Monuments, Mass Demonstrations, Race, and Reconstruction

Black Codes(Editor’s Note: The conversations we’ve had on the blog this week about monuments, the recent mass demonstrations, and race have caused some readers to ask, “How does this help us better understand the Civil War?” In fact, the mission of ECW is to look at not just the war, but the war, its causes, and its consequences. Modern race issues are certainly a consequence of the war, particularly because of the failure of Reconstruction. To help us better understand that connection, we asked Patrick Young, author of The Reconstruction Era Blog, to share a few thoughts.)

In November 1865 the all-white legislature of Mississippi passed the first of the post-Civil War Black Codes. One after another, the former Confederate states passed Black Codes to regulate the lives and bodies of Black people.

One of the most common myths I have heard repeated over and over is that the Black codes were an understandable reaction to the hard Reconstruction policies of the Radicals Republicans. In fact, in the months after the war ended, all-white electorates selected all-white legislatures (including many legislators who had taken off their Confederate uniforms only months earlier) to set a course for the states of the South. You might think that after all the destruction of the war years that they saw to repairing the wreckage, rebuilding railroads, providing for wounded veterans, caring for orphans. You would be wrong. Instead these legislatures took up the question of deciding who was white and who was black, a vital inquiry in a society built on racial distinction, and crafting laws that restricted this “inferior” subject population.

Policing in the post-war South often focused on the control of Black labor and movement. While whites often predicted the coming extinction of “the Negro race” and wished that Blacks would depart from Dixie’s Land, they passed laws that kept African Americans from traveling far from the plantations where they had worked as slaves. Blacks wanted to travel to find family members that had been torn away through slave sales, as well as to seek better labor conditions and higher pay. Whites wanted to keep the formerly enslaved “in their place” because white wealth was so dependent on black labor. While whites recognized that they could no longer buy and sell Black people and that forced family separation was now illegal, they did claim the right to require African Americans to work for them as they had under slavery at rates to be determined by their employers.

Punishments for violations of the new laws were set according to race. An infraction for which a white man would be fined, might be punished by whipping if the defendant was Black. Sheriffs and police viewed racial control as paramount. When that supremacy was defied, it could be met with relentless violence.

For example, when white, mostly Irish, policemen in Memphis, Tennessee, harassed soon-to-be-discharged United States Colored Troops they set of an explosion in the city that would see more than three dozen Blacks killed. Rachel Dilts, a white woman from Illinois, witnessed the opening moments of the Memphis Race Riot on Monday, April 30, 1866. She testified before the Joint Congressional Committee investigating the riots that she saw several black men, wearing soldiers’ clothing, stopped by four policemen. “Some words were passed between them,” she told the Congressmen, and she recalled that “the policemen ran after one of the negroes, and I suppose struck him, for the negro fell and the policeman on top of him.” The Blacks escaped and began to run off down the street, but “one of the policemen ran after this negro that fell down and struck him on the head with his pistol…another negro ran and struck the policeman with a stick.” This resistance set off police violence that left at least 40 Blacks dead.

Black Vote-JohnsonAs Black men gained the right to vote in 1868 under new Reconstruction constitutions in many states, local law enforcement was used to break up electoral meetings in Black communities. African Americans jailed by the authorities during the night might be lynched by daybreak. Yet the yearning for freedom was so strong that many Blacks defended their hard won rights unto death.

By the 1870s the old Confederates who had led battalions on the battlefield, now led paramilitary forces like the Red Shirts and the Ku Klux Klan to control the battlespace around the polling places. Men like John Gordon and Wade Hampton, familiar to any student of the Civil War, carried the fight to cleanse the voter registers of non-whites. African Americans fought a heroic rear-guard action to maintain at least a semblance of a voice in public affairs until what few Reconstruction rights that remained were finally swept away. As the last vestiges of Black power seemed to disappear forever in the 1890s, their conquerors erected statues in town squares and on the boulevards and monumental avenues of the South’s resurgent cities. In many of these locations, African Americans made up a significant portion of the population, but an intentionally negligible sliver of the electorate. The statues were not a memory of the romanticized Lost Cause, but triumphal trophies marking the locking down of Jim Crow over an entire people.

