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Archive for the ‘Abolicionismo’ Category

Nuevamente comparto un trabajo del historiador Federico Mare, quien  esta vez analiza el significado histórico y político de los monumentos confederados que tanta polémica causaron en Estados Unidos durante el año 2020.  Estos momumentos son muestra material del discurso de la Lost Cause analizado por Mare en una entrada previa titulada “La causa perdida de la Confederación y la anatomía de un mito reaccionario en tiempos del Black Lives Matter.”


‘Black Lives Matter’ y la iconoclastia contra los monumentos confederados

Federico Mare

Sin Permiso   25 de junio de 2021

La fotografía que ilustra el presente ensayo fue tomada en el Stone Mountain Park, condado de DeKalb, estado de Georgia, en lo que se conoce como Deep South, el Sur Profundo de los Estados Unidos. Una bucólica tarde del verano de 2015, gran cantidad de familias blancas sureñas aguardan un show nocturno de luces láser al pie del memorial de Stone Mountain, en el corazón de los Apalaches meridionales. Mantas, reposeras, canastos, heladeras portátiles y otros bártulos típicos de un día de picnic manchan el verde esmeralda de la pradera. Más atrás, la lente del fotógrafo captura la presencia del tren turístico que ha traído hasta el parque al enjambre de espectadores.

Johnny Reb by owl65 on DeviantArtEl memorial de Stone Mountain rinde homenaje a los héroes de la vieja causa sudista, deidades tutelares de un panteón cívico-militar en clave revisionista, es decir, anti-Yankee, anti-unionista, anti-nordista. Pero no se trata de un monumento confederado más, no. Es el mayor de todo el país. Stone Mountain representa algo así como la versión sureña rebelde del Mount Rushmore. Constituye la plasmación más fatua, cursi, extravagante, de la megalomanía patriotera de Johnny Reb [i], con su regionalismo recalcitrante y propensiones xenofóbicas.

El bajorrelieve está hecho sobre un promontorio de roca adamelita, a 120 metros del suelo, y representa a los tres próceres más populares del Viejo Sur separatista: los generales Robert E. Lee y Thomas Stonewall Jackson, junto al presidente de los Estados Confederados de América Jefferson Davis, los tres a caballo. Este proyecto monumental se puso en marcha hacia 1916, pero recién concluyó en 1972, luego de varias interrupciones y reanudaciones. Diversos artistas trabajaron sucesivamente en la obra, a lo largo de varias décadas. Con sus 23 metros de alto y 48 de ancho, constituye el bajorrelieve más grande del mundo.

En la concepción, ejecución y financiación de semejante proyecto faraónico, que insumió millonadas y millonadas de dólares, trabajaron codo a codo las Hijas Unidas de la Confederación y el gobierno estadual de Georgia. Pero la injerencia y el mecenazgo del segundo Ku Klux Klan (el «imperio invisible», como le decían entonces) fue un secreto a voces desde el primer momento. No sorprende, por ende, que muchos reclamen hoy su eliminación por medio del arenado o chorreado abrasivo. Hubo manifestaciones en contra y a favor de su permanencia. Desde agosto del año pasado, el parque permanece cerrado.

El país del Tío Sam está lleno de monumentos confederados. El de Stone Mountain es el más grande de todos, sin duda, pero de ningún modo el único. Hay cientos y cientos. Y a muchxs estadounidenses no les resultan nada simpáticos, especialmente a quienes son afrodescendientes. Con justa razón, ven en ellos símbolos ultrajantes del antiguo Sur esclavista y secesionista.

Los monumentos confederados constituyen una de las expresiones más emblemáticas del mito romántico de la Lost Cause. Este mito racista –pseudohistoria al servicio de la white supremacy o «supremacía blanca»– lleva un siglo y medio envenenando la sociedad y la cultura estadounidenses (véase mi ensayo La causa perdida de la Confederación: anatomía de un mito reaccionario en tiempos del Black Lives Matter).

Charlottesville: Cubren monumento confederado con tela negra

Desde los trágicos sucesos de 2017, cuando una joven que reclamaba el retiro de la estatua ecuestre del general Lee en el Emancipation Park de Charlottesville (Virginia) fue asesinada, gran número de monumentos confederados han sido removidos o vandalizados a lo largo y a lo ancho de Estados Unidos, de Massachusetts a Texas, y de Florida a California. Hubo no sólo retiros de monumentos confederados dispuestos por las autoridades (retiros hechos con grúas, camiones y cuadrillas de empleados municipales), como en Demopolis, San Antonio, Lexington, Helena, Lynchburg y Kansas City; sino también acciones populares iconoclastas por fuera de la ley. Muchas esculturas, memoriales y placas conmemorativas que honran al Viejo Sur separatista sufrieron vandalizaciones de diverso grado e índole en numerosas ciudades: Atlanta, Filadelfia, Houston, Tampa, Baltimore, West Palm Beach, etc. Estatuas baleadas o derribadas con sogas, monumentos intervenidos con grafitis, esculturas cubiertas con pintura, etc.

Incluso se registró un pintoresco episodio de tarring & feathering[ii]. Fue en la localidad rural de Gold Canyon, Arizona, el 16 de agosto de 2017, cuatro jornadas después de los incidentes de Charlottesville. Una placa de piedra a la vera de la Ruta Federal 80, en homenaje a Jefferson Davis –el único presidente que tuvieron los efímeros Estados Confederados de América (1861-65)–, apareció cubierta con alquitrán y plumas, en señal de repudio y agravio.

Pero hubo también vandalizaciones de signo ideológico opuesto. Por ejemplo, el busto de Lincoln en Chicago un día amaneció quemado. En Madison, Wisconsin, la estatua del abolicionista Hans Christian Heg fue derribada, decapitada y arrojada a un lago. En Boston, el Memorial del Holocausto de Nueva Inglaterra, hecho con paneles de vidrio, fue dañado a piedrazos por un activista neonazi. Estamos, pues, en presencia de una guerra simbólica por los espacios públicos entre el supremacismo blanco y el movimiento de derechos civiles. Cada bando defiende sus liex de mémoire o «lugares de memoria» (al decir de Pierre Nora), a la vez que ataca los del adversario.

jim crow

La mayoría de los monumentos confederados fueron levantados en los dos primeros decenios del siglo pasado, una época de fuertes tensiones raciales: endurecimiento de las leyes segregacionistas de Jim Crow, creación de la Asociación Nacional para el Progreso de las Personas de Color, retorno de un demócrata sureño de ideas racistas (Woodrow Wilson) a la presidencia de los EE.UU. luego de muchísimos años, refundación del Ku Klux Klan, estreno de la película El nacimiento de una nación de D. W. Griffith, etc. El año pico de este revival sudista fue 1911, cuando se cumplió el cincuentenario del inicio de la guerra de Secesión (batalla de Fort Sumter, abril de 1861).

El otro momento de auge en el proceso de monumentalización de la Lost Cause –aunque de menor magnitud– fue el centenario de la guerra civil, en el primer lustro de la década del 60. Esta época coincidió –no casualmente, por cierto– con el recrudecimiento del conflicto racial (expansión del movimiento de derechos civiles con Martin Luther King y emergencia del tercer KKK).

Existen centenares de monumentos confederados desperdigados por todo el vasto país del Tío Sam: estatuas ecuestres, obeliscos, bustos, etc. Si a estos monumentos se les suman las placas conmemorativas, la cifra supera cómodamente el millar. No vaya a creerse que estas evocaciones nostálgicas a la «gesta» confederada –mayoritariamente localizadas en el Sur– son todas añejas. Algunas son relativamente nuevas, como el Monumento a los Veteranos Confederados de Arizona, en Phoenix, erigido hacia 1999 (aunque removido el año pasado).

Lo cierto es que, en reacción a la tragedia virginiana de Charlottesville, el proceso de desmonumentalización de la Lost Cause alcanzó una gran magnitud, una intensidad sorprendente. Sin embargo, la ola iconoclasta de 2017 fue casi un hecho menor al lado de la segunda ola –verdadero tsunami– del año pasado, tras el asesinato de George Floyd en Mineápolis, a manos de la policía de Minnesota. En 2017, hubo 36 monumentos removidos. En 2020, casi el triple: 94. La causa de este incremento prodigioso es obvia: la masificación del movimiento Black Lives Matter (BLM) contra la violencia racista. La oleada iconoclasta anticonfederada de 2017-2020 constituye, sin lugar a dudas, uno de los fenómenos culturales, sociológicos, más llamativos de los Estados Unidos de la era Trump. Solamente en Texas se han removido 31 memoriales.

Una mirada a la tragedia de Charlottesville | Newsweek México

Una acalorada polémica, muy densa en sus implicaciones ideológicas y políticas, soliviantó al país del Tío Sam. La sociedad estadounidense se polarizó, se fracturó en dos; y también sus medios de comunicación, sus historiadores e intelectuales, sus legisladores y funcionarios. La memoria, una vez más, fue campo de batalla. El pasado, por enésima vez, dividió aguas y devino objeto de disputa. Dos paradigmas de la historia nacional, dos políticas de la memoria, se batieron a duelo. ¿Cuál fue la postura del expresidente Trump? Una «equidistancia salomónica» que claramente favorecía al supremacismo blanco: no apoyó explícitamente la violencia racista contra las minorías afroamericanas, pero condenó enérgicamente el «vandalismo» del BLM, porque ambos extremos eran –sostuvo– igualmente malos para el orden republicano (equiparación de las acciones iconoclastas con los crímenes de odio racial, de los monumentos dañados con las personas asesinadas). Sin embargo, a nadie se le escapó la tibieza o parquedad con que Trump se distanció del supremacismo blanco, y la vehemencia o énfasis que manifestó en su reprobación de la iconoclastia anticonfederada. Por lo demás, su polémica decisión de comenzar su campaña electoral de 2020 en la mismísima Tulsa, la ciudad sureña de Oklahoma donde ocurrió la peor masacre racista en la historia de Estados Unidos, eligiendo como fecha nada menos que el 19 de junio (efeméride afroamericana del Juneteenth o Día de la Emancipación)[iii], fue mayoritariamente interpretada como una provocación, que sus detractores denunciaron y sus admiradores festejaron.

Charleston aparece en el manifiesto racista difundido en Internet como  objetivo de un ataque | CNNEl proceso de desmonumentalización comenzó en junio de 2015, al calor de la ola de indignación que desató la matanza racista de Charleston (Carolina del Sur), que dejó un saldo aterrador de nueve muertos en una iglesia metodista. La circunstancia de que el asesino, el joven Dylann S. Roof, fuese un segregacionista fanático que había hecho ostentación de su identidad neoconfederada por Internet, exhibiendo fotos donde se lo veía sosteniendo con orgullo la rebel flag (la vieja bandera del Sur esclavista y secesionista), generó un gran debate en torno a la legitimidad de la presencia de dicho símbolo, y otros afines (placas conmemorativas, estatuas, obeliscos, memoriales, topónimos, etc.), en los espacios públicos.

A caballo de esta gran controversia nacional, en muchos puntos del país diversas organizaciones de derechos civiles –el Southern Poverty Law Center, entre otras– reclamaron la remoción de la simbología y la onomástica confederadas, en el marco más amplio del movimiento BLM, incoado en 2013 tras la absolución judicial del asesino de Trayvon Martin. A corto plazo, muy pocas de estas iniciativas tuvieron éxito. Sólo en un puñado de ciudades hubo logros tangibles (en Austin por ej., donde una estatua de Jefferson Davis fue retirada del campus de la Universidad de Texas en agosto de 2015).

Pero en 2017, la desmonumentalización dio un gran salto adelante cuando, entre abril y mayo, las autoridades de Nueva Orleáns –en el corazón mismo del Sur Profundo– tuvieron el coraje de remover cuatro monumentos confederados en un lapso de apenas 25 días, decisión histórica que el supremacismo blanco resistió con vehemencia. A partir de allí, las remociones se hicieron más frecuentes, en un clima de creciente crispación: St. Louis, Orlando…

James Alex Fields Jr., Who Murdered Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Faces  Life in Prison Plus 419 Years | Vogue

Heather Heyer

Y se multiplicaron notablemente tras la tragedia de Charlottesville, donde una mujer de 32 años llamada Heather Heyer, que reclamaba pacíficamente por el retiro de la estatua ecuestre del general Lee del Emancipation Park,[iv] fue brutalmente asesinada por un manifestante ultraderechista, y donde cerca de cuarenta personas resultaron heridas. Sábado nefando, siniestro, cuya causa directa, ostensible, indubitable, es la vigencia del mito racista de la Lost Cause en el imaginario estadounidense; vigencia exacerbada, desde ya, por el fenómeno Trump.

