There is a new and extended trailer for the upcoming film Still Standing: The Stonewall Jackson Story. Check this new clip out if you didn’t think it possible for an even more absurd treatment of this very important historical figure. This time historians James I. Robertson and Col. Keith Gibson offer commentary. Robertson touches on the "trauma of [Jackson] being given away" at an early age which is no doubt true. He concludes that "family became far more important than a normal person" and this shaped a more "tender-hearted person" which is "not shown in battle." Again, I see nothing wrong with such a comment. Unfortunately, this then serves as a lead-in to the absurd claim made by Richard Williams that Jackson "was the champion of enslaved men and women" and the "proclaimer of good news."
First, someone please point out to me the places in Robertson’s book where Jackson is interpreted as some kind of champion of the very people he owned. The editor of this trailer did a wonderful job of interpreting Jackson and slavery along traditionally paternalistic lines. Jackson valued and yearned for family and this must be evidence that his ownership of slaves was benign. Actually, not only was it benign, but we are being asked to celebrate Jackson’s ownership of slaves.
I know some of you are wondering why I keep harping on this and related issues. Well, let me just say that I am a teacher and I care about what is both taught in the classroom and distributed for viewing in the general public. In the end this kind of film is dangerous. It perpetuates the same stereotypes that one can find in movies such as Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind. What makes this worse is that we are at a point where we know so much more about the "peculiar institution". But even if we ignore the scholarship the idea that anyone will seriously consider the possibility of celebrating slave ownership is perverse in the extreme.
Do we really have to ask Mr. Williams whether he would be willing under any circumstances to exchange places with one of Jackson’s slaves to make this point? Of course, I have not seen this film nor do I have any interest in doing so. I’ve seen enough!
Update: One of my readers was kind enough to inform me that responses to this piece have been posted. See here and here. I applaud Williams for at least making an attempt to respond even though he does not address the point of this post which is the idea that we can characterize any slaveholder as a "champion" of the very people enslaved. The other guy seems to be just a bit unstable.