In a comment on my previous post, I was taken to task for pointing out the simple fact that Nathan Bedford Forrest, former Confederate General and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, disbanded the Klan a couple of years after its founding, when it proved itself to be a terrorist organization. In no way was I defending the Klan; far from it. I was simply pointing out an inconvenient truth that most historians would rather ignore.

Forrest was clearly no angel, but he did in fact disband the Klan, when it got out of hand, and a fair rendering of history should make that clear, which is all I was trying to do. If Forrest is to be reviled as the first Grand Wizard of the Klan, then he should be respected for disbanding it two years later.

If Forrest is rightly reviled for the massacre at Fort Pillow, he should also be respected as perhaps the greatest general and tactician either side produced in that bloody war. That was certainly Grant's opinion of him. Forrest may also have been the bravest, since he often fought at the head of his cavalry.

Yes, Forrest was a slave owner, but so were the majority of the Founders. That is no defense of Forrest, and it certainly is no defense of slavery, it is simply a fact. We need to try to understand by what twisted logic Thomas Jefferson could declare “all men are created equal”, and yet continue to enslave 200 human beings. This is the best I could come up with on that account in my book The Disappearing Cemetery:

Thomas Jefferson

Virginia beckons, even now

Dark earth upturned to heaving plow

A reverence for the land, I vow

To this I did my life endow

I gave my all to one true cause

To free this land from tyrant’s claws

But now am fallen for my flaws –

How swiftly dies polite applause

My enemies exaggerate

And draw dark marks upon my slate

So I am come to expiate

These charges laid on me of late

Indulge my pen, Good Sir, I pray

For speaking fills my mouth with clay

A man of parts in disarray

But once a god – or say they say

Yes, once a god – with lower “g”

The author of Our Liberty

But fallen now in history

For having failed to set slaves free

Or else for that on which fools dwell

Concerning love – how gossip sells!

No gentleman would kiss and tell

May gossips die and rot in Hell!

Forgive me this intemperate plea

But that has been my curse, you see

A man of Reason – nth degree

Yet Passion made a slave of me

Ill-chosen word, I must admit

And yet, that is the heart of it

For master must himself submit

To that which he would sooner quit

So of two minds, where should be one

How else explain the deeds I’ve done?

By my own hand I am undone

My shining star a sinking sun

I claim my sins, I’ll not deny

Nor Reason ever answer ‘why?’

But Phoenix rose, and so shall I

To shine again in starry sky

But let the sinless cast first stone

And judge me not on sins alone

Pray, let my greater deeds atone

Let not good be interred with bones

For I have learned this much, my Friend

That marble statues are not men

Though Good and Evil both portend

'Tis Good that triumphs in the end

When we turn historical figures into saints or satans, we cheat ourselves and posterity. In doing so, we turn them into caricatures and cartoons, rather than view them as men and women, with all their human foibles and flaws. We would do well to follow the example of Andrew Jackson's first biogrpaher, who called him an “atrocious saint”.

The same could be said of Forrest, as I tried to make clear with this poem in the same book:

Nathan Bedford Forrest

So you come to seek me out to learn what makes me tick

So you think a man who kills and likes it is plain sick

So what of you who comes to poke inside another’s head

And picks the flesh from off his bones and desecrates the dead?

First of all, I will admit, I did enjoy the fight

Particularly because the side I chose was in the right

You Yankee boys were quick to give the South all of the blame

But yo’r the ones who changed the rules when you tired of the game

I was not born of time and place to get to make the rules

I grew up poor and put upon by wealthy, privileged fools

But I was hard and held my ground and figured out a way

To play somebody else’s game and, by God, make it pay!

Then came some gentleman to say, “The game is over now;

You can no longer earn your bread upon some black man’s brow.”

While he sat idle at his desk and rode some poor man’s back

I saw no diff’rence save that one was white and one was black

I took to arms to keep my place, as any man would do

If being robbed of all his wealth and all his children’s, too

All that I earned through my device they wished to take away–

Damned right, I fought! And so would you, no matter what you say

By grace of God, I fought and lived, and not with timid heart

I grabbed the battle by the throat and tore their troops apart

I fought the war as I had fought to make my place in life

My saber running red with blood and plunging deep my knife

So now you come to seek me out and think you’re justified

In painting me maniacal and filled with foolish pride

But I did as all others did in that unholy Hell

And I submit my only sin was doing it too well

I confess, that after writing that, I looked up from the page and thought, "Where the hell did that come from?" I can't help but wonder if I was putting words in someone else's mouth, or they were putting words in mine. Be that as it may, I am not an apologist for Forrest, and certainly not for slavery. Evil is evil period, and it's hard to think of an evil worse than slavery, though extermination of a people may qualify.

