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Post Confederate Monuments; What About Washington and Jefferson?
Created by John Eipper on 08/21/17 3:51 AM

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Confederate Monuments; What About Washington and Jefferson? (Francisco Ramirez, USA, 08/21/17 3:51 am)

No, John, monuments to Washington and Jefferson should not be removed for what I thought would be obvious reasons. They helped create the Union and their monuments were not constructed to celebrate the rebellion. This is not about lumping all slave owners in the same category. This is thinking about why these monuments were constructed in the first place. I understand that Donald Trump cannot think or chooses not to so as to maintain his base. But we should think.

There was backlash against the emancipation of slaves and it took the form of the KKK and lynchings. There was backlash against desegregation and people were beaten and killed. So, yes, there may indeed be backlash. And the focus on monuments is itself a backlash against Trump and the white supremacists he has helped unleash. Do note that these folks did not feel the need to hide their faces. They feel empowered. They act as if the election of Trump is a signal that the good old days of white men at the helm are back. Do note that the Black man in the White House did not much emphasize the monuments. He really wanted to be President of all Americans, but from the outset his legitimacy was questioned. No challenging voice was louder than that of the current President. For some folks that is exactly what attracted them to Donald Trump in the first place.

Imagine a secessionist movement today. Imagine another civil war and that after years of fighting the secession is crushed. Can you imagine that decades later the secessionists would be allowed to create monuments to celebrate the leaders of the secession? Well, if there was some popular understanding that that the war was a costly mistake and now it was time to reconcile and if putting lesser sorts in their proper place was the price for reconciliation, we could repeat history. Check out how early 20th century textbooks framed the Civil War and Reconstruction. Some of my students and I have. No, these are not textbooks written by Southern authors. The appeal of Gone With the Wind was not limited to a region. And yes, I enjoyed the book and loved the movie. But then I grew up.

JE comments:  Washington and Jefferson led a rebellion, too.  I am not trying to draw any moral equivalencies, but imagine how W and J would be remembered by a fictional North American commonwealth that remained British and abolished slavery with the rest of the Empire in 1833--or conversely, how Lee, Jackson and Davis would be celebrated today if the Confederacy had succeeded.

Francisco Ramírez makes an important observation, that the Confederate monuments are being attacked under Trump's watch.  With Obama, they were largely a non-issue.  Is this because the monuments are the lowest-hanging fruit for a population that has few other avenues for airing its anti-Trump frustration?

Eugenio Battaglia (next) has sent a response to Francisco's post of yesterday.

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  • Confederate Monuments as Symbols of Jim Crow, Anti-Civil Rights (Francisco Ramirez, USA 08/22/17 8:35 AM)
    It looks like the big spike in Confederate monument building did take place in the Jim Crow era. It also looks like the more recent small spike takes place during the Civil Rights era. These are mere coincidences? In both eras nothing malign motivated their construction?

    You can make the case that not all persons who contributed to construct these monuments were malignly motivated. But the timing of their construction is consistent with a defiance interpretation. Mixed motives underlie a lot of human behavior. This is especially true as regards collective action and their consequences.

    If there is evidence that this graph is inaccurate, please let me know. If the graph is accurate, why should we not think of their creation as acts of defiance?

    We defied them when they sought to take away our sovereignty and we lost (sort of). We defied them when they sought to take away our segregated way of life and we lost (sort of). Now they are coming after our monuments and we will again lose (sort of). This is all about the continuing Southern resistance to the continuing War of Northern Aggression?

    My best friend in graduate school was Alabama born and raised. He did his undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt. His wife was also from the South. (There were always warm biscuits at dinner in his home.) He identified with the South but not with the celebration of the Confederacy. Without the South there would be no United States. Had the South triumphed and two or more countries emerged, there would be no United States either. He brought this up fully aware of the irony. I bring this up only to demonstrate that valuing your Southern heritage does not require celebrating the Confederacy. Some do and some do not.

    Source of the chart: Mother Jones, a left-wing magazine citing the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    JE comments:  Coincidentally, the 1890-1910 period corresponded to the final years of the veterans themselves, who would have been concerned with preserving their place in history.  Again coincidentally, the late 1950s-early '60s marked the Centennial of the war.  This was the period in which Civil War re-enacting became a vibrant US subculture.  And why did the 1920s, which saw the very worst of Klan activity, also see a drop-off in monuments?

    I believe the situation is more complex and nuanced than Mother Jones suggests.  Tim Ashby (next) gives further thoughts.

