Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lady Antebellum and the glorification of the pre-Civil War South

[UPDATE: On Racialicious, where the following post was crossposted, a commenter recommended this fantastic post from Sociological Images comparing a tour of Dachau to a tour of a Southern plantation. Excellent observations. I have toured the Lara Plantation and others in Louisiana and Virginia. It is interesting to note that I was impressed that the tour guides at Lara mentioned slavery AT ALL, most folks at the grand mansions just talk vaguely of "servants."]

A few months ago, "Need You Now" by the country group Lady Antebellum was among iTunes' free downloads. I'm a curious music lover with eclectic tastes, so I snagged the song for my iPod. It was catchy and nice in the inoffensive and pop-y way of crossover country--think Carrie Underwood not the rougher alt-country of Lucinda Williams. I'll keep the song, which will fit nicely in some future playlist. But the band chafes me. It's not the music. It's the name. "Lady Antebellum" seems to me an example of the way we still, nearly 150 years after the end of the Civil War; nearly 50 years after the Civil Rights Act; and in a supposedly post-racial country led by a biracial president, glorify a culture that was based on the violent oppression of people of color.

According to an article in the Augusta Chronicle, the idea for the name "Lady Antebellum" came after a photo shoot where band members dressed in Civil War-era clothing. It seems harmless--just a nod to the band's roots south of the Mason-Dixon Line, a recognition of the Old South.

Wikipedia defines the antebellum period thusly:

The antebellum period (from the Latin ante, "before," and bellum, "war") was the time period in America from after the birth of the United States to the start of the American Civil War.[2] The Antebellum Age was a time of great transition because of the industrial revolution in America. It also was a time of growth in slavery in the American South. It was a phase in American history when America spread towards the west coast which among historians is generally referred to as "Westward Expansion". Read more...


In the public consciousness, part of this story translates into "Gone with the Wind"-style mythology about big manor houses sat on sprawling plantations; fair, delicate, pale-skinned maidens in frilly dresses; brave and handsome men in gray; and solid, traditional American values. This rosy view of the antebellum South only holds up if you don't scratch too deep. But we're not likely to do that and disturb the patriotic version of history. We like myth better.

That is why, over the years, at least two women have gushed at me: "I would just love to go back to that time!" One, a white woman who had recently read the Margaret Mitchell novel that became the classic movie, did not consider that for her to be "Scarlett," I would have to be a darkie working in the fields. My family would have to live in bondage as chattel--our very lives dependent on the whims of our masters. The way of life she associated with the antebellum period, and the economy that supported it, was dependent on free labor and the dehumanization of people of color (not to mention a bunch of classism and sexism). As an African American descendant of slaves, I cannot overlook that bitter reality. My acquaintance read "Gone with the Wind" and wondered how grand it would be to be Scarlett O'Hara. I wondered how awful it must have been to be Mammy.

As an amateur family historian, I have scoured wills and bills of sale of Southern landed gentry in search of the names of my great-great-grandparents among the fine china and horses. Once you have done that, it is hard to look at the mythologizing of antebellum Southern culture as benign.

I was thinking about this fact last week as I finished reading "Manhunt," by James Swanson. The book was a riveting account of the 12-day search for Abraham Lincoln's assassin, Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Manhunt is a historical account that reads like a James Patterson novel. I couldn't put it down, despite knowing how the story ended. The book contains thrilling personal narratives of a defining event in American history. Hearing the impressions of President Lincoln's family, members of his Cabinet, Union loyalists and rebels, made history come alive.

After reaching Manhunt's midpoint, I thought surely it would become a book that I enthusiastically recommend to other readers. But I found that as John Wilkes Booth's saga wore on, Swanson seemed to be lionizing the assassin, which I found disconcerting and not a little offensive. Booth is drawn in purple prose. The author goes on and on about the actor's luminescent white skin, his thick black hair, his charm and elegant clothing. We learn about Booth's passionate conviction, his belief that his cause was noble and the inconveniences of life on the run. Booth becomes a hero, while his pursuers are drawn as petty bumblers, eager to cash in on the fame and money associated with bringing in the president's killer. Swanson even compares Booth to Jesus twice.


Late in the book, Swanson writes about how years after Lincoln's assassination, Booth has found a heroic fame that Lee Harvey Oswald or James Earl Ray never will. There is no better example of this than Manhunt itself, which seems to forget that Booth--charming stage star though he was--was, more importantly, vain, a murderer, a traitor, a racist and a megalomaniac.

This is yet another example of the soft and fuzzy way we look back on the Confederate cause, the antebellum South and slave culture. I cannot imagine a book set in Germany at the time of World War II that would fawn over the charm and appearance of defenders of the Third Reich or mention how members of the Nazi Party thought their cause noble. We would not draw those opponents as anything but villains for the evil they committed against humanity. Yet, mention the antebellum South or the Confederacy, and some Americans grow starry-eyed. No one thinks of the more than 10 million enslaved Africans who died in the Middle Passage or on some plantation or small farm. No one thinks of the people who were denied their freedom and humanity so that the Southern economy could rise, and that all those Rhetts and Scarletts could sit in their fine houses, showing off their fancy clothes and manners. That America forgets my ancestors, while longing for the "glory days" that their enslavement made possible, is offensive.

I don't like what the Confederate flag stands for and hate to see it flown. I think a century is not long enough to turn an assassin into a hero. And a middle-of-the-road country band with a name that harks back to pre-Civil War days doesn't feel benign to me. You may say that I am thinking too hard. I say that sometimes society doesn't think hard enough about the elements of history we cherish.

71 comments:

Kelly Hogaboom said...

"Yet, mention the antebellum South or the Confederacy, and some Americans grow starry-eyed. No one thinks of the more than 10 million enslaved Africans who died in the Middle Passage or on some plantation or small farm."

I have a slightly different perspective. Growing up and living in the Pacific Northwest I can say many (white political liberals) here look down on white southerners. The South is looked at by many as being backwards and overly religious and overtly Racist (these attitudes conveniently allow northerners to not examine their own privilege and racist behaviors and institutions). By many I come into contact with at least, the plantation vision is not one romanticized.

I see a few people here or there flying the Confederate flag. I always feel a jolt because I associate the flag with slavery and a stubborn adherence to that institution. But I also find myself wanting to ask, "Why do you fly that flag? What do you mean by it?" I think if I were to ask that question - and I may - I'd get an answer like the things you are identifying here and calling out: a nostalgia for a "better" time. Which is why what you're saying here is so important. Who was this time "better" for, exactly?

But... maybe the young man with this flag on his truck is doing so out of pride and anger - angry because he lives in the (liberal north) where his values, life and family are demeaned and ridiculed?

I read Gone With The Wind. And I enjoyed parts of it. But the parts of the novel that dealt with the field hands and house "darkies" made me sick. Not just that it is a part of our history (with a legacy that lives on) but in the book the black characters were all very satisfied with their lives. They were not written as human beings but a variety of caricatures.

