Penny Lane

August 24, 2007

A scary photograph; this is not a mock up or a reproduction, it’s an actual set of robes donated to the International Slavery Museum . Of course this is from the second Klan formed in 1915 and informed by the film Birth of a Nation. The first, while racist in intent and practice was as concerned with the carpet baggers and scallawags that followed the defeat of the South in the Civil War. At its height it had 4-5 million members and we saw the lynching of almost 5,000 recorded acts of lynching (the actual number was almost certainly higher). If you add in intimidation and other acts we have a fair inditement of the human race.

Now there is an obvious lesson here, namely the need to oppose racism as early as possible and as hard as is ethical (I avoid several issues by that phrase). The second one is less obvious, but to my mind at least as important. There are parallels between the reconstruction period in the USA in the 19th Century and the WWI reparations in Europe in the 20th. Lloyd George and others opposed the severity of these, and did so prophetically as one of the consequences of their economic devastation on Germany was the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis.

The creation of an impoverished white working class has a long (and regrettably current) record of creating the seed ground for violent racism, something that we see at the end of the Civil War in the USA.
It argues for reconciliation, rather than retaliation, and of course with reconciliation we have first to be be aware of and honest about the past. The International Slavery Museum helps that process, one of the exhibits that struck me as very effective on this is the ability to see how their present is derived fromthe past. This allows people to see the origin of their street names. I chose Penny Lane, of Beatles fame as my photographic illustration. I think this approach may be more effective than renaming …..

Now you may not have the eye sight to read the text, so here it is:

Penny Lane: Probably named after James penny who made eleven voyages as a captain in the slave trade. He was made a freeman of the borough of Liverpool after speaking in favour of the slave trade at the Parliamentary Enquiry.

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