Writer’s offense misplaced

May 10, 2009

I regret that Willie Mae Worthey was offended by Old South Days at the University of Alabama. Those hoop skirts were an American and European fashion and not Southern at all. Nor were they worn only by aristocratic females living on plantations ("Gone with the Wind" was a movie and not a documentary).

The identification of the Confederate uniform with slavery alone is at best a half-truth or rather a one-fourth one since most white Southerners owned no slaves. With 385,000 plus slave owners, it is more proper to think about a farm South with mixed commerce and industry.

As for racism, this legacy was not slavery’s alone. Negative attitudes about blacks were long prevalent in the North, including the Republican Party of Lincoln.

The latter’s campaign slogan of "Free Soil, Free Labor, and Free Men" meant no blacks at all in the territories, free or slave and, in the end, emancipation was racial and practical as much as humanitarian. It was predicated in fact upon keeping the freedmen and their families down South rather than allowing for their mass migration to the North so that black male votes could help pass Republican Party economic measures long opposed by the South and the other North before 1860.

In the end, black freedom was not maintained because abolition was a means to defeat the South and its defense of the limited government principles of 1776 and 1787.

Kirk Wood
Montgomery