Reconstruction: Discussion of Henry Louis Gates New Documentary

byron ed

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...Did this documentary bring to light the fact that former Confederates were denied the right to vote, that confiscatory taxes enacted by the Radical Republican officeholders forced many to sell their farms or that organizations were formed to provide for former Confederates who became poverty-stricken...

Not a big enough factor to feature in a TV series on Reconstruction.

If anything a sidebar: one of those PBS "see pbs.org for more information on former Confederates during Reconstruction" things. Why? because that story is nothing more that the to-be-expected consequences of white Southerners that chose to secede and become Confederate, so basically their own self-made problem. Even then the unfairness of it was not especially grievous by comparison to how other nations had treated their defeated traitors. In a few hours a TV series can only cover the primary drama of Reconstruction, the story of those who never had a choice.
 
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Sbc

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I had some trouble with the scene of a contemporary police arrest of a black man being interspersed with historical scenes of black men being abused during Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras, as if that police arrest was just the latest iteration of racism. If that particular scene had been documented to be an incident of abuse that's one thing, but it appears to be a scene pulled from some media B-roll without checking to see if it was an actual case of abuse. That's just plain wrong, and I would call Gates on that one.

That particular scene could well be of a policeman legitimately protecting the public from an actual law-breaker who just happened to be black. The attempt to pose it in "Black Lives Matter" mode in a series that's supposed to be focusing on Reconstruction is nothing short of a slur on police men and women today, who today are not typically abusive in their roles as protectors of the public.
I also disliked these repeated montages of current/recent events
 

Sbc

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Next is a discussion of the refusal of Congress to seat former Confederates elected by whites-only electorates in 1865.

View attachment 301831
I’m no constitutional scholar but was this legal if Johnson pardoned these men?
Always seemed hypocritical that secession was not recognized until it came time to share power again—all of sudden the southern states needed to be “readmitted”.
 

Sbc

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I don't actually discourage anyone from watching - I generally like Gates and his genealogy-themed series are probably the best historically-related things available in the Vast Wasteland of TV programing. Because of that, I'd simply hoped this series would be at least as informative as the recent one on Africa was.
That was a fascinating series
 

Pat Young

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Always seemed hypocritical that secession was not recognized until it came time to share power again—all of sudden the southern states needed to be “readmitted”.
The question was not whether the states needed to be readmitted to the Union. It was what rules needed to be followed for a delegation from a state to be seated in Congress. Congress has exclusive power to seat a delegation.
 

19thGeorgia

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HOW many were denied the right to vote, and WHEN, and WHO were those?
We had a thread on this a year or two ago. We found out that hundreds of thousands of whites across the South were disfranchised.

Seems pro Confederate folk always throw out these types of "facts" but NEVER give hard factual details.

Kevin Dally
...and another fact is that blacks aligned themselves with a political party that was very vocal about exterminating Southern whites - men, women, and children. Not a very good way to start "Reconstruction."
 

Pat Young

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We had a thread on this a year or two ago. We found out that hundreds of thousands of whites across the South were disfranchised.

...and another fact is that blacks aligned themselves with a political party that was very vocal about exterminating Southern whites - men, women, and children. Not a very good way to start "Reconstruction."
Can you link to the thread. I am very interested in seeing the specific laws cited, so this could be very useful.
 

Sbc

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Most of the historians were white.
I get that and I would still watch if titled more accurately. Kinda felt like click bait. For instance I would like to know a whole lot more about seating a congressional delegation and if the maneuver was constitutional. Interspersing photos of black mobs confronting law enforcement in the 21st century adds nothing to my knowledge.
 

James N.

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Well just to be fair this is hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. One of the leading African American historians and an African American himself (who has won awards for other African American related documentaries). So if you didn't assume before I think you should expect it from a more African American perspective, a perspective often neglected by many books and documentaries that have existed on various historical subjects.

I only passively watched the first episode, need to rewatch it and the rest. I will say that my gut impression is that his award winning documentary "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross" seemed to grip me a bit more, but I did enjoy what I did see so far.
Perhaps oddly enough, Gates seems to do quite well on his genealogy series when discussing and describing events as various as Jewish emigres from pogroms in Tsarist Russia or the so-called Holocaust; upheavals in Latin American countries like Mexico or Cuba; the Potato Famine in Ireland; and the Revolution of 1848 in European countries - none of which as I recall require a black perspective. Why then should anyone expect that something as complex as Reconstruction should be any more focused on the plight of only a single segment of the population, even if the most obvious one? It sounds to me as though you are the one selling Gates short as a usually fair and impartial historian, as though he is incapable of any but a single point of view because he happens to belong to a particular ethnic group.
 
