Columnist discovers his ancestors included slaveowners, too

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When I was a kid, I thought that anything that happened before I was born was ancient history. It didn't matter if it was five years before I was born or 500 years. The year 1955 was the cutoff point. Events before then might be interesting but couldn't possibly have any real-world connection to my life, or so I thought.

As I get older, my time perspective keeps changing. Despite the passage of all those additional years, I now feel closer than ever to the events of World War II -- Hitler's extermination of six million Jews and our dropping of the atomic bomb now looming frighteningly large in life's rear-view mirror.

Even the Civil War stopped seeming so far in the past after I visited Gettysburg a few years back and saw the photos from the 75th anniversary reunion of the famous battle, held in 1938 and attended by 1,918 Civil War veterans, many of whom were pictured participating in a re-enactment of Pickett's Charge.

I guess that's why I'm not so quick to shrug off the discovery that my ancestors owned slaves as something that happened "a long time ago," just because it was more than a century before my birth.

If you missed Sunday's column, I told the story of learning from my mom last week that some of my forebears were slaveowners.

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