The Influence of “Roots” on the Black Confederate Myth

13 Flares 13 Flares ×

Quick Thought: I think what this shows is that the black Confederate myth is a response to a shift in popular culture rather than a response to developments in scholarship. That should not be a surprise. After all, proponents of this myth don’t read scholarly books; rather, they talk to one another on Facebook pages about “revisionism,” “political correctness,” etc.

I’ve suggested that the catalyst for the most recent incarnation of the black Confederate myth can be traced to the 1989 release of the movie, “Glory.”  Well, it looks like I may need to push that back a bit by roughly 12 years.  It should not come as a surprise that highly successful television series, “Roots” pushed some in the Sons of Confederate Veterans to make a conscious effort to correct what they perceived to be a distorted view of Southern history as well as the Confederate war effort.

Thanks to Asa Hines Gordon for publishing this material Online.  I’ve met Asa at a few conferences.  He is a passionate spokesman for the history and memory of black Union soldiers.  Of course, I need to confirm the sources, but consider the following excerpts from the Reports of the Adjutant-in-Chief of the SCV:

1. Commander-in-Chief Dean Boggs has asked that the following comments on “Roots” be printed:

“This TV movie, endorsed by the National Education Association, and exhibited nation-wide by American Broadcasting Co., in my opinion, was a great disservice to our Country and the public welfare. It was the modern “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.

It was made to appear that black tribesmen in the interior of Africa were kidnapped by white men and sold into slavery; that generation after generation of slaves in the South were subjected to the most inhuman physical cruelty; that black female slaves were ravished; that black families were broken up and sold; all by their white masters or overseers.

Millions of viewers, black and white, ignorant of history, believed this movie to be a truthful portrayal of history. As its producers and exhibitors must have foreseen, it could only produce hatred of whites by blacks, it could only have a divisive effect. Further, it slandered the South and the Southern people.

An ABC official was quoted as being “ecstatic” over its high rating for viewing audience. The damage was compounded by some school officials making the movie required viewing and the book required reading for credit for some of their classes.I have written a letter to the Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, 1919 M Street, N. W., Washington, DC, as an individual, protesting the showing of this movie, requesting an investigation, and sent a copy. to the President, American Broadcasting Co., 1330 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019. I feel this sort of thing should not be allowed to pass without objection. If you feel as I do, I hope you will do the same. Please write as an individual, not as a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.” [January 31, 1977]

2. THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF SAYS:

Commander-in-Chief Dean Boggs has requested that the following information be published.

To counteract the drive of NAACP to ban the display of the Confederate Flag, the playing of Dixie, etc. and to counteract such propaganda movies as “Roots,” I have persuaded Compatriot Francis W. Springer, a historian and talented Virginia writers to write a book on the contribution of Negroes in the south to the Confederate war effort.

He is going to research all sources available but feels sure the sources available to him will not tell the whole story by any means. Thus, I call your attention to the following request from Compatriot Springer for assistance from all Compatriots.

COMPATRIOTS! GET ON THIS PROJECT RIGHT AWAY. SEARCH YOUR FAMILY PAPERS FOR LETTERS AND DIARIES OF 1861-18 65; WRACK YOUR MEMORY FOR STORIES HANDED DOWN BY THE “OLD FOLKS”; VISIT YOUR LOCAL MUSEUMS AND LIBRARIES FOR RECORDS OF SERVICES PERFORMED BY SOUTHERN NEGROES, SLAVE OR FREE, FOR THE CONFEDERACY

Suddenly, after more than 100 years, it seems to have become “good politics” to assert that the flags, uniforms, and songs of the Confederacy are repugnant to negroes. This is childish nonsense. Politics often ignores the truth, and the truth is that the majority of Southern Negroes, slave and free, sided the Confederate war effort tremendously. Some were under arms and in combat. [February 28, 1977]

3.  THE COMMANDER- IN-CHIEF SAYS:

Commander-in-chief Dean Boggs has requested that the following information be published:
CONTRIBUTIONS OF SOUTHERN NEGROES TO THE CONFEDERATE WAR EFFORT

All Compatriots are reminded of the announcement in the last issue of the General Headquarters News Bulletin that Compatriot Francis W. Springer, a talented writer and historian, has been persuaded by the Commander-in-chief to write a book on the above subject.

