History Proves Ronald Reagan Was Not Racist

This Month in History: Lost Colony, Hiroshima, Gulf War, and More

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On July 31, 2019, a recording of President Richard Nixon with Ronald Reagan was released. This conversation, having taken place in 1971, involved the president and future-president – both Republicans – using a racial undertone. The history is that The UN voted to seat its delegation in Beijing, China, angering both Nixon and Reagan.

The delegation from Tanzania began to dance in celebration. In response, Reagan made a phone call to Nixon. This is when Reagan issued his racist comment: “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries – damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!”

We all have a duty to share our history with our fellow Americans.

Let’s make something very clear. This is, in no way, shape, or form, a defense of Reagan’s comment. It was disgusting and deserves to be called out. That being said, does one person making one comment with a racial undertone actually make them a true racist at heart? This is not a defense of anyone’s comments, regardless of who they are; rather, it is an acknowledgement that everyone has, at some time in their life, said something hurtful about someone else.

Was He Really Racist?

Lee Edwards of the Heritage Foundation provides several interesting points. In 1977, Reagan stated, “We (Republicans) believe in treating all Americans as individuals and not as stereotypes or voting blocs.” Reagan also, when speaking of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, said, “Abraham Lincoln freed the Black man…In many ways, Dr. King freed the White man…Where others – White and Black – preached hatred, he taught the principles of love and nonviolence.”

In 1983, President Reagan signed Martin Luther King Jr. Day into law. Alongside this, Black unemployment fell greatly during Reagan’s presidency. In 1988, he signed the Civil Liberties Act, which provided reparations to Japanese-Americans who were interned during the presidency of Democratic hero Franklin D. Roosevelt. You’ll read about that event in this month’s recap. Do Reagan’s actions and policies sound like they are the result of a racist? I’m not sure how any reasonable-minded person could think so.

August is filled with many significant historical events, several of which involve civil rights. You’ll read about the Warsaw Uprising in Poland, the Lost Colony of Roanoke, and the ultimate decision that President Truman made at the end of World War II. Readers who gain interest from events older than time will enjoy learning briefly about the two biggest T-Rex skeletons ever found on American soil. Let’s take a walk down Memory Lane for the month of August.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

August 1, 1944

The Warsaw Uprising begins. Lead by the Polish Underground Resistance, this was the largest resistance movement during World War II. The operation consisted of two primary objectives: to aid the Allies in defeating Nazi Germany, and to drive the Germans out of Poland. Winston Churchill provided support for approximately a month and a half, and urged his American and Soviet allies to do the same.

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Unfortunately, his request was denied, though the US did send an airdrop on September 18. The uprising ended that October. The result was a German victory and between 150,000 to 200,000 people were killed. May we always remember those brave Polish fighters.

August 2, 1990

Iraq invades Kuwait, starting the Gulf War. In an effort to annex Kuwait for oil fields, Saddam Hussein would ignite a conflict that involved over 35 nations. The second phase of the war, codenamed “Operation Desert Storm,” would begin on January 17, 1991. Desert Storm would consist of the largest Allied coalition since World War II. It ended in a little over a month with Iraqi forces being repelled from Kuwait.

August 4, 1961

Barack Obama is born in Honolulu, Hawaii. In 1983, he graduated from Columbia University, and in 1988, he attended Harvard Law School. A member of the Democrat Party, Obama served as an Illinois State Senator from 1997-2004 and as a US Senator representing Illinois from 2005-2008.

He was the first African-American to be elected to the presidency, and following his victory in 2008, he declared in a speech in Chicago, Illinois, “Change has come to America.” Obama’s presidency lasted from 2009-2017. He remains a favorite among the Democratic Party.

August 6, 1945

The atomic bomb “Little Boy” is dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. With Nazi Germany having surrendered in April 1945, Japan remained the sole Axis superpower during the final days of the second world war. To President Truman and General MacArthur, a mainland invasion of Japan would have costed roughly a million American lives.

This prompted Truman to make one of the most controversial decisions in world history: to drop the first atomic bomb ever used in wartime. It is estimated that between 90,000 and 130,000 people were killed. Despite the massive loss of life, Japan refused to surrender, and Truman would make another grave decision in a matter of days.

