Has some defender of the Lost Cause told you yet this week that you need to “learn your history”? (I know, it’s only Sunday, but I’ve already wracked up a few!) I find that retort to be especially vexing because those who toss it out generally don’t respect the intellectual work of historians. Most often, they’re not going to be convinced by history, and they don’t value learning.
But I’ll meet them partway and offer a brief history lesson:
I’ve heard that Elijah Parrish Lovejoy was the first white man killed in defense of freedom for enslaved African Americans. I don’t know if that is true, but he was clearly one of the first. He was killed in 1837–nearly 30 years before the Civil War broke out–when a pro-slavery mob came to set his newspaper press on fire. His abolitionist newspaper had been attacked three times when it was located in Missouri, a slave state, so he’d move across the river, to the free state of Illinois, to continue his work.
He was a Princeton-trained theologian and a Presbyterian pastor. He knew that slavery was wrong, and he fought against it using the liberty granted to him by the First Amendment. He was killed in that endeavor.
Lovejoy is a hero, the kind of person, like Heather Heyer, who put his life on the line to fight injustice.
We honor Lovejoy with a monument in Albon, Illinois, where he was shot and killed.
I hope this year sees a rush to honor more people like Lovejoy and Heyer, like Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner and others who resisted white supremacy and slavery.
Above, the Lovejoy Monument, honoring a true Civil War hero.