Far-right Org Wants Textbooks to Portray Southern Whites as Victims after the U.S. Civil War

A right-wing organization long involved in the Texas textbook wars wants new history textbooks to portray the treatment of former Confederate states and white southerners after the U.S. Civil War as similar to the British treatment of its colonies in the years leading up the American Revolution.

“Radical Reconstruction (1867-1877) featured numerous serious constitutional problems, many of which reprised Parliament’s violation of American colonial rights before 1776.”

That’s right: Educational Research Analysts, the East Texas outfit founded by the late Mel and Norma Gabler, complains that the people and states that plunged our nation into its bloodiest war — a war they launched in defense of a “right” to enslave millions of human beings — were the real victims in that war and its aftermath. And similar treatment of the colonies, it argues, justified the American Revolution and independence from Great Britain.

The organization criticizes U.S. History textbooks for failing to teach students about these “similarities”:

“U.S. History texts sidestep these stark similarities between the American Revolution and Radical Reconstruction. They ignore the British constitutional basis for colonial revolt in the former. They blame only white racism for opposing the latter.”

Educational Research Analysts is one of the oldest right-wing textbook censorship organizations in the country. Before their deaths in the early 2000s, the Gablers often got media attention with claims that public school textbooks were filled with hundreds of errors, although many of those so-called “errors” were mostly ideological objections to content. They rejected evolution and sex education and insisted that textbooks promote their version of Judeo-Christian morality, a conservative interpretation of the Constitution, and a right-wing view of economics and regulation. And they sometimes succeeded in bullying publishers into bowing to their demands to change textbook content.

Neal Frey, a longtime textbook reviewer for the Gablers, now runs the organization in Longview. He continues to have the ear of far-right members of the State Board of Education, which adopts textbooks for Texas public schools. The state board is set to adopt new social studies and history textbooks this year. The deadline for publishers to submit those textbooks for state approval was April 18.

Educational Research Analysts’ “critique” of how Reconstruction is covered in current history textbooks notes that the American Revolution was justified by British policies like taxation without consent, basing troops in the colonies, improper seizure of private property, and punishment without trial by jury. It then argues that former Confederate states and white southerners suffered from similar outrages during Reconstruction. The organization’s list of complaints includes:

  • Denying the vote to “Southerners who had voluntarily aided the Confederacy” in its bloody rebellion and levying “huge tax increases” on the South.
  • “Depriving the South of its natural leaders” by barring ex-Confederates from public office if they had previously “sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution” — an oath, it’s important to note, that they broke by taking up arms against their country.
  • Enforcing a military occupation of the South. ERA fails to note that white southerners had, in the first years after the war ended, engaged in systematic efforts to oppress newly freed African Americans through Black Codes and other measures, including violence and terror campaigns that southern authorities often ignored or abetted.
  • Transfering private property “previously owned by Southern whites” to newly freed African Americans, a practice ERA claims “unconstitutionally punished the previous landowner.” Of course, those landowners had previously enslaved the African Americans who received that property.
  • Requiring former Confederate states to ratify the 14th Amendment — which gave citizenship to freed African Americans — before rejoining the Union.

ERA goes on to say — correctly — that Reconstruction failed to “achieve racial justice.” But that’s largely because progress toward that end collapsed with the end of Reconstruction. After Union troops were withdrawn — ending an occupation criticized by ERA — southern whites proceeded snuff out almost completely the legal rights and protections African Americans had gained.

It’s clear that the right’s campaign to rewrite history will be a major part of the battle over new social studies textbooks this year. That’s why TFN will be devoting substantial resources to that battle. We’ll have more on that soon.

7 thoughts on “Far-right Org Wants Textbooks to Portray Southern Whites as Victims after the U.S. Civil War

  1. What is clear is that despite the facts, despite indisputable historical accounts, the white Southern male wants to reestablish his primacy in the world. What is also clear is that these people want to again fight a fight that was lost because their cause was not just and was not based on humane rules and logic.
    The fact that these people want to assert fallacious logic is indicative of what the Far Right is doing to this nation, working to overturn almost 250 years of progress and return to a time when owning people was an acceptable occurrence, when people other than the wealthiest of the white males were considered trash and scum of the earth. No value was placed on human life other than the wealthiest, this is what these white male idiots want for this nation. The reason? They actually believe that their interpretation of their holey book, the buybull, gives them the right to believe and act this way.

