Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you
October 8, 2014 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Shortly after the Civil War, an ex-slave was asked by his master to return to the plantation. He dictated a reply that would have made Mark Twain proud, and which has been previously featured on Metafilter. In fact, the letter was so good that some folks began to question whether it was real. New research shows it was, and gives details about the lives of the master and slave.
posted by Peregrine Pickle (77 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
 
I wonder if I would eventually get tired of reading that letter, and not be made happy by it anymore, if I read it every day.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 1:00 PM on October 8, 2014 [39 favorites]


From the new research link:
In a 2006 speech at a conference on slavery reparations, historian Raymond Winbush retold the story of Anderson’s letter. He also revealed that he had tracked down some of Patrick Henry Anderson’s descendants, still living in Big Spring.
'What’s amazing is that the current living relatives of Colonel Anderson are still angry at Jordan for not coming back,' "
Something to think about the next time you hear some (white racist) pundit talk about how racism isn't a thing in America anymore.
posted by el io at 1:02 PM on October 8, 2014 [41 favorites]


The new research is from 2012 and I think we had a post on it when it came out, but I can't find it.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:03 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, "new" for a value of "published two years ago," yes.

(I'm also not sure why somebody would choose to link to the Daily Mail for an Associated Press article.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 1:04 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


What Sing or Swim said, the letter is a thing of wonder that never palls.

The story is from July 2012, about five months after the letter came to light, and credited to the AP. Strange that I can't find a contemporary copy online anywhere other than the Daily Mail either.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:05 PM on October 8, 2014


Ick, I need to check my facts. The first link to the letter on MeFi is from 2010, so no, not five months.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:07 PM on October 8, 2014


I'd say information about the civil war that has surfaced within the last 5 years counts as new.
posted by el io at 1:09 PM on October 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


There is a huffpo article on it here
posted by poffin boffin at 1:10 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Strange that I can't find a contemporary copy online anywhere other than the Daily Mail either.

That is strange. I turned up a bunch in about ten seconds just by googling the first sentence.
posted by Shmuel510 at 1:11 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


'What’s amazing is that the current living relatives of Colonel Anderson are still angry at Jordan for not coming back,' "

*blank stare*
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:16 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


About the anger at Jordon not coming back, I can't help being reminded of my own family history regarding James Joyce.

Although not related via my own surname (which is Joyce) my grandmother's Family consider James Joyce's father to be the black sheep of the family. Reasons of debt, being pulled from medical school, and probably making a servant woman pregnant.

As the first family member on my side who attended university, I brought back tidings of Joyce's fame to my family.

Their attitude was, "bad fruit from a bad tree".
posted by Wilder at 1:21 PM on October 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


Well, new in that the info had never made it to Metafilter before.
posted by Peregrine Pickle at 1:24 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


New, old, whatever; it's great.

And this may be the first apocryphal-sounding, glurgish Facebook-forwarded "article" I've ever read that turned out to be true! Another historic moment!
posted by IAmBroom at 1:57 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I mean, no argument about the awesomeness of the thread subject. I guess I'm just really surprised that I could remember something from 2010 so clearly.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:58 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Somehow, the thing in that letter that most made me go 'oh damn son' was this: "I have a comfortable home for Mandy—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson." Like, just the fact of this woman, who spent decades of her life being called just Mandy by every single person, now getting to go by Mrs. Something...
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:59 PM on October 8, 2014 [17 favorites]


He dictated a reply that would have made Mark Twain proud...

Not that I don't love me some Mark Twain, obviously, but this made me think of the joke Chris Rock did when Pryor was given the Mark Twain Prize for humor in '99.
Chris Rock wondered what would have happened if Mark Twain had ever met Richard Pryor.

