A giant portrait of Frederick Douglass stared down at the audience of about three hundred high school students who gathered in the Hofstra University student center to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Passover is about more than just escape from bondage; it is about freedom, in all its many forms. We can tell the story of Passover, of the long march from slavery to freedom, as though we are witnessing it today because we are witnessing it today.
As we celebrate the 150th year of the Emancipation Proclamation, historian Kidada Williams reminds us that as we celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the document, we should examine what the emancipation did and did not do.
With each civil rights victory, African Americans and other groups that have suffered on the margins of society, have served as the conscience of the nation and deepened the notion of American democracy.
The pain and sacrifice, the indignities and persecution you endured to confront man's inhumanity to man has made it possible for succeeding generations to take their rightful place as citizens of our great nation.
I believe there is so much we can learn from you -- mainly the evils of complacency. What will future generations say about us at the 300th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation if we are complacent with just having an African American in the White House?
Along the way, there have been many challenges, but you have been the wind at our backs. You have been the constant reminder that ours is a necessary fight for freedom and a future without prejudice. And your memory continues to strengthen our pursuit of an even brighter tomorrow.
Our people have risen from chains and cotton fields to the pinnacles of industry, as well as to seats of power all over the world. Yet, despite such laudable achievements, the present struggles of many of our people remain great.
Though discrimination is rampant, the blueprint you all left behind has raised generations of Black people for whom forced genuflection at the altars of classism and racism will never be an option. But it has not been an easy road.
I write this letter with a sense of joy and a degree of cynicism within my spirit. You are the only ancestor of my family who is documented as being bought for three hundred dollars in the state of Virginia.
My dear ancestors, you might have trouble recognizing our nation today. The country has made great strides toward the promise of racial equality. Yet even with our many triumphs, the Dream continues to elude our people.
It has required tremendous sacrifice, but today our people have reached the pinnacle in all facets of American society. There is no level of achievement off limits or out of reach for African-Americans in this great country we call home.
The proclamation did more than make slavery illegal in the rebellion states; it changed the course of the war and forever transformed the nation. For the first time, it made ubiquitous the Jeffersonian notion of all being created equal.
In President Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage, he has in effect "edited" and enhanced Jefferson's classic dictum to avow, unequivocally, all men and women are created equal. It may be the last major civil rights action of our time.