¿El detonante de la tragedia? Un proyecto que planteó la remoción del antedicho monumento en la pequeña ciudad virginiana del condado de Albemarle, donde otrora viviera el prócer independentista Thomas Jefferson. Diversos grupos de extrema derecha (supremacistas blancos, neoconfederados, milicianos, bikers, neonazis, etc.) lanzaron una cruzada en defensa de la controvertida estatua. La expresión más conspicua y virulenta de esta reacción fue el movimiento Unite the Right, en cuyas movilizaciones callejeras se ha desplegado todo el rancio repertorio simbólico del Ku Klux Klan: consignas patrioteras y segregacionistas, banderas rebeldes con la cruz de San Andrés estrellada, capuchas blancas, la siniestra MIOAK (la insignia de los klansmen), y hasta antorchas tiki ardiendo en la oscuridad de la noche, al estilo Mississippi en llamas… El conflicto por la estatua ecuestre de Lee del Emancipation Park derivó en una larga querella judicial, que todavía sigue en curso. Al día de hoy, el monumento permanece en su sitio, aunque ha sufrido varias vandalizaciones.

Make It Right – Independent Media Institute

En 2018, la periodista Kali Holloway creó el proyecto Make It Right (MIR), destinado a crear conciencia en torno a la necesidad de desmonumentalizar el pasado esclavista y segregacionista del Sur. “Oficialmente, la guerra civil terminó con la derrota de la Confederación en 1865. Pero más de 150 años después del fin de la guerra, cerca de 1.700 monumentos a la Confederación cubren el paisaje de Estados Unidos, y no solo el de los estados sureños. Desde el año 2000, más de 30 nuevos monumentos han sido erigidos. Estas estatuas y placas romantizan la brutalidad de la esclavitud y glorifican a los traidores de los Estados Unidos”. El proyecto MIR trabaja “con múltiples grupos –activistas, artistas, historiadores y medios de comunicación– para remover los monumentos confederados y contar la verdad de la historia”. Su acción propagandística ha sido fecunda.

En la vereda opuesta no se quedaron de brazos cruzados… La legislatura de Alabama, por citar un ejemplo, sancionó en mayo de 2017 una ley prohibiendo a las autoridades municipales remover o renombrar monumentos con más de cuarenta años de antigüedad, sin autorización estadual. Esa restricción dificulta enormemente la desmonumentalización de la Lost Cause en Alabama, puesto que los memoriales sudistas datan, en su inmensa mayoría, de 1911-15 y 1961-65, el cincuentenario y el centenario de la guerra de Secesión. Alabama es uno de los estados más racistas de EE.UU., y uno de los que acumulan más monumentos confederados en sus espacios públicos. Diversas demandas se han interpuesto contra la Memorial Preservation Act. La judicialización del conflicto ameritaría otro escrito aparte.

Pero, ¿por qué esta disputa? ¿Cuál es el secreto de la importancia concedida a los monumentos confederados, tanto por sus valedores como por sus detractores? Nora, el historiador francés mencionado algunos párrafos más arriba, no investigó esos liex de mémoire en especial, sino los que, en su país, se hallan asociados a la Tercera República (1870-1940). No obstante, con cautela, algunas de sus ideas pueden ser extrapoladas a los memoriales y monumentos confederados.

La siguiente observación resulta particularmente pertinente y esclarecedora para el caso que aquí nos ocupa:

Los lugares de memoria nacen y viven del sentimiento de que no hay memoria espontánea, de que hay que crear archivos, mantener aniversarios, organizar celebraciones, pronunciar elogios fúnebres, labrar actas, porque esas operaciones no son naturales. Por eso la defensa por parte de las minorías de una memoria refugiada en focos privilegiados y celosamente custodiados ilumina con mayor fuerza aún la verdad de todos los lugares de memoria. Sin vigilancia conmemorativa, la historia los aniquilaría rápidamente. Son bastiones sobre los cuales afianzarse. Pero si lo que defienden no estuviera amenazado, ya no habría necesidad de construirlos.[v]

No habría monumentos confederados como los del general Lee, no habría monumentos unionistas-abolicionistas como los del presidente Lincoln, si el pasado –o mejor dicho, cierta selección e interpretación del pasado– no fuese, como es, un anclaje identitario para determinados grupos antagónicos de la sociedad que no quieren, ni pueden, armonizar sus autopercepciones (sectores racistas de la población blanca, minorías negras orgullosas de su afrodescendencia, fuerzas de derecha, partidos de izquierda, etc.). Tampoco los habría si la espontaneidad de los recuerdos colectivos, fluida e inorgánica como es, bastase para contrarrestar el olvido. He aquí, pues, a mi modo de ver, la clave del asunto.

The state of the white supremacy and neo-Nazi groups in the US - ABC NewsLa querella de los monumentos confederados tiene como trasfondo, como sustrato, la persistencia del racismo –y de la lucha contra el racismo– en la sociedad estadounidense. Lxs supremacistas se aferran a dichos monumentos porque sienten que la white supremacy fue herida de muerte en los 60, mientras que lxs simpatizantes del BLM bregan por la desmonumentalización porque advierten que la utopía igualitaria, jamás concretada plenamente, zozobra más que nunca con la derechización que produjo Trump como presidente (uno de los mandatarios más reaccionarios que han pisado la Casa Blanca).

Sin embargo, subsiste un interrogante. Son muchas las facetas de la sociedad y la cultura estadounidenses que, directa o indirectamente, remiten al viejo conflicto irresuelto entre supremacistas e igualitaristas: los distintos niveles de ingreso e instrucción entre angloamericanxs y afroamericanxs, los prejuicios racistas (por ej., la creencia de que los negros son más propensos a cometer robos y violaciones sexuales que los blancos), los innumerables casos de violencia policial contra jóvenes afrodescendientes (golpizas, maltratos verbales y psicológicos, asesinatos), la animosidad racial de jurados y jueces en los procesos judiciales, la estratificación residencial, etc. Los monumentos confederados son una arista del problema, entre tantas otras. ¿Por qué razón, entonces, han sido estos, y no cualquiera de las otras iniquidades racistas, la mecha que detonó todo?

David Freedberg | Image Knowledge Gestaltung

David Freedberg

Parafraseando a historiador del arte David Freedberg, la respuesta sería: el poder de las imágenes. Las estatuas y otros monumentos constituyen imágenes, y como tales, no son nada inocuas. Tienen cierto poder sobre nosotros, cierta capacidad de sugestión. Nos provocan. Nos fascinan o enfurecen. Influyen en nuestra subjetividad, ya sea abiertamente en nuestro consciente, ya sea de modo sutil en nuestro inconsciente. Nos apasionan. Nos movilizan. Señala Freedberg al respecto:

Mucho se ha estudiado los grandes movimientos iconoclastas de Bizancio en los siglos VIII y IX, de la Europa de la Reforma, de la Revolución Francesa y de la Revolución Rusa. Desde los tiempos del Antiguo Testamento, gobernantes y pueblos gobernados en general han intentado desterrar las imágenes y atacado determinados cuadros y esculturas. Cualquiera puede aportar un ejemplo de alguna imagen atacada: todos sabemos cuando menos de algún período histórico durante el cual la iconoclasia era espontánea o estaba legalizada. La gente ha hecho añicos imágenes por razones políticas y por razones teológicas; ha destrozado obras que les provocaban ira o vergüenza; y lo han hecho espontáneamente o porque se les ha incitado a ello. Como es natural, los motivos de tales actos se han estudiado y continúan discutiéndose interminablemente; pero en todos los casos hemos de aceptar que es la imagen –en mayor o menor grado– la que lleva al iconoclasta a tales niveles de ira. Esto cuando menos podemos asentar como indiscutible, por más que sepamos que la imagen es un símbolo de otra cosa y que es esta cosa la que se ataca, rompe, arranca o destroza.[vi]

Aunque los monumentos confederados sean “un símbolo de otra cosa”, y que, en definitiva, es esa “otra cosa” (el Viejo Sur esclavista y secesionista, el segregacionismo de las leyes de Jim Crow, la cultura racista actual) “la que se ataca” y defiende, la que se quiere remover o vandalizar en señal de rechazo, o bien, preservar o reparar en señal de identificación, lo cierto es que no deja de haber cierto trasfondo de fetichismo en tales prácticas anicónicas e icónicas, por muy subterráneo e imperceptible que sea ese trasfondo. De todo el abanico de opciones susceptibles de generar una reacción en cadena –en contra y a favor–, han sido las estatuas, los obeliscos, las placas conmemorativas, los memoriales, etc., los que han concentrado mayor atención de ambos bandos.

El regodeo y la saña de la muchedumbre desmonumentalizadora es por demás sintomática, sugerente, igual que lo es la vehemencia de sus oponentes. Estos, por caso, han llegado a la violencia terrorista y el asesinato para demostrar su apego sentimental por la estatua ecuestre del general Lee en Charlottesville… Nada casual hay en ello. Es evidente que los monumentos confederados, en tanto íconos, resultan particularmente irritantes y ofensivos para unos, y seductores y admirables para otros.

Las imágenes son cosa seria, aunque los intelectuales solamos subestimarlas debido a nuestra deformación profesional (predominio excesivo de las palabras, del discurso). ¿Cuántas rebeliones y revoluciones del siglo XX hubiesen quedado grabadas a fuego en nuestra memoria sin la ayuda de fotografías o filmaciones de incidentes iconoclastas, o de muestras exultantes de iconismo popular como la exhibición de banderas?

Entre las muchas ciudades norteamericanas que, durante estos últimos cuatro años, retiraron monumentos confederados de sus espacios públicos, están Montgomery, Houston, Dallas, San Diego, Little Rock, Raleigh, Charleston, Lexington, Decatur, Clarksville, Charlotte… También la mítica Birmingham de Alabama, el reducto segregacionista que Martin Luther King, en el 63, eligió como prueba de fuego para el movimiento de derechos civiles, y donde resultó arrestado. En otras urbes, como Jacksonville, los proyectos de remoción aún no se han concretado, ora porque el proceso deliberativo sigue en curso, ora porque acciones judiciales los han dejado en suspenso. Pero es muy probable que a corto plazo varios de ellos se efectivicen. Por otra parte, no olvidemos que en muchos lugares se registraron acciones directas de tipo «vandálico», por fuera del orden legal, como en Indianápolis, Los Ángeles, Denver, Sacramento y Portland: derribos, grafitis, etc.

La estatua del general confederado Thomas Stonewall Jackson está colocada en el complejo del capitolio del estado de Virginia Occidental.

Estatua del General Stonewall Jackson.

