Chapter 5. “Gone with the Wind”: The Invisibility of Racism in...

History, despite its wrenching pain,

Cannot be unlived, and if faced

With courage, need not be lived again.

—Maya Angelou

The black-white rift stands at the very center of American history. It is the great challenge to which all our deepest aspirations to freedom must rise. If we forget that —if we forget the great stain of slavery that stands at the heart of our country, our history, our experiment—we forget who we are, and we make the great rift deeper and wider.

—Ken Burns

We have got to the place where we cannot use our experiences during and after the Civil War for the uplift and enlightenment of mankind.

W. E. B. Du Bois

More Americans have learned the story of the South during the years of the Civil War and Reconstruction from Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind than from all of the learned volumes on this period.

—Warren Beck and Myles Clowers

When was the country we now know as the United States first settled? If we forget the lesson of the last chapter for the momentthat Native Americans settledthe best answer might be 1526. In the summer of that year, five hundred Spaniards and one hundred black slaves founded a town neat the mouth of the Pee Dee River in present-day South Carolina. Disease and disputes with nearby Indians caused many deaths in the early months of the settlement. In November the slaves rebelled, killed some of their masters, and escaped to the Indians, By then only 150 Spaniards survived; they retreated to Haiti. The ex-slaves remained behind and probably merged with nearby Indian nations.

This is cocktail-party trivia, I suppose. American history textbooks cannot be faulted for not mentioning that the first non-Native settlers in the United States were black. Educationally, however, the incident has its uses. It shows that Africans (is it too early to call them African Americans?) rebelled against slavery from the first. It points to the important subject of three-way race relations Indian-African-Europeanwhich most textbooks completely omit. It teaches that slavery cannot readily survive without secure borders. And, symbolically, it illusttates that African Americans, and the attendant subject of black-white race relations, were part of American history from the first European attempts to settle.

Perhaps the most pervasive theme in our history is the domination of black America by white America. Race is the sharpest and deepest division in American life. Issues of black-white relations propelled the Whig Party to collapse, prompted the formation of the Republican Party, and caused the Democratic Party to label itself the “white man's party” for almost a century. The first time Congress ever overrode a presidential veto was for the 1866 Civil Rights Act, passed by Republicans over the wishes of Andrew Johnson. Senators mounted the longest filibuster in U.S. history, more than 534 hours, to oppose the 1964 Civil Rights bill. Thomas Byrne Edsall has shown how race prompted the sweeping political realignment of 1964-72, in which the white South went from a Democratic bastion to a Republican stronghold.6 Race still affects politics, as evidenced by the notorious Willie Horton commercial used by George Bush in the 1988 presidential campaign and the more recent candidacies of the Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, Race riots continue to shake urban centers from Miami to Los Angeles.

Almost no genre of our popular culture goes untouched by race. From the 1850s through the 1930s, except during the Civil War and Reconstruction, minstrel shows, which derived in a perverse way from plantation slavery, were the dominant form of popular entertainment in America. During most of that period Uncle Tom's Cabin was our longest-running play, mounted in thousands of productions. America's first epic motion picture, Birth of a Nation; first talkie, The jazz Singer; and biggest blockbuster novel ever, Gone with the Wind, were substantially about race relations. The most popular radio show of all time was “Arnos 'n' Andy,” two white men posing as humorously incompetent African Americans.' The most popular television miniseries ever was “Roots,” which changed our culture by setting off an explosion of interest in genealogy and ethnic background. In music, race relations provide the underlying thematic material for many of our spirituals, blues numbers, reggae songs, and rap pieces.

The struggle over racial slavery may be the predominant theme in American history. Until the end of the nineteenth century, cottonplanted, cultivated, harvested, and ginned by slaveswas by far our most important export.8 Our graceful antebellum homes, in the North as well as in the South, were built largely by slaves or from profits derived from the slave and cotton trades. Blackwhite relations became the central issue in the Civil War, which killed almost as many Americans as died in all our other wars combined. Black-white relations was the principal focus of Reconstruction after the Civil War; America's failure . to allow African Americans equal rights led eventually to the struggle for civil I rights a century later.

The subject also pops up where we least suspect itat the Alamo,

throughout the Seminole Wars, even in the expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri.9 Studs Terkel is right: race is our “American obsession.” Since those , o first Africans and Spaniards landed on the Carolina shore in 1526, our society I has repeatedly been torn apart and sometimes bound together by this issue of I black-white relations.

Over the years white America has told itself varying stories about the I enslavement of blacks. In each of the last two centuries America's most popular I novel was set in slaveryUncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Gwu I with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. The two books tell very different stories; I Uncle Tom's Cabin presents slavery as an evil to be opposed, while Gone with the Wind suggests that slavery was an ideal social structure whose passing is to be lamented. Until the civil rights movement, American history textbooks in this century pretty much agreed with Mitchell. In 1959 my high school textbook presented slavery as not such a bad thing. If bondage was a burden for African Americans, well, slaves were a burden on Ole Massa and Ole Miss, too. Besides, slaves were reasonably happy and well fed. Such arguments constitute the “magnolia myth,” according to which slavery was a social structure of harmony and grace that did no real harm to anyone, white or black. A famous 1950 textbook by Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager actually said, “As for Sambo, whose wrongs moved the abolitionists to wrath and tears, there is some reason to believe that he suffered less than any other class in the South from its 'peculiar institution.'” “Peculiar institution” meant slavery, of course, and Morison and Commager here provided a picture of it that came straight from Cone with the Wind.

This is not what textbooks say today. Since the civil rights movement, textbooks have returned part of the way toward Stowe's devastating indictment of the institution. The discussion in American History begins with a passage that desctibes the living conditions of slaves in positive terms: “They were usually given adequate food, clothing, and shelter.” But the author immediately goes on to point out, “Slaves had absolutely no rights. It was not simply that they could not vote or own property. Their owners had complete control over their lives.” He concludes, “Slavery was almost literally inhuman.” American Adventures tells us, “Slavery led to despair, and despair sometimes led black people to take their own lives. Or in some cases it led them to revolt against white slaveholders.” Life and Liberty takes a flatter view: “Historians do not agree on how severely slaves were treated”; the book goes on to note that whipping was common in some places, unheard of“ on other plantations. Life and Liberty ends its section on slave life, however, by quoting the titles of spirituals”All My Trials, Lord, Soon Be Over"and by citing the inhumane details ofslave laws. No one could read any ofthese three books and think well ofslavery. Indeed, ten ofthe twelve books I studied portray slavery as intolerable to the slave.

Today's textbooks also show how slavery increasingly dominated our political life in the firsi half of the nineteenth century. They tell that the cotton gin made slavery more profitable," They tell how in the 1830s Southern states and the federal government pushed the Indians out of vast stretches of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, and slavery expandedAnd they tell that in the decades between 1830 and 1860, slavery's ideological demands grew shriller,

more overtly racist. No longer was ic enough for planters and slave traders to apologize for slavery as a necessary evil. Now slavery came to be seen “ofpositive value to the slaves themselves,” in the words of Triumph of the American Nation. This ideological extremism was matched by harsher new laws and customs. “Talk of freeing the slaves became more and more dangerous in the South,” in the words of The United SlatesA History of the Republic. Merely to receive literature advocating abolition became a felony in some slaveholding states. Southern states passed new ordinances interfering with the rights of masters to free their slaves. The legal position of already free African Americans became ever more precarious, even in the North, as white Southerners prevailed on the federal government to make it harder 10 restrict slavery anywhere in the nation.

