July 25, 2017

"I Don’t Want to Watch Slavery Fan Fiction."

Writes Roxane Gay (in the NYT) on the occasion of the announcement that HBO will be doing a series called "Confederate," an alternative history story based on the interesting if obvious premise that the South pulled off its secession from the Union and kept slavery going.
When I first read about “Confederate,” however, I felt exhausted, simply because I have long been exhausted by slavery narratives...

This show’s premise highlights the limits of the imagination in a world where oppression thrives. These creators can imagine a world where the Confederacy won the Civil War and black people are still enslaved, but they can’t or aren’t interested in imagining a world where, say, things went in a completely different direction after the Civil War and, say, white people are enslaved. Or a world where slavery never happened at all. What would happen in a show where American Indians won the conflicts in which they were embroiled as the British and French and other European nations colonized this country? What would happen if Mexicans won the Mexican-American War and Texas and California were still part of Mexico?

It is curious that time and again, when people create alternate histories, they are largely replicating a history we already know, and intimately. They are replicating histories where whiteness thrives and people of color remain oppressed....

We do not make art in a vacuum isolated from sociopolitical context. We live in a starkly divided country with a president who is shamefully ill equipped to bridge that divide. I cannot help worrying that there are people, emboldened by this administration, who will watch a show like “Confederate” and see it as inspiration, rather than a cautionary tale.

164 comments:

rhhardin said...

I think she misses the point that it's to show whites are evil and blacks are good at every plot point. They estimate there's a market for that.

Contrary to her expectation, whites are not wanting to enslave blacks. It's a certain audience flop.

David Begley said...

Dear Roxane Gay:

The point of running this show on HBO is to generate controversy and, hence, viewers. You helped. Don't watch the show.

rhhardin said...

Sometimes a girlfriend tells you something you did in a dream that she had last night; and she's mad at you for it for the rest of the day.

The series is a girlfriend's dream.

Clyde said...

We were living in a starkly divided country during Obama's tenure as president as well, and he was also shamefully I'll-equipped to bridge the divide.

Michael K said...

People who don;t know history are not interested in alternate history.

It's all the same but HBO is unlikely to get anything right anyway.

There are some pretty good ideas about what the South would have done if they had won the Civil War.

They had plans for Mexico and Cuba, among other things.

If Atlanta had not fallen, Lincoln would likely have lost the 1864 election. He expected to.

McClellan would have made peace with Jeff Davis. It was that close.

Sebastian said...

"I felt exhausted, simply because I have long been exhausted by slavery narratives..." I call BS: the left is never exhausted, and certainly not by slave narratives. They are always useful.

"but they can’t or aren’t interested in imagining a world where, say, things went in a completely different direction after the Civil War and, say, white people are enslaved." They can, alright, but won't. Imagine the uproar: black people bad, white people oppressed! That can't be.

Just as we won't see historical narratives, which hardly take any "imagination," of blacks enslaving blacks in Africa, or Muslims enslaving Christians in, well, Africa.

RNB said...

"This show’s premise highlights the limits of the imagination..." The article highlights the limits of Ms. Gay's imagination, which are severe.

lgv said...

The failure of "Confederate" and other alternate history concepts is that they start with a possible premise and then skip 150 years, with little imagination of what would have happened in between.

I think the more likely outcome from a divided states would have been the eventual elimination of slavery due to various social and economic changes, i.e. slavery would not exist today if it had been allowed to continue. There would have also been mass escapes across the Mason-Dixon line to freedom, which would have been much easier than getting all the way to Canada.

One simply has to look at the history of slavery to see that it would have disappeared along the same time frame as the rest of the world. This show is just a silly attempt to provoke white angst and guilt.


Hagar said...

Also not a believable scenario. In the first place, if the Civil War never happened, it is unlikely that legal slavery in North America would have lasted out the century, and, as it was, in order to win the war the Confederacy made so many concessions to the slaves (and more would have happened after the peace due to all the other changes in Southern society due to the ravages of the war) that manumission would have happened sooner, if anything.

