Healy and Renda approach Nome (Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard)
Many of the Coast Guard’s Founding Fathers were Black. They were African Americans whether you subscribe to the one-drop rule or not.
Captain Michael A. Healy, the only African American to have a command or commission in any of the Coast Guard’s predecessor services, commanded the cutter Bear from 1887 to 1895. Healy retired as the third highest-ranking officer from the Revenue Cutter Service.
One of ten children born in Macon, Georgia, to an Irish immigrant and a slave of mixed blood, Healy habitually ran away from school. At the urging of his brother, who felt sea life would discipline the youngster, the 15-year-old Healy was hired as a cabin boy abroad the clipper Jumna in 1855. He applied to and was accepted by the Revenue Cutter Service in March of 1865, was promoted to Second Lieutenant in June 1886, and to First Lieutenant in July 1870.
As First Lieutenant, Healy was ordered aboard the cutter Rush, to patrol Alaskan waters for the first time. He became known as a brilliant seaman and was considered by many the best sailor in the North. A feature article in the January 28, 1884 New York Sun stated: “Captain Mike Healy is a good deal more distinguished person in the waters of the far Northwest than any president of the United States or my potentate in Europe has yet become.”
Healy distinguished himself when he took command of the cutter Bear, considered by many the greatest polar ship of its time, in 1886. The ship was charged with “seizing any vessel found sealing in the Bering Sea.” By 1892, the Bear, Rush and Corwin had made so many seizures that tension developed between the United States and British merchants. Healy was also tasked with bringing medical and other aid to the Alaska Natives, making weather and ice reports, preparing navigation charts, rescuing distressed vessels, transporting special passengers and supplies, and fighting violators of federal laws. He served as deputy U.S. Marshal and represented federal law in Alaska for many years.
On one of Bear’s annual visits to King Island, Healy found a native population reduced to 100 people and begging for food. After ordering food and clothing, Healy worked with Dr. Sheldon Jackson of the Bureau of Education to import reindeer from the Siberian Chukchi, another Eskimo population. During the next ten years, Revenue cutters brought some 1,100 reindeer to Alaska. The Bureau of Education took charge of landing and distributing the deer, and missionary schools taught the natives to raise and care for the animals. By 1940, Alaska’s domesticated reindeer herds had risen to 500,000.
The Coast Guard named an icebreaker for Michael Healy, in acknowledgment of his inspiring commitment to the Service, including his invaluable assistance to Alaska Natives.
The first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, proposed the Federal government accept public responsibility for safety at sea. On August 7, 1789, President George Washington approved the enabling Ninth Act of Congress. To counter the smuggling and other illegal activities rampant at this time, Hamilton proposed a seagoing military force to support national economic policy. Mere legal-paper status was not enough to combat criminal activity: on August 4, 1790, the Revenue Cutter Service’s predecessor, the Revenue Marine, was born.
Years after their deaths, the Healy family is being claimed as “Black” because of their achievements, according to A. D. Powell writing in the Interracial Voice.
If they can’t claim you when you’re alive and fighting, the hyenas try to “kidnap” your memory after you’re dead. James and Francis Healy have been betrayed by the Catholic Church they served so faithfully because insecure “black Catholics” want to claim “trophy” clergymen of high rank despite the fact that discrimination and lack of educational opportunities prevented real “blacks” from creating an impressive “resume” in the 19th century. James Healy is now being described as the first “black” American to be ordained a priest and the first “black” bishop. Georgetown University now claims that Francis Patrick Healy was the first “African American” president of a predominately “white” university and the first “black” to obtain a PhD.. Some gratitude the Catholic Church has shown! It has insulted the memory of James and Francis Healy by effectively stating that they were not good enough for their Irish-American heritage but only fit to “improve” the “black race” with their “white blood.” The Healys must be turning over in their graves!
Captain Michael Morris Healy‘s memory was recently tarnished by the United States Coast Guard, which named an Icebreaker, the U.S.C.G.C. HEALY (launched in 1997) after him. Normally, it is a great honor to have a ship named after you. It is an insult, however, when the ship is named after you so the U.S. Coast Guard can honor a “black” hero who was really Irish-American, at least 3/4 white, and identified as both white and Irish. In this case, someone told a group of black schoolkids at Virgil Grissom Junior High School in Queens, New York that they had a “black” hero in Captain Healy. The black kids initiated a letter-writing campaign to get the Coast Guard to name a ship after Michael Healy. Now, these kids may be flattered by the idea that a person of obvious Caucasian phenotype shares their “race,” but it is in fact a racial insult they are incapable of recognizing.
