Pooh’s Think

… with comments

Southern Slavery As It Was

While reading in the library yesterday, I looked up and my eyes fell right on a volume set called “The American Slave,” which is a collection of narratives from slaves or children of slaves before, during, and after the civil war. It looks like is was originally published in 1941. I went over to the volume and picked up number 6, Alabama and Indiana Narratives. I opened the book and the first paragraph I looked at gained my interest:

“Hattie called here master ‘a good Chrisian-hearted man who did de bes’ he could for de niggers…our ol’ marster was as god as he could be like I done tol’ you. He looked after de slaves when dey got sick an’ sont for de doctor…De Klansmen beat up lots of dem…If a nigger didn’t behave, dey’d nigh ‘bout kill him’”

And then the next narrative: “My white people brought me back [ran off to be with her parents], and as they were not cruel to their slaves they did not ‘buck’ me.”

And then the next: “Ole Marster Joe and Miss Rosa Clyton was good as gold. Dey had Sara, Jane, Hanry, and Joe….one day my daddy says, ‘Hannah, Marster said us is free now to do what we want to do.’ But us stayed on two years mo’….slavery was all right in its place.”

And the next: “Marster was good t us niggers, doug. He never ‘lowed us to be whupped; just scolded us….Marster call all us niggers up to de house an’ tol’ us dat us was free. He said us could go away or stay wid him. I stayed ‘twel I wuz grown an’ married Doc Maddox.”

These narratives do not hide the truly slave status of these people, and the general circumstances just in these four narratives are clearly revealed as horrific. However, what I could not find in my 10 minute search was a lack of affection the slaves had for their masters.

This reminded me of something:

This criticism of Wilson’s blathering about his new academic credentials, bestowed on him by the great Genovese, does not hit one nail on the head (and is not a very judicially written post in general). I’m surprised no one has questioned Wilson’s claimed importance of getting a historian to write a short paragraph recommending his book. Wilson claims that this means his book is now academically credentialed some how, and it has been his primary weapon against public criticism for some time now. But is this claim legitimate?

I doubt Wilson really thinks it is, since his constant rhetorical strategy is to ridicule broader society, including peer reviewed society, while boasting himself as a leader in a new western educational and cultural tradition; however, Wilson is poised to jump at any bread crumbs that are thrown his way. Anytime something positive is said about him or a related ministry, there is a brief moment of silence and respectful awe given to the entity that bestowed the charitable reporting or evaluation. Wilson has been bashing academic history and has not wanted to be tainted with gaining the respect of fools. Yet, after a complete failure to combat the public’s criticism of his book on slavery in the South, Wilson found a short comment from one academic historian to be a delightful baptism into the world of cultured society and peer review.

However, Genovese’s comment is curious. Genovese himself bashes academic historians in his short paragraph; this is a bit ironic given that academic historians don’t get the chance to publish another book from church funds once their original attempt at a subject was shown to be repulsive to many and deeply plagiarized (whether accidentally or intentionally). Also, regardless of where the truth about teaching on slavery lies, Genovese clearly has an ax to grind here, and it is the general non-politically correct stance Wilson takes that seems to motivate Genovese’ compliment. In other words, Genovese found someone else writing a similar controversial message. This is not to say that the comment was not helpful; of course it was and it was illuminating. But it was because because it was a book blurb by someone sympathetic with the general message of the book, written to help the books marketing endeavors. If Genovese is a careful scholar, I would still be surprised if he would have written such a blurb if he knew what had transpired with Wilson’s first book and if he knew how Wilson would use the blurb. Unfortunately, a blurb like this from a historian who has written peer reviewed material in his life does not amount to baptizing Wilson’s book as approvingly peer reviewed. But of course, everything Wilson does is for rhetorical manipulation and not for getting at the truth, so this comes as no surprise. I just wish someone else would have mentioned this fact already.


November 9, 2006 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Michael,

    Are you saying that you agree with Douglas Wilson that slavery was not as bad as usually portrayed?

    Comment by Kevin P. | November 9, 2006 | Reply

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