Sunday, April 07, 2013

United Daughters of the Confederacy defends the Black Codes of 1866, a general white supremacist view of African Americans, African American men as rapists, and Reconstruction

One of the major activities of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) in supporting white supremacy is their  promotion of a white supremacist narrative of Reconstruction. Generations of UDC members promoting this view of Reconstruction is why so many segregationists denounced the modern civil rights era of the 1950s and 60s as the 2nd Reconstruction.

In the Dec. 2012, Vol. 75 No. 11, issue of UDC Magazine, the official magazine of the UDC, on pages 11-14, is an article "Reconstruction, 1865-1877," by Retta D. Tindal, former Historian General of the UDC, 2010-2012. 

The article is the usual white supremacist view of Reconstruction where white southerns are supposedly oppressed by Reconstruction.

African Americans men are implied to be a menace as rapists in this passage. 

Added to their other worries was the Southern woman's great fear of the shantytowns that sprung up in almost every town. Newly liberated Negroes were not prepared for their freedom and wandered from town to town, sometimes living in shacks and makeshift tents in great congregations on the edges of towns. They, too, were hungry, sick and unsure of their fate. Negroes greatly out-numbered the whites, and the women were terrified to pass the shantytowns. 
The story of Reconstruction is the story of African Americans being violently attacked by the Ku Klux Klan, The Knights of the White Camellia, Red Shirts and being terrified by these groups.  This implied threat of rape is evidently to justify to the UDC members opposition to Reconstruction. 

The Black Codes are defended as reasonable and as being done for the benefit of African Americans to care for them. 
Enter the Black Code. Modeled after the Northern vagrancy and apprenticeship laws. the Code granted basic civil rights, excluding the right of suffrage, the right to site on juries and the right to testify against whites. Punishment for crimes were severe; whipping was permitted for recalcitrant minors. All Negroes, except landowners, were forbidden to own weapons, and marriage between races was prohibited. Without special permit, a Negro was still confined to the jobs of field laborer or house servant. When a Negro agreed to a work contract, he was once again a "servant," his employer was his "master," and the servant was unable to leave the master's premises without permission.
Exactly what basic civil rights an African American would have after all these restrictions on their freedoms would be small indeed comparable to those of prison inmates I suppose. Excepting that prison inmates aren't whipped and don't have to work for their meals. 

Opposition to the Black Codes is presented as being unreasonable and the 14th amendment as the result. 
Northern reformers and radicals, who had been deprived of an contact with field hands, protested that the Code limited the Negroes' civil rights and used this as an excuse to oppose the President's reconstruction plans and further hinder the south. These radicals screamed that the South was reviving slavery. 
It seems from Tindal's description of the Black Codes it was indeed close to slavery, but Tindal evidently sees there was some difference. 

Much of the article is the usual complaints over Reconstruction. At the end of the essay five major results are  listed. No. 2 is in regards to African Americans. They are still problems in the mind of Tindal. 

2. The problem of the Negro was compounded to a greater degree than before the war. While it is a fact that the Negroes gained freedom and citizenship because of the war and Reconstruction, almost all of them were ill-equiped to support themselves and make sound political decisions. ... As slaves, they had been fed, clothed, and nursed. As free men, their health declined because of poor nutrition and lack of medical care. 
I would like to suggest that African Americans weren't the problem but instead the problem was former slave owners attempting to re-establish a regime of white supremacy which they unfortunately succeeded in doing.

The UDC hasn't changed their view of Reconstruction since the early 20th century if not before. What is changed is some of the language and euphemisms adopted. Africans Americans aren't called child-like or emotionally unprepared, but in Tindal's article, "bound emotionally to the mores of the antebellum South, and took many generations for the emotional ties to be severed." 

This article will not cause the Museum of the Confederacy to reconsider their association with the UDC. It will not cause Kevin M. Levin to reconsider his views of the UDC nor continue his "Romance of Reunion" view of the Civil War. 
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