George Reed was born in 1733 in Cecil County Maryland. He grew up in New Castle, Delaware, however, and attended school in Pennsylvania. At the age of fifteen he began reading law in with a lawyer in Philadelphia. He was admitted to the bar in 1753, and opened his own practice in New Castle the following year.
Read became involved in the Patriot cause when he was serving as crown attorney general for present day Delaware and protested against the Stamp Act. He began to serve on the colonial legislature in 1765, and earned himself a reputation as a moderate. From 1774 until 1777, he attended the Continental Congress. He returned to state politics in this same year, and began a term as speaker of the legislative council. In 1786 he was present at the Constitutional Convention where he proved to be quite diligent in pushing for ratification. Delaware was, in fact, the first state to ratify the Constitution. Later, from 1789-1793, Read was elected to the U. S. Senate. He died in New Castle in 1798 at the age of sixty-five and was buried in the Immanuel Episcopal Churchyard.
George Perry Floyd Jr. (October 14, 1973 – May 25, 2020) was an African American man murdered by a police officer during an arrest after a store clerk suspected he may have used a counterfeit $20 bill in Minneapolis.  Derek Chauvin, one of four police officers who arrived on the scene, knelt on Floyd's neck and back for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.  After his death, protests against police brutality, especially towards black people, quickly spread across the United States and globally. As he was dying, he said "I can't breathe" which was used as a rallying cry during subsequent protests.
Born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Floyd grew up in Houston, playing football and basketball throughout high school and college. He was a hip hop artist and served as a mentor in his religious community. Between 1997 and 2005, he was convicted of eight crimes. He served four years in prison after accepting a plea bargain for a 2007 aggravated robbery in a home invasion.  In 2014, he moved to the Minneapolis area, residing in the nearby suburb of St. Louis Park, and worked as a truck driver and bouncer. In 2020, he lost his job as a truck driver, and then his security job during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The City of Minneapolis settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Floyd's family for $27 million. Chauvin was convicted on two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter on April 20, 2021.  The trial of the other three officers at the scene of his death is scheduled to begin on March 7, 2022. 
Read History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms
The Read surname is derived from the Old English word "read," meaning "red." It is most likely that the name was used as nickname for someone with red hair, before becoming their surname. In other instances, the Read surname no doubt came from some of the places so named in Britain, such as Read, Lancashire, Rede, Suffolk, and Reed in Hertfordshire.
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Early Origins of the Read family
The surname Read was first found in Northumberland where they held a family seat from early times. One branch was found at Troughend-Ward. "The present house was built in the last century (c. 1700) by EIrington Reed, Esq., who also greatly improved the place by planting, and whose ancestors were settled in the township at a remote date. " 
Another branch of the family was found at Weston in Suffolk. " Weston Hall, the ancient seat of the family of Rede, a handsome mansion in the Elizabethan style, was partly taken down within a few years, and the remainder converted into a farmhouse." 
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Early History of the Read family
This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Read research. Another 116 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1758, 1600, 1385, 1415, 1502, 1511, 1579, 1609, 1692, 1692, 1721, 1519, 1593, 1683, 1620, 1644, 1541, 1551, 1795, 1866 and are included under the topic Early Read History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
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Read Spelling Variations
Although the name, Read, appeared in many references, from time to time, the surname was shown with the spellings Read, Reid, Reed, Reede, Redd, Reade and others.
Early Notables of the Read family (pre 1700)
Notable amongst the family name during their early history was William Rede or Reade (died 1385), Bishop of Chichester, a native of the diocese of Exeter Robert Reed (died 1415), Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Bishop of Carlisle and Bishop of Chichester Sir John Reid of Barruck Bartholomew Rede, Lord Mayor of London in 1502 Sir Richard Rede (1511-1579), English Master of Requests, came of a family settled at Nether Wallop in Hampshire Sir John Read, of Wrangle was Sheriff of the County of Lincoln in 1609. Wilmot Redd (Read, Reed) (died September 22, 1692), was one of the victims of the.
Another 121 words (9 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Read Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the Read family to Ireland
Some of the Read family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 116 words (8 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Read migration +
Some of the first settlers of this family name were:
Read Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
- James Read who settled in Virginia in 1607
- Anthony Read, who landed in Virginia in 1623 
- Anthony Read who settled in Virginia in 1623
- Ellianor Read, who landed in Virginia in 1629 
- George Read, aged 6, who landed in New England in 1635 
- . (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Read Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
- Ely Read who settled in Virginia in 1725
- Anne Read who settled in Virginia in 1738
- Delahay Read, who arrived in St Christopher in 1760 
- Mary Read who settled in Virginia in 1774
- Andrew Read, who arrived in New York in 1784 
Read Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
Read migration to Canada +
Some of the first settlers of this family name were:
Read Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
- James Read, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1749
- David Read, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1750
- Mr. Moses Read U.E. born in Norwalk, Connecticut, USA who settled in Ontario, Canada c. 1784 married to Rebecca Pratt having 1 child, he died in 1802 
- Major. William Read U.E. (b. 1748) born in Donagel, Ireland from Georgia, USA who settled in Manchester Township, Guysborough County, Nova Scotia c. 1784, then resettled in Hinchinbrook, Châteauguay Valley, Montreal in 1794, then moved to Elizabeth Town [Elizabethtown], Leeds County, Ontario in 1796, in 1801 he moved to Frankville [Elizabeth-Kitley], Leeds and Greenville where he remained married to Agnes (Nancy) Russell having 11 children, he died in 1828 
Read Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
- James Read, aged 38, an engineer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the barque "Charlotte Lungan" from Liverpool, England
- Ephraim Read, who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1864
Read migration to Australia +
Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:
Read Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
- Miss Elizabeth Read, (b. 1783), aged 30, Irish convict who was convicted in Dublin, Ireland for 7 years, transported aboard the "Catherine" on 8th December 1813, arriving in New South Wales, Australia
- Miss Mary Read, (Reid, Reed), (b. 1774), aged 39, Irish house keeper who was convicted in County Mayo, Ireland for 7 years, transported aboard the "Catherine" on 8th December 1813, arriving in New South Wales, Australia
- W.W. Read, a blacksmith, who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
- Mr. George Read, British Convict who was convicted in Suffolk, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Asia" on 20th July 1837, arriving in New South Wales, Australia
- Mr. Michael Read, British Convict who was convicted in Suffolk, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Asia" on 20th July 1837, arriving in New South Wales, Australia
- . (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Read migration to New Zealand +
Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:
Read Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
- Henry Read, aged 27, a smith, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Aurora" in 1840
- Caroline Read, aged 28, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Aurora" in 1840
- John Read, aged 35, a farm labourer, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Birman" in 1842
- Prudence Read, aged 38, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Birman" in 1842
- Mr. Henry Read, Cornish settler travelling from Launceston, UK aboard the ship "Brothers" arriving in New Zealand in 1850 
- . (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Contemporary Notables of the name Read (post 1700) +
- Richard Read (b. 1957), American Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist
- Samuel Read (1815-1883), English water-colour painter, born at Needham Market, Suffolk
- Sir Herbert Edward Read (1893-1968), English anarchist poet, and critic of literature and art
- David Charles Read (1790-1851), English painter and etcher, born at Boldre, near Lymington, Hampshire
- Catherine Read (b. 1778), English portrait-painter who was for some years a fashionable artist in London, working in oils, crayons, and miniature
- Benedict William Read (1945-2016), English art historian, son of the art critic and poet Sir Herbert Read
- Sir John Read, English executive, chairman of EMI Group in the 1970s
- Leonard Ernest "Nipper" Read QPM (1925-2020), British police officer and boxing administrator, best known for the convictions of Ronnie and Reggie Kray, East End of London criminals inspiration for the 2015 biopic film Legend about the twins
- Mr. Timothy William Read C.B.E., British Universal Credit Delivery Manager for the Business Transformation Group for the Department for Work and Pensions, was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire on 8th June 2018, for services to Welfare Reform 
- Richard Tuohill Read (d. 1883), Irish jurist, son of Herbert Reid of Killarney
- . (Another 24 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Historic Events for the Read family +
- Arthur William Read (d. 1942), British Able Seaman aboard the HMS Cornwall when she was struck by air bombers and sunk he died in the sinking 
- Alfred Rupert Read (d. 1942), British Ordinary Seaman aboard the HMS Cornwall when she was struck by air bombers and sunk he died in the sinking 
- Mr. Douglas Read (b. 1923), English Boy 1st Class serving for the Royal Navy from Portchester, Fareham, England, who sailed into battle and died in the sinking 
- Mr. Anthony V Read (b. 1923), English Ordinary Seaman serving for the Royal Navy from Southampton, Hampshire, England, who sailed into battle and died in the sinking 
- Mr. James Frederick Read, British Stoker 2ne Class, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and died in the sinking 
HMS Royal Oak
- Reginald Victor Read (d. 1939), British Petty Officer Stoker with the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Royal Oak when she was torpedoed by U-47 and sunk he died in the sinking 
- Mr. Joseph Read, aged 21, English Trimmer from Southampton, Hampshire who worked aboard the RMS Titanic and survived the sinking 
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The Read Motto +
The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will many families have chosen not to display a motto.
