FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Should the American Historical Association Apologize?

It’s hard for a student to challenge an instructor’s syllabus, which includes their values and point-of-view. Academia has a long list of students who did so and found themselves cast as troublemakers or worse.

Are some of those waving Confederate flags in the faces of the president and his entourage former students who were too intimidated by authoritarian professors? Professors who insisted that the Confederacy was a fairy kingdom from the novels of Sir Walter Scott until the invasion of the damned Yankees? A land of Knights and Ladies and slaves, who just about had to be pried away from this languorous paradise upon Emancipation? This is not only a Southern fantasy.

I asked my daughter, Tennessee Reed, to write a book about her education from kindergarten until her graduation from Mills College with an MFA. She reports in her book, “Spell Albuquerque” (CounterPunch Books) that “Gone with the Wind” is used at the University of Berkeley at California as a guide to Reconstruction! This university, where I taught for thirty-five years, has a reputation for being a radical institution.

And what about the textbooks that perpetuated the myths that the Civil War was fought over the issue of States Rights, a concoction created by Thomas Jefferson, who was afraid that his slaves would be federalized and set free?

Would those students at Ole Miss be so warm toward the antebellum South and opposed to the disappearance of Mississippi’s state flag from campus if they were aware that Robert E. Lee kept a whipping post at his Arlington Home, or that his father, Henry Lee, when Governor of Virginia, hanged a pregnant black woman? Her crime? Retaliating against an Overseer who had struck her. Black women were preyed upon sexually and even subjected to painful experimentation, facts that any white co-ed flag waver should find repellent.

Or what about the Fort Pillow massacre of black soldiers, even after they had surrendered? An act that some called “the atrocity of the war,” but is only referred to as “controversial” by Winston Groom, a Confederate apologist, whose “Forrest Gump” is a Confederate reenactment. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who presided over the atrocity, was honored by some white citizens of Memphis with a big old statue.

Civil War popularizer Shelby Foote likened the Klan to the French Resistance and Broadway now tells us that Alexander Hamilton, a slave merchant, was an abolitionist. Another historian said that Andrew Jackson, who owned over one hundred slaves and mistreated them, was a rock star. He was reviewing a musical called “Bloody Bloody Andrew.”

Those Ole Miss students who are Dixie fans might dismiss such information as an exercise in “political correctness.” Parrot owners could do much to break the dialogue jam about race were they to teach their birds the phrase “political correctness.”

In January, the American Historical Association is meeting in Atlanta, where the premiere of “Gone With The Wind” took place. They could do much to improve the judgment of the Confederate flag wavers, by apologizing for the historians among their midst who have misled generations of students into believing that the Confederacy was some kind of noble experiment instead of a place where humans were considered private property. I would recommend that James Loewen, author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me,” be invited to deliver the keynote.

More articles by:

Ishmael Reed is the author of The Complete Muhammad Ali.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
November 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Meet Ukraine: America’s Newest “Strategic Ally”
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Frankenstein Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Ukraine in the Membrane
Jonathan Steele
The OPCW and Douma: Chemical Weapons Watchdog Accused of Evidence-Tampering by Its Own Inspectors
Kathleen Wallace
A Gangster for Capitalism: Next Up, Bolivia
Andrew Levine
Get Trump First, But Then…
Thomas Knapp
Trump’s Democratic Critics Want it Both Ways on Biden, Clinton
Ipek S. Burnett
The United States Needs Citizens Like You, Dreamer
Michael Welton
Fundamentalism as Speechlessness
David Rosen
A Century of Prohibition
Nino Pagliccia
Morales: Bolivia Suffers an Assault on the Power of the People
Dave Lindorff
When an Elected Government Falls in South America, as in Bolivia, Look For a US Role
John Grant
Drones, Guns and Abject Heroes in America
Clark T. Scott
Bolivia and the Loud Silence
Manuel García, Jr.
The Truthiest Reality of Global Warming
Ramzy Baroud
A Lesson for the Palestinian Leadership: Real Reasons behind Israel’s Arrest and Release of Labadi, Mi’ri
Charles McKelvey
The USA “Defends” Its Blockade, and Cuba Responds
Louis Proyect
Noel Ignatiev: Remembering a Comrade and a Friend
John W. Whitehead
Casualties of War: Military Veterans Have Become America’s Walking Wounded
Patrick Bond
As Brazil’s ex-President Lula is Set Free and BRICS Leaders Summit, What Lessons From the Workers Party for Fighting Global Neoliberalism?
Alexandra Early
Labor Opponents of Single Payer Don’t  Speak For Low Wage Union Members
Pete Dolack
Resisting Misleading Narratives About Pacifica Radio
Edward Hunt
It’s Still Not Too Late for Rojava
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Why Aren’t Americans Rising up Like the People of Chile and Lebanon?
Nicolas Lalaguna
Voting on the Future of Life on Earth
Jill Richardson
The EPA’s War on Science Continues
Lawrence Davidson
The Problem of Localized Ethics
Richard Hardigan
Europe’s Shameful Treatment of Refugees: Fire in Greek Camp Highlights Appalling Conditions
Judith Deutsch
Permanent War: the Drive to Emasculate
David Swanson
Why War Deaths Increase After Wars
Raouf Halaby
94 Well-Lived Years and the $27 Traffic Fine
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Coups-for-Green-Energy Added to Wars-For-Oil
Andrea Flynn
What Breast Cancer Taught Me About Health Care
Negin Owliaei
Time for a Billionaire Ban
Binoy Kampmark
Business as Usual: Evo Morales and the Coup Condition
Bernard Marszalek
Toward a Counterculture of Rebellion
Brian Horejsi
The Benefits of Environmental Citizenship
Brian Cloughley
All That Gunsmoke
Graham Peebles
Why is there so Much Wrong in Our Society?
Jonah Raskin
Black, Blue, Jazzy and Beat Down to His Bones: Being Bob Kaufman
John Kendall Hawkins
Treason as a Lifestyle: I’ll Drink to That
Ben Terrall
The Rise of Silicon Valley
November 14, 2019
Laura Carlsen
Mexico’s LeBaron Massacre and the War That Will Not Cease
Joe Emersberger
Oppose the Military Coup in Bolivia. Spare Us Your “Critiques”
Ron Jacobs
Trump’s Drug Deal Goes to Congress: Impeachment, Day One
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail