One of Those Days

I'm working the silver keys today, and an open thread is up below. Before I go, three quick points...

1) In my post on Charles Blow the other day, I neglected to mention my feelings about his minstrel comment. I need to say that I thought that that description went too far and didn't actually match his reporting. I think we need to careful about throwing around words like "minstrel" and make sure that we aren't actually saying, "this person doesn't see race like I do."

2) I wanted to drive harder at this notion that John Wilkes Booth was a crazy-man, as opposed to a natural outgrowth of Confederate logic. It's worth remembering that Abraham Lincoln had to be smuggled into Washington for fear that he would be assassinated before taking office. 

This is not surprising when you consider that Southern slave-holders believed that "African slavery" was not simply profitable, but the will of God. Lincoln, to their mind, sought to abrogate the will of God. Everyone with a stake in "African slavery" might not conclude that death is the wage of such sin. 

3) I really think Grant's memoir should be pushed harder in survey classes on American Lit. Maybe you guys got it there. I did not. It's a really beautiful work of literature. Death hangs everywhere--death of family, death of  military comrades, death of strangers death of loved ones. And the writing is just beautiful. To wit:

There is little doubt in my mind now that the prevailing sentiment of the South would have been opposed to secession in 1860 and 1861, if there had been a fair and calm expression of opinion, unbiased by threats, and if the ballot of one legal voter had counted for as much as that of any other. But there was no calm discussion of the question. Demagogues who were too old to enter the army if there should be a war, others who entertained so high an opinion of their own ability that they did not believe they could be spared from the direction of the affairs of state in such an event, declaimed vehemently and unceasingly against the North; against its aggressions upon the South; its interference with Southern rights, etc., etc. 

They denounced the Northerners as cowards, poltroons, negro-worshippers; claimed that one Southern man was equal to five Northern men in battle; that if the South would stand up for its rights the North would back down. Mr. Jefferson Davis said in a speech, delivered at La Grange, Mississippi, before the secession of that State, that he would agree to drink all the blood spilled south of Mason and Dixon's line if there should be a war. 

The young men who would have the fighting to do in case of war, believed all these statements, both in regard to the aggressiveness of the North and its cowardice. They, too, cried out for a separation from such people. The great bulk of the legal voters of the South were men who owned no slaves; their homes were generally in the hills and poor country; their facilities for educating their children, even up to the point of reading and writing, were very limited; their interest in the contest was very meagre--what there was, if they had been capable of seeing it, was with the North; they too needed emancipation. Under the old regime they were looked down upon by those who controlled all the affairs in the interest of slave-owners, as poor white trash who were allowed the ballot so long as they cast it according to direction.

They too needed emancipation. That's what the fuck I'm talking about right there.

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.

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