What’s a Freedmen’s Patrol?

No, this isn’t some kind of survivalist blog about how you need to stockpile weapons and ammunition because the boogeymen are coming. You can relax, unless you really wanted to find a blog about those things.

I chose the name to highlight the ambiguity of the Civil War era’s legacies. Freedmen’s comes from the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands established after the war to provide food, shelter, medicine, register marriages, reunite families, and generally help out the newly-freed slaves. As such it’s the first federal social welfare organization of which I’m aware. In effect, its mission statement was to do right by the former slaves. That’s the great legacy I hope we do not abandon, as America has so often done.

The other legacy is the slave patrol, where most southern white men were expected to serve some time. They ranged the countryside challenging any black person they found out and about. If not satisfied, they could have their way with him or her. This of course is the legacy I hope we can bury deep.

But sunlight is the best disinfectant and bad things do not go away just because we ignore them. Better to focus attention on them and be honest about our past. One might say we should mentally patrol against the meaner parts of our national heritages so they do not return and if they do, can be swiftly put back away. It’s a small way to do right by the freedmen and freedwomen of the past, their descendants today, and those who suffer similarly. It’s also a way for us to do right by ourselves and our society, whatever our races.

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