Hold on to your bonnets, Dear Readers, because the word is out that Jane Austen's father was a trustee of a sugar plantation in Antigua. Could this possibly mean Our Jane truly had family ties to slavery? How disappointing!
Amidst the Black Lives Matter movement, there's been some heated discussion online about a controversial addition to the tour displays at the Jane Austen museum in Chawton, England.
The museum’s director announced that the Austen family would have consumed products of the slave trade such as tea, cotton and sugar. "The slave trade and the consequences of Regency-era colonialism touched every family of means during the period," she said. "Jane Austen’s family were no exception.”
As a fan of Austen’s work, I’m not opposed to this information being shared at the museum or anywhere else because there is evidence that Austen detested slavery and her brother was an abolitionist, during a time when most everyone benefited from slavery. Human bondage is abominable, yes, but I think her connection with slavery should be a footnote, not a full chapter. And I don't think her books should be burned or banned because of this "revelation."
Forgive but never forget
As we approach our annual Independence Day celebration, the United States of America is far from united. There is much resentment towards the ancestors and a rallying cry for change has been issued from all cultures.
The truth is our country was built on the backs of many. Some arrived here as slaves, some were dreamers excited about starting a new life in a new land, and others lived here from the beginning.
But we can’t erase the history.
Yes, we did bring slaves into this country. Yes, we did fight a civil war over it. And now Americans have a new legal holiday, Juneteenth, guaranteeing this travesty will not be forgotten.
Unless we have a time machine, we have no control over the past, so let's forgive our ancestors for their part in slavery and learn from past sins. We must go forward. And part of going forward is to do better. We must respect one another, be kind, and remember that we are all members of the same human race. To embrace the cliché, we need to be the change we wish to see.
Booker T. Washington said: "A lie doesn't become truth, wrong doesn't become right and evil doesn't become good just because it's accepted by a majority."
No matter how many statues we take down or classic books we ban, the truth is the truth is the truth. Just because we’ve shared a dark history doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a brighter future.
You can read about my own prejudices and the steps I've taken to educate myself in my "Owning It" blog post.
Write a compassionate letter of forgiveness to your ancestors, then write a letter of forgiveness to yourself.