Lou Lewis

Lou Lewis is the name of the black woman who gave Nathan Bedford Forrest flowers at the 1875 4th of July Pole-Bearers picnic. She called them a peace offering. He accepted them, again, using the words “peace offering.” He called her a “lady.” He gave a speech about Southerners, black and white, needing to learn to get along.

It was a strange day. It was nice of him to call her a lady.

Here’s the thing–when both parties call something a peace offering, isn’t that an acknowledgement that they’ve been at war?

The more research I do, the more it does feel like a war. If black people had lived here all along, it’d make much more sense–the United States conquered your territory, enslaved you, and waged a long battle against people who wanted to liberate your country.

It’s just that the land is missing, so it’s hard to see slavery as an occupation. But nothing else about how we talk about slavery really makes any sense. You just can’t argue that agricultural people with access to farm animals didn’t know their slaves were human. They had children with them. And you can’t argue that it’s just how it was, because so many people struggled against it. Slaves didn’t accept slavery as their deserved lot.

We conquered and occupied a people who would have never considered themselves a people before we kidnapped them and made them one.