Today as the control of nearly all-white police forces is being challenged around the United States, the monumental landscape built after Jim Crow’s seemingly irreversible victory is crumbling. Young Americans look at statues that glorify “Our Lost Cause” and “Our Honored Dead” and turn away, knowing that were never “ours” to begin with.

————

Pat Young is an attorney specializing in refugee and human rights-related law. He is special professor of immigration law at Hofstra University School of Law. He writes The Immigrants’ Civil War series and The Reconstruction Era Blog.

 

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35 Responses to Monuments, Mass Demonstrations, Race, and Reconstruction

  1. Donald Smith says:

    I find it hard to believe that the only, or even primary, value white Southerners saw in these statues was to immortalize Jim Crow and subjugate African-Americans. That’s the MAIN reason they erected them? I have to suspect at least some Southerners looked at these statues and remembered lost loved ones who fought, often heroically, for a cause that many believed in.

    I also refuse to accept anyone who tells me that all Confederate statues can only be interpreted and viewed as symbols of white supremacy and love for the Lost Cause. The statue of Stonewall Jackson’s statue, a man who organized and funded a Sunday school for slaves, is to be seen first and foremost as a symbol of white supremacy? Um, says who? What about the Silent Sam statue at Chapel Hill or the Confederate soldier statue destroyed by a mob at Durham? Those were statues of line soldiers, whom I presume were not slave-owning plantation owners.

    I’ll stipulate that the Lost Cause was a major impetus for these statues being created. Well, rational folks have moved on from the Lost Cause now. Does that mean all the statues have to be removed from public sight, everywhere? If so, pull down the Stars and Stripes. I can show you plenty of pictures of KKK members carrying American flags.

    And, it should matter how people interpret a statue now. I know of no one who looks at the Lee statue nowadays and longs for a return to slavery or Jim Crow. When I look at his statue, I remember his efforts at Appomattox and after to help convince Southerners to become good U.S. citizens again. I remember his devotion to his home and honor. Stuff like that still matters, right?

    If a city wants to remove a statue, that’s its right. I’ll stipulate that any state laws that prevent a locality from moving one of its own statues should at least be looked at, and most likely changed. But if a place wants to display a Confederate statue, it has the right to do that, and any attempts to prevent or impeded the exercise of that right should be resisted.

    “As the last vestiges of Black power seemed to disappear forever in the 1890s, their conquerors erected statues in town squares and on the boulevards and monumental avenues of the South’s resurgent cities. In many of these locations, African Americans made up a significant portion of the population, but an intentionally negligible sliver of the electorate. The statues were not a memory of the romanticized Lost Cause, but triumphal trophies marking the locking down of Jim Crow over an entire people.”

    This is an excellent example of where correlation may not equal causation. The 1890s were the 25th anniversary of the Civil War. As I learned by watching a ranger lecture at Gettysburg, the 25-year mark is the time when people traditionally start to memorialize major past events. Like, a civil war. Could it be that many of these statues were erected not because the KKK ordered it, but that people were ready to memorialize their lost ones? Those who see Confederate statues and only see the hands of Lost Cause and Jim Crow, might want to consider this alternate explanation.

    • Meg Groeling says:

      The Union won the war but apparently lost the peace. When racism is so much a part of a system, it is often difficult to identify its boundaries and influence. Memorializing lost family members is difficult to do when we all live in the same country, but this is one of the prices paid for losing a war. You don’t get the public space any more.

      • Donald Smith says:

        I’m having a hard time following your argument. (“The Union won the war, but lost the peace.” Sorry, you lost me there). So, let me address this part: “You don’t get the public space any more.”

        First, that attitude sounds more conducive to conquest and cultural cleansing, not healing. It also sounds like a far cry from Lincoln’s admonition to bind our nation’s wounds, and the conciliatory spirit Grant and Sherman showed as they dictated peace terms to the Confederates.

        Second, a mob shouldn’t decide who gets the public space, especially in a civilized country. Legislators meeting to debate, then vote to move a statue is one things. Local officials moving a statue to placate the mob is quite another.

        That’s probably enough for now.

      • Randall Flynn says:

        Very well stated!

