Monday, May 14, 2012
Marriage & Civil Rights From 1600-2012
Last night I was watching one of my favorite TV shows "Finding Your Roots" with Professor Louis Henry Gates, Jr. on PBS. The show deals with tracing peoples' roots, and many of the people that Professor Gates brings on his show are African-Americans. Last night, I learned that about 5,000 negro slaves and freemen fought in the Revolutionary War, and that Professor Gates was related to a black man that had fought in the Revolutionary War of 1776. In discussing the laws in the United States before the end of slavery, we find that negro slaves could not marry because marriage was defined as a civil right, and negro slaves did not have civil rights because they were considered by the law to be property. Two pieces of property can not get married. Slaves were permitted to ask their master if they could live with a particular slave in a cabin on the plantation and have a family, but there was no marriage ceremony except for the act of "jumping the broom", and if the master wished to break up the family through sale, he could do so. Once slavery was abolished in the United States (1863), and no human was to be considered property any more, then the long struggle began for negroes to fight for their full civil rights. The fight and struggle for civil rights is something I witnessed with my own eyes here in the United States while I was growing up in Cincinnati, and as an adult both as a civilian and the short time I was in military service. What is clear, is that marriage in the United States had nothing to do with the Bible, because if marriage had been based upon the Bible, then it would have been mandatory that negro slaves enter into a contract of marriage, over and above their station in life as slaves (property). However, that was not the case. The Bible in the United States does not take precedent over civil law that held that the institution of slavery was legal and binding. In fact, negro slaves could be set free by the terms of their master's written Will which was not uncommon. This then leads me to believe that if marriage is a civil right, then any two people, so long as neither is considered property, can enter into a marriage contract. The Bible has no legal status in the United States where marriage is concerned by historical tradition. In fact, the Bible has no legal standing where civil rights are concerned, going back to pre-revolutionary times. Therefore, marriage is a contract that can be entered into by two people, regardless of sex, that are not considered property and possess their full civil rights.