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JeanneCrain

RECONSTRUCTION: America After the Civil War

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42 minutes ago, TheCid said:

Why not have a white Southerner as director?  Just saying.  Why must it always be an African-American to direct or produce or write this type documentary?

Why not.

A white southerner can tell a story about prejudice from his/her cultural perspective. But to think that person will accurately present a story about African/African-American slaves, it seems a bit of a stretch.

We wouldn't expect a Walmart clerk to be an expert on rocket science. How can we expect a white person who has no cultural understanding of slavery from a black person's perspective to say anything relevant?

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here's an example of the current wisdom going around the market:
 

Quote

 

‘authenticity’ is the buzzword of the moment. It’s for this reason ‘Own Voices’ narratives are so popular, because they are about first-hand experiences. It stands to reason that a writer with more personal knowledge would have more credibility writing about the struggles they have faced.

Though this might seem common-sense, this has not always been the case … What’s more, for all the whinging about diversity by aggrieved writers like Lionel Shriver, it is still not the standard now. Men still write women’s stories as standard. White people tell the stories of people of colour. Straight people of the LGBT community’s. Non-disabled people tell disabled people’s stories … And so on.

This is why the notion of ‘cultural appropriation’ is part of the conversation. Effectively, we are talking about  highjacking others’ experiences and passing them off as our own. But by the same token, insisting diverse writers ONLY write ‘Own Voices’ narratives would also be an issue. We would be forcing them into a box, saying their experience is the only thing of value they offer. This, too, is absurd

 

 

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just FYI, there's THIS film streaming @ Netflix....

Documentary '13TH' Argues Mass Incarceration Is An Extension Of Slavery

https://www.npr.org/2016/12/17/505996792/documentary-13th-argues-mass-incarceration-is-an-extension-of-slavery

see also: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/13th-2016

 

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." –Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution

When the 13th amendment was ratified in 1865, its drafters left themselves a large, very exploitable loophole in the guise of an easily missed clause in its definition.

That clause, which converts slavery from a legal business model to an equally legal method of punishment for criminals, is the subject of the Netflix documentary “13th. ......."

 

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35 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

By the way your question: 'why not get a white Southerner to direct?". This is mighty incisive point. What you and TopB are both probing is the common problem of 'FAE' error. The supposition that 'what' someone is, indicates how they think.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error

I am not saying 'what' someone is makes them more qualified...but rather, 'how' someone is through their experiences. If you have grown up in a certain culture, dealing with specific phobias and discriminations due to your inclusion in that culture, then you know 'how' the problems play out. You know the suffering involved, from a first person point of view. That does make you more qualified to tell the story. There is no way an Italian American director knows first hand what it's like to live in America as an African American. 

There's a silly movie called SOUL MAN where C. Thomas Howell's character pretends to be black. And of course, SOME LIKE IT HOT where Jack Lemmon dresses up as a woman. Do they actually know what it's like first hand to live in that other cultural reality? Not really. They can leave it. C. Thomas Howell is not really black and he can leave the problems blacks face and become white again. Just like Jack Lemmon is not really a woman and can leave the problems women face and become a man again. It's pretend and temporary, so there's no realness to it.

An Italian American director might pretend to think she knows what the black experience in America is like, but she cannot really know what the culture is all about because she didn't spend years growing up in it and dealing with those issues on a day to day basis. She will never know what it is all about.

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Vautrin's remark rings true. 1865, 1866, and 1867 were huge crop failures in the South. Former slaves forced from economic necessity to return to their old masters for work often received less 'means' (in the form of the new wages system) to live on --ironically--than under the plantation system where they had guaranteed vegetable gardens. I was surprised to read that on a plantation, slave quarters were communal; meals were potluck and elderly slaves took communal care of infants while the adults and children worked the field. Once thrown onto the free labor market all of this became incredibly hard to manage in single family dwellings. Of course, the freedmen were still overjoyed to be able to set their own work hours, no corporal punishment, managing their own lives and households, travel, education, etc. 

El Cid, if anything I'm mulling aloud here is poorly articulated on my part please say so. I'd be glad to be corrected. I've never lived down South so I may not be as attuned in as you are to this subject matter.