Motto: Pax copia
Motto Translation: Peace, plenty.
George Read was the son of John and Mary (Howell) Read. George's father was born in Dublin, Ireland, the son of an Englishman of large fortune belonging to the family of Read of Berkshire, Hertfordshire, and Oxfordshire. The death of his beloved having left George's father bereft, John Read came to the American colonies and, with a view of diverting his mind, entered into extensive enterprises in Maryland and Delaware. 
Soon after his arrival in America, John Read purchased a large landed estate in Cecil County, Maryland, and founded, with six associates, the city of Charlestown, on the headwaters of Chesapeake Bay, twelve years after Baltimore was begun, with the intention of creating a new market for the northern trade, and thus developing northern Maryland and building up the neighboring iron works of the Principio Company, in which the older generations of the Washington family, and at a later period General George Washington himself, were also largely interested. 
As an original proprietor of Charlestown, John Read was appointed by the colonial legislature of Maryland one of the commissioners to lay it out and govern it. He held various military offices during his life, and in his later years resided on his plantation in New Castle County, Delaware. 
George Read was born in Cecil County, Maryland, on September 18, 1733. When he was an infant, the family moved to New Castle County, Delaware, settling near the village of Christiana. As he grew up, George Read joined Thomas McKean at the Rev. Francis Allison's Academy at New London, Pennsylvania and then studied law in Philadelphia with John Moland. He was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1753 and a year later he returned home to establish a practice at New Castle, Delaware. In 1763 he married Gertrude Ross Till, daughter of the Rev. George Ross, the Anglican rector of Immanuel Church in New Castle and widowed sister of George Ross, also a future signer of the Declaration of Independence. They had four children, John, George Jr., William, and Mary, who married Matthew Pearce (she is often confused with her paternal aunt, Mary Read, who in 1769 married Gunning Bedford, Sr., a future Governor of Delaware). They lived on The Strand in New Castle and their house was in what is now the garden of the present Read House and Gardens, owned by the Delaware Historical Society. They were members of Immanuel Episcopal Church.
In 1763 John Penn, the Proprietary Governor, appointed George Read Crown Attorney General for the three Delaware counties and he served in that position until leaving for the Continental Congress in 1774. He also served in the Colonial Assembly of the Lower Counties for twelve sessions, from 1764/65 through 1775/76.
Eighteenth-century Delaware was politically divided into loose factions known as the "Court Party" and the "Country Party." The majority Court Party was generally Anglican, strongest in Kent and Sussex Counties, worked well with the colonial Proprietary government, and was in favor of reconciliation with the British government. The minority Country Party was largely Ulster-Scot, centered in New Castle County, and quickly advocated independence from the British. Read was often the leader of the Court party faction, and as such, he generally worked in opposition to Caesar Rodney and his friend and neighbor, Thomas McKean.
Read, like most other people in Delaware was very much in favor of trying to reconcile differences with Great Britain. He opposed the Stamp Act and similar measures of Parliament but supported anti-importation measures and dignified protests. He was quite reluctant to pursue the option of outright independence. Nevertheless, from 1764, he led the Delaware Committee of Correspondence and was elected to serve along with the more radical McKean and Rodney in the First and Second Continental Congress from 1774 to 1777. He was frequently absent, and when the Congress voted on American Independence on July 2, 1776, Read surprised many by voting against it. That meant that Rodney had to ride overnight to Philadelphia to break the deadlock in Delaware's delegation for independence. However, when the Declaration of Independence was finally adopted, Read signed it despite his natural caution.
Anticipating the Declaration of Independence, the General Assembly of the Lower Counties declared its separation from the British government on June 15, 1776, in the New Castle Court House. Once the Declaration of Independence was actually adopted, the General Assembly called for elections to a Delaware constitutional convention to draft a constitution for the new state. Read was elected to this convention, became its President, and guided the passage of the McKean-drafted document, which became the Delaware Constitution of 1776.
Read was then elected to the first Legislative Council of the Delaware General Assembly and was selected as the Speaker in both the 1776/77 and 1777/78 sessions. At the time of the capture of President John McKinly, Read was in Philadelphia attending Congress after narrowly escaping capture himself while he was returning home, he became President on October 20, 1777, serving until March 31, 1778. The British occupied Philadelphia and were in control of the Delaware River. Read tried, mostly in vain, to recruit additional soldiers and to protect the state from raiders from Philadelphia and off ships in the Delaware River. The Delaware General Assembly session of 1777/78 had to be moved to Dover, Delaware, for safety, and the Sussex County General Assembly delegation was never seated because disruptions at the polls had negated the election results.
After Rodney was elected to replace him as President, Read continued to serve in the Legislative Council until the 1778–79 session. After a one-year rest nursing ill health, he was elected to the House of Assembly for the 1780/81 and 1781/82 sessions. He returned to the Legislative Council in the 1782/83 session and served two terms until the 1787/88 session. On December 5, 1782, he was elected Judge of the Court of Appeals in Cases of Capture. 
|Delaware General Assembly |
(sessions while President)
|Year||Assembly||Senate Majority||Speaker||House Majority||Speaker|
|1777/78||2nd||non-partisan||George Read||non-partisan||Samuel West|
Read was again called to national service in 1786 when he represented Delaware at the Annapolis Convention. Because so few states were represented, this meeting produced only a report calling for a broader convention to be held in Philadelphia the next year.
At what became the Constitutional Convention, Read again represented Delaware. Quoting from Wright & Morris in their Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution,
Read immediately argued for a new national government under a new Constitution, saying 'to amend the Articles was simply putting old cloth on a new garment.' He was a leader in the fight for a strong central government, advocating, at one time, the abolition of the states altogether and the consolidation of the country under one powerful national government. 'Let no one fear the states, the people are with us' he declared to a Convention shocked by this radical proposal. With no one to support his motion, he settled for protecting the rights of the small states against the infringements of their larger, more populous neighbors who, he feared, would 'probably combine to swallow up the smaller ones by addition, division or impoverishment.' He warned that Delaware 'would become at once a cipher in the union' if the principle of equal representation embodied in the New Jersey (small-state) Plan was not adopted and if the method of amendment in the Articles was not retained. He favored giving Congress the power to veto state laws, making the federal legislature immune to popular whims by having senators hold office for nine years or during good behavior, and granting the U.S. President broad appointive powers. Outspoken, he threatened to lead the Delaware delegation out of the Convention if the rights of the small states were not specifically guaranteed in the new Constitution.
Once the rights were assured, he led the ratification movement in Delaware, which, partly as a result of his efforts, became the first state to ratify and did so unanimously.
Following the adoption of the US Constitution, the Delaware General Assembly elected Read as one of its two US Senators. His term began on March 4, 1789, and he was reelected in 1791 but resigned on September 18, 1793. Read served with the Pro-Administration Party majority in the 1st and 2nd Congress, under President Washington. He supported the assumption of state debts, establishment of a national bank, and the imposition of excise taxes. He resigned to accept an appointment as Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court and served in that capacity until his death.
Read's resignation from the Senate was before the first session of the 3rd Congress assembled, but it was not until February 7, 1795, four weeks before it adjourned, that Henry Latimer was elected to replace him. One of Delaware's Senate seats was, therefore, vacant from September 18, 1793, until February 7, 1795.
Read died at New Castle on September 21, 1798, and is buried there in the Immanuel Episcopal Church Cemetery.
William T. Read in his Life and Correspondence described Read as "tall, slightly and gracefully formed, with pleasing features and lustrous brown eyes. His manners were dignified, bordering upon austerity, but courteous, and at times captivating. He commanded entire confidence, not only from his profound legal knowledge, sound judgment, and impartial decisions but from his severe integrity and the purity of his private character." However, a fellow delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 noted that "his legal abilities are said to be very great, but his powers of oratory are fatiguing and tiresome to the last degree his voice is feeble and his articulation so bad that few can have patience to attend him." Historians like John Monroe have generally recognized that all in all, Read was the dominating figure in Delaware politics during his career, directly or indirectly providing consistent and reliable leadership to the new state. 
His home, Stonum, is now a historic landmark. On The Strand in New Castle is the house built by his son, George Read, II. It is owned by the Delaware Historical Society, restored and opened to the public. There is a school named for him in New Castle and a dorm at the University of Delaware.
