Friday, June 21, 2024


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What Makes Us Special?

            July 4, 2021 will be here this weekend, and as we celebrate our Independence Day from England, there will be some who will want to argue and dispute the importance of this day.

            Support, criticism and debate still abound around The 1619 Project. Developed by Nikole Hannah-Jones and published nearly two-years ago in the New York Times and The New York Times Magazine, the work was targeted to reframe our nation's history by placing the contributions of Black Americans and the consequences of slavery as the epicenter of United States history.

            As that discussion continues, and there are valid points on all sides, it is important to remember a few things that grew early on, and shortly after our Declaration of Independence was brought forth.

            In the early 1770's only Quakers were expressively opposed to slavery.  Many others were opposed individually, but not collectively.

            When Thomas Jefferson, a founding father and slave owner, included the words "all men are created equal." in the Declaration of Independence, many Revolutionaries became united and aware of the sin of slavery and responded.

            In 1780, the Pennsylvania legislature declared slavery disgraceful to any people, and more especially to those who have been contending in the great cause of liberty themselves.  They passed a law gradually freeing slaves, similar to one passed by Vermont in 1777.

            Similar laws were passed in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York in 1784.  It took until 1804 for New Jersey to pass theirs.

            Twice, in 1781 and 1783, Massachusetts courts ruled that slavery violated the commonwealth's 1780 Constitution.  A few years later courts in New Hampshire agreed.

            The Continental Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance outlawing slavery in the Northwest Territory that would become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

             Progress on the abolition of slavery was gradual and halting but it was the first large-scale emancipation in the Western Hemisphere and a testament to the power of the ideals that came from the American Revolution.

            Delaware (1787), Maryland (1790) and Virginia (1782) passed laws making it legal to free slaves. As a comparison, it wasn't until 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including article stating "No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms."

            But tragically, the trend of abolishing slavery didn't get very far south in the United States during Colonial times and Virginia repealed its law in 1806.

            It took a Civil War and the deaths of more than 110,000 Union Soldier to keep a torn and tattered county together.  President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation turned that war to preserve the Union to one focused on ending slavery.

            Yes, America has scars and bruises.  We've made mistakes and learned from most of them; but we still have so much more to learn and so much more to do.

            We won't learn anything if we don't listen to each other and share our thoughts and feelings.  Agreeing with hearts and minds and disagreeing without hate and violence.

            My opinion is not always right and neither is yours – but, they are our opinions.  We must and will continually learn how to work and live together; even as times and people change.  It does take time, sometimes too much time, but it is inevitable.

            That's what makes us special.






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