"(Pryor would) probably say, `I really enjoy your work,' ' Rock surmised. "And what would Mark Twain say to Richard Pryor? He'd probably say, `N-----, pick up my bag.' "

Rock, currently one of America's hottest standups, was greeted with an underwhelming mix of nervous laughs and low-key applause.
posted by Huck500 at 1:59 PM on October 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


Please Metafilter, more info about the family who feels that Jordan was wrong for not returning after receiving Col. Patrick Henry's letter. I suppose Col. Patrick's original letter has been lost to time (tragically), but I would really, dearly love to hear the family have their say. I'm sure the contorted victim logic there would be very satisfying to behold.
posted by Poppa Bear at 2:06 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Huck500: Rock, currently one of America's hottest standups, was greeted with an underwhelming mix of nervous laughs and low-key applause.
Given that Mark Twain wrote one of the greatest works of literature about race issues in American history, I'd have a problem laughing at that... Thomas Jefferson, maybe, but it's needlessly disrespectful to a man who made a hero character from a runaway slave.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:07 PM on October 8, 2014 [19 favorites]


And "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" played a major role in fueling abolitionist sympathies in the US, as Twain was one of the most prominent and unapologetic abolitionists of his day.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:14 PM on October 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


'Harvest is coming on. Jordan’s a guy who’s played... sort of a quasi-managerial role in the past,' Finkenbine said. 'And if he can convince this guy to come back, here’s a guy who can not only maybe get the harvest in, but convince some of these other slaves that have gone… get them to come back and be workers on the plantation. It’s kind of his last-ditch effort to save it.'

But he doesn’t save it. In September 1865, Finkenbine says, Anderson sold the nearly 1,000-acre estate to his attorney for a pittance, in an apparent attempt to get out from under his crushing debt. Just two years later, Patrick Henry Anderson died at the age of 44.


I'm guessing the family lore is that Granddad would not have had to sell the estate if Jourdan Anderson had come back. Oh boo hoo, your business can't run without free labor? *weeps bitter tears*

That’s what’s known of the famous letter’s recipient. What of its writer?
Jordan Anderson’s collaborator — to whom he reportedly dictated the letter — was a Dayton banker named Valentine Winters.


The Kottke article says the couple had a son named Valentine born in 1870. That's sweet.
posted by bleep at 2:19 PM on October 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


*blank stare*

There's a moment in Ken Burns The Civil War where Shelby Foote talks about meeting the descendants of Nathan Bedfrod Forrest. He told them at the time that he believes that the war turned out two geniuses: Forrest and Abraham Lincoln. At which point the descendant frowned a bit and replied "You know, we never thought much of Mr. Lincoln in my family." At recalling this, Foote chuckles and says "Southerners are awfully funny about that war", which is one of the biggest understatements I have ever had the privilege to hear.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 2:25 PM on October 8, 2014 [19 favorites]


This longer version of the AP article says "Dr. Valentine Winters Anderson, was a close friend of African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. The two collaborated on the Dayton Tattler, the city's first black newspaper." And this suggests Dr. Valentine Winters Anderson was a graduate of the Louisville National Medical College. I bet his dad was proud.
posted by Area Man at 2:25 PM on October 8, 2014 [20 favorites]


And "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" played a major role in fueling abolitionist sympathies in the US, as Twain was one of the most prominent and unapologetic abolitionists of his day.

What? Huck Finn was published in 1885, and Twain was a cub reporter in Nevada when Emancipation happened, not a "prominent abolitionist." He was certainly a committed antiracist, but this comment is almost as confused as the shitty Chris Rock joke.
posted by RogerB at 2:36 PM on October 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


Oh, I hadn't seen that before. Thanks for posting, Peregrine Pickle.

The self-possession and the keen knowledge and use of the status relationship between him and his former 'owner" are unmistakable signs of the depth of his intelligence to anyone with discrernment (yes, I did just compliment myself, too, heh). That such a man would be thought of as inferior and material for slavery highlights just how horrendous slavery was (and is). That some commentators to this day maintain that many slaveholders "treated their slaves well," shows only the corruptness and duplicity of such commentators worldview. That some are quick to equate government actions such as penalizing failure to purchase health insurance to slavery shows that they are, in fact, depraved.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:44 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Clearly you are a descrerning fellow.
posted by umberto at 2:46 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire."

Flat broke and dead within two years.
posted by panglos at 2:53 PM on October 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


That some commentators to this day maintain that many slaveholders "treated their slaves well,"

Colorado school board member, a week ago: U.S. Ended Slavery 'Voluntarily'.

Tshyeah, as long as you don't count the part of the U.S. that actually had slaves.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:57 PM on October 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


I would really, dearly love to hear the family have their say. I'm sure the contorted victim logic there would be very satisfying to behold.