Meanwhile, many Northern whites, as well as some who lived below the Mason-Dixon line, grew increasingly unhappy, disgusted that their nation had lost its idealism.15 The debate over slavery loomed ever larger, touching every subject. In 1848 Thomas Hart Benton, a senator from Missouri, likened the ubiquity of the issue to a biblical plague: “You could not look upon the table but there were frogs. You could not sit down at the banquet table but there were frogs. You could not go to the bridal couch and lift the sheets but there were frogs. We can see nothing, touch nothing, have no measures proposed, without having this pestilence thrust before us.”

History textbooks now admit that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War. In the words of The United StatesA History of the Republic, “At the center of the conflict was slavery, the issue that would not go away,” Before the civil rights movement, many textbooks held that almost anything elsedifferences over tariffs and internal improvements, blundering politicians, the conflict between the agrarian South and the industrial Northcaused the war. This was a form of Southern apologetics.17 Among the twelve textbooks I reviewed, only] Triumph ofthe American Nation, a book that originated in the 1950s, still hold such a position.

Why do textbooks now handle slavery with depth and understanding? Before the 1960s publishers had been in thrall to the white South, In the 192C Florida and other Southern states passed laws requiring “Securing a Correct tory of the U.S., Including a True and Correct History of the Confederacy.”1 Textbooks were even required to call the Civil War “the War between States,” as if no single nation had existed which the South had rent apart. In ihc fifteen years between 1955 and 1970, however, the civil rights movement destroyed segregation as a formal system in America. The movement did not succeed in transforming American race relations, but it did help African AmeriJ cans win more power on the local level and prompted whites to abandon segregation. Today many school boards, curricular committees, and high school history departments include African Americans or white Americans who have cast off the ideology of white supremacy. Therefore contemporary textbooks can devote more space to the topic of slavery and can use that space to give a more accurate portrayal.

Americans seem perpetually startled at slavery. Children are shocked to learn that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. Interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg say that many visitors are surprised to learn that slavery existed therein the heart of plantation Virginia! Very few adults today realize that our society has been slave much longer than it has been free. Even fewer know that slavery was important in the North, too, until after the Revolutionary War. The first colony to legalize slavery was not Virginia but Massachusetts. In 1720, of New York City's population of seven thousand, 1,600 were African Americans, most of them slaves. Wall Street was the marketplace where owners could hire out their slaves by the day or week.

Most textbooks downplay slavery in the North, however, so slavery seems to be a sectional rather than national problem. Indeed, even the expanded coverage of slavery comes across as an unfortunate bat minor blemish, compared to the overall story line of our textbooks. James Oliver Horton has pointed out that “the black experience cannot be fully illuminated without bringing a new perspective to the study of American history.”21 Textbook authors have failed to present any new petspective. Instead, they shoehorn their improved and more accurate pottrait of slavery into the old “progress as usual” story line. In this saga, the United States is always intrinsically and increasingly democratic, and slaveholding is merely a temporary aberration, not part of the big picture. Ironically, the very success of the civil rights movement allows authors to imply that the problem ofblack-white race relations has now been solved, at least formally. This enables textbooks lo discuss slavery without departing from their customarily optimistic tone.

While textbooks now show the horror of slavery and its impact on black Amenca, they remain largely silent regarding the impact of slavery on white America, North or South. Textbooks have trouble acknowledging that anything might be wrong with white Americans, or with the United States as a whole. Perhaps telling realistically what slavery was like for slaves is the easy pan. After all, slavery as an institution is dead. We have progressed beyond it, so we can acknowledge its evils. Even the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond has mounted an exhibit on slavery that does not romanticize the institution.

Without explaining its relevance to the present, however, extensive coverage of slavery is like extensive coverage of the Hawley-Smoot Tariffjust more facts for hapless eleventh graders to memorize.

Slavery's twin legacies to the present are the social and economic inferiority it conferred upon blacks and the cultural racism it instilled in whites. Both continue to haunt our society. Thetefore, treating slavery's enduring legacy is necessarily controversial. Unlike slavery, racism is not over yet.

To function adequately in civic life in our troubled times, students must learn what causes racism. Although it is a complicated historical issue, racism in the Western world stems primarily from two related historical processes: taking land from and destroying indigenous peoples and enslaving Africans to work that land. To teach this relationship, textbooks would have to show students the dynamic interplay between slavery as a socioeconomic system and racism as an idea system. Sociologists call these the social structure and the superstructure. Slavery existed in many societies and periods before and after the African slave trade. Made possible by Europe's advantages in military and social technology, the slavery started by Europeans in the fifteenth century was different, because it became the enslavement of one race by another. Increasingly, whites viewed the enslavement of whites as illegitimate, while the enslavement of Africans became acceptable. Unlike earlier slaveries, children of African American slaves would be slaves forever and could never achieve freedom through intermarriage with the owning class. The rationale for this differential treatment was racism. As Montesquieu, the French social philosopher who had such a profound influence on American democracy, ironically observed in 1748: “It is impossible For us to suppose these creatures to be men, because, allowing them to be men, a suspicion would follow that we ourselves are not Christian.”

Historians have chronicled the rise of racism in the West. Before the 1450s Europeans considered Africans exotic but not necessarily inferior. As more and more nations joined the slave trade, Europeans came to characterize Africans as stupid, backward, and uncivilized. Amnesia set in: Europe gradually found it convenient to forget that Moors from Africa had brought to Spain and Italy much of the learning that led to the Renaissance. Europeans had knov that Timbuctu, with its renowned university and library, was a center learning. Now, forgetting Timbuctu, Europe and European Americans perceiv Africa as the “dark continent.”21 By the 1850s many white Americans, includin some Northerners, claimed that black people were so hopelessly inferior thi slavery was a proper form of education for them; it also removed them phy cally from the alleged barbarism of the “dark continent.”

The superstructure of racism has long outlived the social structure of slavery that generated it. The following passage from Margaret Mitchell's Cone with ibe Wind, written in the 1930s, shows racism alive and well in that decade. The narrator is interpreting Reconstruction: “The former field hands found themselves suddenly elevated to the seats of the mighty. There they conducted themselves as creatures of small intelligence might naturally be expected to da Like monkeys or small children turned loose among treasured objects whose value is beyond their comprehension, they ran wildeither from perverse pleasure in destruction or simply because of their ignorance.”25 White supremacy permeates Mitchell's romantic bestseller. Yet in 1988, when the American Library Association asked library patrons to name the best book in the library, Gone with the Wine/won an actual majority against all other books ever published!'

The very essence of what we have inherited from slavery is the idea that it is appropriate, even “natural,” for whites to be on top, blacks on the bottom. In its core our culture tells ustells all of us, including African Americansthat Europe's domination of the world came about because Europeans were smarter. In their cote, many whites and some people of color believe this. White supremacy is not only a residue of slavery, to be sure. Developments in American history since slavery ended have maintained it. Textbooks that do not discuss white involvement in slavery in the period before 1863, however, are not likely to analyze white racism as a factor in more recent years. Only five of the twelve textbooks books list racism, racial prejudice, or any term beginning with race in their indexes.27 Only two textbooks discuss what might have caused racism. The closest any of the textbooks comes to explaining the connection between slavery and racism is this single sentence from The American Tradition-. “In defense of their 'peculiar institution,' southerners became more and more determined to maintain their own way of life.” Such a statement hardly suffices to show today's students the origin of racism in our society-it doesn't even use the word! The mean Adventure offers a longer treatment: “[African Americans] looked dif:rem from members of white ethnic groups. The color of their skin made assimilation difficult. For this reason they remained outsiders.” Here Adventure as retreated from history to lay psychology. Unfortunately for its argument, skin color in itself docs not explain racism. Jane Elliot's famous experiments in M'S classrooms have shown that children can quickly develop discriminatory behavior and prejudiced beliefs based on eye color. Conversely, the leadership wsiiions that African Americans frequently reached among American Indian itions from Ecuador to the Arctic show that people do not automatically discriminate against others on [he basis of skin color.]

