The Guardian: James Baldwin Talks about the Effects of not having a Real History
Table of Contents
The Lost Cause of the Confederacy Movement
The Birth of a Written US Black History
The Emergence of Radical Historians and New Social Scientists
Critical Race Theory
The 21st Century Textbook Fight
Horrible People Recognized in History as Great People
The Lost Cause of the Confederacy Movement
In the late 19th and early 20th century there was a movement, called the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy” to unify southern white people, after their defeat in the Civil War, under a set of beliefs based on whitewashing the civil war and slavery. Through school textbooks, museums, movies, books, religion, government holidays like the Confederate Memorial Day, social organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy and even terrorist organizations like the KKK and the White Citizens’ Councils, a set of beliefs were spread across the south based on downplaying slavery, making heroes out of the Confederates, and depicting the South’s fight in the Civil War as an honorable struggle for the Southern way of life against Northern oppression.
As the Reconstruction effort died and white southerners (and eventually white people throughout the country) began to resist any efforts for black equally throughout the Black Codes, Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras, these “Lost Cause ” beliefs found a home among as the new “heritage” of white supremacist culture and was embodied in confederate symbols all over the country from flags to monuments.
According to a Washington Post Article,
“The Confederates won with the pen (and the noose) what they could not win on the battlefield: the cause of white supremacy and the dominant understanding of what the war was all about. We are still digging ourselves out from under the misinformation they spread, which has manifested in our public monuments and our history books.
Take Kentucky, where the legislature voted not to secede. Early in the war, Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston ventured through the western part of the state and found “no enthusiasm, as we imagined and hoped, but hostility.” Eventually, 90,000 Kentuckians would fight for the United States, while 35,000 fought for the Confederate States. Nevertheless, according to historian Thomas Clark, the state now has 72 Confederate monuments and only two Union ones…
…Perhaps most perniciously, neo-Confederates now claim that the South seceded over states’ rights. Yet when each state left the Union, its leaders made clear that they were seceding because they were for slavery and against states’ rights. In its “Declaration of the Causes Which Impel the State of Texas to Secede From the Federal Union,” for example, the secession convention of Texas listed the states that had offended the delegates: “Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa.” Governments there had exercised states’ rights by passing laws that interfered with the federal government’s attempts to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. Some no longer let slave owners “transit” across their territory with slaves. “States’ rights” were what Texas was seceding against. Texas also made clear what it was seceding for — white supremacy:
We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
…So thoroughly did this mythology take hold that our textbooks still stand history on its head and say secession was for, rather than against, states’ rights. Publishers mystify secession because they don’t want to offend Southern school districts and thereby lose sales.”
According to an Atlantic Article,
“Many of the treasured monuments that seem to offer a connection to the post-bellum South are actually much later, anachronistic constructions, and they tend to correlate closely with periods of fraught racial relations, as my colleague Yoni Appelbaum has noted. South Carolina didn’t hoist the battle flag in Columbia until 1961—the anniversary of the war’s start, but also the middle of the civil-rights push, and a time when many white Southerners were on the defensive about issues like segregation and voting rights.
A timeline of the genesis of the Confederate sites shows two notable spikes.
Timeline of Confederate Monument InstallationsOne comes around the turn of the 20th century, just after Plessy v. Ferguson, and just as many Southern states were establishing repressive race laws. The second runs from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s—the peak of the civil-rights movement. In other words, the erection of Confederate monuments has been a way to perform cultural resistance to black equality.”
History of Confederate Statues
According to a Washington Post Article,
“For several decades after the Civil War, the Confederate battle emblem (flag) was rarely displayed — typically only during tributes to actual Confederate veterans. It was not part of state flags or other official symbols or displays.
It wasn’t until 1948 that the Confederate flag re-emerged as a potent political symbol. The reason was the Dixiecrat revolt — when Strom Thurmond led a walkout of white Southerners from the Democratic National Convention to protest President Harry S. Truman’s push for civil rights. The Dixiecrats began to use the Confederate flag, which sparked further public interest in it. Consequently, the flag became strongly linked to white supremacy and opposition to civil rights for African Americans…
…In 1954, the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which ordered the desegregation of public primary schools, focused the energies and ire of hardcore segregationists throughout the South. Efforts to resist school integration and other civil rights protections for African Americans included the display of Confederate symbols and especially the Confederate battle flag.”
Many of these “Lost Cause” beliefs are still very prevalent today throughout the country. 7 states still celebrate the Confederate Memorial Day as a public holiday. Textbooks still whitewash the civil war. And people throughout the US still celebrated the confederate flag and violently oppose any attempts to remove confederate statues.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s 2017 Address on Removal of Four Confederate Statues Created in the Lost Cause of the Confederacy Era against active and violent resistance
“Landrieu lost 37 percent of his white support when he removed the monuments, and polls indicate that nearly nine out of 10 white Lousianans opposed their removal…
…He asserts he did more than just take down the monuments. He also took away something intangible and yet just as weighty as all that bronze and marble: pride. “There is a white Christian ethnic identity that people have tied onto and somehow connected to the Confederacy,” Landrieu says. “They feel like somebody has taken something away from them.”
Research conducted by SPLC in 2017 shows that we, as a nation, are failing to adequately teach the hard history of American slavery. Wondering how your knowledge stacks up? Take this six-question quiz. Then, sign our statement of support for improving K-12 classroom instruction about this critical topic.
Dailyshow: Confederate Memorial Day Makes Waves in the South: The Daily Show
Vox: Confederate Memorial Day: when multiple states celebrate treason in defense of slavery
What Southern man, be he slave-holder or non-slave-holder, can without indignation and horror contemplate the triumph of negro equality?
“Monday is Confederate Memorial Day in Alabama, one of three states that still set aside a state holiday — meaning government offices are closed — to honor those who fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. The others are Mississippi, which will celebrate Confederate Memorial Day on April 30; and South Carolina, which celebrates on May 10.
In addition, other states, such as Florida (which will celebrate Confederate Memorial Day on Thursday) and Texas (which celebrated Confederate Heroes Day on January 19), honor the legacy of the Confederacy without closing government offices.
And in several states — including Alabama — Confederate figures like President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Robert E. Lee are also honored with their own holidays, with supporters arguing that doing so is important to preserve Southern history.
Now, 157 years after the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter — marking the beginning of the Civil War — Americans still debate its causes. But the underlying reasoning for the secession of Southern states from the Union, and the launching point for the bloodiest conflict in American history, couldn’t be more clear. In fact, the instigators themselves explained them.
The Confederacy was built on slavery and created to save slavery
The Confederacy, or the Confederate States of America, was established with the purpose of preserving the institution of slavery. This is now viewed as a controversial take in 2018, but it is, in fact, true. Alabama seceded from the Union on January 11, 1861, in the belief, as stated during the Alabama Secession Convention held that month, that “the institution of African slavery now existing in the slaveholding states” was “a moral, social, and political blessing.”
A few weeks earlier, in December 1860, Stephen F. Hale, Alabama’s commissioner to the state of Kentucky, wrote the following to Kentucky Gov. Beriah Magoffin regarding Alabama’s reasonings for exiting the Union (emphasis added):
What Southern man, be he slave-holder or non-slave-holder, can without indignation and horror contemplate the triumph of negro equality, and see his own sons and daughters in the not distant future associating with free negroes upon terms of political and social equality, and the white man stripped by the heaven-daring hand of fanaticism of that title to superiority over the black race which God himself has bestowed? In the Northern States, where free negroes are so few as to form no appreciable part of the community, in spite of all the legislation for their protection, they still remain a degraded caste, excluded by the ban of society from social association with all but the lowest and most degraded of the white race. but in the South, where in many places the African race largely predominates, and as a consequence the two races would be continually pressing together, amalgamation or the extermination of the one or the other would be inevitable. Can Southern men submit to such degradation and ruin? God forbid that they should.
If we triumph, vindicate our rights, and maintain our institutions, a bright and joyous future lies before us. We can clothe the world with our staple, give wings to her commerce, and supply with bread the starving operative in other lands, and at the same time preserve an institution that has done more to civilize and Christianize the heathen than all human agencies besides-an institution alike beneficial to both races, ameliorating the moral, physical, and intellectual condition of the one and giving wealth and happiness to the other.
(The “institution” to which he was referring was the institution of slavery.)
In 1860, 45 percent of people in Alabama were slaves.
Mississippi seceded from the Union on January 9, 1861. As written in its articles of secession (“A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union”):
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
Among the reasons for the state to exit the United States were the following:
[The United States] advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst.
[The United States] has enlisted its press, its pulpit and its schools against us, until the whole popular mind of the North is excited and inflamed with prejudice.
[The United States] has made combinations and formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation in the States and wherever else slavery exists.
In the Census of 1860, roughly 55 percent of people in Mississippi were slaves, and 49 percent of white Mississippians owned slaves.
We are still relitigating the Civil War
Last summer, white nationalists rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, purportedly to stop Charlottesville’s government from taking down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. But that statue wasn’t put in place in the aftermath of the Civil War — it was dedicated in 1924, 59 years after the war ended.
And many of the holidays honoring Confederate soldiers were similarly delayed — in Florida, Confederate Memorial Day was first celebrated in 1895, years after the end of the Civil War but coinciding exactly with the height of Jim Crow racism. These holidays and memorials weren’t intended to honor the dead; they were meant to terrify the living — especially black Americans, already subjected to rampant discrimination and violence across the South (and throughout the North too).
As my colleague Libby Nelson wrote in 2015:
The Confederacy itself was founded to preserve slavery and promote white supremacy (see, for example … the speech from the Confederacy’s vice president that declared the Confederacy’s cornerstone “rests upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition”).
The Smithsonian: The Costs of the Confederacy
“With centuries-old trees, manicured lawns, a tidy cemetery and a babbling brook, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library is a marvelously peaceful, green oasis amid the garish casinos, T-shirt shops and other tourist traps on Highway 90 in Biloxi, Mississippi.
One gray October morning, about 650 local schoolchildren on a field trip to Beauvoir, as the home is called, poured out of buses in the parking lot. A few ran to the yard in front of the main building to explore the sprawling live oak whose lower limbs reach across the lawn like massive arms. In the gift shop they perused Confederate memorabilia—mugs, shirts, caps and sundry items, many emblazoned with the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.
It was a big annual event called Fall Muster, so the field behind the library was teeming with re-enactors cast as Confederate soldiers, sutlers and camp followers. A group of fourth graders from D’Iberville, a quarter of them black, crowded around a table heaped with 19th-century military gear. Binoculars. Satchels. Bayonets. Rifles. A portly white man, sweating profusely in his Confederate uniform, loaded a musket and fired, to oohs and aahs.
A woman in a white floor-length dress decorated with purple flowers gathered a group of older tourists on the porch of the “library cottage,” where Davis, by then a living symbol of defiance, retreated in 1877 to write his memoir, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. After a discussion of the window treatments and oil paintings, the other visitors left, and we asked the guide what she could tell us about slavery.
Sometimes children ask about it, she said. “I want to tell them the honest truth, that slavery was good and bad.” While there were some “hateful slave owners,” she said, “it was good for the people that didn’t know how to take care of themselves, and they needed a job, and you had good slave owners like Jefferson Davis, who took care of his slaves and treated them like family. He loved them.”
The subject resurfaced the next day, before a mock battle, when Jefferson Davis—a re-enactor named J.W. Binion—addressed the crowd. “We were all Americans and we fought a war that could have been prevented,” Binion declared. “And it wasn’t fought over slavery, by the way!”
Then cannons boomed, muskets cracked, men fell. The Confederates beat back the Federals. An honor guard in gray fired a deafening volley. It may have been a scripted victory for the Rebels, but it was a genuine triumph for the racist ideology known as the Lost Cause—a triumph made possible by taxpayer money.
We went to Beauvoir, the nation’s grandest Confederate shrine, and to similar sites across the Old South, in the midst of the great debate raging in America over public monuments to the Confederate past. That controversy has erupted angrily, sometimes violently, in Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana and Texas. The acrimony is unlikely to end soon. While authorities in a number of cities—Baltimore, Memphis, New Orleans, among others—have responded by removing Confederate monuments, roughly 700 remain across the South.
To address this explosive issue in a new way, we spent months investigating the history and financing of Confederate monuments and sites. Our findings directly contradict the most common justifications for continuing to preserve and sustain these memorials.
First, far from simply being markers of historic events and people, as proponents argue, these memorials were created and funded by Jim Crow governments to pay homage to a slave-owning society and to serve as blunt assertions of dominance over African-Americans.
Second, contrary to the claim that today’s objections to the monuments are merely the product of contemporary political correctness, they were actively opposed at the time, often by African-Americans, as instruments of white power.
Finally, Confederate monuments aren’t just heirlooms, the artifacts of a bygone era. Instead, American taxpayers are still heavily investing in these tributes today. We have found that, over the past ten years, taxpayers have directed at least $40 million to Confederate monuments—statues, homes, parks, museums, libraries and cemeteries—and to Confederate heritage organizations.
For our investigation, the most extensive effort to capture the scope of public spending on Confederate memorials and organizations, we submitted 175 open records requests to the states of the former Confederacy, plus Missouri and Kentucky, and to federal, county and municipal authorities. We also combed through scores of nonprofit tax filings and public reports. Though we undoubtedly missed some expenditures, we have identified significant public funding for Confederate sites and groups in Mississippi, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee.
In addition, we visited dozens of sites, to document how they represent history and, in particular, slavery: After all, the Confederacy’s founding documents make clear that the Confederacy was established to defend and perpetuate that crime against humanity.
A century and a half after the Civil War, American taxpayers are still helping to sustain the defeated Rebels’ racist doctrine, the Lost Cause. First advanced in 1866 by a Confederate partisan named Edward Pollard, it maintains that the Confederacy was based on a noble ideal, the Civil War was not about slavery, and slavery was benign. “The state is giving the stamp of approval to these Lost Cause ideas, and the money is a symbol of that approval,” Karen Cox, a historian of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said of our findings. “What does that say to black citizens of the state, or other citizens, or to younger generations?”
The public funding of Confederate iconography is also troubling because of its deployment by white nationalists, who have rallied to support monuments in New Orleans, Richmond and Memphis. The deadly protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, where a neo-Nazi rammed his car into counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer, was staged to oppose the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. In 2015, before Dylann Roof opened fire on a Bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine African-Americans, he spent a day touring places associated with the subjugation of black people, including former plantations and a Confederate museum.
“Confederate sites play to the white supremacist imagination,” said Heidi Beirich, who leads the Southern Poverty Law Center’s work tracking hate groups. “They are treated as sacred by white supremacists and represent what this country should be and what it would have been” if the Civil War had not been lost.
Like many of the sites we toured across the South, Beauvoir is privately owned and operated. Its board of directors is made up of members of the Mississippi division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a national organization founded in 1896 and limited to male descendants of “any veteran who served honorably in the Confederate armed forces.” The board handles the money that flows into the institution from visitors, private supporters and taxpayers.
The Mississippi legislature earmarks $100,000 a year for preservation of Beauvoir. In 2014, the organization received a $48,475 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for “protective measures.” As of May 2010, Beauvoir had received $17.2 million in federal and state aid related to damages caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. While nearly half of that money went to renovating historic structures and replacing content, more than $8.3 million funded construction of a new building that contains a museum and library.
When we visited, three times since the fall of 2017, the lavishly appointed library displayed the only acknowledgment of slavery that we could find at the entire 52-acre site, though Davis had owned dozens of black men, women and children before the war: four posters, which portrayed the former slaves Robert Brown, who continued to work for the Davis family after the war, and Benjamin and Isaiah Montgomery, a father and son who were owned by Jefferson’s elder brother, Joseph. Benjamin eventually purchased two of Joseph’s plantations.
The state Department of Archives and History says the money the legislature provides to Beauvoir is allocated for preservation of the building, a National Historic Landmark, not for interpretation. Beauvoir staff members told us that the facility doesn’t deal with slavery because the site’s state-mandated focus is the period Davis lived there, 1877 to 1889, after slavery was abolished.
But this focus is honored only in the breach. The museum celebrates the Confederate soldier in a cavernous hall filled with battle flags, uniforms and weapons. Tour guides and re-enactors routinely denied the realities of slavery in their presentations to visitors. Fall Muster, a highlight of the Beauvoir calendar, is nothing if not a raucous salute to Confederate might.
Thomas Payne, the site’s executive director until this past April, said in an interview that his goal was to make Beauvoir a “neutral educational institution.” For him, that involved countering what he referred to as “political correctness from the national media,” which holds that Southern whites are “an evil repugnant group of ignorant people who fought only to enslave other human beings.” Slavery, he said, “should be condemned. But what people need to know is that most of the people in the South were not slave owners,” and that Northerners also kept slaves. What’s more, Payne went on, “there’s actually evidence where the individual who was enslaved was better off physically and mentally and otherwise.”
The notion that slavery was beneficial to slaves was notably expressed by Jefferson Davis himself, in the posthumously published memoir he wrote at Beauvoir. Enslaved Africans sent to America were “enlightened by the rays of Christianity,” he wrote, and “increased from a few unprofitable savages to millions of efficient Christian laborers. Their servile instincts rendered them contented with their lot….Never was there a happier dependence of labor and capital upon each other.”
That myth, a pillar of the Lost Cause, remains a core belief of neo-Confederates, despite undeniable historic proof of slavery’s brutality. In 1850, the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who had escaped slavery, said, “To talk of kindness entering into a relation in which one party is robbed of wife, of children, of his hard earnings, of home, of friends, of society, of knowledge, and of all that makes this life desirable is most absurd, wicked, and preposterous.”
A few miles off the highway between Montgomery and Birmingham, past trailer homes and cotton fields, are the manicured grounds and arched metal gateways of Confederate Memorial Park. The state of Alabama acquired the property in 1903 as an old-age home for Confederate veterans, their wives and their widows. After the last residents died, the park closed. But in 1964, as civil rights legislation gained steam in Washington, Alabama’s all-white legislature revived the site as a “shrine to the honor of Alabama’s citizens of the Confederacy.”
The day we visited, 16 men in Confederate uniforms drilled in the quiet courtyards. Two women in hoop skirts stood to the side, looking at their cellphones. Though Alabama state parks often face budget cuts—one park had to close all its campsites in 2016—Confederate Memorial Park received some $600,000 that year. In the past decade, the state has allocated more than $5.6 million to the site. The park, which in 2016 served fewer than 40,000 visitors, recently expanded, with replica Civil War barracks completed in 2017.
The museum in the Alabama park attempts a history of the Civil War through the story of the common Confederate soldier, an approach that originated soon after the war and remains popular today. It is tragic that hundreds of thousands of young men died on the battlefield. But the common soldier narrative was forged as a sentimental ploy to divert attention from the scalding realities of secession and slavery—to avoid acknowledging that “there was a right side and a wrong side in the late war,” as Douglass put it in 1878.
The memorial barely mentions black people. On a small piece of card stock, a short entry says “Alabama slaves became an important part of the war’s story in several different ways,” adding that some ran away or joined the Union Army, while others were conscripted to fight for the Confederacy or maintain fortifications. There is a photograph of a Confederate officer, reclining, next to an enslaved black man, also clad in a uniform, who bears an expression that can only be described as dread. Near the end of the exhibit, a lone panel states that slavery was a factor in spurring secession.
These faint nods to historical fact were overpowered by a banner that spanned the front of a log cabin on state property next to the museum: “Many have been taught the war between the states was fought by the Union to eliminate Slavery. THIS VIEW IS NOT SUPPORTED BY THE HISTORICAL EVIDENCE….The Southern States Seceded Because They Resented the Northern States Using Their Numerical Advantage in Congress to Confiscate the Wealth of the South to the Advantage of the Northern States.”
The state has a formal agreement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans to use the cabin as a library. Inside, books about Confederate generals and Confederate history lined the shelves. The South Was Right!, which has been called the neo-Confederate “bible,” lay on a table. The 1991 book’s co-author, Walter Kennedy, helped found the League of the South, a self-identified “Southern nationalist” organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate group. “When we Southerners begin to realize the moral veracity of our cause,” the book says, “we will see it not as a ‘lost cause,’ but as the right cause, a cause worthy of the great struggle yet to come!”
A spokeswoman for the Alabama Historical Commission said she could not explain how the banner on the cabin had been permitted and declined our request to interview the site’s director.
Alabama laws, like those in other former Confederate states, make numerous permanent allocations to advance the memory of the Confederacy. The First White House of the Confederacy, where Jefferson Davis and his family lived at the outbreak of the Civil War, is an Italianate mansion in Montgomery adjacent to the State Capitol. The state chartered the White House Association of Alabama to run the facility, and spent $152,821 in 2017 alone on salaries and maintenance for this monument to Davis—more than $1 million over the last decade—to remind the public “for all time of how pure and great were southern statesmen and southern valor.” That language from 1923 remains on the books.
An hour and a half east of Atlanta by car lies Crawfordville (pop. 600), the seat of Taliaferro County, a majority black county with one of the lowest median household incomes in Georgia. A quarter of the town’s land is occupied by the handsomely groomed, 1,177-acre A.H. Stephens State Park. Since 2011 state taxpayers have given the site $1.1 million. Most of that money is spent on campsites and trails, but as with other Confederate sites that boast recreational facilities—most famously, Stone Mountain, also in Georgia—the A.H. Stephens park was established to venerate Confederate leadership. And it still does.
Alexander Hamilton Stephens is well known for a profoundly racist speech he gave in Savannah in 1861 a month after becoming vice president of the provisional Confederacy. The Confederacy’s “foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
That speech was nowhere in evidence during our visit to the park. It wasn’t in the Confederate museum, which was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy with the support of the state of Georgia in 1952 and displays Confederate firearms and uniforms. It wasn’t among the printed texts authored by Stephens that are placed on tabletops in the former slave quarters for visitors to peruse. And it wasn’t in the plantation house, called Liberty Hall.
Our guide, a state employee, opened the door of a small two-room cabin once occupied by Harry and Eliza—two of the 34 people Stephens held in bondage. The guide pointed to a photograph of the couple on a wall and said Stephens “kept them good, and took care of the people who worked for him.” We went on many tours of the homes of the Confederacy’s staunchest ideologues, and without exception we were told that the owners were good and the slaves were happy.
After the war, Stephens spent a great deal of energy pretending he wasn’t entirely pro-slavery, and he returned to public life as a member of Congress and then as governor. Robert Bonner, a historian at Dartmouth who is at work on a biography of Stephens, said the Stephens memorial maintains the fraud: “The story at Liberty Hall is a direct version of the story Stephens fabricated about himself after the war.”
Half an hour away is the home of Robert Toombs, the Confederacy’s secretary of state and Stephens’ close friend. His house has been recently restored, with state as well as private funds, and Wilkes County has taken over daily operations. In a ground-floor gallery, posters in gilt frames hang below banners that announce the four acts of Toombs’ life: “The Formative Years,” “The Baron of Wilkes County,” “The Premier of the Confederacy” and “Without a Country.” About slavery, nothing.
When asked about that, the docent, a young volunteer, retrieved a binder containing a Works Progress Administration oral history given by Alonza Fantroy Toombs. It begins, “I’se the proudest nigger in de worl’, caze I was a slave belonging to Marse Robert Toombs of Georgia; de grandest man dat ever lived, next to Jesus Christ.”
A more revealing, well-documented story is that of Garland H. White, an enslaved man who escaped Toombs’ ownership just before the Civil War and fled to Ontario. After the war erupted he heroically risked his freedom to join the United States Colored Troops. He served as an Army chaplain and traveled to recruit African-American soldiers. We found no mention at the Toombs memorial of White’s experience. In fact, we know of no monument to White in all of Georgia.
An average of $18,000 in county monies each year since 2011, plus $80,000 in state renovation funds in 2017 alone, have been devoted to this memorial to Toombs, who refused to take the oath of allegiance to the United States after the war and fled to Cuba and France to avoid arrest. Upon his return to Georgia, Toombs labored to circumscribe the freedom of African-Americans. “Give us a convention,” Toombs said in 1876, “and I will fix it so that the people shall rule and the Negro shall never be heard from.” The following year he got that convention, which passed a poll tax and other measures to disenfranchise black men.
It’s difficult to imagine that all the Confederate monuments and historic sites dotting the landscape today would have been established if African-Americans had had a say in the matter.
Historically, the installation of Confederate monuments went hand in hand with the disenfranchisement of black people. The historical record suggests that monument-building peaked during three pivotal periods: from the late 1880s into the 1890s, as Reconstruction was being crushed; from the 1900s through the 1920s, with the rise of the second Ku Klux Klan, the increase in lynching and the codification of Jim Crow; and in the 1950s and 1960s, around the centennial of the war but also in reaction to advances in civil rights. An observation by the Yale historian David Blight, describing a “Jim Crow reunion” at Gettysburg, captures the spirit of Confederate monument-building, when “white supremacy might be said to have been the silent, invisible, master of ceremonies.”
Yet courageous black leaders did speak out, right from the start. In 1870, Douglass wrote, “Monuments to the ‘lost cause’ will prove monuments of folly … in the memories of a wicked rebellion which they must necessarily perpetuate…It is a needless record of stupidity and wrong.”
In 1931, W.E.B. Du Bois criticized even simple statues erected to honor Confederate leaders. “The plain truth of the matter,” Du Bois wrote, “would be an inscription something like this: ‘sacred to the memory of those who fought to Perpetuate Human Slavery.’”
In 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. joined a voting rights rally in Grenada, Mississippi, at the Jefferson Davis monument, where, earlier that day, an organizer named Robert Green declared, “We want brother Jefferson Davis to know the Mississippi he represented, the South he represented, will never stand again.”
In today’s debates about the public display of Confederate symbols, the strong objections of early African-American critics are seldom remembered, perhaps because they had no impact on (white) officeholders at the time. But the urgent black protests of the past now have the ring of prophecy.
John Mitchell Jr., an African-American, was a journalist and a member of Richmond’s city council during Reconstruction. Like his friend and colleague Ida B. Wells, Mitchell was born into slavery, and spent much of his career documenting lynchings and campaigning against them; also like Wells, he was personally threatened with lynching.
Arguing fiercely against spending public money to memorialize the Confederacy, Mitchell took aim at the movement to erect a grand Robert E. Lee statue, and tried to block funding for the proposed statue’s dedication ceremony. But a white conservative majority steamrolled Mitchell and the two other black council members, and the Lee statue was unveiled on May 29, 1890. Gov. Fitzhugh Lee, a nephew of Lee and a former Confederate general himself, was president of the Lee Monument Association, which executed the project. Virginia issued bonds to support its construction. The city of Richmond funded Dedication Day events, attended by some 150,000 people.
Mitchell covered the celebration for the Richmond Planet, the paper he edited. “This glorification of States Rights Doctrine—the right of secession, and the honoring of men who represented that cause,” he wrote, “fosters in the Republic, the spirit of Rebellion and will ultimately result in the handing down to generations unborn a legacy of treason and blood.”
In the past decade, Virginia has spent $174,000 to maintain the Lee statue, which has become a lightning rod for the larger controversy. In 2017, Richmond police spent some $500,000 to guard the monument and keep the peace during a neo-Confederate protest there.
In 1902, several years after nearly every African-American elected official was driven from office in Virginia, and as blacks were being systematically purged from voter rolls, the state’s all-white legislature established an annual allocation for the care of Confederate graves. Over time, we found, that spending has totaled roughly $9 million in today’s dollars.
Treating the graves of Confederate soldiers with dignity might not seem like a controversial endeavor. But the state has refused to extend the same dignity to the African-American men and women whom the Confederacy fought to keep enslaved. Black lawmakers have long pointed out this blatant inequity. In 2017, the legislature finally passed the Historical African American Cemeteries and Graves Act, which is meant to address the injustice. Still, less than $1,000 has been spent so far, and while a century of investment has kept Confederate cemeteries in rather pristine condition, many grave sites of the formerly enslaved and their descendants are overgrown and in ruins.
Significantly, Virginia disburses public funding for Confederate graves directly to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which distributes it to, among others, local chapters of the UDC and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Since 2009, Virginia taxpayers have sent more than $800,000 to the UDC.
The UDC, a women’s Confederate heritage group with thousands of members in 18 states and the District of Columbia, is arguably the leading advocate for Confederate memorials, and it has a history of racist propagandizing. One of the organization’s most influential figures was Mildred Lewis Rutherford, of Athens, Georgia, a well-known speaker and writer at the turn of the 20th century and the UDC’s historian general from 1911 to 1916.
Rutherford was so devoted to restoring the racial hierarchies of the past that she traveled the country in full plantation regalia spreading the “true history,” she called it, which cast slave owners and Klansmen as heroes. She pressured public schools and libraries across the South to accept materials that advanced Lost Cause mythology, including pro-Klan literature that referred to black people as “ignorant and brutal.” At the center of her crusade was the belief that slaves had been “the happiest set of people on the face of the globe,” “well-fed, well-clothed, and well-housed.” She excoriated the Freedmen’s Bureau, a federal agency charged with protecting the rights of African-Americans, and argued that emancipation had unleashed such violence by African-Americans that “the Ku Klux Klan was necessary to protect the white woman.”
UDC officials did not respond to our interview requests. Previously, though, the organization has disavowed any links to hate groups, and in 2017 the president-general, Patricia Bryson, released a statement saying the UDC “totally denounces any individual or group that promotes racial divisiveness or white supremacy.”
Confederate cemeteries in Virginia that receive taxpayer funds handled by the UDC are nonetheless used as gathering places for groups with extreme views. One afternoon last May, we attended the Confederate Memorial Day ceremony in the Confederate section of the vast Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond. We were greeted by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Virginia Flaggers, a group that says its mission is to “stand AGAINST those who would desecrate our Confederate Monuments and memorials, and FOR our Confederate Veterans.”
An honor guard of re-enactors presented an array of Confederate standards. Participants stood at attention for an invocation read by a chaplain in period dress. They put their hands on their hearts, in salute to the Confederate flag. Susan Hathaway, a member of the Virginia Flaggers, led the crowd of several dozen in a song that was once the official paean to the Commonwealth:
Carry me back to old Virginny,
There’s where the cotton and the corn and taters grow,
There’s where the birds warble sweet in the springtime,
There’s where this old darkey’s heart am long’d to go.
“Very little has been done to address the legacy of slavery and its meaning in contemporary life.”
That scathing assessment of the nation’s unwillingness to face the truth was issued recently by the Equal Justice Initiative, the Montgomery-based legal advocacy group that in April 2018 opened the first national memorial to victims of lynching.
A few Confederate historical sites, though, are showing signs of change. In Richmond, the American Civil War Center and the Museum of the Confederacy have joined forces to become the American Civil War Museum, now led by an African-American CEO, Christy Coleman. The new entity, she said, seeks to tell the story of the Civil War from multiple perspectives—the Union and the Confederacy, free and enslaved African-Americans—and to take on the distortions and omissions of Confederate ideology.
“For a very, very long time” the Lost Cause has dominated public histories of the Civil War, Coleman told us in an interview. “Once it was framed, it became the course for everything. It was the accepted narrative.” In a stark comparison, she noted that statues of Hitler and Goebbels aren’t scattered throughout Germany, and that while Nazi concentration camps have been made into museums, “they don’t pretend that they were less horrible than they actually were. And yet we do that to America’s concentration camps. We call them plantations, and we talk about how grand everything was, and we talk about the pretty dresses that women wore, and we talk about the wealth, and we refer to the enslaved population as servants as if this is some benign institution.”
Stratford Hall, the Virginia plantation where Robert E. Lee was born, also has new leadership. Kelley Deetz, a historian and archaeologist who co-edited a paper titled “Historic Black Lives Matter: Archaeology as Activism in the 21st Century,” was hired in June as the site’s first director of programming and education. Stratford Hall, where 31 people were enslaved as of 1860, is revising how it presents slavery. The recent shocking violence in Charlottesville, Deetz said, was speeding up “the slow pace of dealing with these kinds of sensitive subjects.” She said, “I guarantee you that in a year or less, you go on a tour here and you’re going to hear about enslavement.”
In 1999, Congress took the extraordinary step of advising the National Park Service to re-evaluate its Civil War sites and do a better job of explaining “the unique role that slavery played in the cause of the conflict.” But vestiges of the Lost Cause still haunt park property. In rural Northern Virginia, in the middle of a vast lawn, stands a small white clapboard house with a long white chimney—the Stonewall Jackson Shrine, part of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. The Confederate general died in the house in May 1863. “The tendency for the park historically has been to invite people to mourn Jackson’s death,” John Hennessy, the park’s chief historian, told us. He believes that the site should be more than a shrine, however. Visitors, Hennessey said, should learn that Jackson “led an army in a rebellion in the service of a nation that intended to keep people in bondage forever.” He went on, “The greatest enemy to good public history is omission. We are experiencing as a society now the collateral damage that forgetting can inflict.”
A park ranger sitting in the gift shop rose to offer us a practiced talk that focused reverently on Jackson’s final days—the bed he slept on, the clock that still keeps time. The ranger said a “servant,” Jim Lewis, had stayed with Jackson in the small house as he lay dying. A plaque noted the room where Jackson’s white staff slept. But there was no sign in the room across the hall where Lewis stayed. Hennessy had recently removed it because it failed to acknowledge that Lewis was enslaved. Hennessy is working on a replacement. Slavery, for the moment, was present only in the silences.
During the Fall Muster at Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis home, we met Stephanie Brazzle, a 39-year-old African-American Mississippian who had accompanied her daughter, a fourth grader, on a field trip. It was Brazzle’s first visit. “I always thought it was a place that wasn’t for us,” she said. Brazzle had considered keeping her daughter home, but decided against it. “I really do try to keep an open mind. I wanted to be able to talk to her about it.”
Brazzle walked the Beauvoir grounds all morning. She stood behind her daughter’s school group as they listened to re-enactors describe life in the Confederacy. She waited for some mention of the enslaved, or of African-Americans after emancipation. “It was like we were not even there,” she said, as if slavery “never happened.”
“I was shocked at what they were saying, and what wasn’t there,” she said. It’s not that Brazzle, who teaches psychology, can’t handle historic sites related to slavery. She can, and she wants her daughter, now 10, to face that history, too. She has taken her daughter to former plantations where the experience of enslaved people is a part of the interpretation. “She has to know what these places are,” Brazzle said. “My grandmother, whose grandparents were slaves, she told stories. We black people acknowledge that this is our history. We acknowledge that this still affects us.”
The overarching question is whether American taxpayers should support Lost Cause mythology. For now, that invented history, told by Confederates and retold by sympathizers for generations, is etched into the experience at sites like Beauvoir. In the well-kept Confederate cemetery behind the library, beyond a winding brook, beneath the flagpole, a large gray headstone faces the road. It is engraved with lines that the English poet Philip Stanhope Worsley dedicated to Robert E. Lee:
“No nation rose so white and fair, none fell so pure of crime.”
The Guardian: Pain and terror: America remembers its past
The Birth of a Written US Black History
The History of Black History Month
History is a Weapon: The Mis-Education of the Negro
“In 1933 the author and historian, Carter Godwin Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History Month.” wrote a book called, “The Mis-Education of the Negro” in which he studies how the US Eurocentric education system, which teaches black students to think of themselves as inferior, invisible, and detestable, hinders them throughout the rest of their lives. Sadly, much of what Woodson describes is still relevant today.
“The most imperative and crucial element in Woodson’s concept of mis-education hinged on the education system’s failure to present authentic Negro History in schools and the bitter knowledge that there was a scarcity of literature available for such a purpose, because most history books gave little or no space to the black man’s presence in America. Some of them contained casual references to Negroes but these generally depicted them in menial, subordinate roles, more or less sub-human. Such books stressed their good fortune at having been exposed, through slavery, to the higher (white man’s) civilization. There were included derogatory statements relating to the primitive, heathenish quality of the African background, but nothing denoting skills, abilities, contributions or potential in the image of the Blacks, in Africa or America. Woodson considered this state of affairs deplorable, an American tragedy, dooming the Negro to a brain-washed acceptance of the inferior role assigned to him by the dominant race, and absorbed by him through his schooling.
Moreover, the neglect of Afro-American History and distortion of the facts concerning Negroes in most history books, deprived the black child and his whole race of a heritage, and relegated him to nothingness and nobodyness.”
In 1926 Carter Godwin Woodson created “Negro History Week” to expose black children to a black history beyond the dominated Eurocentric viewpoint. In 1970 this week was converted to a Black History Month, recognized in all schools nationwide. Although this month does a great deal to expose children to histories beyond the Eurocentric viewpoint, the US school system remains predominately in this Eurocentric system.”
A World Without Black History | Decoded | MTV News
The Emergence of Radical Historians and New Social Scientists
In 1960-70s a new movement of “radical historians” and new academic social scientists, created new studies and academic fields about histories, social sciences, and perspectives outside the tradition Eurocentric education system. They started looking at History not from the “top-down” perspective from conquerors, dominating classes and Eurocentric races, and but a “bottom-up” perspective from oppressed people, slaves, indigenous people, labor, women, etc.
“I am speaking of “Black Studies,” which, starting about 1969, began to be adopted with great speed in the nation’s universities. These multiplying Black Studies programs do not pretend to just introduce another subject for academic inquiry. They have the specific intention of so affecting the consciousness of black and white people in this country as to diminish for both groups the pervasive American belief in black inferiority.”
This radical history and expanding social science movement, which is still growing today, has significantly impacted access to education beyond the Eurocentric perspective, forced the US Eurocentric school system to open up to more perspectives and many would argue has help fuel political and social change in the US. Nevertheless the US school system is still predominately structured in the Eurocentric system and is often still a tool to explicitly and implicitly teach non-white inferiority.”
Howard Zinn’s Speech on Writing “The People’s History of the United States
Critical Race Theory
Wikipedia: Critical Race Theory
“Critical race theory (CRT) is a theoretical framework in the social sciences that uses critical theory to examine society and culture as they relate to categorizations of race, law, and power. It began as a theoretical movement within American law schools in the mid- to late 1980s an offshoot of critical legal studies and is loosely unified by two common themes:
- First, CRT proposes that white supremacy and racial power are maintained over time, and in particular, that the law may play a role in this process.
