The Schlafly Beer Employee Blog

October 1, 2017

Top Fermentation - October 2017


The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly

A few weeks ago Melisande Short-Colomb enrolled as a freshman at Georgetown University, just as I did 51 years ago.  I was 17 years old.  Ms. Short-Colomb is 63.  She stands out among her classmates for reasons beyond the disparity in their respective ages.  She was recently identified as one of the descendants of the 272 slaves who were sold by the Jesuits in 1838 to save Georgetown College from bankruptcy. Like many other institutions Georgetown is now trying to deal with its legacy of slavery. One way of doing so has been granting preferential admission status to the descendants of these 272 slaves.

Ms. Short-Colomb’s background differs from those of her younger classmates in another crucial area.  She was a chef for many years.  Considering that the quality of the food in dining halls has been a source of student unrest throughout most of the history of higher education, one can easily imagine how pleased members of the Georgetown class of 2021 are to find someone with such culinary expertise in their midst.  Fifty-four years ago, in May of 1963, Georgetown students actually rioted because of the poor quality of food in the student cafeteria. I am not making this up.  They set off firecrackers and then set fire to a building on 37th Street near the main entrance to the campus.  Granted, the building was scheduled for demolition anyway; but a firefighter who responded to the incident died from a heart attack.  Too bad the cafeteria didn’t have chefs like Melisande Short-Colomb back in 1963.

Like many of the descendants of the 272 slaves, Ms. Short-Colomb is from New Orleans, where controversial statues and monuments have spawned a local movement called Take ‘Em Down NOLA (TEDN), whose mission is removing “public tributes to white supremacist social structures.”  In addition to the usual suspects like Confederate generals, TEDN or one of its allies recently tagged a statue of Joan of Arc with the spray-painted inscription, Tear it down!  Say what?  Perhaps some of the alert readers (ARs) of this column can explain what makes the Maid of Orleans a white supremacist.  I  certainly can’t. As far as I know, her claim to fame was leading an army against English occupiers of her French homeland, which looks a lot like anti-colonialism from my perspective.  When she was 19 years old she was convicted of being a cross-dressing witch and burned at the stake.  Again, how a dubious charge of witchcraft by an ecclesiastical court equates to white supremacy is a connection I’m not alert enough to make.

In New York the process for removing offensive statuary is much more orderly.  Rather than relying on activists with cans of spray paint, Mayor Bill de Blasio has established a commission to review the city’s “symbols of hate.”  One of the artifacts under serious review for removal is the century-old  statue of Christopher Columbus by the sculptor Gaetano Russo.  Perhaps 2017 will be the statue’s last Columbus Day in Columbus Circle in Manhattan.  But then, what will New Yorkers call the hateful circle?  What will folks in the Buckeye State call the capital of Ohio?  What about the city where the flagship campus of the University of Missouri is located? What about the capital of South Carolina, which has the same name?  How about the nation’s capital,  where Melisande Short-Colomb is going to college?  Will it be renamed Washington, District of Colonialism?  If de Blasio’s commission finds Columbus to be a symbol of hate, as the mayor hinted is entirely possible, should his name be eradicated from American geography in the rest of the country?  If any ARs can answer these questions, I’m sure Mayor de Blasio’s commission would appreciate your input.

joan-of-arc-and-the-new-orleans-connectionTear her down?

White supremacists, French saints and Italian explorers aren’t the only ones whose statues are controversial.  In 1885 a statue was erected in Reading, Pennsylvania in honor of a local philanthropist named Frederick Lauer. It was the first public honor of its kind in the community.  In the 1920s Prohibitionists called for the statue’s removal because Lauer was (shudder) a brewer.  In 2015 opponents went a step further and actually vandalized the Lauer statue.  It has since been restored thanks largely to the generosity of local and regional breweries. 

Prohibitionists don’t just oppose statues honoring brewers; they have also put up statues honoring champions of their cause. Last year the Cornerstone World Outreach Church in Sioux City, Iowa installed a statue commemorating the Reverend George Haddock, a Methodist minister who hated liquor.  The Reverend Haddock died on August 3, 1886, when he was allegedly shot by a brewery foreman named John Arsendorf.  Arsendorf was tried twice, acquitted and reportedly went out drinking with the jury to celebrate his acquittal.

When Melisande Short-Colomb walked through the main gate at Georgetown for the first time, she would have faced two gun barrels pointed right at her.  My guess is, she didn’t feel terribly threatened.  The guns aimed at her were cannons that had reportedly been salvaged from the Spanish Armada in 1588.  They came to what is now the United States on the Ark and the Dove, two ships that brought the original English settlers (including three Jesuits) to Maryland in 1634.  The fact that the cannons hadn’t been fired in nearly three centuries did not stop an anti-Catholic publication from claiming they part of a Jesuit threat to the United States.  Seriously. During the 1928 presidential campaign of Al Smith (a Catholic and an opponent of Prohibition), the journal in question accused the Jesuits at Georgetown of having their guns trained on the United States Capitol (five miles away).

The cannons are in front of the Healy Building, the most prominent building on the Georgetown campus.  It’s named for Patrick Francis Healy, who was the president of the university from 1874 to 1882, during which time he arguably had a more transforming effect on the campus than any president before or since.  What has not been widely reported amidst all the coverage of the 272 slaves sold in 1838 is that Healy was born into slavery in 1834, making him the same age as some of those who were sold.  He was the first African-American to earn a PhD and the first to become president of a predominantly white college in the United States.  He would most certainly have applauded Ms. Short-Colomb’s enrollment at his university.


Tom Schlafly