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Have we forgotten that this country fought a "Great Civil War"

 in order to rid ourselves of Jeffersonian Democracy? 

 

 

Teflon Sense of History & Collective Sin

A Response to “The Dark Side of Obedience”

 A Letter from Wilson Moses 

 

 

Dear Rudy,

I have read your commentary at [your] site—
“The Dark Side of Obedience”

After some initial resistance, I have to accept your point about collective sin.  I have a friend and colleague, a black man, who refuses to accept any blame for America's foreign policy, despite the fact that he has served in the military. 

In my view, if African Americans accept U.S. citizenship, attend the schools, use the libraries, appeal to the police, sue our enemies, and register our deeds at the county court house, we have to accept the fact that we are up to our necks in the system. 

We have to accept blame for the crimes committed in our names.  We cannot scapegoat Lynndie England.   We cannot scapegoat General Sanchez or Secretary Rumsfeld.  We cannot scapegoat Dr. Rice or Secretary Powell. We cannot, as Jefferson did, scapegoat George III.  We cannot even scapegoat George Bush II.  So long as we are part of the system, we share the guilt. 

As you say, this country has a Teflon sense of history.   Nothing sticks.  Our motto is "That was then.  This is now."  Of course pseudo-history is always with us.  Try a Google-search on the words "Jeffersonian democracy" + Iraq.  You will find quite a few links.  Have we forgotten that this country fought a "Great Civil War" in order to rid ourselves of Jeffersonian Democracy? 

Oops!  I forgot.  The Civil War had nothing to do with the Jeffersonian slavery based economy; it arose from the irrepressible patriotic impulse of the American heroes, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, who resisted the intrusions of big government in Washington, and "beltway politicians," a bunch of liberals wanted to take away our guns and our freedoms.  

The Mexican War was fought in order to avenge the massacre at the Alamo, and because it was our manifest (self evident) destiny (came from God) to pave a pathway to the Pacific. Only a year later, after California had been justly and appropriately annexed, did gold become a factor in California history, that is in 1849. 

The Spanish/American war [What? That's not the same as the Mexican War?].   No, kids, it's not the same!   The Spanish American War happened like this:  Suppose you were a kid on the playground, and you saw a big bully (Spain) messin' with a little kid (Cuba), well you ought to step in and help.  Right?

[NPR interviewed a teacher-of-the-year laureate, who taught the Spanish American War with exactly this analogy]. 

And while you were at it, maybe you could sorta liberate the Pacific.  After all we had already "opened up Japan to free trade," and set up a democratic government in Hawaii.  So why not scarf up the Philippines, while we're liberating Cuba from the iron heel of Spanish rule. Never mind if the natives resist with a bitter guerilla war. (which is still remembered by Islamic jihadists in the Philippines, today)  [Hey wait a minute!  There ain't no Arabs in the Philippines.]   

No, kids, but there are, however, Muslims in the Philippines.  They have been there since the 13th century, and they have a historical memory of the recent Spanish American War, even if we Teflon-brained Americans do not.  The "Jihad against the Americans" in the appropriately named "Moorish lands" of the Philippines lasted from 1898 to 1946, when the Philippines were granted independence.  

How many of us, in teaching the history of the Philippines, make any mention of the jihad tradition?  How might American foreign policy in the middle east be interpreted by radical Muslims in the Philippines or by moderate Muslims in Indonesia? 

So Rudy, you have awakened my conscience.  Black historians can teach courses on black heroes struggling against the odds to triumph over American racism.  "It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do so."  "But, in a larger sense," I think I also have some obligations to place in the hands of my students the writings of the Great White Fathers.   

I want them to read in their own words of Thomas Jefferson's endorsement of Indian removal, Ulysses S. Grant's condemnation of the Mexican War, and Teddy Roosevelt's cheerful butchery on San Juan Hill.  If I do no more than supply them with the actual words, written by the Great White Fathers, that may have some effect.  It is not necessary for me to offer any liberal biased commentary at all, and far be it from me to do so.   The fair and unbiased presentation of the documents, will stick to the minds of some of my students.  

I have complete confidence, rooted in experience, that not all American brains are Teflon-coated.

Wilson Moses  http://php.scripts.psu.edu/dept/history/faculty/mosesWilson.php

posted 24 May 2004

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Report of the Research Committee
on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings
Thomas Jefferson Foundation


January 2000

Conclusions

Based on the examination of currently available primary and secondary documentary evidence, the oral histories of descendants of Monticello's African-American community, recent scientific studies, and the guidance of individual members of Monticello's Advisory Committee for the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies and Advisory Committee on African-American Interpretation, the Research Committee has reached the following conclusions:

Dr. Foster's DNA study was conducted in a manner that meets the standards of the scientific community, and its scientific results are valid.

The DNA study, combined with multiple strands of currently available documentary and statistical evidence, indicates a high probability that Thomas Jefferson fathered Eston Hemings, and that he most likely was the father of all six of Sally Hemings's children appearing in Jefferson's records. Those children are Harriet, who died in infancy; Beverly; an unnamed daughter who died in infancy; Harriet; Madison; and Eston.

Many aspects of this likely relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson are, and may remain, unclear, such as the nature of the relationship, the existence and longevity of Sally Hemings's first child, and the identity of Thomas C. Woodson.

The implications of the relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson should be explored and used to enrich the understanding and interpretation of Jefferson and the entire Monticello community.—Monticello

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Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: A Brief Account 

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom (1777), the third President of the United States (1801–1809) and founder of the University of Virginia (1819). He was an influential Founding Father and an exponent of Jeffersonian democracy.

