‘”The reason I used the Civil War and Reconstruction is because it isn’t a secret that Reconstruction failed,” Peter wrote. “It failed and left the South in an extreme poverty that it still hasn’t recovered from.” And besides, “slavery was expensive and the Industrial Revolution was about to happen. Maybe if there had been no war, slavery would have faded peacefully.”
‘As a historian, I found this remarkable, since it was precisely what all American schoolchildren learned about slavery and Reconstruction for much of the 20th century. Or rather, they did until the civil rights era, when serious scholarship dismantled this narrative, piece by piece. But not, apparently, in Peter’s world. “Until urban liberals move to the rural South and live there for probably a decade or more,” he concluded, “there’s no way to fully appreciate the view.”‘
I’ve seen so many articles online talking about what we don’t know about rural Americans that voted for Trump. They repeat themselves so much; they tire me so much. I grew up with them. I know them. I understand the upset of the ever-poor, ground up from time immemorial from dirt farmer to miner to factory worker. I don’t understand the white supremacy of the bankers and college-educated and upwardly-mobile whites I grew up with. But maybe it’s in the paragraphs quoted above, because I did grow up there. I grew up “understanding” that the Civil War may have been unnecessary, that it was violent and vindictive and horrible, that the North was “just as bad” with what they did to their poor workers. I had to be disabused of so many ideas, some of which are still being battered, some of which I’m still looking at in amazement on the inside of my head. I’m still trying to convince fellow Southerners that “states’ rights” is a bad idea, when a decade ago, I was sure that more local control would fix things.
I don’t have a conclusion. I just thought some of you might find this useful.