In the Broadway musical 1776, Read is portrayed in a minor role as a proper, conservative, somewhat effete, and wealthy planter who has difficulty getting along with the other two members of the Delaware contingent who are for Independence. Duane Bodin  played the character in the original Broadway cast and Leo Leyden appeared in the film version.
Read's brother Thomas was an officer in the Continental Navy during the Revolution. Another brother, James, was an officer in the Continental Army, and was later active in managing the navy under the Articles of Confederation. George Read's son George Read Jr. served as the first U.S. Attorney for Delaware and his grandson George Read III served as the second. Another son, John was a noted lawyer and banker of Philadelphia.  George Read's great-granddaughter, Louisa, married Maj. Benjamin Kendrick Pierce, the brother of future President Franklin Pierce.
Elections were held on October 1 and members of the General Assembly took office on October 20 or the following weekday. The colonial Attorney General was appointed by the Crown.
The Legislative Council was created in 1776 and its Legislative Councilmen had a three-year term. State Assemblymen had a one-year term. The whole General Assembly chose the Continental Congressmen for a one-year term and the State President for a three-year term. However, Read served as State President only temporarily, filling the vacancy created by the resignation of Thomas McKean and awaiting the selection of a successor by the General Assembly. The Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court was also selected by the General Assembly for the life of the person appointed.
Background Check: Investigating George Floyd’s Criminal Record
Snopes also has in-depth reporting on the background of Derek Chauvin, one of four former police officers charged in the case surrounding George Floyd’s death. Read that report here.
As cities worldwide erupted in protests over the death of George Floyd — a Black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for about nine minutes in Minneapolis — the leader of that city’s police federation sent the below-displayed email to union members. In it, he criticized journalists’ and politicians’ portrayal of the man whose death had sparked a global reckoning over racism in policing.
“What is not being told is the violent criminal history of George Floyd,” said former Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Lt. Bob Kroll, who represented more than 800 police officers at the time of Floyd’s death. “The media will not air this.”
The June 1, 2020, letter by Kroll, whom Snopes could not reach for this report and retired in early 2021, inspired a wave of claims online about Floyd’s alleged arrests and incarcerations before his death — mostly among people who seemed to be searching for evidence that either the actions by the Minneapolis police officer who choked Floyd were justified, or memorials to honor him were unnecessary.
Among the most popular claims were those by the right-wing commentator Candace Owens, who, in a roughly 18-minute video that’s been viewed more than 6 million times, made several accusations about Floyd’s past and the events that led to his death. She said:
No one thinks that he should have died in his arrest, but what I find despicable to be is that everyone is pretending that this man lived a heroic lifestyle when he didn’t. …I refuse to accept the narrative that this person is a martyr or should be lifted up in the black community. …He has a rap sheet that is long, that is dangerous. He is an example of a violent criminal his entire life — up until the very last moment.”
She claimed reporters had wrongly interpreted Floyd’s death to the public by purposefully omitting details about his past unlawful behavior, and she falsely and inappropriately called police brutality a “myth” and part of some nefarious scheme by news media to polarize Americans before the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
That video, as well as misleading photographs, memes like the one displayed below, and sensationalized tabloid stories about Floyd’s past, prompted numerous inquiries to Snopes from people wondering if he had indeed served time in jail or prison before his death at age 46.
The claims in this meme are a mixture of true and false, as we’ll document below. In brief, the alleged crimes and time periods are mostly accurate, with the caveat that Floyd was convicted of theft in 1998, not armed robbery. But the following information makes other aspects of the post misleading: Not all the crimes resulted in prison time, but rather jail sentences no evidence suggests a woman involved in the 2007 charge was pregnant it’s an exaggeration of toxicology results to claim Floyd “was high on meth” when he was choked by a cop, and there’s no proof that Floyd was “getting ready to drive a car” before his fatal encounter with police other than the fact that officers say they approached him as he sat in the driver’s seat of a vehicle.
What follows is everything we know about crimes committed by Floyd — who was born in North Carolina, lived most of his life in Houston and moved to Minneapolis in 2014 — based on court records and police accounts to fulfill those requests. Additionally, this report explores the following:
- Did Floyd’s past arrests and incarcerations have any effect on police officers’ actions during the 911 call that led to his death?
- Was he “high on meth” when he was choked by the Minneapolis cop and died, like the above-displayed meme claims?
- How will Floyd’s criminal record and autopsy toxicology results play a role in the murder trials for the police officers charged in his death?
- Why do some people draw attention to the criminal histories of non-white people killed by police?
We should note at the outset that attorney Ben Crump , who represents Floyd’s family, did not respond to Snopes’ multiple requests for comment, and when we reached an MPD spokesman by phone for this report, he requested an email interview but did not complete it.
Also, we should make clear that four officers involved in Floyd’s death, including the cop who knelt on his neck, were fired from MPD and have been criminally charged (details below).
Police Arrested Floyd a Total of 9 Times, Mostly on Drug and Theft Charges
According to court records in Harris County, which encompasses Floyd’s hometown of Houston, authorities arrested him on nine separate occasions between 1997 and 2007, mostly on drug and theft charges that resulted in months-long jail sentences.
But before we get into the specifics of those cases, first, some biographical details, per The Associated Press (AP): Floyd was the son of a single mother, who moved to Houston from North Carolina when he was a toddler so she could find work. They settled in what’s called “Cuney Homes,” a low-income public housing complex of more than 500 apartments in the city’s predominately Black Third Ward. As a teen, Floyd was a star football and basketball player for Jake Yates High School, and later he played basketball for two years at a Florida community college. After that, in 1995, he spent one year at Texas A&M University in Kingsville before returning to his mother’s Cuney apartment in Houston to find jobs in construction and security.
Another piece of important context while exploring how, and under what circumstances, police arrested Floyd in the late 1990s and early 2000s when he lived in Cuney Homes: On multiple occasions, police would make sweeps through the complex and end up detaining a large number of men, including Floyd, a neighborhood friend named Tiffany Cofield told the AP. Additionally, Texas has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, per the Prison Policy Initiative, and several studies show authorities are way more likely to target Black Texans for arrests than white residents.
As to the details of Floyd’s arrests, the first occurred on Aug. 2, 1997, when he was almost 23 years old. According to prosecutors, police in that case caught him delivering less than one gram of cocaine to someone else, so they sentenced him to about six months in jail. Then, the following year, authorities arrested and charged Floyd with theft on two separate occasions (on Sept. 25, 1998, and Dec. 9, 1998), sentencing him to a total of 10 months and 10 days in jail.
Then, about three years later (on Aug. 29, 2001), Floyd was sentenced to 15 days in jail for “failure to identify to a police officer,” court documents say. In other words, he allegedly didn’t give his name, address or birth date to a cop who was arresting him for reasons that are unknown (the court records don’t say why police were questioning him in the first place) and requesting that personal information.
Between 2002 and 2005, police arrested and charged Floyd for another four crimes: for having less than one gram of cocaine on him (on Oct. 29, 2002) for criminal trespassing (on Jan. 3, 2003) for intending to give less than one gram of cocaine to someone else (on Feb. 6, 2004) and for again having less than one gram of cocaine in his possession (on Dec. 15, 2005). He was sentenced to about 30 months in jail, total, for those crimes.
Lastly, in 2007, authorities arrested and charged Floyd with his most serious crime: aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.
According to police officers’ probable-cause statement, which is often the basis of prosecutors’ case against suspects, the incident (on Aug. 9, 2007) unfolded like this: Two adults, Aracely Henriquez and Angel Negrete, and a toddler were in a home when they heard a knock at the front door. When Henriquez looked out the window, she saw a man “dressed in a blue uniform” who said “he was with the water department.” But when she opened the door, she realized the man was telling a lie and she tried shutting him out. Then, the statement reads:
However, this male held the door open and prevented her from doing so. At this time, a black Ford Explorer pulled up in front of the Complainants’ residence and five other black males exited this vehicle and proceeded to the front door. The largest of these suspects forced his way into the residence, placed a pistol against the complainant’s abdomen, and forced her into the living room area of the residence. This large suspect then proceeded to search the residence while another armed suspect guarded the complainant, who was struck in the head and side areas by this second armed suspect with his pistol after she screamed for help. As the suspects looked through the residence, they demanded to know where the drugs and money were and Complaint Henriquez advised them that there were no such things in the residence. The suspects then took some jewelry along with the complainant’s cell phone before they fled the scene in the black Ford Explorer.
About three months later, investigators in the Houston Police Department narcotics unit “came across this vehicle during one of the their respective investigations and identified the following subjects as occupants of this vehicle at the time of their investigation: George Floyd (Driver)…,” the statement reads.
