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African American History


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#1 mweb08

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 04:19 PM

This is an appropriate day to start this thread (also check out the Juneteenth thread that The Epic started in the Holidays section).

 

As a social studies teacher and learner, I'd like this thread to be something several people contribute to and learn from. We'll see how well that works and if anyone actually is willing to engage in any of the history. I will start out simply by sharing something that has sparked a great deal of controversy, even though a strong majority of people that are upset about it likely haven't even read any of it (the word snowflake may apply here, so don't be a snowflake).

 

So here's a link to the 1619 Project: 

The 1619 Project - The New York Times (nytimes.com)

 

Here's a downloadable version if that's what works for you:

1619 Project : The New York Times : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

 

Here's a link to the corresponding curriculum:

The 1619 Project Curriculum | Pulitzer Center

 

Again, I know people have issues with this, and if you're one of them, that's fine, but I challenge you to actually read it if you haven't done so, and secondly, think about why it upsets you.

 

If you have done those two things and you want to offer up critiques, that's great.

 

Overall though, with this award winning work and anything else that gets posted in here, I hope people challenge themselves. Challenge yourself to learn our collective history. Challenge yourself to learn things that don't fit into your narrative of our history. Lastly, be willing to learn things that challenge your views on the present day.

 

That last one is key because as much as some prefer to ignore or gloss over this, the past has a strong connection to the present. Don't let ignorance of the past distort your views of the present. 

 

Oh and we have an amazing museum down in DC to explore if you haven't already done so (plus there's virtual sources as well):

National Museum of African American History and Culture | A museum that seeks to understand American history through the lens of the African American experience. (si.edu)

 


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#2 mweb08

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 09:58 PM

Clint Smith says it better in his new book:
https://twitter.com/...4482490370?s=19
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#3 mweb08

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 11:53 PM

One new resource that I'm excited for as an educator and learner is Crash Course Black American History.

Some may be familiar with Crash Course History, which does a good job of teaching dense and nuanced topics in roughly 10 minute segments.

Here's the preview for this new spin-off featuring the aforementioned Clint Smith:
https://youtu.be/xPx5aRuWCtc

I can very much relate to him when he mentions how little he learned in school on this topic. I really was quite ignorant on African American history after I graduated high school. Therefore I was rather ignorant on the impact of said history. Can anyone else relate to that?
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#4 You Play to Win the Game

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Posted 20 June 2021 - 10:43 AM

Graduating in Carroll County, yes I can definitely relate to that. We were taught that the Civil War, while containing an element of slavery, was primarily about states rights.
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#5 mweb08

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Posted 20 June 2021 - 11:01 AM

Graduating in Carroll County, yes I can definitely relate to that. We were taught that the Civil War, while containing an element of slavery, was primarily about states rights.


I definitely got some of the lost cause BS too. From what I recall, post Civil War was perhaps even more problematic as I didn't learn much of anything other than the Civil Rights Movement, which lacked the proper context of all the history that led up to it.

I really had little understanding of how much our accrued history negatively impacted African Americans to this day. Becoming better educated on that greatly informs my current views on race in America. I feel like much of the opposition to my current views consists of people that are not malicious, but basically are in the position I was in when I simply didn't know the vast impact because I hadn't learned it.

#6 mweb08

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Posted 19 August 2021 - 04:35 PM

I am sure many people have been eagerly awaiting a new post in this thread. Well wait no longer!

 

I will begin today with something that is related to the tweet from How The Word Is Passed by Clint Smith, which I've purchased and I'm an eagerly looking forward to read. The book I want to lean on to further introduce this topic is Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen.

 

I will let him do the talking. This is the intro to Chapter 5: "Gone With The Wind"

 

Perhaps the most pervasive theme in our history is the domination of black America by white America. Race is the sharpest and deepest division in American life. Issues of black-white relations propelled the Whig Party to collapse, prompted the formation of the Republican Party, and caused the Democratic Party to label itself the “white man’s party” for almost a century. One of the first times Congress ever overrode a presidential veto was for the 1866 Civil Rights Act, passed by Republicans over the wishes of Andrew Johnson. Senators mounted the longest filibuster in U.S. history, more than 534 hours, to oppose the 1964 Civil Rights bill. Thomas Byrne Edsall has shown how race prompted the sweeping political realignment of 1964-72, in which the white South went from a Democratic bastion to a Republican stronghold. Race still affects politics; George W. Bush won just 11 percent of the black vote but 57 percent of the white vote in 2004.


