Monday, April 12, 2010

You say "slavery," I say "diddly"

Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks, right? Via Sully, Jon Meacham:
If the slaves are erased from the picture, then what took place between Sumter and Appomattox is not about the fate of human chattel, or a battle between good and evil. It is, instead, more of an ancestral skirmish in the Reagan revolution, a contest between big and small government.

We cannot allow the story of the emancipation of a people and the expiation of America’s original sin to become fodder for conservative politicians playing to their right-wing base. That, to say the very least, is a jump backward we do not need.
And then there's Haley Barbour:
CROWLEY: The [Virginia] Governor didn’t even mention slavery in his proclamation. Was that a mistake?

BARBOUR: Well, I don’t think soI don’t know what you would say about slavery, but anyone who thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing — I think it goes without saying. * * *

To me it’s a sort of feeling that it’s just a nit. That it is not significant. It’s trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn’t matter for diddly.
Barbour also refers to "my Democratic legislature, which has done exactly the same thing in Mississippi for years." Not sure what he means by this, but if he's referring to Confederate Memorial Day, ThinkProgress links a 2009 proclamation issued by Barbour himself, which omits slavery but mentions "gain[ing] insight from our mistakes [Pickett's Charge? -TBA] and successes." Miss. Code Ann. 3-3-7 lists Confederate Memorial Day as one of the state's legal holidays, but I would have to do a little digging to find the enacting legislation and whatever it might say.

... Some reax to Barbour. Ta-Nehisi Coates: "The notion that slavery shouldn't be mentioned, because everyone knows its bad, but Robert E. Lee should be because, apparently, no one knows he was a great general, is, well, ignorant."


  1. If we are going to mention slavery when talking about the War Between the States, shouldn't we mention it when talking about the American Revolution? South Carolina in all likelihood would not have seceded from England were it not for the fact that they were afraid that the English government would abolish slavery, which in fact it eventually did. And without South Carolina, the Revolution likely would have failed.

    Shouldn't we work to inform the public that U.S. Grant refused to free his slaves until the passage of the 13th Amendment on the grounds that "good help is hard to find"?

    Most Northerners at the time of the War weren't against slavery; they were against blacks, period. They didn't want ANY blacks, free or slave, to be admitted to any new territories. Most people choose to ignore these facts and others like them, because it is much easier to identify the Confederacy and the South as the source of all original evil.

  2. shouldn't we mention it when talking about the American Revolution?

    By all means.

    As for Grant, Jean Edward Smith records that Grant only ever owned one slave, apparently in 1858 or 1859, and emancipated him on March 29, 1859.

    And the North's lack of genuine concern for the blacks is amply demonstrated by the fate of Reconstruction.

    None of which changes the fact that the Civil War was fought by the South for the express purpose of preserving slavery, a wicked and depraved institution.

  3. Grant's slaves were titled in the name of his wife and they were never voluntarily emancipated. There were far more disputes between North and South than just slavery.

    The American Revolution was fought by some in the South for the purpose of preserving slavery. I see no need to bring this up every time we speak with honor of our Revolutionary forebears any more than we should bring up slavery every time we honor those who answered Mississippi's call to serve in the Confederate army.

  4. Atrocity is often glossed over in favor of glory; that doesn't make such elision correct or valuable.

    Mention the role of slavery during "colonial history month"? Sounds like a good idea to me. Now if we can just get Tejanos back into textbooks...

  5. Yes, I'm actually glad to hear about the South Carolina bit; that's certainly a piece of history no one troubled to mention in high school or college.

    And as a Mississippian, I'm always bemused by the implication that racism stops at the Mason-Dixon line. This picture, which is one of three essential photographs of American history in the 20th century, was taken in Boston IIRC.

    (The other one is Walt Disney posing with Werner von Braun ... I forget the third one.)

  6. My guess is that the third photograph you're thinking of involves Lady Gaga somehow.

  7. NO. Twentieth century. NO Lady Gaga.

    (Typed by someone who wore a Madonna pin o'er his breast for, I think, two years of high school.)

  8. Lady Gaga doesn't have to be in the photo for it to involve her somehow... :)

    (Flock of Seagulls pin here)

  9. Well, it was an ironical Madonna pin.