The head-spinning piece by state historian laureate Patrick Conley (“Remembering RI’s overlooked Olympian,” Aug. 5) should win a medal for logical long jump. With no effort he pivots in one brief paragraph from the approach, an appreciation of a 1912 Olympic track medalist, to a ridiculous leap in which George Washington is in an airplane – his point being to scorn those of us who think the Founders might have done more to bring American freedoms to the enslaved people that enriched them.   

Conley is correct, along with many historians, in pointing out that moral sensitivities were different hundreds of years ago. But true Americans are rebels (Go SK!) and some keep pushing the arc of the moral universe toward justice. I’m grateful to the Founders for all their truly awesome accomplishments but differ with Mr. Conley when he essentially says “That’s life” about our country’s original sin.  

And a footnote to Conley’s praise of runner Norman Stephen Taber, “a leading candidate for the title of Rhode Island’s greatest home-grown track star,” don’t forget Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, an icon of the Narragansetts who twice won the Boston Marathon and set a national record in that event.  

Dan Johnsen


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