April-9: Let Freedom Ring



General Lee Surrenders at Appomattox Court House, Virginia

Lee’s surrender brought an end to a war that consumed the nation for four years and killed approximately 752,000 people.  Not only was the South’s rebellion to preserve slavery defeated, but Congress would pass three constitutional amendments

  • 13th amendment:  abolishing slavery
  • 14th amendment:  ensuring that no state shall  

abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws

  • 15th amendment:  providing that “ right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

The battle did not end that day and a mere 6 days later it would take the life of Abraham Lincoln.


Marian Anderson Signs at the Lincoln Memorial


The battle continued long after Appomattox.  In 1938, the battleground was the Lincoln Memorial where Marian Anderson’s, one of the most celebrated singers of her time, was sang an open air concert after being denied permission to sing before an integrated audience at the Daughter’s of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall (only blocks from the White House).  With the intervention of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson sang to a crowd of more than 75,000 and a nationwide radio audience on Easter 1938, beginning with “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”

Lee’s Army was still strong nearly a quarter-century later and his battle flag was EVEN revived after the 1958 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Five years later, Anderson returned to sing at the same spot during the 1963 March on Washington.    On that day, Martin Luther King gave his memorable “I Have a Dream Speech” which concluded by borrowing a phrase from Anderson’s first song:

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

By the 150th anniversary of the start of the war, polling showed the fight continued:

Wish South Had Won 23%  31% 21% 33% 27%  38%
Glad North Won – Wish South Had won 30% 16% 21% 2%  7%  -17%
Interacial Marriage Shout be Illegal 22%  29% 20% 30%  28%  41%
Higher Opinion of KKK than NAACP 7% 10% 8% 13% 9%  14%

Now, over a century after passage of the 15th amendment and nearly 50 years after Selma’s Bloody Sunday which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Lee’s Army is on the offensive trying to enact laws designed to suppress the black vote.

It is now our generation’s turn to engage this fight to let freedom ring.




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