To the Editor:
As a local Perrysburg historian and author, I strongly object to the Perrysburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s attack on a former president of the United States and their “woke” decision to re-name Harrison Rally Day. It is without merit.
The official record shows that even though Harrison owned slaves, as did 11 other U.S. presidents, he “offered contradictory views on slavery” over the years. Harrison’s few contradictory remarks about slavery pale in comparison with his military service to our country and public office accomplishments.
What’s next? The destruction of Fort Meigs? Would the chamber’s decision be the same if Gen. George Washington had been the commandant at Fort Meigs?
And then the next target could be Perrysburg itself, because Commodore Oliver H. Perry made an offhand comment about the new recruits sent to man his ships, describing them as “a motley set, blacks, soldiers, and boys.” Later, following the Battle of Lake Erie, he praised the performance of this “motley set.”
Sandy Latchem, the chamber’s executive director, said “We don’t want to associate it (Harrison Rally Day) with a person whom we now know supported slavery.”
Well, how about associating it with the person who is responsible for Perrysburg’s very existence? If it were not for Gen. William Henry Harrison’s victory at Fort Meigs in 1813, Perrysburg would not even exist, and we would be the small town of Proctorburg in Upper Canada.
Mayor Tom Mackin said, “As a community, we want to be as welcoming as possible. Keeping his name in the event would not help achieve the event’s goal, so changing the name makes sense.”
Having observed the large crowds for the past 41 years of Harrison Rally Days, I seriously doubt that anyone did not attend because of its name.
History cannot be re-written, and it should not be swept under the rug and ignored. The proper course is to learn the truth about it and to recognize that, yes, injustices have been prevalent throughout history and a new course can be set while acknowledging that these injustices are now deemed improper.