keri leigh Profile picture
Aug 21, 2018 23 tweets 7 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Thread as promised on the Solid White (#Confederate) South thesis, including the "herding thesis," culture of honor, "Cracker culture" tropes, & why overturning these rids us (false) history written by white supremacists.
1. In the years following the Civil War, all the way to the post-Depression era, historians-both racists like U.B. Phillips, as well as anti-racists like WEB DuBois & William M. Brewer (the editor of the Journal of Negro History for nearly two decades)-described the white South
2. as deeply divided bw wealthy slaveholders & poor whites. There were middling-class yeomen, as well, but their focus was on the tensions bw the haves & the "helots." But by the 1920&30s rich white Southerners were frightened by a rapidly industrializing, urbanizing country- &
3. the changes in the racial caste system. The "Southern Agrarians," including historian Frank Owsley, began vigorously defending & romanticizing the South, completely ignoring slavery & reviving the #LostCause narrative.

Why is this important?

4. Owsley's fraudulent, racist history would come to dominate the way historians, economists, & even the public conceptualized the white South - even to this day.

Attempting to prove that slavery had had almost no effect on non-slaveholding whites, Owsley erroneously held that
5. the vast majority of white southerners owned land. Just as slaveholders downplayed & hid the poverty of poor whites under slavery, Owsley did the same writing history in 1949. If all whites were "lifted up" by slavery, then it could be considered a "benign" institution that
6. did the white South a lot of good. Without revealing methodology, he claimed that 80-85% of antebellum white Southerners owned land, & the ones who didn't HAD NO DESIRE TO OWN LAND. Instead, they preferred "freedom" & wanted to roam, herding hogs & other livestock.
7. This "herding thesis," apparently still used by prominent economists, was nothing more than a deflection of fraudulent quantitative work & a desire to minimize the deleterious effects of slavery. Owsley claimed that any white could become a master; that slavery
8. created a land of opportunity & social mobility for whites.

See, Owsley wanted to discredit neo-abolitionist historians who had emphasized the hegemony of the Old South’s planter class & the resulting degradation of both Blacks & poor whites. Evidence of his racism abounds:
9. Owsley (& his students') work was subsequently overturned by serious scholars, yet his false history of the herding, "Solid South" still remains the accepted narrative.

Outside of frontier areas, Southerners were overwhelmingly agricultural workers.
10. Owsley’s contentions were almost immediately repudiated in a Journal of Negro History article that appeared in 1946. Along with two other Confederate sympathizers, Owsley was taken to task by a young Harvard-trained economist named Fabian Linden:
11. Yet despite Linden’s work, and other recent efforts by a handful of scholars, the larger narrative of southern history is not yet liberated from Owsley’s myths. Historians have managed to free much of southern history from the distortions of Confederate apologists, but
12. not Owsley's distortion of the antebellum/Civil War eras. His contentions, specifically the herding thesis, have been taken up by other "historians" like Grady McWhiney, the mastermind of the disturbing "Celtic thesis." Like Owsley, he attributed the cause of CW to "culture"-
13. NOT slavery. Southerners, he claimed, were Scotch-Irish & (non-Catholic) Celts who loved a good time & didn't want to work, unlike the Puritanical, $-obsessed "English" Northerners. Slavery, they insisted, had nothing to do with secession; it made life good for all whites.
14. Owsley's work even morphed into accepted cannon on white Southerners being more violent supposedly due 2 ethnic differences from Northerners, giving rise to a pronounced culture of honor. So instead of living in a hell-hole police state marred by constant BRUTALITY & VIOLENCE
15. these historians - all white Southern men - blamed the violent nature of the South on CULTURE. Not economics, not SLAVERY.

(Nell Irvin Painter was right!)
16. This false narrative of white unity over slavery & the Civil War has persisted, despite excellent histories by scholars like Timothy Lockley, Jeff Forret, & Charles Bolton - and...
17. the amazing @vikki_bynum, who literally wrote the book on the Free State of Jones. (I also love Unruly Women, and this one:)
18. And a reminder: this is not to say that whites who didn't support the Confederacy (or even slavery) were not racist. I assume all whites in 19th c *were*. They benefited from white supremacy. But it is incredibly important to point out the class conflict & rifts bw them.
19. Thus, until we take Southern history back from the grips of white supremacists like Frank Owsley, the true impact of slavery & racism - economically, socially, politically, & psychologically - will never be known.
20. (END) Dismantling histories specifically written to uphold the lies of the #LostCause, romanticizing the #Confederacy & completely ignoring slavery - must be the task of today's historians...