Virginia, el estado con más monumentos confederados de todo el país, merece un párrafo aparte. En marzo del año pasado, al comienzo de la pandemia, una reforma legal habilitó la remoción de los mismos. La reforma entró en vigencia en julio, y desde entonces muchas esculturas y placas conmemorativas han sido retiradas: Appomattox, Norfolk, Fredericksburg, Leesburg, Farmville, Virginia Beach… También hubo derribos y vandalizaciones en el contexto de las protestas y revueltas del BLM, como en Portsmouth y Roanoke. La aristocrática Richmond, capital estadual y otrora capital del Sur secesionista, la ciudad con más memoriales confederados de la nación (algo así como la meca del urbanismo megalómano y nostálgico de la Lost Cause, especialmente en lo que concierne a su Monument Avenue), ha vivido situaciones de todo tipo: iconoclastia revoltosa de masas, remociones efectuadas por las autoridades y retiros frustrados o demorados por la oposición encarnizada de la derecha supremacista. Las estatuas de Jefferson Davis y Williams Carter Wickham fueron derribadas, igual que el Monumento Howitzer. Las esculturas en homenaje a Stonewall Jackson, J. E. B. Stuart y Matthew Fontaine Maury fueron retiradas por el gobierno local. El gigantesco monumento ecuestre de bronce del general Lee todavía sigue en su altísimo pedestal de mármol, pero hay planes oficiales para removerlo. El año pasado, durante las movilizaciones multitudinarias del BLM, la escultura fue intervenida con grafitis, aunque su colosal tamaño impidió que se la tirara abajo. Se trata del último monumento en pie de la Monument Avenue. Creada por el escultor francés Antonin Mercié, fue inaugurada pomposamente en 1890. El anuncio de su remoción por parte del gobernador Ralph Northam, en junio de 2020, soliviantó a los sectores supremacistas, que han plantado una desesperada batalla judicial por su conservación, una nueva Gettysburg en pleno siglo XXI…

El rey belga pide perdón por la cruel y violenta colonización del Congo

Leopoldo II

Cabe hacer una importante acotación. El cimbronazo iconoclasta del BLM de 2017-2020 trascendió las fronteras de Estados Unidos. El racismo y la lucha contra el racismo no son coto exclusivo del Tío Sam. En Gran Bretaña y Bélgica, diversos monumentos asociados a la trata de esclavos y la opresión colonial han sido removidos, derribados o intervenidos con grafitis: la estatua de Edward Colston en Bristol, las esculturas de Robert Milligan y John Cass en Londres, el monumento de Leopoldo II en Amberes, los bustos dedicados a este monarca europeo –déspota genocida del Congo Belga– en Gante y Lovaina… También se registraron episodios de iconoclastia antiimperialista-antirracista en las Antillas francesas y Barbados, protagonizados mayormente por las comunidades negras o afrodescendientes. En Sudáfrica, un busto del magnate minero Cecil Rhodes –jingoísta recalcitrante y adalid de la supremacía blanca– fue descabezado por manifestantes de Ciudad del Cabo, y una estatua de Martinus Theunis Steyn –último presidente de la república bóer separatista de Orange– fue desmantelada en Bloemfontein. La desmonumentalización de la Pax Britannica victoriana tuvo coletazos en India y Nueva Zelanda, donde hindúes y maoríes no han olvidado ni perdonado los crímenes y agravios del Reino Unido. Asimismo, tanto en Estados Unidos como en Canadá, Colombia y Chile hubo acciones iconoclastas indigenistas contra monumentos asociados al «descubrimiento», la conquista y colonización europeas de América: el de Colón en Boston y St. Paul, el de Macdonald en Montreal, el de Belalcázar en Popayán, el de Valdivia en Concepción… Un claro ejemplo de efecto dominó.

Decapitan en Sudáfrica una estatua del colonizador británico Cecil Rhodes

Estatua de Cecil Rhode decapitada, Ciudad del Cabo, Sudáfrica.

“¿Por qué las personas destruyen las imágenes?”, se pregunta Freedberg en otro libro más reciente. Y prosigue su reflexión con más interrogantes incisivos:

¿Qué motiva estos actos individuales y colectivos de violencia contra algo que –al fin y al cabo– es una mera representación en madera, piedra, lienzo o papel? ¿Cómo podemos pensar la iconoclasia en el mundo contemporáneo? Para muchos, la extraordinaria ubicuidad y la repetición de las imágenes desvirtúa su aura pero, sin embargo, los ataques continúan. De hecho, los medios de comunicación tienden a visibilizarlos, haciéndolos cada vez más evidentes.[vii]

Al analizar el Beeldenstorm, el gran estallido iconoclasta de 1566 en la rebelión antiespañola y protestante de Flandes, Freedberg se interroga:

Pero, ¿por qué fueron atacadas las imágenes con tal ferocidad? Después de todo, éstas no eran en sí mismas los tiranos. ¿Hasta qué punto los actos de destrucción de los atacantes eran indiscriminados o selectivos? ¿Atacaban obras de arte reconocidas con mayor o menor vehemencia que otras imágenes, o los iconoclastas eran ciegos e indiferentes? ¿Fueron los ataques espontáneos u organizados? En un principio, los brotes parecían espontáneos, pero pronto surgieron evidencias que demostraban que muchos de los ataques, si no todos, habían sido organizados.

La mayoría de estas preguntas, y otras muchas, surgen también al abordar otros episodios iconoclastas. Al igual que en los Países Bajos, los ataques aparentemente espontáneos a menudo resultaron ser organizados y, en efecto, remarcaron eficazmente los resentimientos y las patologías individuales. Determinadas obras de arte fueron señaladas para su destrucción, puesto que ofrecían una mayor posibilidad de ganar publicidad para la causa. La ferocidad de los ataques fue seguramente atribuible, al menos en parte, a la frustración y la rabia ante la ausencia del tirano, dirigiéndose en cambio a su representación. Ciertamente era más fácil atacar a su imagen que a su prototipo viviente.[viii]

Podríamos afirmar algo similar en relación a la iconoclastia anticonfederada del BLM. Hubo monumentos que no podrían haber sido vandalizados sin un esfuerzo planificado y coordinado, como en el caso de varias estatuas de considerable tamaño y peso derribadas con sogas por grupos numerosos de manifestantes, que actuaron velozmente para no darle tiempo a la policía. La elección de ciertas esculturas especialmente significativas tampoco parece casual. Por lo demás, la vehemencia destructiva contra las mismas, el encarnizamiento con que fueron atacadas, sugiere que se dio un fenómeno psicológico de proyección: como los opresores de carne y hueso no están físicamente presentes, se descarga la ira vindicatoria contra aquellas imágenes que los representan, olvidando por un instante que se trata de un procedimiento de transferencia o sustitución.

“Las recurrencias son sorprendentes”, reflexiona Freedberg. “Incluso un estudio superficial deja claro con qué frecuencia la política se mezcla con la teología y cómo patologías individuales pueden cruzarse y a menudo exacerbar los contextos históricos específicos de determinados momentos y movimientos iconoclastas”. Y luego acota:

Amazon.com: La destruccion de la Estatua de Bel por Cornelis Cort: Home &  Kitchen

La destrucción de la estatua de Bel  por Maarten van Heemskerck, 1567

Tomemos, por ejemplo, el cupido que orina en la boca de una antigua estatua ya destruida en el grabado La destrucción de la estatua de Bel, una estampa de 1567 realizada por Maarten van Heemskerck. La acción es prácticamente idéntica a la de un joven que orina sobre el rostro de una estatua caída de Saddam Hussein en 2003. Queda claro que ya no se trata de dioses (de las personas o del arte), sino que simplemente se han derrumbado y ahora tan solo son falsos ídolos que pueden ser insultados de un modo impensable si siguiesen vivos o continuasen siendo deidades. Sin embargo, actos como estos sugieren que este tipo de insultos son percibidos y sentidos como algo verdaderamente importante debido a que transmiten la sensación de ser agresiones físicas a un prototipo viviente.

En esta combinación de religión, política y sensualidad de las imágenes la persistencia asombrosa de formas aparentemente similares de profanación y destrucción se hace aún más comprensible. Los actos iconoclastas y de censura adquieren formas estereotipadas. Esto es el resultado de una etiología común: el acto para eliminar lo viviente en una imagen o su profanación corporal, de modo que su estatus material descalifique su estatus sagrado o superior (ya sea estética o políticamente).

[…] Ver este tipo de imágenes agredidas y dañadas siempre provoca un shock. Los espectadores perciben que dichos ataques no solo se aplican sobre los cuerpos que ven, sino también, de forma inquietante, en cierto modo, sobre sus propios cuerpos. Este sentido de empatía con los objetos observados es lo que garantiza su efectividad. […] Precisamente esto último es lo que demuestra más poderosamente la vida de la imagen, ofreciendo la indicación más clara de la habilidad con la que fue hecha.

Todo esto nos obliga a pensar más detenidamente acerca de la visualización de la iconoclasia solamente en términos históricos o políticos. En ocasiones, los primeros resultan tan clamorosos que parecen anular las limitaciones de estos últimos. No es solo una cuestión relacionada con la persona concreta que representa la imagen. […] Nada de esto puede explicar adecuadamente la violencia con la que fueron eliminadas y las múltiples formas de destrucción de lo que parecía estar vivo aunque tan solo fuera, de hecho, una mera reproducción de lo real.

Siempre hay algo más. La voluntad de destruir una obra a menudo indica el empeño por negar que, en cierto modo, la imagen es algo viviente. Precisamente, es esta capacidad la que la convierte en algo peligroso, en objeto que precisa ser eliminado, mutilado y destruido. Los temas históricos no se pueden resolver al margen de los psicológicos.[ix]

The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter first appears, sparking a movement - HISTORY

Esto se aplica también a la iconoclastia del BLM. El intenso goce material o corporal –y no solo simbólico o metonímico– con que se destruyeron los monumentos confederados revela que hubo un componente psíquico más profundo en este accionar punitivo. Si por unos instantes no se sintiera inconscientemente que las estatuas del general Lee están vivas, el pasado y la política no serían suficientes para explicar tanta pasión y tanto celo iconoclastas. Llega un punto en que la psicología se vuelve irreductible a la historia y la sociología, por mucho que estas nos ayuden a comprender el comportamiento humano a la luz de factores económicos y culturales de carácter contextual.

Aunque la tormenta iconoclasta contra la Lost Cause amainó este año, con el demócrata y «progresista» Joe Biden de presidente, cabe esperar que recrudezca en cualquier momento, tan pronto como el BLM experimente un nuevo auge de protestas y revueltas. No hay de qué extrañarse: los lugares de memoria están saturados de ideología, y, por ende, de política. Cuando el consenso se diluye, cuando el conflicto social se agudiza y sale con ímpetu a la superficie, ¿cómo pretender que los monumentos confederados permanezcan al margen, a salvo? Menos aún si, en tanto obras de arte figurativas, calculadamente vívidas en su artilugio mimético, ejercen ese influjo irresistible de amor-odio que Freedberg llamó, con quirúrgica precisión semántica, the power of the images, el poder de las imágenes.

NOTAS

[i] Personaje imaginario que simboliza al Sur estadounidense en general, y a los antiguos Estados Confederados de América (1861-65) en particular. Se lo representa con chaqueta, pantalones y gorra de color gris –el uniforme que usaban los soldados sudistas–, y a menudo, sosteniendo un arma o la rebel flag. Su contraparte simétrica es Billy Yank, prosopopeya o personificación del Norte.

[ii] El tarring & feathering es una tradición de castigo popular, no oficial, típica de los países anglosajones, actualmente en desuso. Se lo practicaba con quienes transgredían los valores morales de la plebe: criminales, usureros, comerciantes especuladores, terratenientes abusivos, empresarios explotadores, rompehuelgas, adversarios políticos, funcionarios impopulares, policías o militares represores, recaudadores de impuestos, etc. Las víctimas eran inmovilizadas y desnudadas, rociadas con alquitrán de pino caliente y luego cubiertas con plumas, a modo de represalia y escarmiento, de humillación y escarnio públicos. Los orígenes de esta punición popular se remontan a la Inglaterra medieval. Fue muy utilizada por los rebeldes norteamericanos durante la revolución y guerra de Independencia, y también por los pioneros del Far West en el siglo XIX. Durante la centuria pasada fue perdiendo vigencia, hasta su virtual extinción.

[iii] La efeméride hace referencia a la abolición de la esclavitud en Texas, último baluarte esclavista del Sur en la guerra de Secesión. El 19 de junio de 1865, poco después de que el Ejército Confederado de Trans-Mississippi se rindiera, el general nordista Gordon Granger proclamó desde Galveston la liberación de toda la esclavatura texana, de por sí muy numerosa y recientemente acrecentada por la inmigración de plantadores sudistas exiliados desde el este: Alabama, Georgia, etc.

[iv] El monumento retrata al mítico general sudista montando a Traveller, su corcel más famoso. La escultura está hecha en bronce, y fue instalada en 1924, en pleno auge de la Lost Cause y del segundo Ku Klux Klan, cuando todo el Sur se llenó de monumentos confederados. Su autor es el artista plástico Henry Shrady, célebre por su estatua ecuestre del Gral. Grant frente al Capitolio, en Washington DC. Shrady murió prematuramente, y la obra debió ser concluida por otro escultor, el italiano Leo Lentelli.

[v] Nora, Pierre, Pierre Nora en Les liex de mémoire. Santiago de Chile, Trilce, 2009, pp. 24-25.

[vi] Freedberg, David, El poder de las imágenes: estudios sobre la historia y la teoría de la respuesta. Madrid, Cátedra, 1992, p. 29.

[vii] Freedberg, Iconoclasia: historia y psicología de la violencia contra las imágenes. Bs. As., Sans Soleil, 2017, p. 15.

[viii] Ibid., p. 40.

[ix] Ibid., pp. 51-58.

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The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song: Gates Jr., Henry  Louis: 9781984880338: Amazon.com: BooksEl pasado 2 de junio el gran historiador afroamericano Henry Louis Gates Jr. conversó sobre su más reciente libro  con Jim Basker, presidente del Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Titulado The Black Church: This is our This is Our Song, el libro de Gates explora los 400 años de historia de la iglesia negra en Estados Unidos, y el papel que ésta ha jugado en la historia de la comunidad afroamericana. Este libro acompaña a una serie de televisón del mismo título.

