On Potomac Street in downtown Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia stands a memorial to Heyward Shepard, a black freedman and railroad employee killed during John Brown’s famous raid on October 16, 1859. The text of the memorial, quite possibly the most offensive I have seen, reads as follows:

On the night of October 16, 1859, Heyward Shepard, an industrious and respected colored freeman, was mortally wounded by John Brown’s raiders, in pursuance of his duties as an employee of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. He became the first victim of this attempted insurrection. This boulder is erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans as a memorial to Heywood Shepard, exemplifying 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 in both races.

I don’t know about you, but I think I’m going to be ill.

BrevityQuest 2007

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