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1 hour ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

(TopBilled)

These are really murky waters to chart a course through. Its tempting to draw assumptions. All I can mention is that these issues are beginning to gain a lot of attention these days in the writing market, thanks the climate of general uproar over sensitivity. For example, Hollywood right now has a trend of insisting on 'authentic voices' (as well as 'new' voices) and diversity (or perhaps just tokenism) is clamored for. The very question you raise here is coming more to the surface than ever.

Regarding your last question I've reprinted here yes I would say that this particular timeperiod between the Civil War and the 20th Century is widely under-studied and yet is one of the most crucial episodes. Begging be understood better.

This weeks The Economist has a very interesting article called After Abolition,  with the caption of "The sons of slaveholders quickly recovered their fathers' wealth".

Based on a study of historical census data by 3 economist;  

E.g. Roughly 50% of the wealth in the antebellum South was held in slaves.    After the surrender,  all of this disappeared: wealth for the top 1% dropped by 76% between the 1860 and 1870 censuses.   By the 1880 censuses the sons of slaveholders had recovered the wealth standing of their fathers compared with those that grew up in non-slaveholding households.    By 1900 they had surpassed their fathers' wealth.

 

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An Italian American director might pretend to think she knows what the black experience in America is like, but she cannot really know what the culture is all about

(TopBilled)

But like the old saying goes, an author doesn't actually have to murder anyone in order to write a murder mystery. TopB you may be insisting (in your last post) on enforcing the standard of 'direct experience' from the best of intentions; even though its the obverse proposition. Its rather like, applying a 'negative restriction' instead of a 'positive' one.

If I say "I wrote this murder story" you could put me on the spot by asking me whether I have any murder experience. If I don't, then what right do I have to pretend? Well ...who is to say I am pretending? I'm not going to go out and murder merely to suit what you deem my authenticity level ought to be, right?

Stephen Crane didn't have any actual battlefield experience, yet he wrote 'Red Badge of Courage' by a variety of means as best he could. Interviews, etc. No one ever said he wasn't a valid war novelist.

We hear a lot more dubious accusations these days (Beryl Markham, or the 'How Green Was My Valley' scandal, etc) but this just may be a factor merely of our new era of yellow journalism.

The accusations leveled at Henry Steele Commager by a black critic fall out the same way. Was Commager any less of a historian because he wouldn't coddle an ethnocentric, biased, special-interest style of writing  history? Whether yes or no, we don't restrict his career opportunities.

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"The sons of slaveholders quickly recovered their fathers' wealth".

--JJG

Quickly? I wouldnt agree with that based on what I've read this month from Foner. The plantation system was far too devastated. By the age of the Great Fortunes (late 1800s, turn of the new century) yes, I would agree that wealth had resurged. Enough time had passed.

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43 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

--JJG

Quickly? I wouldnt agree with that based on what I've read this month from Foner. The plantation system was far too devastated. By the age of the Great Fortunes (late 1800s, turn of the new century) yes, I would agree that wealth had resurged. Enough time had passed.

I didn't write that caption;  anyhow I guess the editor for The Economist believes 10 years or so (time between 1870 and 1880 census),  is 'quickly'.

 

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We wouldn't expect a Walmart clerk to be an expert on rocket science. How can we expect a white person who has no cultural understanding of slavery from a black person's perspective to say anything relevant?

--TB

This may be true very often in practice --even 99% of the time in practice --but what I'd like to point out is that its also still just a bias, merely being reversed. Its not impossible that a Wal-Mart staffer might ever have anything valid to say. We'd be making a stereotype if we believed that 'absolutely'.

Look at a guy like Mezz Mezzrow. Technically white. At what point could we say he ought not to talk about the black experience?

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19 hours ago, Vautrin said:

I enjoy some of those too, but they sure have a lot of interruptions just as one is starting

to get into the music. And some of the hosts go a bit overboard in talking about artists

they probably don't know all that well. And for a $75 pledge you will get the four CD collection

of rare outtakes and live performances. That's not all, for $100...

I have learned NOT to pick up the phone during or after my second glass of wine while watching these shows.

