Gustave de Beaumont’s Forgotten Abolitionist Novel

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I recently joined Ed Blum on the editorial staff at Christian Century‘s religious history blog, Then and Now. I’m looking forward to working with Ed, whom I’ve gotten to know over the past several months through CFH and S-USIH. His religious biography of W.E.B. Du Bois is truly outstanding and I highly recommend it.

My inaugural post appeared today–I wrote about an 1835 novel entitled Marie or, Slavery in the United States. Marie was written by Gustave de Beaumont (1802-1866), Alexis de Tocqueville’s travelling companion on their famous tour of the United States that took place in 1831-1832. Tocqueville is famous for having written Democracy in America, which is an extensive consideration of American “institutions,” as Tocqueville put it. Democracy is much more well-known: it was translated into English for the first time during the 1860s, and has been widely read here in America, especially in the years since World War II. (And for a brief word of shameless self-promotion, I am currently in process of editing a new abridgment of Democracy). Democracy is not an uncritical work, but it is a work celebrating American exceptionalism. It is often appealed to by political conservatives, who are found of misattributing the “America is great because she is good” line to Tocqueville.

But Beaumont’s work, a true-to-life work of fiction that he meant to be read alongside Democracy, is less well-known to Americans. It was not translated into English until 1958, nearly 100 years after Democracy. In contrast to Democracy, there is nothing celebratory about America in Marie. It is a tragic story, and it strikes at the heart of something very central, albeit very ugly, about American culture–deep-rooted racial prejudice.

I hope that you add Marie to your reading list, and that you settle in to absorb its message. Marie is much more than a critique of slavery. It is a critique of the myriad absurdities inherent to racial prejudice, to say nothing of the glaring hypocrisy of racial injustice in America. While the work is set in the 1830s, the book offers us a way to think historically about racism in America, as it also continues to give opportunity to reflect on the abiding reality of white privilege in contemporary times.

Here is a taste of my post

Beaumont’s Marie was a work ahead of its time. It was not the first abolitionist work in America, but it was the first one to go beyond slavery and look squarely at the broader problem of racial injustice in America. Not only that, but it presented racial injustice as being ingrained in American culture, reaching not only to African slaves but also to “mulattos,” those in whose veins coursed the slightest hint of African blood. Beaumont told the story of Ludovic, a Frenchman who migrated to America in search of a new life invigorated by liberty. Ludovic fell in love with Marie, a lovely American girl of 1/32 African descent. Because of this, she was considered “colored,” and she and her brother George were ostracized by society. Ludovic’s marriage to Marie incited a race riot in New York, from which they barely escaped. Ultimately the couple had to flee prejudice to the wilderness of Michigan, where deeper tragedies awaited. The novel ended with a disconsolate Ludovic, having witnessed the destruction of the ones he loved most in what he believed was the land of the free.

Furman and Mount St Mary’s Bound

PaladinsLogo.svgI’ve been looking forward to traveling back to Furman University, my dear old alma mater, for another Tocqueville Lecture. Last year, I had the opportunity to listen to Wilfred McClay’s lecture on the “Tocquevillian Moment.” This year, I get to listen to Robert George of Princteon University and Cornel West–formerly of Princeton, but now of Union Theological Seminary. The two will discuss “Christianity and American Politics.” I’ve been looking forward to attending this lecture–and to having the chance to meet both of them–for months now. I simply cannot wait until next Thursday.

Not only do I get to attend this lecture, but I am going to be bringing two good friends along with me to show Furman off and enjoy the lecture–Trey Dimsdale and Rob Collingsworth. Trey is a PhD student at Southwestern studying ethics and we both serve as associate directors of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement. Rob recently finished his MDiv at Southwestern, and serves the Land Center as a paid intern. He will be starting PhD work soon, also in ethics.

The week after next, I travel to Mount St. Mary’s University to attend the Ciceronian Society Meeting. I’ll be presenting a paper entitled, “Civil Religion, Exceptionalism, and Patriotism: A Consideration in Propriety.” In the paper, I’ll be pitching the thesis of my exceptionalism book, which is coming out this fall.

I built in some extra time to drive over to Antietam and possibly also to Gettysburg, two of my favorite battlefield sites. Looking forward to a good trip, complete with rich conversations with good friends, meeting some new friends, and maybe a little hero worship, too.

Barack Obama: American Exceptionalist?

