Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
—Frederick Douglass, 1857
For many of its ideologues, a slaveholding Confederacy was meant to be a bulwark against radical politics of all stripes.
The Civil War inaugurated a titanic revolution that within years brought slavery to an end and broke the planter class.
Even before the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, enslaved women struggled for the passage of the Enlistment Act of 1865 and their own emancipation.
We shouldn’t reduce historical narratives solely to questions of black agency. It’s bad history — and can lead to even worse politics.
After the Civil War, workers struggled to make wage labor go the way of chattel slavery.
During Reconstruction, elites used racist appeals to silence calls for redistribution and worker empowerment.
Why have so many films dealing with the Civil War embraced the Confederate struggle?
For over a century, black elites have pushed improved “race relations” instead of redistribution as the solution to American inequality.
“Your socialist is the true abolitionist, and he only fully understands his mission.”
—Virginia Senator Robert M.T. Hunter, March 25, 1850