BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Bone and Sinew of the Land’ recovers some American history that actually has been erased

When it so happens—more regularly now than before but never yet regular enough—that a cheap zinc or bronze cast of some semi-famous slaver is yanked from its pedestal in the middle of a city night, or when a suburban school board in broad daylight votes to no longer compel students to adorn their bodies with the name and imagery of a particular child trafficker, invariably there rises the cry:

“You’re erasing history! You’re censoring our Confederate past! You’re rewriting collective memory to sanitize it!”

This, of course, is worse than nonsense and akin to defending the maintenance of NAMBLA-installed plaques to Jerry Sandusky. It should be regarded as such whether it’s an argument being made by angry, open bigots in Facebook comment sections or under the auspices of the National Review.

But some worthy portions of our history have indeed been buried, erased, and minimized. Harvard’s Anna-Lisa Cox’s latest book The Bone and Sinew of the Land is an example of what it actually looks like when that sort of history is excavated for a popular audience, and what a positive effect that can have.

Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Bone and Sinew of the Land’ recovers some American history that actually has been erased”

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Texas named its counties for a lot of horrible people. Mathew Ector is one of them

As memorials to slavers and other Confederate heroes have been removed from public and otherwise challenged in recent months, a common complaint is that, by doing this, we’re forgetting our history or erasing it.

In my home county, we still have the historical marker its namesake:

Created February 26, 1887 from Tom Green County organized January 15, 1891, named in honor of Matthew Duncan Ector 1822-1879. Member of the Texas legislature a confederate officer and outstanding jurist Odessa, The County Seat.

Indeed, Ector (his first name was actually spelled Mathew) was a Confederate brigadier general and later a Texas high court judge. As a jurist, he’s most notable for re-affirming racist marriage laws after Reconstruction.

In 1878’s Charles Frasher v. the State of Texas, presiding judge Ector wrote:

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The South will rise again, then Sherman will reincarnate

It’s the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, all this year and for the next four, and it started, really, really, with April 12 and Fort Sumter. Now we’re getting into the sort of thing mustachioed Southern men can actually re-enact, and be interviewed about while dressed up on the History Channel.

(Or rather, be interviewed about on the History Channel as it existed 15 years ago.)

This is the good part of the Civil War, the one everyone likes with its gallantry and troop movements, and “Oh, brother-against-brother; they had such courage on both sides, and who really knows who was in the right?”

Continue reading “The South will rise again, then Sherman will reincarnate”