, 26 tweets, 9 min read Read on Twitter
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.🙄

nytimes.com/2017/08/18/us/…
2. Then he LITERALLY ATTRIBUTES THE CAUSE OF THE WAR TO STATES' RIGHTS.

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

#WhyWeNeedaNewCivilWarDocumentary
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.
#WhyWeNeedaNewCivilWarDocumentary
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.”(😍)

#WhyWeNeedaNewCivilWarDocumentary
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."

#WhyWeNeedaNewCivilWarDocumentary
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.

#WhyWeNeedaNewCivilWarDocumentary🔥🔥🔥

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.

#WhyWeNeedaNewCivilWarDocumentary
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)

#WhyWeNeedaNewCivilWarDocumentary
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.

#WhyWeNeedaNewCivilWarDocumentary
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Keri Leigh Merritt
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!


This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!