Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Saturday, November 01, 2008

"The arc of history is long . . ..


. . . . but it bends toward justice." MLK, Jr.

The picture depicted in the link is from the recent Obama rally in St. Louis. The eye is first drawn to the sheer number of people. Impressive, no doubt. But that's not the point of this picture to a historian.

If you look in the distance there, you can see a building with a greenish-copper dome. That's the Old St. Louis Courthouse. For years and years, slaves were auctioned on the steps of that courthouse.

The Old Courthouse used to be called the St. Louis State and Federal Courthouse.

Back in 1850, two escaped slaves named Dred and Harriett Scott had their petition for freedom overturned in a case there. Montgomery Blair took the case to the US Supreme Court on Scott's behalf and had Chief Justice Roger Taney throw it out because, as he wrote, the Scotts were 'beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.'

Hard to imagine, isn't it?

What is rather uplifting is that, 158 years later, the man who will most likely be the first black US President was able to stand outside this very same courthouse and gather that crowd. Today, America looked back on one of the darkest moments in its history, and resoundingly told Judge Taney to go to hell.

7 comments:

Jim said...

Mr. Chief Justice Taney was a very complex man. He also led the Court to give Mr. Lincoln a very free hand in a number of cases. He for instance wrote the decision affirming Mr. Lincoln's power to suspend the habeus corpus (sic) process in the areas of rebellion. I doubt the man who eventually retired would have written the decision.

That observation made, he was wrong. He was also a total product of his time. Lincoln agreed with him in general and was a proponent of the Liberia solution -- send them back to Africa.

It has been 150+ years of progress -- uneven, sometimes ugly roads but progress none-the-less. I still perform Shel Silverstein's wonderful song "Hey Nellie, Nellie" that ends "It's still a long hard and damn hard and bitter ride...." Yup but in spite of liars like +FW, +Pittsburgh and their ilk, we are still a line of march a century wide.

FWIW
jimB

Grandmère Mimi said...

Elizabeth, this is a wonderful post. The linkage is brilliant, but, once you think about it, oh so obvious. Thanks for this.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

So true. You have come a long way.

Maybe Tuesday you will come even longer...

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Oh! commenting worked for the first time in several years! But I see that the identity thing Blogger says I am me, "You are currently posting as Göran Koch-Swahne"

Thank you for that.

MadPriest said...

Unfortunately the section of the American public that will be the most influential in getting Obama elected will also be the most influential in getting same sex marriage banned in California.

And don't forget how willingly the straight gays dumped the trannies.

We are all bigots beneath the colour of our skin.

altar ego said...

Wonderful post. Took the liberty of copying it on my own this morning. Especially meaningful to me since I used to live in St. Louis. Am so grateful for the eyes and ears of others to such occasion (and on this occasion, you!).

Julia said...

WE have come a long way - not "they." We all benefit.