I believe we'd all do well to know our real history. I'm no economist but even I know America's prosperity (and the prosperity of my own family) was built on exploitation of land and people.

Whoa - long comment! Anyway: thank you for this post.

avocadoawesome said...

My husband is mixed race like me, but he was born and raised in the South with his white family and zero connection to his Alaska native family up north. I really believe that whites in the South are taught a different perspective of the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement than we are up North, like Kelly said. I am very patient with him because he has been raised in a racist culture.

Whites are also taught (in school) that Africans sold their brethren into slavery, which many feel makes them exempt from guilt. It's hard for many Americans to grasp the concept of tribalism, and the idea that Africa isn't a monolith; it is a diverse continent with varying cultures and ethnicities.

Over time I have learned that when we choose to have children, it might be healthier to raise them up North where my family leaves, so that they do not absorb the racist cultures and views from here in the South.

Politicalguineapig said...

"The South is looked at by many as being backwards and overly religious and overtly Racist"
KH: Are you saying that isn't true?
I've heard a few complaints about racism up here, as a lily-white Midwesterner, and I agree it's more subtle in the North, but I don't think the South has ever gotten over the Civil War. And let's face it, education isn't exactly encouraged down South.

ladyc 1 said...

There is one thing I've learned having been raised in the South--South Carolina. White folks don't pretend and play games the way they do in the rest of the country.

I learned very young what "the antebellum South" means; conditions as they existed before the Civil War. People do not care how you feel about them flying the rebel fighting flag. THEY DON'T GIVE A DAMN!

The last time I saw so much overt racism in this country was back in the 60's. Racists don't care what you think or how you feel. Once POC realize this, they will get their heads out of their _____ and start working for a better day instead of hoping for one.

Sandy said...

I have always held the impression, being from St. Louis, which holds sort of an in-between status (yes, Missouri was a slave state, and yes, it's still very much red, but St. Louis is blue and one of the more liberal bastions of the Midwest), that white people who are from the South are obsessed with it. It's an entirely different animal altogether from people who are from New York droning on about the bagels and pizza from there - it's an entire region, and an entire race, that are just completely taken with their own racist, sexist, bloody history. It's nauseating, and offensive. And on New Year's Eve, when some friends and I were flipping through the countdown broadcasts, we came to the Billboard countdowns, where Lady Antebellum figured. The room fell quiet and you could have heard eight eyeballs rolling, hard. "Man, only Southerners would name their band something like that," I said, to much agreement. You would be hard-pressed, I think, to find a band from California named Lady Internment Camp. All this by way of saying thank you for bringing this up, because it is a very real problem, and I'd nearly forgotten how aggravated I was that night.

Arwen said...

Last year at my son's school, a girl of colour in grade 3 dressed as a ghoulish zombie wearing a pre-civil war southern belle dress. I loved the costume - it seemed subversive and challenging - but we're in Canada. I wondered how it might be interpreted in the States.

Tei Tetua said...

I was reading a discussion board on a totally non-political hobby subject, and some southern guy (a white southern guy, I'm sure) found some excuse to talk about "The War of Northern Aggression". I though he'd go away fastest if nobody provoked him, but it was at the tip of my typing fingers to say, "Sure, pal. But I wonder what your black neighbors call it." Maybe next time that's what I'll do.

msladydeborah said...

Interesting post Tami.

The last time a co-worker gushed about returning to a gentle time in life-I found myself plotting her demise immediately. When she realized that I was not all into the fantasy of returning to the pre Gone With The Wind days, she asked me what was on my mind. I told her that I was thinking about what I would do if I was on the plantation. She thought I was into the picking cotton mentality. I quickly assured her that no matter what station on the plantation that I had-she would be the one that I would be eyeing to take out. This stunned her. I laughed at her response. It never occurred to her that the myth of happy slaves does not resonate within my mind.

My maternal family are from a well documented slave family. My grandfather was born in 1898. He had no holla for the south, slavery or the attitudes that prevailed during his lifetime. He was into the Race Man movement and between him and my grandmother, I have been given a pretty accurate picture of what their lives were like after slavery ended. Both of their mothers and fathers were born into slavery.

My co-worker tried to impose her idea of what my enslavement would be like. I assured her she would be laid in her grave if I was attending to her needs. She had a really hard time believing that I would not be like Prissy or Mammy.

She never knew that there were all forms of rebellion going on down on the plantation. My folks are from the Virginias. It was rough for their folks to establish life after they were free. Of course people do not think of what life would be like in that era.

Jennifer said...

I've never heard of this group, but I can't say I'm surprised, because there is so much romanticism of the antebellum period--and I live in the belly of the beast here in the South. Actually, it's not really the belly of the beast, because I live in a liberal college town with lots of transplants like myself. But I have to say after getting to know many of my Southern neighbors here, I think that their attitudes towards race and the slave past really varies.

I mention this not to digress from the tenor of Tami's post but to just say that after living here for six years, my own stereotypes of white Southerners has been tested, sometimes upheld but oftentimes challenged in good way.

However, to return to Tami's point, the absolute blindness with which people (mainly women and mainly white women I'd say, whether from the South or not) wax rhapsodic about life on a Southern plantation--the whole "moonlight and magnolia" phenomenon. A friend of mine in grad school dated a guy whose family was once a huge slave-owning dynasty in Virginia. In the course of his dissertation research he found letters describing the plantation of his ancestors and he gushed to her about how wonderful it would be to go back in time and see all that beauty. This was one of the moments when she knew the relationship wasn't going to work because all she could think about were the African American slaves who worked themselves to death to ensure the beauty of that plantation.

Ashley said...

I completely agree with what Tami wrote. But there are a few things I read in the comments that I think are a little off the mark. I just want to interject that not all white Southerners should be subject to vilification. I don't think it's fair to assume that Southerners are stupid, backward or inherently racist. I'm a white Southerner (and historian) who has moved away and I've seen how Northerners stereotype us, as is reflected in some comments here.

Not all white Southerners are blindly prejudiced, and they are not all deserving of blind prejudice themselves.

I'm not denying that there are strong ties to the old South, nor am I denying the fact that people gloss over the true horror of slavery and injustices perpetrated by our ancestors (all of our ancestors - Northerners included). I'm just suggesting that it's a little offensive to assume that racism starts and stops in the South, especially with examples like Chicago - where I've lived - which is one of the most segregated cities in the country. It is also worth remembering that African American men are overrepresented in prisons nationwide, and I don't think anyone would pretend this has nothing to do with racism. Racism is a national affliction.

I hope to spend my life committed to preserving and interpreting African American history in the South, as that is my area of study. And part of why I want to do that is because the stories of slavery and reconstruction are not fairly represented at our cultural landmarks. But I also care about this topic because I believe that we have to create a dialog. It doesn't help anyone to cling to stereotypes, no matter what side you're on. Assume that all white Southerners are backward and fundamentalist, and you lose your chance to foster conversation.

