March 12, 2015
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum 112 North Sixth Street Springfield, Illinois 62701
To whom it may concern:
In April 1865, the Governor and the Legislature of the then Colony of Vancouer Island offered their condolences to the Government of the United States on word of the death of Abraham Lincoln. Out of respect for our allies, and the grief our nations both shared, we suspended our legislative sitting for the rest of the day.
Now, 150 years later, British Columbia thanks you for the opportunity to share in the international commemoration of Abraham Lincoln's life and legacy on the anniversary of his death. As Premier of the Province of British Columbia, I am honoured to be included among those around the world who have been invited to offer reflections on his legacy.
Abraham Lincoln is known and revered throughout the world, but B.C. holds a special connection to him. The first U.S. consular post in western Canada was established in Victoria, in what was then the British Colony of Vancouver Island. President Lincoln appointed Allen Francis of Illinois, the U.S. consul in Victoria on November 11, 1861, and the consulate opened for official business on April 14, 1862.
When I was asked to prepare a letter on what Abraham Lincoln's legacy means to British Columbians, I wanted to ensure that what I sent was truly reflective of British Columbians' unique stories, history and perspectives. I invited Member of the Legislative Assembly, Sam Sullivan, to ask British Columbians what Abraham Lincoln meant to them, their families and to B.C. During the month of February, and overlapping with Black History Month and B.C. Heritage Week, British Columbians were invited to share their stories to help inform this letter. The result was a unique perspective of the U.S. and B.C.'s shared history that may never have come to light.
Office of the Web Site: Mailing Address: Location: Premier www.gov.bc.ca PO Box 9041 Stn Prov Govt Parliament Buildings
Victoria BC V8W 9E1 Victoria
During B.C.'s Lincoln Legacy public consultation, we gathered stories of pride, heritage celebration and a feeling of hope that emerged during, and after, the unrest of the civil war era. Some told us about their pride for leaders like B.C.'s first governor James Douglas, who shared Lincoln's commitment to equality and who, in 1858, welcomed citizens from the United States to live and work in B.C. Others told us about the racial oppression, discrimination and limited economic opportunities that existed at that time and in the years following.
While contributors told respectful stories, they also shifted between pride and disappointment, and between history and the current state. They were proud that their early leaders were welcoming, but disappointed that many who came met with the same racial prejudices that they had hoped to leave behind. They were empathetic to the people who came to British Columbia with the bravery, courage and determination to start again. They hoped that the tone equality Lincoln helped set in motion would continue to echo throughout B.C. and Canada, and the world.
Excerpts of the relevant stories and copies of documents are attached (Attachment 1 Story Submissions from British Columbians) for your reference.
In a recent essay contest hosted by the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver, high school student Claire Kozak wrote in her winning essay about how the same inequalities and turbulent relations from the Martin Luther King era still exist today and while tension between racial groups has inproved over time, there are still significant injustices occurring throughout America (Attachment 2 Claire Kozak Winning Essay). It was striking to me that many of her words were similar to those we read in those letters from 150 years ago, referred to in Attachments 1 and 3.
Thank you again for this opportunity to participate in this important commemoration of Abraham Lincoln - a leader whose legacy will forever be remembered.
(hand written signature)
Christy Clark Premier of British Columbia
Attachment 1- Story Submissions from British Columbians during February, 2015
David Harold Newman shared that a number of early black settlers arrived from the United States in 1858 and settled in the Saanich,B.C. area. He says many are buried in the Shady Creek cemetery and noted that it is a quiet, peaceful place or their final rest. He also commented that his great aunt, Bertha Brown, is also buried in the Shady Creek cemetery and tht she considered it a privilege to share her resting place with those early black pioneers.
Barbars Shave of Kelowna, B.C. was born in Lincoln's home town and the site of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Library and Museum-Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois. She tells us that her most significant family connection to Lincoln was a letter (Attachment 3- Letter from Laura Ann Geddes) written by Laura Ann Geddes, the daughter of her great, great grandfather Thomas Geddes. She was a student at the teachers' college in Normal, Illinois when Lincoln's funeral train passed through during the early morning hours of May 5, 1865. This train bore the body of assassinated President to its burial in Lincoln's hometown of Springfield Illinois. Two days later, she penned an eloquent letter to her mother in Fountain Green home about the college's preparations and tributes for the train's passage and associated emotions. A copy of Laura Ann's account of that historic occasion is Attachment 3.
Crawford Kilian, a novelist, professor and journalist, tells us that news of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 caused quite a celebration the black pioneers of B.C. He includes an excerpt from the second edition of his book "Go Do Some Great Thing: The Black Pioneers of British Columbia".
The American Blacks,whatever their political status might be in British Columbia, followed events in the US very closley. In the winter of 1863, news from the US created a stir aboard the HMS Topaze. As Lt. Verney wrote to his father on January 17,1863 "...we anchored at Esquimalt Harbour on Thursday afternoon: in the evening, minute guns were heard, and supposing them to proceed from a vessel in distress, I was ordered to get up steam, and two boats were sent out from the Topaze; I went out to the enterance of Victoria Harbour but could see nothing particular and returned: we afterwards found out that the guns were part of a joyous celebration made by the couloured population on account of the American emancipation proclamation." The shooting had taken place in Beacon Hill Park, and the municipal government reproved the participants for having failed to obtain a permit first.
Crawford also informs us that one of the sons in the legendary Stark family of Saltspring Island born in the Emancipation year of 1863, was named Abraham Lincoln Stark. He was baptized in Nanaimo in 1868 and was on the 1898 B.C. voters' list; occuupation farmer.
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The Victoria Police Department reflected on the story of their own "Black Constables" who were amongst the first officers to patrol the city's streets in the mid-1800s. They told us that in April of 1858, a small group of black immigrants arrived in Victoria aboard the Steamship "Commodore," Fleeing the racial attitudes of the pre-Civil War California; they had apparently corresponded with James Douglas, Governor of the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island, about relocating to the Colony. Hoping to enjoy the rights, privileges and freedoms of all member of a British Colony, a few men rom this community became members of one of the very first organized police units in Victoria. The "Black Constables" performed their tasks admirably but soom met the same racial prejudices that they had hoped to leave behind, and their service ended after a period of approximately two months.
Jonathan Swainger, a professor in the History Department at the University of Northern British Columbia, in Prince George, B.C. says that though his link to Lincoln is not direct, he felt that northern British Columbia was a place where people could aspire for something better and in that, we do hear a resonance of Lincoln. He told about a later period in history where "an African-American barber in Prince George in the 1920s took issue with a report published in a local newspaper in which the challenges of policing in the community were, in part, attributable to the influence of the "niggertown" portion of the community. The barber, a gentleman named Charles S.Sager, wrote a brilliant leter rebutting both the allegations aimed at the local black community and in particular, deploring the use of such a phrase with all of its hateful meanings, in a society where people had reason to expect fairness and equity. Sager, it turns out, was an early leader in Black American theatre in Chicago and had been in Prince George/northern British Columbia since 1910. He and his wife were active and well regarded members of the local community as well as the the local Knox United Church.
Lani Russwurm, a Vancouver history blogger, tell us about a black social club called the Lincoln Club located at 102 East Georgia Street in Vancouver, during prohibition and Vancouver's jazz age from 1917 to 1923. It seems to have been an improtant cultural hub for the city's small black population (many of whom were railway porters), and also for the many black peformers who came through town on the vaudeville circuits. Lani speculates as to why Reg Dotson, the owner of the club, chose the name "Lincoln" but clearly central was its obvious emancipatory connotations. He says that Blacks in Vancouver had extremely limited economic opportunties at the time. Perhaps for Reg Dotson and other blacks in Vancouver, the Lincoln Club was an escape from the racist constraints imposed upon them in their day-to-day lives, an oasis where they could be "free blacks" in a way that was more authentic than their limited freedom during a period of heightened racial oppression, not just in the US, but in Vancouver as well. He shares more about the Lincoln Club on his Past Tense Vancouver Histories blog.
Fran Morrison tells us that Lincoln conveyed a tone of equality and welcome that still echoes throughout B.C., for example, the city of Vancouver has a Civic Asset Naming Committee whose focus is to ensure asset and street naming projects celebrate the unique character of the area. In October, 2014 the Committee received a request to name a small street near Quebec and 1st street in Vancouver,B.C. The neighbourhood where this new street is going in used to be the rail yard, and the adjoining street is called Switchmen Street. In November the Committee
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unanimously voted to name the new street Pullman Porter Street. The Board Chair for the Naming Committee wrote "Being a Railway porter was one of the only jobs available for black men in the early days of Vancouver, and the Pullman rail company was the major employer. Other rail companies employed black men, but to a lesser extent. The Pullman Porter's Club, which backed onto Hogan's Alley at 804 Main Street (a few blocks away from this new street), was patronized predominantly by black men who worked as sleeping car porters for th railroad." She also tells us that the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters signed a contract with CP Rail in 1945; the first time a union organized by black men signed an agreement with a Canadian company. The Brotherhood also advocated for social justice issues, particularly around discrimination by landlords and businesses.
