The Place of the Two American Revolutions: A Fourth of July Celebration

 

By Vikki Bynum

This past week, in celebration of the 4th of July, I joined several historians to discuss the importance of the American Revolution and the American Civil War to the political transformation of our nation. In 1776, America moved from being a slaveholding colony to creating a nation, via the Declaration of Independence,  founded on the principle of human equality. Only after decades of struggle and a protracted civil war did that principle became law. In 1865, the United States’ defeat of the Confederate States of America, which was formed to protect and expand the institution of slavery, opened the door to reconstructing our nation by amending its Constitution—first, by abolishing slavery, then, between 1868 and 1870, by bestowing rights of citizenship on freed people. For this reason, the Civil War is often called America’s second revolution.

But the hopeful beginnings of Reconstruction were followed by a tragic counter-revolution that re-instituted white supremacy in new forms.  Throughout the 1870s, vigilante mobs, pro-Confederate presses, and corrupt politicians terrorized, slandered, and murdered African Americans, Southern Unionists, and Republican Carpetbaggers. By century’s end, human equality was a dead letter and the Confederacy had been rewritten as a noble “Lost Cause” whose heroes must be immortalized in stone. And so they were within a decade.

Clearly, America’s revolution remains unfinished. In sharing our work and ideas, forum panelists seek to restore the public’s knowledge and understanding of the aspirations of American revolutionaries, many of whom died for their goals, and to inspire our nation’s desperately needed re-commitment to achieving equality for all humankind.

 

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12 replies »

  1. Vikki,   In fact, I watched the entire program today.  Very thought provoking . It was a very august panel including you; I was glad to see.  I have a couple or so of Gordon Woods books.  I will explore the concepts further.  I know some of the founding fathers and I guess all of the Plantation Masters used class to help justify their deeds.  But they also used religion very much as well.  Most of them , as you well know, were stalwarts in the church and used the Old and New Testament to justify their action.  Unfortunately there was material there  for them to use.  But many of the preachers were of the same bent and some owned slaves as well as raising local militia companies.  It was class action (and religion) when we used genocide on Native Americans. But I know I am preaching to the choir so will sign off for now. Best Regards, Troy

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    • That’s great that you’ve already watched it, Troy! Thanks for your observations. Yes, the use of religion was a tried and true method of justifying slavery. But religion also provided the force for the strongest abolitionist movements as well.

      Vikki

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  2. I thought you did so well. I think it was a real honor for you and them for you to be there. I also could
    not help but think of Warren J. Collins and his political leanings.

    Troy

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    • Thanks. I would love to have had an opportunity to speak about Warren Collins. With seven people speaking, our two hours went by so fast!

      Vikki

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  3. I do hope you and others of that panel might come together agian to develop these ideas and new ones.

    It was a fascinating exchange, so cordial, principled, historically informed — a light in the present darkness, which was so welcome and nourishing. And yes, it seemed almost as if it were over shortly after it began, which should indicate how parched and thirsty we all are for knowledge relevant to our present tasks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Trying to comment, but it won’t accept my login. Here is my Comment. Thanks so much for participating!

    The whole discussion was so fascinating. I agree with you, it could have gone another two hours and we still would have thirsted for more. Every participant, including you Vicky, had illuminating and interesting things to say, from a lifetime of study and a commitment to historical truth, which I think shone through.

    >

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    • Thank you, Hea Jowsey! I’m particularly gratified that so many of you recognize the commitment to truth as well as lifetimes filled with research that we historians strove to deliver to our international audience.

      Vikki

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  5. Excellent and much needed discussion. Huge topics that could take much more unpicking and analysis. I was very interested in your contribution of the North Carolinian regulators – it’s the details which bring these historical events to life! I look forward to more of these in the future!

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    • So true, Jude—huge topics about which we historians could have said so much more if only there was time. My remarks on the Regulator connection to Southern white opposition to the Confederacy, for example, represents one of the most intriguing discoveries I made in the course of my research on the Free State of Jones. There was more I wanted to say about the anti-corruption and anti-authoritarian stance of both the Unionists and their Regulator ancestors, but at least I presented it, and many people seemed to want to know more. The details—with real people driving the stories—do indeed “bring these historical events to life.” Thanks for watching and commenting here.

      Vikki

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