The Late Unpleasantness in Idaho: Southern Slavery and the Culture Wars





Mr. Ramsey is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Idaho.

The so-called “culture wars,” though maddeningly difficult to define, have begun to set previously complacent Americans against one another in unexpected ways and to challenge some of the basic goals and assumptions of late twentieth-century U. S. social policy. Critics on the right have stepped up attacks on multiculturalism, “political correctness,” and even on the general framework of “secular humanism” that has guided much of western thought since the Enlightenment. In many cases, these critics propose the adoption of a “Biblical worldview” as the only viable solution to America’s cultural and social problems. Different “worldviews,” they argue, lead people to see the same events in a very different light. But can such a shift in “worldview” lead rational adults to praise the institution of slavery as it existed in the antebellum South? And when professional historians point out that the experience of slavery was not generally a happy one for African Americans, are they merely blinded by “abolitionist propaganda” and knee-jerk liberalism?

Such questions brought the small college town of Moscow, Idaho, home of the University of Idaho, to the brink of open hostility during the past year. Previously friendly neighbors perfected outrageously inventive insults for one another and in some cases cut off communication altogether. Boycotts were threatened, Christmas lights pulled down, safes allegedly stolen, tires slashed, and soda cans thrown at “nigger lover” professors. At the center of the furor is a small thirty-nine page booklet entitled Southern Slavery: As It Was, co-authored by local pastor Douglas Wilson and League of the South co-founder Steve Wilkins, on the one hand, and an even shorter book review of it, on the other hand, by two University of Idaho history professors entitled Southern Slavery As It Wasn’t: Professional Historians Respond to Neo-Confederate Misinformation.

Wilson’s and Wilkins’ booklet, published by Wilson’s “Canon Press” in Moscow, argues that southern slavery was not only sanctioned by the Bible but, thanks to the patriarchal kindness of their wise evangelical masters, a positive, happy, and pleasant experience for the majority of southern blacks. Wilson and Wilkins are quite specific about the many benefits of slavery for African-Americans, and they conclude that southern slaves genuinely appreciated those benefits and supported the system that provided them. As such, they claim that “slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War [the Civil War] or since.” (p. 38). Their praise of the institution is almost unbounded in places. “There has never been,” they argue, “a multi-racial society that has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.” (p. 24). They repeatedly deride the consensus view of slavery that has emerged over the last fifty years of academic scholarship as “abolitionist propaganda” and “civil rights propaganda.” Most of the modern problems confronting the United States, they feel, are the logical result of the theological heresies implicit in the abolitionist movement and its unfortunate victory over the South in the Civil War.

In response, my colleague Sean M. Quinlan and I naively wrote a book review to rebut their arguments and point out what we considered to be obvious: that slavery was not a happy experience for southern blacks. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) interviews with former slaves are not, we argued, conclusive proof that African Americans were overwhelmingly content and pleased to be enslaved. The slave narratives are not, we stressed, conclusive proof that “the majority” of slaves remembered the experience of forced labor as being “so pleasant” that they wished to become slaves again. As we wrote the book review, we often found it difficult to believe that anyone would have to explain these things. We expected to be vilified and attacked, of course, by Wilson and Wilkins, but we failed to anticipate the depth of their commitment to pro-slavery ideology and the sophistication of their attacks. We underestimated the extent of their support base in northern Idaho and the ability of organizations such as the League of the South to refocus their efforts on Moscow and to mobilize activists.

We initially thought we had scored a major victory in November, 2003, when our local newspaper, The Moscow/Pullman Daily News, published a front page photograph of a smiling Ira Berlin above the headline “Nation’s Top Historians Dispute Moscow Pastor’s View of pre-Civil War Slavery.” Dr. Berlin, one of the country’s most revered experts on the topic, provided generous quotes explaining why Wilson’s and Wilkins’ “understanding of slavery is extremely anachronistic.” Drawing on his years of complex work in the field, the Bancroft Prize winner felt confident enough to assert that “the slaves were extremely unhappy.” Peter Wood of Duke University claimed that it was “ridiculous to even ask if slavery was a harmful institution.” He equated Wilson and Wilkins with “holocaust deniers.” Clayborne Carson of Stanford University also responded to our hardworking Daily News reporter. “I haven’t heard of this argument,” he told her over the phone, “since the pre-Civil War period when people actually believed the slaves were really happy with their lives … why would anyone want to waste their time with this argument? It’s incomprehensible.” U.C. Berkley’s Saidiya Hartman, an expert on the WPA narratives, called Wilson’s and Wilkins’ arguments “obscene.”