David Begley said...

The Union won. It's over. Move on.

CJinPA said...

They are replicating histories where whiteness thrives and people of color remain oppressed....

#Privilege is being able to casually use a slur like "whiteness" in the most influential media outlet in the world.

What would happen if Mexicans won the Mexican-American War and Texas and California were still part of Mexico?

A Mexican California? That's too far-fetched to even imagine.

clint said...

Interesting that the NYT let "American Indians" pass without editing it to Native Americans.

I vaguely remember reading some alternative histories along the lines of an America in which one or more native groups -- like the Iroquois Nation -- joined the U.S. as states of their own, after allying with the colonists in the Revolution. And another in which the Aztecs beat Cortez and sent a fleet back to Europe.

Of course, both were written by a right-wing white male Mormon who once said mean things about same-sex marriage. So I doubt Ms. Gay or anyone at the NYT knows anyone who would admit to having read anything by him.

Kevin said...

The writer can't think of a single counter example, the obvious "space aliens take over Earth" to note just one?

This reads like "I don't like this. Let me turn it into a larger social commentary based on this feeling".

In short, it reads like the typical NYT article.

Birkel said...

" We live in a starkly divided country with a president who is shamefully ill equipped to bridge that divide.

Damn! Obama cannot catch a break! But I don't think we can blame him for HBO decisions six months after leaving office.

Jack Wayne said...

"I cannot help worrying that there are people, emboldened by this administration, who will watch a show like “Confederate” and see it as inspiration, rather than a cautionary tale."

Like 1984 perhaps?

darrenoia said...

Seems like she's never watched "The Man in the High Castle," which depicts a world in which the Axis powers won WWII and the Japanese (and Germans) rule over oppressed Americans (white and black alike).

David said...

Had the South been able to secede, Slavery would have imploded within a decade or two. Probably the shorter time frame than the longer. International improvements in transportation, communication, agronomy and finance were opening numerous competitive sources for southern rice and cotton, all of which could compete on price and most on quality. The slave economy was not conducive to innovation and change, nor were the slaves well equipped for other work. The slaves would have quickly become an economic burden to the south, at the same time that the south had a labor and capital shortage and an economic depression.

The possible outcomes of that situation are very broad, and some of them are very very ugly.

YoungHegelian said...

They can hire Laslo as a writer for the series. He did, after all, pen the stirring inter-racial drama "Black Blood, Black Seed".

CWJ said...

lgv,

Very good points. Not only was slavery on the way out economically, but Southern reliance on agrarian monoculture was also a dead-end. It's not hard to imagine another Mexico on our doorstep. Would Ohio be trying to control wetbacks from Kentucky?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

What would happen in a show where American Indians won the conflicts in which they were embroiled as the British and French and other European nations colonized this country?

In such a show, it would be a Utopian paradise, everyone living in prosperous harmony with nature.

In such a reality North America would continue in the hunter-gatherer/borderline poverty culture that existed before the European nations showed up.

Hagar said...

OT, I recently read "The Hemingses of Monticello" by Annette Gordon-Reed, which Ms. Gay perhaps also could benefit from reading. The author has slavery on the brain and writes the word slave, slavery, etc. into at least every third sentence, so it is a bit of a slog reading, but it is such a terrific story about some remarkable people that she cannot help it, the story comes through.

roadgeek said...

Harry Turtledove has written this scenario multiple times, and in a very entertaining fashion. His books, most of them anyhow, are worth a look.

campy said...

Number 3 comment wins the thread.

exhelodrvr1 said...

"If Atlanta had not fallen, Lincoln would likely have lost the 1864 election."

Or if the South had been victorious at Gettysburg, which could have very easily happened.

And if the military leadership in the North hadn't been incompetent in the beginning, they probably win an early victory, which would certainly not have included the Emancipation Proclamation.

Darrell said...

This fits with the "Fuck White People" meme the Left is pushing now. The t-shirts are on back order.

David said...

"They had plans for Mexico and Cuba, among other things."