Sorry I'm so verbose...just some thoughts.

Dami said...

This entire country was founded on the oppression of people of color. It's not as if it's endemic to any one particular region. Boston and Chicago are among the most segregated cities in the country, and both are in the North. I understand the anger about Confederate flags and all that, but I am so sick of this rhetoric that floats around progressive circles that implies that racism is a Southern thing. It's not, and if you look at the history of the Civil War, you would see that many Northerners opposed slavery not necessarily for ethical reasons, but economic ones. Many anti-slavery abolitionists hated black people and wanted them to leave the country. Casting American racism as a Southern things allows Northerners to feel good about themselves, to fail to recognize the ways that the North has and continues to encourage systemic racism. It is unfortunate that the South has a region has acquired this reputation. Because the history of American racism and oppression of POCs started way before the Civil War and has continued after it. And if we ever want to do anything about it we must admit that the entire country has been culpable, and not just one region of it.

Tami said...

Dami,

I agree with you. Elsewhere on the blog I've written about how Northern progressives have a tendency to be a bit too smug about race, thinking racism is only for the South the flyover states. Racism is and was a nationwide problem.

But I do think this tendency to pine for and glamourize the days of the Old South is a specific part of our national consciousness. I'm not sure I can think of something similar related to another part of the country. For instance, I don't hear many New Yorkers wishing for the days when Irish and Italian immigrants were confined to tenements and poor children were locked in garment factories working all day.

Silvie said...

"I'm not sure I can think of something similar related to another part of the country."

If the Antebellum Fantasy is largely a white women's thing, maybe the rough equivalent for men is the modern conception of the "Old West"? You know, when men could be real men. Excuse me, when only white men could be real men.

Fantastic post, by the way.

James said...

"I do think this tendency to pine for and glamourize the days of the Old South is a specific part of our national consciousness."

I agree, but ... I also think we tend to romanticize the rest of our national history, and that includes regional history in the north or west. An important part of that idealization of the past is relegating slavery, and any complicity in slavery, to the antebellum South.

I'm not going to pretend to rephrase the following, which is a comment I posted at Racialicious:

“As an amateur family historian, I have scoured wills and bills of sale of Southern landed gentry in search of the names of my great-great-grandparents among the fine china and horses. Once you have done that, it is hard to look at the mythologizing of antebellum Southern culture as benign.”

I couldn’t agree more, but I’ve had the parallel experience of scouring my family’s records for information about the slaves brought over by the family in the 18th and 19th centuries. Ours was a northern family, however, and this isn’t an aberration: most U.S. slave trading took place out of the North.

Once you’ve seen the extensive involvement of the northern (and western) states in slavery, slave trading, and maintaining economies largely dependent on southern plantation slavery, it’s hard to look at the mythologizing of any aspect of U.S. history or culture as benign.

kat said...

"My co-worker tried to impose her idea of what my enslavement would be like."

Wow. just wow. That's some messed up s*&t...

Satsuma said...

Since I'm not from the south, I find all the romanticism about plantation life a bit hard to take.

People often romanicize their youth, never realizing that a young white man's youth in 1957 would have been a hellish time for a black woman anywhere in America.

Human beings like stories, and putting themselves in imagined stories. I know I romanticize the era of pirates, and wear pirate attire. I carry my 17th century Spanish pistol, but what is the reality of pirates?

People love to brag about their wealthy Spanish landowning roots, unaware of Indian genocide as a part of the "romatintic mission" period in California history.

Memory is false, a romantic notion of the past is false. It might be deeply human not to get this a lot of the time, who knows? I always found Gone With the Wind repulsive, thinking of Hattie McDaniel being forced to eat apart from her white colleagues at the after Oscar celebration in 1939. Now that is reality!

AR said...

In regards to Lincoln, though, remember that he also used slavery, in the form of the draft, when it suited his ends.

Burl said...

I don't think it should make anyone feel uncomfortable. It's part of our history. At least give credit to the Dixie Chics and their anti-war stance. Just because the name sounds bad doesn't mean the people are bad.

Aleks said...

If you're intellectually dishonest and morally deranged enough to discount slavery, the Cause of Southern Independence looks pretty noble, and has an air of romantic tragedy to it.

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Mike and I'm a white man from the South. I identify very strongly as a Southerner and consequently I feel a need to respond to negative stereotypes about Southerners which appeared in a number of comments and in the post.

Like the author of the post, I too feel that neo-Confederate ideology and Confederate nostalgia are sickening and should be opposed on every level. However, by falsely claiming that the South is the hate group capital of the United States is simply factually inaccurate: the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies Ohio as the single state with the largest number of hate groups. What's more, Midwestern cities like Detroit have historically had numbers of Klansmen that eclipse Southern Klan numbers, and the Northwest, despite a really large number of left-wingers, is also the home to tons of neo-Nazi skinhead thugs. Racism is a problem in all of the United States; when we use the South as a scapegoat, we lose the ability to combat racism in the West, Midwest, and North.

Furthermore, negative stereotyping of Southerners often has classist implications. While prejudice component of racial injustice, structural racism matters as well. When we shift most of the blame for racism downwards to morons flying confederate flags, we sometimes fail to sufficiently criticize the Ku Klux Kapitalists on Wall Street who are the glue that holds our racist capitalist system together. It should also be noted that fear of "inbred rednecks" in the South was a HUGE motivation for a lot of eugenics here in the South-- even the most cursory research on the Lynchburg Colony reveals this.

Finally, there's also the facts that many Northern states permitted slavery for much of the years of the early republic, and the fact that the South has historically seen both some of the worst oppression in the United States AND some of the most inspiring resistance. When I define myself as a Southerner, I obligate myself to be critical of our racist Jim Crow past, but I also get to celebrate the South's numerous civil rights heroes, the union struggles in the Appalachian mines, the thriving LGBTQ culture of cities like Atlanta and Austin, etc.

Tami said...

Mike,

You are right. I have written before about how Northerners and folks on the coasts pat themselves on the back too much for being racially egalitarian. It is a cop out to pretend that the South owns racism.

My family has roots in the South, though I was born and raised in the Midwest. Like a lot of POC who came north during the Great Migration(s), there is a lot that is Southern about us. That is another reason why the romanticized South is offensive to me. It is not just racist–erasing the stories of Southern POC–but also unnuanced, reducing all Southern people to charicature.

Aleks said...

Mike,
When I define myself as a Southerner, I obligate myself to be critical of our racist Jim Crow past, but I also get to celebrate the South's numerous civil rights heroes, the union struggles in the Appalachian mines, the thriving LGBTQ culture of cities like Atlanta and Austin, etc.

Good, and I highly doubt you criticize Jim Crow or celebrate the struggles for civil rights, worker rights and GLBTQ rights by flying the Stars and Bars.

smokesignls said...

