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LTE: Forgotten Famous Black American History

January 31, 2008

By Louis Neiger
I recently read a book by David Barton called Setting the record straight: American History in Black & White published 2004. It is a well-documented book of endnotes and references from personal writings and government documents.

Most history books either skim over or they do not include history of Black Americans and their rich American heritage. This book would be a great reference book for your library.  I had never heard of Oliver Cromwell or Prince Whipple both black Americans, who served with General Washington.  Their faces can be seen in the painting in the boat crossing the Delaware, Christmas Eve before the attack on Trenton, New Jersey.  They also served other generals during the revolutionary war.  Neither had I ever read about Peter Salem a black legendary Minuteman hero of 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill, Saratoga and Stony Point who fought right along with other Americans.

We usually do not read, in the average history book, of Muslims attacking villages in Africa and putting these people in chains and selling men, woman and children into bondage to Dutch traders who introduced slavery to the expanding world and the Americas.  We will read, in the average history book, about the Dutch traders coming up the James River in Virginia the year 1619 and starting the slave trade. What we probably have not heard about is that at this same time in history a ship arrived in the Puritan Christian Colony of Massachusetts with slaves.  The officers of the ship were arrested and imprisoned and the kidnapped slaves returned to Africa at the colony’s expense.

After the ratification of the Constitution 1789 Congress expanded its fight against slavery and passed the Northwest Ordnance. It established territories that would become states and forbade any federal territories to practice slavery.  Six states eventually came in as free states.

In 1808 ‘Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States (Washington DC: Gales and Seaton, p. 1266, 9th Congress, 2nd session,” An act to prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States,” March 2, 1807 which abolished the slave trade was enacted into law.  Free Blacks during this time in the north and south were extended full rights of a citizen and regularly voted both in the North and the South.

One great American Frederick Douglas was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818.  His mother was black and his father an unknown white.   His life was an example to us all that even under the worst of circumstances we can better ourselves.  Frederick Douglas learned to read and write prior to escaping slavery and going north 1838.  He than joined an anti slavery organization and eventually went out on his own and received presidential appointments and was an adviser to many presidents including Lincoln and after the civil war Grant, Hayes and Garfield.  The Democratic president Glover Cleveland had him removed from office but Republican President Benjamin Harrison reappointed him when he was elected after Cleveland. Frederick Douglas spoke and wrote against slavery and was one of the main pioneers to push for civil rights for all.

Douglas wrote and debated in his later years one of the main questions of today, why was the African American community only given a three-fifths representation in the Constitution. Many today state the Constitution was a slavery bill.  Frederick Douglas came to a conclusion and dared people to debate after reading the founding fathers documents and the US Constitution that the clause in the Constitution was and is actually an ANTI slavery document.    In short the slavery representatives wanted to have representation for their property, one full vote for every 30,000 slaves but not allow their property (slaves) to vote for the representatives or have any rights.  The anti slavery representatives saw that if the slavery states had a full vote for the slaves, it would allow almost half of the south’s population that was in slavery NO REAL representation in Washington and to allow expansion of slavery.

With most of the founding fathers dead in 1820 the Democratic Party, which became the majority party in Congress; recalled the law of 1789 prohibiting slavery in federal territories. The Democratic Congress passed the Missouri Compromise and reversed the earlier policy and allowed slavery in almost half of the federal territories.

Some of the early presidents John Quincy Adams who served as ambassador to Russia as a young adult in his teens and his father John Adams the 2nd president of the United States both had fought against slavery. John Quincy Adams fought until his death prior to the civil war and in congress stating:   “The first step of the slaveholder to justify by argument of the peculiar institutions (slaveholder) is to deny the self evident truths of the Declaration of Independence.  He (slaveholder) denies that all men are created equal.  He (slaveholder) denies that they (slaves) have inalienable rights”. John Quincy Adams as president and as a representative in the US Congress until his death submitted bills against slavery.

The Democrats in Congress passed a proslavery 1850 Fugitive State Law, that required Northerners to return escaped slaves back into slavery or else pay heavy fines.  This in many cases allowed slave-hunters to kidnap even Free Blacks in the North and carry them back South just by accusing a black of being a slave even though he was free.

An anti slavery Representative Charles Sumner started the Republican Party and they first ran a Republican Presidential candidate 1856 by running John C. Fremont against Democrat James Buchanan.  Fremont lost.

