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Ch. 6 - John Brown and Abraham Lincoln: The Invisibility of Antiracism in American History Textbooks 
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 Ch. 6 - John Brown and Abraham Lincoln: The Invisibility of Antiracism in American History Textbooks
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong - by James W. Loewen

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Ch. 6 - John Brown and Abraham Lincoln: The Invisibility of Antiracism in American History Textbooks



Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:19 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - John Brown and Abraham Lincoln: The Invisibility of Antiracism in American History Textbooks
Chapter 6 Discussion Questions

1.) I have no recollection of having heard of John Brown from my high school history courses. Did you? What did you learn about him? Loewen makes him sound rather important and the moral crux of the arguments surrounding the American Civil War, but who was he? Is the implication that he was insane common to those when a paradigm shift occurs in society, politics, or culture? Why?

2.)Strategically it seems possible to argue in favour of the Emancipation Proclamation applying only to Southern states, however, doesn’t it ring as morally bankrupt in retrospect? Why do you think Lincoln didn’t make the executive order apply to slaves in the Northern States?

3.) Executive orders have figured more and more heavily in recent presidencies, especially since the enactment of the War Powers Act. Do you think this is an acceptable method for the executive branch to achieve policy ends? Do you feel its a politically ambiguous way for the executive to sidestep the legislative branch? Why or why not?

4.) Do you find it odd the Democratic Party really started with racist roots and the Republican Party started with anti-ractist ones? What factors do you think contributed the most to the parties “crossing the floor”? Do you think it diminishes either or both parties’ positions now on policy issues both related to and distant from race relations? Why or why not?


My apologies for not posting this sooner; the quarter transition at work made things rather hectic. I’ll be posting the rest of the discussion questions for the book in the near future.



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DWill, Harry Marks
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - John Brown and Abraham Lincoln: The Invisibility of Antiracism in American History Textbooks
1) I've never heard of John Brown in school. I remember seeing him on the cover of the rock band "Kansas" album cover but I didn't know who he was. It's interesting that in the old movie "Santa Fe Trails" starring Errol Flynn & Ronald Reagan (which can be seen on YouTube) John Brown is rendered as a maniacal villian

2) I feel like only in extreme emergencies involving the public's safety should executive orders be done. Sadly, the safety of hundreds of thousands of people were threatened because of slavery therefore it should have absolutely been abolished through executive order

4.) Yes it is odd regarding the current philosophies of both parties considering how they began. Even though the current policies seem to have racist slants I believe the slants are more economical and socio-political in nature than race. It seems odd that the current head of the Republican Party is getting a lot of support tho from members of the white lower class because of race while his policies are abhorrent even to them.

John Brown is the greatest American who has ever lived and just as stated in the movie "Santa Fe Trails" his actions kicked off the Civil War.
They try very hard to keep him out of the historical spotlight. A few years back the tv network WGN had a show called "Underground" that was set during Pre-Civil War days about slaves who escaped a plantation in Macon Ga. The show ran for 2 seasons and it prominently features Harriet Tubman portrayed brilliantly by Aida Hinds. There was one episode that was the most poignant display I've EVER seen on TV that should have garnered hey an Emmy easily but she was denied even a nomination. In this particular episode she repeatedly alludes to "The Captain" speaking about John Brown.
He was set to appear in Season 3 but suspiciously this highly-rated show was cancelled.


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Post Re: Ch. 6 - John Brown and Abraham Lincoln: The Invisibility of Antiracism in American History Textbooks
thespiritofyah wrote:
1) I've never heard of John Brown in school. I remember seeing him on the cover of the rock band "Kansas" album cover but I didn't know who he was.
I heard briefly about him, not enough to make an impression as to what kind of person he was except that he took arms against slavery. The song "John Brown's Body" was mentioned briefly as illustration that his actions were widely known and symbolic. I would be interested to hear how Lincoln reacted to him, since the common construction is that Lincoln staked his political position on saving the Union, which Brown was no help with. (Might be in the second half of the chapter - I am only half way through.)

There is an interesting development of the moral conflict in Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer-winning book "Gilead", which I absolutely loved. John Brown features tangentially.

thespiritofyah wrote:
4.) Yes it is odd regarding the current philosophies of both parties considering how they began. Even though the current policies seem to have racist slants I believe the slants are more economical and socio-political in nature than race. It seems odd that the current head of the Republican Party is getting a lot of support tho from members of the white lower class because of race while his policies are abhorrent even to them.
We tend to think of the Republicans as anti-slavery, but they were a coalition that included some slaveholders in Border States, as explained in "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Partly they evolved from the old Whig party, which was mainly oriented toward infrastructure development such as locks, canals and turnpikes.

