Learning from history: Press Club’s statement on the Henry Reeves marker

The purpose of the Press Club of Long Island’s Historical Marker Program is to preserve the history of journalism in our region, and, we hope, draw attention to and spark interest in it so we can learn from it.

We have previously erected markers about Walt Whitman, William Cullen Bryant, the creation of Newsday, and the publication of Long Island’s first newspaper in Sag Harbor.

Recently, the Press Club Board of Directors erected a marker about Henry Reeves, the 58-year editor of the Traveler-Watchman during the 19th century, because he was imprisoned in 1861 after he wrote in opposition to the Civil War and lampooned President Abraham Lincoln. We did so in collaboration with the Village of Greenport, the village historian and the Stirling Historical Society,Logo-High-Res-PCLI1

After the marker was fabricated and erected, however, we received new information about Reeves, who also served as an elected official at the local and state levels for many years. Besides castigating the war effort and Lincoln, the editor of the Watchman, we learned, vociferously opposed the emancipation of slaves and spoke out publicly against the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863.

After additional research and consideration, the Press Club board concluded that while imprisoning Reeves for sedition violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and a free press, erecting a marker about an editor who advocated the continual denial of rights for millions enslaved in the Confederate States of America did not accord with our mission and our beliefs.

We then asked the Village of Greenport to remove the marker, and we are grateful that it did so quickly.

The Board of the Press Club of Long Island
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