Local responses to the controversy varied. The majority of the community (overwhelmingly Christian and Republican) found the Daily News article and our book review persuasive, and many began organizing to oppose what they viewed as yet another eruption of white supremacy in their own backyard. In fact, a number of them were proud veterans of the battle against the Aryan Nations only two years earlier in Coeur D’Alene. Ira Berlin’s credentials meant little, however, to some Idahoans who had already written off the last fifty years of historical scholarship on slavery as “abolitionist propaganda.” Douglas Wilson, one of the author’s of the now infamous pro-slavery booklet, actually dismissed Berlin publicly as an “abolitionist.” Efforts to discuss these differences only served again and again to clarify the chasm separating the two camps. Sincere invitations to dialogue and communication succeeded only in demonstrating that dialogue and communication made the problem worse. No one could remember anything quite like it.

In addition to marking out skirmish lines, the controversy made it clear that Douglas Wilson was more than just a local troublemaker and southern partisan. He had established two “Reformed” evangelical churches in town whose congregations, thanks to nationwide recruitment efforts, now represented 10 percent of Moscow’s entire population. He had founded a k-12 school called “Logos” that taught history from a “Biblical Worldview” and an unaccredited college called “New Saint Andrews,” where he had installed himself as “Senior Fellow of Theology.” Other faculty members at the college included Wilson’s son Nate, his brother Gordon, and son-in-law Ben. Wilson, it turned out, had cultivated an empire of “classical” schools based on a biblical worldview that included over 165 private academies around the country, all of which purchased educational materials published by his personal “Canon Press” in Moscow, Idaho, or affiliated “Veritas Press” in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His empire of private academies paled, however, in comparison to his real passion for home-schooling. Wilson’s view of slavery currently services thousands of home-school families around the country with materials published by Canon and Veritas Presses.

Information about Wilson’s ninth annual “history conference” in February 2004 turned out to be the final straw for many residents. Wilson had scheduled himself as the keynote speaker, praising the southern racist ideologue R.L. Dabney, but he had also scheduled as co-speakers white supremacist League of the South co-founder Steve Wilkins and the anti-gay Tennessee minister George Grant, notorious for advocating the extermination of all homosexuals in his book Legislating Immorality.. University of Idaho students were especially outraged that the conference was surreptitiously scheduled to take place on their own campus in the Student Union Building. Wilson had apparently paid good money for the facility well in advance, and nobody had balked at taking it. Student anger, however, ultimately forced the president and provost of the University to issue a joint disclaimer of the event, which tried retroactively to take the moral high ground by denouncing efforts to “recast or minimize the evils of slavery.”

Responding to the activism of a much larger African American Student Association, the president of nearby Washington State University, V. Lane Rawlins, enthusiastically issued a simultaneous statement assuring Washingtonians that “the planned conference to be held in February 2004 in rented space on the University of Idaho campus in Moscow has nothing to do with Washington State University.” In his official statement, Rawlins claimed that he had been informed “about a booklet that defends slavery as a social institution.” He made reference to the “article in the Daily News on the weekend of Nov. 8-9 where historians from the University of Idaho, the University of Maryland, and Duke University exposed the booklet for what it is, self-published propaganda disguised as history.” Most importantly, he wanted the Washington State community “to know that those views and others sympathetic to them are intellectually and morally reprehensible and unacceptable to me and to the leadership of WSU.”