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    • Confederate Monuments Removed at U Texas, Austin (Anthony J Candil, USA 08/23/17 3:50 AM)
      No surprises here. After all, what is happening at the University of Texas is happening across the nation. The removal of Confederate statues was due to happen at any time.

      In my view this is sad, because it is just history but it looks as though others don't see it as such.

      Nevertheless, the statues will be moved to the Briscoe Center, within the University, as a tribute to history. It is a wise decision.

      The statues were removed at night and without warning to avoid disruption and turmoil.

      In the meanwhile nobody has stopped at what is written in stone at the Littlefield Fountain Memorial:

      "To the men and women of the Confederacy, who fought with valor and suffered with fortitude that states' rights be maintained and who, not dismayed by defeat nor discouraged by misrule, builded from the ruins of a devastating war a greater South and to the men and women of the nation who gave of their possessions and of their lives [so] that free government be made secure to the peoples of the earth this memorial is dedicated."

      What about this? Should it be removed as well?

      Have we stopped at thinking that in 1860 there were no provisions at all within the Constitution for any state wanting to secede from the Union?

      And beyond that, does anyone recall the inaugural speech of President-elect Lincoln on March 4, 1861?

      "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."


      "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to 'preserve, protect, and defend it.'

      "I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

      I confess that all these words are making me think all the time. What are we doing, here, today, in the year of the Lord, 2017?

      JE comments:  The University's president, Greg Fenves, said that the monuments had become symbols of "modern white supremacy and Neo-Nazism."  Their hurried and clandestine removal prevented any informed discussion, but it was probably the best way to prevent UT from turning into another Charlottesville.

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    • Racism was Not Confined to the US South (Timothy Ashby, South Africa 08/25/17 3:44 AM)

      No one can deny that racism was endemic throughout the United States in the early part of the 20th century, but it was certainly not confined to the Old South. In the early 1920s the Ku Klux Klan was recruiting more new members in the Midwest and Western states than in any other part of America. In 1921 the governor of Oregon and the mayor of Portland gave speeches at a Ku Klux Klan dinner honoring the local Grand Dragon. And the same year the Mayor of Omaha, Nebraska was made an officer in an organization called the "Fascisti of America" which was a front for the Klan.

      Ironically, when the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC was dedicated on Memorial Day 1922, the thousands of black people attending were confined to a segregated position far from the memorial (at which Lincoln's son Robert Todd Lincoln spoke).

      Racism (or rather, the widespread notion of preserving "Old Stock" White supremacy) was not confined to blacks or other "persons of color").

      The Immigration Act of 1924 (the National Origins Act) legalized restrictive immigration policies to restrict the number of from southern and eastern Europe based on the 1890 proportions of foreign-born European nationalities. Madison Grant's best-selling 1916 book The Passing of a Great Race, heavily influenced the US Congress to pass this legislation. The book held that northern European immigrants were skilled, thrifty and hardworking like native-born Americans, and that recent immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were unskilled, ignorant, predominantly Catholic or Jewish and not easily assimilated into American culture. Madison Grant and Charles Davenport, among other eugenicists, were called in as expert advisers during congressional hearings on the threat of "inferior stock" from eastern and southern Europe, playing a critical role as Congress debated the Immigration Act of 1924.

      And let's not forget that women were denied the vote until 1920 on the basis of many absurd arguments including the fact that their brains were generally smaller than men's!

      Regarding the erection of Confederate Monuments: I stand by my assertion that these were primarily done to honor what was then a fading generation of Confederate soldiers (like our WWII generation today). Many (if not most) of these monuments were sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy "to preserve and uphold the memory of the Confederate veterans, especially those husbands, sons, fathers and brothers who died in the Civil War."

      How can this be even remotely considered malign in the context of the era? From a modern perspective, would the UDC of that period have been considered racist? Yes, but so were most white Americans then. And did the UDC perpetuate the myth about the "Lost Cause"? Of course, but again this should be placed in the historical context of the bitter aftermath of a devastating war that infected several generations of southern Americans.

      I remember visiting Vicksburg a few years ago and was amazed to learn that the town did not officially observe the Independence Day holiday for 81 years after its surrender to Union forces (not returning to its observance until 1945). I asked a guide the reason for this and he soberly replied: "Until the last person with a memory of the siege had died."

      JE comments:  The long and brutal siege of Vicksburg ended on July 4th (1863).  It was also one day after Meade's victory at Gettysburg (1-3 July).  The war was basically decided at this point, although far from over.

      To return to Northern racism, we should also recall the New York City Draft Riots of that same month (July 1863), in which white mobs unleashed their murderous wrath upon the city's African-American population.  Among the large Northern cities, New York was probably the least supportive of the Union cause.

