"The Ghosts of Bobby Lee"

Ta-Nehisi Coates dissects the imagineering of Confederate History.

Posted:
 

Below is an excerpt from Ta-Nehisi Coates' latest effort on The Atlantic. Subject? The Confederacy and how the issue went slightly beyond states' rights

Ken Burns' Civil War documentary makes note of the fact that General Lee was opposed to slavery. I basically took that as true, until--in all honesty--some of my commenters informed me that it, in fact, was not. One of the saddest, and yet telling, aspects of the War, for me personally, is that on the two occasions when Confederate troops headed North, they kidnapped free blacks and sold them into slavery. Ditto for black soldiers who were captured and "lucky" enough not to be killed. Anyway, if you have a moment check out this lecture a reader was kind enough to send to me. At about the 55:00 mark, Elizabeth Brown Pryor talks about Lee's relationship to slavery, and more interestingly, how the myth that he was somehow anti-slavery came to be.


It was sad to hear frankly. If the war actually weren't about slavery, I think all our lives would be a lot easier. But as I thought on it, my sadness was stupid. What undergirds all of this alleged honoring of the Confederacy, is a kind of ancestor-worship that isn't. The Lost Cause is necromancy--it summons the dead and enslaves them to the need of their vainglorious, self-styled descendants. Its greatest crime is how it denies, even in death, the humanity of the very people it claims to venerate. This isn't about "honoring" the past--it's about an inability to cope with the present.

Comments
The Root encourages respectful debate and dialogue in our commenting community. To improve the commenting experience for all our readers we will be experimenting with some new formats over the next few weeks. During this transition period the comments section will be unavailable to users.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your continued support of The Root.

While we are experimenting, please feel free to leave feedback below about your past experiences commenting at The Root.