Update: Jimmy Price offers a response to this post. Just to clarify that I did not delete any comments in that post, though it is always possible that it came through as spam and was automatically discarded. I am pleased to see that Jimmy is relieved by my clarification that many of the comments expressed following the post do not reflect my own views. I will do my best to return the favor.
Jimmy Price takes issue with my last post, which features a video of three Liberty University history professors discussing the causes and legacies of the Civil War. My brief comments focus on the content of the video and do not in any way attempt to explain their views by criticizing their religious and/or political views. I don’t know anything about either. This is a way of saying that I agree with Jimmy that many of the comments that followed the post are troubling for the reasons he cites. I am glad to hear that his experience at Liberty was fruitful and that he was exposed to reputable scholarship related to the period. [click to continue…]
Three history professors from Liberty University in Virginia share their thoughts about the causes and legacies of our civil war. According to the department chair the Civil War is best understood as a “civilizational conflict” or “culture war.” Professor Jones acknowledges the centrality of slavery as a cause of the war and highlights its destruction, but cautions the viewer that Americans are fast becoming “slaves” of the federal government. Finally, Professor Ritchie reduces the war down to sectional differences and the importance of money to social advancement in the North. Yeah, someone should give him a copy of Edward Baptist’s new book. Turns out that plenty of people in the South cared a great deal about money.
This is just all around really bad.
[Uploaded to Vimeo on October 28, 2014]
Had a chance earlier today to read the introduction to Mark Summers’s new book on Reconstruction, which is part of UNC Press’s Littlefield Series. The following passage caught my attention:
In the end, the search for security helped justice go far beyond what most observers in 1865 expected. Freedom was just the first installment in a broadening of rights. The Constitution’s basis would endow the nation with a broad authority to break the patterns that slavery and prejudice had set on American society. It may have opened the way to a second American revolution. But it is important to recognize that most white Americans had not been looking for a revolution, and a near majority of them probably would have been content with a modified restoration. If we make the mistake of defining Reconstruction’s exclusive end as remaking the South on the basis of equal rights and democracy in a truer sense of the word than its inhabitants had ever known, then we can’t help calling Reconstruction at best a failure–though that failure seemed less clear, unambiguous, and complete in 1877 than retrospect. But if we see Reconstruction’s purpose as making sure that the main goals of the war would be fulfilled, of a Union held together forever, of a North and South able to work together, of slavery extirpated, and sectional rivalries confined, of a permanent banishment of the fear of vaunting appeals to state sovereignty, backed by armed force, then Reconstruction looks like what in that respect it was, a lasting and unappreciated success. (p. 4)
I’ve always struggled with understanding Reconstruction through the narrow lens of race and civil rights. The rub for me has always been in measuring Reconstruction’s success with the varying degrees of racial discrimination present in many Northern states. Certainly our popular memory of Reconstruction revolves around our tendency to view the period in light of Jim Crow and the necessity of a Civil Rights Movement. Summers’s understanding of the period looks promising. I am looking forward to digging in further.
Finally, is it any surprise that such a focus for a book on Reconstruction found a place in a series edited by Gary Gallagher given his insistence that the preservation of the Union be acknowledged as the most important achievement of the war?
Stephen Cushman, Belligerent Muse: Five Northern Writers and How They Shaped Our Understanding of the Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2014).
Ezra Greenspan, William Wells Brown: An African American Life (Norton, 2014).
Jill Lepore, The Secret History of Wonder Woman (Knopf, 2014).
John F. Marszalek, Lincoln and the Military (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014).
Michael A. Ross, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law, and Justice in the Reconstruction Era (Oxford University Press, 2014).
Christian G. Samito ed., Commanding Boston’s Irish Ninth: The Civil War Letters of Colonel Patrick R. Guiney, Ninth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Fordham University Press, 1998).
Edward Steers, Jr., Lincoln’s Assassination (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014).
Mark W. Summers, The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction (University of North Carolina Press, 2014).
John C. Waugh, Lincoln and the War’s End (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014).
Governor Nikki Haley Statement about Weary Clyburn
It’s been a week of posts about Weary Clyburn and I suspect many of you would prefer that I move on to something else. Many of the usual suspects in the Southern heritage community believe that I am attacking the memory and good name of Ms. Mattie Rice. One person in particular compared my posts this week to the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church, which was initially confusing to me since I thought the individual in question was a member. I’ve always found topics like this, where there is a conflict between history and memory, to be ideal grist for this blog mill.
As I understand it, the problem for my detractors is that I don’t accept the narrative advanced by Ms. Rice, which essentially frames the story of her father as that of a slave who fought as a solider in the Confederate ranks. It’s true. Given my understanding of the history of slavery and the Confederacy and access to the relevant archival documents, it is my contention that this narrative is false. There is no wartime evidence that Weary Clyburn served as a soldier in the 12th South Carolina Infantry and postwar documents related to his pension clearly state that he was not a Confederate soldier. It is irrelevant whether Ms. Rice believed such a story. My responsibility as a historian does not begin and end with what any one individual happens to believe about the past. [click to continue…]