Frederick Douglass Pays Tribute to A Flawed Hero: Abraham Lincoln

emancipation_memorial

On April 14, 1876, prominent Americans, led by President Ulysses S. Grant, gathered to dedicate a monument that tells a story that we today do not entirely accept: an image of Abraham Lincoln freeing a representative slave, who (depending on one’s point of view) is rising or kneeling (note, however, the clenched right fist). Among those who offered a somewhat dissenting point of view was Frederick Doulgass. You may find his complete remarks here.

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Even More Ranting …

Several readers of this blog have drawn my attention to yet another rant about me from an unhappy fellow blogger.

Brooks Simpson is a paragon for an underlying fault among many academic historians identified by Harvard’s Gordon Wood that might explain why Simpson thinks publishers have been “duped” into issuing my books and articles:

… many historians have become obsessed with inequality and white privilege in American society. And this obsession has seriously affected the writing of American history. The inequalities of race and gender now permeate much of academic history-writing, so much so that the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by nonacademics who have no Ph.D.s and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars.

Really?

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Research Exercises: Winslow Homer’s Watching the Shot

homer watching the shot

Poking around the internet at the convergence of two of my research interests … Winslow Homer and the 5th New York Infantry … along with a Facebook post from Diane Monroe Smith, brought me to a rather interesting website which explores one of Homer’s lesser-known works, “Watching the Shot.”

I have reason to doubt that this painting combines all the elements claimed by the researcher. The mention of Antietam seems a distraction, for bridges at Antietam look far different. Nor would one easily recall an action where Francis C. Barlow and the 5th New York were in close proximity. Indeed, let’s set Antietam aside: the 5th New York was in reserve at Antietam behind Middle Bridge, still recovering from the devastating losses it suffered at Second Manassas. Nor do I think this piece portrays High Bridge in Virginia: that’s a much higher bridge than offered here, and of course the 5th New York was not present at a battle that took place some 23 months after the regiment went home. But maybe someone here has a different opinion or a better one. In any case, enjoy.

The Character of The Virginia Flaggers

While most Americans have been preoccupied with far more serious issues involving the future of this country, Connie Chastain has returned to blogging in yet another attempt to portray the Virginia Flaggers as victims. This time, it’s “character assassination,” although Chastain favors the wording “to character assassinate” for some odd reason.

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Susan Hathaway Explains

In a break from tradition that nevertheless sounds traditional themes, Susan Hathaway of the Virginia Flaggers took to Facebook to share her reaction to the revelation that a Confederate heritage activist she had once praised for his action to protect children had been arrested on fifty counts of charges concerning child pornography transactions.

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You can see I’ve gotten someone’s attention.🙂

Susan Hathaway sure knows a lot about blogs she claims she hasn’t read in a year or so. Of course, she’s also made that claim in past years. But she also claims to know why people do what they do. Just like Connie Chastain does.

By the way, my speaking schedule remains as crowded as ever. My, my, but she can’t get anything straight.

But I do like that she’s finally admitted that she’s the head of the Flaggers. She’s not like Connie Chastain, who can’t make up her mind as to whether she’s a Flagger or knows what they say or do. Call that situational membership.

Susan continues:

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Note the lack of concern about the victims of child pornography. But then the Flaggers were not concerned about a child who was kidnapped by a Flagger, or when a Flagger got himself arrested in front of his children (as they were videotaping him). So, nothing new here.

Of course, Hathaway did not just know Jason Sulser. She praised him:

Sulser and Hathaway (2)

Susan’s deepest respect? Must not be worth much. “You are the reason none of our women or children were seriously injured.” How ironic.

Susan concludes:

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Yes, Susan, your words, deeds, and actions speak for themselves. Mind reminding us why you no longer appear at the War Memorial Chapel at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts? And let’s not forget the need to invoke God … that same God that brought you Rob Walker.

Next you’ll claim that none of you ever knew anything about Matthew Heimbach. Or that you had no idea that this was happening. And on, and on, and on …

We’ve seen this movie before, folks. No doubt we’ll see it again.

