Tag Archives: slavery

Is it the Fourth?

Americans, largely through the efforts of a lewd media, used the Fourth of July 2017… to denigrate and trivialize Thomas Jefferson’s memory.  Salacious accusations disguised as legitimate archaeology and scholarship dragged the author of our Declaration of Independence down into tabloid scandal-mongering.  We have fallen to the point where Jefferson’s name cannot be mentioned without alleged slave mistresses.  We forget what he gave us- focusing instead on trifling conjecture.  We have forgotten what the Fourth of July truly means….

“I thank heaven that the 4th. of July is over. It is always a day of great fatigue to me”

Jefferson said… “And even should the cloud of barbarism and despotism again obscure the science and liberties of Europe, this country remains to preserve and restore light and liberty to them. In short, the flames kindled on the 4th. of July 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism. On the contrary they will consume those engines, and all who work them.”

 

Remember what Jefferson gave us…….. never forget what he gave mankind. 

 

To stop desecrating my memory

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Movie Review- Birth of a Nation (2016)

Mel Gibson’s blueprint to “Braveheart” does a disservice to Turner’s rebellion        Final Grade-  D 

 

First-time director Nate Parker takes full advantage of the Hollywood… surge in independent, minority filmmakers tackling long ignored characters and events.  Parker wrote, directed, produced and stars as Nat Turner, leader of the bloodiest slave rebellion in US history.  In August of 1831, Turner and a band of devoted followers murdered 60 white men, women, and children in Southampton, Virginia.  Turner’s rebels killed nearly everyone they encountered, including the brutal beheading of an infant.  The Virginia militia suppressed the rebellion on August 23, though Turner eluded capture until October.  Virginia authorities executed 56 blacks in retaliation- historians believe as many as 120 slaves may have been killed in the aftermath.  Turner was hanged on November 11.

 

Parker touches on the history with short strokes… choosing to follow the well-used revenge trope  utilized by Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart”.  Turner’s true motivation was religious- a devout Baptist, Turner claimed to receive a calling from God to free  his people and punish their oppressors.  Parker’s Turner is religious, but it barely serves as a set piece- Parker focuses intently on the rape and beating of Turner’s wife and the wife of his chief conspirator(conjectural.)  The comparisons to Gibson’s film about Scottish rebel William Wallace are striking-  martyrdom driven by bloody revenge- a simple,  yet effective way to make a movie.  History is complex and often messy and Parker’s film misses the mark telling the accurate story of Turner’s rebellion.  Villains are beheaded by righteous warriors and the heroes fall in a blaze of glory on the battlefield.  Missing are the atrocities, drunkenness, and religion that comprised those complicated 48 hours.  Far from a pitched battle, Turner’s rebellion could not be sustained when confronted with better armed, and determined troops.  Parker’s final battle is complete with the slow motion charging, battle axes thrust defiantly into the air, muted cries of “Freedom”  drowned out by the artillery of the antagonists- minus the face paint and kilts.

 

There are powerful images found in Parker’s film… but the script is too conventionally written to capture the historical relevance of Turner’s rebellion.  Parker only briefly touches on Turner’s confessional, a stark testimony given by Turner to a lawyer shortly before his hanging.  In his own words, Turner chillingly describes every murder he and his followers committed.  He leaves little doubt that he believed it was God’s will, much like John Brown’s convictions thirty years later.  The ironic title Parker conceived is far from proper acknowledgment of the impact this event had on history.  States throughout the South strengthened already oppressive laws limiting freedoms to slaves and their owners- including the right to unconditional manumission.  Many of these changes came about to placate poor whites, who felt especially vulnerable following the bloodshed. Too much attention falls upon Parker’s Turner and his motivations- lost are the deeper religious and cultural motivations for the uprising.

Nat Turner boldly declaredI had the same revelation, which fully confirmed me in the impression that I was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty.”   Nate Parker’s film fails to appropriately portray the complexities and historical relevance of Turner’s rebellion.    Conventional Hollywood treatment of historical events often lead to missed opportunities- precisely how “Birth of a Nation” treats Nat Turner.

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Movie Review- 12 Years a Slave

Practically Historical Grade-     C+

 

Steve McQueen is obsessed with startling… visuals, the kind that grab an audience and rarely let go.  His first historical film detailed with nauseating frankness the hunger strike of IRA dissident, Bobby Sands.  In his latest effort, 12 Years a Slave, McQueen brings to the screen the brutal captivity of freeman Solomon Northup.  Based on Northup’s memoir of the same name, McQueen’s interpretation is far too concerned with shock value to capture the deeper messages of Northup’s writing.  John Ridley’s conscientious script is at times  sacrificed to the director’s need to visualize brutality even his subject could not describe.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Historians have been divided over... the academy award winning film.  John Ridley’s script faithfully follows Northup’s memoir but McQueen wastes little time extrapolating the narrative with visceral images designed to enlighten, but often deliver little more than wincing.  Events Northup leaves to the readers’ imaginations, McQueen brutally visualizes- primarily the whipping of Patsey.  McQueen was more than willing to leave Northup’s story to show a fictional murder aboard a slave ship, again for effect, rather than plot.  What saves the film from being a bloody mess are the performances.  Much attention was awarded to Lupita Nyong’o for her harrowing portrayal of Patsey- but Chiwetel Ejiofor is a revelation as Northup; haunting and tragic, his performance is the real soul of the film.

