I just completed reading a book written in 1866 that I would never otherwise read if it were not written by my triple great grandfather, Thomas Clay McCreery, who later became a U.S. Senator from Kentucky from 1868 to 1871 and from 1873 to 1879.
The book is a biography about William Smothers, aka William Smeathers, who was one of the first white persons to go to what is now known as Kentucky and forcibly take away land and life from the indigenous people who had lived there for millennia. He later went to Texas to do the same.
The book is as disgusting as the person about whom it is written. It casually and approvingly recounts how Smothers hunted and murdered indigenous persons like they were animals – hunting animals one day and humans the next.
Smothers is portrayed as being relieved that he never killed an indigenous woman, but after a conversation with a friend, he is convinced that even had he done so, he actually would not have killed a “woman” but rather just a “female.”
The biography was disgusting, but it was important for me to read first and second hand accounts about what white people of that time and place believed and did, and what they believed was despicably racist and what they did was murderous and genocidal.
Two years after writing this biography, my triple great grandfather, Thomas Clay McCreery, was chosen to be a U.S. Senator from Kentucky. He owned human persons before the Civil War, was openly racist, and helped lead the effort to keep the first black man from serving in the U.S. Senate. My guess is that like so many before and after him, McCreery was chosen because of his racist views and actions rather than in spite of them.
To my triple great grandfather, shame on you for writing approvingly about the murderous Bill Smothers, for owning human beings, and for working to keep the first duly elected black man from serving in the U.S. Senate. Your desire for the approval of your racist friends to gain and maintain power for racist ends has led to your name forever being remembered in infamy.
We must never be fooled by the histories written by white men who speak of these persons as pioneers and heroes. They were murderers and perpetrators of genocide who justified their actions on the despicably racist belief that only white people, and more specifically white men, were fully human.
And yet there were some people of compassion during that era and the world appears to have gotten more humane in spite of our present U.S. failures.