El Dr. Gates es profesor en la Universidad Alphonse Fletcher y director del Hutchins Center for African and African American Research en Harvard Univeristy. Con una carrera de más de cuarenta años, Gates es uno de los estudiosos de la historia y la literatura afroamericana  más destacados y mediáticos. Entre sus libros destacan In Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars (1992), Speaking of Race, Speaking of Sex: Hate Speech, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties (1994), Colored People: A Memoir (1994), The Future of the Race (1996), Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man (1997), The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America’s First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers (2003), America Behind the Color Line: Dialogues with African Americans (2004), In Search of Our Roots (2009) y Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (2019).

Gates también ha participado en varios documentales de televisión  emitidos por el Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Fue presentador de las series African American Lives (2006-08), Faces of America (2010) y Finding Your Roots (2012-). Otros de sus trabajos teleivisivos incluyen  la miniserie documental Wonders of the African World (1999), Black in Latin America (2011), The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (2013) y Reconstruction: America After the Civil War (2019).

Quienes estén interesados en esta conversación pueden ir aquí.

A Conversation with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. - June 2nd, 2021 on Vimeo

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The Atlantic es una de las revistas más antiguas en Estados Unidos, pues se viene publicando desde 1857. A lo largo de los últimos 165 años, The Atlantic le ha dedicado sus páginas a temas que podríamos considerar liberales como la abolición de la esclavitud y la lucha por los derechos civiles, así como también a temas literarios. En sus páginas han han publicado escritores como James Russell Lowell, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Julia Ward Howe y Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Siguiendo su tradición de enfocar criticamente a la sociedad estadounidense, The Atlantic acaba de lanzar un proyecto “sobre la historia estadounidense, la vida de los afroamericanos y la resiliencia de la memoria”  llamado Inheritance. Su obejtivo es rescatar el conocimiento, las historias y los personajes olvidados del pasado estadounidense y, en especial, de los afroestadounidenses. Sus creadores quieren enfatizar en el papel que la capacidad de sobrevivir de los afroamericanos ha jugado en en la historia estadounidense.

Este proyecto consiste de una serie de artículos muy bien diagramados e ilustrados, escritos por periodistas y colaboradores del Atlantic. Quienes estén interesados pueden ir a aquí.

Captura de Pantalla 2021-05-13 a la(s) 23.06.05

 

 

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La Dra. Karin Wulf, directora del Omohundro Institute en el William & Mary College, pidió a un grupo de especialistas de la historia temprana de Estados Unidos que comentarán cómo  estaban experimentando el periodo de crisis pandémica y política, y cuál consideraban era la relevancia de su trabajo   y publicaciones.  El resultado es un grupo de interesantes reflexiones que comparto con mis lectores. Estas vienen acompañadas con  imágenes de las publicaciones más recientes de los investigadores consultados.


History typed on an vintage typewriter, old paper. close-upHistorians in Historic Times

KARIN WULF

The Scholarly Kitchen   January 14, 2021

A historian will tell you that every era, every group of people, every subject, and every last fragment of material about the past is historical. We are always living through history. We always benefit from rigorous historical research and scholarship.  And while history has conventionally been written from a privileged position, and about politics, wars, and economies, most of us work from more complex situations and on a more complex combination of phenomena that could any moment be reflected in the present. Historians of medicine, for example, have been working overtime explaining how socio-economic inequalities mapped onto historical pandemics and parallel what we see with COVID19. Historians of authoritarianism and white supremacy have been working overtime to show us how these movements have proliferated and been sustained over decades — even centuries. Historians of race, and particularly of slavery and Jim Crow in the United States, have been pointing to the iterative quality of politics and policy that have led to dynamics we saw play out last summer in episodes of police violence and protest. Last week’s riot and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol seems a particularly stark moment that will likely be pointed to for generations to come, either as a culmination or an origin or both.

I asked historians of the early Americas and United States who have published books in this year of pandemic and political crisis how they are feeling about living through this moment of pandemic and political crisis, and how the subject of their scholarship and/or the practice of history feels relevant and resonant. It’s a remarkable set of reflections, and I’m grateful to these scholars for taking the time and energy — when there is so little of either to spare — to contribute.

VSurviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat  Turner's Community (Women, Gender, and Sexuality in American History):  Holden, Vanessa M.: 9780252085857: Amazon.com: Booksanessa M. Holden, University of Kentucky, author of Surviving Southampton:  African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community (2021)

Like many Americans, I woke up on the morning of Wednesday, January 6th, to the news that Georgia would have at least one (likely two) Democrats as U.S. Senators as the result of runoff elections held on Tuesday the 5th. A coalition of activists and organizers had triumphed after years of hard-fought efforts to get out the vote, register new voters, and combat voter suppression. Black women and femmes knew Georgia could be blue and, after years of hard work, had realized their vision. In a state where most Americans unfamiliar with Black women’s history saw only solid red, they’d made a way out of possibility. That same afternoon I spoke with a colleague via Zoom. She was hopeful. I was cautious. “Violence,” I said, “I’m worried about the violent backlash. It has already started. It is going to get worse.” In the few seconds of silence that passed between us across computer screens my phone buzzed. My brother was texting to tell me that Vice President Pence was being removed from the senate chamber. On Twitter, raw footage of a Black Capitol police officer swatting at a white mob with a nightstick lit up my timeline. What had happened to him after he’d exited the camera frame?

Like many Black Americans I watched the day unfold while thinking of Black residents of Washington, D.C., the people of color who work as custodians, food service workers, and staff at the Capitol building, and the sharp contrast in law enforcement’s non-response to the invasion of the Capitol by white insurrectionists in comparison to militarized violent police responses across the country to peaceful protest by BIPOC and our allies. At the end of the day, photos of security standing near custodial staff (all apparently people of color) as they swept up broken glass began to circulate. Later we learned that insurrectionists smeared human excrement throughout the building.

How much had custodial staff been exposed to the deadly virus that day?

Like many historians I thought about my work. For me, completing and publishing a book about America’s most famous rebellion against slavery and enslavers, took on additional immediacy. The women, children, and men who I write about in Surviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community, found ways to preserve their community amidst overwhelming white violence in 1831. This year the Covid-19 pandemic brought into sharp focus systemic racial inequalities that Black historians have innovated entire historical fields to explore, document, and combat. Black death, from Covid-19 and police violence, has been ever present in our kinship networks, communities, neighborhoods, and on our newsfeeds. Survival requires labor: the day-to-day work, choices, and determination to endure. But, as I write in my book, the word survivor has more than one meaning. It is our word both for those who endure and for those who are bereaved. In Georgia, Black women and femmes did exhausting survival work to flip the Senate — work that will endure. In Kentucky, where I live, Black Lives Matter activists are raising funds to stave off the eviction crisis for vulnerable Black women and femmes even as armed militias plague the state capitol in Frankfort. When the camera moves on, what work of survival will we take up? What ways will we endure bereavement? And what of our work will endure?

Unworthy Republic : The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian  Territory (Hardcover) - Walmart.com - Walmart.comClaudio Saunt, University of Georgia, author of Unworthy Republic:  The Disposssession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory(2020)

“Unworthy Republic,” the title of my recent book on the expulsion of Native Americans from the eastern half of the United States in the 1830s, comes from a letter written by James Folsom, a Choctaw student studying at Miami University of Ohio in 1831. The United States had mistreated the Cherokee Nation, he wrote, and the American Republic would “go down to future eyes with scorn and reproach on her head.” As I was writing Unworthy Republic, the politics in the United States were changing around me, and the book’s subject — white supremacy, political cowardice, and economic opportunism — became more tightly relevant. That served as a motivating force, and I think made the work more present and urgent. In the 1830s, white supremacists threatened to take up arms to defend a grotesque vision of their rights, politicians pretended to take principled stands that were transparently self-serving, and profit-seekers disregarded everything but the dollars they coveted.  Folsom asserted that the United States would feel the legacy of injustice “in her legislative halls,” a prediction that came true on January 6. That injustice, he wrote, “never will be eradicated from her history.” I would like to think that if we had faced that history more fully, we would not have seen rioters in the U.S. Capitol building proudly bearing the Confederate flag and other symbols of white supremacy.

THE BOSTON MASSACRE: A Family History - HamiltonBook.com

Serena Zabin, Carleton College, author of The Boston Massacre: A Family History (2020)

On the night of March 5, 1770, armed agents of the state – British soldiers – shot into a crowd gathered in the street before the seat of imperial power in Boston. When the smoke cleared, five men lay dead or dying in the snow. This year, I published The Boston Massacre: A Family History for the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of an event that is often characterized as the first bloodshed of the American Revolution. By March 5, 2020, the world was already swept up in the first wave of COVID-19, and the murders of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and others were soon to come. I had not written my book to speak to the contemporary issue of police brutality or to address what happens when the military and the police collapse their functions into each other. Nor had I intended to weigh in on violence done in the name of liberty. The heart of my book is about the personal relationships between neighbors, and even within families, that were splintered in the political and social upheavals of the American Revolution.  And yet, this family history of the eighteenth century clearly does have something to say about the events of the past nine months, something that is no less useful for being unintentional. As I began researching this event more than ten years ago, I had to trust that readers in the present would find it relevant. I just had no idea how right I would be.

City of Refuge: Slavery and Petit Marronage in the Great Dismal Swamp,  1763–1856 (Race in the Atlantic World, 1700–1900 Ser.): Nevius, Marcus P.:  9780820356426: Amazon.com: BooksMarcus Nevius, University of Rhode Island, author of City of Refuge: Slavery and Petit Marronage in the Great Dismal Swamp, 1763-1856 (2020)

On January 6, 2021, I observed the flood of white supremacist terrorists who “stormed” the U.S. Capitol building. On Twitter, I reacted in real time. About an hour before “breaching” the Capitol ground’s outer perimeter (mere yards from the west and east entrances to the building), the mob attended a rally, led by an incumbent lame duck president, near the White House. That president amplified yet again the baseless claims that the presidential election of 2020 had been “stolen” from him and his supporters. Injuring tens of U.S. Capitol police officers and other law enforcement officials, the mob feloniously broke into the Capitol building. While inside, they paraded about, carrying Confederate flags, chanting “Stop the Steal,” and targeting U.S. legislators who scurried to evacuate as the mob broke into their offices. One woman lost her life; at least one police officer paid the ultimate sacrifice in the duty to protect the Capitol; several in the mob lost their lives. The mobs’ actions took shape on national television, as awed newscasters on stations of all stripes nationally and internationally broadcast live the mob’s figurative and literal desecration of the nation as we know it.

This mob, however, did not storm the Capitol. It did not breach the building. To say either is to imbue the mob’s actions with the connotations of protest, of a war for a valiant cause. To do that is to validate the very rhetoric that animated the mob, instigated by a lame duck president, that believed it was disrupting an “illegal” (re: totally legitimate) process of confirming the votes that the independent states submitted to Congress by way of the Electoral College. The mob’s felonious entry into the Capitol was not valiant. If anything, it was, at base, a COVID-19 superspreader event.

A few days’ reflection have reminded me that my visceral reaction on January 6th, that “it should NEVER have come to this…” was wrong. As an historian of slavery, slave based economies, and black resistance in early America, I know all too well the examples that are not known widely enough — the 3/5ths Compromise; the Federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1793; the Missouri Compromise; the several bills comprising the Compromise of 1850; the Dred Scott decision of 1857 — the list goes on. Political compromises from 1787 to 1850 did not save the nation from Civil War; postbellum political compromises did even less to quell the nation’s sordid racial history. The truth, as scholars of many stripes know all too well, is that what we observed on January 6th was our nation’s deep seeded politics of hatred, borne of the nation’s original sin — slavery. The mob’s actions were a demonstration of this very truth. And a poignant warning that, as yet, we have much with which to reckon.

