As we celebrate President’s Day the thought that four of our first 5 Presidents owned slaves has not gone unnoticed. I’ve been observing how President Ronald Reagan has undergone a major PR, revisionist makeover and could not help but wonder how much of a make over our early Presidents have undergone. BTW we set the record straight on Ronald Reagan with this essay we penned a couple of weeks ago.. Why All of Us Should Celebrate Ronald Reagan Day-Let’s Teach the Kids
It’s no secret that when we learn about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in school, their slave-owning legacies are barely mentioned. In fact if you bring it up, some so-called patriot types get angry. I found this out a few years ago during an appearance on CNN when engaged in a debate and some far right pundit attempted to extol the virtues and wisdom of the Founding Fathers.. She mentioned George Washington specifically. When I pointed he was a slave owner she almost blew a gasket. I haven’t been back on CNN since.
Its obvious reminding folks of our founding father’s dubious past is a touchy topic. Look at what’s going on in the great state of Tennessee. There you have Tea Party Lawmakers want to remove slavery and its association to Founding fathers from history books.
You have other Tea Party folks like Congresswoman Michele Bachmann attempting to rewrite history by suggesting the Founding Fathers attempted to end slavery. They did nothing of a kind and she got famously schooled by CNN reporter Anderson Cooper for making such erroneous remarks.
No one wants to talk about how slaves were beaten, raped and at the mercy of slave owners. They were property with absolutely no rights and yet we insist on honoring the Founding Fathers on days like President’s Day without fully acknowledging the cruel institution some were a part of. In addition there was the genocide that many participated in when it came to dealing with Native Americans. Treaties broken, people slaughtered and land taken are all a part of their sordid legacy.
The mantra of many who hold up the founding fathers on president’s Day is Deny, deny deny until people start believing the lies. I’m reminded of this encounter I had during the 2004 RNC in New York City. I came across a brother holding a banner of the Founding Fathers. I asked him about it and things got a little testy. He even called the police..
This President’s Day we should do more than shop at Macy’s for their annual sale.. We should become students of history and try to correct the wrongs of the past. It starts with us being honest about our Founding Fathers.
On a side note this year President’s Day falls on the Feb 21, this was the day Malcolm X was assassinated.. We should remember his legacy today. He’s sadly being written out of history, probably by the same folks who are busy remaking Reagan and removing the word ‘slavery’ from text books.