Indeed. But they had no Navy and little capacity to create one, so Cuba was a pipe dream. Unlikely that the southern route of transcontinental RR would have been built, and that would have made territorial gain with Mexico less likely. There would have been strong reasons for Kentucky, Tennessee and perhaps even Virginia to rejoin the Union. Texas might well have reverted to an independent country. That would have been interesting and could have been very impactful and successful. The chances for long term (or intermediate term) success of a "victorious" Confederacy would have been very low.

Mike said...

I cannot help worrying that there are people, emboldened by this administration, who will watch a show like “Confederate” and see it as inspiration, rather than a cautionary tale.

Hmmm.

Similarly, I am concerned that there are people, dumbed down by a progressive education system, who will watch a show like "1984" and see it as inspiration, rather than a cautionary tale.

I am concerned that there are people, dumbed down by a progressive education system, who will watch a movie like "The Hunger Games" and see it as inspiration, rather than a cautionary tale.

Kevin said...

Isn't the point of the show to increase white guilt and black anger over something that happened so long ago it's getting harder and harder to maintain the narrative of oppressor and victim?

People have a hard time relating to Roots, hence the recent remake with current actors.

The inevitable next step was a series set in present day where a subculture is forced to get the Master's Starbucks order, pick up his dry cleaning, and wash his technologically-advanced vehicle.

In other words, a series where all the unpaid interns are black.

Glen Filthie said...

I remember when Glen Beck was still a thing. On his books, he put the reviews made by brainless clucks like Whoopi Goldberg and other liberal panty-twisters, underneath a pic of himself sobbing and crying.

Sheer marketing genius. I wonder if we aren't being gamed the same way with this? "Some bitter, ugly liberal bint hates it - so it just HAS to be good!"

Dammit. It worked. I will have to watch!

Mike said...

The real question is are they going to show who the slavers, police and politicians are? Wil;l the Democrat Party and it's secret police the KKK be realistically portrayed as the defenders of slavery and white supremacy? Will the Republicans be the heroes for trying to free the slaves?

Ron Winkleheimer said...

white people are enslaved

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farnham%27s_Freehold

Written in 1964, the premise is that most of the world gets nuked except for Africa, which goes on to recover and take over the world. I doubt she would approve of the novel though, because having slaves corrupts the slave holders no matter what the race. Heinlein's stated purpose in writing the novel was to support the civil rights movement by getting whites to think about what it would be like if they were enslaved.

What would happen in a show where American Indians won the conflicts in which they were embroiled as the British and French and other European nations colonized this country? What would happen if Mexicans won the Mexican-American War and Texas and California were still part of Mexico?

Those are all pretty common alternate history scenarios.

https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/american-indian-victories.370722/

https://www.trivia-library.com/c/alternate-history-what-if-mexico-won-the-mexican-american-war.htm

Henry said...

"but they can’t or aren’t interested in imagining a world where, say, things went in a completely different direction after the Civil War and, say, white people are enslaved."

Planet of the Apes -- Prime Time

CJinPA said...

Isn't the point of the show to increase white guilt and black anger over something that happened so long ago it's getting harder and harder to maintain the narrative of oppressor and victim?

Bingo.

This is HBO, folks.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Would Ohio be trying to control wetbacks from Kentucky?

"The Confederate government of Kentucky was a shadow government established for the Commonwealth of Kentucky by a self-constituted group of Confederate sympathizers during the American Civil War. The shadow government never replaced the elected government in Frankfort, which had strong Union sympathies. Neither was it able to gain the whole support of Kentucky's citizens; its jurisdiction extended only as far as Confederate battle lines in the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, the provisional government was recognized by the Confederate States of America, and Kentucky was admitted to the Confederacy on December 10, 1861. Kentucky was represented by the central star on the Confederate battle flag.[1]"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_government_of_Kentucky

So no, Kentucky would be trying to control its border with Tennessee.

Matthew Sablan said...