I think it probably lies in the fact that Colonel Anderson subsequently had to sell the plantation for a pittance and died in penury two years afterwards, rather than any "how dare he not come back" sort of thing. More a "I wish the family mansion had been saved" than anything else.

It may also be because the letter exposes that Colonel Anderson killed a Union soldier secretly - I imagine it might have been a little hot for him after that.
posted by corb at 3:22 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


almost as confused as the shitty Chris Rock joke.

needlessly disrespectful


I think it's ok to recognize that Sam Clemens was very anti-slavery and wrote a great anti-racist book, but also that he said some fairly offensive stuff about people of color (in letters mostly) and probably wouldn't have wanted his daughter to marry a black man. The joke might have been shitty, but I don't get how it's confused.
posted by Huck500 at 3:27 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I had somehow never read that letter before and it is a glorious work of art and I actually yelled OH SNAP several times and I absolutely love it and it has basically made my entire day so thank you for that.
posted by WidgetAlley at 3:51 PM on October 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


The joke might have been shitty, but I don't get how it's confused.

It's confused because, seriously, you'd be hard put to come up with a single white guy from the entire American 19th Century who'd be more likely to enjoy hanging out with time-traveling Richard Pryor. I don't know how else to say it; the joke as reported here betrays a clear, basic lack of historical understanding. It sounds like Rock was probably grandstanding in pursuit of a broader point — and a good one! — about the deeply ingrained character of racism in American culture, and just didn't understand or care that he was making it at pretty much exactly the wrong person's expense.
posted by RogerB at 3:54 PM on October 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think it probably lies in the fact that Colonel Anderson subsequently had to sell the plantation for a pittance and died in penury two years afterwards, rather than any "how dare he not come back" sort of thing. More a "I wish the family mansion had been saved" than anything else.

It may also be because the letter exposes that Colonel Anderson killed a Union soldier secretly - I imagine it might have been a little hot for him after that.


Yeah, those really aren't all that great of reasons either.
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:55 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just realized that looks like I think you, corb, support those reasons. I don't, I just meant to say that if those are the reasons, it's still a really indefensible position.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:09 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the clarification! Yeah, I don't endorse those reasons as a reason to be angry, I'm just I suppose trying to come up with vaguely comprehensible reasons why someone in 2014 - or 2008, whatever - would be angry at an ancestor's ex-slave for leaving and not coming back. But even if I look in the very best of good faith, that's the best I can possibly come up with. And it's not great.
posted by corb at 4:13 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


It sounds like Rock was probably grandstanding in pursuit of a broader point — and a good one! — about the deeply ingrained character of racism in American culture, and just didn't understand or care that he was making it at pretty much exactly the wrong person's expense.

But that's exactly the point of the joke, that even Mark Twain, the guy who wrote the best anti-slavery/anti-racism book in American history and had a very progressive view of race was still a white guy in the 1800s and probably mistook a black guy for a bellhop a couple of times. He's exactly the right guy to make that joke about.

Anyway, the letter is amazing.
posted by Huck500 at 4:31 PM on October 8, 2014 [17 favorites]


Anderson sold the nearly 1,000-acre estate to his attorney for a pittance, in an apparent attempt to get out from under his crushing debt. Just two years later, Patrick Henry Anderson died at the age of 44.

I'm so torn between grumpycat_good.jpg and nelson_haha.jpg .
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:32 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


That letter is perfect.
posted by dazed_one at 4:33 PM on October 8, 2014


Just two years later, Patrick Henry Anderson died at the age of 44.

And by contrast, Jordan Anderson lived to his late 70's, along with his wife. And at least some of his surviving children appear to have prospered. There's some karmic justice there.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:39 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


This story needs to be on Drunk History.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:00 PM on October 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


was still a white guy in the 1800s and probably mistook a black guy for a bellhop a couple of times

Seriously, just repeating the joke's wildly oversimplified, presentist view of race in the 19C doesn't make it any more true. Do you have an actual reason, beyond just generalized Whiggish contempt for the past, why we ought to believe this? I'm not a Twain specialist — and I'll certainly defer to one if one shows up, or to actual documentation of Twain's ever having done anything of the kind — but I've read a bit of Twain scholarship and this strikes me as very likely bullshit.
posted by RogerB at 5:02 PM on October 8, 2014


People only read Huck Finn when it was first released, RogerB? I didn't know that. Thanks!

