Local history book for local schools

| 02 Nov 2022 | 08:49

To the Editor:

Having moved to Vermont a few years ago after residing in Warwick for over 35 years, in some manner of speaking I still call Warwick ‘home.’ I cultivated friendships with innumerable Warwick folk about whom I have fond memories and with whom I continue to share kinship.

Recently, a book in our local bookstore caught my eye: A Lynching in Port Jervis- Race and Reckoning in the Gilded Age. Its the Port Jervis in the county in which I lived. Its a sordid history about which I never learned. There in Port Jervis was, in 1892, a lynching of a black man. The book by Pulitzer prize nominee, Philip Dray published this year, recounts the hysteria among a large White mob and a tragic murder fomented by extreme racism---an occurrence played out in America hundreds of times. This is not ‘theory.’ This is fact! If I’m not to be believed, visit the Peace and Justice Museum in Montgomery, Alabama or the Whitney Plantation near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I’m writing this to encourage local school districts to consider using this book in their curricula because if we deny that such events took place in our ‘great’ society with its highly touted morals and ethics this American has no backbone. The book recalls to this writer a visit my wife and I made several years ago to the Museum of the City of Liverpool, England. It was in Liverpool where the slave trade flourish. To our horror, on exhibit was a Klux Klux Klan robe from Port Jervis, N.Y., a premonition of what I was to discover after reading Dray’s book. If we continue to bury the reality that this country was never ‘great,’ that we have a history of heinous treatment toward our fellow humans, we seriously fail ourselves as a cultured species ‘of a higher order.’

Russ Layne

Danby/Pawlet, Vermont