Whining White SouthernersRoundup
tags: Civil War, Confederate flag, Confederate Memorials
Whenever there’s a suggestion that the Confederate battle flag should be retired to museums or that the name of Confederate President Jefferson Davis should be removed from major highways, there comes the predictable accusation that such moves amount to “rewriting our history” – but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a case of recognizing the real history.
What America needs – perhaps now more than ever – is a serious reexamination of its true history, not the pleasant palliatives offered in textbooks approved by Southern-dominated boards appointed by right-wing politicians. Under such benighted tutelage, popular U.S. history as taught in public schools has become primarily a brainwashing exercise, an ideological foundation for “American exceptionalism,” the jumping-off point for today’s endless wars.
Plus, given America’s continuing racial tensions, it’s particularly important to throw away the rose-colored glasses used to view the issues of slavery and the antebellum South, happy scenes of elegantly dressed white people lounging on the veranda of a stately plantation house, sipping mint juleps while being cooled by fans waved by contented and placid Negroes, a white supremacist’s happiest dream.
A June 24 column by Harold Meyerson cited a recent book — The Half Has Never Been Told by Cornell University history professor Edward Baptist —that explodes the enduring white Southern myth of the kindly and beneficent plantation. Baptist argues that even the word “plantation” should be tossed into the trash bin of historical euphemisms, replaced by the more accurate phrase “slave labor camp,” albeit one with a large, pretty house in the center.
“Torture” is also a word that should apply, Baptist argues, with African-American slaves routinely whipped for falling short of their production quotas. This behavior was not just common among the most ignorant of Southern slaveholders but was a practice employed even by Thomas Jefferson.
According to documents at Monticello, Jefferson had slave boys as young as 10 whipped. In another important book that strips away the excuses employed to ameliorate the evils of slavery, Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves by historian Henry Wiencek disclosed a plantation report to Jefferson explaining that his nail factory was doing well because “the small ones” – ages 10, 11 and 12 – were being whipped by overseer, Gabriel Lilly, “for truancy.”
Jefferson and other slaveholders in the older slave states like Virginia, where the soil had become over-farmed and depleted, also found financial salvation in breeding slaves for the newer (and even more brutal) slave states of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.
Jefferson even calculated that a fertile female had a higher financial value than a strapping male in the fields, all the better to help him pay for his extravagant lifestyle and cover his mounting debts. (According to Wiencek’s book and many other accounts, Jefferson also personally contributed to the breeding process by imposing himself sexually on his female property.) ...
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