1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free!
Dismiss Notice
Join and Become a Patron at CivilWarTalk!
Support this site with a monthly or yearly subscription! Active Patrons get to browse the site Ad free!
START BY JOINING NOW!

Teaching Alabama School Children About Jeff Davis at First Confederate White House

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by Pat Young, May 10, 2017.

  1. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,081
    Location:
    Long Island, NY

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,081
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    According to the article:

    Schoolchildren who visit the First White House of the Confederacy learn that its famous former resident, President Jefferson Davis, was leader of a “heroic resistance” who was “held by his Negroes in genuine affection as well as highest esteem.”

    Such ideas, once mainstream Southern thought, have largely been abandoned by historians. But they are still part of the message at this state-supported museum in Alabama’s capital city that hosts thousands of grade-school students from different ethnic backgrounds on field trips every year.
     
  4. wausaubob

    wausaubob First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2017
    Messages:
    1,309
    Location:
    Denver, CO
  5. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,081
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    Here is a link to the First White House:

    http://www.firstwhitehouse.org/
    I was surprised when I read the article. I had been to the Richmond White House and heard a much more historically accurate presentation.
     
    jgoodguy, Eleanor Rose and MC44 like this.
  6. jackt62

    jackt62 First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2015
    Messages:
    1,432
    Location:
    New York City
    I recently visited the First White House so the explanation given to schoolkids in the article Pat describes is very telling. I can only say that although there are no guided tours for adults, the volunteer docent who is there to answer questions told us and other visitors that the issues surrounding Davis and the forming of the confederacy were "considered controversial by some people." On the second floor of the house, one of the rooms is devoted to a "shrine" to the lost cause and contains various articles such as letters, mementos and other such memorabilia. 093.jpg
     
  7. BillO

    BillO Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Messages:
    5,961
    Location:
    Quinton, VA.
    You give them $200,000 and they'll say whatever you want them to.
     
  8. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2010
    Messages:
    6,851
    Location:
    District of Columbia
    In her book Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South, Stephanie McCurry talks about a slave "outbreak" at the plantations of CSA president Jefferson Davis and his brother Joseph Davis.

    McCurry notes that Jefferson Davis and his brother Joseph owned two plantations located on the Mississippi River about twenty miles south of Vicksburg. In February 1862, Jefferson advised his brother to move the slaves and other valuable property further inland, where they would be safer against a Union attack along the river. In May 1862, after New Orleans fell, Joseph took several pieces of property – including house slaves – by fly boat off the plantation, and eventually wound up in Choctow County, AL.

    That led to events which would cause “Jefferson Davis (to) watch helplessly from Richmond as his elder brother, Joseph, struggled vainly to beat back the challenge of their slaves’ bid for freedom,” as McCurry puts it. Immediately after Joseph Davis left,

    …the Davis slaves made their move, responding not to the immediate presence of the Union army (which was not yet near), but to the signal that (the departure of) Joseph Davis had sent about the shifting balance of power. No sooner had Joseph pushed off from the dock than the remaining slaves seized control of the two plantations, sacking the Hurricane plantation, destroying the cotton, carrying off every article of value, and refusing to work. They would retain control of the plantation, indeed would refuse to be forced off even later by federal troops, seizing a rough and ready freedom while still on their home plantation. By the end of May 1862, Jefferson and Varina Davis received a series of lurid accounts of events on Brierfield plantation. “Negroes at Brierfield…said to be in a state of insubordination…”​

    Sometime later, Joseph Davis had Confederate forces conduct a raid against the plantation. The slaves slaves had armed themselves, and shot at the Confederate raiders. At least fifteen slaves were captured, and some were killed. The Confederate lieutenant who led the raid claimed that “almost all the slaves on Davis plantation had guns and newspapers.” The slaves at the Davis plantation became part of the uncounted casualties in their own war for black southerner independence.

