1865, african-american, american history, civil rights, civil war, election, humanities, newspaper, Norfolk Post, Norfolk VA, reconstruction, Shakespeare
Norfolk Virginia (home of Don’t Duck History), June, 1865. The Civil War had ended a month prior, and a newspaper called The Norfolk Post was born. According to information provided on the National Endowment for Humanities website:
Published by E. M. Brown and edited by John Clark, the four-page paper appeared daily, except Sundays, with subscriptions available at three dollars per one hundred issues, or ten dollars per year. A typical issue included local and national news as well as poetry and short fiction–and a vibrant editorial viewpoint.
In its first issue of June 22, 1865, the Norfolk Post carefully identified itself as politically independent. And yet, each issue in truth presented a decidedly distinct perspective, one that embraced a more diverse city, including its African American constituency. The paper, for example, vigorously supported President Andrew Johnson’s reconstruction efforts and especially saw itself as an “aid in bringing about the ‘era of good feeling’ among the great sections of the nation,” all the better to help “re-establish . . . the Old Union.” Editorial discussions frequently confronted the economic and social issues facing the South–and especially those facing Norfolk. Beginning with its earliest issues, the Norfolk Post reported on news of relevance to its African American readers, particularly coverage of the proceedings of the Convention of Colored Virginians held in Alexandria, Virginia, in August 1865.
Within the first issue, the following writing by Shakespeare was included. As you read it consider the audience of the newspaper, which according to the description above seems to be both the White and Black residents of Norfolk. Who was the poem directed toward? One or the other? Both? Certainly both had experienced the situations described (anger/strife).
LET IT PASS. Let former grudges pass- Shakespeare. Be not swift to take offence; Let it pass. Anger is a foe to sense; Let pass. Brood not darkly o’er a wrong Which will disappear ere long, Rather sing this cheering song, Let it pass, Let it pass.
Strife corrodes the purest mind; Let it pass. As the unregarded wind, Let it pass. Any vulgar souls that live May condemn without reprieve; ‘Tis the noble who forgive, Let it pass, Let it pass. Echo not an angry word; Let it pass. Think how often you have erred; Let it pass. Since our joys must pass away, Like the dewdrops on the spray, Wherefore should our sorrows stay? Let it pass. Let it pass.
If for good you’ve taken ill, Let it pass. Oh! be kind and gentle still; Let it pass. Time at last makes all things straight. Let us not resent but wait, And our triumph shall be great; Let it pass, Let it pass. Bid your anger to depart; Let pass. Lay these homely words to heart, Let it pass. Follow not the giddy throng; Better to be wronged than wrong; Therefore sing this cheery song, Let it pass, Let it pass.
Less than one week ago, the United States held a presidential election that seems to have unleashed anger and strife from supporters of both major parties, both before and after the election. Since the election however, one phrase that has been overheard primarily from the supporters of the new President-elect , is “get over it”.
The purpose of this writing is not to point fingers, but to shed light on the fact that we seem to be revisiting history, and one that for this country caused financial instability, loss of a sense of security, and division of families. It was a war. If we look back to 1865, “let it pass” did not seem to be a helpful suggestion during reconstruction, or at the very least it doesn’t seem to have happened on a large scale, and in 2016, “get over it” doesn’t seem to be a helpful suggestion, either. Imagine the poem if you were to replace “let it pass” with “get over it”. Actually, don’t just imagine it, go back and read it and do it. “Get over it” may be helpful if the issue was that your neighbor cut his grass at 5 a.m. on the Saturday that you planned to sleep in, but in the aftermath of a civil war, was it really helpful? Or reasonable? No, it wasn’t, and it isn’t now. We are once again experiencing financial instability, a loss of a sense of security, and division of families, albeit on a different plane because we are not at war.
“Let it pass.” Could that also simply be an observation that cooler heads prevail? Well, it certainly could. Cooler heads certainly do tend to make better decisions. How can we get to those better decisions? Well, not ducking history might be helpful. There is enough of our history documented that should allow us to use it to help us make better decisions. If you are able to read this blog, you also have access to much of that history, as many institutions have digitized historical documents, books, and other resources, so that if you have internet access, you don’t even need to leave home to view them. For example, the Norfolk Post can be found here. Yes, you can read a newspaper from 1865 from home, with no subscription fee (ha!), as easily as you can watch a useless reality tv show. Just a suggestion. “Let us not resent but wait” does not seem to be working. Waiting for cooler heads to appear without doing the actual work to allow them to be cooler does not work.
Peace, squeaks, and quacks.
p.s. Don’t forget to like our facebook page, and click “Follow the Duck” at the top of the page, to be alerted to future blog posts.
Not on Facebook? Register for the newsletter and periodic updates, below!