If You Want to be a Historian, You Can be a Historian: A Bit More About Jim Webb’s Confederacy

Jim Webb appeared on CNN this morning and quickly responded to a question re: the Politico piece.   He seemed a bit frustrated, but I don't blame him given that it's virtually impossible to hold a mature discussion within the format of our mainstream media.  You can check out the interview at Huffington; unfortunately, I couldn't find a way to embed it here.  Still, Webb managed to rattle off a few kooky comments.  This one is my favorite:

People in the North were never asked to give up slaves even with the Emancipation Proclamation. 

I assume Webb is referring to southern states that remained in the United States since…you know…slavery had already been outlawed throughout the North.  More to the point, Webb reminded me why I don't consider him to be a historian, although he identified himself as one during the interview.  He went through the standard motions of distancing the reasons why most white southerners fought from slavery by reminding us that only 5% were actual slaveowners.  They were motivated more by "loyalty to community" as if slavery and community can somehow be understood separately.  I listened to Webb make this comment as I put together the last section of my essay on demobilization and the humiliating experiences that returning Confederates faced when they were met by USCTs and newly-freed slaves.

Sorry, but this kind of simplicity no longer cuts it in more serious circles.  You can't call yourself a historian when all you can do is fall back on the same tired one-liners that are in every neo-Confederate's playbook.  You need to read books by Jim McPherson, Joe Glatthaar, Jason Phillips, and Chandra Manning to even begin to approach these complex questions.  Webb identifying himself as a historian is like me identifying myself as a chef when all I can do is prepare TV Dinners or [now your turn] identifying yourself as _____________ when all you can do is __________.

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