At 6-foot-7, Floyd was identified as the “the largest” of the six suspects who arrived at the home in the Ford Explorer and had pushed a pistol against Henriquez’ abdomen before looking for items to steal. (Nothing in the court documents suggests she was pregnant at the time of the robbery, contrary to what memes and Owens later claimed.) He pleaded guilty in 2009 and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was paroled in January 2013, when he was almost 40 years old.
We Don’t Know If MPD Officers Knew of Floyd’s Past Arrests and Incarcerations
But to fully explore this, we’ll lay out what happened on May 25, 2020. Around 8 p.m., someone inside a South Minneapolis convenience store called police to report that a man had used a $20 counterfeit bill to buy cigarettes, and then he ran outside to a vehicle parked nearby. The caller did not identify Floyd by name, according to the 911 transcript.
But here are some details about that call we learned after Floyd’s death: The owner of the store, Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, told NPR that clerks are trained to let management know when someone uses counterfeit money, and the workers try to handle the crime themselves without cops, unless things escalate to violence. But in Floyd’s case, Abumayyaleh said a teenage clerk who had only been employed for six months called 911, essentially implying the worker had not fully understood their protocol. Additionally, the owner said Floyd had been a regular customer for about a year, and he never caused any issues.
According to court documents, t wo MPD officers — Thomas Lane and J. A. Kueng — responded to the 911 call and, after talking to people inside the store, went to find Floyd in a parked vehicle nearby.
As Lane began speaking with Floyd, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle, the officer pulled his gun out and instructed Floyd to show his hands. Floyd complied with the order, whereupon the officer holstered his gun. Then, Lane ordered Floyd out of the car and “put his hands on Floyd, and pulled him out of the car,” and handcuffed him, according to prosecutors. Then, charging documents state:
Mr. Floyd walked with Lane to the sidewalk and sat on the ground at Lane’s direction. When Mr. Floyd sat down he said “thank you man” and was calm. In a conversation that lasted just under two minutes, Lane asked Mr. Floyd for his name and identification. Lane asked Mr. Floyd if he was “on anything” and noted there was foam at the edges of his mouth. Lane explained that he was arresting Mr. Floyd for passing counterfeit currency.
At 8:14 p.m., Officers Lane and Kueng stood Mr. Floyd up and attempted to walk Mr. Floyd to their squad car. As the officers tried to put Mr. Floyd in their squad car, Mr. Floyd stiffened up and fell to the ground. Mr. Floyd told the officers that he was not resisting but did not want to get in the back seat and was claustrophobic.
At that point, two other officers — Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao — arrived at the scene and tried again to get Floyd into a squad car. While they attempted to do so, he began asserting that he could not breathe. Then, according to criminal charges against Chauvin, the officer pulled Floyd out of the squad car, and “Mr. Floyd went to the ground face down and still handcuffed.” The complaint continues:
Officer Kueng held Mr. Floyd’s back and Officer Lane held his legs. Officer Chauvin placed his left knee in the area of Mr. Floyd’s head and neck. Mr. Floyd said, ‘I can’t breathe’ multiple times and repeatedly said, ‘Mama’ and ‘please,’ as well. At one point, Mr. Floyd said ‘I’m about to die.’
A Minnesota judge released footage from Lane and Kueng’s body cameras in early August 2020 — new evidence that showed their attempts to put Floyd into the squad car, and his repeated requests for the officers to consider his health. The videos also showed Chauvin kept Floyd pinned to the ground and knelt on his neck for about nine minutes, including for nearly three minutes after Floyd became non-responsive.
Then, per emergency medical technicians’ and fire department personnel’s accounts of the incident, medics loaded Floyd into an ambulance, where they used a mechanical chest compression device on Floyd, though he did not regain a pulse and his condition did not change.
It’s unclear whether at any point before or during the call the MPD officers knew of Floyd’s past arrests in Texas and, if so, whether that information at all influenced how they acted, consciously or subconsciously. MPD spokespeople did not respond to Snopes’ questions about the officers’ prior knowledge of Floyd before the call from the convenience store, nor did the department answer whether officers in general adjust their responses to 911 calls, or how they approach suspects, based on the criminal records of people involved.
Charging documents, police records and other court filings that lay out Floyd’s criminal history are all publicly available via the Harris County District Clerk online database. Additionally, according to MPD’s policy and procedure manual, which outlines everything from how officers should dress on the job to use-of-force guidelines, officers use a computerized dispatch system to handle 911 calls and often rely on computers in their squad cars to look up and document information.
All of that said, MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo said on June 10, 2020: “ There is nothing in that call that should have resulted in the outcome with Mr. Floyd’s death.”
It’s an Exaggeration of Toxicology Findings To Claim Floyd Was ‘High on Meth’ When He Died
In response to one of Owens’ claims — “ George Floyd at the time of his arrest was high on fentanyl and he was high on methamphetamine” — as well as assertions by social media users who seemed to be in search of proof for why the MPD officers acted the way they did, here we unpack the results of Floyd’s autopsy report.
The claim is two-pronged: that Floyd had meth in his system and that he was high on the drug when Chauvin knelt on his neck, choking him.
Firstly, on May 29, 2020, court documents revealed the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s investigation into Floyd’s death showed “no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxiation,” and that “potential intoxicants” and preexisting cardiovascular disease “likely contributed to his death.” (Note: Coronary artery disease and hypertension typically increase patients’ risk of stroke and heart attack over years, not minutes, and asphyxia, or suffocation, does not always leave physical signs, according to doctors.)
Two days later, the county released a statement that attributed Floyd’s cause of death to “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” — which essentially means he died because his heart and lungs stopped while he was being restrained by police. That announcement came just hours after Floyd’s family released findings of a separate, private autopsy that determined Floyd had indeed died from a combination of Chauvin’s knee on his neck and pressure on his back from other the officers. (A copy of that autopsy with all of its details has not been made public.)
According to the county’s postmortem toxicology screening, which is summarized below and was performed one day after Floyd’s death, he was intoxicated with fentanyl and had recently used methamphetamines (as well as other substances) before Chauvin choked him.
More Specifically, Floyd tested positive for 11 ng/mL of fentanyl — which is a synthetic opioid pain reliever — and 19 ng/mL of methamphetamine, or meth, though it’s unclear by what method the intoxicants got into his bloodstream or for what reasons.
But more complex is proving whether “he was high” at the time of his fatal encounter with police. While everyone’s reaction to and tolerance for such drugs varies, and the effects of mixing drugs can be totally unpredictable, lab technicians say fentanyl slowly leaves users’ systems, mostly via urination, over the course of three days from when they first shot up. Additionally, they consider “the presence of fentanyl above 0.20 ng/mL” — which is significantly less than the amount found in Floyd’s system — to be “a strong indicator that the patient has used fentanyl,” according to Mayo Clinic Laboratories.
For methamphetamines, which are typically smoked or injected, users feel an instant euphoria, and then the tapering effects of the drug last anywhere from eight to 24 hours. After that initial “rush,” the amount of meth reduces in their bloodstreams and tests for the drug can be positive for up to five days. Per the University of Rochester Medical Center, the amount of methamphetamines found in Floyd’s bloodstream (19 ng/mL or .019 mg/L) is “within the range” of some patients’ “therapeutic or prescribed use” of the drug.
Also, Hennepin County medical examiners stated Floyd’s blood levels made it seem like he had “recently” used meth in the past, not that he was peaking on a high from it, and the county investigators did not list the drugs as Floyd’s cause of death, but rather as “significant conditions” that influenced how he died. For those reasons and considering the amount of methamphetamines detected in Floyd’s toxicology report, it’s an exaggeration of the scientific evidence to claim Floyd “was high on meth” before police choked him — though his bloodstream did test positive for the drug.
But while making that analysis, it is important to consider the insight of a group of emergency room doctors and psychiatrists, who in the wake of Floyd’s death wrote in the Scientific American : “ When Black people are killed by police, their character and even their anatomy is turned into justification for their killer’s exoneration. It’s a well-honed tactic.”
Furthermore, a letter on behalf of thousands of Black doctors and health care workers in America titled “The ‘Collective Black Physicians’ Statement’ on the death of Mr. George Floyd” stated:
Any mention of potential intoxicants of which Mr. Floyd may have been under the influence is meritless at this stage of the physical autopsy examination. In a medicolegal autopsy, the results of a urinary toxicology screen are often inaccurate. All substances must be detected and confirmed in blood and/or particular organs before it can be said that an individual was intoxicated and that death is a complication of that toxicity.
Floyd’s Rap Sheet and Toxicology Results Are Likely To Play a Role in Officers’ Murder Trials
We can credit history for our conclusion on this point. For example, during the murder trial of George Zimmerman — who, though not a police officer, was eventually acquitted of homicide charges in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin , a Black teenager, in 2012 — reports of Martin’s alleged truancy and petty crimes made news headlines . Similarly, people called attention to the arrest record of Alton Sterling , a 37-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2016, as his surviving relatives filed a wrongful death lawsuit against police and the city (which remains ongoing as of this writing).