Slavery probably would not have lasted another 40 or 50 years. It certainly would not have made it to modern times, as the South would have been cut off from Europe, America, most ex-English colonies.

They'd have knuckled under eventually, though maybe not without another flare up of hostilities, most likely trying to expand west- or southward to try and get more land to keep their slave agrarian economy going.

Any alternate history that doesn't view the fact that the South would have been isolated and economically ruined, especially given that France and England *already isolated them* during the Civil War, is one that is leaving alternate history and going straight to fiction.

Laslo Spatula said...

Betamax3000 had a series about a non-racist slave-owner that could knit with the scenario:

“Why would slaves go and do such a thing?”

I am Laslo.

Dave D said...

I viewed The West Wing as out-of-power porn for lefties. This is just another form of that sort of art. I'm sure they'd reverse history and make the Democrats the good guys, Mike.

Xmas said...

What would happen when a country gets locked into an agrarian economy based on criminally cheap manual labor?

See: most of the Third World.

I think, maybe, Zimbabwe and South Africa would be good equivalents. They had other natural resources (like diamonds and gold).

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I'm going to echo that slavery would have ended due to it being economically infeasible in a modern economy. Hell, it didn't benefit most of the people who lived in the South before the Civil War. There were very few plantation owners and a lot of poor whites. That's why we have the state of West Virginia.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_West_Virginia#Civil_War_and_split

There was also a pretty vigorous Union supporting guerilla movement in Northern Alabama.

"Unionists in northern Alabama[edit]
There was a small loyalist element in northern Alabama; it needed Union military support to survive.[9] On the one hand, with Union troops present, Southern Unionists were finally able to come out of hiding, join the Union Army if desired, and care for their families, who were now protected from Confederate partisans. On the other hand, Union troops doubled the amount of regional foraging compared to the Confederates. Federal foragers in Northern Alabama were, for the most part, an adventurous group that were aided by loyal Unionists, and they took all they needed for their vast forces, often raiding farms and homes previously struck by the Confederates.[10]

Before the arrival of Federal troops, local Unionist resistance networks were based on underground cells that aided pro-Union Loyalists by means of finances, contacts, supplies, and much needed local intelligence. Recruits from Alabama who had joined Union regiments used their familiarity with the social network and physical geography of the homefront to locate, rescue, and recruit beleaguered Unionists still behind Confederate lines. Loyalists were given assurance of safety and a job if they were to give the U.S. forces supplies, information, contacts, and money. Some Loyalists were drafted, and some were volunteers. White Unionists used the army as a tool to defeat the forces threatening to destroy the old Union, and their families and neighborhoods along with it. The most well known unit composed entirely of Alabama Unionists was the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment (Union). Of the 2,678 white Alabamians who enlisted in the Union Army, 2,066 served in it.[11]

Union partisans were motivated by a sense of duty and obligation to the Union cause and a need to protect their family and Unionist friends. They were also motivated by a desire for vengeance for all the wrongs they had suffered at Confederate hands throughout the war. Unionist guerrilla bands were typically fairly compact, numbering between twenty and a hundred men. They were independently organized, but were loosely associated and actively supported by occupying Union forces. Their missions included acting as spies, guides, scouts, recruiters behind enemy lines, and anti-guerrilla fighters to protect Union forces and infrastructure.[12]"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alabama_in_the_American_Civil_War#Unionists_in_northern_Alabama

tcrosse said...

I viewed The West Wing as out-of-power porn for lefties.

Lefties out-of-power during the Obama Administration ? Sad.

cubanbob said...

Spike Lee also made an alternative history civil war movie called CSA. Funny in parts, altogether not bad at all.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

And the plantation owners were generally heavily in debt and just a couple of bad harvests or seasons of low commodity prices from going bankrupt.

Big Mike said...

We live in a starkly divided country with a president who is shamefully ill equipped to bridge that divide.

Of course our previous president was spectacularly well equipped to bridge that divide, but in fact made it much, much worse than he found it. If Trump does nothing to worsen the racial divide, he will be a major improvement on Obama.

