Lemuel Haynes, an American treasure

This Fourth of July may I draw your attention to a Revolutionary War hero you probably know little about: Lemuel Haynes.

You can start here and then let your research take you where you will. Whatever you discover about this man, you will be a better American (and human being) for it.

Half white and half black, he was placed into indentured servitude as a child, which he completed just before the American Revolution. He was a Minuteman and participated in many famous battles. He later became an important early American religious thinker and is believed to have been the first black man in America to pastor a white church.

The Rev. Haynes was a great admirer of George Washington and regularly preached sermons on Washington’s birthday.

In 1776 Haynes articulated the ideal of racial freedom far head of the time when he wrote: "That an African… has an undeniable right to his Liberty." He went on to condemn slavery as sin, and pointed out the irony of slaveowners fighting for their own liberty while denying it to others.

In 1828 he stumbled into a group of supporters of Andrew Jackson who talked Haynes into celebrating Jackson’s election with a toast. He raised his glass and said: "Andrew Jackson. Psalm 109, 8th verse." Everyone drank.

Later, after Haynes had left, someone found a Bible and read the passage: "Let his days be few; and let another take his office."

The Fourth of July is a fine holiday. Be safe and here’s hoping it will be full of family and fun for you.

But when you get a chance, spend a little time reading about this American treasure. It’ll be good for you … and for the country.

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