Thursday, April 5, 2007
By Clint E. Lacy

On Feb. 28, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported that lawmakers met in to debate whether Missouri should officially apologize for slavery.

According to the Tribune, "[State Rep. Yaphett] El-Amin’s resolution, co-sponsored by House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, got a hearing yesterday before the House Special Committee on Urban Issues, which met at Lincoln University."

The resolution says "the perpetual pain, distrust, and bitterness of many African Americans could be assuaged and the principles espoused by the Founding Fathers would be affirmed, and great strides toward unifying all Missourians and inspiring the nation to acquiesce might be accomplished if the state of Missouri acknowledged and atoned for its role in the slavery of Africans."

The Tribune also reported that, "because Missouri was one of the last states to do away with slavery, El-Amin said, it would be appropriate for the state to be the first to apologize for it. ‘I am asking the state of Missouri, the state that sanctioned slavery and the dehumanization of its African property — which, I can’t say citizens, because they weren’t afforded the rights of citizens at that point — to be the Show Me State that it claims to be,’ El-Amin said."

Perhaps El-Amin hasn’t taken the time to ponder just why Missouri was the last state to end slavery.

Missouri was the first state in the Confederacy to fall to Yankee occupation.

In fact, the legislature was forced to abandon Jefferson City because the federal government intended to hold it in the Union by force. The legislature seceded in Neosho, Mo., on Oct. 31, 1861.

Even though Missouri fell early, there were still many slaveowners loyal to the Union. President Lincoln desperately needed to hold Missouri, and to do that he needed the support of these slaveholders.

The Emancipation Proclamation excluded them from having to give up their slaves. Some of Missouri’s most prominent racists were Union legislator Sylvester Baker, William Tecumseh Sherman and Gen. U.S. Grant.

Blacks are not the only ones who suffered during this time period. The Indians of the West paid a horrible price for trusting our government.

Among the worst instances was the Sand Creek (Colorado) Massacre in which Indian men, women and children were openly slaughtered.

This is well-documented in the book, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," which states that an officer named Wynkoop begged the governor of Colorado to talk to the Cheyenne, at which time Governor Evans replied, "What shall I do with the Third Colorado Regiment if I make peace?" … "There was political pressure on Governor Evans from Coloradoans who wanted to avoid the military draft of 1864 by serving in uniform against a few poorly armed Indians, rather than against the Confederates farther east."

A year earlier Confederates "farther east" were paid a visit by the Union army on Aug. 25, 1863. Union General Ewing issued order No. 11 in retaliation for armed Confederates who fought back.

The order required residents to evacuate from four Missouri counties.

George Caleb Bingham described the event, stating, "It is well-known that men were shot down in the very act of obeying the order, and their wagons and effects seized by their murderers."

If apologies are to be issued for everyone that has been aggrieved by the federal government, it would be a very long list.

Both El-Amin and Jetton represent districts that are poverty stricken with high unemployment. I don’t think an apology is going to fix that.

© 2007 Southeast Missourian

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