Recently there has been much discussion about the teaching of U.S. history.

In the past, and perhaps slightly less so in the present, the full story of our history and of the founding fathers hasn’t been presented. The founders’ inspirational and impressive accomplishments have been highlighted. The fact that many of the founders were slave owners was downplayed or ignored. In addition, the truly horrific evils of slavery and the mistreatment of Blacks under Jim Crow laws received very limited coverage.

Moreover, the genocide of Native Americans received little mention. This biased presentation of U.S. history set the stage for white supremacy ideas to grow and thrive and for the continued abuse of minorities.

Of late, criticism of many founders over their being slave owners has attracted widespread attention and created controversy. Many believe that pointing out this fact is unfair to the founders. Those who believe this way think the founders are being judged by standards of today instead of those of their time.

I believe that the founding fathers, particularly Thomas Jefferson with his words in the Declaration of Independence, inspired people the world over and across time. Despite the founders taking positive positions and actions, including rejection of the idea of a monarchy, they were human beings with failings.

These failings don’t mean that their accomplishments didn’t occur. However, their major failings must also be recognized.

I dispute that the founders are being held to the standards of today instead of those of their time. This claim is an insult to the founders’ intelligence. It implies the founders and their society didn’t know that slavery was wrong. I think that the support for slavery was an expediency, putting profit over values. Slavery allowed the economy to grow and for the country to thrive economically while killing the nation’s soul.

The compromises necessary for the Constitution to be approved show that many opposed slavery. In addition, the opposition of many well-known individuals during the 18th century is on record.

The site foundersandslavery.wordpress.com is the source for most of the following material:

One of the most ardent opponents of slavery was Abigail Adams, strongly supported by her husband, the second U.S. President, John Adams.

For example, in a 1774 letter to John Adams, she wrote: “I wish most sincerely there was not a slave in this province. It always appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me — to fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have.” She considered slavery a sin and an evil.

Others who were against slavery included Benjamin Franklin, who became a public abolitionist in 1787 and President of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery. John Jay, the first U.S. Chief Justice, Marquis de Lafayette, John Laurens (a close friend of George Washington) and Alexander Hamilton were also staunch opponents of the slavery.

Laurens was an ardent public advocate for ending slavery. In a letter to a friend in 1776 he wrote: “I think we Americans at least in the Southern Colonies, cannot contend with a good Grace, for Liberty, until we shall have enfranchised our Slaves. How can we … reconcile to our spirited Assertions of the Rights of Mankind, the galling abject Slavery of our negroes… ”

There is an outstanding article, “African Slavery in America” that was published in March of 1775 in the Pennsylvania Journal by a contributor signed “Justice and Humanity.”

The article begins: “TO Americans: That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and murder for gain, is rather lamentable than strange. But that many civilized, nay, Christianized people should approve, and be concerned in the savage practice, is surprising; and still persist, though it has been so often proved contrary to the light of nature, to every principle of justice and humanity, and even good policy…”

The whitewashing of U.S. history has created a misinformed population which believes that the U.S. acts for the good of the world in its illegal interventions.

Just as our founders put profit over people and values, our current leaders do the same both domestically and in our interventions in other nations. Unless we understand that we are not an exceptional nation, we won’t be able to work with other nations on the existential problems of climate change and nuclear war.