December 27th, 2011 by Glenn SacksThe Hero Father. In the face of a family court system that is stacked against him, he fights a long, hard battle to remain a meaningful part of the lives of the children who love and need him. The press rarely, if ever, talks about the Hero Father. They’d rather vilify “deadbeat dads,” real or imagined.
But even the best among us could learn much from a Hero Father of a different era—a former slave named Spottswood Rice.
During the Civil War, Rice escaped from his slaveholders and joined a Union Army regiment of former slaves determined to defeat the Confederacy and liberate their people. From a barracks hospital he wrote his children—still held as slaves in the South—a letter in which he lovingly assures them:
“Don’t be uneasy my children I expect to have you. If Diggs [the children's master] don’t give you up this Government will and I feel confident that I will get you.”
“Your Miss Kaitty [Diggs, the children's master] said that I tried to steal you But I’ll let her know that God never intended for man to steal his own flesh and blood…And I want her to remember if she meets me with ten thousand soldiers she [will] meet her enemy…”
In other words, “Daddy’s coming to get you–and he’s bringing the Union Army with him!”
Spottswood Rice also wrote to his children’s slavemaster, letting her know exactly where things stood:
“Mary is my child and she is a God given right of my own…I want you to remember this one thing…we are now making up about one thousand black troops to come up through…to the slaveholding rebels we don’t expect to leave them there, root nor branch…I offered once to pay you forty dollars for my own child but I am glad now that you did not accept it…you call my children your property not so with me my children is my own and I expect to get them and when I get ready to come after Mary I will have a power and authority to bring her away.”
Abolitionist leader Fredrick Douglass, also a former slave, criticized those abolitionists who shied away from hard struggle:
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning…
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them…If we ever get free from all the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice…”
Unfortunately, there are those in our movement who fall into the same thinking of those whom Douglass criticizes. Let us be clear–the fight for fairness in family law is a fight against entrenched, well-financed interests who will not be moved unless they are pushed. And the only way to effectively push them is the Fathers and Families way–by building a strong, well-funded national organization that can wage a determined struggle for our children and the loving bonds we share with them.
Fathers and Families fights for the modern Hero Father, the modern Spottswood Rice. Please give in honor of Hero Father Spottswood Rice or the Hero Father in your life. Please write in whose honor your gift is on the memo line of your check or, when giving electronically, please use the “Honor” screen after you submit your gift.
We’ve accomplished much, but there is far more left to do–please give.
For the love of our children,
Ned Holstein, MD, MS
Founder and Chairman of the Board
Glenn Sacks, MA
P.S. Time is short–there are only a few days left for you to put your check in the mail or give electronically. Please give today!
PO Box 270760
Boston, Massachusetts 02127-0760