      • Mike Maxwell says:

        The North did not win the Civil War. The United States won that war. And magnanimous in victory, chose not to subject the defeated enemy to reprisals and Treason trials. The South was welcomed back into the fold as quickly as possible; and former Confederates became citizens, and members of the U.S. Government as Representatives and Senators, and served in the United States Army. And their descendants served the nation admirably (Patton and Buckner come to mind.)
        Fast forward 160 years (and all that water under the bridge later) and a misguided few, ignorant of their nation’s history, have decided to act as Vigilance Committee and punish the defeated South… But, the problem is, all of the guilty people are dead. So, the statues and memorials are symbolically “killed” instead…

      • Lyle Smith says:

        What was the civil war about Meg? It was about slavery, was it not? That is why the Confederate states seceded from the Union, yes? The Union fought to preserve the Union and to preserve the Union, the Union ended slavery, right?

        What the war was not about was white supremacy or racism. The whole country, including Abraham Lincoln himself, were overwhelmingly some variety of white supremacist or racist. The Union didn’t lose the peace, it just went on its own merry white supremacist or racist way. Plessy vs. Ferguson, the Supreme Court judgment that constitutionally solidified white supremacy and racism from sea to shining sea in America, wasn’t ruled on until 1898, and by a majority northern/western bench (Stephen J. Field was from California). Major League baseball, only played in Union cities, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Washington D.C. being the closest to any former slave states, wouldn’t allow a single negro ball player into the league until 1947 (thoughtfully they never banned Native Americans or white Cubans… and there were a few Asian-Americans who played in the minors by the 1930s, so huzzah for that). So the Union didn’t win the war, and lose the peace. It won the war, ended slavery and then went on it’s merry racist way. Remember, Birth of Nation and Gone with the Wind were made in California and were popular the whole country over.

        As far as the monuments go… it’s whoever has the power to put them up or take them down that decides. It’s just politics. Personally, I don’t think they should come down because I think we should be able to handle our history in a mature manner, and remember and literally see in public what the Lost Cause was actually about. Clearly we don’t have such maturity, so they will be cast aside for who knows what… monuments to our gallant soldiers who fought, died, and were wounded in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere?

    • Chris says:

      Read the speech made at the dedication of the silent sam memorial if you don’t believe it was about white supremacy.

  2. Until the early 1960s the prevailing view in American history was that harsh republican policies caused the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. The author who wrote the most about this was a man named dunning and his viewpoint became known as the dunning school. The first two books to challenge dunning were by John hope Franklin and Kenneth stampp. In the years since the 60s scholarship has only reinforced what Franklin and stampp first told us

    There really is no excuse for any American to believe the pre-60s view of reconstruction. The books are available and anybody can read them. Anyone who persists in believing the original view of republican policies, as far as I’m concerned they’re doing it in spite of all the evidence That is staring them in the face

    Bryce Suderow

  3. Douglas Pauly says:

    “Instead these legislatures took up the question of deciding who was white and who was black,”

    Are you telling me Joe Biden was around back THEN? Man, he really IS old, isn’t he now? LOL.

    I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist.

    But that said, there are some things that I have read about over the years concerning the South. I do not view the Confederacy in any ‘romantic’ terms. I was not there (though I did grow up in VA, and live there now), so thus I am not ‘nostalgic’ for any aspects of it. But quite a few of the monuments that are the center of seemingly sudden interest were paid for by the men who served under the ones whose figures are on them. The South was allowed to honor their heroes, and the monuments reflect that. I have openly asked the question if any of them, while not necessarily pointing at Washington, DC,, represent a great big middle finger DIRECTED at Washington, DC? But the question about removing them is a fair one. it is also fair to ask what role ‘revisionist history’ is playing in this? Is a certain political party today trying to erase its OWN culpability in what transpired THEN as far as how they treated certain folks, and what they did to keep ownership of those folks?

    I have no problem with cities and locales making changes to their landscapes and removing such items. But the excuse of mob rule dictating that should not be the criteria for doing so. ‘Monument Avenue’ is a huge tourist draw for the city of Richmond, and Richmond today in the best of times has enormous problems. And in fairness some of its problems may be vestiges of the Civil War. That is the one that certain political party I mentioned earlier appears to be trying to alter the history, THEIR history, of that hideous conflict.

