By Eric Jackson
Johnston County Report reached out to five local public figures and asked they share their personal thoughts about current social justice issues. This is the third in a series of 5 articles that will publish this week.
The last few months have been fast moving and historic. The current times have brought to the surface old wounds and unhealed sores from our nation’s history.
The last few months have seen a nation grieving and hurting. There have been some incidents that have made me wince and some that have given me new hope that our country can survive and come out on the other end a much stronger and united country. This to me is American Exceptionalism!
The healing must begin and I believe that it has. There have been civil discussions and peaceful demonstrations here in Johnston County. I want to thank our local law enforcement and our Sheriff’s department for making sure there was no violence.
Where do we go from here? I feel that the way American history is taught in this country needs to be fundamentally changed. From kindergarten to 12th grade a whole new approach in educating our young people needs to happen. The role of Native Americans and Enslaved people needs to be given more interpretation. All of the causes of the Civil War including State’s Rights, Slavery, Property Rights, Abolition, the Industrial Revolution, Immigration need to be included and discussed in a fair manner.
Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights era of the 50’sand 60’s and this new movement in all of its dimensions needs to be taught to our young people.
I reject the current idea of “Presentism”. This is where we place our current moral values and criticisms on historic events. This to me is wrong and it gives students a skewed view of history. History, in my opinion, should be taught honestly and unvarnished. One must allow the student to think critically and form their own opinions.
The State of North Carolina had a golden opportunity two years ago to help bring about honest discussion about our past. In 2017 North Carolina Historical Commission voted to keep the Monuments to the Confederacy on Union Square in Raleigh, and to have information putting the monuments in context to the period of history in which they were built.
The General Assembly appropriated $4 million to complete Freedom Park on Wilmington Street, this is a park that would have told the African-American Story in North Carolina, The monuments would have stayed and placed in context and the African-American story would have been told in a much fuller presentation.
The events of the last two weeks have all but quashed that program. Governor Cooper and the Mayor of Raleigh should have worked together to preserve the peace, allow for peaceful protest and protect property. A curfew should have been placed in Raleigh, a barricade around Union Square to halt traffic. Anyone disrupting with violence should have been arrested. When the protesters tore the monument down I was holding my breath that no one got injured.
It could have been avoided. The City of Wilmington put a curfew in effect and there was limited uproar. The curfew in Raleigh would have given everyone a chance to catch their breath. Now the Monuments are gone, the Freedom Park money has been put on hold and the amount of money appropriated has been reduced. I hope that the discussion can move forward.
The discussion in Selma is moving forward day-by-day. Selma has a diverse Town Staff; our Town Council is concerned about all of our citizens. The discussions about inclusion and diversity are being heard. There is more to do, but we are making steps.
The Max G. Creech Selma Historical Museum is helping to lead the discussion.
In February we were one of the hosts of the Third annual Soul Food Fest. This is a community event sponsored by the Town of Selma and our Parks and Recrecation Department. There was an outpouring of love and community at our new Civic Center, The gathering was one of education, music, food and fellowship. This was a gathering before we went on lockdown and I know the fond memories it gave has sustained some and we are thankful for that.
This past June the museum held its annual Juneteenth Program. This event brings the community together in all of its diversity. The 2020 celebration was special. We were masked and socially distanced. The cowboy poet T.C. Carter read a poem about Legendary African-American Lawman Bass Reeves. It was a memorable reading.[For those that do not know who Bass Reeves is Google him].
This is just the beginning there is much work we all need to do. The Museum will continue to lead in bringing the community together.
I close with the words from an old hymn. Let it be an anthem for the future.
“Farther along we’ll know all about it…Farther along we’ll understand why”..
“Cheer up my brother live in the sunshine… We’ll understand it oh by and by”…
Eric Jackson lives in Selma. He is a former History Instructor. He is on the Board of the Max G. Creech Selma Historical Museum