But no, Twain was definitely a very prominent abolitionist. Are you saying I'm confused about that, or are you just in the mood for a game of "gotcha"?
posted by saulgoodman at 5:26 PM on October 8, 2014


In an effort to lighten the mood, I have another account of someone learning he was descended from a slaveholder and he reacted very differently....

Henry Louis Gates is doing the latest round of "tracing-celebrities'-roots" programming, and last night he did Anderson Cooper's family. He focused on the Coopers since everyone pretty much knows all about the Vanderbilt side...and they turned up a slaveholder ancestor somewhere in Alabama, I think. Cooper's family hadn't known about this, so he was a bit shocked and chastened.

But then Gates said "we found out something else, though - this is the only time we have ever found someone who died this way." And he showed Anderson Cooper the report - that one of his ancestors' own slaves had beaten him to death with a shovel one day.

Anderson Cooper's mind was blown - and when Gates asked him "do you think he deserved it?" Cooper said "I have no doubt."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:29 PM on October 8, 2014 [30 favorites]


Is this

People only read Huck Finn when it was first released, RogerB? I didn't know that. Thanks!

in response to

Huck Finn was published in 1885?

Do you... know when the civil war was?
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:29 PM on October 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


This is a great letter. I think I get why there's so much injured Southern pride, even today. Looking yourself in the mirror can be the greatest of humiliations.


It sounds like Rock was probably grandstanding in pursuit of a broader point — and a good one! — about the deeply ingrained character of racism in American culture, and just didn't understand or care that he was making it at pretty much exactly the wrong person's expense.

Being a High School dropout might have something to do with that.
posted by clarknova at 5:30 PM on October 8, 2014


I'm sorry I shouldn't be posting while I'm trying to get my son to bed with the other half of my brain.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:39 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Being a High School dropout might have something to do with that.

Speaking as a high school dropout, what?
posted by brundlefly at 6:06 PM on October 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


I recently had my eyes opened to civil war history a bit, learning about the history of my own family, but honestly, growing up, the civil war was not a subject that got a whole lot of attention in the South where I grew up. People still seemed to hold onto some vague sense of oppressed pride and would speak about Robert E. Lee with a certain weird reverance (Dukes of Hazzard probably contributed to that). But it didn't really come home to me how recent that history was until I started looking into my own family history (which included a lot of surprises I'm still processing)

(I just had one of those moments upthread where you realize your long-held vague impressions about the story of something you love are totally wrong. Sorry about letting my confusion pollute the thread earlier. I'll admit I'm no great Twain scholar; just a casual fan. But I am reading Huck Finn to my son right now, and really do appreciate the correction. The text sure feels convincingly antebellum.)
posted by saulgoodman at 6:23 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a high school dropout, what?

Heh.
posted by clarknova at 6:56 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


What’s amazing is that the current living relatives of Colonel Anderson are still angry at Jordan for not coming back because someone got TOLD.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:11 PM on October 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


Henry Louis Gates is doing the latest round of "tracing-celebrities'-roots" programming,

God Bless HLG! Of the three rounds of ancestry.com-sponsored genealogy shows, this latest on PBS is the best at helping the viewer (at least me) navigate the US's history of racism. As the family tree person in my family, I've always leaned hard on sharing the bad with the good, but for the past couple of months I've been sharing my research with the family, via a Facebook family group page, of four of my 2x great uncles (brothers to one another) who fought for the Union in the Civil War. Country bumpkins from NYS. Three brothers did not survive the duration of the war. One likely deserted and then likely shot himself in the hand to get a discharge. Two were wounded in famous battles, and the only one of the four who survived was likely participating in the massacre of Indians out west. We're replacing the headstones for the three who died young and holding a ceremony next week, graveside. We have letters written by one of the brothers from his hospital bed. He drops some casually-racist comments in the letter and I'm trying to figure out how and when to share it on the Facebook page.

