Opposed to renaming Old Slave Road
To the Editor:
My wife and I vehemently object to the current proposal to change the name of Old Slave Road.
When we were made aware of the aforementioned proposal, we were astounded. What really distressed us was that such a proposal would be seriously considered, based on the indifference and shallowness of the petitioner’s rationale and the vacuum within which this matter was being discussed. What is it about historic preservation that the petitioners don’t understand or can’t appreciate?
However, most important is that history should not be rewritten. One can only imagine the life these slaves lived. To further diminish, dishonor and disrespect their memory is arbitrary and unethical. The historical significance of this site belongs to the slaves buried there, the city of Wildwood, St. Louis County, the state of Missouri and the nation. This history should not be minimized or diminished but rather recognized and embraced.
Any resolution of this issue should not be limited to the Old Slave Road and Ward 1 residents only. As we aforementioned, the site has implications beyond this geography, and any fair resolution should involve communication and involvement accordingly.
Further, we feel that members of the Historic Preservation Commission have a special obligation to ensure that history is not rewritten. It’s our hope that history will trump the whimsy of a few.
My dad would often say, “If you don’t know where you’ve been you won’t know where you’re going.” Every ethnicity should be in a position to be aware of and to celebrate their history and that of others if they so choose. That’s part of what makes this country the great nation it is.
Raymond and Alfreda Manton
To the Editor:
We are writing to you to express our point of view regarding the proposal to change the name of Old Slave Road.
While we do not believe that the existing name should be changed, Old Slave Cemetery Road would be an acceptable alternative. Freedmen Road (an alternative name suggestion) would be a contradiction in terms, since those buried on the site to the best of our knowledge, were in fact slaves.
Naming the road Madison [see cover story on page 48] would recognize one man at the expense of over 50 unnamed other slaves who are in fact buried on the property.
It has been said that “those who ignore the lessons of history are destined to repeat them.”
If the petitioners are successful in their efforts to change the name we will in fact ignore history.
Despite the words in the U.S. Declaration of Independence that “man was endowed with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” those born into slavery were denied the two latter rights. Life to them was hell on earth.
Changing the name of Old Slave Road because it makes some people uncomfortable trivializes the lives of those buried on the site.
As to the road sign being a target for theft, hasn’t this always been the case? Dormitory rooms across the country are probably filled with such artifacts.
Throughout history civilizations have memorialized key people and events through monuments and other symbols. Think of all the monuments in Washington, D.C., and the various Civil War battlefields now threatened to be eliminated by commercial development. Think of all the monuments to our country’s war dead.
Some in our country did not want the Vietnam Memorial built because of the controversies that war engendered. Would eliminating the Vietnam chapter from our history make us a better nation? What about the 58,000 Americans who gave their lives in that cause?
One of the most famous monuments to our fallen war dead is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
In a way those people buried along Old Slave Road are Wildwood’s unknowns. Those people suffered the indignity of slavery. They did not even have the right to their own name. They were buried without recognition except for an unmarked fieldstone.
By changing the name of the road and completely eliminating any reference to slavery it rewrites history and denigrates the memory of the souls buried along Old Slave Road.
We urge you not to let this happen.
Edward and Patricia Thibeault