    I also point out some other things said in this article. such as that of “nearly all-white police forces” today. While that no doubt holds true in some locales, many if not most of the big cities of this country have made enormous strides in addressing that. How many big cities have black police chiefs, black DAs, black prosecutors, black city councils, black MAYORS? If my memory serves, this country elected a black PRESIDENT! TWICE! Yet, the very same problems continue to plague those cities, especially when it comes to racial relations as far as how the police and certain elements of the populaces engage each other. Why is that? Maybe people are being played and their attention diverted to symbols like long standing monuments that some have determined are the sources of all their ills? Except when those monuments are removed, the problems will remain. They do not address the SUBSTANCE of the REAL problems, they just serve to divert attention from them. And those REAL problems will continue to manifest themselves. What will be the next ‘symbols’ that will be used to divert attention when all the Confederate monuments are gone, and that history revised? Stay tuned..

  4. John Pryor says:

    I enjoy tilting with Patrick on other Civil War sites. I have always found him to be a passionate, if narrowly focused, advocate, touched with a wee bit of northern exceptionalism. His posting here is similarly flawed. His post begins with an analysis of the justly notorious Black codes. The first sad irony of the Codes is of course that immediately prior to the outbreak of the war several Northern states would not even have required them, as they prohibited even the residency of Freedmen. The second derives from the author’s “you would have thought the legislatures would have concentrated on physical Reconstruction issues” after the deprivations of the armies. The author seems to forget the experience of the Tories in his own back yard following 1783, or the French in 1945. History is filled with non racial examples of revenge taken on civilians for backing a perceived enemy. The former Confederate states were utterly bankrupt, often unable to move what cash crop they had due to the annihilation of their infrastructure. As the author is aware, Southern credit from the north and England had been crippled by the course of the war. A fortunately failed Rebellion does have its cost. The victorious north essentially walked away from the battlefield, capable of ignoring the issue of race relations. After all, the vast majority of our African American citizens lived in the South until the beginning of the 20th century at the earliest. And though lacking the sad and angry iconography of defeat and remembrance, and the overt racism of the Red Shirts and White Only primaries, the North’s racial bias and exclusionary zoning practices were nearly as toxic to the 20th century as the Redermers tactics were to the 19th.

    Fortunately, times have witnessed a real sea change which the author apparently has missed. I suggest that he journey beyond the narrow confines of the East River and Long Island Sound to see the numerous African American mayors and policemen and women to the South of him. The black police chief of the small Bluegrass town that I attended college at led his force in an early memorial to Mr Floyd. It is our inner souls that require transformation. As that takes place, the statues become only part of the record. We need not give them any power over us, conservative or liberal, white or black. Downsize them, contexturalize them, compliment them with others. But if we destroy them, we teach our children that this is the way to defeat your opponent. And frankly, there’s been enough blood spilled in our Civil War.

    • Bob Ruth says:

      John:

      While I live in the North (Ohio), I have vacationed extensively in the South. I am a gabber, so I talk often with southerners while on vacation. Here is what I have learned about what you claim is a “sea change” in the South

      True, there are no more mass lynchings, no more overtly segregated restaurants, public swimming pools, schools, etc. That is in fact a “sea change.” But it’s a sea change from a terribly despicable past. Racism is still prevalent throughout the South, especially when you get off the interstate highways and drive into smaller towns.

      While southerns rarely use the N-word any more, they use other catch phrases like “them” or “those people.” And almost to a man/woman they defend the South’s secession.. The Civil War was not about slavery, they contend. It was about states rights and the Yankee invasion of the South, they contend. This Lost Cause narrative is still widespread throughout the South.

      (I won’t even get into the debate about the South’s Jim Crow-like suppression of black votes that has taken place since the Supreme Court struck down keys parts of the Civil Rights Act. That’s a debate for another time.)

      Are and were northerners guilty of racism? Of course. However, the fact that Northern merchants, shipbuilders, manufacturers, etc. made millions from supplying goods to slaveholders and that racist laws were enacted in some Northern states does not mitigate the fact that white supremacy and racism were wrong then and remain wrong today.

