Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Perception vs. The Fine Print
I don't often read hard copies of newspapers anymore. I simply don't have the time. I get most of my news from online sources. That said, a copy of the USAToday found its way to a spot outside my hotel room this morning, so I took it to read over my breakfast at Burger King.
On the last page of the first section, I found an article penned by one DeWayne Wickham in which he does a 66% job in debunking myths of black history. Why do I say only 66%? Well, he got two out of three points right. His first, and most glaring point claimed that Abraham Lincoln - the President whose determination to keep this union united is the reason we stand together as one nation - did not in fact end slavery.
While I cannot argue with the legalese fine print of what would become the Emancipation Proclamation, Wickham fails to understand a very important detail about the effects of this great document. Lincoln ordered the end of slavery in what he knew to be the United States. He did not accept the Confederacy as a legitimate government, therefore he did not care what their policies toward slavery were at that point in time.
Another detail missed by Wickham: As the slaves - both above and below the Mason-Dixon line - learned of the Emancipation Proclamation, they believed it applied to them. They weren't worried about the legal minutiae of the text or where it applied on the map. They knew it was for them.
Mr. Wickham would do well to read the accounts of many former slaves as they expressed their deeply felt love for the 16th President of the United States. Many of these accounts are contained in the book Lincoln in American Memory. Lincoln put it all on the line for this nation, and the slaves he worked to free knew it. I take their word over that of Mr. Wickham.
While the constitutional issue of slavery was officially settled on December 18, 1865, one should never forget that on January 1, 1863 Abe Lincoln freed the slaves. He saved this nation, and nothing Wickham or anyone else can ever say or do can detract from his accomplishments.
Here endeth the lesson.