By Jim Patterson
Jan. 4, 2023 | UM News
The axiom that history is written by the victors doesn’t hold when it comes to the story of abolitionists in the United States.
“The Confederates wrote a history that abolitionists were radical lunatics and that nobody really wanted to free the slaves except a few fanatics, and that the North really wasn't fighting to end slavery,” said the Rev. James D. Richardson, author of a new book that attempts to correct these errors.
“… It was a very deliberate way of rewriting history to justify what was really a treasonous war against the United States. Only in recent years are we coming to grips with that … and finally, really writing the history that needs to have been written all along,” he added.
In “The Abolitionist’s Journal: Memories of an American Antislavery Family,” Richardson, a journalist and Episcopal priest, focuses on the story of the Rev. George Richardson, his great-great-grandfather. Written with the help of George Richardson’s unpublished memoir, it’s a harrowing tale of a Methodist pastor and abolitionist who risked his life for the cause of ending slavery.
George Richardson helped at least one slave — and probably more — to escape via the underground railroad, was chaplain for a Black Army regiment during the Civil War and once hid for 10 days in thick Texas woods from a murderous white posse angered by his support for Black people.
The pages of George Richardson’s “Recollections of My Lifework” contain “stories of war, white vigilantes, Black schools, church politics and frontier congregations,” James Richardson said in his book. “He recounted getting lost on horseback in Minnesota in the winter and the crushing devastation in the Mississippi countryside in the days after the Civil War. He wrote of life in Black shantytowns, Texas panhandle cowboys and Idaho Mormons.”