Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In Pursuit Of Happiness

Rhode Island was the first to abolish slavery way back in 1774, two years before the Declaration of Independence was signed. Vermont came along in 1777, followed by Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut in pretty short order. New York came along in 1799, and five years later New Jersey caught up. The following states never allowed slavery within their borders: Maine, Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Oregon, California, and Illinois. There are two reasons a state wouldn't make this list. First, the state may not have been part of the union before the Emancipation Proclamation. Second, that state may have needed to lose a war to be reminded of that "all men are created equal" part of the aforementioned Declaration of Independence.
The nearly hundred years between that declaration and the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 gives us all a sense of just how hard-won freedom and equality truly are. Another hundred years passed before segregation was outlawed. Keeping in mind that these were all pieces of legislation and the actual experiences and attitudes of those impacted may not have had the same moment of magical transition to equality and understanding.
Interracial marriage was made legal in all fifty states in 1967. There are currently four states, Iowa, Maine, Vermont and Connecticut that allow same-sex couples to marry. Compare that list to the one from two hundred and thirty years ago. We are all endowed with certain unalienable rights, but sometimes it takes us a while to be able to use them. Sometimes it takes a little while. Until then, I suggest we all continue, like the man said, to pursue happiness.

1 comment:

Mrs. Id said...

Thank you for that perspective! History reminds us to be patient.