18 June 2012

The Latest Scholarship On Slavery & Reconstruction's Failures

". . . the fact remains that it is very unlikely that *they will read the book." 

Interesting. But this really should not come as any surprise. These folks typically come to conclusions first, then gather supporting evidence. Of course, I never finished college like some of these folks did, but I do believe I learned in junior high school that using that formula isn't the best way to come to truth - but maybe that's just me. I suppose we could give the benefit of the doubt and just acknowledge they have ESP.

Also, if you actually read my post below, you'll note that I made absolutely zero editorial comment. I was just making the book known to readers. I never indicated whether I had the book, was going to get the book (I am), nor had any particular opinion of the book other than pointing out that it is "the latest scholarship" which usually seems to enthrall most academic historians - you know, always in with whatever happens to be trendy and chic. I also included the author's laudatory comment about the Emancipation Proclamation. But, as is often the case, many of these folks prefer to launch from their misguided assumptions and conclusions, then proceed with the fallacies and, voila - "serious" analysis and critique. Yeah, you're really making the case.

*"they" included the prior comment in that linked post which referred to the SCV - which has around 35,000 members. Quite an assumption, wouldn't you say?

"Challenges the accepted wisdom of the Unionist North being sympathetic to the cause of freed slaves . . . The end of slavery in the United States led to anarchy and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of black Americans claims a new revisionist history of the Civil War. Instead of a granting former slaves a glorious moment of freedom, President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation condemned millions to a life of disease and hunger says historian Jim Downs in his new book, 'Sick from Freedom' "

In 'Sick from Freedom' Professor Downs recounts the tragic story of one former slave, Joseph Miller, who arrived at a union camp in Kentucky with his wife and four children in 1864 and watched them all die within months, before he died in 1865. During his research, Professor Downs discovered the horrific conditions within what were essentially refugee camps doted around the south. A military official with the Union army wrote that life for the former slaves was so appalling that they were: 'dying by scores - that sometimes 30 per day die and are carried out by wagon-loads without coffins, and thrown promiscuously, like brutes, into a trench.'

Not wishing to cast aspersions on the Emancipation Proclamation, for which Professor Downs still holds its true moral value, he nonetheless wants to bring a fuller picture to the public. 'I've been alone with these people in the archives,' said Professor Downs. 'I have a responsibility to tell their stories.'
Read more here at the Daily Mail.

Upcoming post: Nascar Is Evil 


Jimmy Price said...

Professor Downs makes an interesting bedfellow considering he’s a “frothing at the mouth liberal” and the author of Why We Write: The Politics and History of Writing for Social Change and Taking Back the Academy: History of Activism, History as Activism. Are we trying to have our cake and eat it too?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"bedfellow?" Wrong blog there partner.

But I made no editorial commentary. However, regarding your characterization of him as a “frothing at the mouth liberal", as my Grandpa used to say, "even a blind hog can find an acorn every now and then."

My emphasis was on academia's constant reference to the "latest scholarship" as though that trumps everything.

So, here's the latest. Thanks for the comment. Care for some cake?

Jimmy Price said...

You're very welcome. Just trying to keep the debate honest...

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Absolutely Jimmy. I don't mind at all. Have at me.

Jimmy Price said...

By the way, Kevin totally stole my line about strange bedfellows ;-)

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Good to know he receives inspiration my blog. ;o)

Jim Wall said...

Hi Richard -

The insinuation from Levin that his critics will never "read the book" is quite amusing on another level.

Just scroll back about a year ago to the last time an academic book challenged Levin's already preset views about Lincoln. He plainly did *not* read the book, but that didn't stop him from writing this dismissive rant about it:


Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hi Jim. Oh, I know, I know. He went to great lengths trashing my book shortly after it came out, then admitted he'd not read it. More hypocrisy.

But it's really not all that unusual to *comment* on books w/out reading them. If one is somewhat familiar with the subject matter and reads reviews, it is possible to know, basically, what the book is about and reasonable to comment about it - though certainly not the same as a review. Levin's latest rant is just a distraction from the bigger picture. Thanks for the reminder and comment nonetheless.