Wow! Thank you! I recently got into a rather heated debate with a friend over the Confederate flag. I thought that it was an offensive symbol of racial hatred, and she claimed it was just a symbol of states' rights to govern themselves over a strong federal government. She could not understand why I found it offensive. Thank you for writing this! As a law student, I have learned a lot about the formation of the country, the U.S. Constitution, how it evolved, and the arguments made against a strong central government to the detriment of states' rights... much more so than I ever did in my undergrad courses. People who claim that the Civil War was fought to protect states' rights... overlook that they were only fighting because they wanted to protect states' rights to own slaves. It's shocking to me that in modern times, you still see Confederate flags being flown. You don't see Nazi flags flying high, and neither should you see Confederate flags. I attribute their continued use to ignorance, lack of education, and lack of sensitivity. I also can't help but point out the irony that many people proudly displaying the flag are happily accepting welfare checks, unemployment checks, etc... all products of the strong central government that they supposedly oppose. If they don't really want the federal government to give back control to states... then why else are they flying the flag, except to support an ideology steeped in white supremacy? By the way... I say all this as a blond haired white girl, so I hope that anyone reading this comment doesn't assume that my anger and frustration is stemming from my own personal and familial experiences with hundreds of years of oppression. I can't imagine how angry I'd be at seeing this shameful time in American history glorified if I was African-American...

And, in response to Kelly H... my friend and I started our debate when her ex-husband decided to mount a Confederate flag over their fireplace... they live in Portland, Oregon. While not as prevalent here as elsewhere in the country, they're still being hung.

Racism still lives strong in this country, and we all have an obligation to stand up against it when we see it... that means, telling your best friend that you are offended when her ex hangs a confederate flag... and asking that dude on the website what his black neighbors call the "war of northern aggression" that he referred to...

Is it stronger in the south? Absolutely. Born and raised in Southern California, my sister took a job in Georgia 3 years ago. She is appalled at the racism... and the sexism... being called "sweetie" and "honey" by her male co-workers, when she is the manager... not cool. But that's another post altogether...

TrueConfederate said...

"and asking that dude on the website what his black neighbors call the "war of northern aggression" Well here I am !
My name is Dave Tatum

As for my neighbor check out this item,

http://melinathinks.com/2008/08/31/lessons-from-suffolk-va-never-judge-a-man-by-his-memorial/

Nope I didn't go to college,
But hey somebody had to build em !

"You don't see Nazi flags flying high, and neither should you see Confederate flags. I attribute their continued use to ignorance, lack of education, and lack of sensitivity"

Wow the pot seems to be calling the kettle black !

If anyone has displayed ignorance its not me.

I have an understanding of the "CIVIL WAR" that comes from family. I have 60 letters written by mt Great Uncle William Henry tatum , he was defending his home from an invading army ! First hand accounts of "Agression from the North"

The monument in front of my home has gotten several write ups in local papers. I have 2 neighbors,
1 Black and 1 white, while building the monument one of them called and complained to the city.

yep you guessed it The White neighbor. A reporter came by and did a story on the work in progress, at which time I stated
" It aint comming Down"

After the story was published I spoke with my Black neighbor and told him flat out --

" If you are offended by that Monument , I will take it down right now" !

His response -- " Hows your new Grand Daughter doing ?"

If you have any questions about my views on the "CIVIL WAR"
www.cannonmagic.net will clear it up for you.
Dudette!

Ginsu Shark said...

"In regards to Lincoln, though, remember that he also used slavery, in the form of the draft, when it suited his ends."
Those... aren't even close to the same thing...

Aleks said...

Ginsu, you see some sort of substantive difference between drafting citizens to defend their country in time of war and enslaving generations of people on the basis of skin color for centuries, eliminating all rights and recognition of them as human beings? How so?

AR said...

What's the difference? Either way, it's a complete denial of a person's control over their own life by force of law.

Aleks said...

AR sees no difference between drafting citizens for a few years during a military emergency and enslaving a race to serve as farm animals through the generations and centuries.

AR said...

Oh, I see. So forced servitude on threat of death is ok so long as it's temporary.

I guess if the South had just kept importing slaves and started sending them back to Africa after a few years, it would have been all good.

Well, for the ones that survived anyway.

Aleks said...

Who said it was ok? If they're not the same, then one must be ok?

Your hole's not going to get smaller if you keep digging . . .

James said...

AR, I suspect most people here aren't even willing to get into this with you.

Chattel slavery involved far more than involuntary servitude, even if you believe that temporary service in defense of your society can be equated with being forced to labor for life for the financial enrichment of others.

For instance, enslaved Africans were removed from their societies for life, stripped of the use of their language, culture, and religion. They were frequently forced to mate with people not of their choosing, to serve the breeding plans of their masters. When they did choose spouses and have children, they could be separated forever at the whim of their masters. They were worked in inhumane conditions, and punished mercilessly, simply to serve the goal of profit or the whims of others, and were dehumanized in all sorts of ways.

None of this looks much like the brutal, dangerous, but carefully limited requirements of military service, or the patriotism and heroism with which returning veterans (or deceased veterans) were regarded.

AR said...

Well, sure, different instances of historic slavery have been dehumanizing to varying degrees when compared to each other. Mamluk slavery, for instance, was a completely different sort of thing from United States slavery, while at the other end, those growing sugar were even worse off than those in the cotton fields. Hence why sugar growing regions, despite having imported far more slaves than the United States, have lower black populations today; most didn't survive the sugar plantations.

But the brutality of the slave-based sugar industry does nothing to diminish the injustice committed against other slaves, or draftees, however much better off they were; its all still slavery in the end.

Tami said...

The topic of this discussion is glorification of the pre-Civil War South that ignores the oppression and enslavement of black people. The topic is yearning for a lifestyle that relies on the dehumanization of other people. There is a lot being thrown around here that has naught to do with this and is simply derailing. (See www.derailingfordummies.com)

We all know that the North was not and is not Utopia for people of color. We all know that not all Southern people were or are racist. That does note change the fact that much of the antebellum lifestyle that some people pine for was dependent on slavery and racism. If you want to argue to the contrary, you are welcomed to do it, but whether or not the draft = some sort of slavery is way off topic.

Aleks said...

You mean we're not just listing historical events that grind our gears? If only something in the title or the original post itself could have indicated that we were talking about Old South mythology.

James said...

Tami, I apologize if I've been contributing in any way to what you perceive as derailing the conversation.

However, I hope my references to the North weren't taken merely to mean that I was suggesting it hasn't been a paradise in terms of race. When you say that the "antebellum lifestyle that some people pine for was dependent on slavery and racism," I've been trying to say that the very same thing was true of the antebellum North. If that was obvious to you, then great.

Aleks said...

Apologies, I am gratuitously feeding the troll, please feel free to erase my last post and not post this one!

Tami said...

James,

I agree that, heck, the entire United States lifestyle and economy has resting on all kinds of "isms" for as long as there has been a US of A.

