Lest We Forget


While enjoying the Academy Awards last week, it occurred to me that three of the Best Picture nominees involved movies of historical non-fiction. Lincoln, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty provide stories of both military and non-military histories that have made profound impacts on our country. And though we all know the outcomes of each story, revisiting history often can be just what we need.

As family historians and genealogist we recognize the importance of looking backwards. It is when history is ignored that the nastiest wounds of our past fester, only to reopen with a renewed fierceness. Evil is difficult to comprehend and over time, in our desire to make reason out of the unreasonable, we spin the past into a lesser, more acceptable story.

And unfortunately, the spinning often swirls in the recounting of the Civil War.

It is shocking to grasp that we live in a country that less than two centuries ago freely allowed the ownership of other humans. An era in which American citizens had the right to auction, mortgage, trade, beat, chain and kill other humans simple for their benefit and satisfaction. And an entire grouping of American states and their citizens felt so strongly in maintaining this right, they were willing to die for it.

There was nothing romantic about the ownership of slaves. No, slaves did not love their "masters" and yes, they were undeniably beaten and mistreated. And as hard as it is for all of us to believe, the Civil War was only about one single proclamation: Slavery.

I found the subject matter in the movie Lincoln as fresh and current as any other. It reminds us that we are only an inch away from the worst part of our history and if forgotten, our decisions of our present and future will be skewed to the less desirable.

Because if we forget, the worst of our past will most certainly rise again.

To gain a deeper understanding of the human impact of slavery, read the reprint of letters of slavery survivors on North American Slave Narratives.

Keep searching for answers,



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