Than came the famous Dred Scott decision in 1857, where the Democratic Controlled Supreme Court declared that blacks were not persons or citizens but instead were property and therefore had no rights.  Three years later the Republicans ran their 2nd presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln, who won as the first Republican President.

Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower was against racial segregation and determined to eliminate racial discrimination in all areas under his authority. . One of his 1st orders, an executive order, halted segregation in the District of Columbia and federal agencies.  He was the 1st president to appoint a black American Frederic Morrow to an executive on the White House staff.  In 1957 Eisenhower proposed a bold civil rights bill to increase black voting rights and protections that was blocked by democratic senator James Eastman, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 1959 again Eisenhower presented a second civil rights bill to Congress and was met again with unyielding opposition in the Democratic House.  It eventually passed the house but the democrats in the Senate killed the bill.
John F. Kennedy was less willing to utilize executive orders to promote civil rights for over a year.   Kennedy, 1962 Issued Executive Order #11063 banning racial discrimination in housing. The violent discord in Birmingham in 1963 where Democratic Governor George Wallace prevented blacks from entering school, did force Kennedy to send a major civil rights bill to Congress.  A current democratic Senator from Virginia, Senator Robert Byrd, back than was one of the senators that gave a stiff opposition to the bill.  Kennedy was killed and famous Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King along with many other Americans organized people and pushed through the Civil rights Act of 1964 followed by the Voting rights act of 1965.
The little known fact is that out of the 315 Democrats in congress only 198 voted for these bills, alone would not of passed, but with 83% of the Republicans voting overwhelmingly for these bills sending them to President Lyndon Johnson’s desk where he signed them into law. ‘Congressional Quarterly (Washington, D C: Congressional Quarterly Service, 1965), Vol. 20, pp, 606, 696, 88th Congress, 2nd Session, vote on the Civil Rights Bill of 1964, February 10, 1964’.

Another great Constitutional Amendment occurred in 1964 abolishing the poll tax. Ninety one percent of the Republicans supported this Amendment.  Of the sixteen senators that wanted to keep the poll tax alive, fifteen of the senators where democrats that voted to keep the poll tax alive. ‘Congressional Quarterly (Washington, D C: Congressional Quarterly Service, 1962), Vol. 18,pp. 630, 654, 87th Congress, 2nd session, Senate and House votes on approving the Constitutional Amendment banning the poll tax, March 27 and August 27th 1962.’  If the Republicans did not support these bills they would of NEVER passed at that time.

Our Current Secretary of State of the United States, Doctor Condoleezza Rice could of quit as a child in Birmingham, Alabama when her best girlfriend was killed in a church fire during the turbulent 1960s. Here is a woman that has succeeded in education and government politics going into countries including Muslim countries that see women only as property and handles herself at the highest standard representing America.  I do not see her as an African American but a great American.

In this short time that I have been on this earth, I have been blessed in the 1960s to attend integrated schools, go to war in Vietnam and have many friends over the years of all races.  We did not see ourselves as black, white or yellow but human beings created by God, with inalienable rights given us by our creator blessed to be born as Americans.  As our Declaration of Independence states all men are created equal.

On September 11, 2001 when we were attacked by extremist Muslims we all came together as over 3,000 of our fellow American’s lives were snuffed out in a senseless attack on our country.  We cried together as we watched on TV and listened to the radio.  We determined together as Americans to work and to rebuild and to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of our fellow citizens.

Former slave and consultant to several presidents, Frederick Douglas taught us all that you can succeed even in the face of daunting circumstances. This is what America is about.  Let us not look out for handouts from government, but look to give ahand to help some one succeed.  It should be our hearts to help people not depend on government to do it. That is what makes America great!
Till next time…..

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Lou Neiger has been a regular contributor to The Dutch Fork Chronicle since 2005 and published in several papers as a guest columnist in South Carolina.  Lou has worked in the Insurance Planning field since 1981 and earned his CLU designation from the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa.   He and his family live in Newberry

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Harden Gervais permalink
    January 31, 2008 8:29 PM

    Great – thanks for rehashing everything we learned in high school. Not mentioned is how these “Democrats” switched over to the GOP and took their politics with them.

  2. A Voice in the Wilderness permalink
    February 18, 2008 1:56 AM

    911 was an inside job.

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