- Second, CRT work has investigated the possibility of transforming the relationship between law and racial power, and more broadly, pursues a project of achieving racial emancipation and anti-subordination.
Scholars important to the theory include Derrick Bell, Patricia Williams, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, and Mari Matsuda. By 2002, over 20 American law schools and at least three law schools in other countries offered critical race theory courses or classes which covered the issue centrally. Critical race theory is taught and innovated in the fields of education, political science, women’s studies, ethnic studies, and American studies…
…According to the UCLA School of Public Affairs:
CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color.
Legal scholar Roy L. Brooks has defined CRT as “a collection of critical stances against the existing legal order from a race-based point of view”, and says
it focuses on the various ways in which the received tradition in law adversely affects people of color not as individuals but as a group. Thus, CRT attempts to analyze law and legal traditions through the history, contemporary experiences, and racial sensibilities of racial minorities in this country. The question always lurking in the background of CRT is this: What would the legal landscape look like today if people of color were the decision-makers?
Dismantling Racism: What is Racism?
- Racism is ordinary, the “normal” way that society does business, the “common, everyday” experience of most People of Color in this country.
- Racism serves the interests of both white people in power (the elites) materially and working class white people psychically, and therefore neither group has much incentive to fight it.
- Race and races are social and political constructs, categories that society invents and manipulates when convenient. In reality our differences as human beings are dwarfed by what we have in common and have little or nothing to do with personality, intelligence, and morality.
- Society chooses to ignore this and assigns characteristics to whole groups of people in order to advance the idea of race and the superiority of whiteness.
- The power elite racializes different groups at different times to achieve their economic agenda, continually and repeatedly prioritizing profit over people.
Charity Croff: Was American Ever Great?
The 21st Century Textbook Fight
Today the battle for what we teach and from what historic perspective its taught, is often fought not among scholars, historians or social scientists, but this fight is often decided in state boards of education in large states, who have the power to influence trends in a competitive private textbook market.
Texas School Board Rewriting History for Entire Country
Texas is one of the largest school text book purchaser in the country. This causes text book companies to adapt their text books sold and used nationwide to Texas state school curriculum to entice Texas to buy their textbooks. The Texas State Board of Education, who gets to vote on Texas state education, is often driven by political conservatives, Christian evangelicals, the Tea Party, and Creationists who are pushing for standards and approving textbooks that teach a variety of things including:
- Referring to slaves as workers
- Categorizes the Atlantic slave trade under patterns of immigration stating, “The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations”
- Downplays the role of slavery in the Civil War
- Students in Texas are required to read the speech Jefferson Davis gave when he was inaugurated president of the Confederate States of America, an address that does not mention slavery. But students are not required to read a famous speech by Alexander Stephens, Davis’s vice president, in which he explained that the South’s desire to preserve slavery was the cornerstone of its new government and “the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.”
- Removes Ku Klux Klan or Jim Crow laws from the Civil Rights section
- Containing false information regarding climate change and ozone depletion
- Suggests some segregated schools were pretty equal for black and white children
- Negatively portraying Muslims stating:
- The growth of all international terrorism is caused by Islamic fundamentalism.
- Islam contributed little to ancient knowledge.
- Muslims spread their faith through violent conquest, but Christians did not engage in violent conquest.
- Suggests space aliens would love to come to America because then they could take advantage of affirmative action.
- Provides false information regarding climate change and ozone depletion
- Includes sentiments of the Heartland Institute, a conservative advocacy group funded in part by the Koch brothers, which denies human-driven climate change
- Downplays Evolution and attempted to remove Darwin
- States Moses played a role in the writing of the U.S. Constitution
- Claims the Constitution does not include the words “separation between church and state”
- The government’s role in the economy should be restricted solely to protecting the free market
- Americans are taxed so much that it’s reasonable to joke that the government takes all of their money
*See “Learn More” Section for sources
Its not just Texas too. Conservatives in Jefferson County, Colorado, recently took over their school board and announced they are forming a curriculum committee to review US History education standards. According to the committee description, “materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.” The board member leading the charge is Julie Williams, a graduate of Front Range Community College in Westminster, Colorado, who works as the manager of a dental office. “We shouldn’t be encouraging our kids to think that America is a bad place,’’
The Nightly Show – Don’t Mess with Tex Books
According to a Washington Post Article,
” For decades, some Southerners have emphasized states’ rights as the cause of the war. Nearly half of Americans — 48 percent — believe that states’ rights was the main cause of the war, compared to 38 percent who said the main cause was slavery, according to a 2011 Pew Research Center survey…
…“If you don’t know about the Civil War, and you don’t know about things like slavery, then you wouldn’t really be able to understand why our society is the way it is today,” Cevallos said…
…James W. Loewen , a sociologist who wrote the best-selling book “Lies My Teacher Told Me ,” says textbooks perpetuate myths about the Civil War in order to avoid offending state textbook-adoption panels. Nineteen states, including almost all of those in the South, adopt textbooks at the state level, according to the Association of American Publishers.”
Check out the Daily Show Clip “Don’t Mess With Textbooks” on the influence of textbooks from Texas State Board of Education and their influence on textbooks
Arizona Ethnic Studies Battle
According to Wikipedia:
“The Mexican American Studies Department Programs provided courses to students at various elementary, middle, and high schools within the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). The program sought to provide students with culturally relevant material taught in schools as well as a community in which they could thrive while readying the students to be leaders.
The Mexican American Studies Department Programs in the Tucson Unified School District came into existence in 1998. The department began offering just a few classes, but in more recent years was able to offer about 43 classes. Students were able to take these courses at elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the district. The program was shown to raise graduation rates. Students achieved highly, with a dropout rate of only 2.5% for Latino students enrolled in MAS compared to 56% nationally. The program was banned by a state law passed in 2010, but has been revived to a certain extent by various court rulings.
About 1500 students were enrolled in the program. According to an audit conducted by Cambium Learning, the racial breakdown of the students was 90% Hispanic, 5% White/Anglo, 2% Native American, 1.5% African American, and about 0.5% Asian American and Multi-Racial.
Vision and Goals
The purpose of the classes was to enable students to have a community centered around learning, specifically learning that helps students to be leaders and understand and appreciate Mexican American history, both past and present. The goals were to have culturally relevant curriculum that can be related to social justice work. Another goal was that students would be able to be socially conscious and think critically.
In the English Journal article “Developing Critical Consciousness: Resistance literature in a Chicano Literature class” Curtis Acosta, the teacher and creator of the Mexican American Studies curriculum, outlines the class curriculum he used.:36 The classes in Chicano Studies/Literature could be taken instead of American History and Junior high school English.:36–37 The curriculum used in the junior class of the program is based on indigenous philosophy using the Xicano paradigm.:37 This paradigm has four key concepts Tezkatlipoka, Quetzalkoatl, Huitzilopochtli, and Xipe Totek.:37–38 Tezkatlipoka is a concept about self reflection and finding one’s inner self.:37 Quetzalkoatl is learning one’s history and how that shapes who someone is.:37 Huitzilopochtli is based on the will to act and be “positive, progressive, and creative”.:37–38 Xipe Totek is the concept of being able to reshape one’s self and be renew.:38 Acosta states that the senior year high school classes follow the same paradigm and expand on it to incorporate more of a social justice aspect that relate specifically to “challenging mainstream assumptions and stereotypes”.:38 Acosta states that the most important part of the curriculum is the “ability to loop with the same students in successive years”.:41 The use of this curriculum Acosta expresses “is crucial for students to…discover their humanity and academic identity”.:37 Also as part of the curriculum, students were required to go to community events. Additionally, the teachers tried to engage and collaborate with parents.