      Bottom Line: In great swaths of the South, the phrase the New South is a myth. Tear down those monuments in public spaces to those racist “heroes” who were willing to tear our beloved nation asunder in the defense of the indefensible – human bondage.Remove their names from military bases. And prohibit the display of Confederate flags on military bases. RE Lee & Company might have been excellent military leaders, but they fought on behalf of an inhuman cause, not unlike the excellent German generals who fought on behalf of the Nazis. .

      • Donald Smith says:

        So much for bringing the people together, and binding a nation’s wounds. That Bottom Line sounds like one of conquest, not conciliation. And, if a public place wants to keep its Confederate monument, should the state or federal government go in there and tear it down?

        As for dismissing the willingness to fight for states’ rights and defending your home against invaders, as simply “Lost Causeism,” you are entitled to your opinion–which many do not share.

      • John Pryor says:

        I almost gave you the benefit of the doubt until you left the Galaxy with the Nazi General/Lee moral equivalency rant. I am fortunate that the majority of those, North and South, I deal with on a daily basis are capable of grasping the distinction between the servants of an odious system of enforced labor, and one of mass extermination. Perhaps with a somewhat more open mind and heart you might wish to relive some of those conversations.

      • Dale Robertson says:

        Also Mr Ruth, please remember that in the ’20,s and thirties , the state’s with the largest kik memberships were not in that “racist south”but in Indiana and yes, ohio.

    • Bob Ruth says:

      John:

      Actually, my analogy between those fighting to preserve slavery and those fighting to preserve Nazism isn’t that far off. The Nazis had concentration camps where they tortured, raped and worked to death their victims. Slave masters in the South also had concentration camps where they tortured, raped and worked to death their victims. But Southern slave masters didn’t call these evil places concentration camps. They called them “plantations,”

  5. Randall Flynn says:

    “You might think that after all the destruction of the war years that they saw to repairing the wreckage, rebuilding railroads, providing for wounded veterans, caring for orphans. You would be wrong.” PLEASE go on – and tell us who CAUSED this wreckage, destruction, wounding and orphans in the South.
    What I really despise is this parochial attitude that so prevails now! It’s delusional to believe a egalitarian country would suddenly spring up for the ashes of civil war. And the following statement is so broad and full of stereotypical condemnation that it has no value in an educational blog – “The statues were not a memory of the romanticized Lost Cause, but triumphal trophies marking the locking down of Jim Crow over an entire people.” If ECW blog is lacking in those able to write objective informative pieces on the American civil war period, I’ll be happy to write and submit (or recommend others). I love history (esp. 1861-65) and I’m looking for informative objective history related info – not further condemnation and vilification for existing as a US white citizen! Also, consider footnotes as to your source material or simply label this “sharing” as strictly the writer’s opinion.

    • Donald Smith says:

      I strongly agree with Mr. Flynn’s comment here about the “meaning” of Confederate statues. I’ll bet they had several meanings to those who saw them, and those who erected them in the first place had several, distinctly different, reasons for doing so.

      It does appear there’s a certain element of the American history community that’s decided that it, and it alone, knows what Confederate statues mean and why they were erected in the first place. It also seems that element feels entitled to pass judgement on not only which statues should stay or go from a particular city/town, but also which ones can be publicly displayed at all. (“Put them all in a museum, behind closed doors!”). These folks seem to see themselves as a “Lost Cause Police.”

  6. W Charles Young says:

    Racism oppresses its victims, but also binds the oppressors, who sear their consciences with more and more lies until they become prisoners of those lies. They cannot face the truth of human equality because it reveals the horror of the injustices they commit.

    Alveda King

    Until whites fully understand the true meaning of racism In America, we will not agree on anything close to fixing the problem. Whether it is the racism that caused the first blacks in Virginia to be classified as slaves and not indentured servants, or the racism that allowed whites to buy, sell and chain blacks, or the racism that allowed black soldiers in the Federal army to be paid less than white soldiers, or the racism that allowed roving gangs of white terrorists to lynch blacks for little or no cause, or the racism that turned away black voters, or the racism that segregated blacks to inferior facilities and inferior educations, or the racism that represents itself today in the deaths of blacks at the hands of the police or their overrepresentation in poverty and prison statistics; we whites need to peel back the lies we have told ourselves to make us feel better. We have to deal with the consequences of our actions, including the Civil War.

