Category Archives: History

Jefferson’s hypocritical views on race

So I’m reading this article in Jacobin magazine about U.S. and Native American relations during the early years of the republic when I came across this paragraph on Thomas Jefferson’s views on race-mixing between Indians and Caucasians.

Jefferson, like many national politicians between 1790 and 1820, insisted that the tensions on the frontier would ultimately be resolved through intermarriage between whites and Indians. “You will mix with us by marriage,” Jefferson told a visiting delegation of Delawares and Mohicans in 1808. “Your blood will run in our veins, and will spread with us over this great island.”

I doubt that he had the same views when it came to the African American population that was currently enslaved. Yes, he personally fathered mixed-race children with one of his slaves in Sally Hemmings but he was still a slave owner and I don’t believe he envisioned the same future between African Americans and Caucasians. 

The Native American genocide

Think about it, before Europeans arrived on the North American continent; the indigenous population numbered somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 million souls.

When Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Americas in 1492, on his quest for gold and silver, the Native population, which he erroneously called Indians, numbered an estimated 15 million who lived north of current day Mexico. It was, by all considerations, a thriving civilization. Three hundred and fifty years later, the Native American population north of Mexico would be reduced to less than a million. This genocide was brought upon the Natives by systematic mass murder and also by disease, notably smallpox, spread by the European colonists.

This is why Thanksgiving can never really be free of the stains of genocide.

Photo by confrontationalmedia

Excited to see The Kill Team tonight

I’ve seen this trailer for about a month or two now.  I get the feeling that this is going to be a truly riveting documentary.  This is a side of war that the public doesn’t often get to see and analyze.

Equal parts infuriating and illuminating, THE KILL TEAM looks at the devastating moral tensions that tear at soldiers’ psyches through the lens of one highly personal and emotional story. Private Adam Winfield was a 21-year-old soldier in Afghanistan when he attempted with the help of his father to alert the military to heinous war crimes his platoon was committing. But Winfield’s pleas went unheeded. Left on his own and with threats to his life, Private Winfield was himself drawn into the moral abyss, forced to make a split-second decision that would change his life forever.

Update – Amazing documentary. But it does pose the question as to what we as citizens must do to stop this sort of thing from happening in the armed forces.

We have to organize and go to our government and demand better. Adam Winfield tried to blow the whistle but the Army ignored his cries and in the end sent him to jail along with the real criminal, his leader in the unit.

We Need an Internet Archive for the Progressive Blogosphere

The liberal blogosphere to my knowledge first came into being around the year 2002, give or take a few years. Back then you had the upstarts like DailyKos, MyDD, Talking Points Memo, Oliver Willis, Smirking Chimp, AmericaBlog, Pandagon, Hullabaloo, Eschaton and many others; who began the top of what would become a long tail.

Many more blogs would be created and some would poke through into the A-list and the top of the tail in the years to come; blogs like The Huffington Post, Think Progress and Fire Dog Lake come to mind. During this time there was also a plethora of state based progressive blogs like My Left Nutmeg, The Daily Gotham, The Albany Project and Michigan Liberal to name a few.

The the era of the progressive blogosphere thankfully still continues. But throughout this era we’ve seen many blogs come and go. They cease publishing for a number of reasons, whether they be at the top of the tail or the bottom. Personally, I’m still here treading away somewhere at the upper-bottom of the tail I suppose. But I do this for the love of writing and the ink is cheap to buy. So onward I continue.

Yet what if I or thousands of others like me in the progressive blogosphere eventually decide to close up shop? What happens to all those posts and all those ideas? Is it all to be lost and forgotten? Some of the A-list blogs who have stopped publishing still pay their hosting fees to keep their sites up for posterity, but not everyone does that. I suppose if your blog was hosted with Google or WordPress you’re safe for now but they can always close down as other blog hosting sites have done in the past.

So what I’m proposing is that we start an archive of the progressive blogosphere. We archive every word of it–or as much as possible. I say this knowing that there is an Internet Archive in existence but their web crawlers only go so deep.

So we reach out to people and try to get their codebase and databases when we can and then we harvest the rest with software when we can’t. But that’s my idea. This way all that collective knowledge can be preserved and indexed.

Why you can never let conservatives win on reinterpreting history

Howard Zinn fought them in the United States. In Britain they aim to rewrite World War I.

There are no more eye-witnesses to the First World War, which began in 1914, so we are in for a centenary year (or perhaps four) of remembering it all at second-, third- and fourth-hand, and listening to some ugly debates. Schoolchildren in the U.K. learn about the causes of the First World War and of the Second—topics often used to introduce young people to the problems of historical truth and interpretation. Michael Gove, our education secretary, has announced that this commemorative year should be spent “battling left- wing myths that belittle Britain,” which are responsible for what he regards as dangerously unpatriotic satires, particularly the 1963 musical Oh! What a Lovely War and the 1989 BBC sitcom Blackadder Goes Forth. His counterpart or “Shadow” in the Labour Party, Tristram Hunt, a well-known historian, has responded angrily that “attempting to position 1918 as a simplistic, nationalistic triumph seems … foolhardy, not least because the very same tensions reemerged to such deadly effect in 1930.”

The origin of Memorial Day it’s not what you think

Thanks to MoveOn for relaying this tidbit of history to us.

From their Facebook page –

KNOW YOUR HISTORY: Memorial Day was started by former slaves on May, 1, 1865 in Charleston, SC to honor 257 dead Union Soldiers who had been buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp. They dug up the bodies and worked for 2 weeks to give them a proper burial as gratitude for fighting for their freedom. They then held a parade of 10,000 people led by 2,800 Black children where they marched, sang and celebrated.

Thanks to Abstrakt Goldsmith for this nugget of history that most of us never learned in school.

Thomas Jefferson as tyrant

Rather compelling NY Times piece on the slave master of Monticello.

Nor was Jefferson a particularly kind master. He sometimes punished slaves by selling them away from their families and friends, a retaliation that was incomprehensibly cruel even at the time. A proponent of humane criminal codes for whites, he advocated harsh, almost barbaric, punishments for slaves and free blacks. Known for expansive views of citizenship, he proposed legislation to make emancipated blacks “outlaws” in America, the land of their birth. Opposed to the idea of royal or noble blood, he proposed expelling from Virginia the children of white women and black men.

Thomas Jefferson the man will be continued to be debated for decades to come. But let us continue to peel away at the veneer of what has been built up about the man. For all his greatness and intellect he was deeply flawed in not being able to see the greatness in a fellow race of mankind.

Jefferson claimed he had “never seen an elementary trait of painting or sculpture” or poetry among blacks and argued that blacks’ ability to “reason” was “much inferior” to whites’, while “in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.” He conceded that blacks were brave, but this was because of “a want of fore-thought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be present.”

Yet Jefferson corresponded with the brilliant Benjamin Banneker a black genius of his time. How he could not see the error in his thinking is saddening.

via The Real Thomas Jefferson – NYTimes.com.