Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg: Mississippi is Still Lying about History

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg are professors of history at Louisiana State University, and most recently co-authors of "Madison and Jefferson."]

Surprise! Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has put his foot in his mouth. His impulse when confronted by reporters earlier this week was to refuse to condemn those in his state who would resurrect the infamous Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, slave trader and Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and put his image on a commemorative license plate. "I don’t go around denouncing people," Barbour said.

Nostalgia for the "War Between the States" is a fact of American life. But Barbour’s failure to do the right thing comes close on the heels of another embarrassing episode in which the onetime chairman of the Republican National Committee claimed that racial segregation and violence had not marred his hometown of Yazoo City, Mississippi during his younger years in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The reason for Barbour’s latest gaffe is that his Tea Party constituency wants to "take the country back" to Nathan Forrest’s time, Reconstruction, when something “had to be done” to arrest the trend of Black Republicans undermining the power structure of the white South. The Obama administration is the perfect foil: A liberal black man from the Land of Lincoln (or maybe Africa?) is imposing the heavy hand of federal authority on the "prostrate" South all over again....

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