Now that this book has pointed out to me to what extent Jackson sought to extend slavery to the West (apparently in part at least due to development of the textile industry in Britain in the post-Napoleonic period,) it seems clear to me that the Whigs/Republicans represented the pro-tariff Northeast, the industrial interests of the U.S., while the Democrats had already come to represent the landed exporters of the plantation industries in the South. But neither of those is quite correct, as the "Cotton Whigs" of Massachusetts (including the textiles magnates of Lawrence, Mass who organized anti-slavery settlers in Lawrence, KS, setting off "bleeding Kansas" and to some extent the armed rebellion of John Brown that came out of it) were tied to the economy of the South, and the big cities of the North included many immigrants who backed the Democrats and became the big city machines after the Civil War.

How did the reversal happen that took Democrats from representing low education Western and Midwestern farmers, farm laborers in the South, and immigrant communities in the cities of the North to being the party that led against segregation despite its own segregationist wing? And took the Republicans from being the party of Earl Warren and Dwight Eisenhower, (who called out the Army to enforce Brown vs. Board of Education) to becoming the party of Law and Order and then Roger Ailes? Two-part pivot: FDR and the New Deal rode an angry populist wave created by the Great Depression, and Richard Nixon conceived the Southern Strategy to woo segregationists after Johnson pushed through the Voting Rights Act. Ronald Reagan solidified the shift in the South by, in my opinion, backing a kind of ignorant approach to policy, in which his heart was always telling him ridiculous things like that cutting taxes would raise tax revenue and Ollie North was stopping the Communist juggernaut. The great center of the country was happy with his genial incompetence because he was willing to let competent people make policy and they were generally genial and incompetent themselves. The crack cocaine epidemic solidified white people's image of inner city blacks as self-destructive criminals, and Bush and Ailes pulled the South farther into the Republican orbit with the not-so-subtle association of blacks with violent crime. All through the 90s and 00s the Evangelical Right was convincing itself that it was not racist anymore (and indeed, many black preachers rose to successful positions), that the immoral side was the backers of Roe v. Wade and the baby-killers, and that globalists were secret Socialists. The Obama phenomenon somehow transformed the old trope of considering racial integration to be socialist (Communist, originally) into a willingness to believe that Obamacare was some sort of transfer of resources from whites to blacks, setting up the epically bizarre rise of Donald Trump to the White House.

The culture war seems to have caused both sides to dig in, with nearly 60 percent of the electorate convinced that Republicans stand for corporate domination and authoritarian inclinations, and something above 40 percent convinced that socialism is making a bid for the complete suppression of freedom, including freedom to be evangelically Christian. The recipe for stalemate is obvious, but Trump has failed to resuscitate the Midwestern industrial economy (except perhaps the steel industry in Western Pennsylvania and Northern Ohio) and will probably lose that slice of the electorate that was crucial in 2016 unless the Dems totally flub that issue, but has a humming economy at his back, which will encourage many genially incompetent voters to prefer him to the looming threat of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez. My crystal ball is unable to sort that one out.



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Post Re: Ch. 6 - John Brown and Abraham Lincoln: The Invisibility of Antiracism in American History Textbooks
capricorn152244 wrote:
2.)Strategically it seems possible to argue in favour of the Emancipation Proclamation applying only to Southern states, however, doesn’t it ring as morally bankrupt in retrospect? Why do you think Lincoln didn’t make the executive order apply to slaves in the Northern States?

"Morally bankrupt" should probably be reserved for more extreme cases. It implies there is not enough moral credit to cover the moral debits. I have forgotten the specifics of why Lincoln applied the Emancipation Proclamation to the rebel states only, but vaguely it was some combination of limited legal power (he proclaimed it as war leader, not as a usurpation of legislative power) and strategic maneuvering (border states still included many slave owners who for some reason harbored hopes that they would be able to hold their slaves after the shooting was done - Lincoln's Attorney General, Edward Bates, was from Missouri and opposed emancipation.)

Now that I am finished with this chapter I wanted to raise a question or two of my own. First, I appreciated Loewen's recounting of the true nature of anti-racism at the time, and how it was dauntingly outnumbered. People I respect such as Lincoln and Greeley were caught in the confirmation bias which agrees that the oppressed deserve their oppression, based on their manifestly inferior status and accomplishments. A person hates to recognizing one's own moral failings as part of a pattern contributing to uneven results. Hard to even resist the bias, much less to overcome.

John Brown's daring resistance to the vigilantes from Missouri who attacked Kansans reminds me of the organized resistance by blacks (and anti-racist whites) in the South before Civil Rights, when white authority was ready to beat them for walking instead of riding the bus (this same segment of society now claims that socialist intrusive government opposes the continued exploitation and repression). By raising the profile of the issue, they made it impossible to just look the other way and avoid a moral position. Such confrontation is now considered one of the pillars of restorative justice, or reconciliation if you prefer. A bully, or abuser, or criminal, or oppressive regime, should not just be restrained but should be required to consider the effect on others whom they have harmed "because they can."