A prime example of the “liberal racism” that condemns the Healys as “black” on the basis of the “one drop” myth while pretending to be anti-racist and sympathetic, is “Racial Identity and the Case of Captain Michael Healy, USRCS,” by James M. O’Toole, director of the archives program at University of Massachusetts, Boston.. (Quarterly of the National Archives & Records Administration, Fall 1997, vol. 29, No. 3)
O’Toole begins with a confrontation between Captain Healy and two sailors he was disciplining. He notes that they called him a “God damned Irishman.” O’Toole is very upset that the sailors didn’t call Captain Healy a “nigger.” This seems to him the only natural thing to call Captain Healy. O’Toole throughout the article, projects his own racism and devotion to the “one drop” myth on 19th century Americans who obviously didn’t share his devotion to white racial “purity.”
O’Toole’s racist devotion to the “one drop” myth blinds him to racial reality in the 19th century. He assumes that the “one drop” myth was law and universally accepted by “whites.” It wasn’t. Any research into racial classification laws in the 19th century would have shown him that various degrees of “negro blood” were accepted into the “white race,” even in the Deep South. Also, the combination of a person’s looks and the reputation he had established were all taken into consideration in determining whether one was “white” or not. It is obvious that Captain Healy and his siblings succeeded in establishing themselves as second-generation Irish Americans. O’Toole cannot bear this and insists that the Healy siblings were really “African Americans.” He also calls their mother, Eliza, an “African American” even though her ancestry was at least half European.
O’Toole also claims that all “whites” believed in “mulatto inferiority” or the doctrine that mixed-race people are biologically inferior to BOTH or ALL “pure” parental groups. He is too ignorant to understand that this doctrine was created as a defense of slavery by pro-slavery intellectuals who wanted to counter the Northern anti-slavery argument that, if slavery is justified on the basis of “race,” then “white” slaves should be automatically free because the negro racial “taint” had been effectively bred out of the line. Lawrence Tenzer explains the origins of this doctrine very well in his book The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue. O’Toole would do well to sit at Tenzer’s feet and learn something. O’Toole follows the usual liberal excuse of claiming that “society” defined the Healy family as “black,” but expresses wonderment at the fact that “whites” who knew about Captain Healy’s mixed ancestry still treated him as “white.” O’Toole is amazed that establishing a “white” identity was so easy for the Healys:
The apparent ease with which they made the transition from black to white is striking. Hell, any white-identified multiracial could have told him that! First, they didn’t start out as “black.” All things would be made clear if he would stop listening to and promoting “black” propaganda. O’Toole is racist because he accepts the myth that the Healys’ real identity was “black” and that they were only “passing” for white and Irish American. Even though, like so many liberals, O’Toole acknowledges that “Group boundaries are more fluid than we often suppose,” he clearly accepts and endorses the “one drop” myth, passing it off as biological and social reality:
Where the Healys are remembered today, it is as African Americans; several of them are now celebrated as the “first black” achievers in their fields. They themselves, however, recoiled from such an identification. Wherever possible, they sought a white identity…
This may seem surprising or even disappointing to us…
Why should it be “surprising” or “disappointing” to anyone? The Healys embraced the identity that they believed best defined them. The Irish American identity certainly described the Healys well – far better than any false “black” identity. Does O’Toole really believe that the “white race” is “pure” or totally free from the “taint” of the “race” in whose equality he professes to believe? O’Toole also accepts the “liberal” nonsense that a “white” identity is merely an attempt to escape from “racism” and that the Healys would have cheerfully accepted a “black” identity if there had been no anti-black discrimination. Tell me, in a world free of anti-Semitism, would Jews voluntary call themselves “non-Aryans” or “kikes” or any other term invented to degrade them? Of course not; the question would be considered ridiculous. Why, therefore, do liberal and “black” elites insist that, in a prejudice-free world, people would cheerfully accept a racially degraded identity for themselves. Such idiocy constitutes a total rejection of logic.
Imagine that! O’Toole can’t understand how a boy with a white-identified Irish quadroon father and a “pure” Irish mother could presume to call himself “white” instead of some “black” nonsense. O’Toole appears to be really concerned about those polluting “black drops” contaminating his “whiteness.” He apparently doesn’t want to share his Irish American identity with people contaminated by the blood of the “race” he claims to champion.
O’Toole acknowledges that Captain Healy experienced prejudice for being Irish and Catholic, but he seems to be so disappointed that the “nigger” insult never pops up to put the uppity quadroon in his place. Indeed, O’Toole’s liberal racist contention that the Healy family’s Irish Catholic identity was mere social climbing to escape discrimination is even more ridiculous when you realize that, in the 19th century, both Irish and Catholics faced massive discrimination. If the Healys wanted to social climb, they could have become white Protestants.
The “racial kidnaping” of the Healy family is an important example of why the “liberal racist” assumption that a publicly-identified European heritage is somehow “too good” for those non-Hispanics “tainted” by “black blood” must be openly and defiantly challenged. We must end this racial “rape.” If the Healy family can be violated in death, it can happen to anyone.
Francis Patrick Healy First Rector/President of Georgetown University.(1873-1881)