Michael K said...

" like the Iroquois Nation -- joined the U.S. as states of their own,"

The Iroquois made a terrible error in joining with the French in 1754. They were already quite advanced compared to the Plains Indians who were still hunter gatherers. Dartmouth College was founded to educate their children as well as the children of the white settlers. They had houses with glass windows at the time.

Had they not joined the French hoping to expel all the white settlers, they could well have become a subculture living peacefully with their white neighbors. Instead, they created the image of the hostile "Red Indian" and doomed the Cherokee who were almost as civilized.

Another possible alternate history case.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

No thanks HBO....I'll read some Harry Turtledove books instead.

William said...

Just now, I'm reading Gulag by Anne Applebaum. It's a detailed, meticulous history of the Soviet prison work camps. These gulags were pretty much slave plantations, except that slave owners had rather more regard for the lives of their slaves than the gulag administrators. These happened in my lifetime. Henry Wallace, FDR's Vice President, visited one of these gulags and praised the "pioneer spirit" of the "workers".......Progressives have created and praised some of the most dystopian societies in the history of mankind and, worse yet, have subverted and vilified societies where life is worth living.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

http://turtledove.wikia.com/wiki/Native_Americans

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Recommended for those who like alternate history, time travel, time paradoxes and science fiction. Has slavery, muslims, american indians, past/future/present.

Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus

Gahrie said...

We live in a starkly divided country with a president who is shamefully ill equipped to bridge that divide

Perhaps. But is that worse than living under a president who was well equipped to bridge that divide, but instead made the divide worse?

William said...

Here's an interesting little known fact. Sally Hemings as a slave woman in America had more rights to life than as the wife of a king in Africa. The African kings had hundreds and, sometimes, thousands of wives. These wives were sometimes put to death on the whim of the king.....The CSA did very little to spread enlightenment ideals, but they were probably a click or two better than African tribal societies.

MayBee said...

Sounds like Man In the High Castle, but with nobody still alive who went through the real reality

Oso Negro said...

Heaven forfend that we write a fan fiction where Lincoln doesn't invade and the South peacefully transitions away from slavery. In the world where slavery doesn't exist, the tribes in Africa simply slaughter the losers, kind of the way they are doing now.

Fernandinande said...

Ron Winkleheimer said...
I'm going to echo that slavery would have ended due to it being economically infeasible in a modern economy.


Me too. I can't see any reason to think that the Southern US, er, Confederacy, was so different from the rest of the world that slavery would have persisted.

William said...
These gulags were pretty much slave plantations,


The whole country was a slave...whatever it was (not a plantation, which is a farm). Slave country! Same for Cuba and N. Korea.


Roxane Gay, the original inspiration for the "yo mama so fat" line of quality jokes. "Facebook jumbo" indeed.

Gahrie said...

Harry Turtledove has written this scenario multiple times, and in a very entertaining fashion. His books, most of them anyhow, are worth a look.

Alternative history is an old genre, but Turtledove pretty much ignited the modern alternative history wave with a book called The Guns of the South in which some South African Boers bring AK-47s to the South during the Civil War.

He has written much more alternative history since then. One series is about aliens invading Earth during WW II.

dbp said...

tcrosse said...
"I viewed The West Wing as out-of-power porn for lefties.
Lefties out-of-power during the Obama Administration ? Sad."

The West Wing series began toward the end of Bill Clinton's presidency. As I recall it, the thinking at the time was alt-history: What if we had a president like Mr. Clinton, but morally upstanding? It carried on through the presidency of GWB as alt-history, but really became weird when Obama was elected. Why have an imaginary dream president when you have an actual dream president? A dream president, from the standpoint of the folks making the show.

Gahrie said...

I see Big Mike got there before me.

William said...

