Sunday, September 30, 2012

Worse Than Slavery

I am teaching this image in my course on Reconstruction this winter. Note the individuals: a black family cowers beneath the clasping hands of the White League and the KKK. In the distance a lynched man hangs from a tree. The captions read: "The Union as it Was," "This is a White Man's Government," "The Lost Cause,"  and "Worse than Slavery." What are your thoughts?


  1. One restraint on the killing of slaves was the fact that even the most offensive black was another white man's property. To kill a black was to deprive a white man of what belonged to him. Hence, punishment of blacks typically involved torture, not murder.

    After "freedom", this restraint was removed. Blacks could now be killed for insurrectionary acts like voting. In the long view, this period may not have been "worse than slavery", but for the black family that became the object of terroristic extermination it must have seemed that way.

    It is good that your students understand the dedication of so many of our ancestors to kill in order to maintain the "White Man's Republic". Lest those without Southern roots feel a sense of superiority, you could photohop in a Chinese immigrant or Native American family.

    My students never seem to appreciate my own reminder that before 2001, most terrorist killings had been carried out by men who looked similar to me in order to advance the cause of white supremacy.

  2. I was incredibly impressed by my high school students who referenced the juxtaposition of "the Union as it was" and "the Lost Cause" to make the argument that it was civil rights, not the Confederacy, that was truly the lost cause.