This is to counteract the efforts of the NAACP to portray the Confederate Flag and the playing of “Dixie”, as offensive to blacks, and the propaganda line of such movies  as “Roots,” By their work on the farms, by accompanying their masters to War, and in many other ways, Southern Negroes made a valuable contribution to the Confederate war effort. After they were freed, many of them would not leave their former masters.

It is believed that the record will show that the majority of Southern Negroes made a greater contribution to the Confederacy, than the minority did for the Union.

Compatriot Springer is going to research all sources available to him but he is sure the sources available to him will not tell the whole story. He needs your help!

Please forward to him all items on this subject in your family history and records, and please research your local library and any other sources available to you. [April 30, 1977]

74 comments… add one

  • Kate Halleron Jul 31, 2011

    These guys are still sore about ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’? Ms. Stowe’s book finally made people realize that the slaves were actual human beings, with deep feelings and capable of great moral courage. That this still offends the leadership of the SCV is truly appalling.

    To call ‘Roots’ a modern day ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ is a great, great compliment.

    Why do they find telling the slaves’ side of the story so deeply offensive? Why so dedicated to the ‘faithful slave’ narrative after all these decades?

    • Kevin Levin Jul 31, 2011

      The BCM is nothing more than an extension of the old faithful slave narrative. It’s a way of making the point that there was no great division between whites (slave and non-slaveholding) and blacks both before during and after the Civil War. I agree that UCT fits into this picture as well, but it also can be found in Eugene Genovese’s important point that slavery as practiced in the Antebellum South forced both sides to acknowledge one another’s humanity on some level.

      This is also about who owns black history. For a long time the faithful slave narrative was the dominant view of black Americans. Roots reflects the continuing shift to a more sophisticated understanding of African Americans as full historical agents.

      • Will Stoutamire Jul 31, 2011

        Probably semantics, but do you see the BCM as more of an extension or a reinvention of the faithful/happy slave narrative? It seems to me that the old narrative has lost so much credibility in our society today so as to be entirely untenable, expect for amongst the most ardent defenders. Perhaps I’m missing some examples, but I’ve hardly seen any recent claims for ‘faithful’ slaves in general – that faithfulness has been reinvented in terms of supposed military service.

        In other words, is the BCM one arm of the larger faithful slave narrative or is it that narrative resurrected and repackaged with a shinny new bow?

        • Ray O'Hara Jul 31, 2011

          What I found shocking and disheartening was one night on the Rachel Maddow Show she had Princeton U Black Studies professor Melissa Harris-Perry {formerly Harris-Lacewll} on. They were discussing the issue and accepted it as true that “thousands of Blacks fought for the CSA” and they had that photo of the Slaves in the demonstration company “recruited” in 1865 as their proof.
          These are both extremely liberal women who abhor the Confederacy and think slavery the greatest of evils. So the “faithful slave” was not their point.
          It came up as part of the topic of how Slaves/Blacks built America and the denial of Black Confederates was as H-P saw it was just more of the never giving Blacks credit .
          Now just the claim “Slaves built America” is ludicrous and based on the tidbit Slaves worked on the construction of the White House.

          So now we see the BCM taking hold with a group that is the polar opposite of the SCV and it is a more touchy group to deal with. Disputing them could get you tarred a racist so approaching and disputing them would probably require great care.

          from listening to Ms Harris

          • Kevin Levin Jul 31, 2011

            It has even found its way way into National Park Service exhibits: http://cwmemory.com/2010/08/26/the-national-park-services-black-confederates/

            This is why I was so concerned about the recent Virginia textbook debacle because it then gets passed on to a new generation.

            • Kate Halleron Jul 31, 2011

              To quote Terry Pratchett – ‘A lie runs round the world before the truth has got its boots on.’