Past and Prologue : Politics and Memory in the American Revolution  (Hardcover) - Walmart.com - Walmart.comMichael D. Hattem, Yale University, author of Past and Prologue: Politics and Memory in the American Revolution (2020)

Part of the reason the power of history and historical narratives are so deeply embedded in our national political culture is because it was such an important part of the founding of the nation. We are the inheritors of that tradition, for better and worse. In just the last year, I have watched contemporary events and debates — such as The 1619 Project, the removal of Confederate monuments, the White House Conference on American History, and the 1776 Commission, to name just a few — and have been able to understand them as not just expressions of our contemporary politics but as part of our nation’s long-standing relationship between politics and history. That context that my work has offered has been important because it has not only made me more attuned to when politicians and political parties of both sides use representations of the past to manipulate their audience by drawing on their emotions and previously held beliefs, but has also made it possible for me to then ask important questions such as: who is the intended audience for specific depictions of American history, for what purposes are those depictions being used, and why do those depicting it expect it to resonate with their specific audience? Therefore, I think my work as a historian of memory and politics has made me a more critical “consumer” of history as used in the public square and I would like to think my book would do the same for its readers.
Slavery in the Age of Memory: Engaging the Past: Araujo, Ana Lucia:  9781350048485: Amazon.com: BooksAna Lucia Araujo, Howard University, author of Slavery in the Age of Memory: Engaging the Past (2020)

I have been studying the history and the legacies of slavery in the Atlantic World for nearly twenty years, and we know that the growing interest about the slavery past is closely associated with the persistence of racial inequalities, racism, and white supremacy. But all this could be perceived as an abstract idea. Of course, we have seen black social actors and their academic allies decrying the absence of public markers memorializing this past for several decades, but in the summer 2020 it was the first time that anti-racist public demonstrations (reacting to the assassination of George Floyd) reenacted these debates in tangible ways, not only in the United States, but also in Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, and many other countries. Living through this time is a strange experience. As these monuments became the target of demonstrators denouncing anti-black racism, it is much more evident on how these devices embody the values of white supremacy. Suddenly, the topics that I discussed in a book to be released in October 2020, were popping up on my computer screen as current events in the summer 2020. The attack by white nationalists, white supremacists and nazis on the US Capitol of January 6, 2021 is also an expression of this context. It’s the culmination of a long history of slavery and racial violence that started centuries ago, but that reemerged in recent years through the actions of white terrorists such as Dylan Roof in Charleston and the mob to defend the statue of Robert E. Lee that happened in Charlottesville in 2017. The speed of the events and the fact that we are physically and emotionally tired make the task of the historian harder. But it offers me a great opportunity to see this history of the present, on which I worked for several years, unfolding before my eyes. At the same time, as someone researching the memory of slavery, I know that working on topics close to the present poses many challenges. And in the present context, it’s very hard to see these events from a broad enough perspective. Still, scholarship and the search for truth, no matter how challenging, are the best path forward.

Remembering the Enslaved Who Sued for Freedom Before the Civil War - The  New York TimesWilliam G. Thomas III, University of Nebraska and author, A Question of Freedom:  The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War (2020)

When I was researching and writing A Question of Freedom, a reckoning with the history of slavery and racism in the United States was already underway. I saw the book was one means to repair American history and confront the terrible menace of white supremacy unfolding at the time — the murder of Black church members at Emmanuel African Episcopal in 2015, the police shootings of unarmed Black men and women, and the violence of Charlottesville in 2017. I set out to write A Question of Freedom because I wanted to understand how slavery had gained sanction under the law and in the Constitution despite its obvious incompatibility with the founding principles of equality and natural rights. Slavery was a moral problem. And Revolutionary Americans knew it. What I did not realize at first was that slavery was always a dubious institution in the law. It had been fought and contested in the law from the nation’s founding and before. One of the main points I try to make is that particular families experienced slavery. Many Americans see slavery as an abstract institution, faceless and nameless. In most textbooks Black families are almost never mentioned by name. But there was nothing abstract about slavery. And Black families, like the Queens and the Mahoneys, who sued slaveholders for their freedom were at the center of the nation’s founding in a way most Americans have not acknowledged. Their freedom suits amounted to a concerted effort to bring the problem of slavery before the nation. Once I met with the descendants of these families, I wanted to tell the story in a way that made it clear that this history is still with us today, that this is palpably felt history. It affects real people, real families. In A Question of Freedom I wanted readers to experience what I was experiencing: the vibrant immediacy of the past, the heightened awareness that events 240 years ago have profound, indeed personal, consequences in our world today.

The Lost Tradition of Economic Equality in America, 1600–1870: Mandell,  Daniel R.: 9781421437118: Amazon.com: BooksDaniel Mandell, Truman State University, author of The Lost Tradition of Economic Equality in America, 1600-1870 (2020)

Quite clearly the subject of my book, American concerns about economic inequality, has been woven throughout this year’s crises in the U.S. This was particularly true of the pandemic, during which the stock market and the numbers of homeless and hungry have both skyrocketed; with the political wars, as one party pushed for massive federal assistance and the other insisted that low-wage workers should essentially be forced back to work regardless of the danger; and (perhaps a little less obviously so) with efforts to confront the racial inequalities imbedded in so many of our country’s concerns. But I was disappointed that the many speeches and extensive commentary on these issues never acknowledged that this country had a long tradition, going back to before its founding, that the health of our republic required avoiding extremes of great wealth or terrible poverty. In fact, I started on that book a decade ago because that history was never mentioned even as the widening wealth gap became a chasm with the Crash of 2007-2008. Alas my hope that the book would help revive that tradition seems, like so many other (and more significant) hopes and dreams, to be steamrollered by the crises of this moment. 

Hearing Enslaved Voices: African and Indian Slave Testimony in BritishSophie White, University of Notre Dame and author, Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana (2019); co-editor, Hearing Enslaved Voices: African and Indian Slave Testimony in British and French America, 1700–1848 (2020)

As an historian of race and slavery, I am constantly struck by lasting legacies, not least in the perpetuation of formal and informal rules aimed at continued disenfranchisement. I am just as struck by the recurring attempts to repudiate this disenfranchisement, and how this disavowal manifested itself both then and now. My research delves into the ways that enslaved individuals in colonial America spoke up, in courtroom testimony, about their subjugation. Thanks to archives that put these individuals’ words front and center, I show how, just as with the Black Lives Matter movement, they used their voices to call out inequities. And if we listen to what they had to say, we hear in their testimony a demand to be heard, to be seen, to be named, and above all, in a damning rebuttal of the premise of slavery, we see them put their full humanity on display.

Peter Alegi on Twitter: "https://t.co/LveH8EPAJP… "

Daryle Williams, University of Maryland, Co-PI enslaved.org and Editor, Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation (both launched, 2020)

2020 was a year when I spent a lot of time staring at Google Sheets. In the shorthand of morning domestic chatter, I merely needed to say “spreadsheets” in response to my husband’s query “what are you working on today?” A few dozens of those Sheets were created by me, for the Free Africans of Brazil Dataset, and many more were part of the terrific datasets published online for the launch of Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade. In time, Enslaved.org seeks to reshape the fields of slavery studies and inclusive scholarly communications, unleashing the power of linked open data to more fully see and understand experiences of enslavement for named individuals and their families. This important, collaboratively produced site aims to be a space where humanists and data scientists, academics and family historians, as well as continental Africans and people of the Diaspora re/un-cover black life matters in a fullness denied them by the archives of the transatlantic trade and its aftereffects. But in a year in which black peoples and allies took to the streets in revolt against the algorithms of oppression, I also wrestle with the fact all this work relies heavily upon the historical anti-black technologies of identification, tracking, and surveillance. From the musty ledger book and nominal registry to the stultifying and disciplining tedium of the spreadsheet, I wonder often, what are we to do when we make people into data.


To read more historians contextualizing this historical moment, I recommend first the excellent Made By History series on the Washington Post. It is edited by expert historians and sometimes they publish multiple op-eds a day written by expert historians. On the events on January 6th, Megan Kate Nelson has created a round-up of ongoing writing by historians, and Lindsay Chervinsky one for historians who have been writing about the political and other fallout including impeachment. On pandemic, Monica Green and other historians of medicine (with links) included her own and other work in this recent Twitter thread. The American Historical Association has collected a bibliography of COVID-related responses by historians.

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Como bien ha analizado la historiadora Joanne Freeman en su excelente libro Field of Blood: Congressional Violence in Antebellum America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018), previo a la guerra civil el Capitolio era un lugar peligroso. Separados cada vez más por el tema de la esclavitud, los legisladores recurrieron a métodos más violentos para tratar de imponer su posición. En otras palabras, la guerra de secesión se comenzó a pelear en los hemiciclos del Congreso años antes de que la primera bomba confederada cayera sobre Fort Sumter el fatídico día 12 de abril de 1861.

En este nota que comparto con mis lectores, la escritora Livia Gershon comenta uno de los episodios más famosos de violencia ocurridos en el Capitolio. El 22 de mayo de 1856, el Representante Preston S. Brooks, un esclavista de Carolina del Sur, atacó con una bastón al senador por el estado de Massachussets y abolicionistas, Charles Sumner. El severo ataque fue en respuesta a un discurso de Sumner criticando a la esclavitud y a los senadores que la defendían.

En el contexto del asalto contra del Capitolio el pasado 6 de enero, creo conveniente continuar subrayando que la violencia es un elemento intrínseco en la historia política estadounidense.


A dramatic portrayal of the 1856 attack and severe beating of Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner by Representative Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina.

A dramatic portrayal of the 1856 attack and severe beating of Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner by Representative Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina
via LOC

Political Divisions Led to Violence in the U.S. Senate in 1856

The horrific caning of Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate in 1856 marked one of the most divisive moments in U.S. political history.

As we prepare for a new term of government in the wake of the recent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, we might wonder just how contentious federal politics can get. But let’s not forget that time when South Carolina congressman Preston Smith Brooks assaulted Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner with a cane in the Senate chamber, beating him so badly that his skull was exposed and he lost consciousness, was covered in blood, and nearly died. As historian Manisha Sinha writes, this 1856 attack highlighted and magnified the divisions that would cause the country to come apart less than five years later.

Charles Sumner | American Battlefield TrustWhen Sumner joined the Senate in 1851, Sinha writes, his anti-slavery beliefs quickly made him enemies. Opponents blocked him from committee appointments, denied him the floor, and heckled him when he spoke.

Brooks’s attack came after Sumner gave his May 1856 speech “The Crime Against Kansas,” in which he condemned the actions of pro-slavery forces. Brooks claimed that he was provoked by Sumner’s insulting words about another senator, who was a distant relation of his. But, Sinha points out, under the prevailing southern code of honor, the appropriate response to a personal insult from a social equal would be a challenge to duel. Instead, Brooks resorted to a form of violence reserved for social inferiors—notably including the enslaved. Many southerners praised Brooks specifically for using a demeaning form of physical force. As a public letter to Brooks from five Charleston residents put it, “You have put the Senator from Massachusetts where he should be. You have applied a blow to his back… His submission to your blows has now qualified him for the closest companionship with a degraded class.”

Charles Sumner

Senator Charles Sumner was beaten nearly to death by Representative Preston Brooks on the Senate floor in 1856
via Flickr/Boston Public Library

Sinha writes that abolitionists drew the same comparison, to different ends. The New York Tribune asked if Congress was “a slave plantation where Northern members act under the lash, the bowie-knife, and the pistol.” Robert Morris, a Black Boston lawyer, wrote to Sumner that “no persons felt more keenly and sympathized with you more deeply and sincerely than your colored constituents in Boston.”

The attack on Sumner also highlighted divisions in the nation when it came to ideas of masculinity. Some in the South reviled Sumner’s “unmanly submission.” This was in line with pro-slavery rhetoric that tied abolitionism to feminism and accused white male abolitionists of effeminate “sickly sentimentality.” Northerners, on the other hand, were more likely to embrace a bourgeois idea of masculinity rooted in self-control and to view Brooks’s attack on an unarmed man as cowardly.

For many in the North, Sinha writes, the incident called to mind the question of whether slavery was compatible with a republican form of government. The New England Anti-Slavery Convention warned that slaveholders were trying to “crush out” freedom of speech on the floor of Congress, as they had done on their plantations.

As we think about division in our own time, it’s worth considering the historical context of political anger and division in the past.

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El Public Domain Review acaba de hacer disponible una versión digital de la primera edición del discurso pronunciado por Fredrick Douglas el 5 de julio de 1852, criticando la hipocrecia de celebrar la independencia de Estados Unidos cuando millones de negros seguían siendo esclavos.  Bajo el título First Edition Pamphlet of Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave Is the 4th of July?” (1852), este documento viene acompañado de un breve análisis de su importancia como una de las piezas de oratoria más significativas de la historia estadounidense, así como también una fuente invaluable para el estudio de la esclavitud en Estados Unidos.

Los interesados en este documento pueden ir aquí.

Para mis lectores hispano parlantes incluyo a continuación la traducción de las primeras dos páginas de este discurso producida por la página Mass Humanities.