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Tin cup

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I have recorded parts 1 & 2, but I'm working so many hrs that if I sit for any length of time, I fall asleep!:frown: I thought it would be a series of broader range, not just on a black perspective.
What I have seen looks OK, but seen references to MODERN DAY black suffering, hoped it would be kept within the Reconstruction time period.:unsure:

Kevin Dally
 
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Tin cup

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We had a thread on this a year or two ago. We found out that hundreds of thousands of whites across the South were disfranchised.

...and another fact is that blacks aligned themselves with a political party that was very vocal about exterminating Southern whites - men, women, and children. Not a very good way to start "Reconstruction."
Another lost cause claim, or do YOU have proof of such claims, and when they were carried out?

Kevin Dally
 

19thGeorgia

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Another lost cause claim, or do YOU have proof of such claims, and when they were carried out?

Kevin Dally
I didn't say it was carried out. I said they were very vocal about it.
And we have the luxury of knowing it wouldn't be carried out, but the Southern whites who lived during those times and read of the threats did not. They read of them in real time.

"The spirit which actuated Robespierre, Danton, Marat, and others, is no stranger in our country. It is every where manifested by extreme men, and is not concealed by those whose feelings and motions they control. It is most usually exhibited toward those who mistook their duty and engaged in the late rebellion; but recently it has extended to nearly every white man resident in the secession States. Now it reaches all, wherever they reside, who do not subscribe to and sustain the theories and their practical application by the Radical Republicans. Observing men discover unmistakable evidence of this spirit throughout the active and controlling portions of the Radical party. It is more or less apparent in every neighborhood. A disposition to exterminate those of independent and differing opinions is everywhere manifested, and toward Southern white men it is openly avowed. The purpose of exterminating the Southern men, and the confiscation and distribution of their property, has been proposed by those in high places who control the action of their party."

-Item from the Albany (NY) Argus reprinted in the Daily Constitutionalist (Augusta, GA), December 1, 1866
 

Pat Young

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I didn't say it was carried out. I said they were very vocal about it.
And we have the luxury of knowing it wouldn't be carried out, but the Southern whites who lived during those times and read of the threats did not. They read of them in real time.

"The spirit which actuated Robespierre, Danton, Marat, and others, is no stranger in our country. It is every where manifested by extreme men, and is not concealed by those whose feelings and motions they control. It is most usually exhibited toward those who mistook their duty and engaged in the late rebellion; but recently it has extended to nearly every white man resident in the secession States. Now it reaches all, wherever they reside, who do not subscribe to and sustain the theories and their practical application by the Radical Republicans. Observing men discover unmistakable evidence of this spirit throughout the active and controlling portions of the Radical party. It is more or less apparent in every neighborhood. A disposition to exterminate those of independent and differing opinions is everywhere manifested, and toward Southern white men it is openly avowed. The purpose of exterminating the Southern men, and the confiscation and distribution of their property, has been proposed by those in high places who control the action of their party."

-Item from the Albany (NY) Argus reprinted in the Daily Constitutionalist (Augusta, GA), December 1, 1866
The Argus was a Democratic newspaper attacking its Republican opponents.
 

MattL

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Perhaps oddly enough, Gates seems to do quite well on his genealogy series when discussing and describing events as various as Jewish emigres from pogroms in Tsarist Russia or the so-called Holocaust; upheavals in Latin American countries like Mexico or Cuba; the Potato Famine in Ireland; and the Revolution of 1848 in European countries - none of which as I recall require a black perspective. Why then should anyone expect that something as complex as Reconstruction should be any more focused on the plight of only a single segment of the population, even if the most obvious one? It sounds to me as though you are the one selling Gates short as a usually fair and impartial historian, as though he is incapable of any but a single point of view because he happens to belong to a particular ethnic group.

The distinction between the valid example you gave, of Gates on genealogy unrelated to African American history is just that. Everyone has a perspective and hosts often both try to give an objective view and their perspective. I'm sure you've seen segments on Finding your Roots that does focus on African American related events in history (or African Americans themselves) and you will see both his expertise and his personal perspective come into play.

Basically I think you outlined it quite well, on topics that are heavily African American history related you will see his expertise in African American history (both personally and professionally) expressed. On topics that aren't you don't, at least as much. Even in other cases he'll often relate with his guests on discrimination for example, being a Black American.

Also no I'm not saying Gates can't be impartial... I'm saying as a host with a set of expertise and personal experiences the intent is for him to bring that to the table. For example, you don't get Neil Degrasse Tyson to host something without wanting his scientific and personal experiences to shine through. That's what makes a host good and that's what makes Gates a great host on topics he's an expert of.

I wouldn't want to watch Neil host something without expressing his scientific perspective. Likewise if Gates is hosting something with an African American perspective (and Reconstruction clearly qualifies) then clearly he should give that. That's when Gates shines best and clearly due to his professional success African American history that's where his expertise lends the most benefit.

Don't get me wrong, he's a good host in general. I believe he's a good genealogy host since genealogy specifically seems to be a passion of his (and expertise) as well as history in general.
 
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