FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

History Will Vindicate Modern Abolitionists

Photo by Molly Adams | CC BY 2.0

The Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the U.S. Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of a fateful compromise between Southern slave-holding interests and Northern Free-Soilers. The law stipulated that “all escaped slaves, upon capture, be returned to the one who purchased or inherited them and that officials and citizens of free states had to cooperate.”

Therefore, in the year 1850, it was essentially illegal in the United States to provide aid to human beings escaping slavery, mutilation, branding, torture, extortion, rape, and other similar evils.

Fast forward to today, as many as 3.4 million people born in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are now living in the United States, more than double the estimated 1.5 million people in 2000. About 55 percent of them are undocumented.

Why are they risking everything to come here?

According to the Council on Foreign Relations: “El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras consistently rank among the most violent countries in the world. El Salvador became the world’s most violent country not at war in 2015, when gang-related violence brought its homicide rate to 103 per hundred thousand….all three countries have significantly higher homicide rates than neighboring Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama…Extortion is also rampant.

The CFR goes on to state: “Migrants from all three countries cite violence, forced gang recruitment, and extortion, as well as poverty and lack of opportunity, as their reasons for leaving.”

A 2015 investigation by Honduran newspaper La Prensa found that “Salvadorans and Hondurans pay an estimated $390 million, $200 million, and $61 million, respectively, in annual extortion fees to organized crime groups. Extortionists primarily target public transportation operators, small businesses, and residents of poor neighborhoods… attacks on people who do not pay contribute to the violence.”

As someone who appreciates United States history-and the Civil War in particular- it has always struck me how little is remembered about the slave kidnappers, plantation owners, Fugitive Slave Law enforcers, and politicians who endorsed pro- slavery legislation.

For example, the memory of slave hunter Patty Cannon and her merciless gang has been nearly forgotten. John Breckinridge (1821-1875), Vice President of the U.S. and Secretary of War for the Confederate States of America is virtually unknown outside a few places in the south.

Stephen Duncan (1787-1867), a doctor from Pennsylvania who became the wealthiest Southern cotton planter before the Civil War, with 14 plantations, and a founder of the Mississippi Colonization Society, would be lucky to have a street named after him in his hometown.

Edwin Epps, 10 year owner of Solomon Northrup, author of “Twelve Years a Slave,” is a villain that time has all but erased. (Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis would serve as notable counterexamples. But how soon will their names also be lost to future generations that have no attachment to zealotry, militarism, and white supremacy?)

Compare this ignoble list to the most legendary abolitionists of the era; names such as Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Abraham Lincoln, William Loyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Thaddeus Stevens, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. These were all exceptional individuals who made a decision to willingly break the law.

How has history appraised their actions? Have they not become moral giants? They are the ones whom our children learn about in school when they are discovering what it means to be conscientious, rational, and compassionate members of the human race.

It is true, today’s immigration and migrant abolitionists may sometimes find themselves needing to break prejudiced and capricious laws; but history, as with the great freedom fighters of the 19th century, will reward and sanction those who stood on the right side of justice.

In the words of William Lloyd Garrison, “whether permitted to live to witness the abolition of slavery or not, I felt assured that, as I demanded nothing that was not clearly in accordance with justice and humanity, some time or other, if remembered at all, I should stand vindicated in the eyes of my countrymen.”

 

More articles by:

George Payne is Director of Gandhi Earth Keepers International and Philosophy Instructor at Finger Lakes Community College.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 20, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Unipolar Governance of the Multipolar World
Rob Urie
Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!
Miguel Gutierrez
El Desmadre: The Colonial Roots of Anti-Mexican Violence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pompeo and Circumstance
Andrew Levine
Why Democrats Really Should Not All Get Along But Sometimes Must Anyway
Louis Proyect
A Rebellion for the Wild West
T.J. Coles
A Taste of Their Own Medicine: the Politicians Who Robbed Iranians and Libyans Fear the Same for Brexit Britain
H. Bruce Franklin
How We Launched Our Forever War in the Middle East
Lee Hall
Mayor Obedience Training, From the Pet Products Industry
Louis Yako
Working in America: Paychecks for Silence
Michael D. Yates
Radical Education
Jonathan Cook
Israelis Have Shown Netanyahu the Door. Can He Inflict More Damage Before He Exits?
Valerie Reynoso
The Rising Monopoly of Monsanto-Bayer
John Steppling
American Psychopathy
Ralph Nader
25 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare for the 2020 Elections
Ramzy Baroud
Apartheid Made Official: Deal of the Century is a Ploy and Annexation is the New Reality
Vincent Emanuele
Small Town Values
John Feffer
The Threat of Bolton Has Retreated, But Not the Threat of War
David Rosen
Evangelicals, Abstinence, Abortion and the Mainstreaming of Sex
Judy Rohrer
“Make ‘America’ White Again”: White Resentment Under the Obama & Trump Presidencies
John W. Whitehead
The Police State’s Language of Force
Kathleen Wallace
Noblesse the Sleaze
Farzana Versey
Why Should Kashmiris be Indian?
Nyla Ali Khan
Why Are Modi and His Cohort Paranoid About Diversity?
Shawn Fremstad
The Official U.S. Poverty Rate is Based on a Hopelessly Out-of-Date Metric
Mel Gurtov
No War for Saudi Oil!
Robert Koehler
‘I’m Afraid You Have Humans’
David Swanson
Every Peace Group and Activist Should Join Strike DC for the Earth’s Climate
Scott Owen
In Defense of Non-violent Actions in Revolutionary Times
Jesse Jackson
Can America Break Its Gun Addiction?
Priti Gulati Cox
Sidewalk Museum of Congress: Who Says Kansas is Flat?
Mohamad Shaaf
The Current Political Crisis: Its Roots in Concentrated Capital with the Resulting Concentrated Political Power
Max Moran
Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel’s White House Connection
Arshad Khan
Unhappy India
Nick Pemberton
Norman Fucking Rockwell! and 24 Other Favorite Albums
Nicky Reid
The Bigotry of ‘Hate Speech’ and Facebook Fascism
Paul Armentano
To Make Vaping Safer, Legalize Cannabis
Jill Richardson
Punching Through Bad Headlines
Jessicah Pierre
What the Felicity Huffman Scandal Says About America
John Kendall Hawkins
Draining the Swamp, From the Beginning of Time
Julian Rose
Four Funerals and a Wedding: A Brief History of the War on Humanity
Victor Grossman
Film, Music and Elections in Germany
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ahmet Altan’s “I Will Never See the World Again”
David Yearsley
Jazz is Activism
Elliot Sperber
Captains of Industry 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail