Even in Death They Still Can’t Get It Right

Union County Marker

This past week Mattie Rice, who was a descendant of Weary Clyburn passed away. Over the past few year I wrote extensively about the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ and United Daughters of the Confederacy’s efforts to distort the history of Clyburn.

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Baptist Describes a New Orleans Slave Auction

The following description of a slave auction in New Orleans comes from Edward Baptist’s new book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.

The moment was here, the one that made trees fall, cotton bales strain against their ropes, filled the stores with goods, sailed paper across oceans and back again, made the world believe. (p. 94)

This book is fascinating not so much in terms of its central thesis, but in the way that Baptist crafts his narrative. It is at times dizzying and confusing as he illustrates the speed at which this country expanded on the backs of slaves and the interconnectedness of everything that went on domestically and internationally to make it happen. What a ride.

Two Soldiers, Two Stories

Many of you may remember that this past school year I accompanied 35 students on a civil rights trip from Atlanta to Memphis. I was asked to accompany the instructor who organized it, but this year my school is requesting that I lead a trip for what we call Exploration Week, which takes place in March. It should come as no surprise that I am thinking of a Civil War trip for about 15 to 20 students – going small for the first year. What I have is little more than a sketchy outline of some of the sites that I want to visit, but they will likely fall between Gettysburg and Fredericksburg.  Continue reading

Edward Baptist on Slavery, the Civil War and American Capitalism

My copy of Edward Baptist’s new book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, arrived and I’ve managed to finish the first chapter. The book is incredibly well written and thought provoking. Baptist places the spread of slavery at the center of the expansion of capitalism from the period immediately following the Revolution through the nineteenth century. Contrary to popular opinion, slavery was not antithetical to American capitalism, but its driving force. No, Baptist is not the first historian to suggest this, but it is likely that this particular book will enjoy a wider readership given its publication by a popular press and the recent controversy surrounding a review that appeared in The EconomistContinue reading

From Jim Crow to Nazi Germany

A really interesting thing happened today in my senior level elective on the Holocaust. Over the summer students read Edward Larson’s book, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, which tells the story of American ambassador, William Dodd, and his family during their stay in Germany between 1933 and 1934. Larson builds his narrative around the concept of Gleichschaltung, which roughly translates into “coordination” or “to bring into line.” Today students engaged in a seminar around the question of whether they believed that the Nazis had achieved Gleichschaltung among the German population. It was a fascinating discussion that took just about the entire class. I observed and took detailed notes that we will spend tomorrow unpacking. Continue reading