Support the 400 years journey project, to protect the U.S.

Published 7:54 pm Monday, October 7, 2019

This year, a number of institutions across the country are studying the history and legacy of slavery in America, something called the “400 Year Journey” project. One in West Georgia takes place on Oct. 18-19 at the Callaway Conference Center and locations in downtown LaGrange. There’s a reason all readers of this should pay attention, and even attend local events on the subject, regardless of your ideology. That’s because a variety of forces are targeting our legacy of anti-slavery efforts, and the results could be disastrous for this country.

When slave ships came to America, they were continuing a long tradition worldwide where humans have forced others to work without pay, the antithesis of a free market system. Sure, America was a series of British colonies at the time, but when it came to setting up our economic and political system, the slave owners sought to hold over this unfair practice, a debate that nearly tore this country apart before it started. An uneasy compromise was formed, but opponents of slavery, Northern and Southern, never stopped trying to replace this un-American activity.

For some reason, extremists on both sides have sought to target American history in general, and our anti-slavery actions in particular. A former politician used to respond to my columns by calling for the 13th Amendment (which outlawed slavery) to be repealed. There are all kinds of propaganda online that will make the fantasy claims that slaves had it easy, had it great. When I get such forwarded emails, I tell the sender “if slavery was so great, why don’t more people sign up for it?” 

I have yet to receive a response to that.

The truth is that slavery is a cruel custom. It’s been used to hurt many people, for the profit and pleasure of the masters. Barbary pirates used to kidnap Christians along European coasts, as far north as Ireland. Terrible cases emanated from this in America, spurring the abolitionist movement who objected to it on religious grounds. They were opposed by slavery supporters claiming it’s in the Bible, mistaking local traditions for what Jesus called for Christians to do.

This isn’t some anti-conservative diatribe. My students made me aware of a film criticizing the 13th Amendment, claiming it alone was responsible for the large prison population. After I questioned the motives of this project, the students got to discuss whether overturning an anti-slavery amendment would be a wise choice. 

“Maybe, we could focus on amending the amendment, rather than repeal it,” the student advocate concluded.

At conferences, I have debated several revisionist historians who claim that the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery. It’s ironic to see neo-Marxists on the far left and “Lost Cause” historians on the far right unite, as well as ignore the empirical evidence from the South and policies from the North to the contrary. But these show we need a renewed quest for the truth on slavery, which is what this project is pushing for. This is also a celebration of African-American culture and accomplishments, along with a gala and auction (

At the LaGrange event in October, we will have law enforcement officers discuss how police and the community have worked together. We will have counseling professors giving a presentation on the legacy of family abuse back to slavery times. Authors will revisit family connections from slavery to the present, while audiences will learn how the lynching apology in LaGrange showed a brighter future by confronting the past, instead of burying it. 

Rather than rehash old debates, these and other programs across the country are showing not only is post-slavery cooperation possible, but desirable, and the arguments from the extremes trying to drag us back to the past don’t reflect our potential or prospects.