Once question remains for sincere advocates of Confederate heritage: Are you mad enough yet?

 

 

Trouble in Flaggerland

Readers of this blog will recall that Confederate heritage advocates, led by Connie Chastain (the webmaster and sometimes spokesperson for the Virginia Flaggers … especially when spokesperson Susan Hathaway falls silent, as she is wont to do in situations like the one we’re about to discuss), were overjoyed to find out that among the commenters on this blog were two people who had been charged with sexual offenses. That one was in fact a frequent commenter on one of Chastain’s old social media sites and that it was rather broadly known that I despised the person in question made no difference; that it soon became known that another Confederate heritage advocate whom Chastain had embraced as a friend apparently had prior knowledge of that person’s child pornography habit but remained quiet was hurriedly concealed. And, of course, there was the case of the Confederate heritage advocate who doubled as a fandom writer who liked to write about cartoon character minors having sex … the Confederate heritage gang quickly made excuses for that as “art.”

Somehow, to attack this blog because of the criminal activities of two people who once commented on it (I blocked both of them) seemed a stretch, especially in light of the white supremacists whom the Virginia Flaggers embraced as allies, friends, and business associates. After all, I did not know either of these people, and they were not my associates: I thought one was a jerk. That the fandom writer was particularly exercised about my decision to ban these commenters stuck me as rather curious but fairly predictable given what passes for logic and integrity among the Flaggers and their friends. Nevertheless, child pornography is a horrible and disgusting crime, and sexual assault is inexcusable. I would hope we can all agree on that.

Well, now we’ll see exactly how outraged Hathaway, Chastain, and their ilk in the heritage community are at the news that one of their own, Jason Sulser, has been charged with 50 counts concerning the distribution of child pornography. Sulser’s a highly-visible Confederate heritage advocate, having once started a petition calling for the removal of John Hennessy as the NPS historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP.

This blog has long been aware that Hathaway once praised a registered sex offender as a gift from the Almighty, but declined to pursue that story. In this case, however, other sources broke the tale even as it made its way through Confederate heritage groups.

We can now expect Hathaway and company to pretend they never knew the person in question. And we should know better. Recall that Flagger favorite Tripp Lewis declared that white supremacist Matthew Heimbach was “a good guy.” Well, let’s see what Hathaway said about Sulser last year after that ill-fated rally in Washington:

Sulser and Hathaway (2)

So, Mr. Sulser, how do you reconcile these child pornography charges with your pledge to “run towards trouble to protect every woman and child in a dangerous situation”? Seems to me that you were rather fond of some of those “dangerous situations,” if these charges have merit.

Methinks Hathaway will have to reconsider that claim that “none of our women and children were seriously injured” given that child pornography injures and exploits children. But who knows? Let’s just hope she doesn’t invite him to the Flagger picnic this year, as she did last year (reminding us that the Hathaway-Sulser link was not a one-time-only affair).

Now, in years past, Chastain would start blaring and braying and baying and flailing away at her blog, but Backsass is basically Sadsass nowadays. Nevertheless, I’m sure she’ll comment, and her comment will contain false and misleading information … but she’ll do it because poor old Susan Hathaway will be too skeered to say anything. Just watch.

It will be interesting to see how Hathaway, her Flagger friends, and other Confederate heritage advocates spin this one.

Will the Ku Klux Klan Rise Again?

Basically, that’s the question offered in this article from the Associated Press (a video will eventually play to augment the article).

I was particularly struck by the following claim in the article:

Formed just months after the end of the Civil War by six former Confederate officers, the Klan originally seemed more like a college fraternity with ceremonial robes and odd titles for its officers. But soon, freed blacks were being terrorized, and the Klan was blamed. Hundreds of people were assaulted or killed as whites tried to regain control of the defeated Confederacy. Congress effectively outlawed the Klan in 1871, and the group died.