Michael Fassbender

Michael Fassbender

Scenery, dialect, and costuming were …all well researched- this is not the glorified plantation living of Gone With the Wind, rather a dank, crumbling, stagnate world teetering on the edge of collapse.  Michael Fassbender’s psychotic turn as Edwin Epps is symbolic of the self destructive nature of chattel slavery.  Many critics cite McQueen’s ambivalence to religion as a weakness in the script- Northup spoke strongly of faith as well as the good Christian nature of his first master, William Ford(an understated Benedict Cumberbatch.)   Strong performances, gritty scenery and cinematography, and a historically accurate script make 12 Years a Slave a must see experience.  The film’s horrific depictions of violence are considered necessary by some, will be lamented by all- one has to consider whether McQueen could have told the story without as many scare tactics.

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Never Be Surprised

Academics say the darnedest things… in the cozy confines of the University system.  Impressionable undergrads eagerly hang on every word and grad students serve as willful accomplices as they look to continued advancement.  Peer review is a veiled threat at best, considering the lock step that seems to permeate academia.  Even when a proven fraud like Ward Churchill is called to account, academic circles are reluctant to police their own because of the lofty standard  “academic freedom.”(The investigation revealed that Churchill had received tenure without a PhD in addition to plagiarism and fraud charges.)

Devaluing the term "genocide" since 1978

Devaluing the term “genocide” since 1978

So, say whatever you please, professor… tenure has your back.  History professors proclaim “changing the narrative” as the driving force behind their scholarship.  Everything we’ve learned about America is wrong… so, like a Seinfeld episode of note, the opposite must be true: The founding of America actually had a negative impact on human history, the Founders were greedy imperialists in training, and ALL 15 Presidents before Lincoln owned slaves…. that’s right- ALL of them.

Surely, you jest...

Surely, you jest…

This would come as a shock to John Adams and his son… both from Quincy, Massachusetts.  James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, and Martin Van Buren would likewise have an argument to such an absurd notion.  Millard Fillmore was only in office two years, but slave owning cannot be included on his resume.  Even Virginian William Henry Harrison had abandoned the practice by the time he entered public life.  Members of the Founding generation hated the institution, yet felt trapped by it- Jefferson described having a wolf by the ears.  As the abolition movement grew, later Presidents sought to defend slave owning rights, but their arguments were swept away in the tide.    But, to listen to many academics today, the Presidency was nothing more than the last line of defense for the slave owning class.  Never be surprised at what nonsense seeps out of our universities… our hard earned dollars make this “academic freedom” possible.

 

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Weekly History News Roundup

Little noticed Confederate monument now controversial… most in St. Louis unaware of its existence 

 

WWI MIA rediscovered by amateur historians... Government had lost the man’s records in paperwork.

 

JFK turns 100… Why he remains one of our most popular leaders

 

Baltimore mayor contemplates removing monuments… Confederate monuments to Lee and Jackson are considered offensive

 

Trump marks Memorial Day at ArlingtonPresident offers appropriate remarks to families of veterans

 

The lost cause

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Tale of Two Digs

The recent announcement by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation of the restoration of Sally Hemings’ “room”… was based on the opinions of several historians and archaeology supposedly completed through a $35 million grant.  The Foundation promises that the newly renovated room will show “Visitors will come up here and understand that there was no place on this mountaintop that slavery wasn’t”    —  A recent visit to Monticello revealed a gutted room and some renovation, but little evidence of actual archaeology.  ** see image below

Hardly scientific

The historical record provides no evidence of this room being used by any person, let alone, Sally Hemings…. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation continues to rely on speculation and a disingenuous brand of conjecture disguised as authoritative narrative.  If major archaeological discoveries were made, why weren’t they included in the media release?  The alleged affair between Jefferson and Hemings is good for business; it sells tickets, books, and research proposals to impressionable philanthropists and  unwitting spectators.  It diminishes the impact of  the Founder who gave this country its creed.

 

Archaeological science

30 miles to the Northeast at James Madison’s Montpelier…  archaeologists are meticulously plotting search grids and unearthing artifacts.  Since 1999, archaeology has been a centerpiece of understanding Madison’s life at Montpelier.  The excavations are providing insight into the original layout and functionality of the plantation, as well as the daily existence of Madison’s slaves.  The historians and archaeologists are working with the historical and archaeological records to provide visitors a more complete picture of daily life at Montpelier.  Research done at Madison’s home is academically and professionally sound.  There is no predetermined narrative  being propagated for the sake of political correctness or financial gain.

 

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It was Never the Tariff

Historians, politicians, and neo-secessionists who argue that the Civil War… was caused by the Federal government’s manipulation of tariffs are at best terribly deluded, at worst, they are scurrilous ideologues with a shameful political agenda.

A brief history lesson for Tom DiLorenzo, Governor Greg Abbott, President Donald Trump, the Freedom Caucus, Ron and Rand Paul,  and any other woefully misguided students of history:

  • Article 1, Section 8  of the Federal Constitution- The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States………   Really, this should explain it, but secessionists were never concerned with Constitutional restraint.
  • The first tariff in our history was signed into law by George Washington on July 4, 1789.
  • The Walker Tariff of 1845 slashed duties in place since the Whig’s controlled Congress- A southern coalition pushed for the reduction
  • Tariffs were reduced again in 1852 and 1857.  The 1857 tariff was only 18%- the lowest since the 18th century.
  • The Morrill Tariff of 1861 was not passed until Southerners had already resigned from Congress.  During the secession crisis, Southern Senators had blocked the increase.  When in place, it raised the duty from 18-36%.

The Civil War was caused by slavery-  not tariffs. 

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