Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Seeing anew: John Evans and the Civil War as a war against bondage/war of genocide, a setting for document 4



On August 1, 1865, John Evans was removed from his post as Governor of Colorado by Secretary of State Seward for being the official who presided over and ordered the Sand Creek massacre. The Congressional Joint Committee on the Conduct of the Civil War investigating Sand Creek had called for his resignation. For Evans' statement (document 3), see here.

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Evans was a friend and associate of the Republican Party with Lincoln and they had been involved in the railways together in Illinois. Lincoln is famed for extending the Union Pacific, as Marx put it in Capital, with the “speed of seven league boots” across the whole country (volume 1, end of chapter 10 on "The Working Day").

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The Union Pacific had gone through Kansas where officials, threatening coercion, had negotiated with the indigenous people to leave their lands and hunting grounds. This was part of a process of belligerence, thievery, killing and settling other people on the land. It imposed grave hardship on indigenous people. They had to change their way of life, become farmers among whites, or farmers on reservations, and they were made dependent on American promises. They were continuously expelled into "Indian Territories," no longer independent nations but racial subordinates to the United States Government.

Some cooperated to an extent, to save themselves: the Pawnee, for example, against the Sioux.

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It was, over time, ethnic cleansing.

American leaders, for instance, General William Tecumseh Sherman, spoke of exterminating native americans...

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"St. Louis, December 28, 1866.

GENERAL [Grant]: Just arrived in time to attend the funeral of my adjutant general, Sawyer. I have given general instructions to General Cooke about the Sioux. I do not yet understand how the massacre of Colonel Fetterman's party could have been so complete [a response to Sand Creek...See here]. We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children. Nothing less will reach the root of this case.

W. T. SHERMAN,
Lieutenant General"

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With the surrender of the Confederacy, the War against bondage ended in 1865.

But the War of genocide extended from before the Civil War, was heightened during it in the West (the driving of indigenous people out of Mankato and Minnesota - see here - as well as Colorado), and extended in the Great Indian Wars till the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890. Starting with Lincoln's Presidency, one might date this Civil War from 1861-1890...

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The indigenous people were on the land. The US Government, with its settlers, came and took it. No attempt at peaceful settlement, for instance with the five tribes who became agriculturalists - even had some slaves - in Georgia, met with success. Against the petitions of over a million Americans in a population of 13 million, underlining the decency of many and other social/political possibilities, the Government drove indigenous people out.

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In his pathbreaking River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (2012), Walter Johnson explains the vision of the Southern slaveowners who intended to expand imperially beyond America to Cuba and Nicaragua. He places the slaveocracy, fearing a revolt as in Haiti, in the context of an international trade in cotton and the novel force of the steamship. Johnson explains the nature of "whiteness" in both Jefferson's imagined republic of white yeomen and Andrew Jackson's more explicitly genocidal regime dominated by slave-owners:

"At Doak's stand in 1820, General [Andrew] Jackson hectored the tribal leaders with the threat that 'without a change in your situation, you must dwindle to nothing,' before bribing them into signing away their people's lands in exchange for land grants that allowed the signatories to stay behind in Mississippi. Jackson's metaphysics of expansion and removal were echoed by his frequent political antagonist Henry Clay in an 1825 exchange with John Quincy Adams: 'They [are] destined to extinction...Their disappearance from the human family would be no great loss to the world.' Of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which presaged the final removal of the Choctaw from Mississippi, General Edmund Gaines wrote: '[It] acted as a bomb thrown among them. It filled them with surprise, astonishment, excitement, grief and resentment. Not a single Choctaw favored the sale and cession of the lands of the tribe. It had not a solitary advocate among them.' Of the 8,000 or so Choctaw who left Mississippi bound for Oklahoma in the 1830s, more than a quarter died along the way. 'Yet it is said,' wrote the Choctaw chief George Harkins, 'that our present movements are our own voluntary acts - such is not the case. We found ourselves like a benighted stranger, following false guides, until he was surrounded on every side, with fire and water. The fire was certain destruction, and a feeble hope was left him of escaping by water. A distant view of the opposite shore encourages the hope; to remain would be inevitable annihilation. Who would hesitate, or who would say that his plunging into the water was his own voluntary act?" (p. 30)

Harkins captures the compulsion exercised by the United States Government against "friendly Indians." They had to choose the water [death] rather than fire...