              • bill Aug 1, 2011

                I am sure there were a few black confederate soldiers but to think there were platoons and companies of blacks is ludicrous. Most of the contributions to the confederacy were through the building of earthworks and fortifications.

  • Andy Hall Jul 31, 2011

    Fascinating stuff. I hadn’t thought about Roots in this context, but it makes sense.

    Francis W. Springer seems to have written two books, February, American Myth Month in 1973, and War for What? The latter seems to be in the style of The South was Right!, and gets a lot of citations. Some of his black Confederate material may have ended up there, such as this item.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 31, 2011

      I should have made the connection given that I discuss it briefly in my Crater manuscript. Thanks for the links.

  • Ray O'Hara Jul 31, 2011

    The “Commander -in-Chief’s” phraseology reminds me of the pronouncements you’d see from the Red Chinese. Instead of comrades he uses compratriots but the feel is the same.
    what a loon.
    the SCV is behind the CBF Texas license plate controversy.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 31, 2011

      Yes, this is not about history, but about the maintenance of a narrative that this particular organization feels a need to preserve.

    • Andy Hall Jul 31, 2011

      The different divisions of the SCV have been pushing license plates in the their respective states for a while now, including the much-commented on Mississippi plate honoring Forrest. What strikes me as particularly disingenuous about the Texas design is that it’s marketed as honoring Confederate soldiers, but makes no reference to them at all — though it carries the logo of the SCV and the group’s name, twice. Its purpose is to promote the SCV, first and last. Not surprising, since the conceit of the SCV is that it, and it alone, speaks for those who served in the Confederate military 150 years ago.

    • Bob Huddleston Jul 31, 2011

      The GAR called each other “comrade.” Did the UCV also call each other “comrade”? I wonder if the SCV “compatriots” is not a bowdlerization after the communists in various countries expropriated “comrade.”

      • Andy Hall Jul 31, 2011

        Possibly so. I did a quick word search in the Confederate Veteran magazines twenty years apart, 1893 and 1913, and “comrade” appears frequently, though often in reference to fellow soldiers during the war, rather than as a title of address to a verteran. “Compatriot” appears not once in either years’ issues.

  • Mark R. Cheathem Jul 31, 2011

    That’s a fascinating find, Kevin, and speaks to a much more orchestrated effort than I ever imagined.

  • Connie Chastain Jul 31, 2011

    Uncle Tom’s Cabin was fiction. Roots went beyond fiction, to fraud…
    http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=45084

    • Kevin Levin Jul 31, 2011

      Congratulations, Connie. It looks like you can do an online search for right-wing commentaries that fit your preconceived notions. Too bad there is no evidence that you’ve actually seen the series. Perhaps you can explain in your own words what is problematic w/ “Roots.” We would love to hear it.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 31, 2011

      By the way, I don’t know anyone who is unfamiliar with this case. Keep in mind I am not making any claims about the historical accuracy of “Roots.” The author clearly borrowed from other sources, but the SCV was responding to specific themes present in the movie that hardly seem controversial at this point.

      It was made to appear that black tribesmen in the interior of Africa were kidnapped by white men and sold into slavery; that generation after generation of slaves in the South were subjected to the most inhuman physical cruelty; that black female slaves were ravished; that black families were broken up and sold; all by their white masters or overseers.

      Are we really going to debate this?

      • Ray O'Hara Aug 1, 2011

        The SCV prefers The Song of the South as the true narrative of Southern life.

    • Andy Hall Jul 31, 2011

      The accusation that Uncle Tom’s Cabin is pure fiction, with its anecdotes and scenes either grossly exaggerated or made up from whole cloth, is nothing new; it was denounced as a fraud by apologists for slavery from the day it appeared. In response, Stowe published a second volume, The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which reproduces the correspondence, news clippings, advertisements and other material she used in writing the novel.

      • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

        Andy, I researched sexual harassment court rulings, corporate and academic sexual harassment policy, the EEOC’s sexual harassment cases, the effect of European industry’s migration to the east coast in the 1970s, and its effect on the South’s textile industry, Alabama football, Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of Love, concussions, Georgia’s child abuse laws, and numerous other subjects, that I used in writing Southern Man. It’s still a novel. And so is Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

        • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

          Connie,

          Who is denying that UTC is a work of fiction? Have you read it? Although Stowe never experienced slavery directly she was in touch with those who did have a direct connection, including Frederick Douglass. But just as you admit that your research into sexual harassment informed your own novel the same can be said of Stowe. Just as you did not operate in a vacuum completely cut off from the history of your topic the same can be said of Stowe. Why the apparent double standard?

          • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

            Well, apparently Andy considers the notion that Uncle Tom’s Cabin is fiction as an “accusation.” I simply noted that UTC is fiction and Roots is fraudulent, which is a truthful and factual statement.

            Alex Haley initially palmed off Roots as the true story of his own family, uncovered through his own research.Yes, Mr. Levin, I saw the mini-series when it originally aired and I slogged through Uncle Tom’s Cabin in my early twenties. That doesn’t make Roots truthful and it doesn’t make UTC anything but fiction.

            I must say, it has been very interesting and instructive to see the response to the claim that fiction is fiction. I guess how it’s taken depends on who’s makin’ the claim….

            BTW, Andy. Where have I made any wishes? Where did I dismiss UTC out of hand? How is saying fiction is fiction an out-of-hand dismissal? And is the other novel Gone With the Wind, by any chance? I’ve never considered it to be anything other than a novel. I didn’t read it until I was in my early twenties, either; I thought the book was better than the movie, and Leslie Howard was miscast.

            To say a novel is a novel is somehow … discarding it?

            • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

              Once again, no one is denying the controversy surrounding Roots. What I found interesting was the call by the SCV. They were not responding to the specifics of the show, but the broadest themes surrounding the darker side of the institution of slavery. You are the one who decided to turn this into a referendum about the validity of Roots and the value of fiction.

              • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

                Perhaps it is because the darker side of the institution of slavery is often dishonestly portrayed as the totality of it; in fact, that’s how it is portrayed most of the time, and any attempt to show a more realistic view is beaten down with the “slavery apologist” hammer. Then the dishonest portrayal is used to smear the South and Southerners (despite the north’s complicity in it) and particularly the Confederacy and its struggle for independence. I feel certain the SCV has encountered this first hand.

                BTW, I skimmed Mr. Gordon’s site and I saw no explanation for where he got the SCV material, and how — no source listed, no authentication at all, that I could see… If anyone comes across his source or some sort of authentication, I’d love to see it.

                Ah, Mr. Levin. Would that you would apply your stringent requirements for authentication of black Confederates to the authentication of Mr. Gordon’s SCV documents….

                • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

                  No one here has attempted to turn this into a South bashing crusade. We are all aware of the North’s long and violent history surrounding slavery and the slave trade. Once again, that seems to be your preoccupation.

                  If you bothered to read the post carefully enough you would have noticed that I made the exact point re: his sources. I am in the process of hunting them down.

                  • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

                    Mr. Levin, why so defensive? My point was that the SCV likely saw the potential for using Roots for South-bashing because of its portrayal of the darker side of slavery as the totality of slavery. I’ve seen countless times how a dishonest portrayal of slavery is used to smear the South and glorify the north — long before I ever heard of you and your blog.

                    Yes, I saw your reference to confirming the sources; I await the confirmation. Not that it matters. There’s nothing wrong with the purported SCV response.

                    • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

                      If the SCV viewed Roots as “South-bashing” than that tells us more about the SCV and its view of things than anything related to the truth. is there any evidence that the majority of viewers [northern and southern] interpreted it as such? What exactly is a “dishonest portrayal of slavery”? Thousands of families were split apart, women were raped, and slaves were brutally treated. I don’t know anyone who disputes this. The historical record is full of accounts. You could spend years reading them.

                      The very concept of slavery entails violence.