Wilson’s affiliated enterprises in Moscow launched an aggressive campaign to denounce the presidents of the two universities, the “abolitionist” historians, and community civil rights activists as the deluded representatives of “modern secularism.” In prominent advertisements in several local newspapers, Wilson and his supporters argued that “slavery isn’t the issue.” “Establishment secularism,” they claimed, “can’t stand real criticism. It can’t bear real differences.” The advertisements suggested that the real goal of local critics of Wilson’s defense of racial slavery was “silencing dissent.” Less publicly, however, Wilson and the dean of his “ New Saint Andrews College,” Roy Atwood, began working to silence the University of Idaho historians who had brought the slavery booklet to the attention of the community. They were especially upset that the University’s director of Diversity and Human Rights, Raul Sanchez, had placed a hyperlink to the Quinlan/Ramsey book review on the Diversity Office website. In an angry letter to the university provost, Wilson claimed that the book review was “slanderous” and “defamatory” and demanded disciplinary action and a public apology, while Atwood wrote a similar letter to the president. Failing to get the desired response, Wilson wrote to Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne asking him to step in and “remove the University of Idaho as a launching pad for their mortar rounds.”

Wilson’s “history” conference in February, 2004, saw the arrival of League of the South co-founder Steve Wilkins, anti-gay minister George Grant, and nearly 800 fundamentalist culture warriors intent on challenging the secular worldview of northern Idaho (and touring the New Saint Andrews College facility with their home-schooled teenagers). Wilkins readily acknowledged to local reporters that the League of the South hoped to secede from the United States and create a new Confederate Nation dedicated to states’ rights, Biblical Law, and the restoration of the “cultural hegemony” of Christian southerners, but he angrily denied that it was a racist or white supremacist organization, as claimed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. To make his point, he organized a special lecture, entitled, “The Sin of Racism,” in which he condemned all forms of racial discrimination and reiterated that southern slavery was not a racist institution but one based on mutual affection and social harmony. Many Idahoans found it unpersuasive.

The University of Idaho, meanwhile, scheduled simultaneous educational activities to celebrate Black History month and promote the ideals of tolerance and diversity. In support of the university and area minorities, nearly 2,000 volunteers from the community traced their hands on pieces of paper, cut them out, and pasted them on giant letters that spelled out “Hands for Human Rights.” The letters were then arranged in front of the Student Union Building where the conference was being held so that culture warriors would have to walk past them every day. The president of the Seattle chapter of the NAACP, Carl Mack, arrived to denounce the pro-slavery booklet of Wilson and Wilkins as “white supremacy” in a spirited rally that brought over 300 student protestors, mostly white, to their feet. One African American student from Washington State University, interviewed afterward by the Daily News, said that she was happy that Mr. Wilson would finally “see people who look like him standing up for people who look like me.” Hundreds of protestors then marched peacefully through the snow with signs that read “Slavery Bad,” and “The Civil War is over.” By the end of the weekend, civil rights advocates were almost too worn out to fully appreciate the detailed presentation by Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, explaining the white supremacist ambitions of the League of the South and Doug Wilson’s ties to national neo-confederate networks.

That was unfortunate, because Potok’s research offered some of the most sobering evidence to date that Moscow, Idaho, had been intentionally targeted as a major battlefield in the culture wars. He quoted from a sermon delivered by Douglas Wilson on December 28, 2003, posted publicly on his church website. Wilson explained to his congregation the military significance of what he called a “decisive point” in an enemy’s defenses. A decisive point, he said, was a military target that was both “strategic,” meaning that it would be a debilitating “loss to the enemy if taken,” and one that was also “feasible.” Boville, he argued, was a “feasible” target but not “strategic.” New York City, on the other hand, was “strategic” but not “feasible.” “Small college towns with major research universities,” he continued, such as “ Moscow and Pullman . . . are both strategic and feasible.” A number of audience members gasped as Potok read from Wilson’s sermon. According to Potok, Wilson concluded his sermon by stating the obvious, “that is why the conflict is here.”