Almost no genre of our popular culture goes untouched by race. From the 1850s through the 1930s, except perhaps during the Civil War and Reconstruction, minstrel shows, which derived in a perverse way from plantation slavery, were the dominant form of popular entertainment in America. During most that period Uncle Tom’s Cabin was our longest-running play, mounted in thousands of productions. America’s first epic motion picture, Birth of a Nation; first talkie, The Jazz Singer;, and biggest blockbuster ever, Gone With the Wind, were substantially about race relations. The most popular radio show of all time was Amos ‘n’ Andy, two white men posing as humorously incompetent African Americans. The most popular television miniseries ever was Roots, which changed our culture by setting off an explosion of interest in genealogy and ethnic background. In music, race relations provide the underlying thematic material for material for many of our spirituals, blues numbers, reggae songs, and rap pieces.


The struggle over racial slavery may be the predominant theme in American history. Until the end of the nineteenth century, cotton--planted, cultivated, harvested, and ginned mostly by slaves--was by far our most important export. Our graceful antebellum homes, in the North as well as in the South, were built largely by slaves or from profits derived from the slave and cotton trades. Black-white relations became the central issue in the Civil War, which killed almost as many Americans as died in all our other wars combined. Black-white relations were the principal focus of Reconstruction after the Civil War; American’s failure to allow African Americans equal rights led eventually to the struggle for civil rights a century later.

 

He goes on from there to further discuss the significance of race throughout our history, how prevalent race and racism have been in our culture, economics, domestic and foreign policy, and how we have generally been taught a false narrative in regards to all this, sometimes more so than others.

 

We can dive further into what he has to say in this chapter and the book at large later, but for now, let's skip to the end of the chapter focusing on the aftermath of the Civil War, a period known as Reconstruction, which many Americans know little about and of what we do know has largely been driven by narratives that have often dominated our books and schools has been inaccurate and purposely racist:

 

Today’s textbooks show African Americans striving to better themselves. But authors still soft-pedal the key problem during Reconstruction, white violence.The figures are astounding. The victors of the Civil War executed but one Confederate officeholder, Henry Wirz, notorious commandment of Andersonville prison, while the losers murdered hundreds of officeholders and other Unionists, white and black. In Hinds County, Mississippi, alone, whites killed an average of one African American a day, many of them servicemen, during Confederate Reconstruction--the period from 1865 to 1867 when ex-Confederates ran the governments of most Southern states. In Louisiana in the summer and fall of 1868, white Democrats killed 1,081 persons, mostly African Americans and white Republicans. In one judicial district in North Carolina, a Republican judge counted 700 beatings and 12 murders. Moreover, violence was only the most visible component of a broader pattern of white resistance to black progress.


Attacking education was an important element of the white supremacists’ program. …


Almost all textbooks include at least a paragraph on white violence during Reconstruction. Most tell how that violence, coupled with failure by the United States to implement civil rights laws, played a major role in ending Republican state governments in the South, thus ending Reconstruction. But, overall, textbook treatments of Reconstruction still miss the point: the problem of Reconstruction was integrating Confederates, not African Americans, into the new order. As soon as the federal government stopped addressing the problem of racist whites, Reconstruction ended. Since textbooks find it hard to say anything really damaging about white people, their treatments of why Reconstruction failed lack clarity.


Into the 1990s, American history textbooks still presented the end of Reconstruction as a failure of African Americans. … Actually, black voters voted more wisely than most white voters. To vote Republican during Reconstruction was in their clear interest, and most African Americans did, but some were willing to vote for those while Democrats who made sincere efforts to win their support. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of white Southerners blindly voted for white Democrats simply because they stood for white supremacy.


Because I, too, “learned” that African Americans were the involved problem of Reconstruction, reading Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma was an eye-opening experience for me. Myrdal introduced his 1944 book by describing the change in viewpoint he was forced to make as he conducted his research.


When the present investigator started his inquiry, the preconception was that it had to be focused on the Negro people….But as he proceeded in his studies into the Negro problem, it became increasingly evident that little, if anything, could be scientifically explained in terms of the peculiarities of the Negroes themselves….The Negro problem is predomantly a white...problem.


This is precisely the understanding many nonblacks still need to achieve.