A true reckoning of our nation's long & brutal history of racism depends upon it.
.@Stephen_A_West you get a shout-out here!
Sorry - this should say 1940s and 50s (his main book was published in 49).

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More from @KeriLeighMerrit

Oct 9, 2018
So the story from this weekend: Sat night was discussing political messages in the old Warner Bros./Bugs Bunny cartoons. Sunday morn I drive a couple miles down the road & see this:

*Fine print says, "The Boss is Coming!"

(❤️ ya, #ATL!) /1
Anyhow, it had me thinking about the "Father of Contemporary Animation," Chuck Jones. I had been to one of his galleries in New Mexico but still didn't feel like I knew the real story behind his greatness. /2
And greatness of this caliber is often associated with early lives of pain & suffering.

I immediately looked him up, & found my answer within the first few paragraphs about his childhood.

You see, Chuck Jones was born in Spokane, but his family moved to CA in the 1920s. /3
Read 6 tweets
Oct 2, 2018
As much as I wish to stay off of Twitter right now I've got to get back on to promote a few things professionally.

I appreciate all of the support I received this weekend after being called "gross" by a fellow historian. /1
A little context: I jumped into the conversation after seeing him absolutely mansplain a WOC - a PhD scholar of slavery and race - abt Maxine Waters.

The minute I pointed out that he had never personally experienced racism/misogyny, he lost his cool. /2
Anyhow, I truly appreciate everyone who came to my defense.

As to the men who like to DM me privately abt the situation but continue to follow & interact w the men who threaten & call women vile names, go ahead & unfollow me now.

Either speak up & out or move on over.

Read 4 tweets
Sep 30, 2018
1) Since Thursday, I've received threats & been called "SLIMY AF" & "GROSS" by self-proclaimed liberal men bc of (non-profane!) tweets.

I know the next era of anti-woman name-calling & slut-shaming is coming on fast.

So, ladies (& true allies) - here's some #SundayMotivation
2) @theebikinikill - Double Dare Ya

"We're Bikini Kill, and we want Revolution - Girl-style NOW!

Hey Girlfriend
I got a proposition goes something like this:
3) "Dare ya to do what you want

Dare ya to be who you will

Dare ya to cry right outloud

"You get so emotional baby"...
Read 8 tweets
Sep 14, 2018
How do ppl not know many of the OG country ⭐s were progressives??

"I wear the black for the poor & the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times."
FTR: Country music (& "musicians") took a hard-right political turn precisely at the same time the genre went super-corporate & mainstream...
George Strait & Alan Jackson, 1999:

"The almighty dollar and the lust for worldwide fame
Slowly killed tradition and for that someone should hang
They all say not guilty, but the evidence will show
That murder was committed down on music row."
Read 6 tweets
Aug 17, 2018
I'm seeing some misinformation here re: non-slaveholding southerners fighting in the #CivilWar since @TheTattooedProf 's #RobertELee thread went viral. So let's get a few things right:
1. Support for the #Confederacy varied greatly among non-slaveholders, depending on rural/urban, Upper/Lower South, slave societies/societies w slaves, & ties to slaveholders. Class also mattered: many landholding yeomen DID think 1 day they could own slaves, some rented slaves.
2. But for many cyclically-poor landless whites, esp in the cotton South (abt 1/3 white pop), there was no desire to fight & die to protect slave property. They even realized that their lives were negatively impacted (socio-economically) by the "peculiar institution."
Read 22 tweets
Jun 28, 2018
.@Econ_Marshall - I'm going through files and thought you might want to tell your co-author that I still use his essay from 1959.

Still so important - and heart-breakingly relevant.
Weisberger: "In the first place, white historians have shied away from grasping the nettle of race conflict, mainly because of the difficulty of recognizing their own emotional involvement in the problem." (1959!)
Read 4 tweets

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