04 February 2009

PBS Does Abraham Lincoln

Click here for some balanced commentary on Abraham Lincoln. PBS' look at Lincoln includes Lerone Bennett's views of our 16th President. I'm often critical of PBS for its leftist slant on news, history, and social issues but even so, PBS' American Experience is an excellent series and I rarely miss it. It is refreshing--and I'll admit, surprising--to see PBS take a fair look at Bennett's views. Most faddish academics today love to take shots at other Lincoln critics like Dr. Thomas DiLorenzo, but the silence regarding Bennett's criticism of Lincoln is curiously, for the most part, non-existant; especially among bloggers. Why is that?

Lincoln's views on race & slavery were, practically speaking, not that different from Robert E. Lee's & Stonewall Jackson's. It's interesting to note one of the high school students in one segment makes this comment about Lincoln:

"It makes you want to appreciate what he did for his time period."

That was the same point I made in my book about Stonewall Jackson and his black Sunday school class. Even at an early age, Tom Jackson revealed some of his feelings about slavery:

"When Jackson was seventeen years old, he and his friend Thaddeus Moore were sent by Jackson’s Uncle Cummins to Parkersburg to pick up a piece of machinery for the mill. Moore kept a journal of their trip. They passed a farm owned by a Mr. Adams while a slave funeral was in progress. Moore recorded: 'They carried the coffin across the road from the cabin and buried him in the field. It was a nice black coffin and the grave was deep. . . . Thom seemed to be very sorry for the race and thought they should be free and have a chance, and said that Joe Lightburn said they should be taught to read so they could read the Bible, and he thought so too. I told him it would be better not to make known such views.' "
(Pages 96-97, Stonewall Jackson ~ The Black Man's Friend.)

And in another segment of the PBS special, Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer defends Lincoln's views on race and slavery with this comment:

"You have to make sure you don't judge Lincoln by the standards of the 21st century."

Interesting--and I agree. I've made that same point on numerous occasions. Too bad many CW bloggers and academics fail to apply that same principle to Southerners like Lee & Jackson. Historians know this error as "presentism", but often fail to consistently point out the error when interpreting events surrounding the WBTS.

The host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. made this noteworthy comment: "There is no single way to interpret historical events." Another point I've made on numerous occasions. I'll be watching the whole Lincoln special. For it appears, at least from what I've seen so far, to strive for some refreshing balance. There is even a segment which will include an SCV event--the honoring of black Confederate soldier, Weary Clyburn. And, again, to Gates's credit, he actually gets his information first-hand and talks to African-Americans who were at the event, rather than taking pot shots from the sidelines.

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