Andrea Reimer, Deputy Mayor for the City of Vancouve, shared a letter (Attachment4-Letter from Catharine Parthenia) from relative Catharine Parthenia to her parents, Silas Hubbell and Mary Ashmun, written in November 6, 1864. Andrea says that what she found poignant about the letter is that it reminds of the fight for full enfranchisement for all, a fight that was central to Lincoln's legacy. "You have this clearly intelliget young woman, enrolled in university in a family that was of very modest means...on the eve of one the most significant elections in history, and all she can do is write a letter about it because of course she can't vote. Amazingly she never complains about not being able to vote, which I like to think I would have."
Lonnie Glass, a rock and blue musician with an international reach tells about how his music and art was inspired by Civil War and the time of bloodshed and political crisis and have importaant lessons for society. Lonnie talks about how political forces worked to underdo the laws Lincoln had established and what they couldn't change was his message. Liz Bean, a Canadian-citizen in waiting, whose parents grew up in Louisiana in the 1930s, says that Canadians are generally very respectful of the time in hastory of civil rights. And Mavis DeGirolamo, President of the B.C Black History Awareness Society remarked of equal rights even now "We aren't there yet, but every small ripple adds up." All the details of these interviews are attached (Attachment5-Lincoln Legacy Interviews).
There were several notes of appreciation and thanks for undertaking this project and recalling the history of Abraham Lincolns and Blacks in British Columbia.
* One noted that the aniversary of Lincoln's death--"An occasion of significance for both Canada and the U.S. certainly worth celebrating. * Another recalled the words of the Gettysburg address: "(Abraham Lincoln) means peace and unity along with his eloquent words of four score and seven years ago-etc. It would be nice to see peace and harmony everywhere." * And still another observed "Oh I love learning history. Those explorers who discovered B.C. and put it on the map and made contact with first nations' people were prolific writers but we seldom hear about their observations,...here is a link to an absolutely great example of an inspiring person taking upper most advantage of all the great freedoms we celebrate every July 1. It should be a proud history. A lot of black people were also responsible for construction of the Alaska Highway but that's another story for a different day."
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* And finally Glenn David Loft wrote specifically for this letter because of influence by Abraham Lincoln "The most vigorous form of community are those that come together in the context of a shared ordeal of those that define themselves as a group with a mission that ies beyond themselves-thus initiating a risky journey. Too mush concern with safety and security, combined with comfort and convenience, has lulled us out of our true calling and purpose."
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A Peaceful Coexistence
A great man, and an even greater visionary, Martin Luther King Jr. was a man on a mission; he was a man with a dream. He became the voice for thousands of people long oppressed, the voice for a nation that cried out for justice. Though he never had the chance to see his dream fulfilled, his work raised awareness of his cause to such a level that it could no longer be ignored. Although his work inspired and touched the lives of so many, the most vital part of his dream has still not come to fruition in the world today. Many believe Martin Luther King Jr.'s goal was to banish racial injustice from the world. He dreamed of something greater. While Martin Luther King Jr. did stand for the elimination of racial injustice, he took a greater stance for peaceful coexistence between all people, on both a domestic and global scale.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision centered around creating an understanding between two groups of people who seemingly had nothing in common. These two groups were black people and white people. He sought to enable a peaceful coexistence between the two, bringing together a divided nation. And yet, some of these same inequalities and turbulent relations still exist today. While tension between the two racial groups is superficially calm, there are still significant injustices occurring throughtout America. Just this past year, there have been several well documented incidents involving police officers where a firearm was discharged or unnecessary force was used against and unarmed black man. Rarely, in any of these cases, was the police officer charged. This is the same king of racial injustice that Martin Luther King Jr. worked to rectify, and it is still the biggest obstacle to achieving peaceful coexistence on a domestic scale.