Be that as it may, if we are to understand why there is still so much resentment over that war in the South a century and a half later, we would do well to acquaint ourselves with what the other side believes about those terrible times.

What went on before, during and after the Civil War was awful, but the history of that time is skewed. Like they say, history is written by the winners. If we are to learn from history, it must be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Views: 371

Comment by Tom Cordle on February 11, 2019 at 6:53pm

Ron  I don't suppose either of us is in any position get fully inside Jefferson's head, especially from this distance. My take? There is Jefferson the Founder, who made a deal with the Devil in order to ensure there would be a new nation, Jefferson the philosopher, who was a failure as a plantation owner, and Jefferson the man, who is revealed in his personal correspondence. To wit:

“Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever…”
—Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1782

“Nobody wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colors of men, and that the appearance of a want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence.” Thomas Jefferson to Banneker, August 30, 1791

“There is nothing I would not sacrifice to a practicable plan of abolishing every vestige of this moral and political depravity.”
—Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, September 1814

Jefferson had cause to tremble for his country, because by ducking the slavery question, the Founders guaranteed the Civil War. As for his willingness to sacrifice his own station in life to abolish slavery, I'm afraid he gave little evidence of that, since he owned 200 slaves at the time of his death and in his will freed only a handful of them.

If you'd like more insight into Jefferson and slavery, I recommend a book called "Those Who Labor For My Happiness" by Lucia C. Stanton.

Comment by Ron Powell on February 11, 2019 at 7:47pm

@AKA; "Go to hell"....!?

But, to your credit you're still here!

Surely you don't think that my remark applies to anyone who is still here wrestling with issues that are loaded at best...

 Perhaps the vitriol you site is ensconced in my willingness to go head to head with anyone who wishes to tell me how I should respond to the erroneous claptrap that is bandied about here from time to time...

Perhaps the idea that any black person would challenge any white person seems vitriolic to you...My problem with what goes on here is unsubstantiated speculation and conjecture passes for fact, truth, or proof...Then when I ask for citation people get insulted because they've been challenged...

For example you claim that I have gratuitously demeaned and insulted your intelligence in posts and/commentary. Yet you haven't offered one example of my having directed such expository writing at you personally or specifically...

If I call you out on something it's because it needed to be called out for what it is not for what you think it is...

If that offends you say so. State your case and let's have a go at it...

I'm sure that you're up to doing that, because you keep saying that you are...

If that challenge contains any vitriol at all, it's your perception not my mode or approach...

People here have a way of ducking , covering .and just plain running away from issues they are uncomfortable with or find disturbing...

One way of doing that is to accuse the person who frames the issue of vitriol, condescension, missing the point etc...

All nice ways of evading and avoiding meaningful and substantive interaction on the topic...

If you've got something to say in response to anything I've written, bring it...

I'm always ready for incoming...Perhaos that's something that some here just refuse to get used to or comfortable with...

I don't know for sure..It would have been interesting to hear why people felt that they had been "run off this site"..

Comment by Maui Surfer on February 11, 2019 at 8:04pm

Unlike you I KNOW Black Folks SBA, the small town somebody, sort of. There are many reasons why around 10 percent of any group feel differently, of course, they are always uneducated, uninformed of simply, like you, psychology confrontational. And, for your information in my younger days I did some serious ass whipping in Dogtown, LA on other people like me, those of color. Our SM Hawaiian Dojo was known as a place that accepted other groups to learn martial arts from Sensei Parker the Hawaiian Master, and occasionally it got out of hand, but, gang banging isn't something you could understand, much less participate in. Big Words, Little Woman.

Comment by Ron Powell on February 11, 2019 at 10:55pm

" I try my best to make allowances..."

Now there it is....

You're making white privilege "allowances", while I'm making a case...