    • Lyle Smith says:

      What in the world are you talking about? If white people get on their knees before black people, black people will stop being killed by cops or put in jail for their crimes? If we tear down any and all references to anybody or anything Confederate, black people will have it perfectly good in America today? LeBron James can then go on to become a billionaire in peace?

      And the focus on the white supremacy of the South mesmerizes people into forgetting the white supremacy of the whole nation after the war. The white North allowed the white South to happen. The white North segregate professional baseball until 1947 and for a couple teams up until the end of the 50s. The U.S. military was racially segregated up through WWII. Western states passed race based anti-Asian laws well after Plessy vs. Ferguson. In the 1890s Booker T. Washington was almost killed by a mob of white people in Manhattan. White academics and intellectuals didn’t start writing about slavery forthrightly until the 1930s. Blah blah blah… and folks think tearing down some statues will save this country’s soul. What a bunch imbecilic, iconoclastic, zealots!

  7. IN MY OPINION THIS IS THE WORSE PERSON YOU HAVE EVER HAD TO WRITE A BLOG . i
    IWONT READ OR STUDY HIS BOOK IF IT WAS FREE OR GIVEN TO ME FOR THERE IS NOTHING TO LEARN FROM A MAN WITH BLINDERS ON . AS FOR MR RUTH STATEMENT COMPARING CONFEDERATES TO NAZI IS A STATEMENT WHICH IS UN CALLED FOR ON THIS SITE . ELY PARKER SAID “WE ARE ALL AMERICANS ” TO GEN. LEE.
    PRES EISENHOWER 1954 PASSED AN EXC ORDER THAT CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS ARE CONSIDERED AMERICAN VETERANS . YET YET YOU FEEL YOU CAN MAKE A REMARK LIKE THAT BOB RUTH? . AN APOLOGY IS DUE TO YOUR FELLOW HISTORIANS .

    • Donald Smith says:

      Mr. Place, thanks for the reminder that President Eisenhower affirmed that Confederate soldiers are American veterans. It appears that some folks needed reminding of that.

  8. Donald Smith says:

    “The statues were not a memory of the romanticized Lost Cause, but triumphal trophies marking the locking down of Jim Crow over an entire people.”

    Mr. Young, and ECW, have presented us with an opportunity. Mr. Young’s judgement on Confederate statues is widely-held, especially by modern historians. I’ll stipulate that white supremacy was probably one reason that spurred Southerners to erect Confederate statues in the late 1800s and early 1900s. But there were other reasons—25th and 50th anniversaries of the Civil War, a desire to commemorate their ancestors—which no one seems to be talking about. Well, now we have the chance to talk about them.

    And, we have the chance for the Lost Cause Police to explain why their opinions of the statues, and theirs alone, should carry this argument.

  9. David Corbett says:

    “In memory of our Confederate Dead.” This on a monument is not a Jim Crow enforcement. When most of the statues were erected Jim Crow had already been in effect for twenty years and it was hardly necessary to have stone and concrete enforce it.

  10. Mark Maloy says:

    This article totally ignores the importance the monuments had to the mourning families and communities across not just the south, but also the north.

  11. Bob Ruth says:

    To all my Lost Cause friends who posted comments earlier:

    Let me repeat my simple refrain. Thank God the North won. Slavery was abolished and our blessed United States of America remains the United States of America.

    And let me add this amendment: Shame on those Southern leaders (and their generals) who wanted to preserve slavery and rip our nation apart. They didn’t fight on behalf of a Lost Cause. They fought on behalf of an Evil Cause.

    • Donald Smith says:

      And we’ll say again, to you and the rest of the Lost Cause Police—Abraham Lincoln would have shaken his head in disgust at your sentiments.

  12. Donald Smith says:

    I’m a bit surprised by the attitude of some commenters I’m seeing on the issue of statues in specific, and Confederate iconography in general. There seems to be a desire to “spike the ball” and rub it in the face of those who respect their Confederate ancestors. I’m reminded of the famous painting of Vercingetorix throwing down his sword and groveling before a triumphant Caesar. (You saw that same scene played out in the first episode of the BBC/HBO series “Rome.”) That seems to be their spirit.