However, racial and religious injustices are not confined to North America. In recent news, the terrorist group in Syria known as ISIL has been terrorizing and killing anyone who has not conformed to their way of thinking or converted to their religion. This example of terrorism is the complete opposite of everything Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to accomplish. He encouraged peaceful coexistence, for one person to live in harmony with another, even though they may be completely different from each other. ISIL's way of thinking, that their religion and their beliefs are the only ones to be considered acceptable, go completely against this policy. It is the same kind of injustice that originally let to Martin Luther King Jr.'s mission, but in this instance, the effects of this injustice are spread worldwide. Everyone has felt the consequences of ISIL's actions, and some have taken retaliatory action. No one will be left exempt from this violence and injustice if the situation is not changed.
Be that as it may, there is no reason as to why this injustice cannot change. Now more than ever there is an outcry for retribution towards the aggressors who have committed these acts of injustice and cruelty. Protesters condenm those responsible for the shootings in America, and volunteers willingly step into the line of fire to deliver aid to the people terroized by ISIL in the Middle East. They are not willing to let those crimes pass by while they remain silent, and their actions are the first step towards achieving a peaceful coexistence. Martin Luther King Jr. sought a society where people could live side by side in peace, regardless of their differences. No two people are the same and achieving a peaceful coexistence means igoring the differences. No two people are the same, and achieving a peaceful coexistence means ignoring the differences that set them apart, living in harmony with their neighbours, and standing up to those who threaten that
equality. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream can be achieved, but society must work together to forge the path towards it.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s endeavors towards a peaceful coexistence for all people brought together those who stand against the injustices of the world. He gave thousands the courage to aid the oppressed, and the firm belief in their actions. His words and work will continue to guide those who choose to stand up for their beliefs and defend the rights and beliefs of others.
Claire Kozak Holy Cross Regional High School, Surrey
May 7,1865- Letter from Laura Ann Geddes (1844-1938), student at Normal, Illinois to her mother, Susan Rebecca Walker Geddes in Fountain Green, Hancock County, Illinois. Laura described the passage of Lincoln's funeral train through the village where she attended teachers' college. She told of school preparations for the event. She also spoke of other family members: her brothers who were still serving in the Union Army-Robert "Rob" and Cyrus "Cye" her brother Thomas "Tommy" and her sisters, Julia and Eva. As well, she referred to others whose names ring in the history of that time: General William Tecumseh Sherman, Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom's Cabin), Harriet's brother and orator, Henry Ward Beecher, and abolitionist John Brown.
Normal, Illinois, May 7, 1865
My Dear Mother,
I wrote to Julia the latter part of last week & I thought I would answer yours during this week, but I have had so much writing "to Mr. Edwards" (as the girls call the essays on Theory & Art of teaching) to do lately, I put it off. This has been a week long to be remembered at Normal. On Wednesday morning the funeral train bearing the remains of our lamented President passed through our little village on the way to its final resting place. The station house was drapped in mourning & there was several appropirate mottoes. They raised an arch over the track. It was all wreathed with cedar & white plum blossoms & across it was the motto "Go to thy rest." The lady students got up a wreath of the most beautiful flowers I ever saw to be placed on the coffin. On a card was written "Here is a man whose like we shall never see again," on one side, on the other "We bring flowers because we loved him, Normal Students." This card was fastened on with the richest bow of white ribbon and crepe. Wednesday morning the teachers had engaged several boys to go around with a bell to wake the students at three o'clock. They took a vote the night before to see how many could get up without having to be called & as there was only three or four, they said we must not sit up all night for fear of sleeping too late in the morning & they would see we were wakened in time. The train was to come at 4 & by that time all Normal & the neighborhood round were there waiting. It wa nearly five when the Engine came. It is always 10 minutes ahead. It had a life size picture of the President in front & draped in mourning. Then the train soon have in sight. It stopped at where the roads cross & the wreath was put on. It Passed the statiion very slowly but did not stop. There were eight or ten cars all covered with black and white, little flags on each car with black and white streamers, a large picture of the President on the engine in front like the first engine. The car the coffin was on was almost black & covered with black and white. Mr. Edwards said it was built in Virginia & presented to the President only few days before he died for to come to the fair in chicago in. It was all iron. There was soldiers standing guard at each car door both before and behind. The front cars was filled with distinguished men, not a woman on the train, his son did not pass till evening. The head of each man was uncovered till the last car passed under the arch. I know the words of the motto was the thought in each heart as all stood silently watching till the cars wound slowly round the hill out of sight. "Go to thy rest." Mother, have you read Henry Ward Beecher's funeral sermon on the death of the President? It is splendid all of it, but the last part is most beautiful language I ever read. I would copy the last few sentences here but Libbie has lent the paper & I do not remember the connection. Libbie's brother, Will, keeps us provided with all the reading matter we have time to do justice. "The New York Herald" "Dailies," "Harpers Weekly" "Atlantic Monthly" & "Our Young Folks." I hear a great many rumors calculated to tarnish the fame of one of our best generals. I do not believe a word of it. I often wish I could get the Chicago Journal & see what is says of Gen. Sherman. I have not received a letter from either Rob or Cye. I can hardly wait till I get Cye's letter. He is going to send his photo. Katie & I were going up yesterday to get ours. It rained all forenoon & we did not have time in the afternoon. I am afraid you will get out of patience reading my excuses so I am not going to "photo" again till I sent it.
