Those who study the American Revolution know Tadeusz Kosciusko. He was a Polish military engineer who served on the patriot side during the American Revolution. Recently, his monument in Washington D.C. was covered with anti-racism slogans.
Most people don’t know anything about Kosciusko. I imagine that this partially explains why vandals defaced his monument.
Here is a taste of Polish writer Jakub Majmurek’s piece on Kosciusko at Dissent:
Kościuszko believed that black Americans should be free citizens of the republic. The money he bestowed in his will was to be spent on buying land for the freed slaves, along with farming tools that would allow them to have an economically decent life as part of American society. Such a stance was extraordinary even among the abolitionists, who for a long time remained ambivalent on the question of full citizenship of freed black slaves.
We know that it was not only Jefferson, but the whole of the United States that failed to live up to the symbolic meaning of Kościuszko’s will. Slavery remained part of the American political system until the introduction, in December 1864, of the Thirteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth (1869) and the Fifteenth (1870) Amendments granted black people citizenship and black men the right to vote. But over the next hundred years the authorities in charge of a number of states did all they could to limit the actual rights of the black population.
In Requiem for a Nun, William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” For sure, this is true of slavery, the legacy of which continues to shape the United States, determining life opportunities and life expectancies.
If Tadeusz Kościuszko were to see what is happening today in his second motherland, he would surely stand with the protesters, and not on the side of those who shoot their fellow citizens with impunity. I don’t know if people who wrote “Fuck Trump” and “BLM” on the statue of Kościuszko knew who the Polish-American hero really was. It is quite possible that they didn’t. But their graffiti has unearthed a forgotten history.
Read the entire piece here.