Drawn Into the Reactionary Noise Machine
Joseph sold to (not Muslim) slave traders in the Book of Genesis.
There’s an essay making the rounds, “Political Correctness Strips the South of All Vestiges of Slavery While Ignoring Islam’s Contribution,” by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel James G. Zumwalt. Zumwalt, who writes about the Middle East and Islam at Breitbart, goes through a list of recent controversies regarding Confederate symbols, including the name change to dormitory at Vanderbilt and decision to drop “Dixie” from the play list by the band at Ole Miss, but his main point here (as with most of his recent writing) is to remind us all that ZOMG the Muslims are coming! Even superficially, Zumwalt’s grasp of history is tenuous, like his claim that Muslims were the “originators” of the slave trade. That might surprise people familiar with the story of Joseph from Genesis 37:2-36, that predates the founding of Islam (and Christianity) by many centuries.
There are a bazillion essays like Zumwalt’s out there, and they’re really not worth a lot of attention. I only mention this one because he cites one of my blog posts as support for his screed. About two-thirds of the way through he writes (my emphasis):
Few Confederates were actual slave-owners. The debate continues as to how many were. For Texans, the numbers vary from a low of 2 percent to a high of 36 percent. Furthermore, other motivations existed for fighting, including states rights and territorial expansion.
This is simply not true, and a complete misreading of what I wrote. There is no substantive “debate” about the incidence of slaveholding across Texas or the South among historians who’ve studied it in a serious way; as I explain at length, the “low of 2 percent” Zumwalt mentions is based on a deliberately misleading — to the point of outright dishonesty — claim made by heritage groups about Confederate soldiers from Texas, in an effort to disassociate them from the “peculiar institution.” In fact, census data collected the summer before the war began suggests that about one-quarter of all free households in Texas owned slaves. This squares pretty well with Joseph Glatthaar’s analysis of slaveholding in the Army of Northern Virginia, who found that in the first year of the war about one in ten enlisted men in the ANoVa were slaveholders personally, another one in ten came from slaveholding households, and more than half of the officers owned slaves.
On the other hand, maybe a more succinct response to his assertion that “few Confederates were actual slave-owners” is, “but all the important ones were.”
Furthermore, Zumwalt’s assertion that “other motivations existed for fighting, including states rights and territorial expansion” is one with an extremely short half-life, just long enough to ask, “for what purpose?” The states that seceded were indeed interested in states’ rights — to protect the institution of slavery, “the greatest material interest of the world,” — and territorial expansion, where “the destiny of the Southern master and his African slave. . . does not stop short of the banks of the Amazon.”
The essay Zumwalt cites is one I wrote back in the early days of this blog, and it’s proved to be one of the most-frequently-accessed entries I’ve done. I’m glad of that, because I think it’s one of the more important pieces I’ve written here, although I suspect that a lot of people are drawn to it by the title, which is a quote that the essay itself is actually refuting. No matter. But I do wish that folks like Colonel Zumwalt would take the time to fully digest what I have to say, and think on it, before dropping in a link as a citation as supposed documentation for something I never actually said.