I'm afraid people will argue that what was said was more ignorant than racist. Or will minimize the level of racism. Or say something racist. And we have African Americans in our family now, in the youngest generations. But withholding that ugly truth is, literally, a whitewash. And allows people to simply believe that "we" fought for the "right side" so our ancestors must not have been racist.

Anderson Cooper's response was spontaneous and classy and awesome. "I have no doubt."

Compare and contrast to Paula Deen's response to finding slave owners in her past on one of the earlier versions of the same kind of show.
posted by vitabellosi at 7:28 PM on October 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


They don't talk a lot about the Iron Brigade, quiet and steadfast no matter how loud the rebels voiced their yell. Or about the destitute Irishmen who marched deliberately into walls of Confederate lead in rural Virginia. Or about the Texas German abolitionists who mustered to fight for the Union and Abolition, and were massacred to a man for their idealism. Or about the partisan war fought within the Confederacy itself, even in the deepest south, by noble Southerners who'd much rather the slaves be free. (West Virginia is now a punchline to a poverty joke because Virginia sued the new state and won over investments Virginia had made in the region before West Virginia seceded from the Secession. They spent the better part of a half-century paying the slavers their due instead of building their industrial infrastructure.)

No. We get this "Lost Cause" bullshit. How fucking noble can you be treating people worse than livestock?

I've got Great-Greats in the war cemetery. They were young, idealistic men, and they died at the Slaver's hands.

Fuck it. I'm gonna start getting "funny" about that war, too. Time's long since past that we all did.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:28 PM on October 8, 2014 [16 favorites]


Actually, that whole episode had some awesome stuff in it. They also looked at Anna Deveare Smith and Ken Burns:

* For Anna Deveare Smith, they focused on one guy whose own story was just so kick-ass it overshadowed everything else - a free black man who moved from Maryland to Pennsylvania with his wife and had a very successful farm and a veterinary practice there. Only they were right by Gettysburg, so when the Confederacy invaded they had to flee. They came back after the Battle to find that the Confederate Army had used their house as a field hospital, and the whole place was trashed, all the food was gone and there were bodies all over the damn place. They were ruined. But her ancestor took a gruesome job - disinterring and re-interring all the bodies, unearthing them from the shallow graves if they had to and laying them out into the cemetery which Lincoln actually was dedicating in his Gettysburg Address. And with the money, he fixed up the farm and re-started the veterinary practice and died wealthy. Oh, and the guy was also a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

* As for Ken Burns, it turns out he had relatives on BOTH sides of the Civil War - and also had a Revolutionary War ancestor, on the LOYALIST side. Which bummed him out.

But then they found proof that Ken Burns is something like fifth cousins with Abraham Lincoln. Because of COURSE Ken Burns would be related to Lincoln.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 PM on October 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


No. We get this "Lost Cause" bullshit. How fucking noble can you be treating people worse than livestock?


Maybe I watched The Tudors too recently, but that seems the very definition of noble.
posted by ocschwar at 8:22 PM on October 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


What’s amazing is that the current living relatives of Colonel Anderson are still angry at Jordan for not coming back

I think a simpler explanation is warranted here. What they wanted from Jordan for the Colonel was redemption, and it was denied him.

As with the stupid "ended slavery voluntarily" thing, there has been an intermittent strain of thought that seeks to defend slavery through minimization, sort of a #NotAllMasters angle. "But our ancestors were kind and cared for their human chattel!" There was a long argument, pre-Civil-War, that slavery was on the wane anyway, would soon die out naturally, and all these Fugitive Slave Law and Missouri Compromise kerfuffles would soon be moot. Postbellum, the argument has frequently been revived as part of the economic framing of the Civil War -- that it was a trade war between honest workers of the land by proxy and exploitative titans of industry. I believe this sort of thinking persisted until around the Second World War in part because the South remained agrarian and (perhaps in large part due to the invention of air conditioning, as well as things like the TVA) only industrialized in the 20th century. But the general point is that somehow the keeping fellow human beings in bondage part falls out of the equation.

In other words, it's more of a blind spot than actual blame, but it does involve denying the humanity and agency of their ancestor's blood-and-flesh property.
posted by dhartung at 12:09 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I believe this sort of thinking persisted until around the Second World War

I wish this was the case. But the sad truth is that for far too many this sort of thinking still persists and, worse, in some places is still taught.
posted by dances with hamsters at 4:48 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


A couple of years ago I was astonished to find myself in a discussion with someone who insisted, in the 21st Century, that the Civil War was not about slavery. (Yep, it was about "states rights" instead. "States rights" do do what," I asked.)

