Witness Stones Project ’23
By Claire Driver ’25
Slavery remains — though it was abolished over 100 years ago — one of the bleakest points in America’s history, right up there with the denial of the vote to women, Japanese internment, and September 11, 2001. Nean was just one of the hundreds of thousands of people affected by it — then, and now.
During the institution of slavery, African American people were considered less than human. They were considered wild animals, little more developed than an ox or a horse, existing only to serve a purpose to others. They labored, loved, and lost for this country. Today, not enough of them have been recognized. Nean, for over a century, was one of them. Now, we get to right that wrong. Like Nean, there were always brave souls who would say: "No more," no matter the personal cost. And these people brought us to the next chapter in the American saga.
While enslaved people were emancipated from their physical chains, they were not freed from the chains of bigotry that held them back. Some families wear them still to this day. They were not given jobs. Not given homes. Not given expensive schools. No, they were not given anything. They worked hard to earn it. And unlike it was for so many white people, mistakes were not seen as learning experiences.
In 2001, 16.6 percent of black men had spent time behind bars, while 2.6 of white males had. Other atrocities have been committed: Emmit Till. Trayvon Martin. George Floyd. And so many others like them. People who were killed not for their some horrible crime against the country, but because of the amount of pigment melanin they possess.
We will decide how the next part of American history will look. Will it be bright, created by the learned, or will the strong allow the cowardly to seize control? Will we seek true equality, or will we point to others and say that they’re bad because they’re "different?"
Nean was one of the people that wouldn’t accept bigotry and blatant lies for the truth. He wouldn’t accept it when he self emancipated, he wouldn’t accept it when he was freed, and I don’t think he accepted it when he drew his last breath. America is a country built off of the backs of enslaved people. Today, let’s recognise one more of the real founding fathers.