Actually, if interested it's better to go to your state's public TV/Radio station and see the list or rewards for each contribution level.  In S.C., there are often dozens of different rewards that rarely appear on the specials.

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19 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Vautrin's remark rings true. 1865, 1866, and 1867 were huge crop failures in the South. Former slaves forced from economic necessity to return to their old masters for work often received less 'means' (in the form of the new wages system) to live on --ironically--than under the plantation system where they had guaranteed vegetable gardens. I was surprised to read that on a plantation, slave quarters were communal; meals were potluck and elderly slaves took communal care of infants while the adults and children worked the field. Once thrown onto the free labor market all of this became incredibly hard to manage in single family dwellings. Of course, the freedmen were still overjoyed to be able to set their own work hours, no corporal punishment, managing their own lives and households, travel, education, etc. 

El Cid, if anything I'm mulling aloud here is poorly articulated on my part please say so. I'd be glad to be corrected. I've never lived down South so I may not be as attuned in as you are to this subject matter.

There is no doubt that the freed slaves were placed in a far worse economic position than even the poor whites.  For all its horrors, the plantation system did provide for slaves because they were an investment and a necessity to keep the plantation going.  Of course there were slaves in the towns and cities who worked in houses and businesses, but same principal of protecting your investment.  Just as the tenant farmer system had little respect for the workers, there was little incentive to offer decent wages, housing, food or anything else to freed blacks.

Can't disagree with what you have said.  Some of it I don't understand, but that is different issue.  It is far more complicated than this program is even attempting to address.  More on that later.

19 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

This weeks The Economist has a very interesting article called After Abolition,  with the caption of "The sons of slaveholders quickly recovered their fathers' wealth".

Based on a study of historical census data by 3 economist;  

E.g. Roughly 50% of the wealth in the antebellum South was held in slaves.    After the surrender,  all of this disappeared: wealth for the top 1% dropped by 76% between the 1860 and 1870 censuses.   By the 1880 censuses the sons of slaveholders had recovered the wealth standing of their fathers compared with those that grew up in non-slaveholding households.    By 1900 they had surpassed their fathers' wealth.

 

Haven't read the article, but not surprising.  To a great extent the "sons" and even the fathers still had land wealth.  Not all of it was stolen by the carpetbaggers.  Entirely possible that the sons had the ability to invest in the development of the South that came after the destitution of losing a war.  America was still a male dominated society then and they were far fewer white males in the South after the war.

All of these would seem to indicate that the fewer remaining white Southerners either had property wealth or had capitalized on economic reconstruction of the South.  It takes far fewer people to be in the top 1% when the base is much smaller.  Also, the non-slaveholding households were mostly the poor whites and small farmers who had nothing on which to build wealth.

Also, nationally this was a time of huge economic increases by a multitude of people.  The robber barons were not alone in increasing their wealth by huge amounts.  Steel, coal, railroads and many other facets created huge wealth during this period.

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I watched the first 55 minutes or so and then it breaks for the next episode which I have not watched yet.  I am not criticizing the purpose of the program, but I think it is less than objective.  One of the usual advantages of PBS is that they have the programming time to present most if not all sides of an issue.  Maybe it will be in part two, but Reconstruction affected the whites as much as it did the blacks.

My observations.  Interesting that there are only two commentators from Southern universities - University of Richmond and University of Arkansas.  Having majored in Southern history and read a lot of it since then, the state universities in the Southern states are where some of the most recognized historians teach.  All of these universities have history departments with many eminent historians.  Why are none of these people involved?  They have a scene where Eric Foner visits the African-American museum in Beaufort, S.C., but they do not identify that he is or was a professor at Columbia University.

Andrew Johnson's reconstruction plan was pretty much the same as Abraham Lincoln.  Had he lived, Lincoln would also have had a gentle reconstruction of the South.  It should be noted that the Radical Republicans did not like Lincoln or his plans for the South.  There would have been a major battle in the government had he lived.

