Peculiar Heritage

Now that BackStory with the American History Guys has gone weekly, I’m already a week behind. Or is it two? Whatever the case, I just finished listening to their Memorial Day episode on … memorials. And you’ll find lots of good stuff in there. For instance, the Guys interview Kristin Szakos, the Charlottesville city council member who spoke ill of Confederate statues in town. And my colleagues Eric Mennel and Nell Boeschenstein do an excellent piece on what this photographer has called “the world’s most embarrassing historical marker”: that fridge-sized tombstone-looking thing above, memorializing Heyward Shepherd. A free African American killed by John Brown‘s men during their raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859, Shepherd—according to the monument

exemplify[ed] the character and faithfulness of thousands of Negroes who, under many temptations throughout subsequent years of war, so conducted themselves that no stain was left upon a record which is the peculiar heritage of the American people, and an everlasting tribute to the best of both races.

The Loyal Negro par excellence.
To listen to the entire show, go here. And someday I’ll figure out how to embed it!
IMAGE: Photograph of Heyward Shepherd monument at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, by Flickr user Pinfeather Photos


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