We’ll be offering a new workshop in Fall 2012 to complement our Rufus King: Anti-Slavery Founding Father program. Students divide into groups and read excerpts of letters that Rufus King wrote to his sons in the days before and after his 1820 anti-slavery speeches. After sharing their discoveries with their classmates, museum education staff explain the Denmark Vesey trials to students and read and explain an editorial written during those trials in Charleston, South Carolina. One section of that editorial blames “northerners who agitated on the Missouri question” for the executions the events of “required.” In early August 1822, Rufus — one of those agitators – received a copy of that editorial and a hand-drawn image of a gallows with the letters “R. King” at the end of the rope. Students are asked to respond to that editorial in the name of Rufus King; the following is one of the examples produced by a class from P.S. 49 in Middle Village – amazing work!
To Whom It May Concern:
You are not taking any responsibility – if you’re going to blame someone for the executions related to Denmark Vesey, then blame yourself. You’re the ones who started the executions and are murdering people who only want to be free.
I did what I thought was right in speaking out against Missouri statehood – and I was right. Slavery is wrong and if it ends there will be no need for rebellion or executions. My belief is mine and under the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, I have the right to say it!
Instead of blaming someone else, take the time to look at yourself and put yourself in the shoes of the enslaved!
- “Rufus King”