Keckley’s History Lesson

I have always been intrigued by the Civil War, slavery, and the fight for freedom. In Elementary School even, I was indignant when I learned some persons had to fight for a right that was given by God. It has always been an area of history that has captivated me.

Now in my 30s, we have visited many sights of the Civil War. I have read too many books to count (fiction and nonfiction) whose subject is that of slavery and/or the fight for freedom. I have watched numerous documentaries on it.

One thing that’s become more certain to me, is the more I learn, the more I have to unlearn. I think knowledge of History is essential in order to not repeat the same mistakes made in the past. However; I don’t think we study historical events in depth enough to consider ourselves always well-informed of historical events in their entirety. (That’s not easy for us to do in a time where we believe Google can make us all knowing on most any subject).

I have been reading “Behind The Scenes” by Elizabeth Keckley. She was a former slave who bought her freedom from her and her son. She made a name for herself by becoming the seamstress for Mrs. Jefferson Davis and Mrs. Lincoln. Yes, the former Confederate leader’s wife and President Lincoln’s wife as well. I will note that she did work for Mrs. Davis prior to Jefferson Davis becoming the leader of the Confederate Party.

Mrs. Keckley wrote this book in the latter part of her life, so she knew what came to be of the Davis’s. Yet, she spoke fondly of Mrs. Davis. One thing that strikes me most about this book (and others I have read referring to Mrs. Keckley) is that The North wasn’t necessarily accepting, with wide open arms, of those who became freed from the South.

In an excerpt from her book, she says: “The bright dreams were too rudely dispelled; you were not prepared for the new life that opened before you, and the great masses of the North learned to look upon your helplessness with indifference- learned to speak of you as an idle, dependent race”. Now I’m not sure about you, but I didn’t often give thought to the idea that freedman weren’t compassionately welcomed up North.

Often when we think of Slavery, we limit the problems to the South. Obviously there were issues in the South, but maybe they weren’t only in the South. This reiterates, that now, more than ever, we need to learn to be people of discernment.

Yes! Learn from history! Research it. Gain all knowledge you can. But don’t assume to know it in it’s entirety. Use the knowledge you gain and stories you read to try to do better for the future. In a time of everyone assuming to be knowledgeable on everything, realize we often don’t. It’s okay to sit on the uncomfortableness of it-that’s often where growth occurs.

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