• The thing we need to focus on about the Founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn’t existed

    But we can’t actually talk about the nature of that social structure, can we? Because that might actually lead some kids to believe our Founding Fathers were, I don’t know, human?

    We don’t talk/study/learn enough about the realities of slavery in this country, and I think that is a horrible shame. During the recent MLK Holiday, WETA in DC re-ran “African-American Lives” the TV show where Skip Gates examines the geneological and genetic history of famous African-Americans. The stories that emerged were fascinating, in part because of the variety of experience even within a brutal institution like slavery. The existence of slave-owning abolitionists, for instance, was utterly fascinating, as was the case of the free black ancestors of one of the guests. This family had been ordered to leave Virginia after their Emancipation (in the late 1700s), but refused. The family must have been protected by the local white leaders in their community (who had signed onto the family’s petition to stay in the Commonwealthy after Emancipation) in order to allow them to stay on their farm for several years more.

    The most fascinating story was the man who only owned one female slave and the children she later produced. He never married, and had two houses next to one another – one for the slave and her children, one for him. It was clear from the record that his was very likely as close to an inter-racial marriage as could be allowed in the pre-Bellum South, and is a story about which it would be amazing to learn more details.

    Without studying the details and facts of that “peculiar institution” we lose the full tapestry of our history, and the ways that basic human emotions must have come into conflict with the realities of life in the South. I remember well sitting down to watch “Roots” with my family in the 70s and how, during the course of that mini-series, the story changed, for me, from being a “black” story to being an American story.