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      • Fascisti of America (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/27/17 3:14 PM)
        Even If I very much enjoyed the posts of Timothy Ashby (25 August and previous), I was troubled by the following: "And the same year (1921) the Mayor of Omaha, Nebraska was made an officer in an organization called the 'Fascisti of America' which was a front for the Klan."

        In 1921 Fascism in Italy was still a minor movement, with no goal of getting involved in the internal politics of faraway America. I seriously doubt that in Nebraska someone knew of Mussolini's existence.

        Moreover, how can you associate the Ku Klux Kan with the Italians, when the Italians were lynched by the Ku Klux Kan almost as much as were the African-Americans?  The KKK, completely WASP, wanted to eliminate African-Americans, Catholics (Italians) and Jews. Just remember the massacre of "Dagos" in New Orleans on 14 March 1891.

        The Fascist League of North America was founded in 1924 by Paolo Ignazio Thaon di Revel. But it was closed by Mussolini in 1929 following an article by Harper's Magazine which accused the FLNA of an (absurd) Mussolini plot to control the Italian-American community. Instead Mussolini repeatedly said that the Italians of America should honor their old country by being good Americans. See also the speeches of the great aviator Balbo.

        For a better understanding of Fascism in the US, please see Mussolini and Fascism: The View from America by John P. Diggins, but please forget the BS of Naomi Wolf in "Fascist America," in which she describes George W. Bush as the greatest fascist in the US.

        JE comments:  Regarding anti-Italian sentiment in the US, Eugenio Battaglia reminded me a few days back that the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti was carried out 90 years ago:  August 23rd, 1927.

        Perhaps Tim Ashby can clarify.  I am no authority on the topic, but a quick search shows that no movement in the US called itself Fascist prior to 1924.

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        • Fascisti of America (Timothy Ashby, South Africa 08/28/17 3:57 AM)
          In response to Eugenio Battaglia (27 August), I got my dates wrong but the context was right. The American Fascisti Association (aka Order of Black Shirts) was formed in the spring of 1930. They issued a magazine called Black Shirt. At the height of the Depression the group attempted to appeal to white workers by parading with placards stating "No Jobs for N------ Until Every White Man Has a Job."

          Although the group adopted the name of the Italian fascist movement, they were associated with the Ku Klux Klan. I did not write that they or the Klan were associated with Italian-Americans. The organizations were, as Eugenio correctly states, opposed to Catholics.

          JE comments:  This post presented me with the N-word quandary.  Should one publish the word in the interest of history, or resort to ellipsis?  I opted for the latter, as the meaning is abundantly clear.  Was this a prudent decision or a cop-out?

          There are several appearances of the full N-word in the WAIS archive, mostly from the Ronald Hilton era.  Always a direct quote of course.  As I age (today is my 11th anniversary as WAIS editor), I must be getting more squeamish.  Or simply cautious.

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        • Fascisti of America, Omaha 1922 (Edward Jajko, USA 08/28/17 4:54 AM)

          Knowing that Eugenio Battaglia is highly sensitive to misuse of the term Fascist, I almost hate to inform him that, in the matter of the "Fascisti of America" he has unnecessarily deployed his defenses of Mussolini (and has gratuitously slighted the people of 1920s Nebraska).

          This iPhone in my hands is so brilliantly designed by the Apple engineers just a couple of miles from my house that I am unable to figure out how to extract and post the URL link. So I suggest to Eugenio that he Google "omaha fascisti of america" and then read the extract from, believe or not, the Journal of Electrical Workers and Operators.

          JE comments:  Following Ed Jajko's instructions, I found the (very long) link:  https://books.google.com/books?id=vb0uAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA626&lpg=PA626&dq=omaha+fascisti+of+america&source=bl&ots=Rn1-y3ZJTV&sig=wqPv5Q2MIhhlxRZcyktSKAvH7ls&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjslraO7_nVAhUB94MKHahmAb4Q6AEIOjAD#v=onepage&q=omaha%20fascisti%20of%20america&f=false

          The article is from 1922, and it stresses that the American Fascisti, headquartered in Omaha, are not connected to the Italians.  To their credit, the Electrical Workers take a mocking stance against the nativist Fascisti and their fellow-travelers, the KKK:  "The Fascisti of America (distinct from the Italians organized in this country) are now on their feet and eagerly bidding for trade in the whipping and murder games."  Note the emphasis on organizing.  Remember when Barack Obama was derided for his roots as a "community organizer"?

          So did Tim Ashby get his dates right?  There was a self-described fascist group in Omaha as early as 1922.

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