More from Helga Ross on Slavery … Really

From the gift that keeps on giving, again:

darkmoon“:  “But I think your on to something, a solution to racism, benevolent slavery…”

Ms. Ross:  “I think the record will show that used to be the solution.”

I’m not sure exactly what the record will show in the American case, other than slavery finally perished in the United States as the result of a bloody war, a war where Confederates fought for independence so they could protect a way of life and a social order based upon the enslavement of African Americans.

There were in fact various proposals offered in the 1850s to “reform” slavery and a slaveholding society.  One such proposal was offered by several white southerners: reopening the international slave trade, thus increasing the supply of slaves, lowering their price, and thus allowing more whites to buy into the system .. a stimulus package for slaveholders, if you will.  Those who opposed this idea included white Virginians who did not want to see any downturn in the price of one of the Old Dominion’s most valuable exports … enslaved human beings (I don’t see that proud Virginian, Eddie Inman, boasting about that in cwh2, although he’s ranting all over the place when it comes to slavery, race, and related issues, always finger-pointing).  And yes, there were proposals to reform the practices of slavery, offered in response to criticism of the conditions of slavery and the experiences of slaves as offered in such places as the pages of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Among the leading proponents of this approach: William T. Sherman, who shared his views on the matter with white Louisianans when he worked in the Bayou State as a superintendent of a military academy that someday would be known as Louisiana State University.

Clearly Helga Ross and William T. Sherman seem to be on the same page.  Who woulda thunk it?

However, Sherman’s racism ran deep, and he saw reform in slaveholding practices as a way to counter abolitionist criticisms.  Given Ms. Ross’s disparagement of what she has called antislavery cliches, perhaps that’s her primary concern as well.  She remains the best authority on how she sees benevolent slavery as a way to counter racism.  You can always join “civilwarhistory2” and find out.

17 thoughts on “More from Helga Ross on Slavery … Really

  1. Al Mackey July 18, 2011 / 5:57 pm

    Does she really mean it the way it sounds? Holy cow.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 18, 2011 / 7:44 pm

      I expect her to say that I’m misrepresenting her and twisting her words by quoting her complete comment.

      • Al Mackey July 18, 2011 / 7:56 pm

        And of course she’ll probably ignore all requests for clarification, possibly because it’s already clear?

        • Brooks D. Simpson July 18, 2011 / 9:46 pm

          Undoubtedly true, with Tweedledum and Tweedledee chiming in while Miss Scarlett cheers on her boys.

        • Brooks D. Simpson July 19, 2011 / 1:13 pm

          Helga’s tried to offer clarifications, which tend to document her own confusion. Even the material she quotes sets forth that the approach she highlighted as one embraced by “apologists for slavery (p. 153 of Pryor’s Reading the Man).” After presenting a block of text, she omitted Pryor’s next sentence: “What this convoluted scheme failed to address was the humanity of the slaves and their innate right to freedom (ibid.).” As Pryor points out, Lee “never made the transformational leap that would recognize the fundamental human nature of the slaves…. In avoiding that truth, he bound himself to slavery’s inhumanity (p. 154).”

          In short, just because someone can quote it or reproduce text (and even bold it when needed) doesn’t mean that one understands the argument being presented. You can decide whether this is ignorant, stupid, shrewd, or just plain dishonest.

          Ms. Ross does not understand that the move toward a more “Christian” slaveholding (or slaveholding “reform”) was a way to maintain the institution while fending off its critics. She makes the same mistake made by her Tweedledum: that somehow a master who was less harsh for whatever reason must also be less racist.

          So we find the usual cherry-picking of a quote, but, as Pryor makes clear, “the Arlington philosophy” she describes “shunned the notion of an interracial society based on equality (page 135).” So let’s cast aside this nonsense of a reform in slaveholding practices as a path toward erasing racial prejudices. Let’s instead remember that it was endorsed by slaveholding apologists.

          • Al Mackey July 19, 2011 / 1:32 pm

            I note that the original question was whether the so-called “benevolent slavery” (laying aside the giant question of whether such could actually exist) was a solution for racism. Nothing in her “clarification” or in the Pryor quote addresses the question at hand in the discussion. Even with the truncated quotation, Pryor is quite clear that this was no solution for racism but rather another manifestation of racism.

          • Brooks D. Simpson July 19, 2011 / 1:45 pm

            Now you’re asking Ms. Ross to follow her own train of thought. Be fair. As soon as her arguments collapse, she tries to change the subject.