 

The end of that is paramount. Further on that going into a time period where race has generally been glossed over in our teachings of American History:

 

Focusing on white racism is even more central to understanding the period Rayford Logan called “the nadir of American race relations”: the years between 1890 and 1940 when African Americans were put back into second-class citizenship. During this time white american, North and South, joined hands to restrict black civil and economic rights. …



It is also crucial that student realize that the discrimination confronting African Americans during the nadir (and afterward) was national, not just Southern. Few textbooks point this out. Therefore, most of my first-year college students have no idea that in many locales until after World War II, the North, too, was segregated: that blacks could not buy houses in communities around Minneapolis, could not work in the construction trades in Philadelphia, would not be hired as department store clerks in Chicago, and so on. As late as the 1990s and 2000s, some Northern suburbs still effectively barred African Americans. So did hundreds of independent sundown towns more than half a century after the Brown decision. 


Even The American Adventure forgets its own good coverage of the nadir and elsewhere offers this simplistic view of the period: ‘The years 1880-1910 seemed full of contradictions….During Reconstruction many people tried hard to help the black people in the South. Then, for years, most white Americans paid little attention to the blacks. Little by little, however, there grew a new concern for them.” The trouble is, many white high school graduates share this worldview. Even if white concern for blacks has been only sporadic, they would argue, why haven’t African Americans shaped up in the hundred-plus years since Reconstruction ended? After all, immigrant groups didn’t have everything handed to them on a platter, either.


It is true that some immigrant groups faced harsh discrimination, from the NO IRSH NEED APPLY signs in Boston to the lynching of Italian Americans in New Orleans to the pogroms against Chinese work camps in California. Some white suburban communities in the North shout out Jews and Catholics until recent years. Nonetheless, the segregation and physical violence aimed at African Americans has been of a higher order of magnitude. If African Americans in the nadir had experienced only white indifference, as The American Adventure implies, rather than overt violent resistance, they could have continued to win Kentucky Derbies, deliver mail, and even buy houses in white neighborhoods. Their problem was not black failure or white indifference--it was white racism.


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#7 mweb08

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Posted 19 August 2021 - 04:54 PM

The conclusion of this chapter (emphasis mine):

 

Although formal racial discrimination grows increasingly rare, as young Americans grow up, they cannot avoid coming up against the rift of race relations. They will encounter predominantly black athletic teams cheered by predominantly white cheerleaders on television, self-segregated dining rooms on college campuses, and arguments about affirmative action in the workplace. More than any other social variable (except sex), race will determine whom they marry. Most of their friendship networks will remain segregated by race, and most churches, lodges, and other social organizations will be overwhelmingly either black or nonblack. The ethnic incidents and race riots of tomorrow will provoke still more agonizing debate.

 

Since the nadir, the climate of race relations has improved, owing especially to the civil rights movement. But massive racial disparities remain, inequalities that can only be briefly summarized here. In 2000, African American and Native American median family incomes averaged only 62 percent of white family income; Hispanics averaged about 64 percent as much as whites. Money can be used to buy many things in our society, from higher SAT scores to the ability to swim, and African American, Hispanic, and Native American families lag in their access to all those things. Ultimately, money buys life itself, in the form of better nutrition and health care and freedom from danger and stress. It should therefore come as no surprise that in 2000, African Americans and Native Americans had median life expectancies at birth that were six years shorter than whites’.

 

On average, African Americans still have worse housing, lower scores on IQ tests, and higher percentages of young men in jail. The sneaking suspicion that African Americans might be inferior goes unchallenged in the hearts of some blacks and whites. It is all too easy to blame the victim and conclude that people of color are themselves responsible for being on the bottom. Without causal historical analysis, these racial disparities are impossible to explain. 

 

When textbooks make racism invisible in American history, they obstruct our already poor ability to see it in the present. The closest they come to analysis is to present a vague feeling of optimism: in race relations, as in everything, our society is constantly getting better. We used to have slavery; now we don’t. We used to have lynchings; now we don’t. Baseball used to be all white; now it isn’t. The notion of progress suffices textbook treatments of black-white relations, implying that race relations have somehow steadily improved on their own. This cheery optimism only compounds the problem, because whites can infer that racism is over. “The U.S. has done more than any other nation in history to provide equal rights for all,” The American Tradition assures us. Of course, its authors have not seriously considered the levels of human rights in the Netherlands, Lesotho, or Canada today, or in Choctaw society in 1800, because they don’t mean their declaration as a serious statement of comparative history--it is just ethnocentric cheerleading.

