Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters has been promoting his racial sensitivity by hosting justice-reform panels and sponsoring a bill to raise awareness of African-American history. One thing he doesn’t mention: his great-great-grandfather harbored John Wilkes Booth after President Lincoln’s assassination.
The infamous fugitive found safe haven in the home of Richard Garrett, according to a story that Peters’ late father Herb Peters, an English teacher and news reporter, shared with local history buffs in Rochester, Michigan.
As the elder Peters told it, five riders in Confederate uniforms approached Garrett’s farmhouse near Port Royal, Va., on April 24, 1865, nine days after Lincoln’s death. But news traveled slowly in those days and Garrett still had not heard of the attack on Lincoln as the president sat with his wife in a balcony of the Ford Theater.
One of the horsemen asked if Booth — traveling under the name of James W. Boyd — could hole up on the property.
“None of the Garretts knew that Booth and co-conspirator David Herold escaped from Washington by horseback into Maryland and were the objects of a massive federal manhunt,” Herb Peters told the Rochester-Avon Historical Society during the 2011 talk.
For two days the wanted assassin lived “completely at ease” with the family, sharing meals and playing with Garrett’s children, until the feds found him. Booth was killed in the Garrett’s tobacco barn — which was also torched — on April 26.
Garrett, a Confederate with 22 slaves, according to census records, demanded compensation for the burned barn. Lawmakers rejected the claim, calling his conduct with Booth “undoubtedly disloyal.”
Sen. Peters told The Post: “These events have been written about for generations, and it’s important we know our history so that we can work toward an equal and inclusive society. Those are my values.”
He noted that his family has a long history of military service, with some ancestors serving on the Union side of the Civil War and in the American Revolution. Peters was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve before he got into politics.
The Senator has been heading online forums on racial justice and introduced the “1619 Act to Raise Awareness, Understanding of African American History in Schools.” The name is borrowed from a widely discredited New York Times series on the beginnings of American slavery.
“Michiganders and Americans across the country are demanding we work together to address bigotry, hatred and systemic racism,” he said in a statement promoting the bill.
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