Frederick Douglass's "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July ...

El significado del cuatro de julio para el negro Frederick Douglass July 5, 1852

Nota: Por razones históricas, en esta traducción se han empleado las formas de vosotros para la segunda persona plural. Aunque vosotros ya no se usa en el español hispanoamericano, era común durante el siglo xix, y sobre todo en la oratoria; por consiguiente, ayuda a captar, por analogía, el estilo decimonónico del inglés de Douglass.

1 Sr. Presidente, Amigos, y Ciudadanos de Compañero: La tarea antes de mi es alguno lo que requiere mucho pensamiento anterior y estudio para su desempeño adecuado. No me recuerdo nunca haber a parecer como un altavoz en frente de alguna asamblea con nerviosismo, ni con más desconfianza en mi habilidad que hago este día. Los papeles y los carteles dicen que voy a entregar una oración sobre el cuatro de julio. El hecho es, señores y señoras, la distancia entre esta plataforma y la plantación de esclavos, desde que me escapé, es considerable-y los dificultades para superar para que mover del último al anterior, no son leves. Lo que estoy aquí es algo de asombro así como de agradecimiento.

2 Esto, para el propósito de esta celebración, es el cuatro de julio. Esto es el cumpleaños de tu Independencia Nacional, y de tu libertad política. Esto, para ti, tiene la significa de la Pascua para la gente emancipada de Dios. Se lleva a tus mentes al día, y al momento de tu gran liberación. También, esta celebración significa la empieza de otro año de tu vida nacional; y te recuerda que la República de América ahora tiene 76 años. Estoy feliz, ciudadanos de compañero, porque tu nación está muy joven. Eres, incluso ahora, sólo a la empieza de tu carrera nacional, todavía persistiendo en el período de infancia. Repito, me alegre que esto es verdad. Hay esperanza en el pensamiento, y la esperanza es muy necesaria, debajo de los nubes oscuros que se bajan sobre el horizonte.

3 Ciudadanos del compañero, hace 76 años, las personas de este país eran súbditas británicas. El estilo y el título de tu “gente soberana” (en el cual tu ahora gloria) no nació. Estabas debajo de La Corona Británica. Tus padres estimaron el Gobierno Inglés como el gobierno de tu casa. Inglaterra como la patria, aunque una distancia muy lejos de tu casa, les impone, por el ejercito de sus prerrogativas de los padres, a sus niños coloniales, tales restricciones, cargas, y limitaciones, como, en su juicio maduro, se considere sabio, correcto, y adecuada.

4 Pero tus padres, cuyos no adoptaron la idea que el gobierno es infalible, y el carácter absoluto de sus acciones, presumieron a ser diferente del gobierno local en respeto al sabio y la justicia de algunos de las cargas y restricciones. Ellos se fueron en lo que para pronunciar las medidas del gobierno que son injustas, irrazonables, opresivas, y en total medidas que no la gente no debe someter a silencio. No necesito decir, ciudadanos de compañero, que mi opinión sobre las medidas son completamente en conformidad con los opiniones de tus padres. Tus padres se sentían tratados duramente e injustamente por el gobierno local, entonces tus padres, como hombres de honestidad, y hombres de espíritu, buscaron la compensación. Ellos solicitaron y protestaron; lo hicieron con una manera decorosa, respetuosa, y leal. Esto, sin embargo, no respondió al propósito. Ellos fueron maltratados con indiferencia soberana, frialdad, y desdén. Aún perseveraron.

frederick douglass Corinthian Hall 1852 speech

5 La opresión hace enojado al hombre sabio. Tus padres estuvieron intranquilos debajo de este trato. Ellos sintieron como las víctimas de errores graves que son incurables en su capacidad colonial. Con hombres valientes siempre hay un remedio para la opresión. Aquí, ¡la idea de separación total de las colonias de la corona nació! Era una idea sorprendente, mucho más que lo consideramos a esta distancia del tiempo. La gente tímida y prudente de esa día, por supuesto, estaban sorprendidas por esta idea. Su oposición al pensamiento, lo que consideraba peligroso durante en ese tiempo, estaba serio y poderoso; pero, durante de su terror y vociferaciones asustados contra de la idea, la idea alarmante y revolucionaria continuaba, y el país continuaba también. 6 El dos de julio, 1776, el Congreso Continental, para la consternación de los amantes de la facilidad y de los adoradores de la propiedad, alarmante y revolucionaria. Lo hicieron por una forma de una resolución. Casi nunca concebimos resoluciones, las que creamos en nuestras días, que tienen significados mejores que la resolución del Congreso Continental: “Resuelto, que estas colonias unidas son correctos y deben ser estados independientes y libres; también son absueltos de la lealtad de la Corona Ingles en total. 7 Ciudadanos, la resolución cumplió por tus padres. Ellos triunfaron; y hoy cosechas las frutas del triunfo de tus padres. La libertad que ganaron es tuyo; y tú, por lo tanto, puedes celebrar este aniversario. El cuatro de julio es el primer gran hecho en la historia de tu nación-la parte tan importante que todo en tu destino subdesarrollado. 8 El orgullo y patriotismo, no menos que el agradecimiento, te inspiran a celebrar y recordarlo perpetuamente. Lo he dicho que la Declaración de la Independencia es anillo – perno de la cadena del destino de tu nación; entonces, de hecho, lo considero. Los principales que están en ese instrumento son principales de salvación. Adhiere a estos principales, sea leal a estos en todos las situaciones, en todos los lugares, contra de todos los enemigos, y a cualquier precio.

Para la traducción completa se puede ir aquí.

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Eric Foner es uno de los más importantes historiadores estadounidenses. Profesor de Columbia University y ganador de premios tan prestigiosos como el Lincoln, Bancroft y  Pulitzer, Foner ha dedicado su  carrera al estudio del Partido Republicano,  la esclavitud, la guerra civil y, sobre todo, la Reconstrucción. Es a este periodo posterior a la guerra civil que Foner dedica su último libro, Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution (Norton, 2019). Enfocado en el significado de las tres enmiendas constitucionales aprobadas entre 1865 y 1870 (XIII, XIV y XV), Foner plantea que la Reconstrucción cambió radicalmente el ordenamiento político estadounidense. Al acabar con la esclavitud, definir la ciudadanía y garantizar el derecho al voto, tales enmiendas, propone Foner, conllevaron un renacer de la nación estadounidense.

Comparto con mis lectores la transcripción de una entrevista que el  historiador Ed Ayers, del podcasts Backstory, le hiciera a Foner sobre su último libro y otros temas. La entrevista se puede escuchar aquí

February 18, 1865 Harper’s Weekly cartoon depicting celebration in the House of Representatives after adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment. Source: Internet Archive.

HOW RECONSTRUCTION TRANSFORMED THE CONSTITUTION

A FEATURE CONVERSATION WITH PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING HISTORIAN ERIC FONER

If you turn on the news, you’re likely to find a heated debate about big issues, from citizenship to voting rights. For Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner, these issues are at the heart of what are often called the “Reconstruction Amendments”: the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the US Constitution. They were passed in 1865, 1868 and 1870, respectively. And if you ask Eric, they’ve been misinterpreted and overlooked for generations.

On this episode, Ed sits down with Eric Foner, a professor emeritus of history at Columbia University, to talk about public perceptions of Reconstruction, the landmark amendments to the Constitution and how they have the power to change the country today. Foner’s new book is The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution.

 

TRANSCRIPT

Download a pdf of the full transcript here.

Speaker 1: Major funding for Backstory is provided by an anonymous donor, the National Endowment for The Humanities and the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial foundation.

Ed Ayers: From Virginia Humanities, this is Backstory. This is Backstory, the show that explains the history behind today’s headlines. I’m Ed Ayers. If you’re new to the podcast, my colleagues, Joanne Freeman, Brian Balogh, Nathan Connolly, and myself are all historians and each week we explore the history of one topic that’s been in the news.

Speaker 3: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for a crime shall exist within the United States or any place subject to [crosstalk 00:00:48]-

Speaker 4: All persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein [crosstalk 00:00:58]-

Ed Ayers: What you’re hearing are portions of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the US constitution.

Speaker 4: Which shall outweigh the privileges or [crosstalk 00:01:02]-

Speaker 3: No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.

Speaker 5: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Ed Ayers: They’re known as the Reconstruction Amendments passed in 1865, 1868 and 1870 respectively. And if you ask Pulitzer Prize winning historian Eric Foner, they make up a second founding of the United States of America. The amendments are so important, Eric has made them the subject of his brand new book, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution. He says they have the power to bring progressive change on deep seated issues from citizenship to voting rights if only we’d give them their due. So today on Backstory, we’re bringing you a feature interview I did with Eric about his new book. It joins a host of others he’s written including Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, and The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. We talked about many things from public perceptions of Reconstruction to what Eric and I learned about the period when we were in elementary school. But I started our conversation by asking Eric why he felt we needed a book about the Reconstruction Amendments right now.

Foner

Eric Foner

Eric Foner: Two things; one the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, I argue and I think many scholars would agree, really transformed the constitution and are essential to understanding the Civil War era and indeed our current situation today, and yet they are not widely known or understood. Even though they really are central documents of American history, they don’t occupy the same place in our historical imagination as other key documents such as the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation. Your man or woman in the street has probably never heard of the people who wrote these amendments, people like John Bingham and James Ashley and Henry Wilson. They’re not part of the Pantheon of key figures in American history. I just wanted to draw attention to why they’re important, why those people are important, why the amendments are important.

Eric Foner: But secondly, as I said, I lecture a lot, as you do, to all sorts of audiences within the university, outside, or people who are just interested in history and I’ve found that there’s very little understanding of what these amendments were attempting to accomplish. Even in law schools, I hate to say it, I’m not a lawyer or a law scholar, I find that there’s a lot of misconception and even, dare I say it, on the halls of the Supreme Court. One of my arguments is that there’s a long history of what I can think of as misconceived Supreme Court decisions that are still embedded in our jurisprudence. If my book can help nudge the nine members of the Supreme Court toward a more expansive vision of these amendments, then I think that would be all to the good.

Ed Ayers: Yeah, that would be quite a return on your investment here. So you talk about being out in the world talking about Reconstruction, and I find that people don’t even claim to know anything about Reconstruction. My joke is that Reconstruction happens over the winter break and between volume one and volume two, and that it-

Eric Foner: They don’t reach it in the first semester if you’re teaching the survey of American history or if it’s the beginning of the second. They scoot right through it because there’s a heck of a lot of history coming along afterwards, but that’s a step forward Ed. You and I know that not that long ago when you mentioned Reconstruction, people knew “about it.” What they knew was that it was a period of misgovernment, corruption, the lowest point in the saga of American democracy. And that the reason for that was one, vindictive Northern radicals who wanted to fasten their power on the South, but also the former slaves who were just incapable of exercising democratic rights. They were manipulated by whites. They were childlike, and that giving them the right to vote was a disastrous mistake.

71DfIQ9brpL._SY741_Eric Foner: That played an important part in the ideological edifice of the Jim Crow era. The supposed horrors of Reconstruction were part of the justification for taking the right to vote away from black men in the late 19th, early 20th Century. That people no longer generally hold that view and actually know little is better. That at least now if people are interested, they can go at it with a fresh, a clean slate rather than having to disabuse themselves of a lot of mythologies.

Ed Ayers: That’s a very optimistic interpretation. I like that. Now it’s my sense that a lot of people still take their general idea about Reconstruction from Gone with the Wind, in which we have this great saga of that in which the victim is a slave holding white woman from the South. We’re sympathetic with her and it creates the impression that Reconstruction began immediately after the end of the war and the devastation there. Is this your experience? Do you think that people are still filtering this through … What do they think they know about Reconstruction? Where does it come from?

Eric Foner: Yeah. Well certainly Gone with the Wind or if you want to push back further Birth of a Nation, which of course is even much more pernicious because it’s a direct defense and glorification of the Ku Klux Klan, Gone with the Wind is probably the most popular American movie ever made and it’s constantly being shown on Turner movie channels. Look, people don’t watch Gone with the Wind for a history lesson on Reconstruction. They watch so they can trace out Scarlet O’Hara’s ups and downs. But yes, the Klan is in there, the whole idea that black people were just ignorant and incapable of taking part of democracy is in there. Whether it’s that or just what you learned in school.