    • Andy Hall July 18, 2011 / 9:44 pm

      That’s a very common claim that’s part of the Lost Cause canon — that slavery was natural and beneficial to both whites and African Americans, and engendered strong, affectionate bonds between them. I just came across this passage in a 1906 copy of the Confederate Veteran magazine:

      Theorists and imaginary philanthropists may indulge in vain speculation from now until doomsday about bringing up the negro race to a plane of equality with the white race, yet back of it all lies the immutable law written by the finger of God upon the chart of human destiny which makes race equality an impossibility. Whom God has parted asunder, no man can join together.

      The kindliest relation that ever existed between the two races in this country, or that ever will, was the ante-bellum relation of master and slave — a relation of confidence and responsibility on the part of the master and of dependence and fidelity on the part of the slave.

      Two instances of slave fidelity which came under my personal observation are still so fresh in memory that I deem them worthy of record, especially as they furnish such forcible illustration of the tender relations existing between the two races under the old regime. . . .

      Ms. Ross’ statement is jarring to the modern ear, but it wouldn’t have gotten a second glance a hundred years ago in a publication like that.

      • Al Mackey July 19, 2011 / 3:33 am

        When someone romanticizes the Antebellum South, that’s what we get–moonlight, magnolias, and “happy darkies.” Interesting vignette that came up at the Civil War Institute was a Confederate officer writing home, telling his wife that his slave “got lost” and it didn’t appear as though he’d be able to find his way back. Right. Obviously, that slave, being so happy to be a slave, wouldn’t have run away. He had to have simply gotten lost and is out there vainly trying to find his beloved master again.

      • Sharryn clark July 19, 2011 / 6:50 am

        The whole southern “philosophy” on this subject, “Pitiful” is about all that can be said!

        • Brooks D. Simpson July 19, 2011 / 11:46 am

          Helga Ross is Canadian, I believe. Like most white Canadians, she does live in southern Canada … just like where I live is south of where most Confederate Romantics live (as in in the northern hemisphere, closer to the equator). 🙂

          Some people are imagined southerners. That is, they embrace an idealized moonlight and magnolias view of the South as real. Between calling out her “boys” and assigning them “pet names,” one might assume something else is going on in Ms. Ross’s imagined world as well. Call it an updating of that rather amusing TV soap opera, Flamingo Road.

          • Al Mackey July 19, 2011 / 1:33 pm

            Does Ms. Ross fancy herself another Morgan Fairchild? 🙂

          • Brooks D. Simpson July 19, 2011 / 1:46 pm

            I know she’s fond of dressing as a southern belle.

          • MarkD July 20, 2011 / 12:01 pm

            >> Some people are imagined southerners. That is, they embrace an idealized moonlight and magnolias view of the South as real.

            I agree. It’s a powerful myth, and attractive to many for so many reasons. An idealized past is used to argue about a real present. We’re all critiques of the present, but using an idealized understanding to argue about it is just so problematic.

  2. marcferguson July 19, 2011 / 6:09 am

    Could somebody, anybody, explain to me what this means?

    “> Ah, so you’ve finally taken a position on Southern

    No. I stated a fact: “The record will show”.  A statement of a fact capable of being observed. An act of recognizing or noting an occurrence  is not a position. 


    — In, “marc ferguson” wrote:
    > Benevolent slavery? Really? Ah, so you’ve finally taken a position on Southern slavery!? Somewhere between not-so-bad and good, as opposed to the “slavery=bad” position.
    > — In, helgar3 no_reply@ wrote:
    > >
    > >
    > > I think the record will show that used to be the solution.
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > > — In, “Darkmoon”
    > > wrote:
    > > >
    > > > But I think your on to something,a solution to racism,benevolent
    > > slavery…”

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 19, 2011 / 7:19 am

      Ms. Ross often becomes flustered when she is called upon to explain what she means. It believes it must be everyone else’s fault that they don’t understand what she means, and that in itself allows her to filibuster the question until her cherry-picking research assistant comes along with a quote he believes explains everything. Then she pets him on the head and thanks him for coming to her rescue. It’s the Ashley and Scarlett Show.


      Maybe you’ll get her to give you a pet name, too. Yes, pet name. Her term.

      Clearly Ms. Ross is enchanted with the opening scene in GWTW, where Scarlett’s surrounded by two fawning men (one of whom would later play Superman on television). That should be the icon for her discussion group.

  3. marcferguson July 19, 2011 / 11:37 am

    “Maybe you’ll get her to give you a pet name, too. Yes, pet name. Her term.”

    I suspect I already have a few “pet names” that circulate among group members there. 🙂

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