I hadn't realized it (or forgotten) that the Southern states had zero representation in the U.S. government from Dec. 1865 until years later.  They only had representation when the Radical Republicans were able to use the Federal army to install carpetbaggers, blacks and other allies in control of the Southern governments.  These "governments" bankrupted most of the Southern states and local governments through various schemes.  One was to solicit millions to construct railroads that were never even started.  They used the credit of the governments to back the investments.

It was about 47 minutes into the program before someone acknowledged the oppession politically and economically of blacks in the North almost as much as in the South.  To some extent it was easier for the Northern Congressmen and state governments to provide rights to blacks simply because they were relatively so few.  

At about 50 minutes there was a brief allusion regarding the overwhelming "self-interests" of Northern Republicans [the Radicals] to take control of the United States.  Penalizing the South and restricting their representation only to those approved by Radical Republicans enabled this.  Incidentally, the term Radical Republicans is the one used by historians to refer to the Republicans who controlled the government during the war and after, not mine.

The commentary on the 1868 elections in the South and how successful the blacks were in getting Grant elected ignored the suppression of white voters.  Also ignored that the allies of the Radical Republicans controlled voting in the South.

At about 55 minutes the comment was made that within a decade (1866-1876) the former slaves would "be full integrated into highest echelons of political society."  Only because the Radical Republicans with the help of the U.S. Army placed them into those positions and mostly so they could manipulate them.  

In 1876, the Republican Party cut a deal with the Democratic Party so the Southern states would cast their electoral votes for Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, even though the Democrat technically led in both the electoral and popular votes.  The Southerners got the U.S. Army removed from the South and therefore the Radical Republicans, carpetbaggers and blacks were removed from political offices.  The Southerners who were not fit for office in 1866 rose to power and returned to federal and state offices.  At this point the era of Jim Crow and subordination of the blacks began again.

 

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6 hours ago, TheCid said:

I have learned NOT to pick up the phone during or after my second glass of wine while watching these shows.

Actually, if interested it's better to go to your state's public TV/Radio station and see the list or rewards for each contribution level.  In S.C., there are often dozens of different rewards that rarely appear on the specials.

Some of the performers I'm not interested enough to buy CDs and I've already got more of

them than I can listen to. Since I don't pledge maybe I'll leave a little chunk of change in

my will. No pledge drives in hell. I hope.

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It seems as if lots of sound information which is better presented in printed form, was 'lost' in the adaptation to visual entertainment. I wish I could say this was atypical but as we all know it happens far too often. Dense academic topics simply fare awkwardly on a televised medium. To tell a visual story, nuances and complexities are effaced away for the sake of continuity and coherence over the screen. Television is absolutely not a platform to which we can ever consign our intellectual life. It is frankly disturbing how many allowances we make for it, simply for the sake of convenience.

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19 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

It seems as if lots of sound information which is better presented in printed form, was 'lost' in the adaptation to visual entertainment. I wish I could say this was atypical but as we all know it happens far too often. Dense academic topics simply fare awkwardly on a televised medium. To tell a visual story, nuances and complexities are effaced away for the sake of continuity and coherence over the screen. Television is absolutely not a platform to which we can ever consign our intellectual life. It is frankly disturbing how many allowances we make for it, simply for the sake of convenience.

Yeah, it's only a quick overview in a two hour doc. It does well with information for the time it has. I think the first person accounts that were read were a nice touch. 

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Apparently there is a third "hour" on Redemption.  Not sure how Henry Louis Gates, Jr. interprets that phrase, but in the South it generally meant when the white Southerners redeemed their states from the Northern Republicans, carpetbaggers and blacks.

I found a lot lacking in the second hour as far as documentation as to how blacks were able to "purchase" the estates of the whites and so forth.  Also, what did the blacks in Congress actually accomplish?  Same for Southern state governments.  What laws, bills, regulations did they create compared to merely voting for what the Radical (white) Republicans told them to.  Were there any blacks in Congress from the North?  Were there any blacks of significance in the Northern state governments?

Gates spoke with Rep. Jim Clyburn from S.C.  Clyburn is in Congress because he has a district that has been gerrymandered to elect a black Democrat.  Not sure he has ever really done that much for S.C. as a whole, although he does speak for blacks and is number three in Dem House leadership.