Events and processes in American history, from the time of slavery to the present, are what explain racism. Not one textbook connects history and racism, however. Half-formed and uninformed notions rush in to fill the analytic vacuum textbooks thus leave. Adventure's three sentences imply that it is natural to exclude people whose skin color is different. White students may conclude that all societies are racist, perhaps by nature, so racism is all right. Black students may conclude that all whites are racist, perhaps by nature, so to be antiwhite is all right. The elementary thinking in Adventure's three sentences is all too apparent. Yet this is the most substantial treatment of the causes of racism among all twelve textbooks.

In omitting racism or treating it so poorly, history textbooks shirk a critical responsibility. Not all whites are or have been racist. Levels of racism have changed over time," If textbooks were to explain this, they would give students some perspective on what caused racism in the past, what perpetuates it today, and how it might be reduced in the future. Although textbook authors no longer sugarcoat how slavery affected African Americans, they minimize white complicity in it. They present slavery virtually as uncaused, a tragedy, rather than a wrong perpetrated by some people on others. Textbooks maintain the fiction that planters did the work on the plantations. “There was always much work to be done,” according to Triumph of the American Nation, “for a cotton grower also raised most of the food eaten by his family and slaves.” Although managing a business worth hundreds of thousands of dollars was surely time-consuming, the truth as to who did most of the work on the plantation is surely captured more accurately by this quotation from a Mississippi planter lamenting his situation after the war: “I never did a day's work in my life, and don't know how to begin. You see me in these coarse old clothes; well, I never wore coarse clothes in my life before the war.”

The emotion generated by textbook descriptions of slavery is sadness, not] anger. For there's no one to be angry at. Somehow we ended up with four million slaves in America but no owners! This is part of a pattern in our textbookanything bad in American history happened anonymously. Everyone named il our history made a positive contribution (except John Brown, as the neX chapter shows). Or as Frances FitzGerald put it when she analyzed textbooks f 1979, “In all history, there is no known case of anyone's creating a problem for anyone else.“” Certainly the Founding Fathers never created one. ”Popular moderaj depictions of Washington and Jefferson are utterly at variance with their lives as eighteenth-century slave-holding planters,“” Textbooks play their part by minimizing slavery in the lives of the founders. As with Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller, and Christopher Columbus, authors cannot bear to reveal anything bad about our heroes. Nevertheless, almost half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were slaveowners.

In real life the Founding Fathers and their wives wrestled with slavery. Textbooks canonize Patrick Henry for his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. Not one tells us that eight months after delivering the speech he ordered “diligent patrols” to keep Virginia slaves from accepting the British offer of freedom to those who would join their side. Henry wrestled with the contradiction, exclaiming, “Would anyone believe I am the master ofslaves ofmy own purchase!”“ Almost no one would today, because only two of the twelve textbooks, Land of Promise and The American Adventure, even mention the inconsistency. Henry's understanding of the discrepancy between his words and his deeds never led him to act differently, to his slaves' sorrow. Throughout the Revolutionary period he added slaves to his holdings, and even at his death, unlike some other Virginia planters, he freed not a one. Nevertheless, Triumph of ike American Nation quotes Henry calling slavery ”as repugnant to humanity as it is inconsistent with the Bible and destructive of liberty," without ever mentioning that he held slaves. American Adventures devotes three whole pages to Henry, constructing a fictitious melodrama in which his father worries, “How would he ever earn a living?” Adventures then tells how Henry failed at storekeeping, “tried to make a living by raising tobacco,” “started another store,” “had three children as well as a wife to support,” “knew he had to make a living in mme way,” “so he decided to become a lawyer.” The student who reads this chapter and later learns that Henry grew wealthy from the work of scores of slaves has a right to feel hoodwinked.

Even more embarrassing is the case of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. American history textbooks use several tactics to harmonize the contradiction between Jefferson's assertion that everyone has an equal right to "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness“ and his enslavement of 175 human leings at the time he wrote those words. JefTerson's slaveholding affected almost everything he did, from his opposition to internal improvements to his eign policy. Nonetheless, half of our textbooks never note that Jefferson owned slaves. Life and Liberty offers a half-page minibiography of Jefferson, ivealing that he was ”shy,“ ”stammered,“ and ”always worked hard at what he Elsewhere Life contrasts Jefferson's political beliefs with Alexander milton's and supplies six paragraphs about “Jeffersonian Changes” of Federist policies, noting that Jefferson refused to wear a wig, repealed a whiskey tax, and walked rather than rode in his inaugural parade. Life dud Liberty says nothing about Jefferson and slavery, however. American History offers six different illustrations of the man for us to admire but makes no mention of his slaveholding. The Challenge of freedom mentions Jefferson on sixteen different pages but never in the context of slavery.

Even textbooks that admit that Jefferson owned slaves go out of their way to downplay the fact. The American Way buries his complicity with the institution in a paragraph about his opposition to the practice:

In his Notes on the State of Virginia, published in 1787, Thomas Jefferson spoke out against owning slaves. Slavery, he said, made tyrants out of the masters and destroyed the spirit of the slaves, . . . Although Jefferson and others who owned slaves spoke against slavery, many people did not believe that a mixed society of equals could work.

“Jefferson and others who owned slaves” is ambiguous. Only the careful reade will infer that Jefferson was a slaveowner. Also ambiguous is Notes on the Slate of I Virginia, which contains lengthy arguments about why blacks and whites can I never participate in society equally. The attempt “will probably never end but i the extermination of the one or the other race,” Jefferson luridly concluded. Wt has mischaracterized the source.

The paragraph in American Adventures is more forthright:

The idea of slavery bothered Thomas Jefferson all his life. As an adult, he himself owned many slaves. He depended on their labor for raising tobacco on his plantation. Yet he understood that slavery was wrong, terribly wrong. It was the opposite of the thing he valued most in lifefreedom.

Again, the thrust of the treatment, the thing most likely to be remembered, j that Jefferson was an opponent of slavery, not a slaveowner.

Textbooks stress that Jefferson was a humane master, privately tormen by slavery and opposed to its expansion, not the type to destroy families I selling slaves. In truth, by 1820 Jefferson had become an ardent advocate ofI expansion of slavery to the western territories. And he never let his ambivale about slavery affect his private life. Jefferson was an average master who had I slaves whipped and sold into the Deep South as examples, to induce other! to obey. By 1822, Jefferson owned 267 slaves. During his long life, of hund of different slaves he owned, he freed only three, and five more at his deathall blood relatives of his.

