To paraphrase Public Enemy, "Jefferson was a hero to most, but he never meant s**t to me."
I am not really partial to any of the slave-holding presidents (I can't stand looking at those crisp, new portraits of Jackson as they shush out of ATMs and land in my greedy palms), but I have yet to divine the word that should be used to describe a man who cried out for his own liberty at the same time as he kept his boot firmly planted on my fathers' neck.
I will not describe what he was doing to my mother - although this lovely English language has crafted a technical term for the matter - one that removes it from the context and strips away the pain, somewhat.
It is interesting for me this year to see the attention that has been given to Juneteenth - a celebration whose sesquicentennial celebration is just around the corner - and I can only conclude that the presence of Barack Obama on the national stage has elevated it to this platform. How ironic is it that an African-American with more ties to the slave-owning side of our national shame than the slave-being side of the line, brings Juneteenth to the fore merely by his presence. As historians both, I am sure that you and Eric are well aware that 4 July of any year - but especially those before those of that tumultuous decade of the 1960s - was a most dangerous day to be of African descent in this land. For whatever reason, white people of so many generations across so many communities of this country, found doing harm to people (or non-persons, as the case may have been) of dark-toned skin an appropriate celebration of their independence.
Strange, I know. I cannot explain their actions.
So while it may be heresy to decry Jefferson, I do fault him for his both his inactions and his actions, while at the same time I pour out a libation to Lincoln; not a perfect man - by any standard - but no doubt a man who did not shirk away from the obligations that were placed before him by history.
Give me Liberty, or give me Death.Sphere: Related Content