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Date: October 14, 2003
Byline: Les Kinsolving

Liberty Bell now surrounded by slavery exhibits

On Sunday, Oct. 4, 2003, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Liberty Bell would be moved the following Thursday, from the Liberty Bell Pavilion to a newly designed Liberty Bell Center, 100 yards away.

Here the Liberty Bell is now installed, with "historical exhibits that weave a complex story touching on slavery, women's rights, subjugation of native peoples and Jim Crow."

The exhibition ... will not only mention that the bell was named by abolitionists, it will acknowledge the presence of racial bondage ... that many Founding Fathers, including Washington, owned chattel slaves.

"If the history of the Liberty Bell is disclosed, and that means telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, it would be relevant to African Americans," said Michael Coard, a Philadelphia lawyer who has urged the Park Service to acknowledge Washington's slaves.

The controversy that prompted these changes is not over. Historians and community groups want park officials to mark the location of the small shed where Washington quartered some of his enslaved stable hands.

After contacting the National Park Service in Philadelphia, I attended the Oct. 10 daily White House news briefing and asked White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan:

QUESTION: The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that in the new location of the Liberty Bell, the National Parks Service is focused on racial bondage, especially President Washington's and other founding fathers owning slaves. The Parks Service this morning conceded that there is no mention at all of what the U.S. census reports as 3,400 free black slave owners before 1865; or enslaved blacks today in Sudan and Mauritania; or the responsibility of black African tribes and Arabs in supplying black slaves to the world. And my question – a two-part – does the president believe this is fair or historically honest?

McCLELLAN: Les, I'm not that familiar with what the Parks Service has done, in terms of the Liberty Bell. Obviously, it's a symbol for our nation, but I think you need to direct those questions to the Parks Service. I have not seen this specific ...

QUESTION: I did ...

McCLELLAN: I've not seen the specific ...

QUESTION: and I want to know, where does the president stand, and will he do anything ...

McCLELLAN: Les, I just said that I am not familiar with the specifics you are talking about.

QUESTION: Would you look into and investigate for me, Scott ...

But Mr. McClellan went to another questioner.

Since it was Friday and half the seats in the press room were vacant, I was able to ask another question:

QUESTION: Scott, what was the president's reaction to the 25,000 Californians who voted for Larry Flint and Mary Carey for governor, and to the thousands of subscription cancellations at the Los Angeles Times?

McCLELLAN: The president's reaction was he felt that Arnold Schwarzenegger ran a very positive campaign and a spirited campaign, and the president congratulates him on his victory. I don't need to – I don't think every – 135 candidates or so that were on the ballot.

QUESTION: Right. What about the Times cancellation, thousands of subscriptions canceled, because of that "Thursday Dirty Trick" business. What was his reaction to that?

McCLELLAN: Those decisions are made by readers.

Les Kinsolving hosts a daily talk show for WCBM in Baltimore. His radio commentaries are syndicated nationally. He is White House correspondent for Talk Radio Network and WorldNetDaily. His show can be heard on the Internet at 8-10 p.m. Eastern each weekday. Before going into broadcasting, Kinsolving was a newspaper reporter and columnist twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his commentary.


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