When a million Americans petitioned against the removal, it was Southern votes in the Congress, bolstered by the 3/5ths clause (slaves were counted as 3/5ths human to create extra representation for their masters) which pushed the Act through. These Americans stood for what was right against ethnic cleansing, represented most fiercely by President Jackson and opposed in the campaign by Henry Clay, despite his earlier genocidal incitements.

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Johnson continues:

"And so it went: final removal treaties were signed with the Choctaw in 1831, and with the Creek, the Seminole and the Chickasaw in 1837. The Cherokee were forcibly removed along the 'Trail of Tears' in 1838. By the time he was done, Andrew Jackson had added over 100 million acres to the public domain of the United States. The Native civilizations of the Southeaast had been destroyed, resettled in 'Indian Territory,' the very name of which bespoke the forcible transformation of sovereign nations into racial subjects. All but a handful of tribal 'leaders' who cooperated with the government (or to put it more charitably, saw the writing on the wall and cut the best deal they could) experienced the cognitive dislocation and physical suffering generally associated with the term 'ethnic cleansing'; tens of thousands died in the process. By 1840, the homelands of the Choctaw, the Chickasaw, the Creek, the Seminole and the Cherokee had, through the military power and legal authority of the United States of America, been converted into a vast reserve for the cultivation of whiteness." (pp. 30-31).

This destruction and the Founding Amnesia surrounding it very likely motivate casual American violence against nonwhite peoples - overthrowing 15 nonwhite democracies during and after the Cold War, for example, or killing civilians with drones today. Poised to invade Iraq in 2003, as Tink Tinker wrote to me, a Colonel lectured soldiers: "Gentlemen, this is indian country." See here. The racism runs deep.

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In April 2008, I took my 12 year old son to hear Barack Obama at DU, two among some 30,000. When Obama concluded, there was not a dry eye in the place. But even as he included indigenous people, Barack also invoked Andrew Jackson as if this genocidal leader were some positive forebear. Amnesia and the whiteness of American foreign policy (its genocide in Vietnam, its bizarre aggression against and torture in Iraq) are vivid in Obama's use of drones...See here.

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This was more a War of aggression and genocide against separate peoples than a Civil War. Yet as the case of Georgia reveals, it became a kind of Civil War...

Further, it occurred simultaneously with the Civil War. Union officials, officers and soldiers often upheld their "duties" in both cases...

And Colorado reactionaries, who did little to fight bondage (Chivington did fight the Confederates at the battle of Glorietta in New Mexico), are quick to invoke the role, as Union soldiers, of those who fought, in the Colorado territory, only against indigenous people, massacred civilians at Sand Creek...See the statue of the Anonymous Soldier of the Civil War n front of the State Capitol here.

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To the extent there was any decency, recognizing the original possessors of the territory as human, in the settler population (and there was some), it was a kind of Civil War...

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No treaties signed by the United States government with indigenous people were fulfilled. Few promises, for example about adequate food, were kept.

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The treaty of Fort Laramie (1851) pushed the Cheyenne and Arapaho into Colorado, basically gave them large territories in which to hunt (the Utes were already here, and not a party to the treaty).

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Article 5 of the Treaty of Fort Laramie, signed by D. D. Mitchell, superintendent of Indian affairs, and Thomas Fitzpatrick, Indian agent, and "the following Indian nations, residing south of the Missouri River, east of the Rocky Mountains, and north of the lines of Texas and New Mexico, viz, the Sioux or Dahcotahs, Cheyennes, Arrapahoes, Crows, Assinaboines, Gros-Ventre Mandans, and Arrickaras, parties of the second part, on the seventeenth day of September, A.D. one thousand eight hundred and fifty-one," and ratified by Congress, states:

"The territory of the Cheyennes and Arrapahoes, commencing at the Red Bute, or the place where the road leaves the north fork of the Platte River; thence up the north fork of the Platte River to its source; thence along the main range of the Rocky Mountains to the head-waters of the Arkansas River; thence down the Arkansas River to the crossing of the Santa Fe' road; thence in a northwesterly direction to the forks of the Platte River, and thence up the Platte River to the place of beginning.

