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New thread that I will add to over the coming days as I re-watch Ken Burns' The Civil War.

I'm gonna call this #WhyWeNeedaNewCivilWarDocumentary. 🤓

(@netflix listen up!)
1. Starting with Episode 1, "The Cause," the doc does not mention #slavery until a full 6 minutes in, erroneously stating that #RobertELee "disapproved" of slavery.🙄


Direct quote: “what began as a bitter dispute over union and states’ rights..."

3. The 1st time a Black person is mentioned, 6+ mins in, is #FrederickDouglass - who's deemed not an abolitionist, author, politician, or publisher - but merely as a "runaway BOY" - even though he was about 20 yrs old when he escaped slavery.
4. Then there's Shelby Foote (NOT a historian), Southern accent just as thick & sweet as Tupelo honey, talking a lot but not saying anything.

At 9 min in, the saving grace of the film, Barbara Fields, actually seems to throw shade on the heavy military focus of the doc itself,
5. Barbara Fields: CW “as a historic phenomenon” – “it’s not about weapons and soldiers” – it’s about “humanity, human dignity, human freedom.”(😍)

6. Next a v cursory, 4 min. discussion of slavery. Shows this famous pic while the voiceover (David McCullough) narrates:

"Some slaves refused to work, some ran away.”
7. Then a juxtaposition which will repeat throughout the film: Black woman, white man.

Fields says the Civil War was caused by SLAVERY.

But Foote has the final word: was caused by the "failure to compromise."

8. No discussion of class, economics, or the vast wealth created by slavery; but by 24 mins in, finally mentions West & expansion. No reason as to why slavery "died out" in the North; no mention of the forced migration of abt 800,000 enslaved people from the Upper to Lower South.
9. Ed Bearss says John Brown/Harper's Ferry causes militias to really start gearing up for war.

They were doing so since the 1850 Compromise, w militias & vigilance committees & minute men organizations working in tandem with slave patrols...
10. going thru the mail, banning books & papers, surveilling everyone in the South & lynching many. It was a culture of complete & unabashed terror.

And nothing is said about it. #WhyWeNeedaNewCivilWarDocumentary
11. More soon-in the meantime watch this (ht @williamrblack, thx!). 17 min mark shows total screen time for:

PhD historian Barbara Fields: 8 mins, 26 secs.
Journalist Shelby Foote: 45 mins, 56 secs.


12. While much of the scholarship re: white South's division over slavery was published after this doc (see Drew Faust, Stephanie McCurry, & #MasterlessMen), it does not tell how secession was won by "force & fraud"-w voter suppression, intimidation, & outright election stealing-
13. It propagates the idea of a "Solid (white) South"-united over the causes of the war, the rightness of slavery, & the desire for the Confederacy.

Starts in SC. But why? Bc older slave states like SC & GA were losing enslaved laborers to SW states like MS & TX. Simultaneously,
14. in Charleston, the birthplace of session & the CW, immigrant, militant white laborers (German & Irish) were organizing & striking, even joining with Free Black laborers. The white elite feared an economy in which laborers had rights & power.

15. But Ken Burns' doc says nothing abt labor, or immigration, or the fact that slaveholders in the 1850s (mostly in SC) were trying to REOPEN THE AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE!🤯

Many also believed in "slavery in the abstract"-that ALL common laborers shd be "unfree," regardless of race.
*secession, damn autocorrect
16. The intro of Jefferson Davis is extensive & laudatory, but doesn't mention he owned 113 human beings in 1860 - despite saying he was “accustomed to being obeyed.”

(DYK? It was always rumored that Varina Davis, Jeff's wife, was mixed-race…)
17. Then claims that “the #Confederate Constitution was almost identical to the United States Constitution…” (direct quote)

Nope. It was much more oligarchic. (from #MasterlessMen)

18. Already at Fort Sumter & NO mention of the divide bw the Upper & Lower South, of the strong Unionism of some parts & fierce anti-Confederate sentiments in others. No mention of the crackdown on slaves, the virtual re-enslavement of Free Blacks, & the general reign of terror.
19. Discussion of volunteers only abt honor & enthusiasm, not abt the prospect of decent wages, steady work, land for vets, etc.– important to poor whites in the South & immigrant whites in the North.

One hour in before Native Americans mentioned – as “Cherokee Lincoln Killers”
20. Lee as morally conflicted (*shot of Foote turns into a shot of Lee). Then onto Ben Butler & using fugitive Blacks as laborers in the Union Army - decent discussion for the time this was made.

Then LOTS of military history strung together by quotes, w occasional Foote quotes.
21. CW lasting much longer than anyone expected. Ends with Sullivan Ballou letter; pictures of families & couples, while Ashokan Farewell plays.

Only a handful of women even *mentioned* in the entire episode; mainly Mary Chesnut (slaveholder).
22. Episode 2: A Very Bloody Affair, 1862: Big Qs re: England’s allegiance (bc of cotton) & what would happen in the West.

30% casualties in several battles. Men wanting to go home. Uses Elisha Hunt Rhodes (USA) & Sam Watkins (CSA) as examples of "common soldiers."
23. So very much Foote. "There's too many pigs for the tits."--line to keep!🤣

New US Sec. of War Stanton: pushed for a lot of action in VA w McClellan; then Lincoln's son Willie died; pivots to CSA - no Navy - building the Merrimack (VA) ironclad war ship.
24. Spends the next five minutes describing the Battle of the Monitor & Merrimack.

To give some context, that's one minute more than the entire time spent discussing slavery thus far.

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