Dawn Comer Jefferson (L) and Dr. Rosanne Welch (R) present on their book, The Promise
On Friday March 21st my co-author, Dawn Comer Jefferson and I had the pleasure of making a presentation on “Slavery and the Oregon Trail” based on our book The Promise to the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades of Carpenter Avenue Elementary School as the guests of the non-profit Parents For Carpenter.
The other thing we wanted to say, briefly, about slavery , which is really important about the United States is that many people don’t realize that we had the chance to end slavery at the very beginning — the time we signed the Declaration of Independence — which you are all studying right?
Usually, and I will tell you this, my college students sometimes make this confusion. They think that the Declaration set up government, but it didn’t. All it was, was a list, a Declaration, of the crimes committed by the King of England which allowed us to break away from him. And one of those crimes, in the very original draft of the Declaration that Thomas Jefferson wrote, said taking people from one country and making them slaves in another is a crime and we don’t like the King for doing that, so we get to leave.
But that’s not in the Declaration of Independence today, because when Thomas Jefferson put that in there, all the other Southern territories said “No, No! We’re not going to sign a piece of paper that says that!” and so he took it out. Which means we started the country as a country that accepted slavery, but we had a moment when we could have let it be, right then. So for me, that’s what’s so significant. We could have ended it right there, but instead we had to have the Civil War which you will all be doing in a couple of weeks, so that is how these 2 wars are tied together. One needn’t have happened if the question had been answered first.