In the latest high-profile case of deadly use of force by police, all four officers — Lane, Kueng, Chauvin and Thao — were fired from MPD the day after Floyd’s controversial killing and were criminally charged.
For 19-year MPD veteran Chauvin, 44, who faces the most severe charges of the four men, Hennepin County prosecutors initially charged him with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. But in early June, after Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz requested the state’s Attorney General Keith Ellison to take over the case, Ellison upgraded those charges so the ex-MPD officer now faces a more severe charge of second-degree murder, in addition to the original charges brought forth by county prosecutors. (Read that latest complaint here .) He made his first court appearance on June 8, 2020, which was mostly procedural, and was held on $1.25 million bail.
Meanwhile, Thao, Kueng and Lane face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder while committing a felony, and with aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s killing. (You can read the full charges against Thao here Kueng here , and Lane here .) They made their first court appearances on June 4, 2020, where a judge set bail for each of them at $750,000 if they agreed to certain conditions, such as leaving law enforcement work and avoiding contact with Floyd’s family. One week later, Lane, 37, posted that amount and was freed from Hennepin County jail, and his attorney told the Star Tribune he was planning to file a motion to dismiss the charges.
As of this report, all four officers were scheduled to make their next court appearance June 29, 2020, and no court proceedings have focused on Floyd’s criminal history or drug use, with the exception of the charging documents that mention Hennepin County’s autopsy report and toxicology findings.
Why People Draw Attention to Criminal Histories of Black Men Who Die in Police Custody
For decades, corners of the internet and journalists have highlighted the criminal records of non-white people killed by authorities or caught in viral videos, no matter the relevancy of the rap sheets.
One of the uglier examples is the case of Charles Ramsey , a self-described “scary looking black dude” who helped rescue Amanda Berry, a Cleveland woman who had been kidnapped and held hostage for years in a home near Ramsey’s, in 2013. His interviews about the rescue spread like wildfire online, but then a local TV station aired a story on his criminal past (it was later removed and the station apologized ).
More similar to the case of Floyd are the above-mentioned examples of Sterling and Martin, Black men who died at the hands of police and a neighborhood watch volunteer, respectively, and whose histories were trotted out in news stories after they died, seemingly as part of an effort to deny them martyrdom.
Advocates for police reform say the pattern puts unjust blame on victims of police violence and distracts the public from the most important issue at the center of these incidents: Officers too often resort to violence when dealing with citizens, especially if they are Black, indigenous, or people of color.
Kevin O Cokley, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies police brutality against Black Americans, explained the psychology behind the media pattern in an email to Snopes. Of people calling attention to Floyd’s criminal past, specifically, he wrote:
It fits into what psychologists have called the just-world hypothesis , which is a cognitive bias where people believe that the world is just and orderly, and people get what they deserve. It is difficult for people to believe that bad things can happen to good people or to people who don’t deserve it. This is because if people know that these things do happen, they have to decide whether they want to do something about it or sit by silently knowing that there is injustice happening around them.
Furthermore, his colleague Richard Reddick , an associate dean in the university’s College of Education, told us in a phone interview the claims about Floyd were also a product of the era’s highly polarized media environment, compounded by years of problematic storytelling by politicians and reporters that portrays Black men only as “criminal entities” instead of nuanced people. He said:
This is something that Black men are subject to quite a bit — not often seen as complex, whole human beings, who have done wonderful things and not so great things in their lives, but simply a criminal. … This is something that seems to be very specific to Black men who are ex-judiciously murdered w e have to find a rationale, or excuse, or justification for it, no matter what it was.
In other words, he said, shifting the public narrative away from police officers’ actions and onto Floyd’s criminal history is a reoccurring communication strategy “that’s intended to make us not see him as a victim, to dehumanize him, and to make him a caricature.” People can subscribe to the “he had it coming” trope so they don’t have to feel sorry for the victim of police brutality and can deny police responsibility for their actions, Reddick said. He added:
I don’t trust the motivations of the folks bringing this forward. … Of course they’re asking, ‘Why isn’t [Floyd’s criminal history] covered in the major media?’ And it’s because it’s not relevant to this kind of story. What happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis has nothing to do with what happened to him, what he did, in 2007.
To that point, Reddick said Floyd’s past arrests and incarcerations may justifiably appear in “wholesome portraits” about Floyd’s life (such as this AP story), while O Cokley said the news media should not include the background in its stories about Floyd because it “has no relevance to the officer’s behavior,” and because “t here is no standardization of the inclusion of background information on stories involving victims of police misconduct.” Reddick summed up the phenomenon like this:
We shouldn’t conflate the complexity of a person’s life with an event that ended with their life being lost — those moments and that time is relevant, but not a criminal conviction from years prior because this is supposedly a country where, when you’ve served your sentence, you’re now able to go rebuild your life, as what he was trying to do.
In January 2013, after Floyd was paroled for the aggravated robbery, people who knew him said he returned to Houston’s Third Ward “with his head on right.” He organized events with local pastors, served as a mentor for people living in his public housing complex, and was affectionately called “Big Floyd” or “the O.G.” (original gangster) as a title of respect for someone who’d learned from his experiences. Then in 2014, Floyd, a father of five, decided to move to Minneapolis to find a new job and start a new chapter.
“The world knows George Floyd, I know Perry Jr.,” said Kathleen McGee , his aunt (in reference to her nickname for Floyd), at his funeral on June 9, 2020. “He was a pesky little rascal, but we all loved him.”
The Ten Best History Books of 2020
In a year marked by a devastating pandemic, a vitriolic presidential race and an ongoing reckoning with systemic racism in the United States, these ten titles served a dual purpose. Some offered a respite from reality, transporting readers to such varied locales as Tudor England, colonial America and ancient Jerusalem others reflected on the fraught nature of the current moment, detailing how the nation’s past informs its present and future. From an irreverent biography of George Washington to a sweeping overview of 20th-century American immigration, these were some of our favorite history books of 2020.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
In this “Oprah’s Book Club” pick, Isabel Wilkerson presents a compelling argument for shifting the language used to describe how black Americans are treated by their country. As the Pulitzer Prize–winning author tells NPR, “racism” is an insufficient term for the country’s ingrained inequality. A more accurate characterization is “caste system”—a phrase that better encapsulates the hierarchical nature of American society.
Drawing parallels between the United States, India and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson identifies the “eight pillars” that uphold caste systems: Among others, the list includes divine will, heredity, dehumanization, terror-derived enforcement and occupational hierarchies. Dividing people into categories ensures that those in the middle rung have an “inferior” group to compare themselves to, the author writes, and maintains a status quo with tangible ramifications for public health, culture and politics. “The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality,” Wilkerson explains. “It is about power—which groups have it and which do not.”
The Great Secret: The Classified World War II Disaster that Launched the War on Cancer
When the Nazis bombed Bari, a Mediterranean port city central to the Allied war effort, on December 2, 1943, hundreds of sailors sustained horrific injuries. Within days of the attack, writes Jennet Conant in The Great Secret, the wounded started exhibiting unexpected symptoms, including blisters “as big as balloons and heavy with fluid,” in the words of British nurse Gwladys Rees, and intense eye pain. “We began to realize that most of our patients had been contaminated by something beyond all imagination,” Rees later recalled.
American medical officer Stewart Francis Alexander, who’d been called in to investigate the mysterious maladies, soon realized that the sailors had been exposed to mustard gas. Allied leaders were quick to place the blame on the Germans, but Alexander found concrete evidence sourcing the contamination to an Allied shipment of mustard gas struck during the bombing. Though the military covered up its role in the disaster for decades, the attack had at least one positive outcome: While treating patients, Alexander learned that mustard gas rapidly destroyed victims’ blood cells and lymph nodes—a phenomenon with wide-ranging ramifications for cancer treatment. The first chemotherapy based on nitrogen mustard was approved in 1949, and several drugs based on Alexander’s research remain in use today.
Read an excerpt from The Great Secret that ran in the September 2020 issue of Smithsonian magazine.
Uncrowned Queen: The Life of Margaret Beaufort, Mother of the Tudors
Though she never officially held the title of queen, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, fulfilled the role in all but name, orchestrating the Tudor family’s rise to power and overseeing the machinations of government upon her son Henry VII’s ascension. In Uncrowned Queen, Nicola Tallis charts the complex web of operations behind Margaret’s unlikely victory, detailing her role in the Wars of the Roses—a dynastic clash between the Yorkist and Lancastrian branches of the royal Plantagenet family—and efforts to win Henry, then in exile as one of the last Lancastrian heirs, the throne. Ultimately, Margaret emerges as a more well-rounded figure, highly ambitious and determined but not, as she’s commonly characterized, to the point of being a power-hungry religious zealot.
