Yesterday, I received a copy of an old bluebook and the following letter from a grad school friend:
“Sorry this took so long to get to you. I kept leaving it at home after they finally placed the office copier in an actual room in the building after renovations. But, maybe the wait will make it even funnier! The second I found it I reached for my phone and called you — you were the first one I thought of. We had so many great laughs and now inside jokes because of this brilliant exam answer!”
The “brilliant” student in question almost assuredly failed Louisiana History, but that didn’t stop him from banging out two hilarious essays for his final exam. It made its rounds on the 3rd floor of Himes Hall for several years before my friend spirited it away for good. But now everyone can savor my transcription of this monstrosity!
The first essay doesn’t require much exposition. This scholar was asked to gauge how Radical Reconstruction impacted the political and legal status of Louisiana’s black population (all of his answers are in bold, italic font).
Throughout Radical Reconstruction up to the Constitution of 1898, the political and legal status of Louisiana’s black population was changing constantly. Of course, the southern blacks were first brought to America as slaves and throughout history it has been a constant struggle for them to gain rights and freedom.
Okay…an innocuous and generalized opening.
Radical Reconstruction brought about an attempt at black suffrage, putting an end to slavery, and giving slaveholders’ land outright to freed slaves. The North wanted the Confederate states to abolish slavery and rejoin the Union. This began with fairly peaceful negotiations, but would eventually erupt into bloody, racial battles, especially prominent in Northern Louisiana.
I know, just your typical C- paper so far. It will get better soon. I promise.
After the Confederate Louisiana troops handily defeated the Union troops in northwestern Louisiana, and after all of the blood was shed, blacks began to find their way to more and more political power.
The Confederacy won the war AND freed the slaves. Yeehaw!
Pinchback became the first black governor in Louisiana although his time in office lasted only 3 months (he also survived an assassination attempt.) The Louisiana Congress was now also half black; although at this point, blacks still did not have the right to vote.
So blacks couldn’t vote, BUT they were able to hold political office. Nevertheless, there were some awfully enlightened white folks in 1870s Louisiana! I guess they just felt incredibly magnanimous after winning the Civil War.
Blacks were now Americans but not necessarily citizens until they could vote.
But they could still hold the highest offices in the state, lest ye forget.
“Black codes” were [implemented] to the black folk saying they could not do things like remove manure from canisters without first inserting flaming discs called “Negro Flamin’ Records.”
Annnnnnnd we just entered Crazy Town, folks.
All through this time, generals and presidents and various governors, etc., were practicing routines and carrying out their jobs. Old men grew older, while young newborns rocked gently in their mothers’ loving, tender arms.
It’s the circle of life, y’all.
Only once did a rodent actually survive crossing Highland Road near Starring Lane. One cannot imagine the anguish these creatures feel. I for one would admit only to the philosophy of Carl M. Goodenbough, who said “flamingoes, like doves, have wings.” Rest the souls of my beloved creatures.
I want those last two sentences as the epitaph on my tombstone.
Now onward to our second essay! It asked about the Robert Charles Riots of 1900. They were sparked after African American laborer Robert Charles shot a white police officer, after an altercation involving Charles, his roommate, and several New Orleans police officers on Monday, July 23, 1900. He subsequently went on a shooting rampage, and inflammatory editorials from the New Orleans newspapers led to a widespread race riot. Twenty-eight people were killed in the conflict, including Charles who was killed on July 27, 1900.
But let’s ask our amateur historian for the real dirt!
This guy Robert Charles was a man. He was alive and lived back then.
He got beat up because white people hated black people a whole bunch. He died. If he lived and was brought to trial he would be executed anyway, so it really didn’t matter that he was killed.
So Judge Dredd really existed, and he lived in 1900 New Orleans.
/cue Joey Belladonna shrieking “Judge, Jury, and Executionerrrrrrrrr!!!!
//rocking the metal horns.
///banging my head. But not because “I Am The Law” rules. Which it does, by the way. Go download Anthrax’s “Among The Living” album right now. You’ll thank me later.
////My headbanging is actually from me slamming my head against the desk after reading this essay.
I loved Robert Charles. His grace and honor were so grand indeed. If only I could speak with him. “Robert,” I would say, “you are so cool for standing up for what you believe.”
Robert Charles shot white 27 people and triggered one the bloodiest race riots in American history. Nevertheless, he had unimpeachable integrity. He was like MLK, Charles Whitman, Buddha, and Ice T all at once, but with ten percent more awesome.
Then after the parade you’ll go to the corner grocery store and supply yourself with beads and lemons. Put them all in a basket and worship it. Never eat the contents, for they are now of the land.
It’s a lost verse from Leviticus, folks.
Go quietly into the soft, cool night and tell stories to the children. Stories of love and bravery and always remember your commander-in-chief Calvin Coolidge, for he was a good, good man. Take with you now the memory of Andre the Giant (the famous wrestler). He was a big man, with a big heart, but sadly his size was too big.
I genuflect daily to Silent Cal and The Eighth Wonder of the World. And Gorilla Monsoon, for what it’s worth.
Also, never forget Jim Henson. He brought us the lovable Muppets. Who could ever forget Beaker and Fozzie? Those wily guys will live in my heart forever.
And mine as well. Except for that #$%@ Elmo.
Finally, I speak to you of Wolf Blitzer. CNN and Wolf portrayed the beautiful story of the Gulf War.
Where is Wolf Blitzer now? Under a tent in Idaho? Trapped inside a flaming Jack in the Box? Jumping from the side of a newly constructed warehouse in Grand Rapids, Michigan?
I just saw him on “The Situation Room.” But thanks for asking.
I don’t know, you know, I believe nobody knows.
NOBODY KNOWS. I’ve been outwitted by your sophistry.
I will now devour a small portion of an 8 and a half month old porcupine, too-da-loo!