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Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | FEBRUARY 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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Re: Contractors stumble onto archaeological finds

Thank you for framing this news as that of a valuable discovery. Certain other news sources couched it in terms of the annoying delay to pipeline work, which seemed both unprofessionally one-sided and culturally shortsighted.

The discovery of such well-preserved evidence of early settlement in the area is incredibly valuable, and anything — anything at all — that can help us establish more information about the first nations in this area would be welcome.

Flood recovery is certainly an issue we must address (especially if all this snow continues to accumulate), for the preservation of our university and its spectacular Special Collections, but the state of Iowa has always been a model for historical research and publication: Lynn Alex has championed pre-European-settlement Iowa history in several wonderful books; our town has — according to what we have learned from archaeology and early work by Weber, Petersen, Swisher, and others — been a culturally diverse community, with many stories yet to uncover and mysteries to solve. Let’s give the archaeologists not just time and funding to explore this surprise but a round of applause, too. Generations of work have gone into the extensive and valuable publications of our State Historical Society, and we should be thrilled by the chance to add chapters to the records kept there.

Especially if we find out more about the rumored pre-1850 African American settlement and the known, but under-documented, Sephardic congregation who lived here early in the town’s history.

Nialle Sylvan

A necessary reminder on slavery

I recently saw the movie 12 Years a Slave, a true story based on African American Solomon Northup’s autobiographical narrative, published in 1853.  I hope it wins the Academy Awards’ Best Picture this year. If it does, more people are likely to go see the film because it won the award. Could it be that many who refuse to see movies like this don’t like to acknowledge or be reminded of our country’s history of sanctioning slavery, an evil institution that existed from our country’s beginning?

Slavery was rooted in racism. It is amazing Solomon Northup lived through, endured, and survived 12 years of painful mental and physical brutality. Even though slavery ended officially by law in our country, racism did not end. Today, it is more subtle, secret, hidden — not expressed openly, outwardly, overtly as it once was. 

One of the good things about February’s Black History Month is it calls America’s attention to the tremendous contributions African-Americans have made over the centuries to our nation’s development and well-being. They, along with Mr. Northup, proved and continue to prove that no one race of people is neither superior nor inferior to the others.

Paul L. Whiteley Sr.


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