You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington
Accounts of George Washington’s life tend to lionize the Founding Father, depicting him as a “marble Adonis … rather than as a flawed, but still impressive, human being,” according to Karin Wulf of Smithsonian magazine. You Never Forget Your First adopts a different approach: As historian Alexis Coe told Wulf earlier this year, “I don’t feel a need to protect Washington he doesn’t need me to come to his defense, and I don’t think he needed his past biographers to, either, but they’re so worried about him. I’m not worried about him. He’s everywhere. He’s just fine.” Treating the first president’s masculinity as a “foregone conclusion,” Coe explores lesser-known aspects of Washington’s life, from his interest in animal husbandry to his role as a father figure. Her pithy, 304-page biography also interrogates Washington’s status as a slaveholder, pointing out that his much-publicized efforts to pave the way for emancipation were “mostly legacy building,” not the result of strongly held convictions.
Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife
Nine years after Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code popularized the theory that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, Harvard historian Karen L. King announced the discovery of a 1,600-year-old papyrus that seemingly supported the novel’s much-maligned premise. The 2012 find was an instant sensation, dividing scholars, the press and the public into camps of non-believers who dismissed it as a forgery and defenders who interpreted it as a refutation of longstanding ideals of Christian celibacy. For a time, the debate appeared to be at an impasse. Then, journalist Ariel Sabar—who’d previously reported on the fragment for Smithsonian—published a piece in the Atlantic that called the authenticity of King’s “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” into question. Shortly after, King publicly stated that the papyrus was probably a forgery.
Veritas presents the full story of Sabar’s seven-year investigation for the first time, drawing on more than 450 interviews, thousands of documents, and trips around the world to reveal the fascinating figures behind the forgery: an amateur Egyptologist–turned–pornographer and a scholar whose “ideological commitments” guided her practice of history. Ultimately, Sabar concludes, King viewed the papyrus “as a fiction that advanced a truth”: namely, that women and sexuality played a larger role in early Christianity than previously acknowledged.
The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President's Black Family
Bettye Kearse’s mother had long viewed her family’s ties to President James Madison as a point of pride. “Always remember—you’re a Madison,” she told her daughter. “You come from African slaves and a president.” (According to family tradition, as passed down by generations of griot oral historians, Madison raped his enslaved half-sister, Coreen, who gave birth to a son—Kearse’s great-great-great-grandfather—around 1792.) Kearse, however, was unable to separate her DNA from the “humiliation, uncertainty, and physical and emotional harm” experienced by her enslaved ancestor.
To come to terms with this violent past, the retired pediatrician spent 30 years investigating both her own family history and that of other enslaved and free African Americans whose voices have been silenced over the centuries. Though Kearse lacks conclusive DNA or documentary evidence proving her links to Madison, she hasn’t let this upend her sense of identity. “The problem is not DNA,” the author writes on her website. “. [T]he problem is the Constitution,” which “set the precedent for the exclusion of [enslaved individuals] from historical records.”
The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West
While Union forces fought to end slavery in the American South, a smaller cadre of soldiers waged war in the West, battling pro-secessionist troops for control of the resource-rich Arizona and New Mexico Territories. The campaign essentially ended in late 1862, when the U.S. Army pushed Confederate forces back into Texas, but as Megan Kate Nelson writes in The Three-Cornered War, another battle—this time, between the United States and the region’s Apache and Navajo communities—was just beginning. Told through the lens of nine key players, including Apache leader Mangas Coloradas, Texas legislator John R. Baylor and Navajo weaver Juanita, Nelson’s account underscores the brutal nature of westward expansion, from the U.S. Army’s scorched-earth strategy to its unsavory treatment of defeated soldiers. Per Publishers Weekly, Nelson deftly argues that the United States’ priorities were twofold, including “both the emancipation of [slavery] and the elimination of indigenous tribes.”
One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965
In 1924, Congress passed the Johnson-Reed Act, a eugenics-inspired measure that drastically limited immigration into the U.S. Controversial from its inception, the law favored immigrants from northern and Western Europe while essentially cutting off all immigration from Asia. Decisive legislation reversing the act only arrived in 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson (no relation), capitalizing on a brief moment of national unity sparked by predecessor John F. Kennedy’s assassination, signed the Hart-Celler Act—a measure that eliminated quotas and prioritized family unification—into law.
Jia Lynn Yang’s One Mighty and Irresistible Tide artfully examines the impact of decades of xenophobic policy, spotlighting the politicians who celebrated America’s status as a nation of immigrants and fought for a more open and inclusive immigration policy. As Yang, a deputy national editor at the New York Times, told Smithsonian’s Anna Diamond earlier this year, “The really interesting political turn in the '50s is to bring immigrants into this idea of American nationalism. It’s not that immigrants make America less special. It’s that immigrants are what make America special.”
The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X
When Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Les Payne died of a heart attack in 2018, his daughter, Tamara, stepped in to complete his unfinished biography of civil rights leader Malcolm X. Upon its release two years later, the 500-page tome garnered an array of accolades, including a spot on the 2020 National Book Awards shortlist. Based on 28 years of research, including hundreds of interviews with Malcolm’s friends, family acquaintances, allies and enemies, The Dead Are Arising reflects the elder Payne’s dedication to tirelessly teasing out the truth behind what he described as the much-mythologized figure’s journey “from street criminal to devoted moralist and revolutionary.” The result, writes Publishers Weekly in its review, is a “richly detailed account” that paints “an extraordinary and essential portrait of the man behind the icon.”
The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom
In this dual biography, H.W. Brands seeks to address an age-old question: “What does a good man do when his country commits a great evil?” Drawing on two prominent figures in Civil War history as case studies, the historian outlines differing approaches to the abolition of slavery, juxtaposing John Brown’s “violent extremism” with Abraham Lincoln’s “coolheaded incrementalism,” as Alexis Coe writes in the Washington Post’s review of The Zealot and the Emancipator. Ultimately, Brands tells NPR, lasting change requires both “the conscience of people like John Brown” (ideally with an understanding that one can take these convictions too far) and “the pragmatism and the steady hand of the politician—the pragmatists like Lincoln.”
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The little town of George, Washington, has two claims to fame: it is the only town in the country bearing the full name of a United States president, and its popular Fourth of July celebration features what is believed to be the world's largest cherry pie, weighing in at one-half ton. Located at exit 149 off Interstate 90 in Grant County, George is midway between Seattle and Spokane. The town was built in the mid-1950s by Charles (Charlie) Brown, a pharmacist from nearby Quincy, who placed the winning (and only) bid of $100,000 on 339 sand-swept and desolate acres of land in an auction managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Reclamation. Brown put in waterlines, platted streets, sold pie-shaped lots, and built a truck stop he called the Martha Inn. The town was dedicated on July 4, 1957, and incorporated on July 4, 1961. After Brown died in 1975, George was purchased by a group of investors that had big plans that never materialized. Modest development followed in the early 2000s, but George never attained the special status that Brown had hoped for. In 2010, it was home to 503 residents.
And the Winner is …
In the early 1950s, the U.S. Bureau of Land Reclamation sought ways to reclaim the arid soil that made up much of central Grant County. As part of the Columbia River Basin Land Reclamation Project, water was brought in using giant irrigation ditches. At the same time, the bureau wanted to create a way to support and resupply the farms that had sprung up between Quincy and Moses Lake.
At first, the federal government was going to build the town itself. A total of 339 acres were set aside, but county residents objected to the plan, so the Bureau of Land Reclamation put the land up for sale, seeking a private investor or group of investors to take over development. The auction was the topic of much discussion around the area, including at the local pharmacy in Quincy, where three men -- an attorney, a contractor, and the pharmacist -- had gathered to talk about the land sale. The trio decided to team up and place a bid the pharmacist agreed to act as their agent.
Their bid was for $100,000. As it turned out, it was the only offer the federal government received. Shortly before the auction ended, the attorney and the contractor moved out of the area, leaving the pharmacist, Charlie Brown (1903-1975), as the sole bidder. Brown was notified by the Bureau of Land Reclamation that he was now the owner of 339 acres and soon to be the founder of his own town.
George is Born
Charles (Charlie) E. Brown was born in Rockwood, Oregon, in 1903 to parents who owned a small grocery store. He attended North Pacific College in Portland, where he earned a pharmacy degree, and later moved to Quincy, where he worked as a pharmacist. He also owned a shoe store. Descended from a line of hard workers, Brown was not one to walk away from a challenge. He was energetic and optimistic -- Brown's daughter used to say he had a new idea every morning.