The classes offered for High School students through the Mexican American Studies Department were American Government/Social Justice Education Project, American History/Mexican American Perspectives, Art Beginning and Art Advanced- Chicana/o Art, and Latino Literature. These classes involved analyzing government, researching problems that students face in school and coming up with solutions that were then presented to policy makers. Additionally, students engaged with history that included a variety of experiences, perspectives, and contributions, specifically those of Mexican Americans, that often were left out of other United States history courses. Art skills were developed while using content for artwork based around social justice issues. Students were encouraged to be active learners by engaging with literature through discussion, projects, writings, and readings.
On May 11, 2010, the governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, signed into law Arizona House Bill 2281. This law, written by Tom Horne who at the time was Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, made it illegal for schools to teach classes that are intended for any given ethnic group, go against another ethnic group, or advocate for overthrowing the government of the United States. Additionally, ethnic solidarity, as opposed to individuality, could not be taught in accordance with the bill. The bill was originally written with the intention to end the Mexican American Studies Department programs. The consequence for school districts of not following this law was that they could lose 10% of their funding. The bill came into effect on January 1, 2011. Tom Horne, who at the time was the attorney general of Arizona, said that the program was not in accordance with the law. However, the Tucson Unified School District decided against ending the program. On December 27, 2011, the court found that the Mexican American Studies Department Programs were not in accordance with the law. Then, on January 10, 2012, the school board voted to end the Mexican American Studies courses. Additionally, seven books were taken out of the schools, as they were deemed during the case on December 27, 2011 to be in conflict with the law.
Consequences of HB 2281
In 2012, the school district decided to bring about the Mexican American Student Services. These services do not involve classes, but rather help address the achievement gap for Latino students. Students and teachers who had been a part of the Mexican American Studies Department Programs appealed the ruling that the program should be eliminated. In July 2013, a federal court decided that culturally relevant courses should be in place in the TUSD, specifically Mexican American Studies and African American Studies, in order to comply with desegregation. On October 22, 2013, the school board voted to allow the seven books to be taught in the schools again. As of May 2013, TUSD students can study Mexican American Studies through a class called CLASS (Chicano Literature, Art and Social Studies) offered at a college in Tucson. The students can earn college credit and can take the class for free.
Students who had participated in the Mexican American Studies Department classes brought a lawsuit against the officials who had gotten rid of the program. Oral arguments were heard in January 12, 2015, and a ruling on the case by the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit came out in July 7 of that year. This ruling stated that the law banning ethnic studies classes in Arizona is not broad and vague as plaintiffs argued. However, the ongoing case was also sent to the lower Arizona district court in Tucson. This move to the lower court was due to enough evidence present that the law was “motivated at least in part by a discriminatory intent”.
On August 22, 2017 Judge A. Wallace Tashima ruled that the Arizona school district had violated the students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by eliminating the Mexican American Studies Program in Tucson’s public schools. Because the ban of the Mexican American studies program had deprived the students from acquiring certain knowledge, Judge Tashima found the Tucson school district had interfered with the students’ First Amendment right. . The judge further ruled that former superintendent Tom Horne, who initiated the campaign to remove the program, along with other school officials were motivated by racial bias and thereby violated the students’ Fourteenth Amendment right .
Books Banned Due to HB 2281
The following books were not allowed to be taught in classes due to HB2281:
- 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures by Elizabeth Martinez
- Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado
- Message to Aztlán: Selected Writings of Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez by Rodolfo Gonzales
- Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales
- Rethinking Columbus by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
- The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales
- Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Peña
These books were banned because of their alleged radically anti-American worldviews and their generally racist sentiment against Americans of White European heritage. HB 2281 did not ban these books from the school library system nor did it ban students and teachers from discussing topics such as White Privilege or Latino succession from the United States. HB 2281 does ban any organized curriculum that specifically promotes any racial ideology.”
VICE: An Ethnic Studies Program Sued The Lawmakers That Banned It
“In 1957, Fred Eichelman began teaching seventh-grade history in Roanoke County. He was using a shiny new state-commissioned textbook.
It wasn’t long before Eichelman and even some students noticed some peculiarities.
The textbook said slaves were happy, often referring to them as servants. It glorified Confederates. And it said precious little about women beyond Martha Washington and Pocahontas.
“It makes you wonder how we got so many Virginians, with so few women,” quipped Eichelman, now 82.
The book was “Virginia: History, Government, Geography,” and it was one of a trio of state-commissioned texts – the others were for fourth grade and high school – that taught Confederate-friendly “Lost Cause” ideas to a generation of Virginians and cast the state’s segregationist political leaders in a favorable light.
If you were a Virginian between fourth and 11th grades from 1957 to the 1970s, you may well have gotten a dose of this official state history. The books were estimated to reach more than a million students.
Why care about 50-year-old textbooks?
“The ideas expressed in the books, historically unfounded as many of them may be, are still widespread today. They crop up in the debate over Confederate monuments and in other realms of life,” said Melvin Patrick Ely, a Bancroft Prize-winning historian at the College of William & Mary who focuses on African-Americans and the South.
As the civil rights movement intensified in the 1960s, the textbooks began to draw heavy criticism, largely for their depictions of slaves and post-Civil War African-Americans. Among other things, “Cavalier Commonwealth,” the high school book, said a slave “did not work so hard as the average free laborer, since he did not have to worry about losing his job.”
In another example of unexpected historical happiness, the seventh-grade book said contact between English settlers and Virginia’s Indians resulted in “a better life for both the settlers and the Indians.”
One common thread of the books was adulation of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“General Lee was a handsome man” who “sat straight and firm in his saddle,” said the fourth-grade text, “Virginia’s History.” It added that Lee’s horse, Traveller, “stepped proudly, as if he knew that he carried a great general.”
State officials and legislators oversaw the writing of the books in the 1950s, when Virginia’s political landscape was dominated by the segregationist Byrd organization, the Democratic power structure named for then-U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Sr.
A central theme of the books was the Lost Cause, a narrative – considered mostly mythical by historians – that holds that slaves were content and that Virginia could have dealt with slavery on its own if not for meddling Northerners whose actions led to the Civil War.
When the books were being developed, the Byrd organization was worried about some new unpleasantness: the civil rights policies of President Harry S. Truman.
There is a clear connection, said Adam W. Dean, a Lynchburg College historian who specializes in slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction: The Byrd organization wanted to tell a new generation that Virginians were justified – in the mid-1800s and again in the mid-1900s – in wanting to handle race-related issues on their own.
“Segregationists in very high offices in the state thought that they could use the Lost Cause version of the Civil War to support segregation,” said Dean, who wrote about the textbooks in a 2009 edition of the Virginia Historical Society’s scholarly “Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.”
Dean added: “I think (those overseeing creation of the textbooks) believed this history. They didn’t view themselves as lying to people.”
Debate over the textbooks began almost immediately and even continues today.
On Amazon.com, where the seventh-grade book is rare enough to sell for more than $100, one reviewer who used the text as a young teacher said: “This book was both informative and correct in how the history was presented. I am not racist and never have been. All slaves were not mistreated. … My classes were integrated, and there were absolutely no problems using this textbook.”
Another reviewer recalled the book “as very racist and somewhat sexist.”
She added that when she got a copy in adulthood, “I subjected my husband and adult children to dramatic readings,” such as: “Enslaved people were happy to be in Virginia and were better off than they would have been in Africa. Abolitionists lied about slavery in the South. … After the Civil War, carpetbaggers and scalawags came down to Virginia to oppress white Virginians. However, some ‘broad-minded’ Northerners came to understand and appreciate true Virginia and came to agree that Negroes were not ready to govern themselves.”
For very different reasons, both readers gave the book five stars.