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There has been a lot of talk about President Obama’s recent remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast last week. It was a topic of conversation in my Principles of American Politics class yesterday, as we were discussing the first five chapters of Democracy in America, volume I, by Alexis de Tocqueville. The buzz in social media, blogs, and news outlets continues even into this week. John Fea’s post on the subject from last Saturday is still, even today, generating conversation in the comments section. There are sixteen comments at this writing, with the most recent one posted just a few moments ago. And there will likely be more ink spilled on the speech before the week is out.

There is, indeed, much to say about the President’s speech. I’d like to focus on one aspect of the speech in particular in order to argue that Obama’s remarks fall squarely within the best tradition of American exceptionalism. Yes—American exceptionalism. From Barack Obama.

In case you haven’t seen or read the transcript, the President began by asking this question:

So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends? 

The President answered this question by calling on people of faith to exercise humility in their affirmations of truth. The exercise of humility is the necessary practical outworking of doing justly and loving mercy, as Micah 6:8 describes.

One of the aspects the President cited in the exercise of humility was thoughtful self-reflection. In speaking about self-reflection, President Obama articulated a specific American exceptionalist value.

Of course, the President is getting little credit for this. And perhaps he doesn’t deserve credit. Ross Douthat wrote in his New York Times column that “too often [his Niebuhrian style] offers ‘self’-criticism in which the president’s own party and worldview slip away untouched.” Perhaps Obama is guilty of utilizing sophistry to win political points. He is, after all, a politician and according to Gallup, the most polarizing president in the last sixty years. He plays to his base, no doubt about that—and no surprise, either. But when it comes to American exceptionalism, President Obama has come a long way. You might say, he has “evolved.”

But in an attempt to be objective (note: not neutral), let’s just consider the President’s statements on national self-reflection, that which I am identifying as being consistent with an American exceptionalist tradition.

In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

Is this statement historically accurate? Definitely. Ta-Nehisi Coates has provided clear evidence for this fact in his recent answer to the President’s conservative critics.

To bring up a profound moral failure on the part of American Christians, and to call them to self-reflection in the context of the National Prayer Breakfast takes courage. And why did the President do this? What was the purpose? Was the purpose to bash America? To bash Christians? Certainly not, at least not in this speech. The President’s purpose was to call us to a humility that rejects the notion that just because we are Americans, and just because we are Christians, we can do no wrong. Actually, we can do wrong, sustained wrong, systemic wrong, destructive wrong, wrong for which we as a nation continue to pay the dreadful consequences.

President Obama’s statement had the effect of exhorting American Christians to reflect on their past actions in order to call them to be true to their own values, specifically the value of humility. In this, he is firmly situated in a tradition that goes all the way back to the Puritans of the seventeenth century. Michael Wigglesworth (1631-1705) wrote the poem “God’s Controversy With New England” during a great drought in 1662 to call the people to return to faithfulness to the Lord. He wrote,

Whence cometh it, that Pride, and Luxurie/Debate, Deceit, Contention, and Strife\False-dealing, Covetousness, Hypocrisie/(With such like Crimes) amonst them are so rife/That one of them doth over-reach another?/And that an honest man can hardly trust his Brother?

Wigglesworth’s warning to the people of New England was that God was chastening them for their departure from their responsibility to be true to His moral commands. In the same spirit, Samuel Danforth (1626-1674) preached his 1670 election day sermon “A Brief Recognition of New England’s Errand Into the Wilderness” in Boston. He exhorted his listeners that “the Lord calls upon them seriously and thoroughly to examine themselves, what it was that drew them into the Wilderness” of America in the first place. Specifically, Danforth said, they were to “walk in the Faith of the Gospel with all good Conscience according to the Order of the Gospel.” But instead, Jesus’ question from Matthew 11:7-9, “What went ye out into the Wilderness to see?” was “a sad conviction of our dullness and backwardness to this great duty.”

Were Wigglesworth and Danforth resorting to anti-New England rants? Not at all. They were calling the people to recover their first principles through the act of humbling themselves and engaging in self-reflection. National self-reflection is a thoroughly American habit, most famously practiced throughout our history by the Puritans, abolitionists, woman suffragists, proponents of civil rights, and many, many others. Many of those who called Americans to self-reflection were accused of being false patriots, but history demonstrated them to be the truest patriots of all in calling Americans back to their first principles.