The only structure existing on the land he purchased was a rundown and deserted farmhouse. Using his own money, Brown hired M. R. Wolf, a city planning instructor at the University of Washington, to help him develop the town. "Mr. Brown put in water lines, laid streets, planted cherry trees and sold lots -- some of them pie-shaped. Some wheat, corn and alfalfa farmers moved in, along with a few sheep herders and several retired people fleeing the relentless rains of the Washington coast, 160 miles to the west" (Malcolm). Brown envisioned an early American, or colonial, theme for the town, believing this would attract businesses and tourists.
Several stories exist about the origin of the town name. The city's website suggests the idea came from a man from the Bureau of Land Reclamation, who said "somebody should get smart and name a town after the nation's first president. (Perhaps he had never visited Washington, D.C., or another of the over 250 towns, cities, and boroughs named after Washington.) Still, Brown took his advice to heart, and decided that George would be an appropriate name for a town in Washington. Notably, while there are other places named Georgetown in the country, Brown's city is the only one named George in the United States" (Atlas Obscura).
In another version, Brown is credited with coming up with the name himself. It was said he wanted a respectfully humorous salute to honor the nation's first president, although his wife Edith declared it "a dumb name" (Malcolm).
Regardless, the town of George, Washington, was born. To attract business, Brown built a truck stop and called it the Martha Inn. He also built a grocery store, which he named the Bi-George Market. The streets were named after varieties of cherries, such as Bing, Lambert, Royal Anne, Windsor, and Nanking. The town's main street is called Montmorency, said to be the type of cherry tree chopped down by the young George Washington, an act he refused to lie about.
George was dedicated on July 4, 1957, with several dignitaries in attendance including Governor Albert Rosellini (1910-2011), who planted a cherry tree during the ceremony. This established the town's tradition of giving cherry trees to each new property owner. "Some Hawaiian friends of the Brown's provided the entertainment. Also making its appearance was the first one-half ton cherry pie. A huge Dutch brick oven was built especially for the pie which took three hours to bake and another four to cool" (City of George History).
George was a quiet place from the get-go. "In the early days there was little reason for anyone to drop in on George, Washington, unless his car broke down or his horse went lame" (Malcolm). The Martha Inn, a favorite stop for truckers, farmers, and residents, became the center of town life. "It would be impossible to count all the business deals that used to take place around the tables of Martha's" (City of George History). The inn was demolished in 2009 but the large highway sign, proclaiming Family Dining and Lounge, still exists.
On July 4, 1961, George was incorporated its population at the time was about 300. The town government operates with a mayor, five council members, city clerk, city attorney, and public works superintendent. Charlie Brown was elected as George's first mayor. The town grew slowly during its first decade or so. There was a grocery store, furniture store, real estate office, beauty and barber shops, and drug store. A small brick mini mall housed the post office, and a community hall, built in 1964, was the site of meetings and concerts.
Colonial Farms Steps In
In 1973, Brown was facing financial difficulties and a group of seven investors, primarily doctors and lawyers operating under the name of Colonial Farms Ltd., bought him out. Two years later, Brown died, and his wife Edith became the town's second mayor. Around this time, 600 acres of the town's total 850 acres went up for sale for $2 million. The land offered included the Martha Inn and a cherry orchard. "In the course of time, the early enthusiasm for developing George as a colonial theme town waned, and the George properties simply became a tax write-off for Colonial Farms, and nothing more. By the mid-1990s, restive community leaders convinced Colonial Farms that they should either find a way to develop the town or sell their holdings" (A Little History of the City of George).
In 1994, George was sold to Bellevue developer Louis Leclezio and Jim Trullin of Wenatchee. They wanted to follow through on Charlie Brown's plans to turn George into a colonial-themed town but ran out of money. In 2001, the property was taken over by Quincy potato and fruit growers Mike, Jack, and Larry Jones.
The Jones family hired two developers to inject new life into the town. The city council responded with its own plan to improve the town infrastructure, which included upgrades to the sewer and water systems and some much-needed street repairs. A combination gas station and mini-mart called George's County Place was built that included a large bronze bust of George Washington in the parking lot. (The bust is a copy of one created by Utah native Avard Fairbanks (1897-1987) for the nation's bicentennial in 1976 and now installed on the George Washington University campus in Washington, D.C.)
At one point, the American Automobile Association named the town of George a travel treasure. The Martha Inn was remodeled and a new chef hired. Its menu was refreshed and the restaurant started to pull in some business off the highway. Unfortunately, this too was short-lived.
The two developers hired by the Jones family did not see eye-to-eye and quit the project. The family sued the lawsuit was settled in 2005. In 2009, some of the property was sold to Catholic Charities Housing Service of Yakima County for a 51-unit low-income housing complex called St Martha Plaza. The $10 million development, home primarily to farmworker families, has the only sidewalk in town. George's Country Place became Shree's Truck Stop. The statue of George Washington still sits in the parking lot.
World's Largest Cherry Pie
George is famous for its Fourth of July celebration which, in addition to the requisite parade, patriotic music, and fireworks, includes the world's largest cherry pie. The event attracts some 5,000 visitors and has been held annually for 62 years.
Forty-five years ago, the pie-baking took some 32 hours from start to finish. People would gather on July 3 to light the fire in the brick oven at the community hall. The recipe used 150 pounds of flour, 72 pounds of shortening, 100 gallons of cherries, 200 pounds of sugar, two cups of almond extract, 75 cups of tapioca, and red food coloring to taste. The gigantic baking pan, which weighed 1,200 pounds when full of pie ingredients, was baked for 19 hours at 400 degrees.
Today  things are a bit more streamlined. The pie is assembled on the morning of the Fourth and ready to eat by 12 noon when it is served with ice cream. (A $1 donation is suggested.) The pie still weighs in about a half-ton and feeds about 1,500 people. Other cherry-themed activities during the Fourth in George include a pie-eating contest, cherry bomb run, and a cherry-pit spitting contest. George also puts on a special celebration for Presidents Day, which is considered the town's birthday. On that day, a large birthday cake, some 6 feet tall, takes center stage.
The Gorge Amphitheatre
The nearest attraction to George is the Gorge Amphitheatre, about six miles to the west. This music venue is known for its breathtaking views over the Columbia River, lawn-terrace seating, and balmy evenings with weather conducive for outdoor music. The Gorge opened in the early 1980s as the Champs de Brionne Music Theatre, founded by Vincent Bryan, a Seattle neurosurgeon, and his wife Carol. The Bryans bought the property in the late 1970s with the idea of planting grapes and building a winery along the river's dramatic basalt cliffs. The latitude, soil and microclimate were similar to the famous wine-growing regions in France, and the couple hoped they could establish a profitable winery. But their plans changed:
"It was during a hike of the 'little gorge' with some friends, as Dr. Bryan decided to stay at the top of the bowl while Carol and some friends trekked to the bottom (over 1,000 feet below), that he realized the natural acoustics the bowl provided. He could literally hear every word that the group was saying below. At that point, the proverbial bulb went off, and the decision to bring music to the vineyard came to fruition. This was more of a tactic to bring people to a local, premier estate winery to enjoy Champs de Brionne wines rather than turn it into the massive operation that we see today, but as they say, everything starts small" (Live for Live Music).
The Bryans built terraced seating and began to host small music gatherings while attendees enjoyed the Champs de Brionne wines. Over the next decade, the venue grew until it was large enough to accommodate 24,000 concertgoers. In 1993 the Gorge, without the surrounding vineyards, was sold to MCA Concerts, and later acquired by Live Nation. On concert weekends, which occur nearly every weekend from spring to fall, the site and its concertgoers become the largest city in Grant County. The Bryans eventually closed the Champs de Brionne winery, and Vincent Bryan went on to invent the artificial disc for the human spine.
As of 2020, there are four churches in George, a city park, and a community hall. George Elementary School, part of the Quincy School District, serves 191 students from K-5. The region has sunny dry summers winters are cold with an occasional snowstorm. Average annual precipitation is about 8 inches.
Despite the long-standing custom of presenting flowering cherry trees to new property owners in George, most of the trees have been replaced with other deciduous species. The city could not afford to spray for the pests that might destroy the surrounding commercial orchards.
Association of Washington Cities
George Washington bust and city limits sign, George
Courtesy Kate Schooler and Julia Schooler
Welcome to City of George and Tree City USA signs
Courtesy Kate Schooler and Julia Schooler
Giant cherry pie celebrating Grant County's centennial, George, July 4, 2009
3. Discrimination and Disparities by Thomas Sowell
Discrimination and Disparities focuses more on economics, but race and politics are present as well. Sowell examines where disparities in outcomes come from, and what, if anything, politicians ought to do about those unfair outcomes.