Sarah "Sally" Hemings (Shadwell, Albemarle County, Virginia, circa 1773 – Charlottesville, Virginia, 1835) was a mixed-race slave owned by President Thomas Jefferson through inheritance from his wife. She was the half-sister of Jefferson's wife, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson by their father John Wayles. She was notable because most historians now believe that the widower Jefferson had six children with her, and maintained an extended relationship for 38 years until his death. When Jefferson's relationship and children were reported in 1802, there was sensational coverage for a time, but Jefferson remained silent on the issue. Four Hemings-Jefferson children survived to adulthood. He let two "escape" in 1822 at the age of 21 and freed the younger two in his will in 1826.

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Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy

By Annette Gordon-Reed

Attorney Gordon-Reed (law, New York Law Sch.) presents a lawyer's analysis of the evidence for and against the proposition that Jefferson was the father of several children born to his household slave Sally Hemings. Gordon-Reed is not concerned with Jefferson and Hemings as much as she is with how Jefferson's defenders have dealt with the evidence about the case. Her book takes aim at such noteworthy biographers as Dumas Malone, who has been quick to accept evidence against a liaison and quick to reject evidence for one.—Library Journal

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Remember Thomas Jefferson's Betrayal—Bill Moyers—02 July 12—Jefferson himself was an aristocrat whose inheritance of 5,000 acres, and the slaves to work it, mocked his eloquent notion of equality. He acknowledged that slavery degraded master and slave alike, but would not give his own slaves their freedom. Their labor kept him financially afloat. Hundreds of slaves, forced like beasts of burden to toil from sunrise to sunset under threat of the lash, enabled him to thrive as a privileged gentleman, to pursue his intellectual interests, and to rise in politics.

Even the children born to him by the slave Sally Hemings remained slaves, as did their mother. Only an obscure provision in his will released his children after his death. All the others—scores of slaves—were sold to pay off his debts.

Yes, Thomas Jefferson possessed "a happy talent for composition," but he employed it for cross purposes. Whatever he was thinking when he wrote "all men are created equal," he also believed black people were inferior to white people. Inferior, he wrote, "to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind." To read his argument today is to enter the pathology of white superiority that attended the birth of our nation.

So forcefully did he state the case, and so great was his standing among the slave-holding class, that after his death the black abolitionist David Walker would claim Jefferson's argument had "injured us more, and has been as great a barrier to our emancipation as any thing that has ever been advanced against us," for it had ". . . sunk deep into the hearts of millions of the whites, and never will be removed this side of eternity."

So, the ideal of equality Jefferson proclaimed, he also betrayed. He got it right when he wrote about "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" as the core of our human aspirations. But he lived it wrong, denying to others the rights he claimed for himself. And that's how Jefferson came to embody the oldest and longest war of all—the war between the self and the truth, between what we know and how we live.

So enjoy the fireworks and flags, the barbecues and bargain sales. But hold this thought as well: that behind this Fourth of July holiday are human beings who were as flawed and conflicted as they were inspired. If they were to look upon us today, they most likely would think as they did then, how much remains to be done.—readersupportednews

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Jefferson and his estate "disposed of" 600 slaves in his lifetime.   He was a slave trader.  This explains his opposition to the African Slave Trade.   Like many Virginians he wanted to maintain prices in the slave market.—wjm

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

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#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

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#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

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#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Jefferson's Pillow

The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism

By Roger W. Wilkins

 In Jefferson's Pillow, Wilkins returns to America's beginnings and the founding fathers who preached and fought for freedom, even though they owned other human beings and legally denied them their humanity. He asserts that the mythic accounts of the American Revolution have ignored slavery and oversimplified history until the heroes, be they the founders or the slaves in their service, are denied any human complexity. Wilkins offers a thoughtful analysis of this fundamental paradox through his exploration of the lives of George Washington, George Mason, James Madison, and of course Thomas Jefferson. He discusses how class, education, and personality allowed for the institution of slavery, unravels how we as Americans tell different sides of that story, and explores the confounding ability of that narrative to limit who we are and who we can become. An important intellectual history of America's founding, Jefferson's Pillow will change the way we view our nation and ourselves.

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.

"Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The Women Jefferson Loved

By Virginia Scharff

According to historian Scharff, Thomas Jefferson’s “most closely guarded secrets, the most fiercely maintained silences, all had to do with the women he loved.” It stands to reason that in order to fully understand a man as tremendously gifted and as deeply flawed as Thomas Jefferson, one must also understand and appreciate the women who collectively formed the foundation of his life and shaped the nature of his legacy. Although Jefferson’s mother, daughters, granddaughters, wife, and enslaved mistress were all fascinating women who played distinct roles in his life and legend, they were also creatures of their time and place, living, enduring, and playing by the rules of a patriarchal, male-dominated society. By studying these women Scharff not only opens a window to the heart and soul of one of our nation’s founders but also resurrects their own contributions to our nation’s history.—Booklist

The chapter on Sally Hemings does not add much new information, but it certainly lays out the facts we know in a comprehensive and well organized fashion. Much like Professor Gordon-Reed, the author carefully explains the strange dual-family existence that prevailed at Monticello, and how servants integrated with the Jefferson family as they all lived together. As regards the two daughters, they too emerge from the historical darkness and we learn a great deal about them and their important role in TJ's life and activities. As I read each chapter, I learned all manner of things of which I had not been aware, and I have read a lot of material on TJ. So women are central to the story, but there is also an abundance of additional facts and perspectives that very much enhance the book. —Ronald H. Clark

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Related files:  Uncle Jeff and His Contempos   Teflon Sense of History   Race in US Politics Syllabus  Banneker and Jefferson   Thomas Jefferson Negro Family 

Nuking Westerns and White Manliness     Teflon Sense of History   The Dark Side of Obedience   Benjamin Banneker