Another textbook tactic to minimize Jefferson's slaveholding is to admit it but emphasiz.e that others did no better, “Jefferson revealed himself as a man of his times,” states Land ofPromise. Well, what were those times? Certainly most white American1! in the 1770s were racist. Race relations were in flux, however, due to the Revolutionary War and to its underlying ideology about the rights of mankind thai Jefferson, among others, did so much to spread. Five thousand black soldiers fought alongside whites in the Continental Army, “with courage and skill,” nccording to Triumph of the American Nation. In reality, of course, some fought “with courage and skill,” like some white recruits, and some failed to fire their guns and ran off, like some white recruits.56 But because these men fought in integrated units for the most part and received equal pay, their existence in itselfhelped decrease white racism,5 Moreover, the American Revolution is one of those moments in our history when the power of ideas made a real difference, “In contending for the birthright of freedom,” said a captain in the army, “we have learned to feel for the bondage of others.”10 Abigail Adams wrote her husband in 1774 to ask how we could “fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have,”41 The contradiction between his words and his slaveowning embarrassed Patrick Henry, who offered only ii lame excuse“I am drawn along by the general inconvenience of living here without them”;md admitted, “I will not, I cannot justify it.”4! Other options were available to planters. Some, including George Washington, valued consistency more than Henry or Jefferson and freed their slaves outright or at east in their wills. Other slaveowners freed their male slaves to fight in the ilonial army, collecting a bounty for each one who enlisted. In the first two lecades after the Revolution, the number of free blacks in Virginia soared tenfold, from 2,000 in 1780 to 20,000 in 1800. Most Northern states did away with slavery altogether. Thus Thomas Jefferson lagged behind many whites of us nines in the actions he look wiih regard to slavery45 Manumission gradually flagged, however, because most of the white Southerners who, like Jefferson, kept their slaves, erew rich. Their neighbors 'I'OO rought well of them, as people often do of those richer than themselves. To a :e the ideology of the upper class became the ideology of the whole /, and as the Revolution receded, that ideology increasingly justified ry. Jefferson himself spent much of his slave-earned wealth on his mansion Vlomicello and on books that he later donated to the University of Virginia; these expenditures became part of his hallowed patrimony, giving history yet another reason to remember him kindly.

Other views are possible, however. In 1829, three years after Jefferson's death, David Walker, a black Bostonian, warned members of his race that they should remember Jefferson as their greatest enemy. “Mr. Jefferson's remarks respecting us have sunk deep into the hearts of millions of whites, and never will be removed this side of eternity.” For the next hundred years, the open white supremacy of the Democratic Party, Jefferson's political legacy to the nation, would bear out the truth of Walker's warning.

Textbooks are in good company: the Jefferson Memorial, too, whitewashes its subject. On its marble walls a carved panel proclaims Jefferson's \ boast, “I have sworn eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the , mind of men,” without ever mentioning his participation in racial slavery. Per. haps asking a marble memorial to tell the truth is demanding too much. Should history textbooks similarly be a shrine, however? Should they encourage nuI dents to worship Jefferson? Or should they help students understand him, I wrestle with the problems he wrestled with, grasp his accomplishments, and I also acknowledge his failures?

The idealistic spark in our Revolution, which caused Patrick Henry suchI verbal discomfort, at first made the United States a proponent of democracy around the world. However, slavery and its concomitant ideas, which legitiJ mated hierarchy and dominance, sapped our Revolutionary idealism. Most ttttM books never hint at this clash of ideas, let alone at its impact on our fordgfl policy.

After the Revolution, many Americans expected our example woulfl inspire other peoples. It did. Our young nation got its first chance to help in thfll 1790s, when Haiti revolted against France, Whether a president owned slavJ seems to have determined his policy toward the second independent nationiflj the hemisphere. George Washington did, so his administration loaned hundred! of thousands of dollars to the French planters in Haiti to help them suppreB their slaves. John Adams did not, and his administration gave considerable SUM port to the Haitians. Jefferson's presidency marked a general retreat fromtbM idealism of the Revolution. Like other slaveowners, Jefferson preferred fll Napoleonic colony to a black republic in the Caribbean. In 1801 he reversed U.S. policy toward Haiti and secretly gave France the go-ahead to reconquer tn island. In so doing, the United States not only betrayed its heritage, but also acted against its own self-interest. For if France had indeed been able lo retakd Haiti, Napoleon would have maintained his dream of an American empire. !

United States would have been hemmed in by France to its west, Britain to its north, and Spain to its south. But planters in the United States were scared by the Haitian Revolution. They thought it might inspire slave revolts here (which it did). When Haiti won despite our flip-flop, the United States would not even extend it diplomatic recognition, lest its ambassador inflame our slaves “by exhibiting in his own person an example of successful revolt,” in the words of a Geotgia senator.46 Five of the twelve textbooks mention how Haitian resistance led France to sell us its claim to Louisiana, but none tells ofour flip-flop. Indeed, no textbook ever makes any connection between slavery and US, foreign policy.

Racial slavery also affected our policy toward the next countries in the Americas to revolt, Spain's colonies. Haiti's example inspired them to seek independence, and the Haitian government gave Simon Bolivar direct aid. Our statesmen were ambivalent, eager to help boot a European power out of the hemisphete but worried by the racially mixed rebels doing the booting. Some planters warned our government to replace Spain as the colonial power, especially in Cuba. Jefferson suggested annexing Cuba. Fifty years later, diplomats in the Franklin Pierce administration signed the Ostend Manifesto, which proposed thai the United States buy or take the island from Spain. Slaveowners, still obsessed with Haiti as a role model, thus hoped to prevent Cuba's becoming a second Haiti, with “flames [that might] extend to our own neighboring shores,” in the words of the Manifesto.47 In short, slavery prompted the United States to have imperialist designs on Latin America rather than visions of democratic liberation fot ihe region.

Slavery affected our foreign policy in still other ways. The first requirement of a slave society is secure borders. We do not like to think of the United Slates as a police state, a nation like East Germany that people had to escape from, but the slaveholding states were just that. Indeed, after the Dred Scott decision in 1857, which declared “A Negro had no rights a white man was bound to respect,” thousands of free African Americans realized they could not be safe even in Northern states and fled to Canada, Mexico, and Haiti.48 Slaveholders dominated our foreign policy until the Civil War. They were always concerned about our Indian borders and made sure that treaties with Native nations stipued thai Indians surrender all African Americans and return any runaways.4 S. territorial expansion between 1787 and IS55 was due in large part avers' influence. The largest pressure group behind the War of IS12 was iveholdets who coveted Indian and Spanish land and wanted to drive Indian S farther away from the slaveholding states to prevent slave escapes. Even ugh Spain was our ally during that war, in the aftermath we took Florida from Spain because slaveholders demanded we do so. Indeed, Andrew Jackson attacked a Seminole fort in Florida in 1816 precisely because it harbored hundreds of runaway slaves, thus initiating the First Seminole War.'

The Seminoles did not exist as a tribe or nation before the arrival of Europeans and Africans. They were a triracial isolate composed of Creek Indians, remnants of smaller tribes, runaway slaves, and whites who preferred to live in Indian society. The word Seminolt is itself a corruption of the Spanish cinmrrou (corrupted to maroons on Jamaica), a word that came to mean “runaway slaves.”51 The Seminoles' refusal to surrender their African American members led to the First and Second Seminole Wars (1816-18, 1835-42). Whites attacked not because they wanted the Everglades, which had no economic value to the United States in the nineteenth century, but to eliminate a refuge for runaway slaves. The Second Seminole War was the longest and costliest war the United States ever fought against Indians," The college textbook America: P&i and Prtsent tells why we fought it, putting the war in the context of slave revolts:

The most sustained and successful effort of slaves to win their freedom by force of arms took place in Florida between 1835 and 1842 when hundreds of black fugitives fought in the Second Seminole War alongside the Indians who had given them a haven. The Seminoles were resisting removal to Oklahoma, but for the blacks who took part, the war was a struggle for their own freedom, and the treaty that ended it allowed most of them to accompany their Indian allies to the trans Mississippi West.

This is apparently too radical for high school: only six of the twelve textbook even mention the war. Of these, only four say that ex-slaves fought witih the Seminoles; not one tells that the ex-slaves were the real reason for the war.