I think the old shanty had its quoto full that stormy night. I think you ought to be satisfied, Mother, when Uncle Sam got settled with all your brothers within stones throw and they are all men any Woman might be proud. Now don't let Matt or Alice know I ever said this. I am real sorry your eyes got no better & I wish Tommy could go to school & learn a trade. I don't believe farming will ever agree with him. Normal was closed Thursday & a great many of the students went down to Springfield. The trains ran half price there and back. If I had had money enough I believe I would have gone. I have heard the proceedings described it was what one could have talked about for a life time. Don't let Eva kill herself with hard work this spring. I'll be home in seven weeks & then I'll just roll up my sleeves & make things stand round like Mrs. Stowe makes Mrs. Scudder in the minister's "wooing." She says: Only the fluttering of white linnen over a green yard on Monday morning proclaimed that the dread solemnity of wash had transpired. Oh, Mother, I have read Uncle Tom's Cabin since I wrote home last. I like it so much if I had read it before the war broke out I don't know but I might have turned out like John Brown. I have been up to S. Sunday & Chruch. The minister gave us a red hot abolition sermon just gave the greatest cursing I ever heard to old Buck the rebellion & sympathizers. I would like to hear Mr. Walker preach again. Whe have a minister every day and some of them are rather light.
Love to all. I hope you will write soon to your affectionate
ABRAHAM LINCOLN HAD BEEN LAWYER FOR FUTURE ILLINOIS STATE UNIVERSITY
The teachers' college at Normal, Illinois, was founded in 1857 by the State Board of Education as the first public institution of higher learning in Illinois. Abraham Lincoln prepared the legal documents for its establishment. By 1865, the year of Lincoln's death it offered a tuition-free, four-year teacher-training program. Its first president wa RICHARD EDWARDS, who was the "Mr. Edwards" of Laura's letter. Renamed Illinois State University, it is now a multipurpose university offering degrees at the Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral levels. Courses are no longer tuition-free.
(There are two photos)
Cyrus "Cye" Geddes and sister Laura Ann Gedded c1865 (The family believes these to be the very photos that Laura mentioned in her letter)
Letter from Catharine Parthenia to her parents, Silas Hubbell and Mary Ashmun, From Ingham University, Leroy, November 6, 1864 Found in papers of Dorothy Van Santvoord Davies (nee Price) after her death in April 1984. Originally part of the papers of her mother, Anna Van Santvoord Price (nee Ahamun).
