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Letter: Press Club board on why Reeves marker was removed

05/02/2019 7:15 AM |

To the Editor: 

Re: Steve Wick’s column, “He supported slavery and now Greenport has a marker with his name on it,” April 20, 2018:

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. 

Clearly, the Henry Reeves marker that Steve Wick wrote about forced us to confront and reflect on a Long Island history that many would prefer we forget. 

The Press Club Board of Directors chose to erect a marker about Reeves in collaboration with the village, the village historian and the Stirling Historical Society because he was imprisoned in 1861 after he wrote in opposition to the Civil War and lampooned President Abraham Lincoln. 

However, we received new information about Reeves after the marker was fabricated and erected. Besides castigating the war effort and Lincoln, we learned that the editor of the Watchman vociferously opposed the emancipation of slaves. So 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.

That is why we 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  

Editor’s Note: The Press Club of Long Island is the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Its board and membership is made up of journalists from across the island. While some Times Review Media Group reporters and editors are SPJ members and have participated in PCLI panel discussions and contests, no member of our staff serves on the board. We had no involvement with the decision to place the Reeves marker in Greenport or the request to have it removed.

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