Return to the fountain of freedom

By Edward Achorn

Every American would benefit by reading Frederick Douglass’s gut-wrenching address on the Declaration of Independence, which he delivered on July 5, 1852, at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York. That was more than ten years before Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation and 13 years before slavery was finally abolished.

It is a scathing denunciation of America’s hypocrisy in perpetuating slavery while celebrating the signing of the Declaration, which declared that “all men are created equal” and that all are endowed with rights no man or government could justly take away.

I write about this speech in my new book, Every Drop of Blood.

“What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” the great black leader and former slave asked.

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John Lennon’s revolution

By Edward Achorn

John Lennon was an artist — specifically, a great rock ‘n’ roll musician and singer — and not a nuanced political thinker. Critics, then and now, might be inclined to tell him to shut up and sing.

But he was a brilliant and witty lyricist who wanted to speak out. One of the things I always liked about him and his fellow Beatles was that they advocated through their beautiful art values I admire: love, peace, freedom, laughter and treating each other as equals. (I had the poster above, from his “Imagine” album, on my bedroom wall as a teenager.)

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Marcia Cole stands up for Lincoln Park Statue

By Edward Achorn

God bless Marcia Cole. She had the courage to show up, wearing nineteenth century garb, at a protest over a monument in Washington, D.C., that honors Abraham Lincoln for his role in emancipating four million enslaved Americans.

 Ms. Cole, a member of the African American Civil War Museum’s Female RE-Enactors of Distinction (FREED) program, spoke up for the ex-slaves who funded the statue.

The statue has been targeted for destruction or removal by the same forces that are trying to destroy or erase many symbols of American freedom and courage across the country. A copy in Boston is also at grave risk of being removed. Many of those determined to eradicate the ex-slaves’ tribute to Lincoln are white.

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Vandals vs. ex-slaves

By Edward Achorn

As expected, rioters have quickly moved on from tearing down statues of Christopher Columbus to those honoring such icons of freedom as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ulysses Grant. Some radicals have even called for the elimination of depictions of Jesus.

Once authorities have begun permitting violent attacks on America’s symbols and history, it is hard to see where the destruction will end.

And, of course, the vandals have turned against Abraham Lincoln — the great president who saved this country and, in doing so, freed four million enslaved African Americans.

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Hating the Confederates

By Edward Achorn

While rioters in American cities in recent days have damaged or destroyed monuments to George Washington, Ulysses Grant, and even the black 54th Massachusetts Regiment, those honoring Confederates seem especially targeted for destruction. Everyone from violent Marxists to conservatives look down these days on the Confederates from their high ground of moral superiority.

Abraham Lincoln had plenty of reason to despise the Confederates and seek vengeance on them. Rather than accept his legitimate election in 1860, they led their states to break off and form their own nation.

Determined to prevent the severing and destruction of the United States, Lincoln embarked on what turned out to be four years of brutal and anguishing war, American against American. He sent hundreds of thousands of young men to their deaths.

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Erasing Abraham Lincoln

By Edward Achorn

Abraham Lincoln is in the news again. A statue of Lincoln that has stood for over 100 years in Park Square in Boston is the latest target for historic obliteration.

The statue shows Lincoln standing above a crouching half-dressed black man in broken chains. The man is looking up with strength and determination, as if ready to rise.

With American cities in flames, and an all-out propaganda effort underway to depict America as systemically racist, the time seems ripe to destroy symbols of American history that were once deemed to celebrate freedom and its inseparable companion, courage.

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Knavery at universities

By Edward Achorn

It makes me sad, if not anguished, to see liberal values under constant assault on college campuses. Rising totalitarianism, political conformity, and bullying are taking over, with the blessings of administrators who are worried about protecting their own careers. This is occurring, sadly, at our most distinguished institutions.

Administrators and many faculty members are retreating from the thing that once made colleges great: free and fearless intellectual inquiry.

And they are retreating from something else. Common decency.

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How ex-slaves freed America

By Edward Achorn

It is one of the supreme ironies of American history that our nation and our freedoms were saved by men who had been enslaved.

I think this story is not as widely told as it should be. Perhaps it does not fit today’s ideological narrative that black Americans are eternal victims of white privilege, and that blacks and whites must remain enemies.

But the heroism of the 180,000 black Americans who served for the United States during the Civil War ought to be recognized, remembered, and honored. They filled the Union ranks, fought, and died, and ultimately made it impossible for the Confederacy to fight on.

They saved the United States and, in doing so, radically transformed race relations in America.

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Torching Abraham Lincoln

By Edward Achorn

In recent days, numerous friends have sent me pictures of a charred bust of Abraham Lincoln in Chicago. I (and perhaps they) erroneously believed that the torching occurred during this spring’s riots, but in fact the statue was vandalized three years ago.

The mistake may be understandable, because the cultural war on statues and America’s past is definitely heating up.

My friends know I admire Lincoln and that my book, Every Drop of Blood, about his extraordinary call for charity and mercy after four years of harrowing war, has just been published.

“What an absolute disgraceful act of vandalism,” Alderman Ray Lopez wrote on Facebook in 2017, posting the picture.

“This bust of Abraham Lincoln, erected by Phil Bloomquist on August 31, 1926, was damaged and burned,” he added.

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MLK preached love, not violence

By Edward Achorn

The most popular quote of Martin Luther King Jr. these days is one that seems to extol violence: “a riot is the language of the unheard.”

But, of course, the people pushing that quote leave out the rest: “I would hope that we can avoid riots because riots are self-defeating and socially destructive.”

And the cherry-picked statement absolutely obscures the reason many Americans revere the slain civil-rights leader — his courageous opposition to hatred and violence, and his belief in the transforming power of love.

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