Tag Archives: justice

Mayhew Cabin

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

To speak in archetypal clichés—without knowing where you came from, it can be difficult to understand where you are going. Nestled just south of Omaha in Nebraska City lies a piece of history that offers a window into the American love affair with slavery, and the fight for its abolition.

Built in 1855, Mayhew Cabin was once a stop on the famous Underground Railroad. Back then the cabin may have been inconspicuous, but as you drive through what is now Nebraska City, the small cottage sticks out like a sore thumb.

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Cathy Briley is the vice president of the board of directors for Mayhew Cabin. She says the relationship between slavery, racism, and present day prejudice makes Mayhew Cabin a valuable teaching tool in educating children about this segment of American history.

“Racism in all forms is wrong,” Briley says. “Slavery was abolished, so why does our museum matter? It matters because unfortunately, people of several colors still face racism today.”

MayhewCabin2Walking around the different displays and artifacts in the Mayhew welcome center, Bill Hayes could go on for hours explaining every detail regarding the rich history of the abolitionist movement. He has a master’s degree in history, and volunteering at the museum is a hobby. 

“The site (Mayhew Cabin) was privately owned from the late 1930s until 2002,” Hayes says. “What we want to do is try to focus on the history of slavery, and how you have the movement of people being opposed to it.”

Hayes says the geographical placement of Mayhew Cabin makes it a critical stop on the
Underground Railroad.

“Nebraska City was an important stopping point because across the river is Iowa, and any more south you would cross back into Missouri (a pro-slavery state).”

Walking into the cabin, the air seems inundated with mixed feelings of hope, fear, and freedom—emitted by those who sought safe harbor there. The furnishings are basic: two rocking chairs, a trunk, and a small bed in the loft upstairs. In the cellar below there is a shocking surprise. A tunnel, now accessible to the public, once led escaped slaves from the ravine 40 yards away right into the cellar itself.

Briley says the museum focuses less on the horrors of slavery, and more on the stories of those who risked their lives to aid in the freedom of slaves.

MayhewCabin4“John Kagi, our hero at the museum, sacrificed his life fighting for the freedom of others,” Briley says. “He gave so much. He was jailed, beaten, shot, hunted, and eventually killed for his involvement in the abolitionist cause.”

According to Hayes, Mayhew Cabin represents an ongoing legacy that needs to be part of American culture.

“We talk about equality, freedom, and justice,” Hayes says. “Those may not be very many letters, but those are big words. They’re big ideas, and that’s what this country has always thought of itself representing.”

Visit mayhewcabin.org for more information. Omaha Magazine

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Is Our Liberty to Succeed or Fail in Jeopardy?

May 25, 2013 by

It’s an issue that affects small businesses—the push for more and more sharing with others who don’t have as much as you do. This trend can be seen in many business practices, too. For example, the sales commission question below:

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” This Benjamin Franklin quote, with its many derivations, points toward a simple fact that, for one to expect a government to guarantee something, a part of one’s liberty will be the price.

The questions is: How much of your liberty will you gladly trade for an increased level of governmental protection? In other words, is it the responsibility of government to feed you, house you, educate you, care for you, etc…if you are sick, unwilling, or incapable?

Most of us feel that it is the obligation of government to provide us with some of these needs and desires. Others feel that government should do that and much more.

This is the age-old contest between those rowing the boat and those along for the ride. The sales adage says 80 percent of the sales are made by 20 percent of the sales force. In school, grades tend to follow a bell curve with a few students getting excellent marks while most are average, and a few bring up the rear. Should the sales staff getting 80 percent of the sales get the same commission as the rest of the team? Should the top students share their grades with those less fortunate, thus everyone getting a grade of C? What level of “sharing” do you consider fair?

What if you were a doctor who endured many years of school with considerable effort and expense? Economic justice would dictate that the doctor’s earnings be shared with those who were not capable, for whatever reason—even laziness—to achieve the same degree of earning capability. Would you be willing to have the government decide how much of a doctor’s income gets redistributed? If so, what incentive would current medical students (or anyone considering entering into a lengthy and expensive effort) have to continue becoming a doctor only to have their efforts taken away?

To the consternation of so many, life isn’t fair. Is it the role of government to make life fair? This exact precept was explored throughout the 20th century. The direct result of these experiments offered two class societies: the ruling elite and everyone else. Sadly, the ‘everyone else’ class was considered expendable by those ruling. China squandered the lives of over 60 million in an effort to purchase world power status. The average Chinese existed and died on a daily caloric intake smaller than that of the slaves of Auschwitz. Russia bartered the lives of their bread basket Kulaks by the millions in exchange for the materials of industrialization. No, the only way a government can enforce equality is by reducing the living standard of the ‘everyone else’ class.

As America celebrates the 4th of July, a time for quiet contemplation of the uniqueness of this American experiment is due. All throughout history, tyranny is the norm. The liberty Americans have is truly unique. The thread that holds this together is the Constitution. I contend that the freedoms across the globe are there only so long as Americans remain free. Free to succeed, free to fail, free to risk their all in the pursuit of personal happiness. If Americans lose that desire for liberty, the rest of the world will lose as well.

Any views and/or opinions present in “The Know-It-All” columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of B2B Omaha Magazine or their parent company and/or their affiliates.