It was quite a week for President Obama. On Monday, we all got to hear the revealing interview Obama recorded in the Los Angeles garage of comedian Marc Maron. Midweek, the Supreme Court rejected the latest legal challenge to the Affordable Healthcare Act, his signature piece of legislation. Now on Friday — the same day that Obama welcomed the court’s landmark decision on gay marriage — the President solemnly presided over the funeral of Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine African-Americans murdered in a Charleston church last week.
You can watch his eulogy above in its entirety, but we’re fast forwarding to the end, when, rather unexpectedly, the president led the congregation in singing Amazing Grace, a Christian hymn written in 1779 by John Newton. In an ironic historic footnote, Newton was the captain of English slave ships and wrote the spiritual song when his ship, buffeted by a storm, nearly met its demise. This marked the beginning of a spiritual conversion for Newton, during which he remained active in the slave trade. Only years later did he repent and focus his energy on abolishing slavery. He would write ‘Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade,’ an influential tract that “described the horrors of the Slave Trade and his role in it.”
Like many things, the descendants of slaves took the good from “Amazing Grace” and made it their own.
Note: the singing starts at the 35:20 mark if you really need to move things along.
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