* * * * * *
Ingham University LeRoy, Nov. 6, 1864
Dear Rather & Mother;
It is Sabbath evening but I feel as if I must write a word to commemorate this intensly interesting Sabbath. Such stirring events, such astounding revelations, such daring deeds of wickedness and such calles for earnest devoter work it seems ( as Mrs. Stanton told us ) that the world has never, before known. Tonight instead of the ussual service in the church, there was held a prayer meeting for our country-especially in view of the coming election day. Nov. 7_7:30 o'clock. Great excitement of course tonight; the drums beat, the Union & Dem. Leagues are both out tonight with their torches and we girls would like very much the privilege of looking out of our window or hearing the speech, but no! we must not become excited, but study Chemistry & Astronomy &c, while our whole land is throbbing with excitement_A great many soldiers are around today, having come home to vote. Nov. 9 The news comes every hour of Union elections. LeRoy has gone seventeen Union majority. Batavia, seventy Union. These have, heretofore, been Democratic towns. We hear N.Y. City is 55000 McClellan. Exciting telegrams from the West, yesterday, told of conspiracies to burn Chicago, of intended murders; and Buffalo & Rochester were largely engaged in the plot, and indeed! it is hardly possible to know what is being transacted in our very midst. Last night when i heard the rain pouring down, I thought of Chicago. Mrs Parsons read to us the speech of Pierfront upon the division of the Democrats. It was eloquent and showed the truth of an honest mam. Last Saturday evening, Uncle Fisher came and took supper with me. He returned from Washington, Thursday; is going back in a week and Aunt Anna goes to, to spend the winter. Samuel goes to Oberlin this week. Uncle F. brought me another basket of apples and grapes. He was acquainted with Mr. & Mrs. Parsons, and really talked. We are not permitted to go to church or prayermeeting Sabbath evening. This order is given, because the faculty fear that some of the wild girls may speak to gentlemen. I do not think this is just for some to make the whole suffer. I hope a change will be made, for we are so secluded from the outer world, that it is very hard to be denied the privilege of going twice in the week to church. I thought I was going to send a neat appearing letter home this time but an accident tipped my inkstand over, and hehold the result. I thought I would copy the letter, but will send it as it is, promising a neater one, We are to be examined in Astronomy next week on Wednesday, I think. What do you think about my taking one term of music lessons? One of the teachers is a very fine player, and I
would like to take one term or half a term, for I should practice more, and derive some knowledge about teaching, which I need.
For the next quarter, I shall pay more attention to music and drawing, and keep only my three studies, until Feb. when I want four again. many of the girls spend Thanksgiving at home, and take friends with them. What are all at home to do Thanksgiving. I wish I could help eat that chicken-pie! I dreamed about every one of you last night. I thought Maggie was out in the hard rain-when I awoke, I was crying very hard. O forgot to mention that in that box, a good balmoral skirt and a warm sack came. I want to sent the skirt to you, Mother. Tell Sam and Van I don't see any sights or wonders nor hear anything. Else I would write more interesting letters to them. I want to hear from home tomorrow. These letters from home are the bright spots in this school life. I wish Sarah V.H. would write to me. I have a little time to write. Write, if you, Father or Mother, think I had better take some study in the place of Astronomy (as we soon finish it) instead of giving the extra time to music. We have had two bright days (within three weeks) only. Rain, rain, rain. Uncle John sends me papers so I can read news. Today, I read a composition; subject "Change". Took Miss Upton's place in Review Geog. class today. The scholars said they liked me better than her for their teacher, probably because I was not so severe. In this Geog. we take one state at a time; also have all sorts of questions. One, now is about the Washburne family of Maine. Can Van get Mr. Sawyer to tell anything interesting concerning them as a private family? If he can, I wish Vanny or Sam would write it out for me. The bell rings for study hour. I am homesick tonight- oh! it is a terrible feeling.
Love to Van, Maggie, Sam and to my dear Father & Mother. Is Christina well Remember me to Mr. S's family & Van Horn's - & the Furlings
Your aff. Daughter C.P. Ashmun "Sis"
Two leaves from Dr. Cox's trees
Attachment 5 - Lincoln Legacy Interviews
Blog Post # 2 - Strength in diversity: Lincoln & Sir James Douglas (by Sam Sullivan)
Posted on February 4, 2015
The Abraham Lincoln Legacy project has given me the opportunity to connect with fascinating British Columbians, each with a unique perspective on the effect of Lincoln's legacy on B.C.
I invited Mavis DeGirolamo, President of the B.C. Black History Awareness Society, to speak with me about the project. We got to talking about the pivotal role B.C."s black pioneers had in building our province and how the actions of leaders such as Abraham Lincoln had an impact on their lives here in B.C.
Mavis and I chatted about Sir James Douglas, B.C.'s first governor and a fur trader of mixed African and European ancestry. He felt great empathy towards Black Americans experiencing persecution south of the border, so he invited them to B.C.
On April 20,1858, 65 people came to Victoria from California - they came to practice their professions, pursue education, raise their children, and better insure their freedom from the threat of being extradited to US states practicing slavery. When Linclon abolished slavery in 1863 it was time of hope and a signal of the changing times throughout North America.
Mavis began her journey as a champion of equal rights in the 1960's and it has led her to groups such as the B.C. Black History Awareness Society and the Inter-Cultural Association where she teaches citizenship classes to new Canadians. She reminds her students that they follow in the footsteps of great leaders from the past who also came from somewhere else to live, work and make a difference in B.C.
Leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and James Douglas set a tone of equality and welcome that still echoes throughout B.C. Lincoln believed that the only way to save the union was to unite people, and the idea of diversity building strong communities is a motto that Mavis Lives by. Although the goal of equal rights for everyone is not a universal reality now, Mavis believes that it's coming: "We aren't there yet, but every small ripple adds up."
Do you have a story to share about the history of black poineers in B.C.? Please share your thoughts below.
Blog Post # 3 - Liz Bean, a Citizen-in-Waiting, Her Perspectve (by Sam Sullivan)
Postede on Feburary 16,2015
Shortly before Black History Month began, I shared a few stories with Liz Bean, a Canadian Citizen-in-waiting, who came to Victoria from California in 2010.
Her perspective on Abraham Lincoln and the civil rights movement is unique and influenced largely by her parents, who were both born in Louisiana in the 1930's.
Growing up in the southern U.S., Liz's parents frequently experienced racism and discrimination. Lincoln had abolished slavery decades earlier, but societal change was taking much longer.
Both of Liz's parents passed along the importance of education and social justice to their children. Liz remembers their lessons well: "They taught us to stand up for ourselves and for what is right. For them, it was imperative for us to respect ourselves as well as others, regardless of any perceived difference."
Liz remembers learning about Abraham Lincoln and his historical influence as early as six years old. Known as the "Great Emancipator", his legacy was taught in grade schools, and his birthday, Feburary12, was celebrated and honoured as a day of nation significance.
We talked about the differences between Canadian and American views towards Lincoln and the civil rights movements. Liz noted that Canadians are generally very respectful of that time in history but felt that many Americans still live the civil rights movement. She added that many Black Americans still fight for equal rights and have been doing so for generations.
After nearly five years in Victoria, Liz works at the Iter-Cultural Association, a non-profit organization that helps newcomers settle in B.C. After being new to Victoria herself, Liz said she enjoys being on the other side of the welcoming committee.
She told me that she especially enjoys taking in the various cultural celebrations Victoria has to offer and encourages others to check out the events held throughout Black History Month - you my even run into her!
Do you have any thoughts on what ways Lincoln's words or actions have inspired you and your fellow citizens?
Blog Post #4 - An interview with Lonnie Glass, a Musician with an appetite for History (by Sam Sullivan)
Posted on February 23,2015
I was intrigued even before Lonnie Glass and I met over the phone. I knew that he was a local rock and blues musician with an international reach, but I wasn't sure of the connection between him and Abraham Lincoln's legacy. It wasn't long into our conversation before I understood that Lonnie is as passionate a historian as he is a talented musician!
Lonnie's two passions of music and history were ignited when he toured the southern United States in the 1980's. Unlike many night owl musicians, he would get up early and spend his mornings touring as many museums, battlefields and historical archives as he could. He had an insatiable appetite for history - it was only a matter of time before he combined his passion for music and with his growing historical knowledge.
In 2010, Lonnie compiled 'Chapter of Night', a collection of songs inspired by the Civil War and the era of Abraham Lincoln. Lonnie was compelled by this time of bloodshed and political crisis because of the important lesson it held for society. On tour, Lonnie traveled through Tennessee, Virginia, the Carolinas, Alabama, Florida and Georgia, connecting with audiences whose heritage was linked with that time in history. By combining the artistry of music with these historical lessons of the past, Lonnie reminded his fans of a time when the idea of equal rights for all citizens was a foreign concept.
Much like a musican's ability to shape their listener's beliefs, Abraham Lincoln changed the belief system in the southern United States. The actions throughout Lincoln's presidency led the way to the constitutional 13th, 14th and 15th amendments being adopted after his untimely death. These amendments abolished slavery, granted citizenship and gave voting rights to the millions of newly freed Black Americans. But his actions not only led to the abolishment of slavery-he changed the mindset of a nation.
Lonnie highlighted an important aspect of history that is not often talked about in relation to Abraham Lincoln- noting that after Lincoln's assassination in 1865, political forces worked to undo the laws Lincoln had established. But what they couldn't change was Lincoln's message and, ultimately, his legacy.
Lonnie Glass' music too, is a reminder of North America's historical past. Each story tells of the struggle and courage during the Civil War and with the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln's death this year, the stories we tell serve as reminder that history can rpeat itself.
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