But I think the case of the South is unique because of a) the way it is glamourized and longed for (no one pines for life in antebellum Wisconsin); and b) the way the Southern states fought and lost the ability to hang on to privilege and racism is positioned as a noble cause and also romanticized. Rebel spirit, yay!

I would compare it to romanticizing of the "rugged pioneers who 'tamed' the West." That starry-eyed view of history ignores genocide and subjugation, too.

Racism was and is all over the country, but I think some regions stand out in the way that racism is erased from their history leaving a more palatable picture.

James said...

I think some regions stand out in the way that racism is erased from their history leaving a more palatable picture.

Exactly, Tami. And I think the North stands out in this regard more than any other region.

Just observe how much more thoroughly the North's history is romanticized: almost no one thinks of slavery when they think of the North, or if they do, they have no trouble in setting slavery aside. Contrast this to the South, where it's hard to say anything about the South, prior to the Civil War, without mentioning slavery or being called out for not doing so.

Even when we acknowledge that slavery played a role in the North's history, we usually imply that it was minor, and early, and quickly died away.

How often does our memory of the antebellum North include widespread, brutal slavery? A refusal to renounce slavery until after the Civil War? A society which revolved around the economics of slavery, from the 1620s to the 1860s?

I mentioned, more than once, that the North was just as dependent on slavery, just as complicit, as the South. Yet somehow it feels as if the response, each time, is to acknowledge that, yes, the North exhibited racism, too, but to imply that the North wasn't as complicit in slavery as the South.

For what it's worth, by the way, I'm a northerner, through and through. This isn't about defending the South.

Aleks said...

it's hard to say anything about the South, prior to the Civil War, without mentioning slavery or being called out for not doing so.

What elements of antebellum South do you feel should be discussed without mentioning slavery?

the North was just as dependent on slavery, just as complicit, as the South.

The North practiced slavery early on. Northern banks and shippers were eyeball deep in the slave trade. The North participated in the South's slave economy as long as there was trade between the North and South.

The North also outlawed slavery, fought a brutal proxy war in Kansas, prevented the westward expansion of slavery, and fought a long and horrid war over slavery (which involved fielding ex slaves as soldiers, though under racist and humiliating terms) which ended in the abolition of slavery and attempts to secure the place of ex-slaves within American society (although these failed, Northern whites gave up before Southern whites did).

James said...

What elements of antebellum South do you feel should be discussed without mentioning slavery?

I didn't mean that, Aleks. I was saying that it's odd that it's hard to talk about the antebellum South without mentioning slavery and not get called on it, while it's easy to do the same with the North and no one minds.

The North also outlawed slavery

Well, the northern states started losing interest in owning slaves, and typically passed laws that declared slaves would be free in a few decades. Some states didn't even do that, and in many cases, slavery wasn't actually outlawed in the North until 1865.

[The North] fought a long and horrid war over slavery

Well, the North fought the war, but it did so because the South attempted to secede, and the North chose to go to war to preserve the Union. There was no intention of ending slavery.

Political sentiment in the North was deeply divided over the question of slavery, with abolitionism being a minority opinion. Most business interests were tied to southern slavery, as were many workers, and had no desire to see slavery end.

That's why the Union-controlled Congress was repeatedly voted not to free the slaves after the war, and was only able to vote in favor in January 1865. Even that took years of a brutal war in which Union sacrifices were increasingly portrayed as being in a glorious cause against southern slavery.

I don't mean to be harsh. You amply demonstrated a good awareness of the North's thorough involvement in the economics of slavery, and that's impressive. But I think it's vital that we confront these other myths about slavery and the North, too.

Aleks said...

Well, the northern states started losing interest in owning slaves, and typically passed laws that declared slaves would be free in a few decades. Some states didn't even do that, and in many cases, slavery wasn't actually outlawed in the North until 1865.

The Missouri Compromise banned slavery in the northern territories (until undercut by Dred Scott). I know Illinois outlawed slavery in its constitution when it became a state in 1819 and I believe most other northern new states did the same. According to wiki: "Slavery in New York was instituted when the New Amsterdam fur trading-post developed into a farming colony, and persisted until the culmination of an early 19th century program of gradual abolition, on July 4, 1827." I think this was the general pattern in old northern states.

Northerners were horrified by the Fugitive Slave Acts and resisted cooperating with them, and the sight of slaves (or blacks accused of being runaway slaves) being dragged down to Dixie was a huge part in mobilizing northern opinion.

It's very true that only a tiny minority in the north, abolitionists who weren't also pacifists, wanted to go to war to end slavery in the south. But they were willing to go to to war to keep slavery from expanding westward (hence the election of Lincoln's Republicans), and it was the assumption of all that if slavery were contained to what would become the Confederacy it would eventually die. That's why the South started the war.

The north was both an active and passive co-conspirator in America's Original Sin. Lincoln said so himself, and called the horrific suffering the ACW visited on both sides God's punishment for a crime all were responsible for. But most northerners did turn against slavery, while in the south moral evolution ran in reverse: the Founding generation of southerners regarded slavery as a "necessary evil" and expected some later generation to do away with it, by the 1840's Southerners were back to calling it a high mark of Christian civilization and swearing they'd keep it forever.

Aleks said...

I want to specify that when I referred to a troll I meant AR and not James, who I merely suspect of sincere but false equivalencing.

James said...

The Missouri Compromise banned slavery in the northern territories (until undercut by Dred Scott).

When I mentioned the northern states, I was referring primarily to the original northern states.

All of the newer northern states and territories saw slavery in one way or another, however. While the Missouri Compromise prohibited slavery in certain of the northern territories, even these states/territories would typically retain existing slaves, allow new slaves for a period of decades, and allow people to bring slaves into the state and keep them there for a period of months. Dred Scott caused a panic, but didn't impact state or territorial laws regarding resident slaves.

I know Illinois outlawed slavery in its constitution when it became a state in 1819

Illinois is a great example. Illinois didn't prohibit slavery entirely in its 1818 state constitution. Like the original northern states, Illinois only provided for gradual emancipation.

Illinois had been a slave territory, and existing slaves in 1818 were to continue as slaves for the rest of their lives. Their children would be slaves, as well, but would be freed at age 24 (18 for girls). And slaves from other states could be brought into Illinois for up to 12 months without becoming free.

Illinois after 1818 also had some of the worst codes in any of the states, including in the South, for punishing slaves, and those who aided slaves, and had a movement to institute permanent slavery in the 1820s that was only narrowly defeated.

According to wiki: "Slavery in New York ... persisted until the culmination of an early 19th century program of gradual abolition, on July 4, 1827." I think this was the general pattern in old northern states.

Sort of. You'll notice this roughly matches what I said, that the northern states instituted gradual emancipation. New York ended slavery early for a northern state, but even after 1827, slaves could be kept in the state for up to nine months, until 1841.