It is, however, understood that, in making this recognition and acknowledgement, the aforesaid Indian nations do not hereby abandon or prejudice any rights or claims they may have to other lands; and further, that they do not surrender the privilege of hunting, fishing, or passing over any of the tracts of country heretofore described."

See here.

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But then gold was discovered. As the West-facing plaque – what one might call the Sand Creek massacre or ethnic cleansing plaque - on the 1909 statue of an Anonymous Soldier of the Civil War in front of the State Capitol in Denver, somewhat irrelevantly, reveals, white men putatively discovered gold. See here.

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This is an irredentist plaque, celebrating the origins of Colorado in the slaughter of civilians. The indigenous people had moved to Sand Creek under agreement with the United States Government, as the Congressional post-Civil War judgments of the massacre revealed. The plaque is a precise parallel to Southern celebrations, for instance of Jefferson Davis or Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the KKK, in Memphis.

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This January, the Memphis City Council courageously changed the names of the parks previously named for Davis and Forrest.

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The Sand Creek Massacre was carried out by the citizens of Denver, the "hundred daysters" - one hundred day recruits - since the federal Civil War troops had been sent to fight against the Confederacy.

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Colorado was thus “settled” in a gold-seeking frenzy and Native Americans eliminated and "forgotten." This is the Founding Amnesia of Colorado.

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The worth of the Fort Laramie Treaty was demonstrated at Sand Creek…

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As Donald Hughes, an historian and John Evans professor at the University of Denver, wrote to me,

"At the bottom of the plaque, note that the unnamed "others" who discovered gold were the Cherokees Lewis Ralston and John Beck, and the Delaware Indian Fall Leaf."

The plaque even lies about the indigenous people who (sadly) discovered the gold.

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The plaque names John Evans, John Chivington and other “commanders at Sand Creek” like Shoup, and 10 soldiers who were killed slaughtering civilians, women and children at Sand Creek as part of the “Union” effort. I initially found this repulsive; it is an insult to all who fought bondage and to abolitionists like Silas Soule who resisted the massacre. See here.

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And yet about the War of genocide which was also the Civil War, it is true.

Silas Soule, challenging Chivington's massacre of "friendly Indians," his life threatened, nonetheless promised to fight, along with the murderers, "hostile Indians."

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Soule was thus enlisted in the ethnic cleansing - he would likely have sympathized with more moderate and life-preserving solutions like the tribes in Georgia who became farmers. He clashed - importantly and at the risk of his life - with those who made the process a War of genocide, of extermination.

He, too, however, was part of this War to steal the land from the indigenous people and cordon them off - perhaps force a "peace" upon them - according to the desires of those who stole the land.

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Much of this cannot be undone. That is the tragedy, as Walter Benjamin says (the angel of history looks backward upon the suffering), of history.

But all of this needs to be acknowledged and the celebration of genocide, let alone Sand Creek, ended.

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It is a common practice of those who commit and celebrate genocide to rename everything they have taken and done. In East Jerusalem, the government of Israel is, sadly, doing exactly this. On a wall in the old city, the sign gives the name in Arabic as the gate of the Mujahadine (the soldiers).

In Hebrew and English, it is “Lion’s Gate.” See here.

Soon the Arabic, as in a thousand other cases, will be erased or written over…

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It is, in fact, seemingly irrelevant, and degrading, in a plaque ostensibly to honor the Civil War dead, to announce that gold was discovered in Colorado. Why is this "discovery" at the bottom of a Memorial?

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Gold and money from the railroads were the secret of the Sand Creek massacre. They were the fuel of the American War for Empire – the previously largely hidden part of the Civil War, the war that abolished bondage, as also a barbaric enterprise - against indigenous people.

