Tag Archives: Confederate Monuments

Voice of America Falsehoods About General Lee

(November 2, 2017) Most students of the Civil War will catch many errors in this Voice of America article about White House Chief-of-Staff John Kelly’s characterization of Robert E. Lee as an “honorable man.”

Before itemizing them, I wish readers to know that Voice of America “is a U.S. government-funded international news source that serves as the United States federal government’s official institution for non-military external broadcasting.” Now, to the errors:

Harvard Liberal Arts Educated, Peabody Award Winning, Director of the Voice of America: Amanda Bennett

  1. The article falsely states that the “Confederacy originally consisted of Lee’s home state of Virginia and six other states.” In truth, Virginia did not join the Confederacy until after President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteer troops to coerce the original seven Confederate states back into the Union.
  2. VOA erroneously identifies Lee as the “Commander of the Confederate States of America.” Although Lee was promoted to become Commander in Chief of the Confederate armies near the end of the war, the President of the Confederacy from start-to-finish was Jefferson Davis, not Lee.
  3. VOA conflates one reason for secession with the reason for the war. If the Northern states wanted the USA to be free of slavery they could have simply let the seceding states leave in peace. Moreover, neither Lincoln—or any mainstream Northern leaders—chose to invade the South in order to end slavery. The Confederate states were coerced back into the Union  because the Northern states wanted to avoid the economic consequences of disunion to themselves. 
  4. The article falsely implies that Lee owned slaves when Virginia seceded. In truth, Lee inherited some slaves when his mother died 32 years before the Civil War started, but did not own any himself when it began in 1861. During the first 20 months of the 48-month war he was executor of his father-in-law’s estate, which included slaves bequeathed to Lee’s wife in 1858. In compliance with his father-in-law’s will, however, Lee set the slaves free 28 months before the war ended.
  5. The article erroneously represents as fact a disputed charge that Lee “sometimes” severely punished his slaves. The statement refers to a charge by a runaway slave owned by his wife as a result of the temporary inheritance noted above. Lee denied the runaway’s accusation. VOA should clarify that the incident is an unverified allegation, not an indisputable fact.
  6. The article also implies that the Southern states did not support the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. In truth, all of the former Confederate states except Mississippi promptly supported the Amendment after the war ended. Eight of the eleven were among those voting to ratify it before it was ratified by the nation at large in December 1865. That happened nearly three years before blacks generally had the right to vote in the region and three years before the tyrannical carpetbagger regimes took control of the South. Mississippi outlawed slavery in its own state constitution only months after the war ended.
  7. VOA dubiously states that Lee never spoke-out against slavery. But he did, in fact, label it an “evil” years before the war started. Moreover, in January 1865 he asked the Confederate Congress to permit slaves to enlist in the Rebel armies and added that he favored giving them freedom in exchange for volunteering.

    Since the Voice of America is taxpayer funded and some of the errors are inexcusably glaring, readers may want to contact VOA management,  if not their congressional representatives. Click here to contact the VOA by email. It would be even better, however, to send a respectful postal letter to the VOA Director at the address below:

    Ms. Amanda Bennett
    Director
    Voice of America
    330 Independence Avenue
    Washington, D. C. 20237

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Confederate Monument Motivation

(August 26, 2017) Today’s post is provided by Dr. Michael Bradley who earned his PhD at Vanderbilt and taught history at Tennessee’s Motlow College for thirty-six years before retiring eleven years ago.

One point demonstrating Republican Party racism in the 19th and early 20th Centuries that Bradley fails to mention is the treatment of Asian-Americans. As explained in my earlier post, the Party had no interest in promoting racial equality for Asian-Americans because the minority could not be counted upon to be a reliable GOP voting block. That is one reason their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment were ignored and they were not even permitted to become naturalized citizen until 1943.

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In the ongoing debate over Confederate statues, memorials, and markers one of the charges advanced by those favoring their removal is that these objects are reminders of white supremacy and that the motive for erecting them was to reinforce Jim Crow laws. It is pointed out that many of them were erected in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries when legal segregation being developed and enforced.

The academic research on which this conclusion rests is represented by the work of W. Fitzhugh Brundage, Where these Memories Grow, Jumpin’ Jim Crow edited by Dailey, Gilmore,and Smith, and a Karen Cox’s, Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture.

Each of these books argues that the groups who erected Confederate monuments believed in, and supported, white supremacy. The authors offer quotes from publications and speeches made by such groups to support their argument. They show, quite conclusively, that belief in white supremacy was widespread among the members of such groups.

From such evidence today’s anti-statue crowd concludes that the monuments themselves represent white supremacy. The statues, they argue, cannot be separated from the beliefs of their creators. Having introduced this idea into the debate, however, the anti-monument mob should face the one-ton gorilla standing just behind them. Specifically, the people who erected Union monuments believed the same thing.

For example, David Blight’s Race and Reunion admits that the Union veterans were not particularly interested in promoting the cause of racial equality. By the early 20th Century they agreed that the South fought for states rights and the North fought to preserve the Union. As Blight editorially condensed the interpretation at the time, “The cause of the Confederacy had been states’ rights without slavery, and the cause of the United States had been union without freedom.”

This is why one never sees a monument to Union troops which proclaims that the soldiers fought to end slavery. Instead, they all say that their struggle was to preserve the Union.

What did the North do to show they believed in white supremacy? When the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing citizenship regardless of race, was submitted to the states for ratification New Jersey, Oregon, Ohio, California, and Kentucky voted “no”, or voted “yes” only to rescind their affirmative vote. California did not ratify the 14th Amendment until 1959, Oregon in 1973, Kentucky in 1976, and New Jersey and Ohio in 2003.

