Free Course With Eric Foner Starts Tomorrow

I hope some of you have the time to take advantage of another opportunity to study the Civil War Era with one of the most prominent scholars in the field. The course is free and begins tomorrow. The video is well worth watching, especially the second half in which Foner reflects on the influence of his family’s history on his scholarly interests. Wish I had the time to take it.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

33 comments… add one
  • terry Sep 17, 2014 @ 9:32

    I am amused at those who claim the war was all about slavery. Funny how there’s never been another war in the course of history to protect slavery. Some even cite James D. B. De Bow as the authoritative primary source on how the war was all about slavery. De Bow was one man with an opinion that happened to have a paper to publish his opinion – that’s all.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 17, 2014 @ 13:15

      With all respect, but do you really expect anyone to take this seriously? Is this somehow meant as a response to a historian who has spent his entire career studying the history of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction?

      • terry Sep 17, 2014 @ 16:30

        By comparison I know lots of doctors who have spent their entire lives studying medicine, however they still dumb as dirt. They started down the wrong path, and are still on the wrong path and even further off the mark than when they started. Education doesn’t prove anything if one cannot apply what they learn, accept new challenges and improve over their lifetime.

        No one has ever explained why the US is the ONLY country that fought a bloody war to protect slavery? Just a question, ripe for an answer.

        • Kevin Levin Sep 17, 2014 @ 16:57

          The question itself reflects a rather narrow understanding of the period. I would be happy to suggest some readings for you.

        • Jimmy Dick Sep 17, 2014 @ 16:59

          It is interesting how someone accuses those with an education of being dumb while that person has no education of their own. Anyone who posits that the Civil War was not about slavery shows a lack of education.

          • Hugh Lawson Sep 18, 2014 @ 15:01

            What does it mean to say “the war was about slavery”?

            • Jimmy Dick Sep 18, 2014 @ 19:51

              Take the classes and learn.

        • msb Sep 17, 2014 @ 23:14

          So all the seceding states, who loudly and explicitly announced that they were seceding to protect and promote slaver, were lying or deluded? Interesting news indeed.

          • terry Sep 18, 2014 @ 5:12

            msb, you reading too much into the “loudly and explicitly announced” blowhard’s statements. They did not reflect the majority opinion, only the loudest and most persistent opinion. Just as today a minority half dozen folks amounting to maybe 2% of the population control the other 98%.

            For example, recently about six citizens organized a meeting with our governor. The desire of the six citizens was to obtain his signature on a proclamation/resolution promoting one issue the six considered to be highly important. The six didn’t ask any other citizen their opinion on the resolution, and no one voted on the resolution.

            The governor signed the proclamation in the people’s name as their representative. No one ask the remaining five million citizens what they thought about the proclamation, but because the highest ranking officer of the state approved and signed the proclamation, the words, definitions and intent of the proclamation became the absolute will of the people, and will forever define the people of our state on this issue.

            In my opinion that’s a very poor way to gauge the feelings and beliefs of an entire population on any issue, especially the reason for going to war. When was the last time anyone in our government ask you if it was alright for us to invade Iraq?

            And by the way, not all states’ resolutions made such loud blowhard statements about slavery. Somehow we got to come up with a better explanation. That tired ole cliché is worn out.

            • Kevin Levin Sep 18, 2014 @ 7:00

              Which is why you would do well to read or take Foner’s online course.

              • terry Sep 18, 2014 @ 7:38

                Signed up today. Next lesson 9-24-14. Somehow I think Mr. Foner shares the opinion of msb??

                We’ll see?

                • Kevin Levin Sep 18, 2014 @ 12:07

                  Good for you. Keep in mind that Foner does not have opinions about history. Over the past few decades he has developed claims about the past, which require the accumulation and analysis of evidence. That is different from having an opinion.

            • Brooks D. Simpson Sep 19, 2014 @ 7:12

              Do you have any documents from white southerners who supported secession that objected to the explanations offered in these documents? Surely, if they did not reflect majority opinion, you would see something, unlessyou are arguing that the majority of secession supporters were sheep or lemmings.

        • Hugh Lawson Sep 19, 2014 @ 8:04

          Actually there has been some discussion of this matter. IIRC, the answer is something like this. The American slave-owning community (aka the slave interest, aka the slave power) was the biggest and most successful such community in the world. The slave interest was big enough, and geographically concentrated enough, that formation of a separate CSA seemed a plausible way to insulate themselves from political threats to slavery in the US. They were pretty sure they could handle internal threats, if they could put up a wall against external threats. That was the initial motive of the secessionist movement. So it wasn’t slavery alone, it was also the formation of the CSA, and the US rejection of this that caused the war.

          To compare, the British West Indies slave interest, though rich, was not strong enough to go it alone. They had to negotiate and accept compensated emancipation. I’m not familiar with the Brazilian case except just enough to know that the slave interest in Brazil eventually “took the money”.

          It is philosophically conceivable that the American slave interest might have followed a different political strategy, for example to create enough difficulties in Congress that free-state leaders would decide that separation was better. It is also philosophically conceivable that free-state leaders might have concluded that their own communities would be better off materially with the deep South outside.

          But I’ve never seen any account of free-state leaders discussing whether they would be better off if they acquiesced in a separate CSA. The *tentative* conclusion I draw is that they believed a separate CSA was materially bad for them, and that the consensus was so strong that they didn’t need to discuss it. All they needed was a political argument justifying the destruction of the CSA and the enforcement of US supremacy in that territory. The unionists provided that.

          So the answer is it was not slavery alone, in the abstract, but slavery plus the formation of the CSA, plus the US determination to destroy the CSA. Now some think the CSA was no more than a sock-puppet of the slave interest, but I think that is an oversimplification. The CSA project persuaded many non-slaveowing whites that the CSA was their country.