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High school texts record the Civil War, not terribly accurately, as a "war between the states," between the North and the South. Lincoln and perhaps abolitionism sometimes figure into it. Today there is the fine movie "Lincoln."

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But the third party, the indigenous people, who were slaughtered, are left out.

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The War in the West 1861-1890 - the War of Empire, of the long ethnic cleansing - is left out.

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The slaughter of the Dakotas and their being driven out of Mankato - Lincoln's hanging of 38 native americans in 1862, less than the Mankato racists wanted, 303, but the largest military hanging in American history - is left out. See here.

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Today in Mankato, only a statue of Pocahantas remains.

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Today behind the State Capitol in Denver, a statue of an indigenous person killing a buffalo - not titled now though it was once "End of an Era" from the Columbian World's Fair of 1893 - remains.

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There are no Arapahoes in Arapahoe County, along Arapahoe Road.

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The Civil War was also, and just as importantly, a War of ethnic cleansing in the West.

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The Union opposed genocide in the South. The Union enacted genocide in the West...


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Consider the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) of which the US is belatedly a signatory (it was ratified by the Senate only during Reagan's second term in 1986). The Convention outlaws conditions designed to destroy a people "in whole or in part."

Article two identifies the five features of genocide:

"(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

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These conditions were in the Civil War and at the Sand Creek massacre blatantly fulfilled except for (e) toward native americans. That would await the later forcible stealing of indigenous children to be raised and brutalized under Protestant and Catholic authority.

It has been a long War...

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The Civil War was fought about and against a leading genocide, slavery, one more publicized in the European/American community, as a result of protests from below since before the founding of the American Republic, and internationally.

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The South seceded to preserve bondage. Bondage routinely killed slaves (research into the black graveyard unearthed in New York in 1991 found that 40% of the corpses had died under the age of 15…; New York had enacted gradual emancipation in 1799; the last slave in Manhattan was set free in the 1840s).

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While I was researching Black Patriots and Loyalists, I realized that the threat of death caused by the murdering of some actually was used to make the remaining slaves work harder. The common assertion, even among some Marxists, that slavery, a patriarchal institution, needs to keep slaves alive to profit from them, underestimates the role of killing and whipping in inspiring fear in others or of the use of starvation and providing no clothes in extracting profits.

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Under slavery, blacks had about half as many children as whites (these matters I have figures on from emigrants to Nova Scotia). Once they reached freedom, their birth rate went up. The change is a numerical indicator of genocide and the good of emancipation.

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Correspondingly, slave-owners’ (and even ordinary whites’) reproduction declined as the prospect that they could not, as slave-owners or British Loyalists, stay in America, became clear.

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It would be useful to have comparative figures, like the one above for the New York graveyard, on how many whites died under the age of 15 (less than 40%...). It would be good to get figures on comparative life expectancies of slaves and various classes of “free” men and women. Such figures would reveal, as it were, weights for genocide.

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George Washington and other Southerners sometimes did not clothe their “field slaves.” It was too expensive, Washington thought. Washington also required slaves to use their lone blanket to sleep on to bring leaves and feed to the pigs and cows to make sure that the animals were “bedded down comfortably” (h/t Henry Wiencek, Imperfect God: George Washington, his Slaves and the Creation of America).

The blankets wore away…

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With regard to Article 2, section 5 of the Convention against Genocide, the masters sold black children away from their families.

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These and other characteristics of that Convention were realized – one might say, for the benefit of Christians, diabolically realized - in slave-owning…

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Lincoln led the fight against this founding genocide. That is the point of the recent biopic “Lincoln” which captures some of the enormous force of the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863 – this year its 150th anniversary – see here, here and here – and its connection to the 13th amendment which abolished bondage on American soil, and thus made the Constitution cleanly a document of freedom.

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For the first time, the Constitution was not a – in this major respect, as Henry David Thoreau suggests in "Civil Disobedience," depraved – document of slave-owners.

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The movie “Lincoln” omits, however, the tremendous struggle by blacks and Native Americans against depredations by the South (Creek Indians and escaped slaves were driven from reservations) [h/t William Loren Katz]. Some escaped the Confederacy after bloody struggle and eventually fought in Kansas, often under abolitionist leaders, against bondage.