    McCurry further describes the aftermath for Jefferson Davis:

    While the battle was raging, Jefferson Davis retained his composure, at least publicly. But the blow had to have been staggering. His slaves had led federal soldiers to the farm where his private family possessions were concealed, despoiling his property and pointing out place after place where his valuables were hidden. A crowd of thousands (so it was said) had gathered to watch the boxes torn open and emptied of their contents, books and papers strewn all over the yard and through the woods for miles, fine carpets cut to pieces and carried off for saddle blankets… His image-the image of the Confederate president-had been desecrated by Union soldiers… and the Brierfield slaves had celebrated the fourth of July alongside not their masters, but the school marms and other disciples of the Freedman’s cause.​

    It seems that the Davis slaves also had a genuine love for freedom, and were willing to fight for it. Something which is not mentioned in the tours.

    That's not lot of money from public coffers, although it's probably a large part of the their revenue budget. Still, I'll make an easy prediction: sooner or later, somebody will complain that the current interpretation at the House presents an unfair and unbalanced view of the history, and will ask that no public money be given to the museum. My advice to House management would be to fix your interpretative approach now, before the House is seen as a problem that needs to be fixed.

    - Alan
     
  9. jackt62

    jackt62 First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2015
    Messages:
    1,432
    Location:
    New York City
    I guess that's why they don't charge admission for visitors to the First White House.
     
    jgoodguy, Eleanor Rose and Pat Young like this.
  10. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2010
    Messages:
    6,851
    Location:
    District of Columbia
    From the article:

    Mary Dix is associate editor of “The Papers of Jefferson Davis,” a collection of about 100,000 Davis-related documents. She pushed back on criticism, saying Davis was a good person who wanted to end slavery on moral grounds but considered it necessary for the Southern economy.

    Dix also said there’s documented evidence that Davis befriended a “man-servant” over cigars during a journey into the uncharted Midwest.

    A history pamphlet at the First White House of the Confederacy echoes Dix’s sentiment.

    “Jefferson Davis believed ‘the peculiar institution’ a temporary necessity in developing the cotton economy of the South on which New England textile industry depended,” their history pamphlet reads. It says Davis believed whites were preparing Africans for freedom by “submitting” them to Anglo-Saxon culture and Christianity.​

    This is what Davis said in his book The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Chapter XXVI; published 1881,

    The forefathers of these negro soldiers (enlisted by the Union army) were gathered from the torrid plains and malarial swamps of inhospitable Africa. Generally they were born the slaves of barbarian masters, untaught in all the useful arts and occupations, reared in heathen darkness, and, sold by heathen masters, they were transferred to shores enlightened by the rays of Christianity.

    There, put to servitude, they were trained in the gentle arts of peace and order and civilization; they increased from a few unprofitable savages to millions of efficient Christian laborers. Their servile instincts rendered them contented with their lot, and their patient toil blessed the land of their abode with unmeasured riches. Their strong local and personal attachment secured faithful service to those to whom their service or labor was due. A strong mutual affection was the natural result of this life-long relation, a feeling best if not only understood by those who have grown from childhood under its influence.

    Never was there happier dependence of labor and capital on each other.

    The tempter came, like the serpent in Eden, and decoyed them with the magic word of "freedom."​

    Davis said that negroes were happy being slaves, and that they were content with their lot, i.e., they didn't need or want to be anything other than slaves. Meanwhile, freedom was a "magic word" that could only come from the Devil. By extension, the freedom that negroes did eventually receive must have been seen by Davis as satanic.

    I don't see how it honors Davis to claim he said things that he himself did not believe to be true. You see this a lot: promoters of Southern heritage who soften or even hide the details of antebellum white southerners' pro-slavery and prejudiced views. As movies like The Birth of a Nation illustrate, white Southerners of the era were only too happy to make these views known. The only conclusion as to why current heritage promoters do what they do, is that they're being PC because they fear the loss of financial support. But sooner or later, these antiseptic interpretations will be challenged, and they could lose the support they hope to keep.

    - Alan
     
  11. 19thGeorgia

    19thGeorgia Corporal

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2017
    Messages:
    356
    Location:
    Cleburne Co
    Is there some problem with "heroic resistance?"
     
