Are we erasing history? Every generation has its conflicts…wars…inequalities and disputes. One might even today believe that the United States of America is coming apart at the seams and will someday have to pick up the pieces of our history that are being destroyed or hidden away.
People who are part of history never have had unanimous beliefs. Headlines may read “The KKK and White Supremacists Fight a Race war in the U.S.” …or “Everyone Hates the Police…or “The President is an Evil Racist.” Wait a minute…perhaps we should get a handle on things! What exactly does our very short U.S. history tell us about dissent and civil unrest?
The news clips and internet videos show that the recent violence in Virginia appears to be made up of young people as do the worldwide clips of terrorism and unrest. What is this saying about our future generations and public property? Have they not learned anything from historical figures such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks or Mahatma Gandhi about a peaceful protest for change?
It is true that there has been recent disputes and bloodshed over the removal of Southern, historical statues. Most politicians and Americans condemn such violence. As much as I dislike many of the things our President says, I agree when he said, “Where does this stop?” Will we have to rename Washington, D.C., our Capitol, because George Washington was an owner of slaves? What will happen to Mt. Rushmore?
Some would say that the actions of removing monuments is to “sanitize history.” Yet, according to the writings of Chris Graham, there can not be any sanitizing or rewriting history. He is correct on that point. History is history and should remain a lesson from which we learn. It should not be a lesson that is erased.
As an example, what would one think if we went to Auschwitz and removed the evidence of one of the most heinous crimes in history? Would we think that the Germans of today, who were not part of the Nazi era, would be offended and therefore the suitcases, eyeglasses, gassing buildings, ovens and Nazi signs should all be taken down? I think we know the answer to that….No, of course not! Would out of sight also mean out of mind? The Jews, by the millions, suffered as well as Christians who spoke out, gypsies, and homosexuals. If we tried to sanitize that period of history, we could be opening up another generation to treat these same people to another Holocaust…because they had learned nothing from history? We are also told that “those who do not remember history, will live it over again.” This includes the generation that is not taught history. Thankfully, we have people like Stephen Spielberg who is recording the stories of the Holocaust survivors to preserve for all times.
Chris Graham says “…you can’t rewrite the history of the United States to the point of sanitizing our collective experiences to meet the demands of our 21st-century sensibilities. Slavery was literally written into our Constitution…” (See paragraph below on the 13th Amendment)
“Even the great Thomas Jefferson, as he penned the Declaration of Independence, not even arguably the most important written document in human history, owned slaves at the time he put the words to paper and did for the remaining 50 years of his life after. George Washington owned slaves. Abraham Lincoln demurred over the Emancipation Proclamation. Every president and Supreme Court justice and other statesmen of any significance between Washington and Jefferson and today acquiesced in the perpetuation of slavery, Jim Crow, massive resistance, housing and job discrimination, mass incarceration and disenfranchisement, dilution of voting power through political gerrymandering. We don’t have the capacity to produce enough bleach to cleanse the sins of our past, our present and the ones that we will continue to commit into the distant future.
But our collective history is more than our collective sins. Jefferson, a slaveholder, breathed life into the concept that all men are created equal. Washington led our armies to victory in our American Revolution. Lincoln did issue the Emancipation Proclamation and prosecuted the war against rebels intent on preserving the institution of slavery to the bitter end. Women waged a decades-old battle to win the right to vote that had been denied them. We persevered through a Depression and then immediately after defeated a literal axis of fascism, and the seeds of that victory jump-started a civil rights movement that de-codified Jim Crow and thrust our nation into the modern era…”
The Civil War was fought between April 12, 1861 and May 9, 1865. Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (Freeing the slaves) on September 22nd, 1862. It stipulated that if the Southern states did not cease their rebellion by January 1st, 1863, then Proclamation would go into effect.
13th Amendment to the Constitution (The Abolishment of Slavery)
“Before the Civil War ended, Congress passed and sent to the states for ratification, the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished “slavery” and “involuntary servitude” and authorized Congress to enact “appropriate legislation” implementing the abolition. The Amendment was understood to also make blacks citizens of the United States (overruling Dred Scott on that point). The House vote to propose the Thirteenth Amendment followed the Senate vote and barely made the 2/3 majority requirement. When the vote was announced the galleries cheered, congressmen embraced and wept, and Capitol cannons boomed a 100-gun salute. Congressman George Julian of Indiana wrote in his diary, “I have felt, ever since the vote, as if I were in a new country.” Ratification by the states quickly followed, and Secretary of State Seward proclaimed the Amendment adopted on December 18, 1865.