The serfs were freed at about the same time as the slaves. The serfs were expected to pay back the cost of their emancipation by working a few days a month for their previous owner. The owner retained the right to decree summary punishment, including execution, on his former serfs. The serfs were not whipped with a cat o'nine tails but rather with a knout. The knout was a much more punishing instrument. There was a fairly high mortality rate among those who were whipped with the knout......Although American blacks were treated harshly and unfairly, they were by no means the most benighted people on earth in the 19th century. In Ireland, malnutrition was endemic and during the famine years one out of seven people in Ireland starved to death. The historical record shows that people are willing to sell themselves into slavery to avoid starvation, but in the enlightened environs of Great Britain, they did not have that option.

Gahrie said...

which would certainly not have included the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Emancipation Proclamation was pure propaganda. It freed the slaves Lincoln had no control over, and did not free the slaves he did have control over.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Not exactly alternative history, but the series 1632, about a small mining town in West Virginia that is accidently transported to the hinterlands of the Germanies during the 30 Year War is interesting if you are into that sort of thing.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Heinlein wrote an SF book (_Farnham's Freehold_) where a future Earth had white slaves and Black slave masters.
The book got Heinlein denounced as -- you guessed it -- a "white supremacist."
It is people like Roxane Gay who make race and power the center of their imaginative universe.

Gahrie said...

The West Wing

I enjoyed The West Wing despite the ideology. I was kind of hoping that instead of ending the series that they would hire a new production team and keep it going with a Republican administration, even if they cast Alan Alda in the role of the Republican president.

William said...

It is the peculiar conceit of the left that America's history of slavery and racism is the absolute nadir of human relations. Not even close. Probably not even in the top ten percent of bad things that have happened to innocent people.

Fernandinande said...

CJinPA said...
A Mexican California?


Here's what I learned today and I'm glad that's over with:

California was the name given to a mythical island populated only by Black Amazon warriors who used gold tools and weapons in the popular early 16th-century romance novel Las Sergas de Esplandián (The Adventures of Esplandián) by Spanish author Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo. ... The novel described the Island of California as being east of the Asian mainland, "very close to the side of the Terrestrial Paradise; and it is peopled by black women, without any man among them, for they live in the manner of Amazons." The Island was ruled by Queen Calafia.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

The book got Heinlein denounced as -- you guessed it -- a "white supremacist."

To be fair, pretty much every white SF author published before 1990 is denounced as a racist. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle got denounced for _Lucifer's Hammer_.

And if its not racism, then they are sexist. Usually both.

Seeing Red said...

That's what I love about the Obama era. All that racial healing.

Isn't that the phrase?

Seeing Red said...

Did she bitch about the alternative history if Hitler won?

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Fortunately, SF now has gatekeepers that can use it to educate the public on what constitutes Good Think and has entered an era of both literary and economic success. Meanwhile, people who are independently publishing (spit!) are unable to sell their heteronormative, racist works.

Gahrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Roxane Gay: "We live in a starkly divided country [fact] with a president who is shamefully ill equipped to bridge that divide [conjecture]".

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

How about: "From 2009 through 2016 we livd in a starkly divided country with a president who was shamefully ill equipped to bridge that divide."

Seeing Red said...

David's right. Once McCormick and his harvester.....

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

There is ONE actual past (although many opinions about it). There is NOT JUST ONE "alternative history."

EDH said...

"I cannot help worrying that there are people, emboldened by this administration, who will watch a show like “Confederate” and see it as inspiration, rather than a cautionary tale."

Doesn't she realize her words bespeak Trump opponents more closely than Trump supporters?

Gahrie said...

Not exactly alternative history, but the series 1632

Actually 1632 is fairly typical alternative history, if done on a much grander scale than normal. It leans towards the sci fi genre with an attempt to be as logically and internally consistent as possible.

It's probably the most successful shared universe there has ever been.

Another interesting alternative history series was written by S.M. Stirling. It begins with a trilogy in which the island of Nantucket goes back in time to the bronze age. This was then followed up with a series of books about the modern world from which Nantucket left, in which modern technology stops working in 1998. This series is much more fantasy than sci fi, with magic playing a prominent role.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

@Gahrie

I know it is described as alternate history. But I tend to think of alternate history as "some pivotal historic event happens differently" and then the logical fallout from that is explored. What if Napoleon won at Waterloo for instance. When you introduce time travel I tend to think of that as an alternate timeline. What if Napoleon won at Waterloo because a time traveler provided him with Gatling Guns?

