Paddy Hannigan’s talk on April 4 was entitled “From Civil War to Civil Rights”, a survey of race relations in the USA starting with President Lincoln’s election and his proposed abolition of slavery.

This led to the southern states forming the Confederacy and seceding from the Union, thereby provoking the Civil War. Paddy reminded us that the founding fathers, Washington and Jefferson, were both slave owners and that the words of the Constitution that all men are created equal did not apply to blacks.

Inevitably the richer north eventually won the war after slaughter and devastation on the scale of the First World War but bitterness became entrenched and the Civil Rights Act had little effect on the southern states.

The appalling atrocities of the Ku Klux Klan, with lynchings and murders going unpunished, led to a growing civil rights movement and Paddy ran through all the landmarks and personalities of the movement with which we are familiar as the events have all occurred well within our lifetime.

The action or inaction of various Presidents on civil rights was mentioned, particularly interesting being Barack Obama, the first black incumbent of the White House, who thought it would be counter-productive to be too partisan on the issue. The race relations problem is not, of course confined to the USA, but there, despite much progress since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the deployment of Federal troops to ensure its enforcement, the prejudices of history are still strong.

This was a thought-provoking talk and Paddy reminded us that it does not behove us in Britain to be holier than thou as much of our past wealth was accrued from the slave trade and when slavery was abolished, the plantation owners in the West Indies, for instance, were handsomely compensated for the loss of their “property”, but little was done for the freed slaves.

We meet at 10am every Thursday at The Boathouse, Evesham Rowing Club. Our speaker on April 11 will be Ginny Davies on “From the Pillory to the Prison Cell” and on April 18 the title of Robert Arley’s talk is “Of Sons and Skies” - two intriguing titles!

Full details can be found on our website,

Alan Smith