Eric Foner: I’m old enough to have learned in high school, and this was in Long Island, the suburbs of New York. I learned the old Dunning School view that Reconstruction was the worst period in all of American history. I think today most scholars see Reconstruction, or at least I’ve tried to argue, as a important moment in the history of democracy, the first effort to really make the United States an interracial democracy, which it had never been before the Civil War and then would not be again that until our own era. The tragedy of Reconstruction is not that it was attempted, but that it failed, and that left to subsequent generations, including our own, this question of racial justice in America.

Ed Ayers: Yeah. I should say in full disclosure, you learned about Reconstruction on Long Island in New York. I learned about it at Andrew Johnson Elementary School in East Tennessee, and I’m not kidding. There’s only two in the United States, and I was at one of them, but I had my students and for a class here at the University of Richmond go online and say, “What do we think about Reconstruction? What’s the general sense that you get?” And they came back with one word; failure. That’s a word that you used, a description right now. And so what’s the consequences of thinking of Reconstruction as failure? It’s been a great continuity, as you’re saying that people who hated Reconstruction defined it as a failure and people who admire it defined it as a failure. Does that have any cost?

9781912128228Eric Foner: I think that’s a great question and I will withdraw my word failure. You’re absolutely right. It is so embedded. That idea is so embedded that it’s just impossible to avoid. The problem with declaring Reconstruction a failure is that then it makes the question at hand why did it fail, rather than what it seek to accomplish and how much of that was accomplished? If you define Reconstruction as the effort to create a utopian society, it failed. We haven’t had one yet, and certainly if you go a little less expansive than that and just say the effort to put into the laws and constitution and to enforce them, the basic rights of citizens for all Americans, including African-Americans, well it’s not exactly that it failed, but it didn’t become secure enough that later on these rights couldn’t be taken away.

Eric Foner: But of course Reconstruction was many, many things and not all of them were a failure. Reconstruction saw the creation of the black church as really a major, major institution throughout the country. That’s still here and as you well know, the black church has been the springboard for all sorts of activism among African Americans. Schooling, which was denied to almost all black people before the Civil War, this is when the public school systems of the South were created. This was when the black colleges were created. Those survived and so the black family, which had been it really disrupted in many ways by slavery now is consolidated and becomes the foundation of black communities. That didn’t go away when Reconstruction ended.

Eric Foner: So yeah, we should amend failure at least to say, well, in what realms did it fail and in what realms did it succeed? Because my definition of Reconstruction is not a specific time period, let’s say 1865 to 1877 or other people have other dates, but as a historical process. How does the United States deal with the end of slavery?

Ed Ayers: As we’re thinking really about the place of Reconstruction in the current American imagination, we have seen signs of awakened acknowledgement and interest in it. You and I both were fortunate to be in the Henry Louis Gates series on the Reconstruction on PBS, and people seem to really engage with that. So where do you think this interest is coming from?

Eric Foner: Well, I, like your students, I look around and say, “Well, how is …” I look particularly at how Reconstruction is referred to in the press by journalists almost offhandedly. It’s not that long ago. I remember in the 1990s, a distinguished, I’m not going to name any names, but a pretty distinguished journalist for the New York Times wrote a little article about the Bosnian Civil War. And he said, “Well, I hope that after the Bosnian Civil War is over that the victorious side just doesn’t wreak vengeance on the losers as happened in the United States in Reconstruction.” And I, as a complainer, I send him a note. And I said, “You’re not writing about Reconstruction really, but I think it’s important to know that that’s not how historians view it anymore. You’re reinforcing the idea that giving rights to black people is an act of vengeance against white people, which is a really dangerous idea.”

920x920Eric Foner: He wrote back and said, “You’re absolutely right. I shouldn’t have said that, but my wife is from South Carolina,” and I’ve heard this all the time. And I said to myself, “That’s a funny way of running journalism.” You put in your article what your wife told you over breakfast. But be that as it may, you don’t see that anymore. I think what now, if Reconstruction pops up is Tim Scott is the first black Senator from South Carolina and the first ones were in Reconstruction. I think Reconstruction is being seen as a time when positive things happened even though negative things happened as well. So I think it’s good. And of course the Gates series was very important as you well know, that there’s now a national park site being developed in Beaufort, South Carolina to highlight the history of Reconstruction. So I think Reconstruction is, people are encountering it in all sorts of venues and I think in a more modern form than the old what we call Dunning School approach.

Ed Ayers: Well you were modest before in walking away from the word failure, but in many ways you came up with the right word back in 1988 with your great book on Reconstruction; unfinished revolution. Are you willing to stand by that phrase still?

Eric Foner: Yeah, I am. That was the very last words of the Gates series, if you may remember. Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw got the very last word in Reconstruction was an Unfinished Revolution. So I said, “Oh, look at that. That’s nice. My phrase still reverberating out there.” The funny thing is that that wasn’t the title of the book. The title of book was just Reconstruction, and the day before it finally went to the printer, my editor called me and said, “People here don’t think anyone’s going to buy that book. It needs a good subtitle. By tomorrow morning, give us a subtitle.” And I thought, “Gee whiz.” And I thought and thought and thought and suddenly this popped into my head, The Unfinished Revolution and I told it to him. So it wasn’t something that had shaped the way I wrote the book or anything like that.

Eric Foner: But anyway, yeah, it’s unfinished, and particularly, when you talk about the legal and constitutional aspects, yes. The Reconstruction put forward a whole set of ideals, a whole set of principles for our society and they weren’t fully accomplished, certainly. I want to give the impression of something that’s still ongoing, that Reconstruction is not just the dead past. It’s still happening in the sense that the issues of Reconstruction; who should be a citizen? Who should have the right to vote? How do we deal with terrorism and others? These are on our agenda today. So that debate is still unfinished.

Ed Ayers: Your new book, let’s talk about the title of it. The Second Founding. So why did United States need a second founding? What was it about the first founding that was inadequate?

Eric Foner: Well, as you well know, there’s a lot of debate among historians about exactly what the relationship between the constitution and slavery was. I don’t want to get into that right here. The abolitionist movement debated that forever, but I think we would all have to say that slavery in some form was embedded in the original constitution. We had the Fugitive Slave Clause, which required the return of those who managed to escape to freedom. We had the Three-Fifths Clause, which gave the slave South added representation in the House of Representatives by counting part of their slave population. So we needed a second founding to cleanse the constitution of slavery and to clarify issues which the constitution had left undecided.

Eric Foner: Number one, who is a citizen of the United States? One of the funny things is the constitution refers to citizens all over the place, but it never defines who is a citizen. What do you need to be to be a citizen? My view of Reconstruction, I use this phrase, a modern phrase, I didn’t use it back then, is this is regime change that’s going on. A pro-slavery regime is being replaced with what? With some kind of antislavery regime and you’ve got to rewrite the constitution in order to cleanse it of the remnants of the pro-slavery regime.

Ed Ayers: And that regime wasn’t just in the South. The whole nation was a regime based on slavery.

Eric Foner: Absolutely. That’s why Lincoln in his second inaugural address referred to it as American slavery, not Southern slavery. Lincoln always said that, that we are complicitous in the North. We don’t own slaves right now, but we are complicitous. We profit from slavery.

Ed Ayers: So as you know from out giving talks, people think that the Civil War itself ended slavery and that the 13th Amendment was just a codification of something that had already happened with the Emancipation Proclamation and so forth. So I thought that was one thing that was interesting about the Lincoln movie focusing on the 13th Amendment. So why did we need the 13th Amendment if the Civil War ended slavery?

GatewayEric Foner: Well there were still slaves on the ground when the Civil War ended, quite a few of them. People who had gotten to Union lines or where the Union Army had come and established control, yeah. Part of their job, part of the Union Army’s job once the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, was to protect the freedom that Lincoln had announced. But legally speaking, emancipation and abolition are not quite the same thing. Slavery is created by state law, not federal law, state law. States can abolish slavery as the Northern states did soon after the American Revolution, but freeing individuals does not abrogate the state laws that create slavery. That’s why Lincoln’s, even though you wouldn’t quite see this in the movie. That’s fine. It’s not a historical treatise. Lincoln’s preferred route to the end of slavery during the war was state by state abolition.

Eric Foner: Even after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, he was pressing Southern states. If any of them wanted to come back in the union, they would have to abolish slavery. That’s how you get rid of slavery on the ground, by having the state laws abrogated. But that couldn’t really happen in the Civil War very much, and so by 1864, many people particularly abolitionists are saying the simpler way is just to have this constitutional amendment. That will completely abrogate slavery everywhere in the country. We won’t have to go state by state and let’s do it that way. Lincoln got onboard of course, and as the movie shows, twisted a lot of arms in January, 1865 to get some people in the House of Representatives to vote for the 13th Amendment, so to completely get rid of slavery. It’s certainly true. The war disrupted slavery. Many people fled. Some states like Maryland, a border state and Louisiana where Lincoln was trying to push a Reconstruction plan, they abolished slavery on the state level, but there were plenty of places slavery was still existing when the Civil War ended.

Ed Ayers: Well, why would Lincoln have to twist so many arms if the United States awakened to the great injustice of slavery during the war and mobilized 200000 African American men to be soldiers and sailors? Why was there still resistance to it as late as 1864 and early 1865?

Eric Foner: Yeah, well, of course the first time they tried, the 13th Amendment failed in the House of Representatives. Remember, it needs two-thirds vote in the Congress, which is often not that easy to get. The Democratic Party was still there. It was still, if not pro-slavery, it was still resistant to abolition. The border slave states, the people there were quite adamant that they didn’t, Kentucky, Maryland said they didn’t want this constitutional amendment. They were still in the union, but it took arm twisting because the 13th Amendment gets lost in the shuffle in a way. We talk about the 14th and 15th much more for complicated reasons, but the 13th Amendment was really a constitutional revolution in and of itself.

Eric Foner: Never before had the constitution been written or amended to just abrogate a whole type of property. Some of the people in Congress said, “Wait a minute. If we’re going to say this kind of property is gone, next year there’ll be demanding that we confiscate the factories of New England.” It also completely reversed the position and that was traditional, but from the constitution arm, with the ratification of the constitution arm, that this was a state matter. Now it’s a, “Forget it. I don’t care what the states want. No slavery anymore in this country, do supersede.” That is a fundamental shift of power from the states to the federal government. And then the second clause. The first clause, abolition of slavery. The second clause, Congress shall have the power to enforce this amendment. A lot of southerners, once the war is over and Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction plan is moving along, a lot of white Southerners say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. Yeah, slavery is dead. We understand that. We’re not going to have slavery back, but this second clause seems to give Congress the right to legislate about anything they want.”

Eric Foner: How do you enforce the abolition of slavery? Do you give black people the right to vote? Yeah. People said that’s what they need if they’re going to be free. Do you give them land? That’s what African Americans wanted. In other words, it’s very open-ended. Enforcing the abolition of slavery is a very complicated idea. Unfortunately, for very complex legal reasons, it has never really been implemented. The Supreme court has barely ever used the 13th Amendment as a weapon against the racial inequality that is, of course, tied up in slavery.

Ed Ayers: Yeah, so the 13th Amendment, it’s a breakthrough in thinking about what the nation is as well as ending slavery right?

Eric Foner: Right.

Ed Ayers: Does that help explain why the 14th Amendment comes so quickly after the 13th after there have been decades, really, without constitutional change?

WhoEric Foner: Yeah. The 14th Amendment, I would say, is working out the consequences of the 13th Amendment as well as the consequences of the Civil War. I see the 14th Amendment as putting the Northern Republicans understanding of what they had achieved in the Civil War into the constitution. Some of it has something to do with race or slavery, for example, that Confederate bonds are never going to be repaid. If you patriotically loaned money to the Confederacy, forget it. You’re never getting that back. It has to do with various other things related to the war. But the first section, which is the key one, is really henceforth because of the abolition of slavery, everybody born in the United States is a citizen of the United States.

Eric Foner: You needed that because the status of citizenship was still very uncertain and then more important, all those citizens are going to enjoy the equal protection of the law. The original constitution said nothing about equality among Americans, nothing. It’s the 14th Amendment that makes the constitution as it has been in our own time, a vehicle through which all sorts of people can claim greater equality. The gay marriage decision a few years ago was a 14th Amendment decision. They weren’t thinking of gay marriage when they were writing the 14th Amendment, but they were thinking of how do you make people equal before the law?

Ed Ayers: The last amendment you talk about of course, is the 15th, which I think often tends to be seen as a footnote to the 14th but was that also a hard fought battle to create that?