Ironically enough, the conservative evangelical tradition is thoroughly accustomed to calling America to remember her sins and pursue righteousness. Preachers frequently appeal to 2 Chronicles 7:14 in order to encourage Americans to “humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways” so that God would “hear from heaven” and “forgive their sin, and heal their land.” I have my issues with the exegetical propriety of using this passage to call America back to God—but the point is, doing so is consistent with a continuing exceptionalist tradition of national self-examination that is quite old. And conservative evangelicals, of all people, ought to be able to appreciate it when they see it—even from a President with whom they hardly ever agree.

Interview with Peter Gardella, Author of American Civil Religion

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Peter Gardella, author of American Civil Religion: What Americans Hold Sacred, is Professor of World Religions at Manhattanville College, and is the author of three other books on American religion. His thesis is that American civil religion, unified by the values of freedom, democracy, world peace, and cultural tolerance, is one of the most influential religions in the world. He supports his thesis by considering thirty-two texts, monuments, symbols, and ideas that bear civil religious significance–like the MLK Memorial on the Washington Mall, as pictured on the book’s cover.

Gardella was gracious enough to sit for a phone interview with me this week. His book is persuasive, thorough, and well-argued.

Q: How did you get interested in American civil religion?

A: In my childhood, my oldest brother who is 17 years older than I am, went to the Naval Academy in 1952 and I grew up thinking I should go to the Naval Academy. Civil religion always mattered to me a great deal; my father always flew the flag on all kinds of occasions in front of the house and so I’ve grown up with it.

Q: And haven’t we all?

A: We said the pledge every morning in public school right after the Lord’s Prayer in my case until 1963. But, there’s no question—it’s amazing that people don’t know the phrase. Only 2 weeks ago I had a letter published in the New York Times, and the editor wanted to eliminate the phrase “civil religion” from the letter because, she said, “I don’t know what it is.” I asked one of my colleagues here and he didn’t know either.

It’s a phrase in common use, but it’s amazing how well informed people you run into have never heard the phrase before. In fact, we haven’t educated the public to even the existence of American civil religion, but I think it’s one of the most powerful religions in the world.

Q: This book represents a ten-year project for you, researching American civil religion. As you wrote the book, what struck you to be the tangible elements making American civil religion recognizable?

A: My original sub-title for 10 years was American Civil Religion: Monuments, Texts, and Images. My idea was, here we talk about this thing and nobody has written a book describing what the basic elements of civil religion are. What are the sacred places, sacred texts, symbols in America, and what is their history? When I would teach civil religion, I would use Conrad Cherry’s God’s New Israel—not that it’s not a good book, but it is inadequate to present the kind of thing I wanted to show people.

The president of Oxford University Press intervened with my editor and said, “the sub-title has to be What Americans Hold Sacred.” It makes things a bit vague, but it’s reasonable because most people still don’t know what American civil religion is.

Q: How does civil religion relate to the concept of American exceptionalism?

A: American exceptionalism is an extraordinarily developed civil religion. We have a desperate need for civil religion because we are exceptional in our lack of natural culture. What is our natural culture? We have a borrowed language, a land we took from the Native Americans, no native cuisine, no native perspective on history. Even the other nations in the Americas, like Mexico possess more of a native culture than we do.

Take the Mexican flag—the native symbols of the eagle with the serpent are depicted. The Mexican capital still sits on the old site of the Aztec capital. Mexicans are much more deeply rooted in their place than we are.

We are very unusual in that we have this great void—my family, for example, consists of Italians and Poles who came here in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Many emigrated after 1965 when we changed the immigration laws. We have no native culture to hold us together, but we do have civil religion. We pledge allegiance, affirm our values, etc. and we need civil religion very much to fill the void in our culture. The strength of our civil religion in effect becomes our exceptionalism.

Our assimilative power is something else that makes America exceptional. We could move to Japan and our third generation descendants wouldn’t be Japanese. But people come to America, their kids become American, they become American. And these things go together.

Another example: what other nation has anything close to a House Un-American Activities Committee? What would the Italian parliament have, an Un-Italian Activities Committee? Italians can be fascists or communists and still be Italian. What makes them Italian is their language and their culture. You can’t be anti-Italian by your activities like you can be anti-American.

I don’t like to follow exceptionalism to these assertions that people make as Jodi Ernst did in her response to Obama [in his State of the Union], that America is the greatest nation in the history of the world. That rubs me the wrong way. But our exceptionalism is an article of faith, that there is something special about America. That goes along with the notion that it is possible to betray the special things about America. If you become a torturer, or a blatant imperialist, denying other people their freedom—these things are anti-American.

