How the South Won the Civil War

Discussion in 'The Root' started by xoxodede, Apr 2, 2019.

  1. xoxodede

    xoxodede Superstar

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    Not so long ago, the Civil War was taken to be this country’s central moral drama. Now we think that the aftermath—the confrontation not of blue and gray but of white and black, and the reimposition of apartheid through terror—is what has left the deepest mark on American history. Instead of arguing about whether the war could have turned out any other way, we argue about whether the postwar could have turned out any other way. Was there ever a fighting chance for full black citizenship, equality before the law, agrarian reform? Or did the combination of hostility and indifference among white Americans make the disaster inevitable?

    Henry Louis Gates, Jr., in his new book, “Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow” (Penguin Press), rightly believes that this argument has special currency in the post-Obama, or mid-Trump, era. He compares the rosy confidence, in 2008, that the essential stain of American racism would fade through the elevation of a black President with the same kind of short-lived hopes found in 1865, when all the suffering of the war seemed sure to end with civil equality. Instead, the appearance of African-American empowerment seemed only to deepen the rage of a white majority. Then it brought forward Klan terrorism and Jim Crow in the South; now it has brought to power the most overtly racist President since Woodrow Wilson, openly catering to a white revanchist base. It’s a depressing prospect, and Gates is properly depressed and depressing about it.

    The broad outlines of the Reconstruction story have long been familiar, though the particular interpretive pressures put on particular moments have changed with every era. Toward the end of the war, Washington politicians debated what to do with the millions of newly freed black slaves. Lincoln, after foolishly toying with recolonization schemes, had settled on black suffrage, at least for black soldiers who had fought in the war. (It was a speech of Lincoln’s to this effect that sealed his assassination: John Wilkes Booth, hearing it, said, “That means ****** citizenship. Now, by God, I’ll put him through.”)

    After Lincoln’s death, his hapless and ill-chosen Vice-President, Andrew Johnson, did as much as he could to slow the process of black emancipation in the South, while the “radical” core of the abolitionist Republicans in Congress tried to advance it, and, for a while, succeeded. Long dismissed as destructive fanatics, they now seem to be voices of simple human decency. Thaddeus Stevens, the abolitionist congressman from Vermont, proposed shortly after the war’s end, in his “Lancaster” speech, a simple policy: punish the rebel leaders; treat the secessionist states as territories to be supervised by Congress, thus protecting the new black citizens; take the confiscated plantations on which masters had worked slaves like animals, and break up those plantations into forty-acre lots for the ex-slaves to own (a form of the classic “forty acres and a mule”). That this minimally equitable plan was long regarded as “radical” says something about how bent toward injustice the conversation quickly became.

    Freed slaves eagerly participated in the first elections after the war, and distinguished black leaders went to Congress. The 1872 lithograph of “The First Colored Senator and Representatives,” by Currier & Ives, no less, shows seven black men given the full weight of mid-century Seriousness, including the first black senator from Mississippi, Hiram Rhodes Revels.

    But white state governments steadily reconstituted themselves. By the eighteen-nineties, they were passing laws that, piece by piece, reclaimed the right to vote for whites alone. All of this was made worse by one of those essentially theological “constitutional” points which American professors and politicians love to belabor. Lincoln’s argument was always that, since it was unconstitutional for states to secede on their own, the rebel states had never seceded. The rebels were not an enemy nation; they were just a mob with a flag waiting to be policed, and the Union Army was the policeman. The idea was to limit any well-meaning attempt at negotiation, and to discourage foreign powers from treating the Confederacy as a separate state. After the war, though, this same idea implied that, since the state governments had never gone out of existence, their reborn legislatures could instantly reclaim all the rights enjoyed by states, including deciding who could vote and when.

    As Stevens pointed out, the reasoning that says that no states seceded because the Constitution won’t allow it would also say that no man can ever commit murder because the law forbids it. “Black Codes” were put in place in most Southern states that, through various means, some overt and some insidious (anti-vagrancy statutes were a particular favorite), limited the rights of blacks to work and to relocate. The legislative reconquest was backed by violence: the Ku Klux Klan, formed as a terrorist organization by ex-Confederate officers, began murdering and maiming assertive black citizens. In 1877, after a mere dozen years in which black suffrage and racial equality were at least grudgingly accepted national principles, the federal government pulled its last troops from the South and, in what could be called the Great Betrayal, an order of racial subjugation was restored.

