My mother, who was born in rural Sumner County, Tennessee, in 1910 and later lived in Gallatin, Tennessee, was very close to the American Civil War. At least one (and I think maybe two) of her uncles had fought as infantrymen on the battlefield for the Confederate States of America (CSA). One sustained a bad head wound, was rendered unconscious by it, fell on the battlefield, and later awoke in situ and very thirsty. Liquid was flowing past his mouth from uphill, and he assumed that he had fallen at the edge of a small stream. He began to reach out his tongue to pull some into his mouth only to quickly discover that it was flowing blood from numerous fallen soldiers farther up the hill. He later survived his head wound, placed my mother on his knee when he was an old man, and told her about this and other battlefield experiences during the war.
I mention this because the American Civil War was still a bitterly remembered experience in Sumner County minds and hearts—even as late as the early 1970s. In summer 1971, I did some volunteer work for the old southern dowagers (now long dead) who helped maintain The Trousdale Place (home of Clark Chapter 13, United Daughters of the Confederacy) in Gallatin, Tennessee. They too had male family members (like Julius Trousdale) who had directly imparted their CSA soldiering experiences to them. We conversed quite a bit while I was helping out that summer, and fondly remembering their own childhood talks with their long departed relatives, the old ladies still referred to black Americans as “dawkies,” Dawkie was the word darkey pronounced with a Middle Tennessee Southern drawl. During our conversations, it was always dawkie this and dawkie that—and then do you know what that doggone dawkie did? Dawkies played a central role in just about every conversation, unconsciously emphasizing the importance of the slavery question in the context of the American Civil War. Being a flower child of the 1960s, all this dawkie stuff (even the word itself) sounded pretty ancient and quite weird to me—even though I was a great lover of American history. Indeed, the American Civil War itself was still referred to by many locals as the War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression—all to express the shared opinion of the common people that the American South was totally righteous in its warfare against the Union and the Yankee states were totally unrighteous in their pursuit of war against the CSA.
I know. I know. I know. That all sounds so old news to younger folks today in Tennessee, and it seems so yesterday and so inapplicable to present day 2015. Unfortunately, sorry to say, it is actually very current and quite applicable in many parts of the United States today—particularly in Texas.
For most of the past decade, I have supported a grassroots organization in Texas that has been fighting a bitter political war with the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), which has a majority of Tea Party conservative types (or worse) on it. Unlike here in Tennessee, the Texas SBOE is a state government organization with elected members and enormous power over the curriculum and textbook content in Texas public schools. In fact, Texas public school systems buy so many textbooks that the textbook publishers often print a Texas textbook with Texas SBOE content as a “prototype edition” and then rubber stamp the final edition for sales in the other 49 states. Were you aware of that?
The Texas SBOE has tried to rewrite the Texas curriculum and the related textbooks so they downplay and question biological evolution. Charles Darwin is a hated man down Texas way. The Texas SBOE has tried to make Senator Joseph McCarthy into an American hero like George Washington. Moses of Holy Bible fame is now defined as an American founding father in Texas. (Yes, you read that correctly.) The Texas SBOE has been highly critical of global warming, the big bang, and other current day scientific issues. It has attempted to strongly downplay the importance of all minority groups in American history. The list goes on and on. And last, but not least, the Texas SBOE insists that Texas public school students be taught that slavery was not the primary cause of the American Civil War—but rather—only a minor one. Clearly, historical and scientific revisionism are main courses on the plates of many Texas SBOE members.
Professors at major Texas universities and numerous well-educated Texans, to put it mildly, are furious with these people on the Texas SBOE—and have been at war with them for many years now—because those who are put in charge of Texas public education work constantly at every turn to undermine the education of Texas public school students in the name of educating them. Public education in Texas has turned into a total zoo that often catches the attention of the national news media.
Current and former conservative members on the Texas SBOE have persisted in their strong belief that slavery had almost nothing to do with the American Civil War—and any insistence to the contrary must not be taken seriously because it is obviously manufactured by Jesus-hating liberals who want to defile Texas school children with their lies about American history and thereby destroy our nation. Unfortunately for them, a very forceful video about the role of slavery in starting the American Civil War has recently shown some potential for stopping them dead cold in their tracks because it comes directly from a U.S. Army Colonel who is Department Head and Professor of History at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York—which is far from being a Jesus-hating liberal organization. Just in case you might have missed it elsewhere, I thought you nice folks who read the articles here at the Archaeology in Tennessee blog might like to see this short but stunning video presentation. Just click on the URL below to start the presentation: