Discussion:
Civil War historian Stephen B. Oates, 85
(too old to reply)
Lenona
2021-08-30 13:31:14 UTC
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"In a quartet of biographies, he explored how slavery and racial oppression could exist in a land based on the ideals of the Declaration of Independence."

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/27/books/stephen-b-oates-civil-war-historian-dies-at-85.html

By Katharine Q. Seelye. Aug. 27, 2021

Stephen B. Oates, a Civil War historian and the biographer of several prominent Americans, including Abraham Lincoln, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and William Faulkner, died on Aug. 20 at his home in Amherst, Mass. He was 85.

His son, Greg, said the cause was pancreatic cancer.

In his best-known works, Dr. Oates explored the lives of four prominent figures — John Brown, Nat Turner, Lincoln and Dr. King — in what he called his “Civil War quartet.”

These men, he wrote in “Biography as High Adventure,” an essay published in 1986, “humanize the monstrous moral paradox of slavery and racial oppression in a land based on the ideals of the Declaration of Independence.”

He added: “All four were driven, visionary men, all were caught up in the issues of slavery and race, and all devised their own solutions to those inflammable problems. And all perished, too, in the conflicts and hostilities that surrounded the quest for equality in their country.”

It was a sign of Dr. Oates’s status in his field that Ken Burns, the filmmaker, included him in his epic 1990 PBS documentary “The Civil War.”

“Stephen was an extremely valuable adviser to our Civil War series and an informed and passionate participant,” Mr. Burns said by email. “He knew the bottom-up story as well as the top-down one, but more importantly, he knew and appreciated the huge stakes for the United States and indeed the world in a Union victory.”...

(snip)
Lenona
2021-08-30 13:49:14 UTC
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"In a quartet of biographies, he explored how slavery and racial oppression could exist in a land based on the ideals of the Declaration of Independence."



And, if anyone wants a simpler explanation for child readers...

From a 2003 interview with author/teacher Joy Hakim (she was 72 at the time):

Q. What prompted you to start writing the (ten-volume) History of US series (1993)?

A. I had raised three kids, and I was very disturbed by their books. They weren’t grammatically incorrect, but it was just terrible writing.
We have a reading crisis in our country, for heaven’s sake—why would we give kids books that are so dull, nobody wants to read them? It just doesn’t make sense. History should be every child’s favorite subject. Our most passionate discussions as adults are over politics. Well, the politics of the past is just as interesting, and it’s the same issues. And if you get kids into those issues, they’ll argue about it.

The core of the American story is slavery. How could we have had slavery in the “land of the free?” Most books just make it very dumb: “Slavery was evil, period.” Well, it’s more than that. The real question is, why do good people sometimes do bad things? The people in the South were not all bad people. But they were trapped in a system. And you have to ask yourself, what would you do if you were a very wealthy slave owner, and giving up your slaves would make you poor? I ask kids that question, and suddenly, [they] think, “Wow—I wouldn’t want to be poor.” So there are all sorts of things to think about that, traditionally, the history books haven’t given you...
A Friend
2021-08-30 14:21:07 UTC
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Post by Lenona
"In a quartet of biographies, he explored how slavery and racial oppression
could exist in a land based on the ideals of the Declaration of
Independence."
And, if anyone wants a simpler explanation for child readers...
Q. What prompted you to start writing the (ten-volume) History of US series (1993)?
A. I had raised three kids, and I was very disturbed by their books. They
weren’t grammatically incorrect, but it was just terrible writing.
We have a reading crisis in our country, for heaven’s sake—why would we give
kids books that are so dull, nobody wants to read them? It just doesn’t make
sense. History should be every child’s favorite subject. Our most passionate
discussions as adults are over politics. Well, the politics of the past is
just as interesting, and it’s the same issues. And if you get kids into those
issues, they’ll argue about it.
The core of the American story is slavery. How could we have had slavery in
the “land of the free?” Most books just make it very dumb: “Slavery was evil,
period.” Well, it’s more than that. The real question is, why do good people
sometimes do bad things? The people in the South were not all bad people. But
they were trapped in a system. And you have to ask yourself, what would you
do if you were a very wealthy slave owner, and giving up your slaves would
make you poor? I ask kids that question, and suddenly, [they] think, “Wow—I
wouldn’t want to be poor.” So there are all sorts of things to think about
that, traditionally, the history books haven’t given you...
Southerners routinely turned down attempts to end slavery by having the
federal government compensate them for their "property." It wasn't the
money. Pro-slavery forces demanded their God-given right to enslave
other people. It was mindless.
Lenona
2021-08-30 14:33:51 UTC
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Post by A Friend
Southerners routinely turned down attempts to end slavery by having the
federal government compensate them for their "property." It wasn't the
money. Pro-slavery forces demanded their God-given right to enslave
other people. It was mindless.
Interesting. I never heard about that. But, maybe both Oates and Hakim discuss that as well.

(I assume that the slaveowners also didn't want to have to deal with employees, in the future, who couldn't just be beaten into submission.)

It reminds me of this classic letter, nearly 20 years ago, by Kent Aschcraft, sent to Dr. Laura.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/letter-to-dr-laura/

Excerpt:

d) "Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?"
Lenona
2021-08-30 14:49:52 UTC
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Correction - the letter is from 2000, and his name is spelled Ashcraft.
Kenny McCormack
2021-08-30 15:00:37 UTC
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Post by Lenona
Correction - the letter is from 2000, and his name is spelled Ashcraft.
You sure it isn't Asshat?
--
I've been watching cat videos on YouTube. More content and closer to
the truth than anything on Fox.
Lenona
2021-08-30 15:28:28 UTC
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And, while I'm on a silly tangent, I might as well finish it. Ashcraft has been described as a "free-lance guitarist from Bowie, Maryland" (yes, it seems to be the same one), and I found a 2005 letter sent to the Washington Post, about guitars, that he wrote.

Plus this:

https://m.facebook.com/kent.ashcraft
Lenona
2021-08-30 15:43:49 UTC
Permalink
In the meantime, back to Oates.

https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2021/08/26/stephen-oates-award-winning-civil-war-historian-and-umass-amherst-professor-dies-at-85/

(I can't copy any of it, but it said the memorial service will be next spring.)


And if you ran into a paywall, this looks to be the same obit:

https://www.dailyherald.com/article/20210826/news/308269926

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