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Southern Slavery: As It Was Paperback – June 1, 1996

1.9 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Paperback, June 1, 1996
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"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 43 pages
  • Publisher: Canon Press; 1 edition (June 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 188576717X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1885767172
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 1.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,959,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This book is an excellent example of the results of fixed thinking. The authors start by taking the Bible as absolute, unequivocal truth in its every word. No interpretation, no context, no symbolism - to them, it's as clear-cut as the DMV manual. They give several examples where a conservative Christian, like Jerry Falwell, was put on the spot by being forced to justify slavery, since the Bible clearly permits it. The typical response, even from Biblical literalists, is to suddenly start interpreting. Arguments given usually center on the differences between Biblical times and today. Slavery was so pervasive and necessary to the functioning of the ancient world, that eliminating it would have made about as much sense as eliminating automobiles and electricity today. Of course, only the most liberal commentators give the same analysis of, say, homosexuality. But the shared assumption, among both believers and non-believers, is that slavery is an unequivocal evil.

So you have to hand it to the authors of "Southern Slavery: As It Was" for not falling for this equivocation. Because if the Bible is wrong about slavery, it could be wrong about anything - therefore, the Bible must be correct with regard to slavery. The authors draw a distinction between "slave trading" (which the Bible forbids, and according to them, the Northerners engaged in) and "slave owning," which the Bible allows, as long as masters treat their slaves well. "Treating them well," of course, does not include setting them free and giving them their back pay; apparently, it only means giving them free room, board, and medical care, and speaking politely to them.
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9 Comments 19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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I thoroughly enjoyed this booklet but was surprised at how short it was given its subject. I had been hoping for a larger treatment of the subject. Hence, four stars.

I had long suspected that the modern narrative concerning Southern Slavery had been skewed by the politics of race in our own day. Even during my own lifetime (I'm now 66) I've seen the unmistakable demise of black families by their enslavement to the welfare state. I agree with the author's conclusion that "We are forced to say that, in many ways, the remedy which has been applied has been far worse than the disease ever was." It is plain to me that the hostility between the races today (that is, racism) is much greater than it was in antebellum America. This seems to me an indisputable fact. After reading this booklet, it is understandable just how justifiably enraged Southerners were at the publication of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." It was an abolitionist hit piece intended to magnify occasional abuses as though they were normal every day occurrences. The authors also correctly point out that the secularization of the North was much more underway than it was in the South.

I do disagree, though, with the author's implication that the South lost the war because of a Divine judgement. They lost because they were out-manned, out-gunned, out-produced and out-generaled and nobody came to their aid.
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Suppose you are a son of the South, you consider yourself to be a good Christian, and (like most of us) would like to consider the deeds of your ancestors in the best light possible. In that case, you are probably at the mercy of conflicting impulses, since the sine qua non of the Confederate States of America was the preservation of slavery, and virtually all mainstream Christians today are in agreement that slavery as practiced in the United States was an evil institution. One cannot honor one's heritage without compromising one's heartfelt religious principals, and vice versa. What is one to do?

Well, the more prevelant route is that taken by most devotees of the Lost Cause mythos, which is that secession and the CSA was never about slavery, but rather "states' rights," whatever the hell that might mean. If one argues that rationale, all your opponent has to do is bring up either the Dred Scott decision or the Fugitive Slave Act, both of which utterly trample the notion of states' rights into the dust. In short, the states' rights argument raises as many paradoxical questions as it hopes to answer.

Another route is that taken by authors Wilson & Wilkins, who argue that 1) slavery was not contrary to godliness, and in fact it was the abolitionist movement which was contrary to the will of God; and 2) in any case, the slaves by and large were well-treated, well-fed and content with their existence. Oh yes, and it was the fault of the Northern slave trade that slavery continued in the South in any case, so if there is an original sin of slavery, it is to be found somewhere near Boston --- gosh, we haven't heard this argument before, have we?

The scholarship here, simply put, sucks.
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11 Comments 72 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By A Customer on June 6, 2001
Among this books several theses are that, generally speaking, blacks were better off as slaves than they are today; that most blacks liked being slaves; that the ante bellum South was the most godly society in the world; and that slavery was "used" by northerners to provoke a "revolution." This book certainly isn't politically correct, and that's refreshing in its own way. Wjat is is, though, is a staggering exercise in drawing massive conclusions from minimal evidence. This book isn't history. It's neo-Confederate propaganda. Pity the "ministers" who wrote this didn't have much interest in getting things right. (They also pretend as if abolitionist propaganda has been swallowed whole ever since the war, which is patent nonsense. Everyone who knows anything about the relevant historiography knows that it's widely recognized that the abolitionists skewed the facts.)
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