In January, of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation “there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; and all persons held to service or labor as slaves are hereby declared free.” Under Lincoln’s direction, hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers gave their lives to make that statement permanent. How can we forget that? Today we say the same thing when we say Black Lives Matter yet we seek to destroy those statues and images that portray those very first steps taken. How can we know how far we have come, or judge how far we have to go, if we don’t have reminders of these facts, staring us in the face as we pass by them every day? If we destroy these monuments, how can we help our children understand our enslaved ancestors lives, or what our ancestors who fought for their emancipation sacrifices were for? The Union won, and our Country was preserved. Let our Country not be torn apart once again. Emancipation means free, not equal. That is our battle that continues today. Please don’t let us confuse the two issues in our haste. We should not eradicate those battle scars that occurred in 1865, but treasure them, as they are there to serve to remind all of us, how far we have come since then, and how far we have yet to go. Let us stop and listen to their story.
In 1885, William Greenleaf Eliot, the grandfather of poet T.S. Eliot had published THE STORY OF ARCHER ALEXANDER FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM March 30, 1863, which is what Dr. Henry Louis Gates would call a “slave narrative”. Eliot, the founder of Washington University in St. Louis Missouri, and a young minister who had brought the Unitarian Church to St. Louis in 1834, simply refers to himself as “A member of the Western Sanitary Commission in St. Louis, MO”.
Its time we acknowledge this history. Its time we tell these stories and remind everyone that the enslaved cooked the meals, fixed the broken axle on the wagon, put in the crops, and built the houses. Its time we understand that the building of America did not happen in a vacuum, that these people were here too.
Sometimes falling down the rabbit hole can be a good thing!