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“Lincoln” omits the larger abolitionist movement and the role of the feminist leaders for women’s suffrage, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who drafted the 13th amendment and the Women's National Loyal League. See here.

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It omits the role of black soldiers who came to the Union side and propelled it, as Frederick Douglass underlined, to victory – showing them but as a backdrop to the “important” role of a white congress (it does celebrate Thaddeus Stevens, a first in a Hollywood movie…).

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The movie thus elides the reality of what made the Union win. For 80% of the recruits to the Union army, following the Emancipation Proclamation, were black. See Bruce Levine, The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South (2012).

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When Sherman started his march through Georgia, blacks rose up. They burned plantations because they were more like Candieland in Django than not.

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The Civil War killed bondage in America. That was its greatness and Lincoln’s.

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But here the moral ambiguity of the War is glaring. For John Evans and John Chivington were Union officials and soldiers in Colorado, Republican allies of Lincoln, hopeful to become, respectively, Senator and Congressman for the Republican party from the new state.

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The Sand Creek massacre ended that possibility because it outraged even the Federal government, even those who were responsible for the ethnic cleansing sweeping across the nation and the extension of the Civil War as a War of genocide until 1890…

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Evans and Chivington committed the most barbaric atrocities - see the letter of Silas Soule here - in a long term process of genocide.

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Evans, being removed as Governor by the Congressional Committee's recommendation and Secretary of State Seward's request, could not run for Senator.

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For enacting the slaughter to make himself a "military hero" – to be appointed Major General, he hoped – and seek election as the first Colorado representative, the Methodist minister John Chivington could not run for Congress and had to leave Colorado until the mid-1880s.

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Colorado only became a state on August 6, 1876.

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Sand Creek thus delayed statehood for 11 years after the Civil War, even among those Federal officials who had also aggressed against and driven out indigenous people.

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Paradoxically, as the War against slavery was a War to end genocide, so the War for Empire in the West was a War of genocide.

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The Civil War had always seemed to me one of the great heroic events of history. Along with the war against Nazism and fascism, it stood out as having a decent moral purpose and consequence, the result being the survival and advancement of liberty and civilization. It was, in reality, a just war.

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It also long seemed to me the actual American Revolution, fought over the great issue of bondage, rather than the earlier uprising which had expanded the suffrage including encompassing some poor whites but mainly shifted political personnel. I had been taught this by Barrington Moore – see Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy – and imagined his point was right.

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Getting an inkling that the issue of emancipation was central, on both sides in the American Revolution – 85 years before the Civil War – however, was for me (and I think as an historical discovery) a great breakthrough in understanding how much the American story is a fight for genuine freedom and against bondage from below – as well as how hard racism is to throw off. That is a fundamental theme of Black Patriots and Loyalists. See here.

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In this context, taking in the magnitude of the genocide toward indigenous people and the nature of the Civil War as equally a "forgotten" War for Empire has also shifted fundamentally how I think about this story.

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I have long known about and opposed the genocide toward indigenous people. But the sheer scope and relentless of the murderousness, how it shapes every aspect of American history, how Denver and Colorado are no better in their founding than the Memphis which celebrated Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the Klan until the City Council renamed the park this past January, I had not realized.

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I was in the Civil Right movement (and active in the Intenrtional Committee against Racism for many years) and would have instantly recognized the depths of racism had I moved anywhere in the South. But the Founding Amnesia about Native Americans meant that I didn’t understand the depths of this in Denver – the moral depravity of the founding of Denver and Colorado – until recently.

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With the exception of Wynkoop, a small street downtown, all the main streets in Denver are named for “indian-killers.” (h/t Glenn Morris) I have spent much of my career near Evans and Downing streets. Downing was the second in command to Chivington, an engineer of the slaughter at Sand Creek, a founder of Colorado Springs...

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This naming needs to be undone.

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Perhaps a Forrest and Davis Boulevard in Memphis or a Himmler and Goebbels Strasse in Berlin or a Calle Torquemada in Madrid would be a moral equivalent...



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