We are bending slowly towards justice
July 16, 2020
To The Eagle:
The United States’ effort to reinstate a ‘reconstructed’ South into the Union after the Civil War and provide just recompense to emancipated slaves, was a failure. It only took one powerful man, a president, to help the unrepentant South sow the bitter seeds that still yield fruit poisonous to this nation.
The era of Reconstruction collapsed when Vice President Andrew Johnson became President after Lincoln’s assassination. A southern sympathizer, he quickly pardoned Southern secessionists, Confederate leaders and wealthy planters, restoring their political rights and property, except slaves.
Next, he cancelled General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Field Order No.15 to redistribute 400,000 acres of plantation property to the 3.9 million emancipated slaves, as restitution. Every new freedman was to be given ‘40 acres and a mule’ to establish a path to independence along with the boon of freedom. An opportunity for human justice, lost.
Johnson then permitted racial segregation and discrimination to be institutionalized throughout the South through the ‘Black Codes’ or the ‘Jim Crow’ laws. Named derisively after a Black minstrel show character Jim Crow, these laws persisted for a century, until 1968. They prohibited all Blacks from voting, holding office, from working at anything other than menial labor, from education. Rights of assembly and travel were restricted. Those defying Jim Crow laws faced arrest, fines, imprisonment, violence or even death at the hands of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Freed slaves were re-shackled under Jim Crow.
Now, our nation is staggering into the future under the weighted malevolence of another powerful man - another president, who sees the advantage of voter suppression through racial oppression, who glorifies the false narrative of the ‘lost Southern cause’ and cherishes the monuments dedicated to its monstrosities. There is no ‘race war’. What you’re seeing out there beyond this island is not a violent revolution but rather this nation’s troubled evolution, along the arc of the moral universe which we are bending slowly, but surely, toward justice.