Eric Foner: That was very hard fought because the principle that the states controlled the right to vote was deeply embedded North and South. There were plenty of Northern states that were nervous. In Congress, they were those who said, “We want an amendment that just says every male citizen age 21 has the right to vote.” If they had gotten that through, just think of all the trouble that would have been avoided. Even today when we’re debating voter IDs and all that, a positive statement. Now they weren’t willing to give women the right to vote and the women’s movement was very outraged by that. But Northern states, the Chinese couldn’t vote in California. Immigrants couldn’t vote on the same basis as a native born in Rhode Island. Massachusetts had a literacy test for voting. They didn’t want to give up their control of the rights. So instead of a positive amendment, it’s what you might call a negative amendment; that no state can deny anyone the right to vote because of race.

Ed Ayers: Well, it’s a work-around in a way, right? It’s-

Eric Foner: It’s a work-around and it has a serious flaw, which is any other limit on the right to vote is not prohibited right? You can have a literacy test. You can have a poll tax. When the Southern states, as you well know, took away the right to vote, they didn’t do it by saying, “Hey, black people can’t vote anymore,” because that would’ve violated the 15th Amendment. What they did was put all these other qualifications and then understanding clauses. You’ve got to prove to the registrar that you understand the state constitution, but the Supreme Court allowed this to happen. They said, “Well, look, they’re not talking about race actually. This law says nothing about race so it doesn’t violate the 15th Amendment.”

Ed Ayers: Well and there’s other parts of these amendments that have come back to haunt us in some ways. Perhaps you could talk a little bit about the clause about involuntary servitude and the 13th Amendment?

Eric Foner: That’s been highlighted a few years ago by the documentary of, the Hollywood documentary, 13th. 13th Amendment, the language is taken just about directly from the Northwest Ordinance of Thomas Jefferson, and it says, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime, can exist in the United States.” That criminal exemption. Now this is not a conspiracy as some people think, “Oh look. They were looking ahead to mass incarceration, to convict labor, to the exploitation of the labor.” They were hardly any prisons in 1865. There was a little bit of a history of convict labor to help pay the cost of prisons, but it wasn’t a mass system. But this little, this exemption, which was not even debated in Congress, nobody even mentioned it except Charles Sumner, the abolitionist Senator from Massachusetts. It wasn’t debated in the press. I looked through the newspapers. Nobody mentions it.

Eric Foner: It’s just boilerplate language really. But nonetheless, inadvertently, it created this loophole through which the Southern states particularly drove this Mack truck in the late 19th century of massive convict labor, either within prisons or leasing out of convicts to work in mines and plantations and on roadwork and stuff like this, under terribly oppressive conditions. The courts have persistently ruled that the 13th Amendment allows the requirement, the involuntary labor of people convicted of a crime. And then after Reconstruction, Southern states began making almost anything a felony. You steal a chicken, it’s a felony, and you’re eight years in jail and you are sent out pretty soon to labor on some guy’s plantation who has rented the labor of the prisoners from the federal government. So it’s disastrous really in Southern history later on, but it was inadvertent almost. What it shows you is people talk a lot about the original intention. Sometimes unintended consequences can be just as important as the intended consequences of an amendment.

Ed Ayers: You talked before, Eric, about the way that even though women played such a crucial role in bringing about these amendments; petitioning Congress during the war and afterwards, that they were excluded from this. How about the place of American Indians in all this? Who’s been born in this country more than American Indians? So why is that a blind spot in these laws of the post Civil War era?

Eric Foner: The legal status of Native Americans was murky, to say the least. You still had the remnants of the idea that they were not Americans. They were members of their own tribal sovereignties. People talked about the Cherokee Nation, the Choctaw Nation. You are not a citizen of the United States. You were a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Now, of course, by this time, the power of the Indian nations in most places had been broken, and it wasn’t as if you had the United States government dealing with equal nations on the other side. But the people who wrote the [inaudible 00:29:15] did not, their aim was not to make Native Americans citizens. The exemption in the 14th Amendment says, “Anybody born in the United States or naturalized coming from abroad except and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.” And the idea, well Native Americans are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. They’re subject to the laws of their own national sovereignties.

ForeverEric Foner: So Indians were not citizens and it’s not until 1924 that Congress enacts a law making all Native Americans, regardless of where they are living, regardless of what tribe they in, citizens of the United States. So yeah. These amendments had exemptions, they had loopholes, they had serious flaws. Women, as you said, certainly objected to the 15th Amendment, which didn’t give them the right to vote, and the second clause of the 14th Amendment, which introduces the word male for the first time into the constitution. These measures were compromises. They were worked out after long debate and amendments and ups and downs in Congress. There’s no single mind behind the 13th, 14th or 15th Amendments. They were the result of all sorts of negotiation and controversy. Nonetheless, the basic principles are pretty clear. The abolition of slavery, the establishment of a universal notion of citizenship, despite without the native Americans and of equality among those citizens and the vast expansion of the right to vote.

Ed Ayers: And they are alive in today’s political and legal culture. What do you see as the issues that are most salient right now on either being contested or helping drive forward some kind of change?

Eric Foner: Well, sadly, yeah. Many of these issues are still unresolved and I’d have to say sadly, our Supreme Court has adopted an increasingly narrow definition of the implications of these amendments. The most notable was a few years ago in the Shelby County decision, which overturned a very important part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That’s a law passed under the 15th Amendment. It was passed with virtual unanimity in Congress, forcing jurisdictions in the South that had a long history of discrimination and voting to get prior approval from the federal government before they changed the voting rules. Supreme Court a few years ago said, “Well that’s a violation of federalism. It treats some states more harshly than other states.” Well, these are states that had slavery and not every state did. And also these are states that had consciously removed the right to vote over many years.

Eric Foner: But anyway, so their narrowing the 15th Amendment. Who should have the right to vote is a hot issue in our politics as you well know, with gerrymandering, with various ID and other voter suppression laws. Citizenship, how relevant can you be on our border today? This is being debated all the time. Who has the right to be an American citizen? For example, does the child born in the United States of a undocumented immigrant, is that child automatically an American citizen? Well, language of the 14th Amendment is pretty clear. Yes. Any person born in the United States. Your parents can be bank robbers. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be a citizen of the United States. But President Trump, among other things, has said that he feels he has the right as president to abrogate the first sentence of the 14th Amendment, the birthright citizenship sentence for the children of undocumented immigrants.

Eric Foner: I don’t personally think the president can all by himself eradicate part of the constitution, but some people have tried to do that. So these issues are certainly on our political agenda today and I think an understanding of how the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were enacted, what they were intended to accomplish, can help us think through the implications of that today.

Ed Ayers: Eric Foner is professor emeritus of history at Columbia University. His latest book is The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution. That’s going to do it for us today, but you can keep the conversation going online. Let us know what you thought of the episode or ask us your questions about history. You’ll find this at backstoryradio.org or send an email to backstory@Virginia.edu. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter at Backstory Radio. Special thanks this week to Jerry [inaudible 00:34:10] and Katie Gary.

Ed Ayers: Backstory is produced at Virginia Humanities. Major support is provided by an anonymous donor, the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial foundation, the Johns Hopkins University and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this podcast do not necessarily represent those that the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support is provided by the Tomato Fund, cultivating fresh ideas in the arts, the humanities, and the environment.

Speaker 6: Brian Balogh is professor of history at the University of Virginia. Ed Ayers is professor of the humanities and president emeritus of the University of Richmond. Joanne Freeman is professor of history and American studies at Yale University. Nathan Connolly is the Herbert Baxter Adams associate professor of history at the Johns Hopkins University. Backstory was created by Andrew Wyndham for Virginia Humanities.

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Thin LightAcabo de leer un libro extraordinario, The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipations in the Heart of America. Su autor, Edward L. Ayers, es un historiador estadounidense, ex Presidente de la Universidad de Richmond y miembro fundador del  podcast de historia estadounidense Backstory.  The Thin Light of Freedom completa su obra In The Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863, ganadora del prestigioso Bancroft Prize del año 2004.

Ganador del 2018 Lincoln Prize, este libro examina la guerra de secesión estadounidense a partir de 1863, desde la perspectiva de dos condados estadounidenses claves por su ubicación estratégica: Franklin (Pensilvania-Unionista) y Augusta (Virginia-Confederado). Ello le permite a su autor hacer un examen  micro de un proceso histórico tan complejo como la guerra civil estadounidense.

Dada la magnitud de esta obra, me limitaré hacer algunos comentarios generales sobre su contenido.

Ayers

Edward L. Ayers

En más de una ocasión he escuchado  a colegas minimizar e inclusive negar la esclavitud como el factor clave de la guerra civil estadounidense. Quienes así piensan, por lo general justifican su argumento subrayando la disposición de Lincoln para un acomodo con el Sur que evitara la secesión y la guerra. Ayers hace un trabajo extraordinario subrayando la centralidad de la esclavitud  en el guerra civil estadounidense. Tal vez Lincoln estuvo dispuesto a llegar a un acuerdo sobre el futuro de la esclavitud, pero el Sur no. En otras palabras, es la tenaz resistencia de los esclavistas lo que lleva al Norte a adoptar una posición abolicionista. Según Ayers, la libertad para los negros avanzó más rápido de lo que sus defensores habían podido imaginar, gracias a la agresividad de los sureños. Para acabar con el Sur – y poner fin a la guerra – era necesario acabar con la esclavitud.

Ayers enfatiza que la emancipación y la Reconstrucción no eran inevitables resultados de la economía moderna, del poder del Norte o de la justicia. Las consecuencias de la guerra permanecieron en duda durante el conflicto y el periodo posterior. Pocos hubieran imaginado en 1860 que en cinco años la esclavitud sería destruida y que los libertos se convertirían en ciudadanos estadounidenses.

En la etapa posterior a la guerra –la llamada Reconstrucción– la actitud de los sureños también jugó un papel clave. Su resistencia y oposición ayudaron a que la revolución que la Reconstrucción significaba avanzara.

Sin embargo, no hay un final feliz. Los enemigos de la libertad de los negros no desaparecieron después de la Reconstrucción. Éstos no se rindieron y por décadas lucharon para hacer retroceder la expansión de la democracia en el Sur, socavando los derechos adquiridos por los negros en la década de 1860.

15disunion-blog480

The Battle of Nashville (Library of Congress)

No puedo terminara sin subrayar dos elementos impresionantes de este libro: lo bien que está escrito y sus fuentes. Esta es una obra con una narración extraordinaria que atrapa al lector sin perder profundidad académica. Ayers recurre a una variedad extraordinaria de fuentes primaras: periódicos, informes, cartas, etc. Destaca el uso de diarios para reconstruir cómo experimentaron la guerra soldados, esposas de soldados, civiles, etc.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez

Lima, 19 de julio de 2018

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Frederick Douglas

Hoy 4 de julio, los estadounidenses celebran el día de la declaración de su independencia. Para conmemorar tan relevante evento, comparto con ustedes un discurso titulado “What to Slave is the 4th of July” que fue pronunciado por Frederick Douglas el 4 de julio de 1852 en Rochester, Nueva York.  Douglas, quien nació esclavo, se convirtió en una de las voces más poderosas contra la esclavitud en los Estados Unidos.  Leído por James Earl Jones, este discurso forma parte de una serie de actuaciones organizadas por el gran historiador Howard Zinn bajo el título Voices of a People’s History of the United States.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez

Lima, Perú, 4 de julio de 2018

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download-1El 2018 Lincoln Prize ha sido sido concedido al trabajo de Edward Ayers,  The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America (W.W. Norton and Company). Este premio, que consiste de $50,000, es otorgado anualmente por  el Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History para reconocer el mejor trabajo investigativo sobre Lincoln y el periodo de la guerra civil. Ayers es un historiador estadounidense, ex Presidente de la Universidad de Richmond y miembro fundador de unos de los mejores podcast de historia estadounidense: Backstory. Ha sido merecedor tanto del Bancroft Prize como  del Beveridge Prize.

Vale mencionar a los finalistas de tan prestigioso premio:

  • Ron Chernow, Grant (Penguin Press).
  • Gordon Rhea, On to Petersburg: Grant and Lee, June 4-14, 1864 (LSU Press).
  • Tera Hunter, Bound in Wedlock:  Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century(Harvard University Press).
  • Cate Lineberry, Be Free or Die (St. Martin’s Press).
  • Graham Peck, Making an Antislavery Nation(University of Illinois Press).
  • Adam I.P. Smith, The Stormy Present: Conservatism and the Problem of Slavery in Northern Politics: 1846—1865 (University of North Carolina Press).

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