I don’t want to get into a debate about whether or not Shelby Foote is properly described as a historian. What I can say is that after reading an interview with him in Confederate Veteran magazine in 1991, I can safely conclude that his understanding of the history of slavery and the Civil War is fundamentally flawed.
His comments were prompted by the interviewer, who suggested that the interpretation of slavery presented in Ken Burns’s PBS series, The Civil War, was problematic. Here is Foote’s response.
- No, white southerners did not see states’ rights as a solution to slavery.
- No, they were not handling anything related to the abolition of slavery on the eve of the Civil War.
- No, most northerners were not looking for a quick solution to the problem of slavery.
- No, white southerners did not believe that slavery would eventually die out.
- The federal government dealt with slavery almost from the beginning of the war. Have we forgotten about the contraband policies?
This is not even close to a reasonable interpretation of slavery, even in 1991. Foote never had an understanding of even the basic facts related to slavery and the Civil War.