The curious construction of the second sentence, complete with the double use of the passive voice, is remarkable. Might the Reconstruction KKK have had something to do with conducting a war of terror against freed blacks (and their white allies)?

Maybe. Just maybe.

As for the rest of the muddled narrative, let’s assume that the author has at best a partial understanding of the Ku Klux Act of 1871, how President Grant used the powers it authorized him to use, and the degree to which Grant’s actions destroyed the KKK.

The various reincarnations of the KKK in the 20th century, while inspired by the Reconstruction KKK (or, to be more precise, by the portrayal of that group in the movie Birth of A Nation), are distinct from that organization, even if they have many things in common, including an identification with the Confederacy and the preservation of white (Christian/Protestant) supremacy through terror, intimidation, and violence. But to say that they are the same is to overlook a great deal.

It is also unfortunate that many people identify white supremacist terrorist violence during Reconstruction with the KKK alone. That would be incorrect. Violence and suppression against freed blacks started during the summer and fall of 1865: we can see institutional evidence of state-sponsored white supremacy in the passing of the Black Codes and in the shaping of the southern legal sysyem by the state governments founded during presidential Reconstruction (especially during the Johnson presidency). Neither the Memphis nor New Orleans massacres of 1866 were KKK operations. Moreover, the tendency to identify the KKK with Nathan Bedford Forrest tends to obscure the fact that many Confederate veterans, including prominent ones such as John B. Gordon, donned Klan robes and did all they could to counter the emergence of black equality and political power. The KKK was far more pwerful in 1867 and especially 1868, when it battled the advent of black political power and the Republican party, and the organization in various forms persisted into the early 1870s, proving especially important in the Carolinas.

But the so-called destruction of the KKK in the aftermath of the passage of the Ku Klux Act and Grant’s application of the act in South Carolina in September 1871 did not spell the end of white supremacist terrorist violence. Far from it. Such violence took new forms under new names and emplyed new tactics and strategies (see the Mississippi Plan of 1875) as it did much to accomplish what the original KKK failed to achieve. Occasionally even biographers of Grant ignore or stumble over this inconvenient truth, most notably in Geoffrey Perret’s 1997 study, which was virtually silent about Reconstruction in Grant’s second term. By paying far too much attention to the KKK as the expression of such violence, Perret blinded himself to what else was going on … or perhaps he simply didn’t know about it. We must not be so ignorant.

But wait … there’s more.

Like several Confederate heritage groups, the KKK makes for good video, especially with the Confederate flag waving in the background or in places like Stone Mountain, a place favored by, among others, the Virginia Flaggers. Indeed, it’s not hard to draw connections between the KKK, other white supremacists, and Confederate heritage groups, as this news item this past week demonstrates. Note that the KKK leaders portrayed in this report endorse Trump and pledge death to their enemies (although they then claim that they don’t mean what they say–we’ve heard that excuse before from Confederate heritage apologists when white supremacists have advocated violence). And, of course, many of you will recall Mr. Heimbach’s association with a certain Virginia-based Confederate heritage group, one the group’s leadership has never disavowed (recall Virginia Flagger Tripp Lewis’s declaration that Mr. Heimbach was “a good guy”). A review of the social media offerings of several Virginia Flaggers reveals that, like the KKK and their buddy Heimbach, they, too, support Donald J. Trump for president.

Then again, Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was prominent in KKK circles during Reconstruction, did much to play down that association when he appeared before a congressional investigating committee in 1871. The Virginia Flaggers would like to do the same with their association with Heimbach and other white supremacists, including two people who rented them land upon which to fly their flags near Virginia interstates. But how can we forget that the spokesperson of the Virginia Flaggers, Susan Frise Hathaway, openly idolizes Forrest and Wade Hampton, whose Red Shirts used white supremacist terrorist tactics to regain control of South Carolina’s state government? The woman in the red dress loves that man and his Red Shirts.

As Mark Twain once reminded us, although history may not repeat itself, sometime it rhymes.