This is an excerpt from the chapter entitled "Who Needs 40 Acres and a Mule?"
When I think of the challenges that unemployed and homeless people face in 2020, I can understand why some of the same things befell the freed slaves. The freed slaves encountered hunger, disease, despair, in addition to racism on a scale that I cannot imagine. Truly this post-Civil War era decision to choose immigrant labor over the freed slaves, after enduring generations of suffering and unimaginable cruelty, is one where Founding Fathers like President Lincoln fell short.
I don’t imagine that President Lincoln envisioned the plight of the freed slave as being what has been previously described, but the fact is that the legislation he championed to bring immigrant labor to America, helped cause it. Here is one view of the outcome of President Lincoln’s legislation:
“Although he did not live to see the completion of his dream that America would welcome immigrants to its shores as a natural resource and a very valuable ingredient in the nation’s future success, Lincoln nevertheless deserves the credit for initiating a plan that personified Emma Lazarus’ words long before they were memorialized on the Statue of Liberty. For in so doing, the ‘Great Emancipator’ was also the ‘Great Egalitarian’ who believed firmly that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution applied to all, regardless of their ethnicity or country of origin. Lincoln’s America would eventually become what he had envisioned: a kind mosaic of all peoples who sought to find a new life within its bountiful borders.” (Silverman, 2016)
There is no doubt that President Lincoln’s efforts went a long way to create a mosaic of all peoples. However, it cannot be said that this “mosaic” was created with a view towards egalitarianism when immigrants were viewed as a greater “natural resource” to America than the slaves that created the economic wealth of the South.
How could America welcome a new generation of immigrants to a “new life within its bountiful borders” while stepping over generations of people who were forced to immigrate against their will (slavery)—people that had already proven valuable to “the nation’s future success?” (Silverman, 2016)
Slavery in America was an incomprehensible moral injustice that stains America to this day. Many have spoken about its lingering effects. Could the use of immigrant labor over the freed slaves be viewed as another great blight on the leadership of America?
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