 

High school students “have a gloomy view of the state of race relations in American today,” according to nationwide polls. Students of all racial backgrounds brood about the subject. Another poll reveals that for the first time in this century, young white adults have less tolerant attitudes toward black Americans than those over thirty. One reason is that “the under-30 generation is pathetically ignorant of recent American history.” Too young to have experienced or watched the civil rights movement as it happened, these young people have no understanding of the past and present workings of racism in American society.


 

Educators justify teaching history because it gives us perspective on the present. If there is one issue in the present to which authors should relate the history they tell, the issue is racism. But as long as history textbooks make white racism invisible in the twentieth century, neither they nor the students who use them will be able to analyze race relations intelligently in the twenty-first.

 

What I bolded relates to something I have said on here, and which people got upset at me although my intention was not to upset or offend. What I said was that if one partially blames African Americans for the vastly inferior outcomes that exist today, then they're effectively saying that African Americans, as a group of people, are inferior to whites. Again, that's not meant to offend those that have said that or think that, it's meant to get people to understand the logical conclusion of what they're saying/thinking. Also, part of the point of the book is to show that this conclusion is not people's fault, it is the outcome our education has system has generally produced. 

 

How to address this issue is through learning more about our history as a country, especially as it relates to race. Hopefully this thread can be a good place for that. 

 

Again, thoughts and contributions from others are encouraged and appreciated. 


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#8 mweb08

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Posted 20 August 2021 - 10:35 AM

Two more quotes that stand out to me:

 

In omitting racism or treating it so poorly, history textbooks shirk a critical responsibility. Not all whites are or have been racist. Moreover, levels of racism have changed over time. If textbooks were to explain this, they would give students some perspective on what caused racism in the past, what perpetuates it today, and how it might be reduced in the future.


Although textbook authors no longer sugarcoat how slavery affected African Americans, they minimize white complicity in it. They present slavery virtually as uncaused, a tragedy, rather than a wrong perpetuated by some people on others.

...

 

The emotion generated by textbook descriptions of slavery is sadness, not anger. For there’s no one to be angry at. Somehow we ended up with four million slaves in America but no owners. This is part of a pattern in our textbooks: anything bad in AMerican history happened anonymously. Everyone named in our history made a positive contribution (except John Brown, as the next chapter shows). Or as Frances FitzGerald put it when she analyzed textbooks in 1979, “In all of history, there is no known case of anyone’s creating a problem for anyone else.”


Certainly the Founding Fathers never created one. “Popular modern depictions of of Washington and Jefferson,” historian David Lowenthal points out, “are utterly at variance with their lives as eighteenth-century slave-holding planters.”

 

 

Those lines regarding bad things happening but no one causing them is something that is reiterated throughout the book. We have often treated our history as an exceptional one and our leading figures as heroes; thus, when there is a tragic element of our history, we have often refused to hold those responsible, you know, actually responsible. 

 

Some people like myself like to think about being on the right side of history, but with American history, that is rarely a concern other than amongst some of the actual historians and history buffs that move past idolism. This is because we were consistently taught that we as a country, specifically as a white Christian country, were almost always on the right side of history. This is even true regarding things that should be hard to teach that way such as this country's treatment of Native Americans and African Americans, but if we want to tell our history as if America is a hero and it has constantly progressed, then we end up with a telling that amounts to a bad thing happened, but it's not as bad as it may seem, and we fixed it. 

 

Of course more recently there has been changes as to how we teach our history, including African American history, but we have seen a substantial backlash to that.

 

I'll leave the other quote for the next post.


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#9 mweb08

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Posted 20 August 2021 - 10:40 AM

This is talking of how Reconstruction, which is the time period after the Civil War, which of course slavery was the primary cause (more on that at a later time), had been taught in our country and how that affected Professor Loewen's African American students' views of their ancestors and even themselves:

 

Partly because many party members and leaders did not identify with the war effort, when the United States won, Democrats emerged as the minority party. Republicans controlled Reconstruction. Like slavery, Reconstruction is a subject on which textbooks have improved since the civil rights movement. The earliest accounts, written even before Reconstruction ended, portrayed Republican state governments struggling to govern fairly but confronted with immense problems, not the least being violent resistance from racist ex-Confederates. Textbooks written between 1890 and the 1960s, however, painted an unappealing portrait of oppressive Republican rule in the postwar period, a picture that we might call the Confederate myth of Reconstruction. For years black families kept the truth about Reconstruction alive. … As those who knew Reconstruction from personal experience died off, however, even in the black community the textbook view took over.