Virginia’s post-World-War II political leaders felt that children were largely ignorant of state history. Dean added that many politicians feared that Communists were making inroads in the state.
These lawmakers thought that requiring schoolteachers to promote the Byrd organization’s view of history would set students straight and keep teachers from spreading socialist or communist ideas.
The General Assembly created the Virginia History and Government Textbook Commission in 1950 to oversee the writing of the three books. Gov. John S. Battle appointed the commission’s seven members, which included politicians, historians and educators.
Its chairman was Del. Cecil W. Taylor of Lynchburg, a Democrat with close ties to the Byrd organization, according to former teacher Eichelman, whose 1975 Virginia Tech doctoral dissertation in social studies supervision focused on the textbook controversy.
Each book had multiple authors, chosen by the publishers upon approval by the textbook commission. The authors included historians and teachers.
As the authors prepared drafts of the books, commission members suggested numerous changes, seeking to instill what Taylor called a “Virginia spirit” – a term that was never defined but that clearly included salutes to the Lost Cause narrative and the Byrd organization.
“As the commissioners slogged through draft after draft of the textbooks – over the course of four years – they grew increasingly contemptuous of the authors, who seemed unable or unwilling to produce manuscripts that reflected the proper ‘Virginia spirit,'” Carol Sheriff, another William & Mary historian, wrote in a 2012 study.
At one point, textbook commission members debated among themselves whether to use the word “stalemate” to describe the landmark Battle of Gettysburg, which halted Confederate advances in the North and forced Lee to retreat to Virginia from Pennsylvania.
Ultimately, Gettysburg was indeed labeled a defeat. Still, the seventh-grade book said that after the Confederate victory at Cold Harbor 11 months later: “Lee was still undefeated!”
There apparently also were debates over what to call that war between North and South. In the seventh-grade textbook, it’s the War Between the States – a term favored by Lost Cause adherents, Dean said, because it indicates that Southern states had the right to secede.
In the high school book, the war is not named. But a key chapter in “Cavalier Commonwealth” is titled “Defense Against Invasion, 1861-1865.”
The books didn’t ignore slavery in their lead-ins to the Civil War, but there was also a lot of talk of states’ rights and other issues. As Dean noted, most historians today believe “slavery caused the war, and the purpose of the Confederacy was to create a slave-holding republic.”
Disputes over how to portray state history in “Cavalier Commonwealth” grew so heated that the textbook commission removed Longwood College professor Marvin W. Schlegel from his role as lead author. A Richmond Times-Dispatch article from the era said the commission felt that Schlegel, who was born in Pennsylvania, did not adequately reflect the Southern viewpoint.
Schlegel still retained an author credit, but he was replaced by W. Edwin Hemphill, a historian at the Virginia State Library. Hemphill ran into his own problems when he and co-author Sadie E. Engelberg, a Richmond history teacher, wanted to include an in-depth section on Massive Resistance – Virginia’s campaign, beginning in 1956, against federally required school desegregation.
Massive Resistance never made it into the book, although one paragraph mentioned the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring school segregation unconstitutional.
“A reader of the textbook would not be aware that any controversy existed over integration if this were his only source of information,” Eichelman wrote in his dissertation.
Hemphill said in The Times-Dispatch article: “At times I went farther than I wanted to on the Southern viewpoint, but I felt the good of the book as a whole was worth it.”
After some early critics accused the fourth-grade book of peddling myths, one of the seventh-grade book’s authors, Williamsburg teacher Spotswood Hunnicutt Jones, defended creative storytelling.
“To explode the Pocahontas legend would be much like saying there is no Santa Claus,” Jones said in a 1958 speech.
The textbooks were shipped to schools across Virginia in 1957, two years behind schedule. Some black educators took issue with them almost from the start, but criticism from parents, educators and news organizations expanded in the 1960s.
In 1966, a piece in The Washington Post said the books presented “a magnolia-scented adaptation of Camelot” with “more romance than history.”
A major point of contention was the depiction of content, well-cared-for slaves – a notion that persists today.
What was the truth? William & Mary’s Ely said that on one end of the spectrum – on exceedingly rare occasions – a master took an enslaved woman as his de facto wife, brought her to live with him in the “big house” and sent the couple’s mixed-race children to schools in the North.
On the other end of the spectrum, Ely said, were sadistic owners who tortured and even murdered slaves, with little response from authorities. Those also represented a minority of owner-slave relationships, but a larger one.
Ely said that in the vast middle were owners, almost all of whom – while not sadistic – resorted to whipping and other punishments, kept slaves in degrading conditions, frequently engaged in sexual exploitation, and often broke up slave families.
“Even slave owners who wanted to keep families together often weren’t in a position to do so” because of debts and other issues, Ely said. His own research turned up instances in Virginia of children as young as 3 or 4 being taken from their parents and sold.
Enslaved people did in fact sing, tell folktales, worship God and do other things that brought them comfort and pleasure, developing a rich culture despite their bondage, Ely said.
Lynchburg’s Dean said slavery “was brutal, even though masters liked to talk about how their slaves loved them and how they were family. I think in their heart of hearts, they knew that wasn’t true. The institution depended on brute force and the law to remain intact.”
The fourth-grade book was highlighted in the 2007 memoir “Dream Not of Other Worlds,” by the late Huston Diehl, about teaching in the all-black Morton Elementary School in Louisa County in 1970. The white woman, then 21, had never lived in the South.
“I understood how crazy, how wrong it was to ask my students to read a history that endorsed the very Confederacy that fought to keep their people enslaved,” Diehl wrote.
Years later, she found a copy of the book and was surprised to see that it was published in 1956.
“I had always assumed it must have been written in the 1930s or 1940s, not … when the modern civil rights movement was seriously challenging Jim Crow,” Diehl wrote.
After a six-year run, the textbook commission disbanded shortly before the textbooks went to schools in 1957.
The GOP’s Linwood Holton became governor in 1970, and his administration clamped down on the books. They were allowed to be phased out, however, and some were still in use in the late 1970s.
Today, local school systems design their own history curricula, which have to adhere to state standards, said state Department of Education spokesman Charles B. Pyle. Textbooks are reviewed by teachers and other experts. The state superintendent of public instruction recommends textbooks for approval based on those reviews.
It’s unclear how much young Virginians retained from those earlier state-commissioned histories. What is clear is that many baby boomers got heavy doses of the Lost Cause narrative from these books, as well as from popular culture and other sources.
William & Mary’s Ely, 65, studied from the fourth- and the seventh-grade books while attending the old Westhampton School in Richmond. “I think the books are as much a symptom as they are a vector for the misconceptions we may have,” he said.
In her study, William & Mary’s Sheriff said the three textbooks and the controversy they spawned have not faded from memory.
“I have been struck by the number of people who, when they have seen my copies of the state-commissioned Virginia histories, have remarked that they remember them from their childhoods,” she said.
On a recent day in Richmond, two middle-aged women strolled down Monument Avenue to get a close-up look at the 61-foot-tall memorial to Lee. The women chatted pleasantly with two strangers, and then the talk turned to the cause of the Civil War.
It was about secession, not slavery, one of the women said.
Confident in her view, she added: “People need to learn their history.””
Horrible People Recognized in History as Great People
In order to learn from our mistakes, heal and create a better world we must be honest with our history. Follow the link below to learn about many historic figures that have committed horrible crimes against humanity but are generally regarded in History as great people.
Wear Your Voice: The Racist Roots of Gynecology & What Black Women Birthed
The Atlantic: The Myth of the Kindly General Lee
NY Times: How Texas Teaches History
History is a Weapon: The Mis-Education of the Negro
The Guardian: Top 10 books of radical history
Biography: Carter G. Woodson
History is a Weapon: What is Radical History
The Bustle: 10 Books I Wish My White Teachers Had Read