The Politically Correct Confederacy

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Troy Patterson reviews AMC's Hell on Wheels:


The hero is Cullen Bohannon, played by Anson Mount with a grizzled animality and gaunt humanity that help the character to shoulder the burden of history. Bohannon fought for Confederacy. He was a slave owner, but he freed his slaves before the Civil War began, guided by the influence of his wife: "She convinced me of the evils of slavery." She also did needlepoint, as we see in a dewy-eyed flashback to the days before Union soldiers raped and killed her.

There really is no way to separate the consistent deployment of this frame--non-slaveholding Confederate, hyper-moral white womanhood, demonic Union defilers disguised as emancipators--from the worst of America's racial and gender traditions. 

I'm sure the shows creators are right-thinking people, but they are trafficking in American denialism. Casting Common does not change this.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. More

Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.

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