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Monday, June 7, 2010

"Pandemic in its implications."

TNC posted the following today, which I made the mistake of reading before I'd had my coffee:
Laura Spicer was sold away from her husband while they both were slaves. After the war and emancipation, the two considered reconciling, but the husband had remarried. Here is a letter to Spicer from her first husband[.]
You should read it. I'm pretty sure it's the most heartbreaking thing I've ever read. I don't know that there's anything for me to say about it, except that if my history classes had involved more of this, I might have paid more attention, and perhaps even retained more. TNC writes that "it's important to supplement a discussion of the concept of 'slavery,' with the words of humans who actually were enslaved. Never do this thing cold and sterile. Make it hot and alive, pandemic in its implications."

Pandemic in its implications.

*sigh* One day, I will casually write something that good.

Its implications were certainly contagious in the comments. In addition to the shared heartbreak, it sparked a conversation on the importance of primary sources, and of teaching history as real people, with real stories - actual human beings beneath the statistics, surveys, dates, and summaries. As an example of how powerful this can be, a few people brought up the holocaust museum in DC, and especially the room full of shoes. thatbgirl wrote:
that room with all the shoes, and then the photos of all the people from that one village who were killed that you see at the beginning and at the end... those were what broke me up inside more than anything else...
I went to the Holocaust museum once, back in 1993 or so. That was *cough17cough* years ago and, while I can no longer see the room of shoes in my mind, I can remember, vividly, how devastating it was, and the visceral sense of sadness and outrage it created. It is, in fact, the only thing I remember from the holocaust museum. Half a lifetime ago, and that room of shoes is what I think of every time I have reason to talk (or read, or listen) about The Holocaust. An entire room full of shoes, worn by real people, representing only a small fraction of the people killed. That's the history of The Holocaust to me.

What's this got to do with this letter? I would love to slip a copy of this letter into the history textbook of every child learning about American slavery and The Civil War. It's the perfect response to that states' rights bullshit. Because this is what those states' rights were really about - this letter, over and over and over. Hot and alive. Real and heartbreaking. If *this* is what you mean by Confederate History Month - learning that *this* is what the Confederates for fighting for the right to do - then I am all for it.


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