Q: How did you arrive at the four values you delineate as central to American civil religion: freedom, democracy, world peace, and cultural tolerance?

A: I came up with those four values because I gave a talk on civil religion at a synagogue in 2007. I was in the midst of compiling material for the book, and I had to give my talk some focus. I thought, what does civil religion really affirm? Those four struck me as things that enjoy consensus across the political spectrum. The rabbi’s response to those four was so positive, he immediately bought the idea and it stayed with me. Also, four is a magic number!

Q: How does the coherence of the four values bring credibility to civil religion as a real religion?

A: I am sometimes thrilled thinking of this, honestly I really love it. I’m kind of an evangelist for civil religion. I’ve spent days in Arlington Cemetery—they’ve had their problems recently, but the place has amazing power. And other people have felt that power—it’s more popular to be buried there now than ever. The veterans from these latest wars really want to be buried there.

The monuments we’re adding are really special. I can’t wait to see the Museum of African American History and Culture that’s going up. Everything I’ve read about it has been so positive. It’s extraordinary. Washington is one of the best places to live in the country. But it’s not the only civil religious place. One of the things that didn’t get into the book was Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. That’s developed so extraordinarily from its beginnings with Lee and Stonewall Jackson, but recently ending up with Arthur Ashe. It’s wonderful!

It’s a real religion, there’s no question about it. It has everything a real religion needs. Obviously in terms of ultimate things, I don’t count on civil religion for salvation. The Romans didn’t see their civil religion like that either, they were obviously open to Christianity and Isis and lots of other religions when it came to fulfilling spiritual needs. American civil religion is not a religion of salvation. But it is a real religion and one that is doing real good in the world.

People often want to deny civil religion is a real religion because its track record has not always been positive. To those I say, well, think about Christianity. If you’re going to say American civil religion is a terrible thing, what about the Crusades and the Inquisition? Christianity is not invalidated as a religion just because it has had failings; neither is American civil religion.

Q: Let’s talk about the racial diversity in civil religion. Native American influence figures prominently in civil religious symbols. Could you speak to the significance of this influence?

A: I was raised in a tradition that paid no attention to Native Americans at all. My mentor was Sidney Ahlstrom, a very great writer but that monumental book has nothing to say about Native Americans. I came out of my doctoral program knowing nothing about Native American religious history. But I was lucky enough to have an anthropologist colleague who is a Columbia PhD at Manhattanville, who came to me and said, “Why don’t we teach Native American religions together?” I then gradually came to know some things about Native American religion and history through teaching the course five or six times.

When you go to Washington, and if you look at the capital, there’s Native American influence all over the place. In fact, “Potomac” means “great meeting place.” In some ways we are like the Mexicans, although we are not as conscious of it as they are, we have a capital that is located near where the Powhatan had their capital.

[Carl] Jung had some interesting things to say about this: he said the longer we live on this land, the more possessed we are going to become by the spirit of the Native Americans. The longer Europeans live on this land, the more Native American they are going to become.

Q: Does the influence of Native American religion on American civil religion have any significance to the land itself? If so, what are the ramifications to environmental justice?

A: There is a second volume to be written that integrates the land into this. I had to decide not to do natural features in the book because it was getting too large. So I decided to focus on cultural features.

For many people, the land is the heart of American civil religion. We do have a leadership role to play in environmentalism. We are the ones who are talking to the Chinese now, trying to influence them to stop polluting. President Obama was elected in large respect because of that speech when he pledged that this was the point the earth was going to cool, etc. He called on us to make that true. Maybe it will be.

We invented the United Nations—this year is the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. It’s time for us to own the responsibility of leadership, and environmental problems can only be dealt with globally.

We have an extraordinarily blessed continent in terms of river navigation. We have more miles of navigable rivers—three times as much navigable river mileage in the United States as in the whole rest of the world combined.

This kind of thing really does make you think about providence!

There are a lot of people who throb with religious awe at places like the Grand Canyon, at the Mississippi River, the Chesapeake Bay. New York Harbor: what a setting for what Pope John Paul II called the capital of the world!

Q: You have a chapter on King’s speeches—are there any other African American sources of American civil religion you would want to identify?

A: Well, of course, we have the President. He is such a fascinating leader—you couldn’t make a name like his. His name, as I wrote in the book, can be translated as “the blessed messianic leader who prays,” which is so significant in terms of civil religion.