          Once the war started, then on the US side, ending slavery grew more popular, both for idealistic motives, and to destroy the slave political interest by ending slavery itself.

          • Jimmy Dick Sep 19, 2014 @ 8:49

            Like I said, take the class. You can see for yourself how Eric Foner refutes your opinion.

          • Jimmy Dick Sep 19, 2014 @ 8:51

            PS. You left out the entire problem which was the expansion of slavery.

            • Hugh Lawson Sep 21, 2014 @ 9:05

              Hi Jimmy, this is in reply to your observiation that I left out the “entire problem which was the expansion of slavery.” You are absolutely correct that I didn’t mention slavery expansion. It may not have been clear enough what I was attempting.

              I meant to answer terry’s question, which went like this:

              “No one has ever explained why the US is the ONLY country that fought a bloody war to protect slavery?”

              I left aside the Haiti experience which I reckoned too complex to go into. Then I listed a couple of instances where slavery was abolished by compensated emancipation, without an internal war over the matter.

              Then I tried to show how things were different in the US. The slave system was the biggest and richest in the world, geographically consolidated with too much self-confidence, judging from the outcome . This gave the slave interest the confidence to attempt to form a separate government, for the purpose of blocking antislavery influences from outside the slave states.

              The weaker slave interests (Brazil and the British West Indies were the examples) played normal politics, more or less, and when they lost, they took compensated emancipation.

              Because the other states objected to secession and the formation of the CSA, even to its existence, the stage was set for a war which was, in the beginning, a war over who should rule supreme in the region claimed by the CS.

              I don’t see anything unique or new about my answer; to me it seemed textbook history.

              • Brooks D. Simpson Sep 21, 2014 @ 9:16

                “Now some think the CSA was no more than a sock-puppet of the slave interest, but I think that is an oversimplification. The CSA project persuaded many non-slaveowing whites that the CSA was their country.”

                Elaborate on your insight. Thank you.

  • Hugh Lawson Sep 16, 2014 @ 15:45

    Most want affirmation of themselves and their communities from history. If some historians don’t deliver this, they go to others. How do you persuade others to entertain historical interpretations that they consider destructive of their self-respect?

    • Brooks D. Simpson Sep 19, 2014 @ 7:07

      Why don’t you tell us? You have a PhD in history with decades of experience teaching at the university level.

  • Jimmy Dick Sep 16, 2014 @ 15:02

    Ya know, it would have been hilarious to challenge the heritage nuts to take the course just to see them flounder when confronted by facts in an educational setting. I can see the Waterboy, Jerry’s World, The Mouth of the South, and Cold Southern Stupidity in a debate right now rejecting primary sources that they don’t like.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 16, 2014 @ 15:06

      The problem is that they are not really interested in thinking about history as interpretation.

    • Jessie Alan Sanford Sep 16, 2014 @ 16:06

      Jimmy why do y’all as self professed professional historians resort to name calling? It doesn’t speak well of y’all. Yes, I have called some of you folks names but then I don’t claim to be a professional historian. It tickles me to read these post belittling folks y’all don’t agree with, it helps me understand why my folks went to war with folks that had the same condescending attitude that y’all do.

      • Kevin Levin Sep 17, 2014 @ 2:31

        What do you have to say for yourself, Jimmy? 🙂

        • Jimmy Dick Sep 17, 2014 @ 3:59

          Considering the four I named I have no apologies. Having dealt with their complete and utter lack of learning ability over the last few years I really don’t care. I disagree with them, Jesse, because they are flat out wrong. There is no matter of opinion involved either. The facts show what happened. They willingly ignore the facts in favor of a fictional belief.

          As for going to war, the people who chose secession and war did so to protect the institution of slavery. If anybody had a condescending attitude based on the primary sources of that time period it was the secessionists.

  • Jimmy Dick Sep 16, 2014 @ 14:56

    Interesting, but I’ve got enough on the plate right now with a Coursera course I’m taking to use for source material in my dissertation. I’ll have to take this one another time.

  • Rob Baker Sep 16, 2014 @ 13:51

    Have you ever been to the NPS site for Andrew Johnson? They are not too fond of Foner.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 16, 2014 @ 13:58

      No. I assume they are not happy with most historians. 🙂

      • Rob Baker Sep 16, 2014 @ 14:00

        Interpreters at historic sites for the National Park Service, are usually historians. I don’t think I get your joke. :/

        • Kevin Levin Sep 16, 2014 @ 14:04

          Then I don’t get your initial comment. Why are they “not too fond of Foner”? What am I missing?

          • Rob Baker Sep 16, 2014 @ 14:13

            They, and by they I mean the NPS employees (1 man and 1 woman) I met at the site who lead the tour, felt that Foner considered them somewhat an example of Johnson apologists.

            On the other side of that coin, they think Foner wrongly generalizes Johnson as southern Democrat and wrongly generalizes his culture as such. They argued that Johnson should be analyzed as someone who is culturally Appalachian.

            ….they had a real beef with Annette Gordon-Reed too. They think her book about Johnson is a bunch of garbage with a lot of historical inaccuracies. They then proceeded to cite those inaccuracies so I just took them at their word on that one.

            • Kevin Levin Sep 16, 2014 @ 14:15

              Well, you can’t win them all. What did they recommend?

              • Rob Baker Sep 16, 2014 @ 14:22

                Uhhhhh, you would ask that.

                I had to look on Amazon to see which book cover jumped out at me and I’m about 99% sure that Hans L. Trefousse’s Andrew Johnson: A Biography was what the “interp” recommended. He said that Trefousse was critical, but “fair.”

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