Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 1 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
Exclusive to OpEdNews:
Life Arts   

What's Wrong With Black History Month?

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     (# of views)   No comments
Author 58398
Message Larry Butler
Become a Fan
  (7 fans)
- Advertisement -

America is all about freedom, at least for some of us. And a look at our history shows just how much we've struggled with what that actually means.

My wife Carol and I have traveled constantly for more than a decade, soaking up everything this land has to offer. And we enjoyed the 2015 travel season. Perhaps more than any before, it was instructive. American history is a complex web of conflicts, culture, economics, and human psychology. And everything is connected to this web.

(Image by Larry Butler)   Details   DMCA
We visited Rhode Island and got to know Roger Williams. An advocate for the rights of Native Americans, he called into question the land charters of the Crown. He was arguably the first abolitionist in North America, and that got him into a lot of trouble. Kicked out of Massachusetts in 1636 for being too liberal, Williams fled north and established Rhode Island to ensure religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

- Advertisement -

(Image by The Curious Gnome)   Details   DMCA
We visited the Adams National Historic Park in Massachusetts. We learned that John Adams was a devout Christian in the Puritan tradition who believed in the separation of church and state as well as the emancipation of enslaved Americans. His son, John Quincy, defended the kidnapped Africans who commandeered the Amistad; his successful defense secured their freedom.

(Image by Larry Butler)   Details   DMCA
- Advertisement -
We visited the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, DC. Douglass shared a common cause with John Brown, but he declined Brown's invitation to join him in the raid on Harper's Ferry. By so doing, he later found himself in a position to influence the policies of the Lincoln Administration. The 13th, 14th, 15th, and 24th Amendments that later defined freedom for African Americans connected Roger Williams, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John Brown, Frederick Douglass, and the fight for civil rights that followed.

(Image by Larry Butler)   Details   DMCA
We visited the Hampton National Historic Site and compared the grandeur of the plantation house with the quarters of the enslaved people. You wouldn't really want to live there, but as slave quarters go we've seen a lot worse. In fact these were made to look very nice out the outside so the view from the plantation house wouldn't be ruined. The folks who lived here were enslaved in Maryland. Because Maryland was part of the Union, the Emancipation Proclamation did nothing to advance freedom here.

(Image by Larry Butler)   Details   DMCA
We visited the Statue of Liberty, that American icon of freedom. It was a gift from the French dedicated in 1886, during a time when America's own gift of freedom was offered very selectively indeed. In the South, Jim Crow laws had supplanted the freedom and promise of Reconstruction. Elsewhere, pockets of nativism terrorized immigrants who were identified with unfamiliar races or religions. But Lady Liberty forever defined the American ideal of freedom without discrimination.

(Image by Larry Butler)   Details   DMCA
- Advertisement -
We visited Campobello, Franklin Roosevelt's family retreat on the Bay of Fundy. It was here that Franklin lost his own freedom to move about on his own legs. But his resolve was undiminished and he went on to lead a nation to a broader economic freedom than it had enjoyed for decades. And it may have been here that Eleanor developed into the champion of common people that was so evident in later years.

(Image by Larry Butler)   Details   DMCA
We paddled around in the Great Dismal Swamp, and learned of some of the communities that formed here hundreds of years ago. Enslaved African-Americans sought their freedom here, away from the brutality of the plantations. They found a hard life, but one that was sustained by the natural resources of the swamp and the entrepreneurs on the fringes. The latter would trade manufactured necessities for the timber that was needed elsewhere - including the very plantations that drove the slaves to refuge.

(Image by Larry Butler)   Details   DMCA
We visited Montgomery, AL. It was here during the 1950s and 1960s that the Civil Rights Movement came of age. Together, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, James Bevel, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, Stokely Carmichael, and others moved Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Earl Warren toward recognition of the rights and freedoms so long denied to African-Americans.

(Image by Larry Butler)   Details   DMCA
We visited Selma, AL. Here blood was shed in 1965 to gain a right already guaranteed by the Constitution - the simple right to vote. We walked and rode the Edmund Pettus Bridge where it happened. We visited Brown Chapel, where protesters assembled - and to which they were later pursued on horseback with billy clubs and cattle prods. We met a young activist, Columbus, who volunteers at the site of the Selma memorial to explain the importance of these events to anybody who will listen. We listened.

(Image by Larry Butler)   Details   DMCA
We visited the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. Here African-Americans were trained in aerial combat in preparation for service in the Mediterranean Theatre during WWII. These airmen distinguished themselves and earned the respect of the Italians in whose communities they lived. But here in America, they were denied the rights of basic citizenship - let alone the respect they had earned with their blood and service. We learned a lot, and we cried a little.

Years later Tuskegee Airmen turned up again in Selma, marching to claim the right to vote. By 1965 many of them were influential citizens - doctors, lawyers, and university professors. But even while enjoying the freedoms that their success had brought them, they recognized a truth - that we're not free 'til we're all free.

Years ago, I was privileged to meet one of the Freedom Riders who came to the Deep South in the 1960s to demonstrate for civil rights. His were the words I'll never forget - "We're not free 'til we're all free." He understood that my freedom, even as a white privileged male, is connected to his freedom as a black, retired, activist minister. We're connected.

And our freedom is still a work in progress.

Following the 2013 Supreme Court ruling on Shelby County v. Holder, a dozen states immediately set in motion their plans to restrict the voting rights of their own citizens. Down in Alabama, a photo ID became necessary to vote. They are available from local DPS/DMV offices, and they're free. But 31 of these offices have been closed since the ID restrictions became law. And most of these offices were located in Alabama's "black belt" where the residents are impoverished, rural African-Americans. Many of them would have to drive 50 miles or more to get an ID, even if they can't afford a car.

Next Page  1  |  2


- Advertisement -

Interesting 1   Inspiring 1   Valuable 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Larry Butler Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Thirty five years as a small business consultant, CFO, and university educator specializing in quantitative business and economic modeling - a suite of experience now focused on economic inequality. Carefully attributed data, thoughtful (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

The Beginner's Guide to Pissing Off Conservatives

The Myth of Liberal Media Bias

Social Darwinism and Fox Republicans

Why Liberals Lose - The structural flaws in the foundation of American democracy

To Kill Our Elders

Myth #17: We're Number One!