One-hundred-and-forty-nine years ago today the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 13th amendment, abolishing slavery in the United States of America. This was an important step in becoming the free nation that we are today. Abraham Lincoln affirmed, “A house divided cannot stand.” And stand we did not. Brother fought against brother, father against son, state against state, and country against country. Instead of the United States remaining united, we split and waged war against each other.
South Carolina seceded from the United States in December of 1860. Merely two months later, seven seceded states created the Confederate States of America. It was joined by four more states by June of 1861.
James McPherson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author declared, “The Civil war started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of national government to prohibit slavery in the territories, that had not yet become states.”
At the conclusion of the war, it was presumed that 620,000 American soldiers were killed. This number almost parallels the 644,000 soldiers who were killed in all the other American wars combined. Our nation was rife with widows, orphans, and poverty. Railroad tracks were destroyed, preventing trade. Homes were decimated, cities reduced to rubble, and farmlands slashed apart by cannons.
Yet it was a fight worth fighting. The process of ratifying the 13th Amendment reunited our “house divided.” The ratification of the 13th Amendment, which took place in December of 1865, began a great movement. Slaves and black people were now free, human trafficking (including sex trafficking) became illegal, and the rights that should have been everyone’s in the first place began to become so.
That being said, obstacles still blocked our progress of developing a flawless land. These freed people were now victims to Black Codes, a circuitous route for them to be controlled by the whites. Racism is a hard thing to overcome.
The war against racism wasn’t completely over, but we were one step closer and we didn’t stop there. It took more than a century before schools desegregated, Rosa Parks was let out of jail, and the Jim Crow laws (which segregated public restrooms, water fountains, and the U.S Military) were overridden. We honor this Civil Rights Movement every third Monday in January with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Adjustments tend to force us, as creatures of habit, to be uncomfortable until we become accustom to our new style of living. About this same time, we discover that other changes need to come about, often just as uncomfortable. We have the wisdom to notice when an alteration is needed. The fight often comes in finding the courage to make them. The change in our living may enhance our abilities, improve our chances of success, and increase our level of satisfaction not just as a country, but as individuals, families, and leaders in our communities.
Just as a change was needed 149 years ago, it is needed today. Whether it’s our morals, our outlook on life, or our circumstances change is inevitable and a necessity for growth. Initiating the change often comes with a certain amount of guts.
One just has to decide, “Is this fight worth fighting?” Unfortunately, I do not have the guidelines for which battles to pick. One just has to ask, “do the pros outweigh the cons?”
The decision lies with each individual. Go. Fight. Win.