Free At Last

Paige - Maryville, Tennessee
Entered on November 9, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: equality

I believe in equality. As a white southern girl I have gone against my ancestry and taken a stand for the belief and conviction that “all men are created equal.”

I recently began to investigate my heritage and ancestors. I was led to multiple sights of lynchings on the property my family owns throughout Blount County. After interviewing my Grandfather I came to the realization that he witnessed several hangings as a young child. My other Grandfather was a young “future member” of the white supremacy group, The Ku Klux Klan. He attended many property tortures and saw eight lynchings. My Grandfathers grew up with enslaved sharecroppers, who happened to be black. They were raised to hate anyone of a darker skin.

Thankfully I am the complete opposite. On November 4, 2008 I became liberated. I voted for the first legitimate African-American candidate for President of the United States. I did not understand the historical aspect of a black man’s presidential bid, until he won. My college campus immediately went into celebration when Charles Gibson projected Barack Obama had defeated John McCain. Until 1901, my college was the only integrated college in Tennessee, and presumably the South. Maryville College paved the road for African-Americans to come. Barack Obama is living proof. Listening and seeing the cheers, the only thing I could do was contemplate. I immediately thought back to the 1950’s and 60’s. Blacks had their separate diners, schools, playgrounds, and even water fountains. The 50’s and 60’s are my favorite time in history. Blacks finally began to stand-up for themselves. With the help of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, and many others alike, they began to gain respect and the well-deserved equal rights.

I am ashamed to admit that my family owned, hanged and witnessed many of their deaths. To witness a black man be elected President makes me indescribably proud to be an American. I now understand what his “change” slogan meant. America has changed. Dr. Maya Angelou said, “It’s overwhelming that my country has grown-up. We have decided not to be identified by our ignorance.”

Segregation and discrimination is ignorant. I thank Barack Obama for changing the desires and dreams of all young people, of all color. I thank Barack Obama for empowering all to follow his steps toward change. Proving that descendants of slaves can change America for the betterment of the nation, I believe his election is justified. God gave the slaves trials, disguised as slavery, to prove to them (and everyone) that you can accomplish and achieve any level of change. The one thing that will transpire in me is that those steps were built by slaves. They built those steps not knowing that one day someone who looked like them would be able to stand and take that oath of office. That for me will be the moment where we can finally say, “Free at last! We freed ourselves at last!