    It’s a story with fewer pivotal three-day battles than the war fought over slavery, but its general shape is oddly similar: after a stunning series of victories and advances in the early years by the “rebels”—in this case, egalitarian forces—the armies of Reconstruction began to fall victim to the sheer numbers of the opposing side and to the exhaustion of their allies and reserves. Some battles, both real and rhetorical, do stand out. There were the arguments in Congress, pitting newly minted and almost impossibly eloquent black representatives against ex-Confederate politicians who a few years earlier had been sending hundreds of thousands of young men to their death in order to preserve the right to keep their new colleagues in perpetual servitude. There was the so-called Battle of Liberty Place, in New Orleans in 1874, a riot on behalf of the White League, a gang of ex-Confederate soldiers who sought to oust Louisiana’s Republican governor and its black lieutenant governor. In a moment of extraordinary moral courage, as worthy of a film as any Civil War battle, James Longstreet, the most capable of General Lee’s Confederate lieutenants, agreed to lead municipal police, including black officers, to put down the white riot and restore the elected government. He knew what it would cost him in status throughout the old Confederacy, but he did it anyway, because it was the right thing to do. Naturally, the city’s monument to the attempted coup bore an inscription that conveyed the White League’s point of view, and, sobering fact, it was scarcely two years ago that the racist memorial to the riot finally came down—with a police escort to protect the movers.


    [​IMG]
    “That can’t be good.”

    Gates emphasizes that Reconstruction was destroyed not by white terrorism alone but also by a fiendishly complicated series of ever more enervating legal and practical assaults. The Supreme Court played a crucial role in enabling the oppression of newly freed blacks, while pretending merely to be protecting the constitutional guarantee of states’ rights—one more instance in which “calling balls and strikes” means refusing to see the chains on the feet of the batter. The overtly racist decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) arrived long after the worst was already done, but it sealed the earlier discrimination in place, and Jim Crow thrived for another half century. Meanwhile, at least some of those Northern liberal abolitionists—including the likes of Henry Adams and the well-meaning Horace Greeley—managed, in the way of high-minded reformers, to let their pieties get the better of their priorities: recoiling against the apparent improprieties of the pro-suffrage Grant Administration, they made common cause with the Democrats who were ending democracy in the South. “When, therefore, the conscience of the United States attacked corruption,” W. E. B. Du Bois wrote in his classic 1935 study, “Black Reconstruction in America,” in many ways the most astute account of the period ever produced, “it at the same time attacked in the Republican Party the only power that could support democracy in the South. It was a paradox too tragic to explain.”


    Gates is one of the few academic historians who do not disdain the methods of the journalist, and his book (which accompanies a four-hour PBS series he has made on the subject) is flecked with incidental interviews with and inquiries of other scholars, including the great revisionist historian Eric Foner. Though this gives the book a light, flexible, talking-out-loud texture, it is enraging to read—to realize how high those hopes were, how close to being realized, how rapidly eradicated. That Currier & Ives lithograph of the black legislators, which Gates reproduces, takes on almost unbearable pathos. The last black U.S. representative from North Carolina was forced out of office in 1901—and there would not be another until 1991. The eclipse of formal black political power happened, in significant part, by violence. The historian David Blight estimates that, between 1867 and 1868, something like ten per cent of the blacks who attended constitutional conventions in the South were attacked by the Klan.

    Gates quickly moves beyond the immediate political context of black disenfranchisement to tell the sad story of how an ideology that justified racism as science, and bigotry as reason, grew and governed minds across the country. There’s the pseudoscientific racism promulgated by Louis Agassiz, of Harvard, who sought to show that blacks belonged to a separate, inferior species; the repellent but pervasive popular cartoon spectre of the black defilement of white women; the larger ideology of shame that also assigned to black men a childlike place as grinning waiters and minstrels. When they weren’t raping white women, they were clowning for white kids.

    Continue Reading @ How the South Won the Civil War
     
  2. xoxodede

    xoxodede Superstar

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    @Get These Nets

    Guess whose back writing books....Mr. Gates.