Closer to topic, I am reminded of an old Doonsebury cartoon that flashes back to a Revolutionary War ancestor of Zonker Harris who helps free a slave (by informing him he lives in Massachussets, which is a free state). The slave's owner expresses some sadness that the ex-slave is actually leaving him. The man's reply: "Good luck getting your crops in, boss."
posted by Gelatin at 5:28 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


But that's exactly the point of the joke, that even Mark Twain, the guy who wrote the best anti-slavery/anti-racism book in American history and had a very progressive view of race was still a white guy in the 1800s and probably mistook a black guy for a bellhop a couple of times. He's exactly the right guy to make that joke about.

Exactly this. It's also important to remember that many readers, especially black readers, have a complicated understanding of Huck Finn and Mark Twain (whom I worship); James Baldwin made a related point - "When I was young, there were no black writers as models, and white writers couldn't be models either. I did not agree at all with the moral predicament of Huckleberry Finn concerning N----- Jim. It was not, after all, a question about whether I should be sold back into slavery."
posted by Think_Long at 6:36 AM on October 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Damn, Think_Long. I'm glad you posted that. While in fairness, Huck isn't wrestling with selling Jim back, but with the disconnect between what he's been doing and his cultural conditioning, yes, that's a crucial awareness that anyone teaching Finn needs to have: white readers may empathize with Huck's moral confusion because they're in his shoes (or lack of them), but a black reader is likely to be going down the river as Jim, not as Huck, and will see that amazing moment not as an epiphany but as the dodging of a sinister bullet.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:23 AM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


that letter was awesome.

there's this old joke about two southern belles and the first one keeps going on about what her daddy bought her and the second one keeps saying "that's nice". and then finally the first one asks what the second one's daddy has done for her. second one says she was sent to finishing school. first one says "whatever for?". second one says "to learn how to say that's nice instead of fuck you."

Colonel Anderson: "Come back Jourdan, I need you!"
Jourdan: "That's nice."
posted by sio42 at 9:41 AM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I wish this was the case. But the sad truth is that for far too many this sort of thinking still persists and, worse, in some places is still taught.

I was definitely taught this in 10th grade on Long Island, of all places. It was presented as "Yes they teach the slavery thing to little kids who aren't able to grasp the subtleties of the situation" kind of thing and I totally bought it. It wasn't till awhile later that I realized/found out how incredibly racist that point of view is.
posted by bleep at 10:09 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was taught the "states rights" lie in AP American History. New Hampshire, 1994.
posted by gentian at 10:16 AM on October 9, 2014


I think one of the problems with "the war was over slavery" simplification is that it ignores the slave states of the Union, for example, and the fact that the Civil War didn't free all the slaves. In Delaware and Kentucky, for example 40,000 slaves remained in bondage after the end of the Civil War until the completion of the 13th amendment. (And in fact, both of those states rejected 13th amendment ratification, with Delaware finally changing its mind in 1901, and Kentucky, 1976)

So, yes, slavery was a huge component of the causes for the Civil War - but it wasn't the only cause, and it wasn't the cause in the kind of way that we sometimes simplify it to now: "North good, wanted abolition, went to war to free the slaves." Lincoln emphatically did not go to war to free the slaves, but to preserve the Union.

Here in America we tend to have this weird thing where people are either taught that slavery was irrelevant to the Civil War, or that it was the only issue. Both are a problem.
posted by corb at 10:32 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think most adults understand that the North was far from sinless in its history and treatment of slaves, and that Lincoln held many of the time's racist opinions. But this:

Lincoln emphatically did not go to war to free the slaves, but to preserve the Union

begs the question of why the union was in danger of disintegrating in the first place, if not for slavery. "The economy" is usually the argument I hear, overlooking the fact that the engine of the confederate states' economy was built entirely on unpaid labor.
posted by Think_Long at 11:15 AM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think most adults understand that the North was far from sinless in its history and treatment of slaves, and that Lincoln held many of the time's racist opinions.

