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Independence Day: history not CRT (by Ferrando Heyward)

I’m normally a fan of posting Frederick’s Douglas’ “What to the slave is the 4th of Jul” on my FB page. People who have not read this work in its entirety, tend to just look at the title and not truly grasp the essence of what he was espousing. So, most fall victim to the thought that he was being anti-American or against the “founders” and become very defensive. So let me settle you down at the start, as we take this journey.

Douglass considered it to be a very beautiful document. He applauds the "Principles" lauded in the Constitution and the men who took action to establish this nation. Yet, he questions those who were in charge at the time in their implementation or lack thereof in the equal application of the principles contained therein.

Background: During his first years of Freedom, Douglass studied with the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who wrongly taught him that the Constitution was a pro-slavery document. However, when he studied it, the Constitution, on his own as well as the writings of those who drafted it what he found changed, no revolutionized his thinking.

In his writing, “My Bondage, my freedom” he wrote…the Constitution of the United States not only contained no guarantees in favor of slavery but on the contrary, it is in its letter and spirit an anti-slavery instrument, demanding the abolition of slavery as a condition of its own existence as the supreme law of the land. Douglass stated that if the Constitution were intended to be by its Framers and adopters, a slaveholding instrument, why neither “slavery,” “slaveholding,” nor “slave” can anywhere be found in it (oration in Corinthian Hall, 1852).

Since we’re all anti-CRT and pro-history: the good, bad and ugly, contained therein allow me to add a few more tools to your arsenal. This next one will be a shocker to many so brace yourself. Please do your own due diligence to see if I’m mistaken, I will gladly accept correction/feedback. The Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery, the 13th Amendment did. Here’s what the Emancipation Proclamation did – it ended slavery in the “rebellious” slave holding states aka The Confederacy. Here’s a snippet of the document (prior to this the impacted states were listed)


- And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free;


There were 4 Union states: MO, DEL, MD, KY then 5 with the addition of WV to the Union where slavery still existed that were not covered under the Emancipation Proclamation. Using 1850 census numbers this was over 415K people, no small number. So, it truly isn’t until when the 13th Amendment was ratified on Dec 6th 1865 that we can say that slavery in the US ended.

Well, what about the 3/5th clause argument (Art 1 Sec 2), doesn’t it show how enslaved people weren’t regarded as a whole person, right? Not so fast, the 3/5th compromise was designed to limit the representation/power of the Confederate states.

History is messy and not as clean as some would like it to be. However, to truly appreciate the nuances, one needs to look at contemporary documents written at the time.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the term “peculiar institution” note I will address it as well as the verbiage in Art 1, Sec 9 and Art 4, Sec 2 in a later writing. I think there’s enough here now for us to meditate on for the moment. In teacher speak I want to chunk it and scaffold these thoughts.


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