    Can't wait to read to what mess he writes. The book drops today.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2019
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  3. Get These Nets

    Get These Nets Superstar

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    Out of respect to the people who will learn from the doc. about Reconstruction, I erased the negative comments I wrote about Gates in that thread you made about the upcoming PBS documentary. I look forward to seeing it, and I'm sure I will learn from it also.

    My feelings about him remain the same....just felt that it was inappropriate for that thread.

    But this thread, I can roast his clown ass..and I will later
    hhahahaaahah
     
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  4. xoxodede

    xoxodede Superstar

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    That was really nice of you! Seriously.

    I am really excited about the doc -- and I am starting his book today. I will try to do a review or post about it when I'm done.

    Thinking about posting a Reconstruction thread -- maybe you can contribute?! :smile:
     
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  5. Get These Nets

    Get These Nets Superstar

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    Thanks, you're thinking of doing that thread before or after the doc. airs?

    Because of the resources available to him, Gates can reach(and educate) more people about African American history than anybody else. I hope the documentary reaches a wide audience and helps to reignite the push for reparations from the U.S. Govt. (and corporations/institutions)
     
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  6. xoxodede

    xoxodede Superstar

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    Maybe before -- so we can add on while the doc airs. What do you think?

    I hope so too. It comes down to history and finding all the supporting documentation -- and it's there -- we just have to put it together.
     
  7. Get These Nets

    Get These Nets Superstar

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    Whenever you decide to do it is fine. The history buffs on this forum will find their way to it and hopefully it becomes a discussion that ties into post Reconstruction American and modern era.

    The thing about Gates doing this documentary at this point in time is that HE is the selected historian/spokesperson for Black history in the eyes of many white people and gatekeepers. Much like T. Coates represents that to some white people in some circles. Several more prominent, accomplished and active Black historians from HBCUs have written about reparations for decades, but it was Coates' article in the Atlantic that gave the greenlight for white reporters to see the validity of the story. By the same token, Gates' credibility with whites might help advance the push.

    He might inadvertently help popularize the case among white writers and reporters.

    The irony of that would be that, it was his Wonders of African World series in the 1990s that helped stop the momentum of the reparations push back then. Once he started talking about African chiefs/kings were complicit......reporters used that to justify writing it pieces against the movement.
     
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  8. xoxodede

    xoxodede Superstar

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    He really did. Their admissions were pretty sick and wicked too.

    Honestly, I feel like this. Until the African countries/kingdoms and tribes admit their major part in unity about the slave trade -- and call US and the other countries they worked with in the trade to pay reparations to U.S. and the other DOS in the diaspora -- we won't be taken as seriously.

    Them coming out to support us all -- calling America and other countries to task -- in addition admitting their role and ways they are going to try to help -- it will continue to come up.

    What do you think?
     
  9. Get These Nets

    Get These Nets Superstar

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    I think the modern day countries where the slave dungeons are should openly admit the involvement and by whom in their domestic slave trade history AND their involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and by whom. The trade to the Euros started off as an extension to the domestic slave trade which existed, moved into selling people from conquered groups, then POWs, and then full scale raids to keep up with the demand.

    Living descendants of those involved should sign an open letter or a document that admits and condemns past actions regarding slavery before, during and after the transatlantic slave trade.

    Wounds and hurt of knowing that you descend from human beings who were in lifelong chattel slavery is deep. I think they should follow Ghana's lead and issue statement of apology on behalf of the involved parties. Ghana has always been more progressive in dealing with the African diaspora.

    A joint effort or statement by the modern day countries would do a LOT to heal the wounds we still carry around.
    I think this gesture by the heads of state would do a lot to lift small piece of the hurt.

    In terms of helping the reparations movement here and the rest of the diaspora.....what you're saying seems to make sense in terms of gaining momentum, but these media gatekeepers will control the story and narrative and spin it into "see, they were involved too".
     
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  10. HarlemHottie

    HarlemHottie Uptown Thoroughbred

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    Does someone need to remind Bernie?
     
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  11. TheBiologist

    TheBiologist Rookie

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    Ghana did an apology a couple years ago I think there was a thread on this. It seemed that most people in it weren't happy because it didn't mean much
     
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  12. IronFist

    IronFist Honor The Process Hall of Fame Supporter

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    Appreciate you op.
     
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