    1. Hi photoshock. Thanks for the comment. You may be right—and I would not discount what you say. However, having grown up down South, I think there is more to the issue than just that. See my long post above.

  2. I may understand what the old Gabler organization is trying to do, but they may be out of date on it and doing it in the wrong way with the wrong subject emphasis. The real issue should be:

    “It was wrong for the anti-southern propaganda of the Civil War (1861-1865), which was aimed at southern whites, to be allowed to continue in the public mind in the north for 150 years after the war.”

    Lets’ say your daughter died in a car crash in 1953 and you were driving. The cause was simple human error on your part. It is 2014, you have never forgiven yourself, and the members of your family have never forgiven you, and the incessant guilt has caused you to become dysfunctional and ruined your life. A clinical psychologist would say, “Okay. Enough is enough. You need to forgive yourself, and it is time for the family to either forgive you—or you just dismiss them and get on with your life.”

    Now, what do I mean by that:

    1) Tennessee had more Civil War battles on its soil than any other southern state except Virginia. In the 1970s, I worked at a tourist venue in Nashville, and it got enormous numbers of tourists from “up north.”
    I was working the gift shop one day when this A-hole walked over to buy a 10-cent postcard and pushed a copper penny down hard with his thumb onto the counter. I said, “That will be another 9 cents please sir.” He then looked me straight in the face and said, “Oh, you must be one of the educated ones down here.” What he was saying is that all but a very rare few southern people are stupid and cannot even do second grade math. I wish this was the only example, but we have put up with this nonsense from numerous people in the Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana area. Folks from New York, Massachusetts, etc. have not been nearly so ignorant. I feel as if this behavior is a continuation of anti-southern propaganda from the Civil War period that six Yankee generations north of the Ohio River were—for some odd reason—unable to forget.

    2) In that same tourist venue, an old lady from Yankeedom fell on the marble floor and was hurt seriously. Members of our staff rushed to her side and immediately called an ambulance when it was clear that she needed one. The old lady’s family was with her, including a son that was probably in his late 40s or early 50s. When the paramedics came in with the stretcher, her son went emotionally berserk and started crying at the top of his lungs, “You’re not taking my mother!!! You’re not taking my mother!!! No Tennessee doctor is going to work on my mother!!! No Tennessee doctor is going to work on my mother!!!” It was a zoo. The hospital they were taking her to was the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which was nearby. At that time, it was ranked as the 17th best hospital in the United States.
    The Tennessee doctor who would have been working on his mother was one of the best in the world because that is who Vanderbilt University hires. Look down the list of professors in any academic department at Vanderbilt University (degrees from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, University of Texas, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Duke University).

    Educated southern people are sick to death of crap like this from UAW assembly line A-holes in Indiana and Michigan. When is the 1861-1864 war propaganda going to quit? How many more generations of Ohio farm boys is it going to take before the hatred and spite ends?

    Now, as many of you know, I am no fan of the Gabler organization in any way shape or form, but I suspect that the concern I have presented above is the root issue. When is a judgement against the American South for an evil act committed prior to 1865 ever going to end and be forgiven. How many generations of innocent Ohio children is it going to take before the “hate the South” indoctrination ends, and how many southern children are going to have to pay for the sins of their great-great-great-great-great-great grandfathers before that indoctrination ends. And maybe that southern child’s ancestors never even owned any slaves. Many southern people did not.

    I think the Gabler organization may just want the history books to be written in such a way that an Ohio child can finally say, “Those southern bigots of 1861 treated those slaves badly then and after the war. That should have never happened. That doesn’t mean that I have to hate my cousin Kevin in Alabama today and think he is stupid just because of what those bad people did 150 years ago.”

    If that is what the Gabler organization is trying to do, they are going about it in a wrong way that makes them look just as bad as the 1861 bigots. They need to quit that and address the real issue of when Yankee forgiveness of the South is ever going to come in our day and time—and yes—we have a collection of A-holes down South that are just as bad—and they need to ponder the same forgiveness question.

  3. Um, I hate to point this out, but they (we, to some extent, sadly) were BEFORE the Civil War, are AFTER the Civil War, and, actually, culture being whatever it is, ARE victims. So it goes.