Slavery was also perhaps the key factor in the Texas War (1835-36). Thl freedom for which Davy Crockett, James Bowie, and the rest fought at die Alamo was the freedom to own slaves! As soon as Anglos set up the Republic of Texas, its legislature ordered all free black people out of the Republic. The next major war, the Mexican War (1846-48), was again driven chiefly by Southern planters wanting to push the borders of the nearest free land farthsfl from the slave states. Probably the clearest index of how slavery affected USI foreign policy is provided by the Civil War, foe between 1861 and 1865 we had two foreign policies, the Union's and the Confederacy's, The Union lecog-j nized Haiti and shared considerable ideological compatibility with postrcvoluformal black suit, usually rumpled and always too short for his long arms and legs. Douglas was what we would call a flashy dresser. He wore shirts with rufiles, fancy embroidered vests, a broad fell hat. He had a rapid-fire way of speaking thai contrasted with Lincoln's slow, deliberate style Lincoln's voice was high pitched, Douglas's deep. Both had to have powerful lungs to make themselves heard over street noises and the bustle ofthe crowds. They had no public address systems to help them.

The author of The American Way concentrates in a similar fashion appearances and voices:

One member of the audience, Gustave Koerner, reported how each of the candidates looked and what effect each had on his audience:

“Douglas was fighting for his political life. No greater contrast could be imagined than the one between Lincoln and Douglas. The latter was really a little giant physically . . . while Lincoln, when standing erect, towered to six feet four inches, Lincoln, awkward in D posture and leaning a little forward, stood calm . . . He addressed his hearers in a somewhat familiar yet very earnest way with a clear, distinct, and far-reaching voice, generally well controlled, but sometimes expressive of sadness, though at times he could assume a most humorous and even comical look.. ,.” [ellipses in the textbook]

So we learn that Douglas was a flashy dresser and spoke powerfullybut' are his ideas? What did he say?

Although Way quotes nine sentences of this bystander's description, twelve textbooks combined give us just three sentence fragments from Doug himself. Here is every word of his they provide:

“forever divided into free and slave states, as our fathers made it,” “thinks the Negro is his brother,” and “for a day or an hour.”

Just twenty-four words in twelve booksl While celebrating the “Little Gia his ”powerful speech“ or ”splendid oratory,“ nine textbooks silence him pletely. Instead, the omnipresent authorial voice supplies his side of the ”Douglas was for popular sovereignty." This summary from Lift and Libi shorter than most but otherwise representative. Of course, phrased this abstractly, who would oppose popular sovereignty?

Douglas's position was not so vague, however. The debate was largely about the morality of racially based slavery and the position African Americans should eventually hold in our society. That is why Paul Angle chose the title Created Equal? for his centennial edition of the debates.58 On July 9, 1858, in Chicago, Douglas made his position dear, as he did repeatedly throughout that summer:

In my opinion this government of ours is founded on the white basis. It was made by the white man, for the benefit of the white man, to be administered by white men. ..,

I am opposed to taking any step that recognizes the Negro man or the Indian as the equal of the while man, I am opposed to giving him a voice in [he administration of the government. I would extend to the Negro, and the Indian, and to all dependent races every right, every privilege, and every immunity consistent with the safety and welfare of the white races; but equality they never should have, either political or social, or in any other respect whatever.

My friends, you see that the issues are distinctly drawn.

Texibook readers cannot see that the issues are distinctly drawn, however, muse textbooks give them no access to Douglas's side. American History is the only texlbook that quotes Stephen Douglas on race: “Lincoln 'thinks the Negro is his brother,' the Little Giant sneered.” Why do textbooks censor Douglas? Since they devote paragraphs to his wardrobe, it cannot befor lack of space. To be sure, textbook authors rarely te anyone. But more particularly, the heroification process seems to be operiling again, Douglas's words might make us think badly of him. Compared to Douglas, Lincoln was an idealistic equalitarian, but in llithern Illinois, arguing with Douglas, he too expressed white supremacist ideas. us at the debate in Charleston he said, “I am not, nor ever have been in favor of ringing about the social and political equality of the white and black races |applause|that I ant not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors groes,” Textbook authors protect us from a racist Lincoln. By so doing, they lish students' capacity to recognize racism as a force in American life. For if ttln could be racist, then so might the res! ofus be. And ifLincoln could trand racism, as he did on occasion, then so might the rest ofus.

During the Civil War, Northern Democrats countered the Republican charge that they favored rebellion by professing to be the “white man's party,” I They protested the government's emancipation of slaves in the District ofI Columbia and its diplomatic recognition of Haiti. They claimed Republicans had “nothing except 'nigger on the brain.'” They were enraged when the U.S.I army accepted African American recruits. And they made race a paramount! factor in their campaigns.

In those days before television, parties held coordinated rallies. On theI last Saturday before the election, Democratic senators might address crowds in each major city; local officeholders would hold forth in smaller towns. Each ofl these rallies featured music. Hundreds of thousands of songbooks were printed so the party faithful might sing the same songs coast to coast. A favorite of 1864 was sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle Dandy”:



Yankee Doodle is no more,

Sunk his name and station;

Nigger Doodle takes bis place,

And favors amalgamation.

CHORUS: Nigger Doodle's all thego,

Ebony shins and bandy,

“Loyal”people all must bow

To Nigger Doodle dandy.

The white breed is under par

ft lacks the rich a-romy,

Give us something black as tar,

Give us “Old Dahomey.”

CHORUS: Nigger Doodle's al! the go, £7"c.

Blubber lips are killing sweet,

And kinky heads are splendid;

And oh, it makes such bullyfeet

To have the heels extended.

CHORUS: Nigger Doodle's all the go, Ot

I have shared these lyrics with hundreds of college students and scores of high school history teachers. To get audiences to take the words seriously, I usually try to lead them in a singalong. Often even all-white groups refuse. They are shocked by what they read. Nothing in their high school history textbooks hinted that national politics was ever like this.

Partly because many party members and leaders did not identify with the war effort, when the Union won Democrats emerged as the minority party. Republicans controlled Reconstruction. Like slavery, Reconstruction is a subject on which textbooks have improved since the civil rights movement. The earliest accounts, written even before Reconstruction ended, portrayed Republican state governments struggling to govern fairly but confronted with immense problems, not the least being violent resistance from racist ex-Confederates. Textbooks written between about 1890 and the 1960s, however, painted an unappealing portrait of oppressive Republican rule in the postwar period, a picture that we might call the Confederate myth of Reconstruction. For years black families kep! the truth about Reconstruction alive. The aging slaves whose stories were recorded by WPA writers in the 1930s remained proud of“ blacks' roles during Reconstruction. Some still remembered the names of African Americans elected lo office sixty years earlier. ”I know folks think the books tell the truth,“ said an eighty-eight-year-old former slave, ”but they shore don't."60 As those who knew construction from personal experience died off, however, even in the black community the textbook view took over.

My most memorable encounter with the Confederate myth of Reconstruction came during a discussion with seventeen first-year students at Tougaloo -ollege, a predominantly black school in Mississippi, one afternoon in January 970.1 was about to launch into a unit on Reconstruction, and I needed to find out what the students already knew. “What was Reconstruction?” I asked. “What nages come to your mind about that era?” The class consensus: Reconstruction was ihe time when African Americans took over the governing of the Southern S, including Mississippi. But they were too soon out of slavery, so they :d up and reigned corruptly, and whites had to take back control of the state governments. I sat stunned. So many major misconceptions glared from that statement was hard to know where to begin a rebuttal. African Americans never over the Southern states. All governors were white and almost all legisla, had white majorities throughout Reconstruction. African Americans did : Jniess up“; indeed, Mississippi enjoyed less corrupt government during econstmction than in the decades immediately afterward. ”Whites" did not take back control of the state governments; rather, some white Democrats used force and fraud to wrest control from biracial Republican coalitions.

