional judges. While Justice Warren was ultimately successful in leading the court to making a unanimous decision, the President who appointed him – President Dwight D. Eisenhower – would come too deeply regret his decision to appoint him. How did Earl Warren and Thurgood Marshall know each other, prior to meeting in the courtroom? And how do wiretaps from the FBI tie into all of this through a secret bureau program?



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  • On today’s episode of our special series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, Sharon continues a riveting conversation with pulitzer-prize winning author, Gilbert King. We pick up with the involvement of J.Edgar Hoover and the case of The Groveland Four, including the political dance Thurgood Marshall did with Hoover to strategically move the Civil Rights movement forward. 


    Often flying under the radar in history, Florida, for some years, was far worse than higher profile areas in the Cotton Belt when it came to violent acts against Civil Rights advocates and the Black community. Florida had the highest per-capita rate of lynching of any state in the country, but as the land of “surf and sun,” it did not fit the narrative of the broader movement of the Civil Rights era that followed Brown vs. the Board of Education. What does “tranquility of the South” have to do with an investigation that was quashed by a U.S. attorney? How did the momentum of a diligent author lead to the exoneration of The Groveland Four 72 years after their arrests? And how did the work of Harry T. Moore and Harriette T. Moore single handedly change the voting demographics, and sacrificed their lives for?



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  • On today’s episode of our special series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, Sharon speaks with pulitzer-prize winning author, Gilbert King. It's Important for people to know that the popular narrative of the 1950s – depicted as a time full of sock hops, poodle skirts, and Rock & Roll – was not the lived experience of many Black Americans. In numerous ways, their experience was often worse than what people commonly think of, particularly in the South, including forms of debt slavery. This leads us to The Groveland Four: A harrowing story of 4 young black men who were targeted, and wrongly accused of the rape of a 17-year old white farm wife in rural Florida. “Mr. Civil Rights” himself, Thurgood Marshall, learned of the capital punishment case and was eventually able to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, though not in time to save them all. How did he appeal this case to the U.S. Supreme Court? And what happens when the town sheriff takes the law into his own hands?

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  • On today’s episode of our special series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, Sharon makes the connection between the desegregation of the United States military to the power or writing a letter. It can be hard to believe sometimes that writing a letter or contacting our representatives can make a difference, but that is exactly what one honorably discharged decorated Veteran did in 1948. The ripples of the letter written by Isaac Woodwards would contribute to a tidal wave in the Civil Rights movement. 


    We can’t talk about these waves of momentum, however, without talking about the Korean War. Often a time glossed over in history classes, the Korean war at its core was a conflict about Communism vs. Democracy. This eventually led to more than 50 arrests of black soldiers in Korea who were arrested on trumped-up charges and court martialed. Who later defended them and cleared most of the charges? You guessed it: Thurgood Marshall. The war was directly related to the court case he had recently argued before the Supreme Court. How does this connect to the warrenless wiretaps? And who later received the more than 20,000 pages of information the FBI had on the Supreme Court?



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