New York was unusual in officially abolishing slavery otherwise, however, by 1827. Northern states usually had slaves officially, under gradual emancipation, until the 1830s or 1840s, and many states could even agree on ending slavery officially. There were still northern slaves recorded in 1860, in the last census before the war, and for many northern states, slavery wasn't abolished by law until late in 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery throughout the country.

Northerners were horrified by the Fugitive Slave Acts and resisted cooperating with them

Some northerners were finally horrified, in the 1850s, by the dragging away of free blacks and runaway slaves under the Fugitive Slave Act. And the Act did mobilize as much abolitionist sentiment as there was prior to the war. Most northerners were entirely supportive of slavery, however, as their voting records indicate.

James said...

It's very true that only a tiny minority in the north, abolitionists who weren't also pacifists, wanted to go to war to end slavery in the south.

Northerners were not just unwilling to go to war, but unwilling to vote against slavery at all (or for representatives who would vote against slavery). This is why even the northern-controlled Union Congress repeatedly voted against emancipation ... in 1864 and 1865.

by the 1840's Southerners were back to calling it a high mark of Christian civilization and swearing they'd keep it forever.

That's true, and I think you're quite right to call this moral evolution in reverse.

However, the residents of New York City, for instance, took a similar view of slavery. After all, it was the mayor of New York who, in response to the Civil War, suggested that the city might secede with the South. It was Wall Street which united in favor of the South, and it was the working class of the city which rioted against the possibility that the slaves might be freed, lynching free blacks in the streets in 1863.

New York first rose to global financial and maritime prominence as the hub of the cotton trade, so they had a vested interest, but then, so did southerners.

I meant AR and not James, who I merely suspect of sincere but false equivalencing.

Thanks, Aleks. And I credit you with careful, thoughtful, and well-researched arguments. I just sincerely believe that your effort to distinguish north from south in terms of slavery isn't holding up as well as you'd hoped.

And I hope this discussion is still squarely on the issue of the glorification of the pre-Civil War South. In my mind, this is all directly relevant to understand how, when, and why to limit the glorification of the antebellum South.

Aleks said...

your effort to distinguish north from south in terms of slavery isn't holding up as well as you'd hoped.

Meh. You point out some horrifying particulars but I already knew about the North's extreme racism and general moral cowardice. Even the proto-Republican (Lincoln not Palin) 'Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor and Free Men' party probably got most of its support for excluding slavery from new states and territories because whites didn't want the economic competition. But compare that to the South where poor whites went along with a feudal plantation system which was economic murder on them because as long as blacks were slaves even the lowest whites were awarded an artificial dignity.

It's undeniable that the north was unready to press the issue of emancipation until the end of the war. I consider Lincoln one of the greatest men who's ever lived, but the Emancipation Proclamation was a limited act of military necessity not a sweeping moral gesture. When I say that the north was better than the south, I consider that true but not much of a compliment.

But the fact remains that the northern states and territories did abolish slavery, while the south swore to hold onto it forever. The north wasn't willing to preserve the union and avoid catastrophic war by allowing slavery's expansion. The South gleefully went to war, hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, to forestall future attempts to limit slavery. And when the north won the war, slavery was (legally anyway) abolished throughout the land.

James said...

You point out some horrifying particulars but I already knew about the North's extreme racism and general moral cowardice.

Okay. I saw these not as horrifying particulars about racism, but as an intimate and thorough-going connection to slavery.

We can certainly agree to disagree on that.

compare that to the South where poor whites went along with a feudal plantation system which was economic murder on them because as long as blacks were slaves even the lowest whites were awarded an artificial dignity.

I guess I just don't see how this is much different, when it comes to complicity in slavery, than the North, which was also a slave-holding society whose economy revolved around slavery.

Okay, so southern whites went along with slavery because they gained artificial dignity (and, I would argue, benefited from the vast wealth generated by slavery, but we could disagree on that).

Meanwhile, northern whites went along with slavery because it benefited them economically. And opposed the extension of slavery westward because that ran against their economic interests.

A big difference? I guess that's a matter of opinion.

the fact remains that the northern states and territories did abolish slavery, while the south swore to hold onto it forever.

The fact remains that both north and south abolished slavery at the same time, and not because of individual decisions, but because of the Thirteenth Amendment (and the war, which robbed the South of much choice and finally gave the North a reason to abolish slavery, the glorification of the war as a grand moral crusade).

It's true that some northern states partially abolished slavery in the 1800s, before the war. Again, I don't see the great significance for the relative complicity of North and South, especially since the North was still economically dependent on slavery in the South. But we can simply disagree on this.

Anita said...

I found your blog through feministing.com. Just wanted to say that the wannabe Scarlett you mentioned hasn't really thought it over; even if she did not think about slavery, which is shocking, how did she not realize that many of the problems Scarlett faced were due to the fact that she did not fit into the stereotype of the demure Southern belle? GWTW, though a great novel, paints an idolized picture about a world that was not only racist, but sexist. And the sexist parts aren't as glossed over as the racist views. How could this escape her attention?

Jill said...

Great post - so many good thoughts in here to provoke more, as usual with your writing.

I really appreciate the link to the Sociological Images blog - that was excellent too.

And both that post and this one made me think about how incomplete much of the history we provide on an ongoing basis about Native Americans is - do you think that's true too? How would you compare that, Tami, to the glossing over of the evils that allowed the antebellum period to 'flourish" for those who see it that way?

Kelly Hogaboom said...

Jill - There was a wonderful website put together by Native American and First Nation groups, that dealt with literature and the "erasing" of the real histories of our country... I wish I remembered the site's name! It began with an "O" I think and it was one word. If anyone here knows it I'd love to find it again.

Che said...

I came here from Feministing - I hear you! I grew up in Tennessee and moved to California for grad school a few years ago - my friends there, and now my partner in NH - were aghast to hear about things like this. How we were taught in school (a school where maybe 2 of my classmates were black - there was so little diversity in the mountains where I lived) that the civil war WASN'T about slavery. WTH? My family definitely glorified Antebellum times, was stuck in "the south will rise again!" mentality - and I think genuinely believed it wasn't about slavery! I believed it until I was old enough to think for myself. I loved GWTW and beautiful plantation houses until I started thinking about how those houses came to be, who built them. And I would argue with my mother - I really think she wasn't racist in general - at least she taught me to think of everyone as the same - but she was convinced it wasn't racist to hang up her Confederate flag.

And though the Confederate flag bespeaks racism specifically, my girlfriend was aghast and I think a little afraid when we spent a couple of nights at my parents' house and my brother had hung his confederate flag on his bedroom door - I am sure it represents homophobia, too, which is plenty rampant there.

Aleks said...

As Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it, we live in a country with an astonishing level of racism considering that there are no actual racists.

Tami said...

Jill, you are dead on. Mythologizing about pioneering and "conquering" the West and Manifest Destiny all erase Native Americans.

Whiskeyflips said...

I've got two very different points to make.

First of all on the "Good Guy North vs Bad Guy South" debate. It IS true that the North's complicit role in slavery is heavily whitewashed. One needs to be a fairly good Civil War student (or a Southern apologist) to come across the racist history of the North.


