Do you know this famous/unknown Kentuckian?

Posted by on November 20, 2014


Bloomberg reported that only 12 percent of 12th graders are proficient in American history. It’s about to get worse. The federally-controlled, one-size-fits-all Common Core standards for social studies will no longer teach the Declaration of Independence, the most important document ever written. America’s history is disappearing.

Here’s a perfect example.

In 1810, he was born in Clermont, Kentucky to a slave-owning family.

He was a friend to Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln.

His cousin was Kentucky Senator Henry Clay.

He attended Madison Seminary, St. Joseph’s College in Bardstown, Transylvania University and Yale.

At Yale he attended an anti-slavery speech by William Lloyd Garrison and devoted his life to the anti-slavery movement. He had numerous enemies for his emancipation stance.

He married and had 10 children, only six survived.

He was elected state representative from Madison County in 1835.

In 1843, a pro-slavery assassin shot him in the chest after his anti-slavery speech. HE was charged with mayhem. His cousin, Henry Clay, successfully defended him.

In 1845, he lived in Lexington publishing a newspaper called The True American. Kentucky’s slave-owners didn’t appreciate his anti-slavery editorials. Here is one letter he received.

You are meaner than the autocrats of hell. You may think you can awe and curse the people of Kentucky to your infamous course. You will find, when it is too late for life, the people are no cowards. Eternal hatred is locked up in the bosoms of braver men, your betters, for you. The hemp is ready for your neck. Your life cannot be spared. Plenty thirst for your blood — are determined to have it. It is unknown to you and your friends, if you have any, and in a way you little dream of. – Revengers

He defended his newspaper with an iron door, a cannon and rifles. Sixty pro-slavery advocates planned to destroy his newspaper. While he was home recovering from typhoid flu, his family dismantled the printing equipment and moved it to Cincinnati for safe keeping. Once he recovered, he traveled to Cincinnati to keep his anti-slavery paper operating.

In 1846, he volunteered to fight in the Mexican-American War. His unit was captured and sentenced to die. He convinced the Mexican colonel to call off the executions. His unit was held captive for 18 months. He became a Kentucky hero.

In 1849, while in Foxtown, Kentucky, giving an anti-slavery speech, he was attacked by a pro-slavery mob. He was stabbed in the lung and his breastbone was severed. He finally wrestled a knife away from one assailant. He found the instigator and stabbed and killed him.

In 1850, he met an abolitionist preacher from Bracken County. He gave the preacher land and money to start a school for non-slaveholders. The school became Berea College.

In 1851, he ran for governor of Kentucky on an emancipation platform. He lost.

In 1860, he supported Lincoln for president. He was given a battalion to protect Washington D.C. from Confederates until Federal troops arrived. He was commissioned a major general.

Lincoln asked him to attend Kentucky’s General Assembly meetings to test the water for Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. He reported back to Lincoln favorably and within weeks his Emancipation Proclamation was issued. He considered these events “the culminating act of my life’s aspirations.”

In 1863, as minister to Russia, his goal was to keep Russia on the side of the Union during the Civil War. As a result of his contacts and influence in Russia, he played a critical role in the U.S.A.’s purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.

He returned home in 1869 as a Republican but later became a Democrat. He believed the Republican’s Reconstruction Plan was too radical.

In 2000, he was inducted into the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights’ Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

This famous/unknown Kentuckian was Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810-1903). Read KET’s Complete Story Here.

When most of his hear the name, Cassius Clay, we think of Muhammad Ali, whose former name was Cassius Clay. Did you know that Muhammad Ali’s father was named Cassius Marcellus Clay in honor of this Kentucky abolitionist? In 1942, Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. In 1964, he joined the Nation of Islam. He initially chose the name Cassius X but later settled on Muhammad Ali.

I wonder if Kentucky students are taught this incredible story of a black couple naming their child and that child naming his child after a white man who was stabbed, shot and fought for their freedom.

How many Kentuckians, like me, know more about Cassius Marcellus Clay the boxer than Cassius Marcellus Clay the abolitionist?

P.S. – I’ve offered this suggestion before, but it’s worth repeating. I propose that U.S. History be taught by honorably discharged veterans who are NOT members of the teachers union. Veterans would be vetted and employed by local school boards. America’s veterans need jobs. Why not permit veterans to teach what they love and encourage students to love America again?

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Tom Wurtz

President at Tom Wurtz Consulting
Tom Wurtz is the President of Tom Wurtz Consulting and former President & COO of a $70 million consulting firm in Cincinnati, OH. He’s a leadership & profit consultant, keynote speaker, trainer, columnist, founder of the Eagle Leadership Academy and author of three books. He has published over 900 business and libertarian/conservative political articles. In 2012, he unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Congress in Kentucky’s 4th District. Tom resides in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky and has been married to his third-grade sweetheart for 38 years.