&ldquoMost notable achievements involve multiple factors&mdashbeginning with a desire to succeed in the particular endeavor, and a willingness to do what it takes, without which all the native ability in an individual and all the opportunity in a society mean nothing, just as the desire and the opportunity mean nothing without the ability.&rdquo
Bush became chairman of the Harris County Republican Party in 1963. The following year, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas. It didn&apost take long for Bush to enter Congress, however in 1966, two years after his unsuccessful Senate bid, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, ultimately serving two terms. Bush was later appointed to several important positions, including U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1971, head of the Republican National Committee during the Watergate scandal, U.S. envoy to China, and director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1976.
Bush then set his sights on the U.S. presidency but failed to win his party&aposs nomination in 1980, losing it to his opponent, Ronald Reagan. Bush would make it to the White House soon after, however: He was chosen as Reagan&aposs vice-presidential running mate. Reagan won the 1980 election, defeating Democrat challenger Jimmy Carter. He was re-elected in 1984, with Bush serving as his vice president for both terms.
People Who Voted On This List (3370)
I really wish I could disqualify anything that has the words 'epic story' in the title. Great history books make an argument based on an interpretation of the past a history book that just tells you a story has a seriously limited value.
I cant seem to add books to the list but could I suggest A Short History of Byzantium by John Julius Norwich.
I went ahead and did disqualify a couple of works of fiction. But really, I don't think the "epic story" label should eliminate a work from consideration. You could start with Herodotus and Thucydides whose work is undeniably epic, but also epochal, in that we would have no history without them. Serious history has scholarly obligations, but it has artistic ones as well. If the matter isn't interesting, then ultimately no one is going to care about the footnotes or the argument.
Water for Elephants is most emphatically not a work of history.
Removed for being fiction:
Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen
The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
I am of two minds about The Devils of Loudun, so I left it.
The Devils of Loudun is really not a novel, despite Huxley's reputation as a novelist. It is as "literary" as Barbara Tuchman. If you are thinking of the dreadful Ken Russell film based on the book, all I can say is, please don't.
Adding "Benedict Arnold's Navy" by James Nelson.
Had it not been for Horatio Gates, who stole Arnold's genius at Saratoga and threw him to the wolves causing Arnold to "turn coat", Benedict Arnold could quite possibly been a greater American Hero than George Washington.
This book is of Benedict Arnolds building of a small fleet in the harbor of Skenesborough (modern day Whitehall, NY) to sail north and interdict the British fleet arriving via the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Richelieu river.
The ensuing "Battle of Valcour Island" is considered to be the very first naval engagement by the American Navy.
/> All of the Edward Rutherfurd books on the list (Sarum, London, Russka, New York) are novels. If you include them, you have to open the field to Michener.
I was only able to find Russka. I have deleted it. Cheers.
I found the others, on page 3. I'll delete them.
ETA: Also removed "The Great Indian Novel." Because it, too, is a novel.
Too much american history.You're not the world y'know ?
You could, of course, add works about non-American history to the list.
Removed: The Killer Angels - a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
Midwives, by Chris Bohjalian
Chesapeake, by James A. Michener
The Ballad of the White Horse, by G.K. Chesterton
Where is the Venerable Bede?
You could add him. It's easy to add books to lists at the top of the page, at the tab next to "all votes."
David & Russ - any clue as to what book "Unknown Book 9379560" is at No. 147 on this list? You were the ones who voted for it.
The list is a little ethnocentric. Just a thought. if you know of a good book that is also the history of women, or Native Americans, or any other underrepresented group, you may want to add it. I added a few, but it could still use some rounding out.
D. wrote: "The Guns of August is a great, great book. but it is HISTORICAL FICTION. It is strong, well-researched historical fiction, but it is fiction This list is supposed to be strictly nonfiction."
It is most certainly not historical fiction. What is your evidence that it is?
It won the Pulitzer for "general nonfiction."
Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield
The Pale Criminal, by Philip Carr
Queen Margot, by Alexandre Dumas
A Philosophical Investigation, by Philip Kerr
Oh, it's a great book. It really does "read like a novel."
Revisited Feb 10 and asked the system to find duplicates, because I spotted one (Sherman's memoirs). The system found and removed 5 duplicates.
I sympathize with the person who pointed out there is too much American history here. I went back and found some good books I had read (primarily Russian Revolution and Cuba) and added those I can't reasonably add anything I haven't read, but have added some "want to reads" from the wider world.
And this is one of the times when I wish I had more than 100 votes!
/> I admire your fantastic library of golden books. Thank you.
I only had a hundred books I could add!
/> Wow, so many great sounding books that I've missed. Might have to read John Adams now, since it's at the top of the list. How about a history book that was just "fun" to read? Like "One of a Kind" about Stu Ungar, or "Vegas and the Mob," about, well, Las Vegas? Or are those too low-brow to admit at guilty pleasures?
Ron wrote: "Wow, so many great sounding books that I've missed. Might have to read John Adams now, since it's at the top of the list. How about a history book that was just "fun" to read? Like "One of a Kind" . "
Not familiar with these, but in order to qualify as history books, they must refer to a period at least 50 years before the publication date. at least I think so. Susanna CBG would know for sure.
I'm having a terrible time whittling my choices down to 100!
I wish I could pull books OFF this list. How about anything by Joseph Ellis is on this list is beyond me.
Socraticgadfly wrote: "I wish I could pull books OFF this list. How about anything by Joseph Ellis is on this list is beyond me."
Exactly how I feel when I see Gone With the Wind as "best" historical fiction, when it is myth, and not even benign myth. But on the other hand, the First Amendment right to say what books we like is even more critical.
You don't give any reason for writing that Joseph Ellis shouldn't be on the list. At least one historian places him among the five best historywriters today (http://practicallyhistorical.net/2011. )
1 duplicate found and removed.
/> A New Age Now Begins: A People's History of the American Revolution, Vol 1
This 8 volume set written as a popular history is essential to understand the continuity of the development of the United States. This history is readable, does not focus on politics, politicians or generals and warfare. Rather all the above are included as they apply to the social fabric, and cultural development that caused America to become what it has. Here you will understand why normal people did what they did and the events that impacted peoples lives for good or evil. This set can be collected for about $8 or less per volume in used book stores. If you have any interest in history find any volume in a library and read a chapter.
Cameron wrote: "Siddhartha, being a novel, should be removed."
Open ended listopia such as this one rely largely upon volunteer librarians, such as myself. If a title is misplaced on this list and you want to see it removed, please indicate on what page of the list you found it. This is a very long list, and I can't see scrolling through 18+ pages searching for 1 book, but I will zap it if I know where it is. Thanks.
page 2 Neil Shubin Your Inner Fish is not a history book. The only way that it is historical is if broad-stroke paleontology can be classified as historical
Whats wrong with novels? My interest in history started from The Other Boleyn Girl that is pretty much fiction. I wanted to know how the real story went, and the rest is "history". Recently I went to Amsterdam. As usual, before I have read few books about history of Netherlands. Some were unnecessary long and boring. In between I read The Coffee Trader, a novel, intertaining and very close to reality.
So, whatever gets you going. Besides, the author disclaims in the book what is fiction and whats not.
Irina wrote: "Whats wrong with novels? My interest in history started from The Other Boleyn Girl that is pretty much fiction. I wanted to know how the real story went, and the rest is "history". Recently I went . "
Nothing is wrong with novels, but a fictional story set during an historic period is classified as historical fiction. There are a number of listopias for that genre. There are also some mixed listopias that include both history and historical fiction the first that comes to mind is the American Civil War listopia, where both genres are welcome.
The listmaker determines the parameters, and by definition a history book is nonfiction. The subscript below the title specifies no historical fiction, so it's as clear as a bell.
If you dislike the listmaker's parameters, you are also free to start a new list, but it's best to check and make sure (using the search bar for listopias) that the list you want to vote on doesn't already exist.
Jonas wrote: "page 2 Neil Shubin Your Inner Fish is not a history book. The only way that it is historical is if broad-stroke paleontology can be classified as historical"
History is defined as beginning when there is written language, so no, it's not historical.
The system found and removed 14 duplicates.
Dear Donna, goodreads is not University History department recommended reading, it's for people who like reading. How about Herodotus Histories? It is a history book, however I quote from experts "is bedevilled with the questions that still haunt it today concerning the relationship between truth and storytelling, SUBJECTIVE witnessing and objective record."
Irina wrote: "Dear Donna, goodreads is not University History department recommended reading, it's for people who like reading. How about Herodotus Histories? It is a history book, however I quote from experts ". "
Thanks for the education, yo. If you want the parameters of the list changed, talk to Goodreads employees. I'm a volunteer, and I'm done with this thread.
Same here - GR librarians are not GR staff we are all volunteers.
You want to change the parameters of this list, I suggest you either argue with its creator, or contact GR staff and make a persuasive argument.
Otherwise your choices are to follow the parameters of this list, or to start another one. There are a ton of lists here on Listopia, and more every day.