January 19, 2009
Obama and the Lessons of HistoryBy Matt Spivey
As an educator, I am always interested in discovering how schools and teachers implement American and world events into curriculum. With the historic inauguration of the nation's first black president, one can imagine the materials for instruction at all ages are more than abundant.
In fact, the Obama camp has even prodded teachers along by coordinating with the NEA and AFT to create lesson plans and activities for learning from and about the inaugural process. These include valuable writing projects on speech crafting and reading assignments with historical, political, and cultural content and context. But there are a few facts of history of which many students today are not aware. And if the teachers themselves have the facts, we can surmise that such information is being withheld from young people for the ideological protection of our liberal educators.
So in light of the coming inaugural event, let's recap the process that helped us get to Tuesday. And let's closely notice the political parties involved.
We are all aware that it was Republican Abraham Lincoln's brave belief in freedom and diligent disbelief in secession that freed nearly four million black Americans from slavery. But, it was shortly after Lincoln's death that the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which extended equality legislation to former slaves, was passed by the Republican Congress, overriding the veto by the Unionist-Democrat President Andrew Johnson.
The Civil Rights Act of 1871 gave protection to blacks from the violence of the Ku Klux Klan. This legislation was proposed by Republican Congressman Benjamin Butler and signed into law by Republican President Ulysses S. Grant.
The Civil Rights Act of 1875 gave everyone equal treatment in public accommodations and was proposed by Republican Congressman Butler, once again, and Republican Senator Charles Sumner. It was also signed by Republican President Grant, and though it was mostly ineffective at the time, it became the basis for many of the provisions passed in the 1960s.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957, a voting rights bill, was proposed by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, but it was dramatically filibustered and drastically amended by Democrats, rendering it largely ineffective for several years.
The ensuing Civil Rights Act of 1960 was a stronger piece of voting rights legislation, and despite continuous filibustering by 18 Democrats, the bill was eventually signed by Republican President Eisenhower.
The famed Civil Rights Act of 1964 aimed for across the board equality and the repeal of Jim Crow laws. The bill was introduced by Democrat President John F. Kennedy in 1963, but it was once again filibustered by Democrats before being revised and passed with the assistance of Republican Senators.
Finally, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, commonly called the Fair Housing Act, prohibited discrimination in buying or renting property, and was signed into law by Democrat President Lyndon Johnson.
If the overwhelming number of proposed and enacted equality legislation throughout history is not enough to demonstrate the Republican promotion of fair treatment for all Americans in the face of Democratic opposition, our nation's first black elected officials also bear a striking similarity.
During Reconstruction, our nation elected its first two black Senators, both Republicans, as well as 21 black members of the House of Representatives, all Republicans. And the first black Congressman in the modern era (from Illinois, interestingly enough) was also a Republican. However, ironically, since 1935 nearly all black Congressmen have been Democrats.
While many liberals claim that Republicanism is the choice of rich, old, white guys, they must be reminded on a regular basis that it was Republican legislation and elections that paved the way for Tuesday's historic inauguration. For many, January 20th is additionally important due to its proximity to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. But again, let's examine an important nugget of history and remember that the three primary politicians responsible for imprisoning King and prompting him to write the powerfully poignant Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Albert Boutwell, Bull Connor, and George Wallace, were all -- you guessed it -- Democrats.
Liberal educators may claim that the Civil Rights Movement and Democratic politicians of the 1960s are what brought Barack Obama to his date with destiny. They might also, perhaps rightfully so, proclaim to their students that our nation is on the cusp of a new style of leadership with the most unique cultural perspective in American history.
Some schools are even going so far as to close their doors on Tuesday so students can watch and celebrate the inauguration with their families. But no matter how liberals spin the facts of history in their favor, it is the responsibility of teachers to tell the whole story. Yes, Democrats have finally jumped aboard the train of equality in the last 45 years, and they deserve some credit. But Republicans have been on the side of African-Americans for 150 years, and somehow they are still the racist, intolerant, oppressors.
Though it may be uncomfortable for Obama's friends in the NEA and AFT, our students deserve the truth of American history, and this week is a great opportunity for such an intellectual enlightenment. And while Democrats and African-Americans are beaming with pride at Barack Obama's accomplishment, history has shown us that, regardless of beliefs in policy, it is actually many white Republicans who are proudest of all.