                    • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

                      I dispute that what you’re describing was the totality of slavery. Yes, slavery — the lack of freedom and the unending labor — was a terrible system. But the historical record also shows families that were not not split apart. Most slave women were not raped. Most slaves were not brutally treated. When people take the lack of freedom and the unending labor, as bad as they were, and transmogrify them so that whole of slavery is beatings and rape and nothing more, there is more motivating them than historical accuracy or even sympathy for the slaves.

                    • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

                      No one stated that every slave family was split apart or that every black woman was raped. What I did say that there is plenty of evidence that occurred throughout the slaveholding South. We simply disagree on how to understand the institution of slavery. Anyone who was legally owned by another was “brutally treated” in my view. You can make all the assumptions about why I would make such a claim if it helps you in some capacity.

                      Now, who is Susan Ellis and can you provide us with a reference to the claim made in your last comment? I would really appreciate it.

                    • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

                      Sure. When you confirm Mr. Gordon’s sources, maybe I’ll consider revisiting this…. Meanwhile, check out the book on Amazon.com that I linked to. That was probably the one excerpted on a volunteer group’s website I came across years ago, even though the title isn’t exactly what I remember.

                      I think if I were legally owned by someone, I certainly wouldn’t like it, but I would also certainly be able to tell the difference between being beaten and not being beaten, and being raped and not being raped. If someone cannot tell the difference between “legally owning” someone, as abhorrent as that is, and raping and beating them, then they have more problems than a civil war blog. If they can tell the difference, but pretend they can’t — they’re likely motivated by an agenda, and judging by academia, the popular culture, etc., in this country, the comment threads in online news sites and so forth, the agenda is to deify the north and demonize the South. It’s plain as day.

                    • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

                      Nice try, Connie. Your referencing of that book suggests to me that you probably don’t know how to judge reliable sources.

                      Yes, I would be able to tell the difference as well, but that does not change the fact that the ownership of another person itself constitutes a “brutal” and “violent” relationship. That we even need to discuss this is pretty sad.

                      Nothing you’ve written here or elsewhere suggests that you know the first thing about academia or the place of scholarly studies in our understanding of history. Again, provide an example of this agenda that you so passionately speak of. This kind of language may work at your little Facebook group, but I doubt it is going to convince anyone else.

                    • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

                      Kevin says, “Again, provide an example of this agenda that you so passionately speak of.”

                      The Civil War Memory Blog.

                    • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

                      Given that you spent 222 minutes on it tonight perhaps you could point to a post or two as an example.

                    • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

                      This one. This post, this comment thread.

                      Your total dependence on sterile academia says to me that you don’t know the first thing about personal experience, oral family history, tradition, regional culture and spirit or any other way of understanding history.

                      Loo, beating and raping requires beaters and rapists, right? And if slavery is defined totally as beating and raping that means all slaveholders were beaters and rapists. And since slavery was a “Southern thang” that means beating and rape defined the entire region. This is the thought process that informs so many of the all-emotion, no-cognition posters of comment threads following civil war articles on news sites, and people follow it because academia doesn’t give them truthful history, because academia is largely motivated by the same agenda — demonizing the South, old and new. You probably don’t see it. You’re probably too close to it. But I see it. Lots of us see it.

                    • Kevin Levin Aug 2, 2011

                      That’s the best you can do? LOL!!! Like I said, when you demonstrate some basic competence with historical sources and the secondary literature perhaps I will take you more seriously.

                      For someone who actually believes this you sure do spend a significant amount of time here. You may have broken the record at 4+ hours. I am sure there is a reward for this somewhere. :-)

                    • Ray O'Hara Aug 2, 2011

                      And it is a safe assumption to believe all slavers were rapists and beaters, it’s how they maintained control.
                      Slaves were imprisoned for life at hard labor while having committed no crimes.
                      This ‘Song Of the South’ “moonlight and magnolia” vision of the past is dangerous.

                    • Kevin Levin Aug 2, 2011

                      Hi Ray,

                      Why do you think it is a safe assumption that all slavers wee rapists and beaters? While I agree that slavery was a brutal institution in the extreme it seems like a bit of a stretch. Remember that the master-slave relationship took on many different forms depending on what part of the South you looked.