You have a very optimistic view of either most adults or of U.S. high school history classes. I can't decide which. Possibly both.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:30 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think one of the problems with "the war was over slavery" simplification is that it ignores the slave states of the Union, for example, and the fact that the Civil War didn't free all the slaves.

This ignores the politics of the day and glosses over a major historical event with a disgusting half-truth.

The slave states siding with the Union were willing to let the democratic process abolish slavery if it was indeed what the people's representatives in congress wanted. This happened after the war, culminating a process going on throughout the war. The movie "Lincoln" has a great depiction of the politics involved - Lincoln wasn't a dictator. He was a politician who believed in the rule of law. It's that simple.

The Confederate states were not willing to let the democratic process abolish slavery, and tried to make their own country where the slavers had the majority of the vote and the institution of slavery would constitutionally enshrined in case they ever lost that majority.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:32 AM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


You have a very optimistic view of either most adults or of U.S. high school history classes. I can't decide which. Possibly both.

Alas, probably a fair point.
posted by Think_Long at 11:40 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


corb: Lincoln emphatically did not go to war to free the slaves, but to preserve the Union.

"The fire department did not douse the building in water to put out the fire, but to preserve the home."
posted by tonycpsu at 11:48 AM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I've also heard over and over again that the claims of horrible abuse of slaves couldn't be true because they were too valuable to mistreat. In order to believe this you have to ignore or reject pretty much the whole historical record, placing it somewhere between Holocaust and Climate Change denialism in the na na na can't hear you stakes.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:58 PM on October 9, 2014


Lincoln emphatically did not go to war to free the slaves, but to preserve the Union.

Why was the Union in peril of dissolution? Oh, that's right, slavery.
The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution...The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia.
It is disingenuous at best to say that the US didn't go to war with the secessionists over slavery. It is even more disingenuous to imply that the US went to war when all it did was defend itself against the attacks of the secessionists.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:20 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've also heard over and over again that the claims of horrible abuse of slaves couldn't be true because they were too valuable to mistreat.

They were too valuable to kill, I suppose. Or break their legs. Whole lotta mistreatment possible between zero and that, though.
posted by rifflesby at 1:20 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've also heard over and over again that the claims of horrible abuse of slaves couldn't be true because they were too valuable to mistreat

In what world is holding someone in slavery not horrible abuse? Where do these people come from? What has happened to their critical thinking skills?
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:34 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


[We are not having yet another corb vs. everyone discussion of the Civil War. Stop now. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:41 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


In what world is holding someone in slavery not horrible abuse? Where do these people come from? What has happened to their critical thinking skills?

I think that the prevailing belief is that being brought into the far more "advanced" world of "Western Civilization" was a net gain - sure, they were slaves, but they now were in a culture were there was more advanced medicine, a more ample supply of food, and schooling, so hey, they were better off, right? If they'd been left back in Africa they'd have been eaten by a lion or something or starved to death, right?

So, in other words, these people come from a world which combines Eurocentricism with Insane Troll Logic.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:43 PM on October 9, 2014


So, in other words, these people come from a world which combines Eurocentricism with Insane Troll Logic.

Lillian E. Smith's Killers of the Dream was first published in 1949 but in it she pretty much comes to the same conclusion.
posted by fuse theorem at 2:16 PM on October 9, 2014


Heck, Randy Newman turned it into the brilliantly satirical Sail Away. (Lyrics here.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:26 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm convinced my own ancestor's role in agitating for secession when he was general manager of the New Orleans' Crescent was due to the family's continuing close ties to European nobility throughout the Revolutionary War period--not in the sense that the nobles sought to influence our affairs or anything, but in the sense that some within the family (like my ancestor) weren't willing to let go of the past and accept that the birth-right based, feudal systems our own peculiar institution aped in so many ways were steadily being abandoned.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:31 PM on October 9, 2014


That was a terrific letter from Jordan Anderson, but this, from the AP story, bothers me:

Anderson’s words, a timeless kiss-off to a hated boss, also are a puzzle: How could an illiterate man, newly released from bondage, produce such a work of sophisticated satire?

As if sophistication can be gained only by reading books.
posted by ogooglebar at 9:46 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


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