December 28, 1862 was in the middle of the American Civil War. It was about two years after the South seceded from the Union, and 4 days before President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
On that date in history, the Poet who would later publish the description of the Poweshiek skipper preached a sermon to an African-American church in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The sermon was about race, and he had given it to his own church, the North Congregational Church, also in New Bedford, on an earlier date.
The sermon was well received, so well in fact, that a number of the congregation present for the sermon sent a formal request to Henry W. Parker that he have it published. That he did, and thanks to publishing on demand, a copy of that sermon can be purchased today.
Since I have involved myself so closely with the lives of Henry and Helen Parker, I had to purchase a copy.
About a third of the way through the pamphlet I found some material that seemed strangely familiar. Henry described some disputes about human race that came from “lofty science” that were published in “that disreputable Southern book, ‘Types of Mankind.’”
Henry argued with a great deal of passion against a book that was critiqued more recently by an icon of natural history, Stephen Jay Gould. Henry Parker’s arguments showed contempt for the conclusions, but were part of a longer list of reasons why race should not matter before the eyes of God. Yet the depth of Henry’s feelings toward the subject drip from the pages.
Stephen Jay Gould, in The Mismeasure of Man reviewed the science used to reach the conclusions of the study and tore it apart. He showed how science can become a tool of people to justify their own prejudices and conclusions. The Mismeasure of Man is a book I would recommend to anyone to read.
Henry W. Parker was a great man. He might not have discovered the butterfly, but he was a great man.