W. E. B. Du Bois is a monumental figure, an amazing thinker. Frederick Douglass is another towering figure. The new passports, as I pointed out in the book, feature a quote from Anna Julia Cooper, the fourth African American woman to earn a doctorate.

I’m writing about Oprah Winfrey now, writing a 30th anniversary edition of my earlier book, Innocent Ecstasy. She’s a religious leader of sorts, one who has had a tremendous amount of spiritual influence and we likely wouldn’t have had President Obama without her.

Q: Dr. Gardella, thank you so much for your time. What’s your next project?

A: I’m working on a book on birds with my anthropologist colleague. It’s a book on birds and the world’s religions.

We’ll all look forward to seeing it! Thank you again.

Jean Jacques Rousseau and the Enlightenment

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Last year, I was invited by Veritas Press to participate in the production of a video curriculum for its Omnibus program, geared toward middle and high school students that focused on the history of Western thought. It was a lot of fun, and the best part was that one of my favorite people in the world, my good friend Bruce Etter, was the host of the program. We had a lot of fun doing the interviews on Rousseau–and we also got together for some round table discussions with John Fea of Messiah College. He posted one of the videos on his blog a few months ago.

My students in History of Philosophy are studying Rousseau, and these videos are also for them to watch and review as they gear up for their final exam. Enjoy guys! Study hard! :)

*Correction from the first video: I mentioned that John Locke’s conception of justice was that it existed only in the presence of civil law. As the politicians say, I misspoke. I was thinking about Thomas Hobbes, while I was saying John Locke’s name. Sorry!

Lecturing in Fort Worth on American Exceptionalism

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Spent the day today at the main campus of my institution, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Fort Worth. As some of you know, while I am an elected faculty member at Southwestern Seminary, I teach full time at Southwestern’s campus in Houston: the J. Dalton Havard School of Theological Studies. As a result, I don’t get to the main campus of SWBTS in Fort Worth very much, but I always enjoy being on campus and seeing good friends the few times I am there during the academic year.

Recently, I was named Associate Director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement. It’s going to be a lot of fun working with Evan Lenow, an ethicist and the director of the Land Center as well as Trey Dimsdale, a PhD student in ethics as well as a fellow Associate Director. Together, we plan to implement the mission of the Land Center, which is (in partnership with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention) “to awaken, inform, energize, equip, and mobilize Christians to be the catalysts for the Biblically–based transformation of their families, churches, communities, and the nation.”

What on earth can I bring to the table, especially since I am not an ethicist (is it that obvious?). I will attempt to bring historical perspective to issues related to American identity and Christian engagement with culture in the public square, as well as religious freedom and the historic Baptist role in articulating and defending it.

I had the pleasure of giving a lecture today at a lunch hosted by the Land Center in the beautiful Naylor Student Center dining room today. My lecture was entitled “American Exceptionalism and Cultural Engagement.” I drew a distinction between closed and open exceptionalism, and attempted to define a model for an open exceptionalist engagement with the culture that draws on the work of Justin Martyr (d. 165) and W. E. B. Du Bois (d. 1963).

In his First Apology, Justin wrote to Emperor Antoninus Pius and the Roman Senate, pleading for justice for the persecuted community of Christians. He eloquently distinguished the Christian churches from the Roman state, while simultaneously situating the churches within the Roman state. Justin said that no one was more loyal to Rome than the Christians, but they would not render to Caesar those things which belonged to God alone.

Du Bois, in his Dusk of Dawn (1940), differentiated and retrieved the Christian ethic from Americanism, which, he wrote, leads ultimately to white supremacy. In doing so, Du Bois showed how nationalism and white supremacy were a betrayal of the Christian conception of justice articulated in the gospels and summed up in the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Justin and Du Bois were both members of persecuted minorities. Both disspelled rumours about Christians; both advocated for human dignity and justice; both called on the leaders of their societies to respect and protect their people. Justin is an example of how Christians can see themselves as both distinct from, and a part of, the nation. Du Bois is an example of how Christians can employ the prophetic voice to call the nation back to its stated principles. Both of these figures present us with a model for cultural engagement that is true to the best ethical and political traditions of American ideals on the one hand, and consistent with the teachings of Christ on the other.