                    • Ray O'Hara Aug 2, 2011

                      Human nature, men who own women will take advantage, and even if the Pater Familias
                      Junior or some reletive will. try and find any Black American without some “white genetics” you won’t.

                      and the lash was how they maintained order. this doesn’t mean they were routinely tied and flogged but the overseer carried a whip and he would have full authority to use it.

                    • Kevin Levin Aug 2, 2011

                      In many places this was certainly the case, but if you look at slaveholders in the Upper South you find much smaller farms w/o overseers and in very different living arrangements than what you would find on larger plantations. Note that I am not trying to minimize anything, but simply pointing out that slavery took many forms.

                    • Woodrowfan Aug 2, 2011

                      Interestingly, if you look at some of the 19th century writings defending (to various degrees) slavery, you’ll sometimes see those from the deep south claiming that conditions such as in UTC were common in the border states, while those from the border states would say such poor conditions were common in the deep south. NIMBY!

                    • Woodrowfan Aug 2, 2011

                      “You probably don’t see it. You’re probably too close to it. But I see it. Lots of us see it.”

                      Lot’s of people see UFOs and Bigfoot too. That doesn’t mean they’re real..

                    • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

                      Kevin says, “No one stated that every slave family was split apart or that every black woman was raped. …. Anyone who was legally owned by another was “brutally treated” in my view.”

                      Perfect example of the worst aspects of slavery being put forth as the totality of it.

                    • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

                      That’s your reading of it. Like I said, whatever makes you feel better.

                • Ray O'Hara Aug 1, 2011

                  And what exactly was the bright side of slavery? the money the Slave-o-crats made and the cotillions they attended?

        • Andy Hall Aug 1, 2011

          Of course Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a novel. No one’s suggested otherwise. But be careful what you wish for — if you’re going to dismiss UTC out-of-hand on that account, I can think of at least one other piece of historical fiction — much discussed on this very blog, in fact — that should equally be discarded as merely “a novel.”

        • Corey Meyer Aug 1, 2011

          So is “Gone With The Wind”, but many a southerner lives and dies by that story.

          • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

            How many, Corey? Who? Who lives and dies by that story, and how do you know?

  • Kate Halleron Aug 1, 2011

    Slavery had a bright side?

    Slavery was bad not just for the slaves, but for poor whites in the South and even free blacks. It made a few men wealthy and many men poor.

    Saying that the free states had a hand in upholding the system (which they did and no one denies it) doesn’t make the system itself justifiable – either morally or economically.

    FWIW, I have slaveholders, poor whites and free blacks in my family tree. I don’t feel ‘bashed’ as a Southerner because people attack slavery. I feel glad that we were able to get rid of it.

    I don’t feel the need to defend slavery in order to defend ‘Southernness.’ The two aren’t the same thing, by any means.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

      Yes, it seems absurd that we even have to qualify the level of violence that defined slavery in the South. Why that is automatically interpreted as giving the North a free pass is beyond me. This has everything to do with how the accuser views this debate than anything else. What you are seeing is the complete collapse of “Southern Heritage” to four years of what is an incredibly rich history. According to these people you are delusional. :-)

      • Ray O'Hara Aug 1, 2011

        Northern States eliminated slavery within their borders. that’s all they could legally do.
        Slavery was legal under the CONUS after all.
        All the criticism of the North seems to involve their not doing more to stop it in the South, that strikes me as the “why didn’t you stop me , therefore it’s your fault too.” defense.

        • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

          Mr. O’Hara, that’s not my criticism of the north. Whatever claim to moral superiority the north had because it abolished slavery when it grew unprofitable, that moral superiority was obliterated by the north’s wealth acquired by processing slave-grown cotton in its textile mills and shipping slave-grown cotton to Europe in the holds of its merchant ships. They freed themselves from the responsibility of supporting slaves from cradle to grave, but managed to enrich themselves off slave labor and come out of it with your esteem…..

          • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

            Here is the problem, Connie. You simply have not read enough. To suggest that the northern states ended slavery simply because it was not profitable ignores a wealth of evidence. It is important to remember that northern abolition took place in the wake of the Revolution, which included a great deal of rhetoric about freedom and equality. You will find debates throughout the northern states that place slavery in direct conflict with these ideals. That is not to suggest that economics did not play an important role in its eventual abolition. Many of these states imposed gradual abolition plans that benefited slaveholders and which provided sufficient time to sell slaves south.

            Your point also ignores the fact that there was a serious debate about the morality of slavery in the southern states as well following the Revolution. You should read Andrew Levy’s book, First Emancipator, which details the steps that led Robert Carter to free over 200 of his slaves in Virginia.

            • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

              Mr. Levin, I didn’t say slavery in the north was abolished *only* or *simply* because it grew unprofitable. However, if slavery had been profitable in the north, it would have continued, regardless of the debates about freedom and equality. Anyone who thinks there was freedom and equality in the slums of northern cities is deluding themselves. Was the freedom and equality of slaves more important than the freedom and equality of the slum dwellers?

              I know there were debates about slavery in the South, too, Mr. Levin. In the 1820s, according to Susan Ellis, who writes about volunteerism in American history, there were more anti-slave societies in the South than in the north. It apparently does something for you to imagine that someone who disagrees with you is deficient in some way, but not only is it not true; it is also most unbecoming.

              • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

                Slavery was profitable for many slaveowners in the North. I know that Southern apologists in the nineteenth century were fond of pointing out the problems in northern slums and they certainly were there, but I fail to see what that has to do with anything. Why are you bringing that up to begin with? I didn’t bring it up.

                Who is Susan Ellis? Perhaps you can cite one of her scholarly publications on volunteerism in American history. It sounds interesting. This is the only Susan Ellis that I could find that related to volunteerism: http://www.e-volunteerism.com/bios/ellis-susan

                • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

                  That’s her. The reference to the slave societies in the South was on a site for a volunteer organization in Minnesota; I read the reference perhaps eight or nine years ago. If memory serves, the site excerpted Ellis’ book titled something like “A History of Volunteering in America.” The closest thing I find to that on Amazon.com is this: http://www.amazon.com/Numbers-History-Americans-Volunteers-SIGNED/dp/B003Y04WA2/ref=sr_1_48?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1312254659&sr=1-48
                  But this title is not what I remember but this may be what the excerpt was from.

                  I’m bringing up the slum dwellers because it illustrates northern selectiveness when it comes to equality and freedom.

                  • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

                    Well, that about sums it up for me, Connie. You are getting your information from the president of Energize Inc. who publishes her books with Energize Publishers: http://www.e-volunteerism.com/bios/ellis-susan

                    Can anyone suggest some reliable scholarly books for Ms. Chastain? I am not familiar with the literature.

                    I don’t know what you mean by “northern selectiveness”. Perhaps you can provide me with a reference. Why does this discussion always fall along regional lines as if people are so easily divided. With all due respect, this is so overly simplistic that it is laughable.

          • Ray O'Hara Aug 1, 2011

            When A stops doing a wrong while b keeps at it A can claim a little moral superiority.

            The North did not require the cotton be slave grown and once slavery was ended the mills kept spinning cotton into cloth and the ships kept shipping cotton fabric around the world.

            So that would again put the onus for slavery on those who used slavery.to grow cotton.

            Slavery was legal and Constitutionally protected, as I said the Northern States did all they could when they ended it within their own borders, Massachusetts did so in 1780. a full 81 years before Ft Sumter.

            and it was the South that compounded the issue by choosing war to protect it from a threat that really didn’t exist.

            • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

              Ray,

              Massachusetts may have ended slavery early on, but as you well know it was involved in the slave system through investments as well as the mills’ reliance on cotton.

            • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

              “The North did not require the cotton be slave grown…”

              But the north didn’t require it to NOT be slave grown, either.

              • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

                Hey Connie, WE AGREE!!!

                This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. :-)

    • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

      Kate Halleron asks, “Slavery had a bright side?”

