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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,893
November 30, 2017
Crises America Has Overcome
By Mike McManus

I found the speeches quoted here in "A Patriot's Handbook," a book edited by Caroline Kennedy in 2003. It would make a great Christmas gift!

Recent headlines are discouraging - Russian interference with our election; mass killings in Las Vegas and a church; Congress advancing a tax bill to reward the very rich and hurt middle income people.

However, there have been worse times and America has grown through them. When Abraham Lincoln gave his First Inaugural Address, in March, 1861, seven southern states had already seceded from the Union. He acknowledged those states feared that with his election "their property, their peace and personal security were endangered," as Lincoln put it.

However, he said, "I have no interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists." He opposed allowing slavery in new states being added to the Union. He added, "There needs be no bloodshed or violence and there shall be none, unless it be forced upon the national authority."

He was trying to use logic to prevent a Civil War. "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict, without yourselves being the aggressors."

Sadly, one month later, Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter and the Civil War began. Tragically, a half million died.

However, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation which declared, "All persons held as slaves within any state...shall be forever free" as of Jan. 1, 1863. He invited former slaves to join the Union Army to fight for freedom. In January, 1865 he signed the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery.

Thus, the Civil War, America's greatest crisis, led to an end of slavery.

A century later Birmingham, Alabama became the target of the Civil Rights Revolution. It was known as "the most segregated city in the South," with parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, restaurants, theaters, hotels and elevators all segregated by race. There were no black police or firefighters.

Martin Luther King was imprisoned for defying a court order prohibiting demonstrations. While there he wrote his famous "Letter from Birmingham City Jail" in April, 1963. He spoke of "stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television."

He told of taking a cross-country drive and finding it "necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored;" when your first name becomes `nigger," and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title `Mrs.'"

As a boy I lived in Montgomery, Alabama where I witnessed such scandalous treatment of Negroes. Martin Luther King made his name there in 1956 by leading a "Bus Boycott," in which blacks refused to ride buses which gave them only a few seats at the back of the bus. They could not sit in the white section, even if its seats were empty. Negroes walked miles to work, rather than ride buses. After a year, facing bankruptcy, the bus company caved in, allowing people to sit anywhere.

In a 1965 Civil Rights March in Selma, Alabama, police beat up marchers, and a pastor was killed. President Lyndon Johnson was moved to call on Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. He recalled, "This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose. The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, North and South:

"All men are created equal" - "government by consent of the governed." He asserted, "Those words are a promise to every citizen that he shall share in the dignity of man.

Johnson spoke of Negroes attempting to register to vote, "only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour late, or the official in charge is absent." A Negro "may be asked to recite the entire Constitution."

"A century has passed...since equality was promised. And yet the Negro is not equal...The time of justice has now come...This great, rich, restless country can offer opportunity and education and hope to all, black and white, North and South."

The Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act were passed by Congress. The Civil Rights Revolution created a crisis that resulted in laws guaranteeing freedom and progress.

Today millions of black Americans have entered the middle class thanks to the leadership of Lincoln, King and Johnson.

Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous columns go to Hit Search for any topic.

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