Good Morning. Many of you may know that some of our members have met with the Ladue Police chief, Rich Wooten to discuss policing and how to achieve the goal of having people of color receive fair treatment. The chief has been responsive and we plan to continue building this relationship. We, in the loosely affiliated group here at Ethical, welcome the participation and involvement of others. We have been conducting monthly Black Lives Matter vigils following Platform and there is one today. I hope you will join us immediately after platform out front. We are excited to have a group here at Ethical that is focused on racial justice and connecting with the broader and growing local movement. Kate will be giving a brief report on the recent Accountability meeting that many of us attended last Sunday.
I feel very personally compelled to engage in racial justice work. Recently I learned a history lesson that I want to share. One of our core values is “we can learn from the past to build for the future”. If one puts this core value into a context of working for social justice, then it follows that we have to know the past. Many of us, and not only white people, are completely ignorant of the astounding level of racial violence perpetrated following Reconstruction after our Civil War. Only in the last few weeks have I learned of the Colfax Massacre which occurred in Colfax, Louisiana, on April 13, 1873, in a small town less than 2 hours from where I grew up. Formerly enslaved men stepped forward to defend the election of some white Republicans for whom they had voted and who won elections in 1872 to local offices in Colfax. These black men, newly enfranchised citizens, occupied the court house in Colfax to prevent the installation of the losing candidates, supported by the white supremacists. The white supremacists gathered forces from surrounding parishes. The whites were heavily harmed and radically outnumbered the defenders of the election results; the whites shot and killed over a hundred of the blacks.
Realizing that they were hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, dozens of the black courthouse defenders surrendered. The black men after being taken prisoner, the fighting over, were lynched and many were butchered–very brutally murdered. The official death count was 3 whites and 105 blacks although strong evidence exists that the black death count may have been 3 times higher.
I still remember my high school American History teacher, Miss Mattie Grey Brown, who taught us that after Reconstruction came REDEMPTION—the institution of Jim Crow (although she never used that term). What was redeemed, following Reconstruction, was OUR WAY OF LIFE. Students were not taught facts, we were taught revisionist history.
As mentioned earlier, I feel compelled to work for racial justice. I also feel connected to the Colfax Massacre in an uncomfortable way. My great-great grandfather, Thomas Riddle Vaughan, was among several white democrats who illegally occupied seats in the Louisiana state legislature following elections held in November 1874 . On January 4, 1875 he was ejected at bayonet point by Federal troops from the floor of the Louisiana State Legislature.
In order for me to learn from the past, I have to know it. Then, it is up to me to work for the kind of future I want to build. I plan to be out front for our vigil after platform and I hope you will join us.