August 7, 1942

The Guadalcanal Campaign begins. This was the first major Allied offensive against the Japanese Empire during World War II. Located in the southern Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal was a major stronghold for Japanese forces.

With its location not far from Australia, Allied forces considered this a major point of interest, as Guadalcanal threatened communication and supply lines for American, Australian, and New Zealand troops. The campaign ended in February 1943 with an Allied victory and is considered a turning point for the Pacific Theater.

More August in History

August 9, 1945

The atomic bomb “Fat Man” is dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. The previous month at the Potsdam Conference, a mutual consensus was reached by the US, Britain, the USSR, and China. If Japan did not unconditionally surrender, they would be met with total destruction.

The dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki killed an estimated 30,000 people. In just a matter of weeks, Japan would surrender, ending the war. Following this, General Douglas MacArthur would oversee the reconstruction of Japan, as well as several other regions in the Pacific that were previously occupied by the Japanese.

August 10, 1988

President Ronald Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act. During World War II, many Japanese-Americans were interned under an executive order by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. One major Supreme Court case – Korematsu vs. US – resulted from the internment, and remains one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions to date.

Fred Korematsu refused to relocate and took the issue to court. On December 18, 1944, the Supreme Court decided that, because of the war, Roosevelt’s executive order rested within the Constitution. Forty-four years later, President Reagan’s signing of the Civil Liberties Act provided a $20,000 reparation to all Japanese-Americans who were interned.

August 11, 1929

Babe Ruth becomes the first baseball player to hit 500 home runs. During his career, Ruth would hit 714 home runs. This record stood until 1974, when it was broken by Hank Aaron. The 500 Club was established after Ruth’s accomplishment, which occurred at League Park in Cleveland, Ohio. There are currently 27 members of the 500 Club.

August 12, 1990

The largest-known Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton at the time is discovered in South Dakota. Nicknamed Sue, the skeleton is estimated to be roughly 67 million years old. Discovered by Susan Hendrickson, it is said that Sue has been 90% recovered. The skeleton was eventually moved to the Field Museum of Natural History, where it was unveiled in May 2000. In 1991, a new-record Tyrannosaurus Rex, nicknamed Scotty, was discovered in Saskatchewan.

The Berlin Wall, The Panama Canal, And More

August 13, 1961

Construction of the Berlin Wall begins. At the height of the Cold War, communist forces in East Germany built a wall that was designed to separate East Germany from the West. This increased Cold War tensions even further, and nearly two years later, President Kennedy would deliver his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, during which he spoke out against communism and the Berlin Wall. The structure stood until 1989, when it was destroyed by Germany’s citizens.

August 14, 1945

The Japanese Empire accepts the Allied terms of surrender. Emperor Hirohito held the Jewel Voice Broadcast, during which he read out the Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War. The Potsdam Declaration, signed just several weeks earlier, maintained that only unconditional surrender would be accepted from Japan.

August 15, 1914

The Panama Canal opens to traffic. Construction of the canal began in 1881 and consisted mainly of French workers. The process was halted for a while, due to engineering problems and a high mortality rate. In 1904, the US took over the project as part of President Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy, and finished it 10 years later. The Panamanian government was given control of the canal in 1999, and from 2007-2016, it was expanded, which now allows transit for larger ships.

Strange Mysteries, The Liberation of Paris, And the Burning of Washington, D.C.

August 17, 1585

English colonists under the command of Sir Walter Raleigh land in the New World to establish the Roanoke Colony. Stepping ashore in the location of present-day Dare County, North Carolina, Raleigh’s colonists attempted to start what would have been the first permanent English settlement in North America. Upon its establishment, some of Roanoke’s leading figures would return to England. Five years later, almost to the day, they would return to find the colony without a trace of its inhabitants.

August 18, 1590

John White returns from England to find the Roanoke Colony abandoned. This continues to be one of the most mysterious topics in American history. The Roanoke colonists were expected to build upon their settlement and establish trade with Native tribes. If anything were to happen that would cause them to leave at a short notice by force, they were instructed to carve a Maltese Cross into a tree or fence post.