Few people outside the state have really paid attention to these events so far, aside from the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and “abolitionist” historians like Ira Berlin, Peter Wood, and Clayborne Carson. Many Idahoans, in fact, seem to be taking an irrational comfort in this neglect by reminding themselves that Idaho simply does not matter to the nation. Presidential elections, for instance, are an undisputed exercise in futility for a state with only a handful of electoral votes that straddles two time zones in the west. Idaho, however, is currently a major battle ground between competing visions of our national future, and the outcome here will assuredly affect the national temper in generations to come. Culture warriors in Idaho envision a future in which the educational power of both the University of Idaho and Washington State University will have been harnessed to the propagation of a “biblical worldview” and the overthrow of “Civil Rights propaganda” nationwide. It may be worthwhile, therefore, for educators elsewhere to take notice of this tempest while it is still contained in a distant teacup and remember that our country’s commitment to civil rights and equality are in truth only a generation old. There are still many Americans who consider the South’s surrender at Appomattox a temporary setback. If Idaho is any indication, brothers and neighbors may yet be forced to choose between those same two sides again.



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Mark Aaron Herbert - 4/22/2008

Idaho is exactly as the article describes it. I have been here for 20 years. If you are a minority, if you like minorities, if you are liberal, non-religious, non local for 30 years, you can't get a job, you can't have friends and people are unfriendly.

The University of Idaho is backward, right wing, and largely mormon. If you don't believe you are destined to be a God, rule a planet, or don't have magic underwear, you are not a critical thinker here.

There is rampant incest, child abuse, racism, organized hate religions, nepotism, zenophobia and ignorance of all kinds.

I've been trying to get out of Idaho for two years.


Jessica Nicole Christian - 4/2/2008

Wow! I can't believe our nation has falled so much that even a pastor of a "Christian" church would support slavery. That's CRAZY!!!


Marissa Peterson - 10/17/2005

Here's an interesting journal article that suggests the origins of this Southern cultural movement:

The US Civil War as a Theological War: Confederate Christian Nationalism and the League of the South

http://www.utpjournals.com/product/cras/323/sebesta.html


STEPHEN WOODFIN BAUER - 5/28/2005

Come out of the woodwork??? As the case for understanding the Bible and Constitution actually mean what they say? The Historical documentation is hidden in plain sight, where the 'cultural warriors' are blind to it...


William L Ramsey - 5/19/2005

That's it. Come on out of the woodwork, or "occupied Alabama," as the case may be.


William L Ramsey - 5/17/2005

Yes, I agree, "the number of facutal errors" would indeed be "surpassed" by a single "failure to quote" certain things in some circles. Many historians, however, enjoy citing actual errors and then providing relevant evidence to support their contentions.


Lawrence Kelley - 5/10/2005

The number of factual errors in Mr. Ramsey’s essay is only surpassed by his failure to quote Mr. Wilson's many statements condemning racism of every form. I am certain from what I have read from each of them, and it is important to actually hear from them, that both men oppose racism. It appears to me that the charges of racism are a cover used by the Ward Churchill types at the University of Idaho to shield their opposition to Wilson’s potent arguments for biblical Christianity.


STEPHEN WOODFIN BAUER - 5/6/2005

Just the opposite! Slavery was both Biblical and Constitutional. One need look no further than the two 10s, the Tenth Commandment and the Tenth Amendment. In the one we are commanded not to covet another's slaves[the translation for servant] and nowhere in the Federal Compact of 1787 is slavery prohibited [indeed the 3/5s Compromise implicitly recognizes it], therefore it is retained by the States and the People.

"Among the major talking points of this Biblical defense were: (1) Ham, it was said, was the father of all Blacks; (2) Abraham held slaves; (3) Leviticus enjoins the children of Israel to take slaves from the heathens; (4) Philemon is told to return to master by Paul; (5) Jesus never attacked the institution of slavery.)"
http://www.wfu.edu/~matthetl/perspectives/eleven.html

The post-War legal decisions on slavery listed offer little insight, but to use Frederick Douglass's work as an example adds little when one considers the Dred Scott case had decided he could never even be a citizen:

"The words 'people of the United States' and 'citizens' are synonymous terms, and mean the same thing. They both describe the political body who, according to our republican institutions, form the sovereignty, and who hold the power and conduct the Government through their representatives. They are what we familiarly call the 'sovereign people,' and every citizen is one of this people, and a constituent member of this sovereignty. The question before us is, whether the class of persons described in the plea in abatement compose a portion of this people, and are constituent members of this sovereignty? We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word 'citizens' in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them."
http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/D/1851-1875/dredscott/dred3.htm


Leroy John Pletten - 2/28/2005

Abolitionist clergymen such as Rev. John G. Fee identified the voluminous Bible principles and events against slavery. See for example Rev. Fee's Antislavery Manual (1851), http://medicolegal.tripod.com/feeasm1851.htm. Other abolitionists showed slavery to be unconstitutional. See overview at http://medicolegal.tripod.com/slaveryillegal.htm . It was because so many educated Yankees realized slavery was both unbiblical and unconstitutional that the Party of Lincoln was founded and became successful in 1860. Pro-slavery apologists ignore both types of evidence (Bible and Constitution) showing wrongfulness of slavery.


Mac Diva - 1/25/2005

The neo-Confederate movement has scored a new victory in its campaign to replace American history with pseudohistory. Ron Wilson, former leader of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, has been appointed to the South Carolina state board of education. The board sets education policy and selects textbooks. Wilson, a longterm member or racist and anti-Semitic organizations, including the League of the South, has already said he intends to pursue barring gay people from teaching in the state's schools. Read more about the controversy here.

Ron Wilson is among those who subscribe to the views of Doug Wilson and Steve Wilkins, as far as I know. However, that is not true of all neo-Confederates. Some of them consider Wilson and Wilkins too liberal.

William, you should be aware that the neo-Confederate movement has failed in a previous campaign of takeover attempts. Those were directed at Southern churches. The movement tried to insinuate itself into conservative churches it thought vulnerable to its ideology. Its sizeable stable of preachers were to take the reins of leadership. The effort ended in acrimony and lawsuits. Despite their big ideas, they may have trouble implementing takeovers of small college communities, too.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

How would Mr. Ramsey respond to Cassius Clay's declaration, "I'm sure glad my ancestors got on that boat?" In short, Clay was saying he was glad to be an American rather than an African tribesman, whatever the cause of his being here rather than in Africa.

Granted, African-Americans originally were involuntary immigrants. Probably nearly all of them were folks who'd druther have been left in peace in their hamlets & villages in Africa. No, while the end does not justify the means, there can be little doubt too that most of today's African/Americans prefer to live in the U.S. of A. rather than move to Africa.

Although the South's "Pecuilar Institution" is hardly to admired it nonetheless is true also that 1) slavery has been common throughout recorded history, including the helots of Periclean Greece & 2) that although Arab, European & American slavers provided a market for African slaves, the slaves were orginally captured & then sold into slavery by fellow Acrican tribesmen.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

:-)))

No friend to Leftist academics it is evident to I that Mr. Green is correct in his assessment, as far as he goes. But he & others in the Academy of a Leftist bent might consider re-exaiming their social & political positions to realize an understanding they, taking recent elections & the continuing decline of the Left's main propaganda arm, the old news media, as a guide, are on a steep slide toward the deepths of no-where.

For instance, survey after survey has shown the TV networks are rapidly continuing to lose watchers. Also, forty-five years ago some 80% of American adults read a daily newspaper. Today that figure is down to 54%. And as Geo. Will has pointed out, the Academy is more dominated by the Left than ever before & at the same time, never before were academics so little consulted by the political establishment. Could there be a cause & effect process at work here? As the Acadewy has drifted Left it has, in step with its allies in the old media, lost influence not only with the political establishment, but with the broad mass of the American people too.


Eli Rabett - 12/31/2004

Must we be continually reminded that most of the folk who got on the boat in Africa, were tossed off dead into the sea? That was kind of a unique experience for immigrant groups.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 12/31/2004

There's no way to sugar-coat it, but Africans weren't the only involuntary immigrants to this country, and at least at the beginning in Virginia and South Carolina, it is not clear that Africans were treated dramatically worse than white indentured servants. This relative equality of conditions didn't last, of course.