      Did someone say that? Who? Where?

      Has someone tried to “uphold the system?”

      Who is defending slavery? Where? How? (Although you have confirmed my previous experience that advocating for a realistic portrayal of slavery is “defending” it, or being a “slavery apologist.”)

      Who has combined defending slavery with defending Southernness? Where? In what way?

      Are we even reading the same post/comment thread?

      • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

        You said: “Perhaps it is because the darker side of the institution of slavery is often dishonestly portrayed as the totality of it.”

        It implies that there was a lighter side. Perhaps you should take more responsibility for your choice of words. Exactly what aspect of the “institution of slavery” fell outside of this darker side?

        • Connie Chastain Aug 1, 2011

          Mr. Levin, in your post tagged “Kevin Levin August 1, 2011 at 3:55 pm” you said
          “…They were not responding to the specifics of the show, but the broadest themes surrounding the darker side of the institution of slavery….”

          Seems to me YOU are the one implying a lighter side. Perhaps you are the one who should take more responsibility for your choice of words.

          I was responding to what you posted, and I didn’t imply anything about a “lighter” side of slavery — I said flat out that advocating for a more **realistic** view of slavery is to be called a “slavery apologist.”

          Since you originated the “darker side of slavery” phrase, why don’t you tell us what fell outside of it? In your opinion.

          • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2011

            I think my meaning is perfectly clear. The SCV blurbs included the following:

            It was made to appear that black tribesmen in the interior of Africa were kidnapped by white men and sold into slavery; that generation after generation of slaves in the South were subjected to the most inhuman physical cruelty; that black female slaves were ravished; that black families were broken up and sold; all by their white masters or overseers.

            That is what I was referring to with that specific reference. I don’t believe there was a lighter side to the institution of slavery. Is that clear enough for you? It seems to me that we can both agree that slavery was a horrific system and leave it at that.

  • Kate Halleron Aug 2, 2011

    Connie, how many women have to be raped before you find the system that allows them to be raped without recourse or punishment for their rapists to be abhorrent?

    How many people have to be flogged before you find the system that allows it and rewards it to be abhorrent?

    How many families have to be broken up before you find the system that rewards it to be abhorrent?

    The ‘it didn’t happen to ALL of them’ excuse not only holds no water, but makes you appear to be completely lacking in both conscience and empathy.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 2, 2011

      It’s an absurd discussion. I would recommend Melton A. McLaurin’s Celia, A Slave as well as Diane Sommerville’s Rape and Race in Nineteenth-Century South.

      The obsession with the conditions of northern laborers is nothing but a distraction.

      • Andy Hall Aug 2, 2011

        More precisely, “the obsession with the conditions of northern laborers is nothing but a deflection.”

        • Kevin Levin Aug 2, 2011

          Well you know how those pesky northern liberals…ummm…I mean dirty scalawags can be with their insistence that the South is the root of all evil. :-)

          I still can’t believe that this woman spent over 4 hours on this site last night.

          • Ken Noe Aug 2, 2011

            I know the New York Times is the epitome of northern liberalism, but Tera Hunter’s op-ed from yesterday might help put this discussion into some context: http://tinyurl.com/3pvc7y6

            • Kevin Levin Aug 2, 2011

              Thanks Ken. I read it yesterday and posted it to the CWM Facebook page, but I should have linked to it here. Hope you and Nancy are enjoying the summer.

  • Charles Persinger Aug 2, 2011

    Connie needs to read “Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War ” by Gary Gallagher. She will see that the South gets a bunch of positive coverage in movies, art and culture. She seems to think the South gets trashed and the North does not, and that is not true at all.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 2, 2011

      That would be a good place to start.

      Connie’s problem has less to do with where I am from or anything else about me personally. Rather, it’s about what I believe. You can find Connie and friends on their Facebook page, which claims to be about the defense of “Southern Heritage”, going after fellow southerners on a regular basis.

Leave a Comment

13 Flares Twitter 6 Facebook 6 Google+ 0 LinkedIn 1 Email -- 13 Flares ×