I’m still reading this stuff, and it’s just unreal. It’s like I’ve overturned a rock and all these southern nationalist whackos are streaming out. How about this story about a book called Southern Slavery, As It Was, written by League of the South board member Steve Wilkins:
Students at one of the area’s largest Christian schools are reading a controversial booklet that critics say whitewashes Southern slavery with its view that slaves lived “a life of plenty, of simple pleasures.”
Leaders at Cary Christian School say they are not condoning slavery by using “Southern Slavery, As It Was,” a booklet that attempts to provide a biblical justification for slavery and asserts that slaves weren’t treated as badly as people think.
William Ramsey has more on this little booklet at the History News Network. It seems the booklet spawned a response from a couple of University of Idaho history professors, called Southern Slavery As It Wasn’t: Professional Historians Respond to Neo-Confederate Misinformation. Ramsey was one of those professors. As he writes:
Wilson’s and Wilkins’ booklet, published by Wilson’s “Canon Press” in Moscow, argues that southern slavery was not only sanctioned by the Bible but, thanks to the patriarchal kindness of their wise evangelical masters, a positive, happy, and pleasant experience for the majority of southern blacks. Wilson and Wilkins are quite specific about the many benefits of slavery for African-Americans, and they conclude that southern slaves genuinely appreciated those benefits and supported the system that provided them. As such, they claim that “slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War [the Civil War] or since.” (p. 38). Their praise of the institution is almost unbounded in places. “There has never been,” they argue, “a multi-racial society that has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.” (p. 24). They repeatedly deride the consensus view of slavery that has emerged over the last fifty years of academic scholarship as “abolitionist propaganda” and “civil rights propaganda.” Most of the modern problems confronting the United States, they feel, are the logical result of the theological heresies implicit in the abolitionist movement and its unfortunate victory over the South in the Civil War.
Ramsey goes on to detail the controversy over this book in Idaho, home to Wilkins’ co-author, Douglas Wilson, who is a minister:
In addition to marking out skirmish lines, the controversy made it clear that Douglas Wilson was more than just a local troublemaker and southern partisan. He had established two “Reformed” evangelical churches in town whose congregations, thanks to nationwide recruitment efforts, now represented 10 percent of Moscow’s entire population. He had founded a k-12 school called “Logos” that taught history from a “Biblical Worldview” and an unaccredited college called “New Saint Andrews,” where he had installed himself as “Senior Fellow of Theology.” Other faculty members at the college included Wilson’s son Nate, his brother Gordon, and son-in-law Ben. Wilson, it turned out, had cultivated an empire of “classical” schools based on a biblical worldview that included over 165 private academies around the country, all of which purchased educational materials published by his personal “Canon Press” in Moscow, Idaho, or affiliated “Veritas Press” in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His empire of private academies paled, however, in comparison to his real passion for home-schooling. Wilson’s view of slavery currently services thousands of home-school families around the country with materials published by Canon and Veritas Presses.
Information about Wilson’s ninth annual “history conference” in February 2004 turned out to be the final straw for many residents. Wilson had scheduled himself as the keynote speaker, praising the southern racist ideologue R.L. Dabney, but he had also scheduled as co-speakers white supremacist League of the South co-founder Steve Wilkins and the anti-gay Tennessee minister George Grant, notorious for advocating the extermination of all homosexuals in his book Legislating Immorality.. University of Idaho students were especially outraged that the conference was surreptitiously scheduled to take place on their own campus in the Student Union Building. Wilson had apparently paid good money for the facility well in advance, and nobody had balked at taking it. Student anger, however, ultimately forced the president and provost of the University to issue a joint disclaimer of the event, which tried retroactively to take the moral high ground by denouncing efforts to “recast or minimize the evils of slavery.”…
Wilson’s “history” conference in February, 2004, saw the arrival of League of the South co-founder Steve Wilkins, anti-gay minister George Grant, and nearly 800 fundamentalist culture warriors intent on challenging the secular worldview of northern Idaho (and touring the New Saint Andrews College facility with their home-schooled teenagers). Wilkins readily acknowledged to local reporters that the League of the South hoped to secede from the United States and create a new Confederate Nation dedicated to states’ rights, Biblical Law, and the restoration of the “cultural hegemony” of Christian southerners, but he angrily denied that it was a racist or white supremacist organization, as claimed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. To make his point, he organized a special lecture, entitled, “The Sin of Racism,” in which he condemned all forms of racial discrimination and reiterated that southern slavery was not a racist institution but one based on mutual affection and social harmony. Many Idahoans found it unpersuasive.
This goes a whole lot deeper than just a few cranks howling in the wind. There is a whole subculture of these people, and they’re not just in the south. They’re also very well connected and interspersed with religious right groups, especially the hardcore Calvinists who share their hatred of Catholicism and much more. Stay tuned for much more, I suspect.