Moreover, the area which formed the states from Iowa to the Rockies were settled only by white people because the 1863 Homestead Act did not allow people of color to receive free federal land.

Prominent leaders from northern states, such as U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, from Massachusetts, endorsed white supremacy. Lodge described his concern for immigration by complaining that, “the immigration of people removed from us in race and blood is on the rise.” He also said “On the moral qualities of the English-speaking race, therefore, rest our history, our victories, and all our future. There is only one way in which you can lower those qualities or weaken those characteristics, and that is by breeding them out. If a lower race mixes with a higher in sufficient numbers, history teaches us that the lower will prevail.” Yet a statue of Senator Lodge stands unmolested on the grounds of the state capitol in Boston.

The notorious KuKluxKlan of the 1920’s echoed Lodge’s concerns. This movement was characterized by opposition to Jews, Catholics, and immigrants and it found a warm welcome in northern states. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Kansas were Klan strongholds and the organization flourished in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.

Given contemporary claim is that monuments represent the ideology of those who erected them, then critics should admit that Union monuments are just as much dedicated to white supremacy as are Confederate ones. If Confederate monuments are seen as a way of telling African Americans “stay in your place” then Union monuments must be seen as a way of saying “we don’t care about you and never did.”

If being erected during the period of Jim Crow is evidence of racism what do we say to the fact that the Robert Gould Shaw monument, honoring both Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts, was unveiled in 1896, the year the Supreme Court handed down the Plessy v Ferguson decision? (Editor Note: Only one Southern justice voted with the seven-to-one majority in this case.) The Union Soldiers and Sailors monument in New York City was erected in 1902 and the Union monument at St. Paul, Minnesota, went up in 1903, all of them dedicated during the period of Jim Crow.

Perhaps the scholars have got it wrong. Clearly, white people in the 19th and early 20th Centuries did believe themselves to be superior; Europeans felt the same way. But is it possible that the monuments were motivated by a desire to remember family and neighbors who had engaged in a fierce struggle which was divisive but which should now be put behind? Is it possible that these monuments were meant to say “we remember our own”? Is the history of Civil War memory is the late 19th and early 20th Century the “Age of Jim Crow” or is it the “Age of Memorialization”?

The Americans—North and South—who erected these monuments did not choose to remember everything but they did something positive in remembering family and friends. But if one chooses to condemn some of them, one must condemn all of them because the racial beliefs of those who erected them were identical.

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Shelby Foote’s Successor

(August 15, 2017)  Fifty-four years ago in 1963 at the dawn of the second Civil Rights Movement, Shelby Foote published the second of his three-volume Civil War narrative. In his bibliographic essay, where he cited credits to those who helped him, Foote wrote, “I am obligated also to the governors of my native state and the adjoining states of Alabama and Arkansas [who resisted racial integration] for helping to lessen my sectional bias by reproducing in their actions during the several years that went into the writing of this volume, much that was least admirable in the position my forebears occupied when they stood up to Lincoln.”

Foote was living in Memphis at the time but he grew-up in Greenville, Mississippi where his viewpoint above was then unpopular among his peers. Other white Southerners of that era—and earlier—braved the hostility of their neighbors by speaking truth to power about racial justice. Three examples are the novels Intruder in the Dust, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by William Faulkner, Harper Lee, and Carson McCullers, respectively.

Yesterday a long-creeping hostility toward Southern heritage culminated with vandalizing, unchallenged, mob attacks on Confederate memorials and a new wave of announcements from political leaders figureheads to remove such memorials from their communities. Such actions have long been met with encouragement or, at best, deafening silence from America’s historians. Even organizations dedicated to preserving Civil War memory, such as the Civil War Trust, have failed to object to the vandalism.

There has not yet been a successor to Shelby Foote. None of America’s historians have shown the courage.

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Confederate Monument on Private Property Defaced

(August 13, 2017) The picture below shows the defacement of a Confederate monument last night in Tampa, Florida.

First, the monument is located on private property owned by a local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Second, a Google search reveals no local news coverage or any statement—much less criticism—from a politician.

Third, the county commission voted last month to remove a 106 year old Confederate monument from public property. Commissioner Murman said she voted “yea” in order to “move forward.” Even though she may not have intended her excuse to mean escalation from public to private censorship, that has been the result.

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The Kingdom and the Power

(June 19, 2017) In 1966 Gay Talese wrote a history of The New York Times spanning the preceding seventy years or so. Since the newspaper’s influence had never been greater, Talese titled his book The Kingdom and the Power. During the 1960s the newspaper gave voice to minority opinions such as civil rights and feminism that eventually transformed our society.

Turner Catledge and Clifton Daniel were the two Managing Editors during that influential decade. Neither had graduated from New York’s Columbia University Journalism School, which was the standard entry ticket into The Times. Neither had even attended an Ivy League school and instead graduated from state universities in Mississippi and North Carolina. Despite coming-of-age in small Southern towns during the Jim Crow era, both men were open-minded enough to encourage minority viewpoints.

Presently, however, The Times, and other venerable journalistic organizations, such as The Atlantic and The Washington Post, are intolerant of minority opinions, at least in terms of Confederate heritage. In combination the three publications have released dozens of articles and editorials applauding and advocating the removal and restriction of Confederate monuments, no matter how long they have stood untouched. The trio generally insist that Confederate symbols can have only a racist meaning. With perhaps a single exception, they have refused to publish any articles giving voice to a different opinion.

It is a stretch requiring a bungee cord to believe that they have not received a number of worthy article submissions with viewpoints different than their own. Instead, it appears that they are, unlike Catledge and Daniel, censoring minority opinion. One result is that well crafted opposing essays, like “New Orleans is not New Orleans Anymore” are limited to online magazines…and there are darn few of those as well.

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