This open exceptionalist model is unlike the closed exceptionalism which idealizes and idolizes the nation by asserting that America can do no wrong. America is made up of Americans, who are flawed human beings prone to selfishness and hubris. At the same time, Americans hold out those ideals of equality, justice, individual freedom, and human dignity based on the imago Dei–ideals on which the American republic was founded. America is not God’s chosen nation. America is not morally regenerate. But America is a nation that, historically, is never content with the status quo of human flourishing–Americans, as a uniquely self-examining people, continually look for ways to expand human flourishing, albeit imperfectly and by fits and starts.

Christian people have a special responsibility, as articulated in the New Testament, to demonstrate loyalty to the nation and to be a preserving agent of culture. They do this by 1) submitting to God, 2) submitting to civic leaders, 3) contending for truth and justice by their actions and their words, and 4) confronting injustice with boldness tempered by patience and love when it is manifested in the culture. In these actions, Christians are consistent with the highest ideals of the American republic and the sublime teachings entailed in the gospel of Christ.

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Evan Lenow’s funny token of appreciation for my coming to speak today at the Land Center Luncheon. Thanks, Evan–I guess.

W. E. B. Du Bois’ “Lesson for Americans”

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W. E. B. Du Bois’ 1896 monograph entitled The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America: 1638-1870 was based on his Ph.D. dissertation which he produced as Rogers Memorial Fellow at Harvard University. The work is, as Du Bois described it, “a small contribution to the scientific study of slavery and the American Negro.”

To close his work, Du Bois presented a short section he called “A Lesson for Americans.” In this little section, Du Bois reminded his readers that as great as the founders were, they were flawed human beings seeking to achieve Union of the colonies at the expense of leaving the monster of slavery in its cradle to thrive, flourish, and grow to ultimately turn on the new nation and tear it apart.

Du Bois warned Americans that it was their habit to deny or dismiss the presence of real social ills in their country. He observed that Americans were loathe to admit that their nation had deep flaws and sins, and the result of this denial was that they continually delayed the honest addressing of those flaws to later generations. The failure of the founders to adequately and decisively solve the question of the slave trade, and by extension the institution of slavery, at the Constitutional Convention exacerbated the problem. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the founding generation plunged into the tragedy of the Civil War because of the failure of 1787. The lesson for Americans of his own day was, therefore, to avoid the kind of failure the founders perpetrated at the birth of the nation. Don’t believe the lying words, “America is a pristine nation, pure and innocent of social ills.” Americans must identify injustices in its society and rather than put off those injustices for another day, they must deal with them when they ought to be dealt with, that is, in the present moment.

Here is an excerpt of Du Bois’ admonition to those who would accept the myth of America as an innocent nation, that they would cease believing in myths and take responsibility for pursuing justice in the here and now.

With the faith of the nation broken at the very outset, the system of slavery untouched, and twenty years’ respite given to the slave-trade to feed and foster it, there began, with 1787, that system of bargaining, truckling, and compromising with a moral, political, and economic monstrosity, which makes the history of our dealing with slavery in the first half of the nineteenth century so discreditable to a great people. Each generation sought to shift its load upon the next, and the burden rolled on, until a generation came which was both too weak and too strong to bear it longer. One cannot, to be sure, demand of whole nations exceptional moral foresight and heroism; but a certain hard common-sense in facing the complicated phenomena of political life must be expected in every progressive people. In some respects we as a nation seem to lack this; we have the somewhat inchoate idea that we are not destined to be harassed with great social questions, and that even if we are, and fail to answer them, the fault is with the question and not with us. Consequently we often congratulate ourselves more on getting rid of a problem than on solving it. Such an attitude is dangerous; we have and shall have, as other peoples have had, critical, momentous, and pressing questions to answer. The riddle of the Sphinx may be postponed, it may be evasively answered now; sometime it must be fully answered.

It behooves the United States, therefore, in the interest both of scientific truth and of future social reform, carefully to study such chapters of her history as that of the suppression of the slave-trade. The most obvious question which this study suggests is: How far in a State can a recognized moral wrong safely be compromised? And although this chapter of history can give us no definite answer suited to the ever-varying aspects of political life, yet it would seem to warn any nation from allowing, through carelessness and moral cowardice, and social evil to grow. No persons would have seen the Civil War with more surprise and horror than the Revolutionists of 1776; yet from the small and apparently dying institution of their day arose the walled and castled Slave-Power. From this we may conclude that it behooves nations as well as men to do things at the very moment when they ought to be done.