Though first published in 1978, the book is still in print and has been republished twice—once in 1995 and again in 2002; both times with new prefaces by the author. For those unfamiliar with Professor Johnson, he is Professor Emeritus of History at the College of William and Mary and has authored numerous books, articles, and reviews on the topic of the Civil War. He is a native Southerner and a traditionalist.
While I’ve read some of Professor Johnson’s articles and an interview of him some time ago, I’d never take the opportunity to read one of his books. This one comes highly recommended and, though I don’t need yet another book on my plate, I reluctantly added it to the ever-growing stack next to my parlor chair. After reading the prefaces, I’m most glad I did.
As a true academic, Professor Johnson knows the university environment as well as anyone. This post is, in part, a response to Kevin Levin’s suggestion that there is no pervasive liberal bias against Southern heroes and culture in academia, although he has admitted there is liberal bias in academia. I suppose Kevin believes that this liberal bias is just against traditionalist Northerners and traditionalist Westerners. The libs hate Custer, but they really love Lee and Jackson. Right.
In Professor Johnson’s preface to the 2002 edition, he goes into some detail about political correctness and liberal bias on college campuses in the United States. He writes:
“PC has roots in both American socio-political realities and postmodernist theory, with which it shares method and mission to a large degree, but the overt form PC has taken in America is a home-grown product. It can be defined by its purpose, which is to achieve a social and cultural revolution along the lines of the postmodernist agenda by means of an intolerant and selective relativism. In the university PC has become self-perpetuating and self-generating through its influence on curriculum, hiring and firing of faculty, graduate admissions and training, codes of language, and social behavior.”
And Johnson further points out that, “Of all the fields of scholarship, history is perhaps most attractive and vulnerability to Political Correctness.” Exactly.
And in his 1995 preface, Johnson wrote:
“In dealing with any part of history, the selection of facts is bound to be controversial, especially when the subject is as highly charged as the conflict between the North and South. . . However, the historian [or writer] will find that he will draw the least hostile fire if his approach falls within the mainstream of interpretation that has generally prevailed ever since the North won the war. This involves the essential premise that the North was right and the South was wrong, that the palm of moral superiority must be awarded to the victor—an illustration of the truism that the winner of the war also wins the history. The historian by trade departs from these assumptions at considerable professional risk, particularly when, as in the 1990’s, the academy is so thoroughly pervaded by what is called “political correctness.”
The results of political correctness are being played out on many Southern campuses, despite some historians being in denial. Vanderbilt wanted to remove the word "Confederate" from the name of Confederate Memorial Hall, a dormitory. Since its etched in stone, I assume they were going to sandblast it. 1984 anyone? But their efforts failed after losing a lawsuit brought by The United Daughters of the Confederacy. The organization had originally financed the building with the understanding the name would never be changed. The PC police didn’t care. Plunder is acceptable in their quest for cleansing the South’s “stains.” At the University of Texas, there are efforts under way to move statues of Confederate leaders from any prominent site. Sewanee, once known as the “University of the South,” is also involved in dishonoring many of its cherished symbols.
"They are trying to bury the founding fathers and the founding men who taught there and who had a definite part to play in the Civil War, having been generals and engineers. It's a silly sort of reverse thing to attract students, to keep this quiet now." So said Prescott N. Dunbar, an alumnus from New Orleans.
I could go on and on, but why argue the obvious? The South remains the last great bastion of Judeo-Christian conservatism in the United States. This is why her heroes and culture are under attack. As Professor Johnson points out, the goal of the left is to “achieve a social and cultural revolution along the lines of the postmodernist agenda by means of an intolerant and selective relativism.” The South stands in the way of that goal.