North Carolina Plantation's Juneteenth Event Underscores South's Historical Whitewashing

tags: slavery, Civil War, Southern history, Confederacy, public history

Keisha N. Blain is an award-winning historian and writer. She is an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh and has written extensively on race, gender and politics in national and global perspectives. She is the author of the multi-prize-winning book Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom.

Owners of the Latta Plantation in Huntersville, North Carolina faced a rude awakening this week when members of the public called out their planned Juneteenth event. Coinciding with the holiday that commemorates the end of legalized slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865, the Latta Plantation promised an event highlighting the experiences of white slaveholders and Confederate soldiers. “Come out to Historic Latta Plantation for a one-night event, Saturday, June 19, 2021,” they promised. “You will hear stories from the massa himself who is now living in the woods.” They went on to emphasize that the planned Juneteenth program would focus on “white refugees” who had been “displaced and have a story to tell as well.”

The plan to center a Juneteenth event around so-called “displaced white refugees” is deeply racist. But it’s also part of a much larger public effort to distort historical narratives and, in this case, miseducate the public about slavery in the United States.

According to a 2019 Washington Post poll, most Americans know little about slavery. On average Americans could only correctly answer two out of five basic questions about slavery. These dismal statistics are further compounded by national, state and local efforts to whitewash American history. With one foot out the door, former President Donald Trump released his Presidential Advisory 1776 Commission report downplaying slavery and even erased the presence of Native Americans.

Efforts to miseducate the public about history are intentional. They are often motivated by a desire to paint a rosier picture of the American past in order to evade accountability and redress. The Latta Plantation’s event, which promised to highlight the “feelings” of white slaveowners and Confederate soldiers, is revealingly sympathetic.

The connection to Juneteenth is itself quite offensive. Celebrated in Black communities since 1866, the day commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in Texas and the process by which Black people claimed their freedom. It’s also an opportunity to discuss the limitations of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — too often erroneously credited for “freeing the slaves.” While the 1863 proclamation significantly expanded Black military involvement in the Civil War, it did not end slavery or even free a large number of enslaved people. The proclamation, in fact, only applied to enslaved people in rebel states — territory over which Lincoln had no control. It also did not the hundreds of thousands of slaves living in so-called border states Kentucky, Delaware, Missouri and Maryland.


Read entire article at MSNBC

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