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Racist Myths About Robert E. Lee
Author Michael Meeropol
Date 18/08/18/16:25
Hit Count 1105


History Professor Destroys GOP Senate Candidate's Racist Myths About Robert E. Lee and the Civil War
Chris McDaniel tried to whitewash the cause of Robert E. Lee. An Iowa professor resoundingly schooled him.
By Matthew Chapman / AlterNet

AMONG THE numerous white supremacists running for higher office this year is Chris McDaniel, who is challenging Mississippi Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in the special election for Thad Cochran's old seat.

McDaniel, an attorney, talk show host, and state senator with longtime support from the Tea Party, has a history of toxic racial views. He has consorted with neo-Confederates, and in his previous run for Senate in 2014, he accused Cochran of "voter fraud" because black people voted for him in the primary as if they were synonymous.

On Wednesday, McDaniel took things further by posting a glowing defense of Confederate commander Robert E. Lee to Facebook.

"Here's the irony," he wrote. "Robert E. Lee was the most decorated soldier in the U.S. Army. He was a man of unimpeachable integrity. Lincoln offered him command in the Union Army, but Lee refused only because his loyalty was to Virginia. Lee opposed both secession and slavery. And yet to the historically illiterate left, a man who opposed both slavery and secession has come to symbolize both slavery and secession."

This is an odd characterization of a man who both owned slaves and led an army of traitors who opened fire on U.S. troops in the name of slavery and secession.

But McDaniel did not go unchallenged. In fact, Kevin Gannon, a history professor at Grand View University in Des Moines, IA, posted a scathing rebuttal on Twitter to McDaniel's historical revisionism:

Hi there-Civil War historian here. So, uh...this is really, really far from "The Truth." Got a minute? /1 https://t.co/p0p714upiy
Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

2/ Lee certainly did not believe slavery was wrong. In an 1856 letter to his wife, he said "The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race."
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Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

4/ If you read Elizabeth Prior Brown's biography of Lee, you'd learn that Lee broke up every family on his plantation by 1860 by either renting or selling them apart. He once ordered an enslaved man whipped, and then had brine poured over his back. No "Christian Gentleman" here.
Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

Gannon then proceeded to debunk McDaniel's assertion that Lee opposed secession.:

6/Bear in mind that Lee forsook the oath he took to the Constitution and Union when he left the US Army, *where he was a career officer*, to join the Confederacy. One does not oppose secession and then take such a dramatic action to fight for...secession. pic.twitter.com/79AgOhJFyO
Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

Then, Gannon proceeded to debunk one of the primary "Lost Cause" myths: that Lee's cause, and the cause of the Civil War generally, was not slavery:

8/Don't just take my word for it-read Virginia's secession ordinance, condemning the federal govt for actions taken "*not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.*" [The emphasis is in the original document]
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Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

10/I'm not going to relitigate secession, because it's crystal clear from the documents and other evidence from the period that secession and the preservation of slavery were inextricably linked in the eyes of Confederates, whether or not they "owned" slaves themselves.
Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

12/To deny that someone like Bob Ed Lee supported slavery or secession is to buy into the post-Civil War propaganda where eminent white southerners like Lee sought to softpedal their prewar and wartime stances to make themselves more palatable for re-entry into civil society. pic.twitter.com/yAYI9KRG43
Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

14/The local chapter of the Freedmen's Bureau repeatedly charged Washington College students with abducting and raping Black girls. Lee--the PRESIDENT OF THE COLLEGE--never responded to any of the charges or cooperated with the Bureau to investigate.
Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

16/What @senatormcdaniel is doing here is giving you the santized version of Lee, the "marble man" myth-it's an image that has no basis in fact and is easily disproven by the historical record. I mean, this stuff isn't secret. pic.twitter.com/QaRjyYTBMX
Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

18/But to do so, to deny Lee was a supporter of slavery and secession, is to deny that the Civil War occurred because a substantial white regional minority refused to abide by the results of a legal election because they saw it as threatening their "right" to own other people pic.twitter.com/Hvwz5Ou8k7
Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

Gannon closed out with this thought:

19/ So, @senatormcdaniel, you have a curious way of defining "The Truth," but I suspect you're more interested in dog-whistling to anti-Black racists than you are in historical accuracy. Because your assessment of Lee flies in the face of all available historical evidence. pic.twitter.com/S5pnQSXcFQ
Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

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