A 51st State?
In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii were the last two states to join the Union, giving us the 50 states we now have in the U.S. Could it be possible that the U.S. will soon gain a new state? On June 26, the House of Representatives approved legislation to make Washington D.C. its own state – the 51st in the nation. This was not a bipartisan achievement. The bill passed in a 232-180 vote with all Republicans voting against and all except one Democrat voting yea.
The nation’s capital is formally in Washington, District of Columbia. The area is not a state itself, but rather a district – created by the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801 – which is controlled by the federal government. Unlike states, it does not have representation in Congress.
Proponents of giving Washington, D.C. statehood claim the territory is too large with too many residents (700,000 population, more than Wyoming or Vermont) who do not get to have a voice. They claim to be suffering under “taxation without representation” and want to rename D.C. to Washington, Douglass Commonwealth after first president George Washington and Frederick Douglass, a former slave turned abolitionist.
Republicans, on the other hand, are set against the move. They feel it will give the Democrats too much power since the area is largely populated by people who support that party. If passed, the new state would get one seat in the House and two in the Senate, paving the way to possibly add three more Democrats to the arena. President Donald Trump has suggested he will veto the bill if it arrives at his desk. The law would still have to be passed by the Senate before that.
This isn’t the first time a move to turn D.C. into a state has been attempted; others tried in 1888, 1921, and 1993, but none have reached such success until now.
Currently, D.C. is overseen by a mayor. If it becomes its own state, a governor would be elected, giving that office a lot more power. Liberty Nation’s Graham J. Noble explained how the shift in balance might affect the state and the nation:
“The District of Columbia was carved out for the purpose of serving as a federal district, housing the federal capital of Washington. Conferring the rights of a state upon this federal District presents all kinds of conflicts. Moreover, it cannot be a real state without a governor – and the District cannot have a governor: Imagine the power a governor of the District that houses the federal government could wield.”
NASA Names Headquarters after a Hidden Figure
Have you seen the movie Hidden Figures about a black woman working for NASA in the 1960s? If so, did you realize it was based on a true story? Well, now, the space agency’s Washington D.C. headquarters will be named after Mary W. Jackson, the woman who not only inspired a book and movie, but countless black women across the nation, and perhaps the world.
Mary grew up during a time of strong racism and segregation, yet she was still able to obtain a dual college degree in math and physical science. Born and raised in Hampton, Virginia, she graduated from Hampton Institute in 1942 then accepted a job teaching math in Maryland. She went on to work as a bookkeeper, got married and started a family, and then worked as a U.S. Army secretary. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which in 1958 would become NASA, first recruited Mary in 1951. She began working in the segregated West Area Computing Unit at Langley Research Center in Hampton.
After two years, she was offered a position in the Supersonic Pressure Tunnel program where a 60,000-horsepower wind tunnel was located. Here she was able to get hands-on experience conducting experiments. Recognizing talent, Mary’s supervisor suggested she take a training program that would, when completed, promote her from mathematician to engineer. She might have taken the class on her own, except at that time, special permission had to be given to black people because the classes were segregated.
Mary went on to become the first female black engineer for NASA and was part of the “Hidden Figure” group made up of black women at NASA.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the naming of the headquarters, saying,
“Today, we proudly announce the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building. It appropriately sits on ‘Hidden Figures Way,’ a reminder that Mary is one of the many incredible and talented professionals in NASA’s history who contributed to this agency’s success. Hidden no more, we will continue to recognize the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made NASA’s successful history of exploration possible.”
Mary passed away in 2005. In 2019, President Donald Trump signed the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act, awarding the honor to her and her co-workers.
Changing the Mississippi Flag
The institution of slavery has always been a blight on American history, and many people still claim to feel the effects of racial injustice and inequality today. The recent spike in destroying anything remotely linked to the Confederacy is just one of the many ways people are fighting back. Across the nation, Confederacy symbols and statues are being torn down, but one state has held out on removing the Confederate flag design from its state flag … until recently.
Mississippi’s state flag has the southern symbol in the top left corner, and lawmakers had been reluctant to remove it. In 2001, a vote was taken to redesign the flag without the Confederate emblem, but nearly two-thirds of the citizens voted against such a change. Now, however, after the tragic death of George Floyd and the many protests, riots, and demands to remove anything and everything reminding people of slavery and oppression, the state representatives decided to change their collective minds on the matter.
The bill was passed with a 91-23 vote in the House and 37-14 in the Senate. The next step is for the governor, Tate Reeves, to review and sign the legislation into law, which he has indicated he will do. Once that is accomplished, Mississippians will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed change in the November election.
Mississippi State Representative Ed Blackmon, a black man, said, “I would guess a lot of you don’t even see the flag in the corner right there. There are some of us who notice it every time we walk in here, and it’s not a good feeling.”
The Confederate flag was designed just before the Civil War began, as a way for states who had seceded from the Union to show solidarity. Its design was intentionally similar to the United States flag; however, this did cause some confusion and concern during battles where it was hard to distinguish between the two, especially from long distances.
It is important to note that the Confederate flag was not a symbol of slavery, but of a southern “nation” that fought to keep its way of life without government interference. Unfortunately, this way of life also included slavery.
Mississippi is the last state to remove the Confederate symbol from its flag.