YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

November 14, 2015

No boundaries

David K. Flowers blog, photo credit 123rf.com

David K. Flowers blog, photo credit 123rf.com

It is difficult to wrench my focus away from the massacre in Paris, to concentrate on the ongoing turmoil in our most important universities, but try I must.

(First read this blog: https://clarespark.com/2014/11/27/what-black-community/.) By far the best course I took at UCLA while I pursued my doctorate was a seminar on slavery and Reconstruction taught by Margaret Washington (now at Cornell University but known as Maggie Creel when I studied with her).

Margaret Washington

We read histories written by Kenneth Stampp, Stanley Elkins, Herbert Gutman, Eugene Genovese, James Oakes, Peter H. Wood, Frank Owsley, and many more specialists on the history of the antebellum, Civil War, and postbellum South, looking often at opposing views regarding institutions and events. Dr. Creel was a strong feminist, and at least when I studied with her, she was no black nationalist. UCLA’s famously “Red” history department did not appreciate her many merits, and she left after receiving the offer from Cornell University.

It was obvious from all my graduate studies that the history of the “peculiar institution” was central to the study of US History, and in later reading, I read the major novels of Thomas Dixon, and caught up on the most recent thinking of such academic superstar historians as David Brion Davis, David Blight, Seymour Drescher, Eric Foner, and their contemporaries, all of whom were writing during the rise of black nationalism (the latter ideology a departure from Martin Luther King Jr.’s focus on integration).

I remain puzzled over their reluctance to study the transformation of the 1960s civil rights movement from integrationism to (divisive) nationalism, though I believe that the transformation of the leftist line against the very concept of “race” was central to their silence on a subject of central importance to their profession, not to speak of contemporary social movements that accept without demur separatist and “multicultural” “African-American” histories. (Do we really want to legitimate Pan-Africanism?) These eminent intellectuals accepted without protest the lack of boundaries between MLK Jr. (and his contemporary Ralph Bunche) and their most famous opponent, the now glorified Malcolm X.

In short, I believe that these prominent professors had gone with the flow. No boundaries, unlike the line drawn by Maggie Creel in 1984.

Prize-winning book by Margaret Washington on Sojourner Truth

Prize-winning book by Margaret Washington on Sojourner Truth

It was also in graduate school, that I witnessed an angry black student walking out on a lecture by Ira Berlin (by then, another prominent scholar of slavery, whose talk was focused on the creativity of many slaves, who planted their own vegetable gardens to supplement an inadequate diet furnished by their owners). This furious militant did not want to hear about slavery at all. He was obviously a warrior of the type presaging “Black Lives Matter.”

Turn now to Peter H. Wood’s major contribution, The Black Majority (on South Carolina), that I reread a short time ago. My major take away from that impressively researched work was the ongoing rivalry between black and white workers; i.e., bitter labor competition was the lingering effect of slavery. This focus on class was a welcome diversion from the now constant concentration on a supposed “institutional racism,” not to speak of the endless leftist attack on “American exceptionalism,” as if, for the protesters, blacks were still toiling on plantations. Labor competition also explains why some white policemen (themselves often of working class/urban ethnic origin) might be quick on the trigger.

Back to boundaries and the lack of them. The cry of black militants (and their lefty allies) against an obviously overstated “white supremacy” suggests that they too have no boundaries between past and present. It is clear that the fights over slavery shaped American history, but many Americans have given their lives to stop the racist practices of the past, not least in the Civil War and in the 1960s too..

One can only speculate on the parenting that misshaped today’s “social justice” warriors demanding reparations and revolution. Their liberal professors and various delinquent parents should take responsibility for their children’s deficient educations. In a misguided revolt against “puritanism” (New England is often blamed for the introduction of slavery) professors and parents alike have driven their students and children into primitivism and a misguided life that celebrates the escape into terror.

It is not only Islamo-fascists we should fear today.

More boundaries, please.

David K. Flowers blog, photo credit 123rf.com

David K. Flowers blog, photo credit 123rf.com

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