William Chafe of Duke University and Jacqueline Dowd Hall of the University of North Carolina, both former presidents of the Organization of American Historians, were arrested this week for protesting the Republican policies of the North Carolina legislature. In an op-ed published in the Charlotte News and Observer, Chafe and Hall argued that the policies of the North Carolina legislature contradict the long history of civil rights that has come to define the Tar Heel State over the course of the last half-century. Here is a taste:
This week, we were arrested at the General Assembly. We chose the path of civil disobedience – along with 29 others – as a means of calling attention to the headlong assault on our state’s history by the governor and the state legislature.
We are not radicals. Each of us has been president of the Organization of American Historians, the leading professional organization of all American historians. We cherish the history we have spent our lives studying. Yet now we see a new generation in Raleigh threatening to destroy the very
history we have spent our lives celebrating.
During the last half century, North Carolinians helped pave the way for racial justice, educational leadership and fairness for all citizens.
That history is one that our current legislature and governor now seek to reverse: by denying 500,000 people health care through Medicaid, even though it would not cost the state a cent for the first two years; by restricting women’s access to reproductive health care; by terminating unemployment payments for more than 160,000 workers laid off through no fault of their own; by endangering the right to vote of tens of thousands of people through curtailing early voting and requiring state-issued picture IDs; by cutting taxes on the rich, and increasing them on the poor; by telling a father in New Bern that if his daughter chooses to vote in Boone, where she attends Appalachian State, instead of traveling five hours back to New Bern to cast her ballot, the father can no longer claim his daughter as a dependent on his tax return.
This political juggernaut runs totally contrary to what North Carolina has stood for during the last half century. It represents class warfare against the middle class and the working-class residents of our state. Justice lies at the core of our civic life. And we are all responsible for sustaining that justice.