But in the end, we're stuck with the fact that Northern businesses profited off of slavery, but Southern businesses were ESTABLISHED ON slavery.

If, at a time prior to the Civil War, the Starship Enterprise (stay with me) came into orbit, and one night beamed all the slaves out of their slave quarters and back to Africa, or into Canada ... Northern businesses would suffer. Insurance companies would take a hit, and banks would record less profits. Companies that had outstanding loans with the South would not see them repaid. The shipping industry would suffer. A few companies might go under. It'd be rough times for the money boys in the North.

But it would have been a mild inconvenience compared to what would have gone on in the South. With the bulk of the workforce gone, plantations would cease operations. The entire economy of the cotton states would collapse, and most of the tobacco states would as well.

Many in the North did indeed profit off of the fact that the south kept slaves. But southern slavery was only one of many ways such northerners made money. The institution of slavery was the only way the South made money.

The Northern way of life needed to be adjusted. Drastically. The Southern way of life needed to be destroyed. Completely.

Whiskeyflips said...

Here's my question for Tami .... Don't we look at pretty much ANY period of history with rose colored glasses? In many cases rediculously rose colored?

The Wild West, the colonial times, the age of piracy, the Enlightenment, the Renassaince, mideval times, ancient times ... each of these periods has their own subset of fanboys and girls who look wistfully at the way-back-when times and think SOME parts of them might have been enjoyable, while conveniently forgetting the horrifying realities of what life was actually like.

How many women love the idea of being a mideval princess? Plenty, I'll wager. You get to wear the best clothes, have ladies in waiting to tend to you, and brave knights competing for your hand.

.... of course (and Disney movies leave this out) a princess was only property, first of her father
then of her husband, she seldom married for love, she was several times more likely to die in childbirth then nowadays... and several hundred times more likely to die of plauge and the Inquisition then nowadays. She was also likely to watch her husband and sons go off to fight in some far off place to uphold the prestige of whatever landowning duke held the deed to the house.

They don't market things like that in most movies about mideval times, anymore then Lady Antebellum was thinking about the plight of the Southern Slaves when she chose her name.

Every period of history gets the G-rated overhaul for entertainment purposes. Things like disease, lack of freedom, lack gender equality, and slavery are often watered down or whitewashed so the entertainers can show the glamor and the pretty. I don't think the Antebellum South is any different in getting this whitewash treatment.

Al Coda said...

Wow, I found this post when doing a search for the term "is no one offended by the name 'Lady Antebellum'?" because I found it to be appalling. However, I think the attitudes expressed towards southerners in some of these comments to be just as ignorant and offensive.

When I first heard the name of this group I couldn't believe they hadn't been eaten alive by the media. By all means, I think this group deserves public ridicule about their name of choice.
To use the term 'antebellum' refers to a specific time and philosophy that really is disgraceful. The band members must be incredibly ignorant to think that this is not offensive.

Here's the kicker, I'm from Texas. I was born and raised here. I am of mixed race and I am not racist. I will have many of you know that the horrible nature of slavery is discussed in depth in our U.S. history classes. It is NOT looked upon favorably in any way. We are all taught that we cannot simply forget that such atrocities happened.
So, I strongly resent any statements that people from the south are generally racist and uneducated. While I will admit that ethnic communities have not integrated prolifically in the south it is not because of inherent racism. Obviously, race wasn't a deterrent for my parents. Of course, a long history of segregation has had it's toll here. Indeed, because of this communities of varying ethnicity are not as common here as they are in the north eastern U.S.
However, I think it is highly arrogant and elitist to say that people born in the southern U.S. are less educated or somehow less intelligent than people born in the north. If you don't understand how such thinking is also an extension of dogmatic attitudes from before the U.S. Civil War then you may not be paying attention to history very well either. Making an assumption about a person based on where they are born is philosophically no better than making an assumption based on their skin color.

Many of those who display confederate flags in the south do so out of regional pride and not so much to romanticize antebellum attitudes. Would you consider someone who flies an Afghan flag to be a terrorist or assume that someone with a Mexican flag in their back window is an illegal immigrant? Would you be equally offended if someone displayed a Union army flag?

Personally, I really do find the confederate flag highly offensive and being any place in which it is displayed makes me uncomfortable. I typically have a bad impression of anyone who displays that flag but I realize that this is a prejudice on my part.

The ugly history of the south did affect my family. My father had to use a 'non-whites' bathroom as a child in the 50's. My great grandfather couldn't even be buried in the vicinity of white people. Yet, here I am: born in Dallas Texas to a white mother and Mexican father. It must also be said that my Scot-Irish grandparents(who both grew up in poor families, picking cotton as children in small Texas towns) never harbored prejudiced attitudes towards my father. In fact, he would still visit them even after my parents divorced. As for me, as a proud Texan, I am a liberal (as are the majority of people who live in Austin: our state capitol), I do not own a gun or a cowboy hat, I don't particularly enjoy country music and I have never been on a horse. I voted for Gore, Kerry and President Obama. In fact, I was ecstatic to be present in the National Mall when President Obama took his oath of office. I vehemently agree with Tami that glorification of the antebellum south is misguided and extremely offensive but so are stereotypes of people who are born in the southern states.

Aleks said...

"So, I strongly resent any statements that people from the south are generally racist and uneducated. While I will admit that ethnic communities have not integrated prolifically in the south it is not because of inherent racism. Obviously, race wasn't a deterrent for my parents. Of course, a long history of segregation has had it's toll here. Indeed, because of this communities of varying ethnicity are not as common here as they are in the north eastern U.S.
However, I think it is highly arrogant and elitist to say that people born in the southern U.S. are less educated or somehow less intelligent than people born in the north. If you don't understand how such thinking is also an extension of dogmatic attitudes from before the U.S. Civil War then you may not be paying attention to history very well either. Making an assumption about a person based on where they are born is philosophically no better than making an assumption based on their skin color.

Many of those who display confederate flags in the south do so out of regional pride and not so much to romanticize antebellum attitudes. Would you consider someone who flies an Afghan flag to be a terrorist or assume that someone with a Mexican flag in their back window is an illegal immigrant? Would you be equally offended if someone displayed a Union army flag?"

Emphasis mine.

Sydney said...

I completely agree! I feel like I wrote this piece... I am a black woman with eclectic music tastes and I felt the same way about "need you now", but I can't get past the fact that the name of the band is Lady Antebellum and it doesn't seem to bother anyone! thank goodness it does... i was introduced to country music upon coming from the north side of chicago to southern illinois for college, and just as I was beginning to dismantle my stereotypes regarding my associations with country music with confederate flags and racist redneck culture, i stumble upon Lady Antebellum. Huh?? and this is okay with everyone? Watching this year's CMAs it just seemed weird to me watching darius rucker and lady A all smiles in the same venue.

Jessica said...

