President Wilson unleashes repression of peace advocates. Republican Party denounces slave trade as a ‘crime against humanity.’ First compulsory public education. Camden draft protestors acquitted. Wiretapping gets the nod. Amnesty for Confederates.
Poet Langston Hughes was invited to speak at Occidental College on this day in 1948, then uninvited when red-baiters released a report calling him a “subversive.” His story shows how the postwar Red Scare targeted radicals, particularly black leftists.
Today, on Presidents’ Day, we rightly celebrate Abraham Lincoln for helping end slavery. But we shouldn’t forget the unstoppable force that also brought down the Slave Power: the several million slaves who left the plantation, many of whom joined the Union Army.
From Karl Marx to Eugene Debs to 1930s American Communists, leftists have regarded Lincoln as a prolabor hero who played a crucial role in vanquishing chattel slavery. We should celebrate him today as part of the great radical democratic tradition.
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