For young African Americans to believe such a hurtful myth about their past seemed tragic. It invited them to doubt their own capability, since their race had “messed up” in its one appearance on American history's center stage. It also invited them to conclude that it is only right that whites be always in control. Yet my students had merely learned what their textbooks had taught them. Like almost all Americans who finished high school before the 1970s, they had encountered the Confederate myth of Reconstruction in their American history classes. I, too, learned it from my college history textbook. John F. Kennedy and his ghost writer retold it in their portrait of L. Q._C, Lamar in Profiles in Courage, which won the Pulitzer Prize.

Compared to the 1960s, today's textbooks have vastly improved theii treatments of Reconstruction. All but three of the twelve textbooks I surveys paint a very different picture of Reconstruction from Gone with ihe Wind.' No longer do histories claim that federal troops controlled Southern society decade or more. Now they point out that military rule ended by 1868 in all three states. No longer do they say that allowing African American men to vo set loose an orgy of looting and corruption. The 1961 edition of TriumphoU American Nation condemned Republican rule in the South: “Many of the 'c petbag' governments were inefficient, wasteful, and corrupt.” In stark conti the 1986 edition explains that “The southern reconstruction legislatures stafl many needed and long overdue public improvements , . . strengthened pub education . . . spread the tax burden more equitably . . . [and] introdu overdue reforms in local government and the judicial system.”

Like their treatment of slavery, textbooks' new view of Reconstruc represents a sea change, past due, much closer to what the original sources I the period reveal, and much less dominated by white supremacy, Howeve: the way the textbooks structure their discussion, most of them inadvertently I take a white supremacist viewpoint. Their rhetoric makes African Ameri rather than whites the “problem” and assumes that the major issue of struction was how to integrate African Americans into the system, econotnif and politically. “Slavery was over,” says The American Way. “But the South' ruined and the Blacks had to be brought into a working society,” Blacks' already working, of course. One wonders what the author thinks they had j doing in slavery! Similarly, according to Triumph ofthe American Nation, 1 struction “meant solving the problem of bringing black Americans intQ mainstream of national life ” Triumph supplies an instructive example myth oflazy, helpless black folk: “When white planters abandoned their plantations on islands off the coast of South Carolina, black people there were left helpless and destitute.” In reality, these black people enlisted in Union armies, operated the plantations themselves, and made raids into the interior to free slaves on mainland plantations. The archetype of African Americans as dependent or others begins here, in textbook treatments of Reconstruction. It continues to ihc present, when many white Americans believe blacks work less than whiles, even though census data show they work more.

In reality, white violence, not black ignorance, was the key problem during Reconstruction. The figures are astounding. The victors of the Civil War executed but one Confederate officeholder, Henry Wirz, notorious commandant of Andersonville prison, while the losers murdered hundreds of officeholders and other Unionists, white and black,64 In Hinds County, Mississippi, alone, whites killed an average of one African American a day, many of them servicemen, during Confederate Reconstructionthe period from 1865 to 1867 when ex-Confederates ran the governments of most Southern states. In Louisiana in the summer and fall of 1868, white Democrats killed 1,081 persons, mostly African Americans and white Republicans.5 In one judicial district in North Carolina, a Republican judge counted 700 beatings and 12 murders.

Lustration of armed whites raiding a black neighborhood in Memphis, Tennessee, L866 riot, exemplifies white-black violence during and after Reconstruction. Forty .Mean Americans died in this riot; whites burner! down every black church in the city.

Although the narratives in textbooks have improved, some of the pictures havei Four of the twelve textbooks feature this cartoon, “The Solid South” represented i delicate white woman. She is weighed down by Grant and armaments stuffed I carpetbag, accompanied by bluecoated soldiers of occupation. Textbook autfiors I discuss this cartoon to encourage students to analyze its point of view. The Ami Way at least asks, “How do you interpret this cartoon?” The other three tex merely use the drawing to illustrate Reconstruction: "The South's heavy burden tions Triumph of the American Nation.

Moreover, violence was only the most visible component of a broader pattern of white resistance to black progress.

Attacking education was an important element of the white supremacists' program. “The opposition to Negro education made itself felt everywhere in a combination not to allow the freedmen any room or building in which a school might be taught,” said Gen. O. O. Howard, head of the Freedmen's Bureau. “In 1865, 1866, and 1867 mobs of the baser classes at intervals and in all parts of the South occasionally burned school buildings and churches used as schools, flogged leachers or drove them away, and in a number of instances murdered them.”''

With the exception of The American Way and Discovering, American History, each of the twelve textbooks includes at least a paragraph on white violence during Reconstruction. Six of twelve textbooks tell how that violence, coupled with failure by the United States to implement civil rights laws, played a major role in ending Republican state governments in the South, thus ending Reconstruction. Hut, overall, textbook treatments of Reconstruction still miss the point: the problem of Reconstruction was integrating Conjvdfrates, not African Americans, into the new order. As soon as the federal government stopped addressing the problem of racist whites, Reconstruction ended. Since textbooks find it hard to say anything really damaging about white people, their treatments of why Reconstruction failed lack clarity. Triumph presents the end of construction as a failure of African Americans: “Other northerners grew weary of the problems of black southerners and less willing to help them learn their new roles ;is citizens.” The American Adventure echoes: "Millions of ex-slaves could not be converted in ten years into literate voters, or successful politicians,

farmers, and businessmen.“ Because I too ”learned" that African Americans were the unsolved problem of Reconstruction, reading Gunnar Myrdal's An American Dilemma was an 'e-opening experience for me. Myrdal introduced his (944 book by describing the change in viewpoint he was forced to make as he conducted his research.

When the present investigator started his inquiry, the preconception was thai it had to be focused on the Negro people. . . . But as he proceeded in his studies into the Negro problem, it became increasingly evident that little, if anything, could be scientifically explained in terms of the peculiarities of the Negroes themselves. . . . The Negro problem is predominantly a white ... problem.

This is precisely the change textbook authors still need to make. Their I failure to make it lies behind the appalling results of a 1976 national survey of first-yearcollegestudents,amajorityofwhomventuredthatReconstructionled I to “unparalleled corruption among the entrenched carpetbagger governors and I their allies in the black dominated legislatures of the defeated states”precisely I the Confederate myth of Reconstruction.70 Textbooks in 1976 no longer said I that. But they failed and still fail to counter this pervasive myth with an analysis I that has real power. As one student said to me, “You'll never believe all the stuff I learned in high school about Reconstructionlike, it wasn't so bad, it set up I school systems. Then I saw Gone wiih the Wind and learned the truth about I Reconstruction!” What is identified as the problem determines the frame of I rhetoric and solutions sought. Myrdal's insight, to focus on whites, is critical to I understanding Reconstruction.

Focusing on white racism is even more central to understanding thefl period Rayford Logan called “the nadir of American race relations”: the years I between 1890 and 1920, when African Americans were again put back into! second-class citizenship. During this time white Americans, North and South, I joined hands to restrict black civil and economic rights. Perhaps because thcfl period was marked by such a discouraging increase in white racism, ten of thH twelve textbooks ignore the nadir. The finest coverage, in American History, sunn marizes the aftermath of Reconstruction in a section entitled “The Long Night j Begins.” “After the Compromise of 1877 the white citizens of the North lurnfl their backs on the black citizens of the South. Gradually the southern statfl broke their promise to treat blacks fairly. Step by step they deprived them ofthe right to vote and reduced them to the status of second-class citizens.” America History then spells out the techniquesrestrictions on voting, segregation in public places, and lynchingswhich southern whites used to maintain wbH supremacy.

