Monday, September 14, 2020

Confederate Memorials – On Manhood

You can’t throw a rock in the Deep South without hitting a Confederate memorial. Georgetown, South Carolina is on the main road between Myrtle Beach and Charleston. In the Old Baptist Cemetery, you will find one of those standard ‘soldier-on-a-pillar’ memorials with the usual flowery tribute to the ‘Lost Cause.’

Company A, 10th South Carolina Infantry Regiment Memorial [1891], 
Old Baptist Cemetery, Georgetown, SC (28 February 2010) 

ERECTED BY THE WOMEN OF GEORGETOWN, 
ASSISTED BY FRIENDS ELSEWHERE, 
AND DEDICATED TO THE MEN WHO DIED, 
OR FACED DEATH, IN THE WAR THAT 
ASSERTED CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY 
AND AFFIRMED OUR MANHOOD. 
A.D, 1891. 

It’s so often the ‘Women of’ or the ‘Daughters of’ doing the erecting. The men do the manly things like fight wars, defend honor and beat slaves. The women take care of the erections. The Georgetown women erected their monument and singled out those qualities that matter to them in that heroic, valiant, gallant time – death, liberty and manhood. What is it about manhood?

South Carolina Monument to the Confederate Dead [1879] 
State Capitol Grounds, Columbia (26 June 2008) 

Let’s get real here. So many prefer to remember the facts of American slavery differently…often to protect our politics and delicate sensibilities. One example I believe should be understood better is about when the whole “Middle Passage” era ended…for the United States, anyway. We stopped importing Africans in 1808 when federal law finally prohibited it…over a half-century before the actual practice of slavery ended. Imagine that.

Yet, this country’s population of enslaved people grew from 894,000 in 1800 to 3.95 million by 1860. These human beings (though the proponents of slavery didn’t consider them as such) were just another commodity, like livestock. Selling off children and breaking up families was part of the deal…”Nothin’ personal, Darlin’ it’s just bid-ness.” The country was expanding and we wanted that cheap labor so entrepreneurs grew it…and moved to end competition from the importers. What looks like a fine step toward moral decency was probably just a cold economic protectionist decision.

“Buy our home-grown slaves. They’re used to it here. They already know your language.”

Tell me when I get to that ‘Heritage’ thing that’s so important to preserve.

Confederate Memorial Monument [1898], 
Alabama State Capitol Grounds, Montgomery (18 October 2008) 

“WHEN THIS HISTORIC SHAFT SHALL CRUMBLING LIE 
IN AGES HENCE, IN WOMAN’S HEART WILL BE, 
A FOLDED FLAG, A THRILLING PAGE UNROLLED, 
A DEATHLESS SONG OF SOUTHERN CHIVALRY.” 

We shouldn’t sugar-coat it anymore. The population of enslaved people grew because they were bred and encouraged to reproduce…and one of the primary stud services in that regard were the plantation owners, their sons and overseers. Why do you think modern-day African-American people have such a range of skin tones? It’s because their great grandmothers were routinely and systematically raped by white men on the plantation. And since their system was pretty absolute about what made you officially Black, the child that resulted was enslaved from birth. A half or a quarter or an eighth white heritage didn’t matter. “One Drop” was all you needed to be certified ‘Black’…with all the ‘benefits’ attendant thereto.

We don’t talk about that part much because our Puritan WASP-y heritage discourages discussion of anything that relates to (‘s-e-x’). Check out the history of slave breeding in this country. There are hundreds of ‘slave narratives,’ personal accounts written by freed slaves. Then think about all those monuments to Southern Womanhood…those pure, stalwart defenders of the culture, heritage and propriety. They were so understanding knowing their men were regularly ‘shtupping’ the help.

So, this is the ‘Southern manhood’ part. Not Thomas Jefferson taking Sally Hemmings along to Paris for a few months of dress-up escort duty. This is assaulting one of your slaves and terrorizing everyone else. Sometimes, these rapes occurred in the open to impress upon the rest of the staff who’s in charge. So many benefits after all…increase the stock; control the herd and get your rocks off.

Maybe now we’re at the proud ‘Heritage’ part, yes?

Women of the Confederacy Monument [1917] 
Mississippi State Capitol, Jackson (16 May 2012) 

(I’ve taken some liberty with the original intent of the sculpture)

The scene is the pending death of Captain Rhett Whiteman, mortally wounded while defending the states’ rights to enslave people. To the left, Miss Scarlett Whitebottom, the picture of Southern Womanhood, presents Rhett with the palm of glory (instead of medical aid) to show he’s triumphant even in death. Between the two, ‘Fame’ recognizes Miss Scarlett with a laurel wreath, acknowledging her contribution to the righteous Rebel cause.

Confederate Women’s Monument [1914], 
North Carolina Capitol Grounds, Raleigh (28 June 2008) 
(Removed June 2020) 

Inscribed -                                                          
TO THE 
NORTH CAROLINA 
WOMEN OF THE CONFEDERACY 

Translation -                  
Young (white) boy holds sword and wistfully thinks 
ahead to manhood as the wise mature (white) woman 
reads to him the glorious history of whiteness 

Like so much of what we prefer to believe ended when it legally ended, white men didn’t stop screwing black women because they were no longer slaves. A famous example is the venerated late Senator Strom Thurmond. The segregationist icon has his own monument on the South Carolina capitol grounds and it was dedicated while Strom was still dozing off at his Senate desk at age 96. However, after he died, they had to update his family info upon the revelation that he impregnated a 16-year old servant. At least he was kind and supported her…in secret of course.

Inscription on Strom Thurmond Memorial [1999], 
South Carolina Capitol, Columbia (26 June 2008) 

Four children became five as daughter Essie Mae’s name was added in 2004. I guess there wasn’t enough room to add ‘FORNICATOR’ to the top line.

Maybe we’re at that ‘Proud Heritage’ part now… 

2 Comments:

At 9:40 PM, Blogger Tana Suter said...

The inhuman treatment is so infuriating and today we have the gall to tell Blacks to just get up and get a job, work harder, whatever and it will all be fine. Shame on us!

 
At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Jack Vest said...

Well and truly said.

 

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