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Sunday, July 10, 2011
The Dunning School offers no class in Louisiana
Loewen notes this (1950) memorial in Colfax:
Loewen wrote a whole book on such outbreaks of propaganda: Lies Across America. It's a sequel to Lies My Teacher Told Me. Both of them object to non-Left narratives of American history. Sometimes, as in the Mountain Meadows incident, he has a point. Overall, at least in Lies Across America, by pointing out every point where the Right has laid out its case poorly, the author leaves the reader to conclude "on his own" that the Right has no argument.
In researching this counter-argument on the Right's behalf, I can thank Moldbug's blog, and (lately) Jarvis's bibliography. The latter includes, in order: Mississippi, Alabama, Texas (yay!), Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and - in an afterthought - Arkansas. Jarvis omits South Carolina and Louisiana.
For my purpose, Reconstruction matters most where the most blacks were. Jarvis also omits Tennessee and (the non-Western remnant of) Virginia. Both are Border South. If the Dunning School could defend counter-Reconstruction in Texas, then it could even more easily defend it in Tennessee and Virginia. I assume that such books are out there. I don't care enough to read them. Blacks were an actual force in Louisiana, and in South Carolina; their history in these states is something to care about.
Louisiana's omission from Jarvis's bibliography is definitely worth caring about. Gulf Coast Quebec is the Redemption-State in Reconstruction hagiography... and that's not a good thing. It's the state of the Coushatta and Colfax massacres, and of several New Orleans race-riots. Of the most atrocious of the Klan actions listed in the "Texan" narratives - those which Agatha Babino reports, for instance - most were committed in Louisiana. Ellen Betts, like Babino from Opelousas, stuck up for Louisiana; but even she knew of her home state's notoriety and that her position was contrarian. Louisiana is the state where freedom died. My foil here, Loewen, could retort against my project here that any Dunning School book on Texas is skirting the border of the issue, that issue being the Red River and Gulf Coast traffic - that is, Louisiana.
One can make - I have made - an argument that in Texas, Reconstruction was doomed. Supporters of Reconstruction (like Loewen) argue that in Louisiana, the experiment was not doomed. Loewen asserts that Colfax (for one) happened because contemporary racists worried that Reconstruction might actually "work" - that is, create a black-run state which could survive without Federal intervention.
First, we'll dispense with the bullshit. Loewen opines that Reconstruction "misrule" in Louisiana was less of a misrule than was the corrupt government of the Redeemers after it. This is arguable. But there's no point in arguing it here; because the Redeemers didn't know, at the time, that they were installing a corrupt government. Nordhoff documented in 1875 sufficiently, the misrule of Reconstruction in its final days. In addition, other Southern states - notably Texas and Georgia - managed to reform their governments such that business and commerce could survive with a minimum of bribery. That Louisiana failed to curb its corruption is not the fault of Redemption; it's the fault of Louisiana's Redeemers. Loewen has employed a tu-quoque tactic of misdirection. Loewen means by this tactic to cut our sympathy for the white cause and to support the black cause.
Having done with that, here's an argument for a pro-Reconstruction author with more ethics than has Loewen. Louisiana, along the coast and lower Mississippi anyway, had a population of free blacks, and a history of free blacks, dating back to the French. As a result Louisiana's elite blacks came from more walks of life. Terms like "black middle class" and even "upper class" meant something in Louisiana, beyond state patronage. By this argument, Black Louisiana would have managed along like the South African "cape coloureds" have managed along in the 1990s and 2000s, or as Belize and Jamaica have managed along. I am prepared to concede that argument over the short term.
So to roll back Reconstruction in Louisiana may well have required a reign of terror, including events like Colfax. To argue for that, the Right must argue that Redemption created a delicious Southern omelette from its broken Creole heads I mean, eggs. The Right would have to argue the long-term contrafactuals.
The Right (excepting maybe Moldbug - and even then, only in Georgia) seems currently not sure enough in its convictions to state that case explicitly. Hence, the Right lies, at Colfax; and omits, in Jarvis's list.
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