Gates mentioned the historically black colleges and universities which made a massive contribution to the education of blacks.  However, with integration they have suffered tremendously and their role is ambiguous.  S.C. State University (HBCU) was near bankruptcy a few years ago and the legislature even considered closing it down.  Took massive state financing to get it back in shape and still has problems.

Gates sort of mentioned how the blacks controlled Southern state governments and specifically mentioned S.C.  True, but the state was bankrupted by the legislatures.  There is also the tremendous influence of the Radical Republicans and the carpetbaggers who got themselves elected or appointed to office.  The Credit Mobilier scandal paled by comparison.  One commentator tried to rationalize the corruption in Southern governments as an ordinary thing of the times.  Not true as there was no such corruption in Northern or Western states and even in U.S. government. 

A commentator (1:30) implied there was no corruption in Southern governments when it was actually massive and this is well documented.

Based on the ending of the program so far it appears that with Redemption, the 12 years of Reconstruction was an abject failure and set-up the rise of racism, suppression of blacks and Jim Crow era.

Not sure I will watch the rest.  It appears that Gates had an agenda and wrote the script to reinforce it.  He then secured services of commentators who would support his theory.  It would have been a far better program if it had been more objective.  After all, there was the white side of Reconstruction.  Especially the poor whites, farmers and so forth.  PBS can do better.

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34 minutes ago, TheCid said:

Not sure I will watch the rest.  It appears that Gates had an agenda and wrote the script to reinforce it.  He then secured services of commentators who would support his theory.  It would have been a far better program if it had been more objective.  After all, there was the white side of Reconstruction.  Especially the poor whites, farmers and so forth.  PBS can do better.

It was briefly mentioned that the poor whites and poor blacks sometimes worked together but yeah, they should have really gone more in depth with that.

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1 hour ago, TheCid said:

It appears that Gates had an agenda and wrote the script to reinforce it.  He then secured services of commentators who would support his theory.  It would have been a far better program if it had been more objective.  After all, there was the white side of Reconstruction.  Especially the poor whites, farmers and so forth.  PBS can do better.

Gates has a known history of having an agenda.    That The Economist article mentions that the study it referenced also looked at the economic progress of white southerns that didn't own slaves  from 1870 until 1900 and they didn't do well at all.     That was one aspect that was interesting;  the well off white southerns recovered most of their wealth,  even though they lost the most (since slaves were the most valuable asset before the war),  and the whites that didn't have slaves, made little to no economic gains.

 

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I believe the whole program is four hours long with the concluding two hours to come

next week. I found it informative to a degree, filling in some of the details of the overall

period. The main theme that I saw was that white southerners did everything in their

power to return to the antebellum days short of slavery, which had been outlawed. I

got a laugh out of the minor point of poorboy Andrew Johnson taking revenge on the

planter class that he despised by making them come to him individually to receive pardons.

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Its totally a fascinating era. But books are the best way to describe it, hands down.

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8 hours ago, Vautrin said:

I believe the whole program is four hours long with the concluding two hours to come

next week.

These programs always seem too long. And they try to act like the definitive version of history, instead of being a springboard to thought-- letting others decide what history is for themselves.

I'd rather deconstruct and then reconstruct this whole "genre" of historical analysis.

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2 hours ago, TopBilled said:

These programs always seem too long. And they try to act like the definitive version of history, instead of being a springboard to thought-- letting others decide what history is for themselves.

I'd rather deconstruct and then reconstruct this whole "genre" of historical analysis.

Not sure what you meant by this, but sounds interesting.

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11 hours ago, Vautrin said:

I believe the whole program is four hours long with the concluding two hours to come

next week. I found it informative to a degree, filling in some of the details of the overall

period. The main theme that I saw was that white southerners did everything in their

power to return to the antebellum days short of slavery, which had been outlawed. I

got a laugh out of the minor point of poorboy Andrew Johnson taking revenge on the

planter class that he despised by making them come to him individually to receive pardons.

It is a very confusing era.  Almost as if there is the Civil War 1861-1865, the Second Civil War 1865-1876 and the Third Civil War 1876-1960's and beyond. 

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