When John White, the governor of the Roanoke Colony, returned from England on a supply trip, he found the colony uninhabited. No bodies were found and the only clue as to what may have occurred was the word “Croatoan,” carved into a board. There are many theories on what may have caused the colonists’ disappearance. Some suggest that they may have relocated further inland to take shelter with the Croatan Tribe. Nonetheless, the subject remains a mystery.

August 19, 1944

The Liberation of Paris begins. After the start of World War II in September 1939, France fell quickly to Nazi Germany. The Second Compiegne Armistice was signed following the German Army’s occupation and France became a Nazi puppet state. US troops would play a major role in the liberation of France, and the French Resistance would fight Nazi tyranny in both Europe and North Africa. The Liberation of Paris lasted until August 25, 1944, in which the Republic of France was reclaimed.

August 23, 1775

King George III delivers his Proclamation of Rebellion. With the fighting of the American Revolution having been ignited in Massachusetts, Britain blockaded Boston Harbor. Though battles had broken out at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill, Continental Congress drafted the Olive Branch Petition. In one last effort to prevent full-scale war, Congress attempted a peace treaty with Britain. King George refused and responded with the Proclamation of Rebellion, declaring that the American colonies were officially in an open state of rebellion.

August 24, 1814

British troops begin the burning of Washington DC. Though the American colonies had gained independence from Britain in 1783, tension between the two nations remained high. In June 1812, a new war with Britain began, which resulted from escalating tension between Americans and British at sea. On August 24, 1814, British forces began decimating the nation’s capitol. The White House, Capitol Building, and Library of Congress were set ablaze. The war ended in 1815, and Congress purchased Thomas Jefferson’s book collection in an effort to restore lost information.

Women’s Suffrage, Shay’s Rebellion, And the Battle of Jonesborough

August 25, 1916

The National Park Service is created. National parks are found in every state and offer many services to the public. Yellowstone was the first to be established after being signed into law by President Grant in 1872. Later, President Theodore Roosevelt would greatly increase the number of parks. Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Isle Royale, Great Smoky Mountains, and Everglades are just a few of these well-renowned scenic wonders. Each of them contains their own unique landscape and wildlife.

August 26, 1920

This Month in History

The 19th Amendment to the Constitution takes effect. With the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, female activists pushed for women’s suffrage to be included in the Constitution. Two of the movements primary leaders – Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton – adopted a Petition of Universal Suffrage. This called for an amendment that would secure voting rights for all citizens, regardless of gender. The amendment was passed in 1919 and ratified on August 26, 1920.

August 28, 1963

Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech. Often regarded as one of the greatest speeches in US history, King spoke these words during his March on Washington. Standing at the Lincoln Memorial, thousands of civil rights supporters gathered to hear King’s message.

Drawing inspiration from the American founding, King stated, “I have a dream that one day, this nation will rise up, and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

August 29, 1786

Shays’ Rebellion begins. Daniel Shays was a veteran of the American Revolution, having fought in several of the war’s first battles, including Lexington and Concord. After being outraged by certain economic policies in Massachusetts, Shays lead a local armed uprising in an attempt to overthrow the state government. The rebellion was suppressed in June 1787. Some historians claim that this event played a large role in the formation of the Constitutional Convention.

August 30, 1967

Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African-American Supreme Court justice. Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland. A member of the Democratic Party, he originally served as a US Court of Appeals justice for the Second Circuit, and then as Solicitor General of the US. Marshall also argued ‘Brown v. Board of Education’ before the Supreme Court. He retired in 1991.

August 31, 1864

The Battle of Jonesborough begins. Fought during General William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign, the battle ended the following day with a Union victory. In November 1864, Sherman began his “March to the Sea,” destroying Confederate warehouses, railroads, and anything that would have energized the Confederate Army. The march ended on December 21 with the capture of Savannah, Georgia.


August is a month worthy of historical recognition. Many civil rights victories were achieved during this month. The ratification of the 19th Amendment, Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and the signing of the 1988 Civil Liberties Act are just a few of August’s remarkable events. Unfortunately, we are also reminded of tragedies, including the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Though it was a wartime decision that was made to prevent the massive loss of Americans, it took the lives of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians. Some parts of history hurt to reflect on, but all events must be remembered, so that they may never be repeated. We all have a duty to share our history with our fellow Americans.

Garrett Smith
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