Thanks for continuing the vilification and culture war against those who live in the South.

Have you ever been to the South? Have you seen how beautiful it is down there? Have you noticed how much nicer people are?

Most importantly, have you noticed that race relations today are WORSE in the northern parts of the country than in the South?

People from the South have been discrimnated against for so long now, and that just is not right. They're called hicks, inbreds, racists, etc. We're told that they're "backwards," and "stupid." It's one of the forms of discrimnation that is still seen as okay in our society, and your so-called "progressive" blog is doing nothing to fix that.

Cecile said...

I don't like the name of the band either. I am white. My guess is it was picked because it is loaded. Unfortunately, any attention you grab is considered good. It brings eyeballs and ears to what you're doing and that means making money. Do you knw that in the south in the 1850's the harshest lives for slaes were on the sugar plantations? And the sugar business was SUBSIDIZED by our government? We didn't need what they were producing - they just wanted to make money and the government supported it for development. What drove slavery? Greed. The same thing that drives most amoral activity now.

Anonymous said...

After watching many interviews where they discuss the name of the band, I highly doubt they ever thought of the implications of the name. I've never heard them talking about wearing antebellum style clothes. They did do a photo shoot in front of antebellum houses, where they got the name and Hillary is a woman (hence lady). I'm not defending the name, I absolutely hate it, but I wouldn't go saying they intentionally picked the name because "antebellum" is a loaded word (one of the comments said that was why the name was picked).

Diana Lee said...

While I doubt they did think about the ramifications or connotation of the name, that's kind of the point. As white Americans we're really blind to racism, particularly the institutionalized racism of this time and place.

I always felt uncomfortable listening to the band Alabama growing up b/c of their glorification of the Confederate flag. I even have one of their CDs that has one on the cover. My husband (he is black) really doesn't appreciate that.

I like Lady Antebellum's music, but feel uncomfortable with their choice of band name. I actually avoided their music for a long time for that reason.

Being Lumina said...

This post is phenomenal! I live in the South, a Pacific Northwest transplant. I have been here ten years now and the culture shock has almost driven me crazy.

I see a constant pattern of antebellum romanticism that astounds me. Every white woman I know here yearns for those days of beauty and "culture". Slavery is never mentioned. The men yearn for the glory of a war that atrociously pitted brother against brother.

I just don't get it at all.

Here in South Carolina I have listened for years about the debate over whether or not the state capitol should fly the Confederate flag. It boggles my mind how so many state politicians can defend that flag as representative of this state's values.

I wrote a couple of essays in college recently regarding this subject. One is a biographical and historical account of a slave's fight for freedom:
http://beinglumina.blogspot.com/2008/01/favorite-essays-part-3.html

The second essay is more compatible to this subject as it is an interpretation of a William Faulkner story involving the decay of the Old South and the mentality of Southerners still trying to cling to their antebellum fantasy:
http://beinglumina.blogspot.com/2008/01/favorite-essays-part-1.html

Thank you so much, Tami, for this informative piece.

Kate Hutchinson said...

A few years ago, my father, a genealogy enthusiast bought a letter off eBay, written by one of my great-grandfathers. He lived in Virginia and he was writing to his neighbor to offer the use of his mill for grinding grain at a short price. It's fascinating to hold in your hand a piece of your family's history that is so old, to trace the letters in that loopy script and know that it's a trace of some ancestor.

And yet, I was disgusted by the end of the letter: "You can send your reply with my servant Thomas who brought this missive." Meaning, he wrote the letter, gave it to his slave Thomas and asked his neighbor to reply in the same way.

I'm not proud that my ancestors were slave owners, and I like to challenge the traditional narrative of history by reading about the truth of these times.

In high school, I read Gone With The Wind, and I loved the dresses and Romanticized world presented, but today, I feel sick thinking about a society that was cruel to women, and treated good human beings as equal to dogs.

Thank you for providing this provocative piece.

Marie said...

I too found this blog via a search for Lady Antebellum and its offensive name. Last night when they appeared on American Idol, I was surprised to find that I actually liked their music. But I cannot get past that name. Thanks for offering your insights.

Mandi said...

I'm not American but I've wondered, just out of curiosity what the word meant and there are a lot of theories out there as to what the group meant and who they are. I've come to the conclusion that wether they meant it or not, the name is like a dog whistle to the white supremacist and or racist out there.

To put it into perspective one blogger said it was like calling your band "Lady Apartheid"! Beautiful South Africa or not, Apartheid cannot, in any situation be a cool word. Is this the same?

B.J. New York said...

I visited Myrtle Beach for the first time and was highly offended by the gift shops on Kings Highway. I wanted to purchase some gifts, instead, I left giftless. I went into 7 shops and all had the confederated flag for sale on a hat , on a beach towel or on a handbag. What is the fascination with this flag that is a symbol of "Death and Division." If you must honor something "Honor the Americans" who lost their lives over what the Confederacy brought .."Death and Division" Let's not continue to glorify the flag that divided "Our America"
B.J. New York

Kay said...

Jessica, I liked your post. There 'needs' to be a lot of forgiveness on this blog. More education about the Civil War and what it was fought for..... It wasn't all about 'slaves'.....

RosieP said...

I've heard a few complaints about racism up here, as a lily-white Midwesterner, and I agree it's more subtle in the North, but I don't think the South has ever gotten over the Civil War.


Although the practice of slavery gradually ended in the North before the beginning of the Civil War, the racism there was no more subtle than it was in the South - even then and now.

Deerborn said...

There's a logical fallacy of showing the exception to the rule.
A dialogue?? Which side are you on? I'm on the antislavery side.
You also say "our history of slavery and reconstruction is not fairly represented at our cultural landmarks." What's missing?

Anonymous said...

Southerners continually deflect any mention of slavery as blaming every southern person ever of doing evil. Sometimes they make defensive noises about their ancestors having been poor (ergo, no slaves), or they just want to reengage the civil war.

Lady Antebellum pays tribute to the piss-elegant neoclassical cribs, pretentious nouveau riche social manners, and gauche fashions of the elites. Kind of like "The Hunger Games."

With their internecine feuds, fetishistic love of violence, and human trafficking, you could say the masters of the Antebellum south were the Gangstas and Pimpdaddies of their time.

Karyne said...

Lady Antebellum has been dead silent about their name. They may or may not be racist, but they're cowards for sure. Do they not understand how their name is contentious? Did this nostalgic trio of wistful Confederates visit any slave quarters? Or do they only see a fanciful picture of life inside the white supremacist slaveholders regime?
All the off-topic, shopworn straw men and red herrings vomited up ad absurdum by southern revisionists just muddy the waters here.
Some other post said that, with their gauche fashions, exaggerated nouveau riche social manners, love of wealth gained from causing others to suffer, their magnificent cribs, gunplay and human trafficking -- all these successful slavers were really the avaricious, violent Ganstas and Pimpdaddies of their era. No joke, not even an analogy -- just the plain truth.

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