I usually ignore the anonymous online comments left on websites, but Monday’s Tennessean opinion piece on slavery at The Hermitage offers an illustration of why reading and studying history is so important.
Sample comments (as originally written) in response to the editorial:
Will the Confederate states be honest? Yes! Here are some facts that are not discussed by the pc crowd:
Free blacks also owned slaves
Abe Lincoln was a tyrannt like Gaddaffi
There are records of blacks fighting for the South
The War Between the States resulted in a seimic shift of power from the states to the federal government
N B Forrest, RE Lee and other Southern heros should be honored
Actually, lots of people have discussed these facts. Kevin Levin’s blog is a great resource for examining their veracity.
One fact never mentioned is their were also white slaves. White slaves were called indentured servants. How many white people whose ancestors were slave, do you here about being discriminated against?? None I know of.
Several of the commenters corrected this myth of “white slavery.”
If the civil war was about the North freeing the Southern slaves, why did the North have slaves?
This reference to the handful of slaves still existing in NJ in 1860 is a common argument used by defenders of the Old South’s way of life. The reality that northern states had abolished slavery, via immediate or gradual emancipation, isn’t mentioned. It also conflates the origins, causes, and goals of the war.
When will the descendants of these slaves tell the truth about Nathan Bedford Forrest and the rest of the Civil War? When will they admit that the US Flag flew longer over slavery than the Confederate Flag? The ignorance that is spread about this war is unbeliveable.
Those who demonize the events of History by todays standards, of a period that was fully acceptable during it’s time are only serving their own personel agenda. They care nothing for the truth, but instead seem to be trying to find an excuse to avoid it!
The truth is out there if you care, but you won’t find it at the Hermitage.
“We shouldn’t judge the past by today’s standards.” I’ve always found this line of reasoning an interesting one. I hate to invoke Godwin’s Law, but I think it’s acceptable here. I wonder if the commenter endorses what Hitler and the Nazis did as morally defensible, since they were doing what was “fully acceptable during it’s [sic] time.”
As for The Hermitage, it has come a long way in trying to present a well-rounded view of life on the plantation, both black and white. The archaeological work by Larry McKee and his team and the exhibits put together by the Hermitage staff present visitors with the contradictions of the home owned by a man long hailed as the defender of democracy. Andrew Jackson was representative of many segments of American society; the southern planter was no exception.
I don’t have any hopes that the commenters actually learned, or wanted to learn, anything from those who presented them with historical evidence that contradicted their view of the past. Hopefully, others reading the comments did.