During his presidency, George Washington seems to have concluded that slavery
was absolutely incompatible with the principles of the new nation and could even cause its
division. In August 1797 he wrote, "...I wish from my soul that the legislature of [Virginia]
could see a policy of a gradual Abolition of Slavery..." Two years later, Washington revised
his will, providing for his slaves to be freed after his death 122 of the 314 African Americans
at Mount Vernon were freed; the others were Martha's and by law owned by her heirs.
He also left instructions for their care and education which included supporting the young
until they came of age and paying pensions to the elderly.
THE OMITTED ANTI-SLAVERY CLAUSE
TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION (1776)
Thomas Jefferson's attitudes to blacks varied during his lifetime. In his early years, Jefferson
thought blacks were biologically inferior, then decided that slavery had a destructive
conditioning effect which stamped blacks with "odious peculiarities."
With this view, and spurred by his conviction that "natural rights" accrued to all men, Jefferson
penned a short, passionate attack on King George III's indulgence of the slave traffic, for inclusion
in the Declaration of Independence. But, at the behest of delegates from South Carolina and
Georgia, and with the indulgence of northern delegates whose ports sheltered and profited from
slave ships, the clause was omitted from the final version.
I will say then that I am not, nor have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and
political equality of the white and black races, [applause] --that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE HARLEN ELOQUENT AND PROPHETIC
DISSENT AGAINST THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE "SEPARATE BUT EQUAL"
DOCTRINE IN "Plessy v. Ferguson" (1896)
"In the eyes of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizen.
There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates
classes among citizens.... In my opinion, the judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be
quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott Case." The dissenting
view of Justice Harlen, opposing the "separate but equal" constitutional justification of racial
segregation became law in 1954, with the landmark decision handed down by the Warren Court.
THE U.S. SUPREME COURT WAS RECEIVING PRESSURE NOT TO STRIKE DOWN SCHOOL DESEGREGATION IN THE CASE OF Brown v. Board of Education (1954). CHIEF JUSTICE EARL WARREN UNITED THE COURT AND STRUCK DOWN SCHOOL DESEGREGATION, AND CONCLUDED WITH THIS FORCEFUL STATEMENT:
"Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the
colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of
separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority affects the motivation of a
child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of the law, therefore, has a tendency to retard the
educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the
benefits they would receive in a racially integrated school system.
---Chief Justice Earl Warren
Dear Lord, help me to remember that You do not want me to grovel
as though I were a slave. Since I am made in Your image, I must love
myself as I love You. Amen
"The glory of friendship is not the
outstretched hand, not the kindly smile,
not the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to
one when he discovers that someone believes in him and is willing to trust him
with his friendship."
---Ralph Waldo Emerson
If we fill our
hours with regrets over the failures of yesterday and with worries
over the problems of tomorrow, we have no today in which to be thankful.
Anyone who expects everything to be letter-perfect never gets
very far into the alphabet.
Updated by K. Ferguson Kelly: December 21, 2012