Eugene Genovese: Backs Book by Racist Minister

Historians in the News

Ralph Luker at HNN blog, Cliopatria:

I am aghast at news that comes from a fellow historian in the west. At Blog and Mablog, the Aryan supremacist minister in Idaho, Douglas Wilson, says that he is publishing a revised version of his book, Southern Slavery As It Was, under a new title, Black and Tan. Used in some private academies in the South, the former was then dropped because of its unreasonably benign interpretation of the Old South's"peculiar institution." William Ramsey at the University of Idaho and my colleague, Jonathan Reynolds, told that story. Then, it was withdrawn from publication because the work plagiarized from Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman's Time on the Cross (1974).

Wilson tells us that he, then, sought the assistance of Eugene Genovese. Gene is, of course, best known as the author of Roll, Jordan, Roll (1976), which won the Bancroft Prize and is still, to my mind, the best single volume on slavery in the Old South. Genovese, says Wilson,"was kind enough to read through the manuscript and provided helpful criticisms that he described as ‘nitpicking,' but which really were genuinely helpful. In addition, he also provided us with the following blurb for the cover, for which I am very grateful."

The Reverend Douglas Wilson may not be a professional historian, as his detractors say, but he has a strong grasp of the essentials of the history of slavery and its relation to Christian doctrine. Indeed, sad to say, his grasp is a great deal stronger than that of most professors of American history, whose distortions and trivializations disgrace our college classrooms. And the Reverend Mr. Wilson is a fighter, especially effective in defense of Christianity against those who try to turn Jesus' way of salvation into pseudo-moralistic drivel.
Gene, Gene, say it ain't so! I would have asked him for a confirmation of this, but Gene stopped speaking to me a couple of years ago, probably because my soft-headed and warm-hearted Methodism amounts to"pseudo-moralistic drivel" or maybe because I belong to the"Secularist Crimson Jihad" to which Wilson refers.

But I'm afraid that Wilson is correct about Gene having lent his good name to this book. It is sad if Genovese's blurb will grace its covers, but also that it includes an attack on"most professors of American history, whose distortions and trivializations disgrace our college classrooms." He might have taken those words right from Clayton Cramer's blog. Not that I'm accusing Gene of plagiarizing Cramer, you understand. But, in fact, Cramer gave us a hypothetical:"Imagine if a historian published a book–Happy Slaves--that claimed that slaves were generally quite happy with their station in antebellum America." Well, if one of us hasn't yet written that book, at least one of us has apparently endorsed it.

Let's be clear. I do not believe that Eugene Genovese is a racist, but he is both consorting with a racist and giving aid to those who want ammunition in their a broadscale attack on academic historians.

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