Apr
18

Lies, damned lies, and revisionist history

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David Neiwert is “celebrating” Confederate Heritage Month at Orcinus with posts on aspects of the War of Northern Aggression southern heritage buffs would prefer to forget (contra the lyrics to “Dixie”). His latest installment looks at “carpetbaggers” and “scalawags,” both Reconstruction-era pejoratives. The first for newcomers from outside the old Confederacy (many of those northern teachers offering literacy programs to freed slaves), and the second for southern whites who collaborated with the freed slaves in post-war governance. Being branded with either term was no mild smear. It essentially put a target on your back, according to Neiwert. (Scroll to the bottom of his page for links to earlier installments.)

At Buzzfeed, Adam Serwer debunks the history of an infamous tintype (above) now in the Library of Congress of two Confederate soldiers, one white man named Andrew Chandler and his black slave, Silas:

… an astonishing tintype of the two men, armed to the teeth in Confederate uniforms, taken in 1861. The image has helped bolster the claims of the community of amateur historians, hucksters, and Confederate sympathizers committed to defending the Confederacy from the charge of racism, who insist that thousands of black men fought and died for the rebel cause. “Ever since the SCV posthumously honored Silas,” Levin wrote in 2012, “accounts of black Confederate troops have surged in popularity.”


It is a community that has grown more vocal and irate as black and white activists have successfully sought to strip Confederate emblems from places of honor around the country. After the massacre of nine black parishioners in South Carolina by a white supremacist, the South Carolina SCV defended the Confederate flag then flying on the state capitol grounds by invoking “Black Confederate soldiers” who “fought in the trenches beside their White brothers.”

Right. And until Maurice Bessinger passed on in 2014, in the Confederacy corners of his South Carolina barbecue joints I assume you could still buy his pamphlets and tapes on the virtues of slavery (tales of how it really was in the Old South) while an enormous Confederate flag flew from a tall pole outside. If some white, southern Christians seem to have chips on their shoulders, short fuses, and inferiority complexes, some of that traces to 1865. In pockets, old times there are still not forgotten and some of the history has been rewritten.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : History

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