This morning I picked up Natasha Trethewey’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book of poems titled Native Guard Poems. It’s a very short book, but there is a great deal to ponder. Here is a poem that touches on one of this blog’s central themes:
Before the war, they were happy, he said.
quoting our textbook. (This was senior-year
history class.) The slaves were clothed, fed,
and better off under a master’s care.
I watched the words blur on the page. No one
raised a hand, disagreed. Not even me.
It was late; we still had Reconstruction
to cover before the test, and — luckily —
three hours of watching Gone with the Wind.
History, the teacher said, of the old South —
a true account of how things were back then.
On screen a slave stood big as life: big mouth,
bucked eyes, our textbook’s grinning proof — a lie
my teacher guarded. Silent, so did I.
Here is an old post titled Creating Neo-Confederates which analyzes the influences of the Lost Cause on textbooks at the turn of the twentieth century.