Compared to how whites and Asians in America live, blacks certainly have something to be upset about. Compared to how Africans live, however, American blacks--even those who aren't prizefighters like Cassius Clay--have much to be grateful for.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 12/30/2004

I must confess to being a bit disturbed by the rather broad brush with which Ramsey's article
at paints the origins of Doug Wilson's ideas. It is certainly true that there is a culture war going on in America, and those of us on the right end of the spectrum have some serious disagreements with the dominant intellectual establishment on a number of issues. Doug Wilson's ideas about slavery, however, are not widely shared on the right end of the political spectrum in America, and perhaps not even narrowly shared.

In particular, some of Ramsey's statements are technically correct, but as near as I can tell, give Wilson the appearance of much broader influence than he really has.

"In addition to marking out skirmish lines, the controversy made it clear that Douglas Wilson was more than just a local troublemaker and southern partisan. He had established two 'Reformed' evangelical churches in town whose congregations, thanks to nationwide recruitment efforts, now represented 10 percent of Moscow’s entire population."

I am a little unclear how nationwide recruitment efforts have played a part in making Wilson's church so large. Wilson is a highly effective public speaker; my daughter who attends the University of Idaho tells me that Wilson is obviously very smart, and a skilled debater (in the sophist sense) but not wise. My daughter recognized that Wilson's claims about slavery were bizarre (perhaps having heard enough over the dinner table to recognize nonsense on the subject); his local following is at least partly a function of Wilson being in reaction (in the worst sense of the word) to progressive ideas on a host of topics other than slavery.

Another of Ramsey's statements that I think may give the wrong impression is:

"He had founded a k-12 school called 'Logos' that taught history from a 'Biblical Worldview' and an unaccredited college called 'New Saint Andrews,' where he had installed himself as 'Senior Fellow of Theology.' Other faculty members at the college included Wilson’s son Nate, his brother Gordon, and son-in-law Ben. Wilson, it turned out, had cultivated an empire of 'classical' schools based on a biblical worldview that included over 165 private academies around the country, all of which purchased educational materials published by his personal 'Canon Press' in Moscow, Idaho, or affiliated 'Veritas Press' in Lancaster, Pennsylvania."

This is also a statement that is technically correct, but I believe exaggerates Wilson's influence. I spoke with a
member of the board of trustees of one of these schools a few months back, which teach what they call a
"classical/Christian curriculum" (Greek and Latin, for example in the lower grades) and while he acknowledged
that Doug Wilson's efforts caused the development of this classical Christian school network, there has been some
"divergence" since then--and the way in which this board member picked his words indicated that he was reluctant
to speak poorly of Doug Wilson, yet recognized the rather bizarre ideas that Wilson now holds. I think you would
be hard pressed to find too many evangelical Christians who share Wilson's ideas about slavery.


Joe Schneider - 12/23/2004

I couldn't speak for Mr. Ramsey, but how I would respond to Muhammad Ali's statement?

Ali certainly has had a much better life than could have been expected for his ancestors. He is one of the best (if not the best) fighters in recent times and has benefited from the (modern) values and rights we hold dear in this country.

However, one successful black American who obviously benefited from living in this country does not in any way speak for the vast majority of blacks in this country.

Nor does it say anything addressing the issue of slavery. I'm sure it would not re-assure any of Ali's ancestors, as they dealt with living in slavery conditions and treatment that their great-great-great-great-great-grandson was going to be a successful boxer and respected American.

It's a nice sentiment, but the bottom line is that slavery was an injustice, even the most well-treated slaves still had no rights of their own, and there is no way to sugar-coat it.


Joe Schneider - 12/23/2004

Mr. Heisler,

I keep trying to wrap my head around your rebuttal/non-rebuttal of Mr. Green's quite valid point.