Less than a year after ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, Congress used its newly conferred power to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1866, giving black citizens “the same right in every state…to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, …to inherit, purchase, sell, and convey real and personal property; and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property as is enjoyed by white citizens.” Supporters of the 1866 law argued that its guarantees constituted “appropriate” means of “enforcing” the right of blacks not to be held in bondage.
The Thirteenth Amendment, unlike most provisions in the Constitution, is self-executing, in that it directly reaches-even without action by Congress- conduct by private individuals (slave holders). Because of this fact, Congress’s power under the Thirteenth Amendment allows it to punish forms of private conduct when it might not be able to do so under an amendment such as the Fourteenth, which restricts the conduct of states (prohibiting states from denying equal protection of the laws or due process).”(Exploring Constitutional Conflicts)
What about the removal of Southern, historical monuments? Many of our artistic, beautiful bronze statues are headed for the warehouses…unless they are pulverized first. Should we take a lesson from a more recent history where ISIS, that is good at destroying antiquities and monuments with which they do not agree, bombed a 2,000-year-old temple in Syria?
Think of it. Will we someday have scientists and archeologists sifting through the ruins or warehouses to find the antiquities of our American past? The people of Syria are desperately trying to save every piece of their temple history, even at their own peril. They are collecting even the smallest pieces, photographing, and storing them in boxes to save for future generations. CNN VIDEO on Syria
Yes, many of our nation’s founders were slave holders. Today everyone is appalled with the history of slavery and the hate that it inspired. It took too long to right a wrong, but finally, our government leaders decided to do something about those in bondage and the terrible road they had traveled…literally, from far away shores that they called home.
Yet throughout our history, people of color rose above the discrimination and sadness they encountered. Below are a few examples of over 118 African Americans who chose to build and develop America by their inventions and expertise. The list of white inventors…or Asian or Hispanic would also be long. However, the color of the skin made no difference. In any case, the people who made America what it is today only tried to better it and not destroy it. So many of the videos that show the recent violence appear to be mainly young people. Let’s hope that they will learn about these people and our history that worked for us in building a great nation. Each of these people had a vision of their self-worth and acted upon it.
A few African Americans from previous history and modern history:
- George Washington Carver: Discovered hundreds of uses for previously useless vegetables and fruits, principally the peanut.
- Sarah Boone: Invented the ironing board, allowing sleeves of women’s garments to be ironed more easily
- Harold Amos: Microbiologist Harvard Medical School Department Chair
- George Alcorn Edward, Jr.: Physicist Invented a method of fabricating X-ray spectrometer
- Archie Alexander: Civil Engineer Responsible for construction of roads and bridges including the Tidal Basin Bridge and Baltimore- Washington Parkway
- Leonard Bailey: Inventor of the folding bed
- Alice Augusta Ball: chemist Extracted chaulmoogra oil for treatment of leprosy
- Benjamin Banneker: Mathematician, astronomer, surveyor of Washington, D.C.
- Janet Basher: First African-American woman to receive a patent for a web-based software invention, LinkLine, an Equal Employment Opportunity case management and tracking software
- David Crosthwait Jr.: Heating, ventilation, air conditioning patents ( 40 US patents) relating to the HVAC systems See the entire list of 118
Modern Day contributors to our American history:
All of us must decide to be a part of building a better America through cooperation, non-violent discussions, and protests needed for change. We should look to history from which to learn and from which to teach the lessons that are needed for a better tomorrow for all generations. If we continue to tear down, destroy, promote violence that leads to death and injury or disrespect the history of our country, we will be no better than other countries that are having to pick up the pieces of their violators. Americans…We must not be like ISIS…destroying and turning our backs on our past. We are a young country and our monuments and statues are not thousands of years old, but they are OUR HISTORY. Our future generations need to know about their ancestors…for good or for bad. Disagreement does not mean DESTRUCTION.
VIDEO: Take a look. Do we want to be like this? Remember, it all started with the destruction of the FIRST statue and monument. We must not be a part of erasing history.
In Honor and Memory of Khaled al-Asaad, Antiquities Director, murdered by ISIS for refusing to divulge the storage of historical antiquities. (Look for another blog to come on his amazing life.)