My most memorable encounter with the Confederate myth of Reconstruction came during a discussion with seventeen first-year students as Tougaloo College, a predominantly black school in Mississippi, one afternoon in January 1970. I was about to launch into a unit on Reconstruction, and I needed to find out what the students already knew. “What was Reconstruction?” I asked. “What images come to your mind about the era.?” The class consensus: Reconstruction was the time when African Americans took over the governing of the Southern States, including Mississippi. But they were too soon out of slavery, so they messed up and reigned corruptly, and whites had to take back control of the state governments. 


I sat stunned. So many major misconceptions glared from that statement that it was hard to know where to begin a rebuttal. African Americans never took over the Southern states. All governors were white, and almost all legislatures had white majorities throughout Reconstruction. African Americans did not “mess up”; indeed, Mississippi enjoyed less corrupt government during Reconstruction than in the decades immediately afterward. “Whites” did not take back control of the state governments; rather, some white Democrats used force and fraud to wrest control from biracial Republican coalitions.


For young African Americans to believe such a hurtful myth about their past seemed tragic. It invited them to doubt their own capability, since their race had “messed up” in its one appearance on American history’s center stage. It also invited them to conclude that it is only right that whites be always in control. Yet my students had merely learned what their textbooks had taught them.



#10 mweb08

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Posted 20 August 2021 - 03:14 PM

Much more can be discussed regarding how we have been taught history and how the problems with that have impacted us, but let's get to more of the actual history:

Crash Course: Black American History #1 (check out the preview in post #3 if you haven't already)
https://youtu.be/S72vvfBTQws
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#11 mweb08

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 09:18 AM

I haven't been keeping up on this as it seems there's not much interest. I will try to be more active with it though.

Now something that many people have been interested of late regarding this topic is how it is taught. With that in mind, here's an article from a fellow Baltimore City social studies teacher that addresses that: https://www.baltimor...jllq-story.html
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#12 Mackus

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 11:25 AM

I haven't engaged but have been reading the stuff you've been posting/linking and appreciate the effort.



#13 mweb08

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 11:27 AM

Good to know. Thanks Mac

#14 mweb08

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 12:14 PM

A follow up to that last article, which anyone following may have read, since it's in the 1619 Project.

https://www.nytimes....an-schools.html

I do use that article in the African American Studies course I teach.

#15 mweb08

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 10:35 AM

An excellent thread on MLK Day. An ncredibly needed perspective for so many in this day and age.

https://twitter.com/...feZN1__lIg&s=19

#16 mweb08

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 11:20 AM

This, from that thread, is a point I've made before on here and something a lot of white people should reflect on:

I left them with this: People who oppose today what he stood for back then do not get to be the arbiters of his legacy. The real Dr. King cannot be commodified, homogenized, and white-washed and whatever side you stand on TODAY is the side you would have been back then.
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#17 mweb08

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Posted 03 May 2022 - 05:56 PM

Something you have likely heard a lot about today actually finds its source in racism.

 

As a person that is sometimes accused of making everything about race, this is even new and somewhat surprising to me.

 

For the 1-2 people that read this, enjoy your history lesson:

 

https://www.politico...ns-107133/?s=09



#18 weird-O

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Posted 31 May 2022 - 01:17 PM

Something you have likely heard a lot about today actually finds its source in racism.

 

As a person that is sometimes accused of making everything about race, this is even new and somewhat surprising to me.

 

For the 1-2 people that read this, enjoy your history lesson:

 

https://www.politico...ns-107133/?s=09

That was interesting to read. I was a child when all this was happening, so there's no way I would have known this tucked away truth, if I hadn't read this story.


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#19 weird-O

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Posted 31 May 2022 - 01:20 PM

Graduating in Carroll County, yes I can definitely relate to that. We were taught that the Civil War, while containing an element of slavery, was primarily about states rights.

I'm also a Carroll County grad, so same here. It's interesting how easily accessible information (see: Truth) can be hidden or ignored. 


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Posted 31 May 2022 - 01:28 PM

I'm just seeing this thread, so apologies if I'm flooding it. I enjoy going to Civil War battlefields and learning about it. Last month, I went to Vicksburg, MS. to see the battlefield and explore the town's history. I found  a tour and decided to reserve a time slot. As it turns out, our tour guide was a direct descendent of Jefferson Davis. That was a unique experience. I've taken to being a bit hesitant to share some of these experiences, because I'm sure it leaves some people with the impression that I'm somehow a southern sympathizer, when I'm really just historically curious. Rebelling against one's country, to the point of secession, is a bold move, and I makes me curious about what would drive someone to that point.       


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