The Jefferson Jackson Bailey dinners are famous events for the state Democratic Party in Connecticut. However, as part of the backlash against historical figures who owned slaves, the NAACP demanded that both names be stripped away from the dinner and the state Democratic Party agreed.
Nick Balletto, the party’s first-year chairman, said that he hoped other states would follow suit and do “the right thing.” Some may disagree with that assessment.
First, I have been a long critic of Jackson who is legitimately blamed for the Trail of Tears and other atrocities against Native Americans. He is also viewed as the father of the patronage system. He also openly challenged the authority of the Supreme Court to restrain him. It has always astonished me that Democratic Party embraced such an abusive figure as Jackson. However, Jefferson is a founding father who is credited not only with the Declaration of Independence but key rights like those of religious freedoms.
Second, stripping away references to all slave owners would wipe out many if not most of the framers. Slavery was a tremendous evil at the time and those framers with slaves are legitimately criticized for calling for political and social rights while enslaving other human beings. They were flawed figures but they were also the creators of a system that allowed for not only the evolution of rights but the ultimate rejection of slavery.
Scot X. Esdaile, the head of Connecticut’s NAACP, insisted that only stripping away such names can heal the wounds of racism and that the move of the Democratic Party was “making the symbolic first step and striving to right the wrongs of the past . . . You can’t right all the wrongs, but I think it’s a symbolic gesture of our support for their party.”
Ironically, Jefferson was one of the most active in seeking to curtail slavery. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson originally sought to criticize England for forcing the slave trade on the colonies but it was taken out of the draft. In 1778, Jefferson led the effort to ban the importation of slaves into Virginia and as President fought against the slave trade. In 1784 Jefferson unsuccessfully proposed federal legislation banning slavery in the New Territories of the North and South after 1800. He wrote about the corrupting influence of slavery. In other words, his story is a complex one and captures a generation that was moving at least in part toward the emancipation of slaves.
What do you think?