Second, I thought that Loewen engaged in a little distortion of his own. His section on Lincoln's effort to save the Union points out some problems with the theory that it was his only goal, but does not address the likely case that it was his main goal. Maybe more to the point, he fails to acknowledge the importance of that goal. Lincoln rightly recognized that the rhetoric about a struggle to determine whether "any nation so conceived and so dedicated could long endure upon the earth" went to the heart of the matter - if secession was permitted as an option for those who don't get their way, a democracy would splinter and democracy as an alternative to rule by force would perish.

Any American who studied a bit of history, and that would be most lawyers, would understand that Europe's history and the world's history had been a story of rule by violence, and that the struggle even to substitute legitimacy for violence was one that was not easy to win. How much harder to have commoners take a role and have a say. If splintering into republics of one was the inevitable result, then democracy was doomed. Even the enormous issue of slavery has to take second place to democracy in a moral hierarchy of priorities.

There are hints of this issue in Loewen's interesting observations about the "ideological contradictions" in the Confederacy. Because slaveowning was the economic prop to large estates, but not to ordinary farmers, most Confederates were not in agreement that they should fight for a slavery regime. Having proposed that secession was a solution, how could the Confederates refuse the secession of the Republic of Jones and West Virginia and the others? It was a tangle of inconsistencies and made the inconsistencies of the North, such as Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus to stop Maryland's legislature from voting to secede, look mild.

His treatment of the Gettysburg Address, which I agree with, did some justice to the priority of the Union, but it could have been more helpful.



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Post Re: Ch. 6 - John Brown and Abraham Lincoln: The Invisibility of Antiracism in American History Textbooks
capricorn152244 wrote:
Chapter 6 Discussion Questions

1.) I have no recollection of having heard of John Brown from my high school history courses. Did you? What did you learn about him? Loewen makes him sound rather important and the moral crux of the arguments surrounding the American Civil War, but who was he? Is the implication that he was insane common to those when a paradigm shift occurs in society, politics, or culture? Why?

I'm a Yankee by birth and don't recall anything being said to me in school ablout John Brown. I think the case would have been different if I'd gone to school where we did live for several years, Harpers Ferry. Kids there would be taught about Brown, but I wouldn't expect that Brown gets a fair shake anywhere near the South. There are John Brown sites in and near Harpers Ferry, but of course nothing dedicated to him. Tony Horwitz put out a good bio of Brown called Midnight Rising. One thing that especially impressed me about Brown is that unlike most other enlightened people like H.B. Stowe and Lincoln, Brown had no concepts that we might call racist or racialist; he was truly equalitarian.

John Brown is a problematic figure for all of us; given that fact, it's no surprise that textbooks want not to grapple with his difficulty. Blandness is their flavor, in my recollection and certainly in Loewen's judgment.
Quote:
2.)Strategically it seems possible to argue in favour of the Emancipation Proclamation applying only to Southern states, however, doesn’t it ring as morally bankrupt in retrospect? Why do you think Lincoln didn’t make the executive order apply to slaves in the Northern States?

Well it is just a little disappointing that the executive order didn't free any slaves, that their freedom had to wait until the end of the war. But what if Lincoln had made the order apply to the border states and the Confederate areas already under Union control? The sudden blow to slaveholders would have seemed a betrayal to them and could have jeopardized Union victory. The Proclamation can be seen as an example of Lincoln's disciplined approach.
Quote:
3.) Executive orders have figured more and more heavily in recent presidencies, especially since the enactment of the War Powers Act. Do you think this is an acceptable method for the executive branch to achieve policy ends? Do you feel its a politically ambiguous way for the executive to sidestep the legislative branch? Why or why not?

It's hard for me to imagine the president not having this kind of executive function. We'd be talking about a weak and ineffectual executive branch in that case. Partisanship seems to rule regarding whether executive orders upset the balance of powers or not. If it's your guy, you probably won't think his actions are dictatorial, but rather wise and energetic.
Quote:
4.) Do you find it odd the Democratic Party really started with racist roots and the Republican Party started with anti-ractist ones? What factors do you think contributed the most to the parties “crossing the floor”? Do you think it diminishes either or both parties’ positions now on policy issues both related to and distant from race relations? Why or why not?

It's a good example of a superficial trait, in this case a label, having staying power though the original character of the political organism has changed dramatically. I suppose at any point the party labels could have changed in response to the evolved ideologies, but they didn't. "Liberal" and "conservative" are terms still in common use, but their connotations are much different than in the 19th and part of the 20th centuries.
Quote:
My apologies for not posting this sooner; the quarter transition at work made things rather hectic. I’ll be posting the rest of the discussion questions for the book in the near future.
No apology needed. Thanks for moderating.



Sat Apr 27, 2019 6:37 am
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