Monday, January 03, 2005
( 2:54 PM )
The Nice History of Slavery
My issue of In These Times arrived today with the following tidbit in its "Appall-o-meter":
"Slave life was to them a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care." So asserts the booklet "Southern Slavery, As It Was," a classroom text designed for faith-based instruction. Authors Douglas Wilson and Steve Wilkins, a pair of fundamental educators, also explain that the Bible permits slave-owning (a red state tradition) but condemns slave-trading (a blue state vice). Slavery wasn't "perfect or sinless," the authors allow, but come on, those folks just loved massuh.
One institution that adopted the text, acording to The News & Observer of North Carolina, was Cary Christian School, the fast-growing Christian school in the "triangle" area around Raleigh-Durham. After the paper examined the text, Cary Christian withdrew it from the 9th grade curriculum, citing faulty footnotes and citations.
I looked into this most definitely appalling story and found that indeed, Messrs. Wilson and Wilkins have been peddling their little booklet for some time now. Wilkins is a co-founder of League of the South, a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Historians at History News Network had something to say about their interpretation of that "peculiar institution" of slavery:
Wilson’s and Wilkins’ booklet, published by Wilson’s “Canon Press” in Moscow, argues that southern slavery was not only sanctioned by the Bible but, thanks to the patriarchal kindness of their wise evangelical masters, a positive, happy, and pleasant experience for the majority of southern blacks. Wilson and Wilkins are quite specific about the many benefits of slavery for African-Americans, and they conclude that southern slaves genuinely appreciated those benefits and supported the system that provided them. As such, they claim that “slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War [the Civil War] or since.” (p. 38). Their praise of the institution is almost unbounded in places. “There has never been,” they argue, “a multi-racial society that has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.” (p. 24). They repeatedly deride the consensus view of slavery that has emerged over the last fifty years of academic scholarship as “abolitionist propaganda” and “civil rights propaganda.” Most of the modern problems confronting the United States, they feel, are the logical result of the theological heresies implicit in the abolitionist movement and its unfortunate victory over the South in the Civil War.
Of course, Steve Gilliard was on top of this story from the beginning. I concur with his conclusion that if you want to refute any slavery denial that you may hear, go straight to the primary documents. The Internet is now full of primary documents and quotes from slaves.
It's disgusting, but not surprising. Once our history is whitewashed and cleansed, we can proceed in an orderly fashion right into Christo-fascism. I know these guys are on the radical fringe, but unfortunately, with every creeping movement the Christian Right makes into politics and influencing government - like today's declaration from James Dobson that Focus on the Family will now take names and kick the butts of any lawmaker that opposes their choices for conservative judicial nominees - the more the "fringe" becomes less radical. It's never too late to stand in the way of people like this.
On the Dobson thing, at the very least, Focus on the Family should now lose its tax-exempt status. Dobson has completely crossed over into political endorsement and activism on behalf of the Bush administration. So much for the ol' Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the Bill of Rights. Oh well, we weren't using them anyway...