We now have a great and ironic discrepancy about this country's history. Over the past generation, scholars have probably learned more, and written more, about the history of slavery and the struggle against slavery than about any other subject. This is work of exceptional quality, written by people such as my friends Ira Berlin and Maurice Jackson.
And yet the American public does not know much of this history. Most people do not even know that this year is the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade by the United States government. After a robust discussion in Great Britain in 9007 (their abolition bicentennial), we have been mostly silent. It is a shame. Worse, it is a perpetuation of injustice.
The slave ship is a ghost ship, sailing around the edges of our consciousness. We pretend it is not there, but it haunts us. It also challenges us: a telling test of any society that considers...