    When the Allies occupied Germany in 1945, they made the people grovel. They wanted them to know, and accept total defeat—in preparation for completely rebuilding their society, into one that could be a liberal democracy. (Which Germany now is),

    But that’s not what Lincoln wanted. He wanted to reunite his nation quickly. He wanted to embrace his former battlefield foes. He wanted to reunite families. As did Grant.

    • Bob Ruth says:

      Don:

      You’re absolutely right about Lincoln’s strong desire to quickly reunite the country. However, Lincoln was too much the optimist. Before his assassination, he believed the defeated South would finally embrace emancipation and civil rights for former slaves, if for no other reason than they had been decisively beaten in the war.

      As we all know, this did not happen. After the Civil War, most supposedly defeated southern states – especially those in the Deep South – imposed so-called Black Codes. These laws made Jim Crow look moderate. The Black Codes basically forced African Americans to stay on the plantations where they were born and work for a pittance. In many cases, blacks were forced by states to work for nothing, just as they had done under slavery.Here’s how the no-pay system worked: Many thousands of blacks were jailed for “idleness.” Private contractors then would pay the state to have these wrongly imprisoned African-Americans work for nothing on plantations. And of course blacks couldn’t vote, serve on juries, etc. under the Black Codes,

      These terribly racist laws were one of the main reasons outraged Radical Republicans enacted Reconstruction.

      If he had lived, Lincoln undoubtedly would have been outraged by the Black Codes, too, and would have changed his mind about the chances for a peaceful reconciliation with the South. Lincoln did the same thing during the Civil War. At first, he believed the South, with encouragement from southern Unionists, could be convinced to return to the Union through relatively soft military tactics. As the war wore on, he conceded this wouldn’t work. Thus, the Union began fighting a “hard war,” which entailed ruthlessly destroying the South’s economy, etc. (And, by the way, these hard war tactics finally worked.)

      Bottom Line: Lincoln was too naive about his southern brothers. Lincoln, I am certain, wept from the grave as the South imposed Black Codes and, after the collapse of Reconstruction, 85 years of Jim Crow.

      Don, all of this is why I have no sympathy for the South.

      I’ll readily concede that the average northerner was no paragon of virtue when if came to equality for African-Americans. White supremacy was alive and well throughout much – if not most – of the North for decades after the Civil War. But at least the North didn’t impose Black Codes and Jim Crow. That’s why our nation had the Great Migration, i.e. blacks by the millions leaving the South for a supposedly better life in the North. Sadly, way too often many of those dreams were unmet in the North. But at least they were a bit better off.

      • Mike Maxwell says:

        There. You see? Reconstruction and Lost Cause ideology CAN be explained and discussed without first removing all the statues and memorials…

      • Donald Smith says:

        Bob, very well said. I’ll readily concede that the South’s treatment of African-Americans was shameful after the Civil War. And I’m well familiar with that history.

        But, I’m not asking you to have sympathy for the South. You’re entitled to your opinion of how the Confederacy should be viewed—what aspects of it should be emphasized and what aspects should be overlooked. Many on this board agree with you, I’m sure—but many others do not, myself included. If you think that makes me a “Lost Causer,” fine with me.

        The problem comes when one group in society decides that their interpretation of history is right, proclaims how something will be interpreted or remembered, and insist that everyone agree. Or submit, in this case.

  13. Randall Flynn says:

    “The problem comes when one group in society decides that their interpretation of history is right, proclaims how something will be interpreted or remembered, and insist that everyone agree. Or submit, in this case.” Well stated and gets to the very crux of the problem. Repeatedly referring to “lost causer” is subtle way to demean the value of the other guy. Many people (i.e., Bob) will forever refuse to accept that people (and nations) have a right to self-determination (that’s the ideal in the US anyway). They will endlessly insist directly or indirectly – their interpretation is right and you’re perennially misinformed. Then the next step is enforcing their interpretation by force (which has been on display the past few weeks). Let people who lived over 150 years ago speak for themselves.

  14. Lyle Smith says:

    Shame on you Pat, “Today as the control of nearly all-white police forces is being challenged around the United States”.

    What a farcical and ignorant understanding of your own country.

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