You "object to the implication that somehow Idaho is more inclined to this kind of dialectic," yet immediately after quoting Mr. Green's statement, which to any reasonable person quite clearly stated that such silliness is NOT unique to Idaho, followed with:

"I assume you mean that incidents that you describe are 'not unique' to Idaho -- they are."

So Mr. Heisler, are they unique to Idaho or aren't they?

Putting aside the fact that arguing Idaho's 'uniqueness' in this particular controversy is totally missing the point in Mr. Green's quite valid comment, you shed all vestiges of credibility with your following indictments of "...Leftist conceit," and your flawed assumption that "The vast majority of the American people are no longer listening to we self described intellectual types so they must be Nazis!"

Need I remind you, sir, that there have been numerous instances in the recent past of Neo-Confederate influence in modern politics. The most obvious example of such influence would be the vociferous opposition to the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the State of South Carolina's state flag. One need only look at the continuing "Southern Strategy" used to great result by the modern Republican party to see the best example of modern politics being tied to Southern discontent with the North, civil rights, and underlying lingering resentment with a 200-year-old loss.

Additionally, your supposition that somehow the "vast majority of the American people" no longer listen to "leftist" or liberal ideals is nothing more than regurgitated right-wing radio tripe. The president won re-election with only 51% of the popular vote. One percent does not a mandate make. Even with the predicted turnout at 60%, which i'm sure we were around, that translates to less than half of the country, and barely a majority of the electorate pitching their vote for the President. Hardly a mandate.

While I respect your opinion, it is much more effective to be able to justify and/or prove it.


Charles Edward Heisler - 12/23/2004

Again I object to the implication that somehow Idaho is somehow more inclined to this kind of dialectic. Your statement: "While the perception might be that this report is too hard on Idaho, it unfortunately is not unique. Neo-Confederates have been selling that sort of silliness for quite some time and it understandably can become tied to modern politics --not necessarily as it is being done here, of course.", continues the canard. I assume you mean that incidents that you describe are "not unique" to Idaho--they are. Further the statement that "Neo-Conferates" are tied to "modern politics" is merely a Leftist conceit to help salve the wounds of the last several elections. Read that to really read "The vast majority of the American people are no longer listening to we self described intellectual types so they must be Nazis"! Smug and snotty inference is not good argument Professor Green.


Oscar Chamberlain - 12/22/2004

We wrestle with slavery for good reasons. Our country proclaimed its independence on the basis of equality and natural rights. It was first structured in ways that confirmed existing prejudices.

One thing already in existence was a form of slavery that had diverged significantly from the African model. Africans incorporated the descendants of slaves into their tribes. The chattel slavery of the western hemisphere required a permanent slave caste. That transformation of slavery is an important component in understanding, and in judging, slavery in the Americas.


Michael Green - 12/21/2004

While the perception might be that this report is too hard on Idaho, it unfortunately is not unique. Neo-Confederates have been selling that sort of silliness for quite some time and it understandably can become tied to modern politics --not necessarily as it is being done here, of course. We have a duty as historians to stick to our guns on this and to make it as clear as possible exactly what happened in history and how history is now being abused. That also means being willing to go before and write for the public, and not just sit in our offices and bemoan our fate.


Oscar Chamberlain - 12/21/2004

I find this story moderately hopeful. Yes, it's a bit disheartening to see that old and simply wrong ideas can get an enthusiastic hearing. We should keep an eye open to their comming soon to a community near us.

However, much of this story is about the success of education. And of decency. It's a model of educated response.


Charles Edward Heisler - 12/20/2004

Professor Ramsey, an apology is due the fine citizens of Idaho! It is unlikely that a conference of the type you describe would ever take place in the other major institutions in the State. It would be unthinkable that this kind of discussion would be held at Boise State and Idaho State Universities, or at BYU-Idaho for that matter. I understand that there is a small cadre of rather powerful and quasi-racists types in Northern Idaho but, please, do not leave the impression that the attitude is common in the rest of the State--it isn't.
Idahoans are independent thinkers and by and large, religious conservatives but they are not racists and the suggestions that they will be involved in some latter day Civil War needs to be modified or retracted.

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