  12. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 1st Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2016
    Messages:
    3,539
    Location:
    South Carolina
    Two thoughts:

    - Can we really weigh one quote from RAFOTG against information Dix has gleaned from "100,000 Davis-related documents"? If she's read a good portion of those in her position as editor, she likely has a solid, well-founded idea of the man's character.

    - I don't think changing their historical interpretation would make any difference. Today, if it's Confederate, it's under attack, or will be soon. The version of history they teach won't help them avoid having to defend themselves.
     
  13. O' Be Joyful

    O' Be Joyful Sergeant

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2015
    Messages:
    819
    From the article:

    “It’s certainly a part of history that doesn’t deserve a positive reflection,” said Benard Simelton, president of Alabama’s chapter of the NAACP. “It is akin to recognizing and celebrating the Holocaust.”
    My view is that statements such as this are unnecessarily inflammatory and counter productive. They incite radical and reflexive push back from people who would be more easily swayed to a more factual presentation without the hyperbole. Why give your opponents ammunition to use against you?
     
  14. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Major

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2010
    Messages:
    8,552



    It is hard making a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but, for $100,000, you have rto try.
     
  15. 19thGeorgia

    19thGeorgia Corporal

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2017
    Messages:
    356
    Location:
    Cleburne Co
    When Davis was in prison after the war, didn't his former slaves petition the government for his release?
     
    Rebforever likes this.
  16. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2010
    Messages:
    6,851
    Location:
    District of Columbia
    I'm not trying to make a detailed statement about Davis' character, Dix can certainly say more about that than me. But his comments about slavery are much more limited and finite. I don't have an extensive library about Davis here at home, but I have read a lot about him in the past 8 years I've been studying the war. IMO, that quote pretty much represents his views, and I stand by my use and interpretation of it. I use that quote a lot because Davis said that in his 1881 book about the Confederacy. By then he was 73, had the benefit of time and reflection, and of course, he knew that this book would give posterity his best, his most cogent, his most unequivocal views on the past. And he said what he said.

    I could say that she genuinely sees Davis as a hero and a good, even great, man; and that this affection might affect her, to the point that she is unintentionally apologetic about his views toward slavery. But I won't say that. I will say that I've seen enough of Davis' views on slavery that I believe the comments he made in 1881, as well as others I've seen, give us a good understanding of how Davis viewed slavery and slaves.

    Just two things. First, getting historical interpretations right is always a good thing.

    Second, I can tell you as a matter of fact that there are a lot of people who feel like they've been lied to about their history, that is, their history instruction did not or does not fatefully render the whole truth of Southern history. How much this factors into any negative view of Confederate commemoration, I cannot qualify or quantify. But even if it amounts to just a little bit, well, why let that little bit be a factor?

    - Alan
     
  17. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2010
    Messages:
    6,851
    Location:
    District of Columbia
    Agreed. We should all be aware of Godwin's law and use that to temper what we say online and off.

    - Alan
     
  18. wausaubob

    wausaubob First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2017
    Messages:
    1,309
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    What is heroic about Jefferson Davis staying in Richmond and allowing the war to continue past Lincoln's re-election?
    What is heroic about sending Stephens, Hunter and Campbell to City Point instead of going himself?
    Resistance to what? A government that had instituted industrialized genocide, or one that insisting the results of not one but two elections be respected, and the journey to citizenship for blacks begin?
    Resistance to what, that the idea that all men will get a fair chance to make something of their lives will be more than an empty slogan and will actually be implemented?
     
    leftyhunter and dibbern like this.
  19. 19thGeorgia

    19thGeorgia Corporal

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2017
    Messages:
    356
    Location:
    Cleburne Co
    Yes, they did.

    "Some of us well know of many kindness he shown his slaves"

    ...but I haven't found the whole petition.
     
    Rebforever and Andersonh1 like this.
  20. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,081
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    Historic sites deserve preservation and interpretation. Shrines to an ideology will fade as the acolytes die off.
     
  21. 19thGeorgia

    19thGeorgia Corporal

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2017
    Messages:
    356
    Location:
    Cleburne Co
    I wonder if that can be applied to some sites up north...
     
    ucvrelics.com likes this.

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Loading...

Share This Page


(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)