Aftershock: Beyond the Civil War (4 of 9)





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Published on Jul 6, 2010

Presented by the History Channel. They own all rights to this, and have the right to tell me to get rid of it if they so declare.

From the back cover:

"According to the history books, the Civil War officially ended in 1865 with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate army. But on the streets of a newly reunited nation, another fierce battle was just beginning.

In 1866, the year immediately following the end of the war, America was supposed to be reuniting, healing its wounds, and moving past years of civil unrest. However, a closer look into this historic time reveals a sinister snapshot of a discordant nation caught in the midst of deadly race riots and angry insurgencies. In this compelling program, THE HISTORY CHANNEL examines the disturbing reality behind the murder, terrorism, and chaos that marked the uncertain period of Reconstruction in America. While a new government struggled to gain control, the subjugation of "free" black men and women continued in the former Confederate states - terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan were formed, and widespread riots in Memphis and New Orleans left hundreds dead.

AFTERSHOCK: BEYOND THE CIVIL WAR provides a revealing look into the true horror of the Civil War aftermath - a story which, until now, has gone largely untold."

Now a message from me:

This is one of my favorite History Channel documentaries. I feel that the Civil War played a major role in harming the relationship between North and South segments of the nation, but I feel Reconstruction---and it's terrible mishandling by the likes of Andrew Johnson---is ultimately responsible for the extreme racism that still permeates some of the South even today.

The Civil War is an extravagant story, one of a war waged over ideals, and controversial in arguing whether it was initially fought over the right of slavery or the right of states versus the central government. In actuality, it was both---to say slavery did not play a major role in the war is like saying stopping Hitler was not the major role in the United States' entry into World War II.

I used to be convinced that slavery was a waning system in the South, and that industrialization helped along by the North would gradually lead to a cosmopolitan South that would likely be able to end slavery over a gradual period of time with very little racial tensions such as Reconstruction had.

After a lot of reading and lecturing, I learned that slavery in 1860 was as powerful an institution as it had always been, even if there were slightly fewer slaveholders. I learned this pivotal fact which, by itself seems almost too obvious to be of note, and yet in the context, I feel stupid for having never thought of it before:

Just because a Southerner did not own slaves did not mean they did not WANT to own slaves.

Read the writings of people like John C. Calhoun, Roger Taney, James Henry Hammond, Frederick Law Olmsted, George Fitzhugh, Alexander Stephens, etcetera.

These Southerners were not apathetic or exhausted with slavery---they LOVED slavery. They called it their "Peculiar Institution". They believed (maybe honestly, maybe facetiously) that blacks NEEDED to be enslaved, for only in slavery could they be properly "civilized". Slavery was not something that could be so easily cast aside in the name of "states rights vs federal rights" -- The Civil War was about slavery. If you ever needed to compile a list of reasons why the war began, slavery must be at the very top.

But leaving aside slavery, here is Reconstruction, the one thing that, while maintaining the abolition of slavery, completely undermined much of what many suffered and died for in the war that preceded it. It can only be out of genuine hatred of Southerners, genuine stupidity, or deliberate sabotage that such events could have proceded as they did under Andrew Johnson.

Reconstruction was a disaster.

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