Saturday, November 22, 2008

The museum of American slavery and national emancipation day

Yeah, it's because we're in the post-civil war era. And because my morning exercise history class is discussing emancipation.

Slavery is on my mind.

America was founded on two enormous crimes. One, the extermination of the aboriginal Americans, was partly accidental. Millions died of disease before the creation of internment camps and before the massive ethnic cleansing campaigns began.

Another founding crime, slavery, was a choice.

We Americans, of all ethnicities and birth places, are the inheritors of these crimes. Just as modern Germans, born since 1945, are the reluctant inheritors of the unfathomably vast crime of the Holocaust.

Germans, not entirely happily, have studied and learned from their crimes. The Holocaust museums make a difference. I visited one in Jerusalem over twenty five years ago. It left an impression.

So why, I wondered, does America not have a Slavery museum and a Genocide museum? Why isn't there a national emancipation day? Why is it that only American historians now remember that January 1 used to be celebrated as emancipation day?

The first of these questions isn't hard to answer. The United States National Slavery Museum has been slowly moving to birth for quite a while. Very slowly; the web site is "copyright 2006" and the "Events" entry has a single undated item. The last issues of their newsletter is Spring/Summer 2008. I can't tell from the web site how far they are from opening in Fredericksburg Virginia.

Which brings us to an opportunity.

We're going to be doing some very serious spending on public works over the next year.

Maybe the museum can pick up some donations at the inauguration, and maybe Virginia will soon get some funding for a very memorable museum.

The Museum of the American Genocide? Yes, that too will come.

Wisdom always hurts.

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