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On The Legacies, And The Monuments, Of Thomas Jefferson And Martin Luther King Jr.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
(AP Photo/Horace Cort, File)

Leftists have expanded their war against historical monuments to include statues of one of our nation’s key founders and its third president, Thomas Jefferson. Their basis - at least in part - is the claim that the Declaration of Independence author “raped” one of his slaves, Sally Hemmings, over 200 years ago.

However, even if Jefferson had a sexual relationship with Hemmings and children by her, which is now generally accepted but also legitimately disputed, the notion that the former U.S. president “raped” her is also suspect, as least in the sense that one would typically describe a forcible rape. But none of that matters to liberals with an agenda. To them, the fact that Jefferson allegedly had sex with his slave equals rape.

“When a man has sex with a human being he owns, consent is forced, no matter the circumstance,” writes professional race baiter Shaun King in an article titled, “Thomas Jefferson was a horrible man who owned 600 human beings, raped them, and literally worked them to death.” The reality, however, was likely far more complicated and, more than that, ultimately unknowable, as fair historians acknowledge

Shaun King says he understands the “vital role” Jefferson played in the nation’s founding, but still contends he “should not be celebrated in any way.” “He should not have statues, or be on money, or even have a monument celebrating his positive contributions,” he wrote.

Sounds harsh, especially when we’re talking about dubious claims against one of the key founders of the greatest country to ever exist.

Predictably though, leftists aren’t quite so judgemental when the individual under scrutiny is a leftist hero.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or only digesting liberal media sources, you’ve probably heard about the latest allegations regarding civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., uncovered by Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer David Garrow. 

Using recently-released FBI surveillance summaries, Garrow unearthed several shocking allegations about King’s past, including a January 1964 rape at Washington, D.C.’s historic Willard Hotel during which the civil rights leader allegedly “looked on, laughed and offered advice.” 

A fellow pastor and friend, Logan Kearse, “had brought to Washington several women ‘parishioners’ of his church,” the FBI summaries revealed. “The group met in his room and discussed which women among the parishioners would be suitable for natural or unnatural sex acts. When one of the women protested that she did not approve of this, the Baptist minister immediately and forcibly raped her.” The allegation that the King “looked on, laughed and offered advice” was added to the notes in handwriting. 

There’s more, including a “sex orgy” during which a woman who “shied away” was allegedly told by King, a Christian minister, that participating would “help your soul,” but I think we can pretty much all agree that witnessing and encouraging a rape, if true, is heinous new ground and an entirely new level altogether as far as King allegations are concerned.

From several major media outlets’ refusal to cover Garrow’s discoveries to muted reaction after the piece was eventually published last Thursday in the British magazine “Standpoint,” leftist reaction to the King information has been hypocritical to say the least, especially considering the fact that, though the FBI surveillance of King was wrong and should never have happened, much more hard evidence exists of the civil rights leader’s guilt than Jefferson’s.

Attempting to make some sense of all this, Fox News host Tucker Carlson brought up the founding father during a Friday night discussion with liberal professor Jason Nichols about Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. 

Citing Jefferson as a “great example” of “heroes in America dethroned and in some cases literally statues knocked over,” Carlson asked Nichols if the latest allegations should result in a similar fate for King’s monuments.

“Should we knock his statues down because of this?” Carlson asked. “I don’t think we should … Should we define a man’s life by his worst moments, or should we take three steps back and assess his place in the sweep of history, and I’m making the case on behalf of Thomas Jefferson as well as Martin Luther King. Could the standard apply to both of them?”

After questioning the validity of Garrow’s claims based on the FBI sources (a typical liberal response but not valid, in my opinion, because the sources are merely notes based on real recorded, albeit sealed, tapes), Nichols was eventually forced by logic to admit that “we should learn about the good things and also not leave out the bad things” about someone’s life.

Yet, leftists like journalist Roland Martin - as he did during our recent Twitter exchange - will summarily dismiss the allegations about King while insisting that Jefferson “raped” Hemmings. 

In my opinion, Tucker Carlson was being generous. We’ll never know for certain whether Thomas Jefferson forcibly raped Sally Hemmings, had a genuine, mutually reciprocal relationship with her, or if it all was just a nasty politically-motivated rumor, in which case the real genetic father of all those Hemmings children could have been his brother or another Jefferson male. However, in 2027, when the MLK tapes are finally unsealed, we WILL know for sure, if we don’t already, whether the legendary civil rights leader was indeed the kind of person who would look on and laugh while a rape was being committed in his presence. 

Given that, perhaps it’s time for the nation to pick some new civil rights heroes. Ann Coulter suggested Thurgood Marshall, a solid choice. Interestingly, for those “not comfortable with Dr. King’s image,” Nichols on Tucker’s show suggested Ella Baker, someone he considered “the most important person to the civil rights movement.”

Regardless, in light of recent allegations and assuming the forthcoming tape releases do not disprove them, Martin Luther King Jr. clearly no longer deserves to rest on the pedestal upon which he has been placed. While I do believe it would be unfair to call for the man and his significant contributions to the civil rights movement to be memory-holed and all his monuments torn down in the same way a leftist might do to Thomas Jefferson, I do think his godlike status in American society should at least be questioned. Because arguably, no American has ever been memorialized, canonized, and idolized like Martin Luther King Jr.

The problem for MLK is, if you expect to fly with the gods, you’d damn well better have acted like one.

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