Triumph ofthe American Nation, on the other hand, sums up in these bUflil words; “Reconstruction left many major problems unsolved and created newifl equally urgent problems. This was true even though many forces in the NolB and the South continued working to reconcile the two sections.” These sen tences are so vague as to be content-free. Frances FitzGerald used an earlierB sion of this passage to attack what she called the “problems” approach American history. “These 'problems' seem to crop up everywhere.” she deli panned. “History in these texts is a mass of problems.”“ Five hundred pifl later in Triumph, when the authors reach the civil rights movement, race rtfctions again becomes a ”problem." The authors make no connection between failure of the United States to guarantee black civil rights in 1877 and the need for a civil rights movement a century later. Nothing ever causes anything. Things just happen.

In fact, during Reconstruction and the nadir, a battle raged for the soul of the Southern white racist and in a way for that of the whole nation. There is a parallel in the reconstruction of Germany after World War II, a battle for the soul of the German people, a battle which Nazism lost (we hope). But in the Uniied Slates, as American History tells, racism won. Between 1890 and 1907 every Southern and border state “legally” disfranchised the vast majority of its African American voters. Lynchings rose to an all-time high, (n 1896 the Supreme Court upheld segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson. No textbook explains the rationale of segregation, which is crucial to understanding its devastating effect on black and white psyches. Describing the 1954 Supreme Court decision that would begin to undo segregation, The American Way says, ''No separate school could ttuly bv equal for Blacks," but offers no clue as to why this would be so.

Textbooks need to offer the sociological definition of segregation; a system of racial etiquette that keeps the oppressed group separate from the oppressor when both are doing equal tasks, like learning the multiplication tables, but allows intimate closeness when the tasks are hierarchical, like cooking or cleaning for while employers. The rationale of segregation thus implies that the oppressed art a pariah people. “Unclean!” was the caste message of every “colored” water fountain, waiting room, and courtroom Bible. “Inferior” was the implication of every school that excluded blacks (and often Mexicans, Native Americans, and “Orientals”). This ideology was born in slavery and remained alive to rationalizethe second-class citizenship imposed on African Americans after Reconstruction. This stigma is why separate could never mean equal, even when black facilities might be newer or physically superior. Elements of this stigma survive to harm the self-image of some African Americans today, which helps explain why Caribbean blacks who immigrate to the United States often outperform black Americans.

During the nadir, segregation increased everywhere. Jackie Robinson was iiii the first black player in major league baseball. Blacks had played in the major agues in the nineteenth century, but by 1889 whites had forced them out. In 911 the Kentucky Derby eliminated black jockeys after they won fifteen ofthe first twenty-eight derbies. Particularly in the South, whites attacked the richest nd most successful African Americans, just as they had the most acculturated Native Americans, so upward mobility offered no way out for blacks but only de them more of 3 target. In the North as well as in the South, whites forced African Americans from skilled occupations and even unskilled jobs such as postal carriers.75 Eventually our system of segregation spread to South Africa, to Bermuda, and even to European-controlled enclaves in China.

These cartoons by Thomas Mast mirror the revival of racism in the North. Above. “And Not Tnis Man?” from Harper's weekly, August 5, 1865, provides evidence of Mast's idealism in the early days after the Civil War. Nine years later, as Reconstruction was beginning to wind down, Nast's images of African Americans reflected the increasing racism of the times. Opposite is “Colored Rule in a Reconstructed (?) State,” from the same journal, March 14, 1S74. Such idiotic legislators could obviously be discounted as the white North contemplated giving up on black civil rights.

American popular culture evolved to rationalize whites' retraction of civil and political rights from African Americans. The Bronx Zoo exhibited an African behind bars, like a gorilla.n Theatrical productions of Uncle Tom's Cabin played throughout the nadir, but since the novel's indictment of slavery was no longer congenial to an increasingly racist white society, rewrites changed Uncle Tom from a martyr who gave his life to protect his people into a sentimental dope who was loyal to kindly masters. In the black community, Uncle Tom evcntually came to mean an African American without integrity who sells out his people's interests. In the 1880s and 1890s, minstrel shows featuring bumbling, mislocuting whites in blackface grew wildly popular from New England to California. By presenting heavily caricatured images of African Americans who were happy on the plantation and lost and incompetent off it, these shows demeaned black ability. Minstrel songs such as “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” “Old Black Joe,” and “My Old Kentucky Home” told whites that Harriet Beecher Stowe got Uncle Tom's Cabin all wrong; blacks really liked slavery. Second-class citizenship was appropriate for such a sorry people.

Textbooks abandoned their idealistic presentations of Reconstruction in favor of the Confederate myth, for if blacks were inferior, then the historical period in which they enjoyed equal rights must have been dominated by wrong-thinking Americans. Vaudeville continued the portrayal of silly, lying, chicken-stealing black idiots. So did early silent movies. Some movies made more serious charges against African Americans: D, W. Griffith's racist epic Birth ofa Nation showed them obsessed with interracial sex and debased by corrupt white carpetbaggers.

Not only industrial jobs but even moving services were reserved for whites in some cities.

In politics, the white electorate had become so racist by 1892 that the Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland, won the White House partly by tarring Republicans with their attempts to guarantee civil rights to African Americans, thereby conjuring fears of “Negro domination” in the Northern as well as Southern white mind. From the Civil War to the end of the century, not a single Democrat in Congress, representing the North or the South, ever voted in favor of any civil rights legislation. The Supreme Court was worse: its segregationist decisions from 1896 (Pfery) through 1927 (Ricev. GongLum, which barred Chinese from white schools) told the nation that whites were the master race. We have seen how Woodrow Wilson won the presidency in 1912 and proceeded to segregate the federal government. Aided by Birth ofa Nation, which opened in 1915, the Ku Klux Klan rose to its zenith, boasting over a million members. The KKK openly dominated the state government of Indiana for a time, and it proudly inducted Pres, Warren G. Harding as a member in a White House ceremony. During the Wilson and Harding administrations, perhaps one hundred race riots took place, more than in any other period since Reconstruction. White mobs killed African Americans across the United States. Some of these events, like the 1919 Chicago riot, are well known. Others, such as the 1921 riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in which whites dropped dynamite from an airplane onto a black ghetto, killing more than 75 people and destroying more than 1,100 homes, have completely vanished from our history books.

It is almost unimaginable how racist the United States became during and just after the nadir. Mass attacks by whites wiped out or terrorized black communities in the Florida Keys, in Springfield, Illinois, and in the Arkansas Delta, and were an implicit, ever-present threat to every black neighborhood in the nation. Some small communities in the Midwest and West became “sundown” towns, informally threatening African Americans with death if they remained overnight. African Americans were excluded from juries throughout the South and in many places in the North, which usually meant they could forget about legal redress even for obvious wrongs like assault, theft, or arson by whites. Lynchings offer evidence of how defenseless blacks were, for the defining characteristic of a lynching is that the murder takes place in public, so everyone knows who did it, yet the crime goes unpunished. During the nadir lynchings took place as far north as Duluth. Once again, as Dred Scon had proclaimed in 1857, “a Negro had no rights a white man was bound to respect.” Every time African Americans interacted with European Americans, no matter how insignificant the contact, they had to be aware of how they presented themselves, lest they give offense by looking someone in the eye, forgetting to say “sir,” or otherwise stepping out of “their place.” Always, the threat of overwhelming force lay just beneath the surface.

The nadir left African Americans in a dilemma. An “exodus” to form new black communities in the West did not lead to real freedom. Migration north led only to segregated urban ghettoes. Concentrating on Booker T. Washington's plan for economic improvement while foregoing civil and political rights could not work, because economic gains could not be maintained without civil and political rights.80 “Back to Africa” was not practicable.

