J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “Reconstruction”

Post-Civil War Files Will Enhance Family Searches

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Recently, FamilySearch, a large genealogy organization, announced that it is in collaboration with several other organizations to digitally release records they collected through the Freedmen’s Bureau. They plan to have the records searchable by 2016. This is a fascinating and important step, allowing millions of Americans to discover their true ancestry. It will also give people the opportunity to connect with relatives they never knew existed.

The Freedmen’s Bureau obtained information about an estimated 4 million newly freed slaves, including their previous owners, marriage and family history, military service, banking practices, and hospital and property records. These records serve as a treasure trove for African Americans who have been unable to learn more about their ancestry for years. They will also allow all Americans to learn how the United States transformed once Reconstruction began.

“The records serve as a bridge to slavery and freedom,” said Hollis Gentry, of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will showcase the records when it opens next year. “You can look at some of the original documents that were created at the time when these people were living… We get a sense of their voice. We get a sense of their desires, their goals, their dreams, their hopes.”

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Another Sad Victory for Political Correctness

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In a small, insignificant U.S.A. Today article yesterday, it was reported that, last Tuesday, Washington and Lee University announced that they will be removing all Confederate flags from campus. This decision came about after the school received pressure from a small group of law students who claim that the flags are discriminatory. They stated that they felt it was demeaning to have to pledge an honor code in the presence of the flags. The only place where the flags are prominently displayed is in the Lee Chapel, where General Robert E. Lee is interred.

On a personal note, I find this decision very disconcerting. If the school where General Lee successfully served as president for five years can all of a sudden change its policies after nearly 150 years, I have to wonder, what’s next? I feel it is inconceivably disrespectful of the man who gave his all to the school, who was torn between serving his country and defending his native state of Virginia, and who upheld the most stringent religious beliefs. What a slap in the face to all of us who have Confederate ancestors, because if this action is any indication, more dishonorable, similar acts will follow, such as the ongoing debate about Forrest Park in Memphis, Tennessee.

If Confederate flags are removed from a burial chamber, then what’s to follow? Taking away any sign of the Irish, the Germans, and the British? In that case, the American flag should be removed from all places that certain small, politically correct groups deem inappropriate. Need I remind you that our national flag flew while hoards of Native Americans were being slaughtered? Anyone who finds the Confederate flag offensive doesn’t know squat about history. The flag originated from the St. Andrews Cross, a religious, Scottish emblem. Just because certain hate groups (i.e. the KKK) took the flag and distorted its meaning and significance doesn’t mean that the basis of its meaning and symbolism is related to racism or slavery. It evolved into that after Reconstruction, and up through the Civil Rights Movement. It didn’t represent such ugly things during the Civil War, for which Lee and so many other brave Southern men fought.

I certainly hope Southern heritage groups such as the SCV will stand up against this abhorrent, blatant racism. It is just as offensive to abolish the Confederate flag from Washington and Lee University as it is, to some people, to fly it, because it is denying us the privilege to honor our war heroes, and thus, denying us our Constitutional rights to freely express ourselves. Sorry if you think the flag is offensive. Guess what? There are plenty of things far more offensive, and there are far bigger problems that this country faces right now. Maybe those law students should redirect their angst, be more constructive instead of destructive, and work toward solving these problems instead of attacking other people’s heritage.

Removing the flag is alarming, and I’m afraid to see what will be the next to go. I’m sure someone, somewhere, will find something wrong with everything. And then what will we be left with? Getting rid of things for political correctness isn’t the answer: love, compassion, and mutual understanding is. This means that all of us need to accept our history and heritage, comprehend the philosophical differences that we’ve held during various times in that history, and embrace them all as our own unique, American design. Erasing history is the first step in our own destruction. Hitler proved that.

Birth of a President

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The 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was born on February 12, 1809 in Kentucky. Oddly enough, his birthplace was only a few miles from that of the Confederacy’s first president, Jefferson Davis. When Lincoln was very young, his family moved to Indiana. His mother died when he was only 9, from what was known as milk sickness.

“Honest Abe” learned how to read by firelight, and advanced from a lowly country bumpkin to a lawyer to a congressman. When he was elected president in 1860, he was the first man to run on the Republican ticket. He won with only a plurality of the popular vote, but 183 in the electoral vote. Because of threats on his life, he had to be smuggled into Washington. His wit and humor must have been tested repeatedly, for not only did his country split in two, but he suffered many personal losses as well.

President Lincoln received much criticism during his presidency, especially and understandably from Southerners, but his untimely murder made many sad. It’s interesting to speculate whether Reconstruction would have gone more smoothly and wouldn’t have lasted as long if Lincoln had survived. Over the course of time, he has become a matyr for Emancipation, and has become almost a saint to most. His birthday is celebrated in conjunction every year with our first president and founding father, George Washington. Lincoln has been the subject of thousands of books, movies, articles, and other media outlets.

Wonders Never Cease

It took 148 years, but the state of Mississippi finally ratified the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, making it illegal to own slaves. The question is, why did it take so long? There are many examples where old laws have never been purged from the books. Some examples are that it is illegal in Missouri to drive with an uncaged bear, in Philadelphia, you are not allowed to put pretzels in a bag (based on an Act from 1760), in Colorado, a cat cannot be outside at night unless it has a taillight (what?), and in Kentucky, a person must take a bath once a year or face prosecution.

The 13th Amendment was written into law in 1865, immediately following the end of the War Between the States. However, many southern states, Mississippi included, refused to ratify the law. Those states that refused were forced into Reconstruction. It didn’t take long for Alabama, Georgia, and most other states to ratify the amendment, but for some reason, Mississippi held out.

Fast forward to 1995, when it was discovered that the law STILL hadn’t been ratified. Remarkably, Mississippi lawmakers didn’t officially abolish slavery until that year. However, the state failed to notify the U. S. Archivist, so it was never official.

The oversight might have never been discovered if it weren’t for Dr. Ranjan Batra, who is an associate professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. When Dr. Batra saw the movie “Lincoln,” he grew curious about what happened once the states voted on ratification. It was then that he learned of the clerical error, and the correct paperwork was filed on February 7. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann admitted that “It was long overdue.” Ya think?

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