Thursday, April 09, 2015

150 Years Ago Today -- Civil War "ends"

On April 9th, just days before President Lincoln was assassinated, General Ulysses S. Grant received General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.  The were would be a few more small battles to be fought here or there, but this act of surrender effectively ended the war that had taken the lives of thousands of Americans on both sides of the conflict.  It would be nice if we could say that everything worked out perfectly thereafter. It is true that slavery was essentially ended across the nation. Lincoln's statement that the nation could not remain together if it was half free and half slave had borne fruit.  The union was preserved at great cost and slavery ended.  Of course, the end of slavery did not mean that everyone lived happily ever after. The attitudes of White Americans in both north and south regarding Black Americans changed little. Even Lincoln, the Great Emancipator didn't believe that the two races were equal.  Still, he opposed slavery and that opposition triggered a war that was already simmering, for Lincoln was right about the inability of a nation to stay together half slave and half free.  The southern states, which had put the interests of slaveholders at the forefront, chose to separate themselves, launching an attack in 1861 on Fort Sumter, SC.  After thousands died, Lee surrendered and the war ended.

Jim Crow, segregation, and the Klan would soon emerge. Racial and ethnic tensions continued to erupt, and do so this day.  But the war ended, and hopes for a new era for the nation came into play. We still have a ways to go on fulfilling those hopes, but it is good to stop and remember that day in history, and commit ourselves to a better future for all.   

 I'll note that the above picture by Tom Lovell hangs on my study wall, so you can probably tell which side of the conflict I stand upon, but in the end we must mover forward as one nation pursuing justice for all, where slavery is not defended or excused or celebrated.    

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