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National Freedom Day, February 1

Albert Bierstadt realism oil painting titled  Rocky Mountain Landscape from the White House collection Silver Oak Art

Major Robert Richard Wright Sr, a former slave, petitioned our federal government to designate one day of the year for remembrance of Abraham Lincoln's 1865 13th Amendment ratification to our Constitution. The 13th Amendment freed all slaves in the Confederate States. Slavery had not been practiced in the Union States ever since the Revolutionary war victory against the United Kingdom some 82 years prior in 1786.

Interestingly, Republician President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by a Democrat activist 6 weeks into his second term. His newly appointed vice president, Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, who then became President upon Lincoln's death, vetoed the follow up 14th Amendment. Congress then voted again to override his veto and the Secretary of State signed the Amendment ratification because Johnson refused. The 14th Constitutional Amendment granted citizenship and equal protection under the law to all freed slaves.

During the following reconstruction years, former Confederate States passed Jim Crow state laws, limiting former slaves, now citizens, their right to vote. It wasn't until the election of former General Useless S. Grant, another Republican, that the 15th Amendment was signed in 1870. This was the final of the 3 civil war amendments guaranteing the right to vote no matter your race or color.

Mind you, this right to vote only applied to American citizen men. American women of all races and colors did not receive the right to vote until the 19th Amendment was petitioned by Democrat Woodrow Wilson and passed down to the States to further ratify in 1920, 50 years after the last of the civil war amendments were ratified.

The last half of the 1800's created 5 Amendments to our Constitution. This was also the height of the Victorian era. Passions were high and the fine arts also reflected these realistic ideals. This era was the height of landscape realism painting and romantizied potraits. Landscape paintings are wonderful visuals for thinking about FREEDOM.

Painting by Albert Bierstadt, Rocky Mountain Landscape, 36" x 54" oil on canvas, 1870, gifted to the White House in 1981.


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