Many African Americans lost hope; family instability and crime increased. This period of American life, not slavery, marked the beginning of what some social scientists have called the “tangle of pathology” in African American society. Indeed, some historians date low black morale to even later periods, such as the great migration to Northern cities (1918-70), the Depression (1929-39), or changes in urban life and occupational structure after World War II. Unfortunately, no textbook discusses the changing levels of white racism or black reaction in any of these periods. In any event this tangle was the result, not the cause, of the segregation and discrimination African Americans faced. Black jockeys and mail carriers were shut out, not because they were inadequate, but because they succeeded.

Lynch mobs often posed for the camera. They showed no fear of being identified because they knew no white jury would convict them. Mississippi: Conflict and Change, a revisionist state history textbook I co-wrote, was rejected by the Mississippi State Textbook Board partly because it included this photograph. At the trial that ensued, a rating committee member stated that material like this would make it hard for a teacher to control her students, especially a “white lady teacher” in a predominantly black class. At this point the judge took over the questioning. “Didn't lynchings happen in Mississippi?” he asked. Yes, admitted the rating committee member, but it was all so long ago, why dwell on it now? “It is a history book, isn't it?” asked the judge, who eventually ruled in the book's favor. None of the twelve textbooks in my sample includes a picture of a lynching. I hasten to reassure that no classroom riots resulted from our book or this photograph.

Several textbooks point out individual trees in the nadir forest. From The American Way students learn that “By the early 1900s, [white workers] had convinced most labor unions not to admit Blacks.” Land of Promise teaches that “Woodrow Wilson's administration was openly hostile to black people.” The United ScalesA History of the Republic mentions the exodus to Kansas. Seven textbooks mention the Chicago riot. Several offer a description of lynchings. All twelve books mention P/essy v. Ferguson. Life and Liberty reveals that Southern states passed “laws that took the vote away from blacks.” A History of the Republic, Ldnd of Promise, and The American Pageant provide enough trees that readers might infer some kind of forest, except that twenty pages on unrelated topics usually separate each tree from the next.“ Only American History and The American Adventure summarize the nadir period.S! The other ten textbooks offer no clue that race relations in the United States systematically worsened for almost half a century. None of the textbooks analyzes the causes of the worsening.84 Six textbooks imply or state that Jackie Robinson was ”the first black baseball player ever allowed in the major leagues,“ in the words of Life and Liberty, even though he wasn't, leaving students with the unmistakable implication of generally uninterrupted progress to the present,”

Textbook authors would not have to invent their descriptions of the nadir from scratch. African Americans have left a rich and bitter legacy from the period. Students who encounter Richard Wright's narrative of his childhood in Black Boy, read Ida B. Wells's description of a lynching in The Red Record, or sing aloud Big Bill Broonzy's “If You're Black, Get Back!” cannot but understand the plight of a people envisioning only a narrowing of their options. No book can convey the depths of the black experience without including material from the oppressed group. Yet not one textbook lets African Americans speak for themselves about the conditions they faced.

It is also crucial that students realize that the discrimination confronting African Americans during the nadir (and afterward) was national, not just Southern. Only The American Adventure points this out. Therefore most of my first-year college students have no idea that in many locales until after World War II, and continuing even today in some suburbs, the North too was segregated: that blacks could not buy houses in communities around Minneapolis, could not work in the construction trades in Philadelphia, would not be hired as department store clerks in Chicago, and so on.

Even The American Adventure forgets its own coverage of the nadir and elsewhere offers this simplistic view of the period: “The years 1880-1910 seemed full of contradictions. . . . During Reconstruction many people tried hard to help the black people in the South. Then, for years, most white Americans paid little attention to the blacks. Little by little, however, there grew a new concern for them,” The trouble is, many white high school graduates share this world-view. Even if white concern for blacks has been only sporadic, they would argue, why haven't African Americans shaped up in the hundred-plus years since Reconstruction ended? After all, immigrant groups didn't have everything handed to them on a platter, either.

It is true that some immigrant groups faced harsh discrimination, from the No Irish Need Apply signs in Boston to the lynching of Italian Americans in New Orleans to the pogroms against Chinese work camps in California. Some white suburban communities in the North still shut out lews and Catholics. Nonetheless, the segregation and physical violence aimed at African Americans has been of a higher order of magnitude. If African Americans in the nadir had experienced only white indifference, as The American Adventure implies, rather than overt violent resistance, they could have continued to win Kentucky Derbies, deliver mail, and even buy houses in white neighborhoods. Their problem was not black failure or white indifferenceit was white racism.

Although formal racial discrimination grows increasingly rare, as young Americans grow up, they cannot avoid coming up against (he rift of race relations. They will encounter predominantly black athletic teams cheered by predominantly white cheerleaders on television, self-segregated dining rooms on college campuses, and arguments about affirmative action in the workplace. More than any other social variable (except sex!), race will determine whom they marry. Most of their friendship networks will remain segregated by race, and most churches, lodges, and other social organizations will be overwhelmingly either black or nonblack. The ethnic incidents and race riots of tomorrow will provoke still mote agonizing debate.

Since the nadir, the climate of race relations has improved, owing especially to the civil rights movement. But massive racial disparities remain, inequalities that can only be briefly summarized here. In 1990 African American median family income averaged only 57 percent of white family income; Native Americans and Hispanics averaged about 65 percent as much as whites. Money can be used to buy many things in our society, from higher SAT scores to the ability to swim, and African American, Hispanic, and Native American families lag in their access to all those things. Ultimately, money buys life itself, in the form of better nutrition and health care and freedom from danger and stress. It should therefore come as no surprise that in 1990 African Americans and Native Americans had median life expectancies at birth that were six years shorter than whites'.

On average, African Americans have worse housing, lower scores on IQ_ tests, and higher percentages of young men in jail. The sneaking suspicion that African Americans might be inferior goes unchallenged in the hearts of many blacks and whites. It is all too easy to blame the victim and. conclude that people of color are themselves responsible for being on the bottom. Without causal historical analysis, these racial disparities are impossible to explain.

When textbooks make racism invisible in American history, they obstruct our already poor ability to see it in the present. The closest they come to analysis is to present a vague feeling of optimism: in race relations, as in everything, our society is constantly getting better. We used to have slavery; now we don't. We used to have lynchings; now we don't. Baseball used to be all white; now it isn't. The notion of progress suffuses textbook treatments of black-white relations, implying that race relations have somehow steadily improved on their own. This cheery optimism only compounds the problem, because whites can infer that racism is over. “The U.S. has done more than any other nation in history to provide equal rights for all,” The American Tradition assures us. Of course, its authors have not seriously considered the levels of human rights in the Netherlands, Lesotho, or Canada today, or in Choctaw society in 1800, because they don't mean their declaration as a serious statement of comparative his toryit is just ethnocentric cheerleading.

High school students “have a gloomy view ofthe state ofrace relations in America today,” according to a recent nationwide poll. Students of all racial backgrounds brood about the subject.8' Another poll reveals that for the first time in this century, young white adults have less tolerant attitudes toward black Americans than those over thirty. One reason is that “the under-30 generation is pathetically ignorant of recent American history.”87 Too young to have experienced or watched the civil rights movement as it happened, these young people have no understanding of the past and present workings of racism in American society.

Educators justify teaching history because it gives us perspective on the present. If there is one issue in the ptesent to which authors should relate the history they tell, the issue is racism. But as long as history textbooks make white racism invisible in the nineteenth century neither they nor the students who use them will be able to analyze racism intelligently in the present.

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