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Anthony Washington: Thomas Jefferson is a hero to most, but not for me

Some would argue that Thomas Jefferson is the most important figure in our American history.  He along with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston wrote the Declaration of Independence.  Outside of the fact that the Fourth of July brings family and friends together, American independence means very little to me.  My ancestors were in the fields doing back breaking work, living in a constant state of terror, as these great men proclaimed, “All Men Are Equal.”uc06330

Jefferson advocated for universal education, he declared religion to be a natural right, and a had a huge part in the founding of the Library of Congress.  There are other accomplishments, and examples of his brilliant mind, but none of those accomplishments would outweigh the fact that the 3rd president of the United States of America, thought my ancestors were inferior.

“Never did a man achieve more fame for what he did not do.”

Jefferson’s opposition to slavery would be something to be praised if he had actually taken a stand against his fellow slave owners.  He could have led by example by freeing his slaves and advocating for the end of slavery altogether.  Jefferson, who had 20 times the amount of slaves that a so-called successful slave owner had during that time chose to stay silent and profit off an institution he called an “abominable crime.”

No Black person should praise slave owners.  Little attention should be paid to these slave owners, outside of recognizing and understanding how this country was built.  Why praise a man that helped create a system predicated on white supremacy.

He was responsible for the Louisiana purchase, which opened the door for Indian displacement.  He launched a reconnaissance mission, sending Lewis and Clark on an expedition to learn more about the indigenous people of the land.

I highly doubt that Jefferson ever gave credit to the enslaved Africans responsible for “his” agricultural accomplishments?

Jeffersonian’s usually point out that Thomas Jefferson had a good relationship with some of his slaves.  That is an oxymoron.   James Hemmings, was one of only two of Jefferson’s 600 slaves to negotiate their freedom.  He was an obedient “house nigga,” that served as Jefferson’s chef.  Hemmings traveled with the founding father, and learned French cuisine which tremendously benefited his master.  Hemmings was not allowed to go free until he properly trained his brother to replace him as Jefferson’s chef.

Glorified plantation house.

Glorified plantation house.

Thomas Jefferson along with the founding fathers set out to create a white nation that protected the elite while exploiting Native Americans, Blacks and any other group that was not deemed white.  He helped to create a tradition of racism and economic disparity, and those that praise him help to perpetuate that system.

 


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  1. theaveeditor #
    1

    You are bitter because of the untruth of “All men are created equal.” That bitterness, however, hides the the fact that all Americans and maybe especially Black Americans and Native Americans who have such a clear right to begrudge Mr Jefferson of his legacy, are free because of that legacy to learn the errors of our past and to create a better society. In Judaisms we call that freed Teshuva .. resolution a apposed to guilt. to

    Tom does have excuses. Sally and James chose to be his slaves rather than become free people in France. The best accounts we have say that they lived in Monticello as Jefferson’s family until James received his freedom. Sadly, James was unable to make it as a free Virginian in a racist society and committed suicide.

    However you or I judge JJefferson, we need to consider the reality of that society, the difficulty of freeing his own slaves to live in that horrible world, the reality that the slaves were the only valuable part of Jefferson’s property, and (most hard to accept today) Jefferson’s skepticism that the darker, less interbred field slaves were fully equal to Europeans.

    Excuses will not change your bitterness. Still I wonder what reaction Mr.Jefferson would have if, in the manner of Marty McFly. Tom was transported to Seattle, 2015 and met a Hemings descendant?

    Would he glow with wonder and pride?

    Even better what if our Tommy McFly met you .. a tall, muscled man not unlike the best of the field hands he treated as animals? I suspect you would humble him.

    Tom was wrong, but I believe he would admit that. I believe he would.



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