I recently finished reading the Pulitzer Prize winning book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I have read numerous books on the Civil War, and
When I read about
It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in regard to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted; but the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken. They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.
Earlier in the century Taney actually emancipated some of his own slaves, gave pensions to slaves too old to work, and wrote that slavery was “a blot on our national character.” Unfortunately, his views did not continue to evolve as did
These are just a few of the examples that can be drawn from history to show that slavery afflicted more than just Africans. Without making light of the actual experience of slaves, we need to recognize that slavery eroded the souls of non-slaves as well. We all needed to be freed. What
Historians may look back at this moment as just a blip on race relations in our country, a momentary interruption that didn’t produce any lasting change. I am hopeful, however, that future Americans will look back at this moment and see that it was the time when we finally closed the book on a part of our country’s history that cast a pall on the legitimate good that America has done, and that it was the beginning of a new American history in which we were truly able to live out both the Christian and the Enlightenment sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.
© 2008 Larry L. Eubanks