It feels really surreal to have a piece published after working on it for (what feels like) years. It's 7:30 in the morning and The Bitter Southerner has posted "Telling the Untold History" to Instagram and Twitter. I posted it to Facebook along with a word of gratitude for those who helped (and put up with) me along the way.
In this story, I try to express the confusion about history that I've felt for many years. I was never (that) misinformed. To my knowledge, none of my history teachers ever used the phrase "War of Northern Aggression" during my tenure in school. But I'm certain that an African American presence was left out of the tours of plantation homes and battlefields that I went to as a child.* The difference between talking to white Southerners and black Southerners about the South is incredible. The difference between talking to older white male Southerners and younger white male Southerners about history is jarring, as well.
When we were discussing the title of the story Chuck, the editor of BS, suggested "Telling the Secret History." I had a visceral reaction to that suggestion. The problem with Southern history is that it's not secret. It's not that anyone denied that there were slaves— it's that their stories were misinterpreted or glossed over. That's how we get to today. The systematic misrepresentation of history... from text books to monuments to (yes) reenactments.
I've learned a lot from this experience. Some of my thoughts and feelings have been reassured, while others have been blown wide open. But that's what's supposed to happen with inquiry, right?
I'm so lucky and grateful to have this opportunity to share my thoughts about these topics and to be supported by great friends and a great community.
Let's keep the conversation going!
*WIth the notable exception of the Kingsley Plantation, a place that really emphasized it's multi-ethnic history from slave cabins to the story of Zephaniah and Anna (and Flora and Sarah and Munsilna) to the black folks who lived there until the 1950s.