Tom,  for a comprehensive view of Jefferson in support of my position:

BTW AKA this is how it's done...

You pick your spot and take your shot by rolling out your citations, references, and links....

No vitriol needed.....none is required in honest debate.....

Even where "allowances" are being made...

Comment by Ron Powell on February 12, 2019 at 5:44am

Tom, I am of the belief that actions do indeed speak louder than words, and while the passeges you cite demonstrate how Jefferson may have strained with the ambivalence of being a slave owning freedom fighter, his behavior portrays and betrays his utterances as duplicitous and hypocritical....

The evidence is pretty clear Jefferson behaved and conducted himself as most racist slave owners and slave traders of his time...right up to his death when he saw fit to set free only 5 of the nearly 20p human beings that he "owned".

In fact one of the passages you quote bear this out to wit:

“Nobody wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colors of menmm, and that the appearance of a want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence.” Thomas Jefferson to Banneker, August 30, 1791

If Jefferson believed black people to be "equal to those of the other colors of men", what need would there be of "proof" of that fact?

By the way Benjamin Banneker was an extraordinarily gifted mathematician and engineerwhose  design for a Capitol City for the new nation is the principal layout for what would eventually become Washington, D.C.

When you speak of "insights" into the Jefferson psyche, you would do well to take note of the fact that Jefferson wrote to Banneker expressing that Banneker was exceptional and essentially was not like the "others of his color".

A comment that I've heard personally more than once in my lifetime..

Comment by Ron Powell on February 12, 2019 at 5:54am

Benjamin BannekerBenjamin Banneker (1731-1806)

Without Benjamin Banneker, our nation's capital would not exist as we know it.  After a year of work, the Frenchman hired by George Washington to design the capital, L'Enfant, stormed off the job, taking all the plans.  Banneker, placed on the planning committee at Thomas Jefferson's request, saved the project by reproducing from memory, in two days, a complete layout of the streets, parks, and major buildings. Thus Washington, D.C. itself can be considered a monument to the genius of this great man.

Comment by alsoknownas on February 12, 2019 at 9:07am


 I'm not the writer who said anything about making allowances, so that part throws me off.

I'll wait awhile to try to converse with you again. Your blackness hasn't anything to do with my feeling at this point. I know you did not direct SBA to jump in ( I was so pleased when she showed up in her overalls and Doc Martin boots recently to declare that she would not continue her ways here, but once again she misattributes a statement and then goes off). I did not say I was truly tired of racism. That isn't even sensible. I did say I was tired of your approach, which still hasn't to do with racism. I meant I don't like you much lately. It was meant to be personal and perhaps insulting.

I'll wait until I can do better.

In the meantime this is as close to an olive branch as I have to offer.

Comment by Ron Powell on February 12, 2019 at 9:38am

@AKA; My approach is, has been, and always will be to tell it like it is.

No platitudes, no euphemisms, no watering down and no sugar coating...

I can see and understand how and why people can grow weary of the mantra however, consider what it must be lik4e for me to have to live it every minute of every day...

I don't have the luxury or the privilege of declaring that I'm tired of it and walking away....

In the fight against racism I've been given no rest, respite, or quarter...The fact is that I ask for none...

So, "Lay on MacDuff

and damned be him who first cries,

Hold, enough!"

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on February 12, 2019 at 10:07am

"...when she showed up in her overalls and Doc Martin boots..."

Wow.  You cower when Ron calls you on your white privilege, so you then immediately jump right into straight/male privilege?  You are really a sorry piece of work, AKA. 

I guess haters gotta hate, but I find it saddening that nary a damn person here will call you on your racial/gender/orientational prejudices other than Ron and I.  (and I'm sure they all get your "bib overalls & Doc Martin" references, they just won't admit it) 

Comment by Tom Cordle on February 12, 2019 at 11:52am

Ron If the word allowances offends you, strikes me you might be just a touch hypersensitive. I make allowances, you make allowances, we all make allowances, to do otherwise is to imagine everyone comes from the same place in life. If you're interested in dialogue, you're not going to get much by accusing every white person of being a racist who responds to you in a way you don't approve of. If your objective is to prove everyone who is a different color is racist, have at it, but that sounds like the definition of racism to me. If your objective is simply to win every point in every argument, you'll end up arguing with yourself.


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