AMAC Exclusive by Scott Centorino
As the left vainly tries to deceive Americans into accepting the toxic reign of identity politics, they are forced time and again to contort American history and falsify heroic stories from our past because a truthful telling would reveal the mendacity of their narrative and the bankruptcy of their agenda. The forgotten tales of two Americans—both named James—are the perfect reminder of why.
Born in the 18th century, James Forten worked odd jobs along Philadelphia’s waterfront to support his mother and sister after his father died. By 1781, he was fifteen and old enough to volunteer to join the Continental Navy.
In his first taste of combat, he demonstrated his physical courage. But it took getting captured to demonstrate his moral courage.
A British warship, the Amphion, captured his ship’s crew off the coast of Virginia. The British captain quickly sensed his intelligence and made Forten a generous offer.
In exchange for freeing Forten from life as a prisoner of war, Forten would serve the British captain at his country estate in England.
Forten didn’t hesitate. He turned it down.
He told the British captain, “I have been taken prisoner for the liberties of my country and never will prove a traitor to her interest.” Instead of a comfortable life tutoring the captain’s sons, Forten re-joined his crewmates in a prison ship, waiting for freedom for himself and his country.
James Forten didn’t want comfort. He wanted to serve his nation.
Two centuries later, in 1961, Jim Zwerg joined his Fisk University classmate, John Lewis, to participate in bus trips through the Deep South to fight segregation.
These ‘freedom riders’ challenged the real Jim Crow, not what progressive activists today label as Jim Crow with shameful nonchalance. In a time of segregated drinking foundations, targeted fire hoses, and brutal killings, the real Jim Crow meant real risk.
Jim Zwerg accepted that risk gladly. He later said that “my faith was never so strong as during that time. I knew I was doing what I should be doing.”
When Zwerg’s Greyhound bus pulled into Montgomery, Alabama, the bus station appeared empty. Then the ambush came. From his window on the bus, Zwerg could see young white men outside holding baseball bats and chains.
The police had left. Their protection had abandoned the area.
But Zwerg stood up from his seat anyway, walked down the aisle, and got off the bus.
The crowd did what it came to do. It smashed Zwerg’s face with his suitcase, pinned his head down, and methodically knocked teeth out of his mouth. He only regained consciousness two days later. Newspapers published pictures of his bruised face and shocked the nation.
James Forten and Jim Zwerg shared courage, a sense of purpose, and a love for the promise of America.
But these attributes have seeded the American experience for centuries. What makes their stories so special, aside from their common name and age?
You might have guessed that James Forten and Jim Zwerg did not have race in common. One was white. One was black.
But it might surprise you to learn that James Forten, the Revolutionary War sailor, was black and Jim Zwerg, the civil rights activist, was white.
For each, their race made them singular targets in their time.
Every time James Forten sailed into a southern port, he risked seizure for chained slavery. Forten’s acceptance of that risk for the sake of the American cause as it existed then would befuddle the woke mob today, addicted as they are too crude and distorted history, as exemplified by the 1619 Project.
Jim Zwerg, on the other hand, knew the mob in Montgomery would treat him more harshly than his fellow passengers.
The stories of these two brave men do not conform to the identity politics narrative that has taken over our culture.
Remembering these tales—and others like them—can help bring our culture closer to Martin Luther King’s ideal, in which every individual is treated as a unique person with dignity and a soul that transcends their ethnic or racial identity.
If the antidote for tribalism is individualism, individuals like James Forten and Jim Zwerg show us the way.
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