Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pardons for people who helped slaves escape in KY?

The article I am linking here is from May of 2010, and I don't know how I missed it the first time, but I find it interesting and a good idea.

The timing is actually not bad for me, as I'm currently reading Creating a Confederate Kentucky, a very fine book by Anne Marshall, and this article mentions how Kentucky's role in the Civil War was "ambivalent," a description much more understandable when considered alongside Marshall's book. Also the concept of offering pardons for this type of crime, yet no  descendants of those convicted of these offenses offers an interesting perspective on how the war and slavery are remembered in current times.

This article does not mention the names of all 44 who were to be pardoned, and I have not yet found out if the pardons have yet occurred, but I will look into it more and see what I can find.(One quick question: did the people undertaking this project ever list all of the names or publicize them somehow? If not, then it is no wonder at all that no descendants have expressed interest in this work.)

Also, I do wonder if it is accurate for the writer of the article's headline to use the word "abolitionists." I tend to think of that word as being for those who wanted slavery eliminated, but does it also count for those who simply helped (or tried to help) slaves escape? Is it safe to assume that these people (I've seen them called "operators" on the Underground Railroad) favored the abolition of slavery? Is helping a slave escape the same as wanting the entire institution prohibited? I'll have to think about that some more while wondering if I'm being too finicky in asking these questions.

I also recommend reading the New York Times' Editorial on this story. The article linked above includes a link to it as well, but I am also linking it in case that makes it easier to find. It is worth the click.

(And again, it is interesting to find this commentary in the New York Times, a newspaper frequently referred to in Marshall's book for its observations and thoughts about Kentucky in the late 1800s. The use of the phrase "Modern Kentucky" in the editorial quickly caught my attention, presumably because I'm reading the book about Kentucky of the past.)

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