Lewis Wetzel said...

Blogger Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...
There is ONE actual past (although many opinions about it). There is NOT JUST ONE "alternative history."

There are ZERO actual pasts, Hammond X. Gritzkofe.
To paraphrase Nineteen Eighty-Four's O'Brien: what do you think the past is? A place you can visit? With people living in it?
The past, like the future, is a work of imagination.

Ralph L said...

Saki's When William Came, written just before WW I, has Imperial Germany occupying Britain without much of a fight (why he wrote it).

Who are the most prominent Germans in London?

Jews.

Mike said...

We live in a starkly divided country with a president who is shamefully ill equipped to bridge that divide.

Perhaps. But is that worse than living under a president who was well equipped to bridge that divide, but instead made the divide worse?


Thank you, Gahrie. That's what I was wondering.

rightguy2 said...

I have always wondered that if South had gained independence, the ultimate result would have been several more countries within what is now the 48 states. A sort of Balkanization of the USA. That seems more likely to me. But hey, if your aunt had balls, she would be your uncle.

Gahrie said...

I know it is described as alternate history. But I tend to think of alternate history as "some pivotal historic event happens differently" and then the logical fallout from that is explored

This is usually referred to as "counterfactual history" today.

Real American said...

This dumb cunt is free to create her own show based on her own imaginary world - perhaps one in which she is intelligent and people think she's interesting rather than a fuck hack. Nah, that's not realistic.

Gahrie said...

The really weird versions of alternate history are written from the point of view of someone from an alternative or counterfactual history trying to imagine the world created by actual historic events.

Mike said...

Like the Soviet Union and Global Warming certain people always know 100% what the future will bring but are always uncertain about the past.

Dude1394 said...

I am so damn tired of democrat media racism crap that I could barf. Whenever anything about slavery is published, I turn the page or the channel.

I JUST DO NOT CARE ANYMORE. And I certainly am not going to allow charges of racism to be used politically against me anymore. Same with rest of the "isms". The can all sod off.

FWBuff said...

I think an interesting alternate history to consider would focus on Reconstruction, rather than the Civil War. What if Lincoln had survived the assassination attempt to serve out the rest of his term through 1868 and implemented a fairer Reconstruction? What if the "40 acres and a mule" promise to former slaves had been a reality, and blacks were given land and farm equipment in the Great Plains and the West as part of the Homestead Act? What if they had learned to be (and were allowed to be) independent farmers and business people in the Western expansion? Oklahoma had a shadow of this alternate reality in a few black settlements, but imagine if it had happened on a larger scale.

exiledonmainstreet said...

It seems to me the current obsession with the Confederacy began with Dylan Roof. Once they found pictures of him with a Confederate flag, removing all traces of the Confederacy from the South, including statues of Confederate generals suddenly became a top priority. I’m a northerner and a big fan of Lincoln’s but it seems to me that even 25 years ago, liberals were capable of discussing the Confederacy with a bit more nuance. Ken Burns is a big lefty, but Mississippian Shelby Foote, featured prominently in “The Civil War,” expressed sympathy for the Southern soldiers and admiration for Lee. So did the movie “Gettysburg.” It used to be understood that you could admire the bravery of the Rebels, most of whom did not own slaves, without believing in their cause. It looks like that is heresy now. I’m wondering how long it will be before the SJWs insist on renaming Washington and Lee University (named after not one but 2 white male slaveowners) and erasing the figures from Stone Mountain.

The real point, of course, is to punish the southern deplorables for the crime of voting Republican.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Another interesting alternative history series was written by S.M. Stirling. It begins with a trilogy in which the island of Nantucket goes back in time to the bronze age.

I've read all of that series, plus some of his other alternate universe books.

What I have taken away from the Nantucket series is that those people with actual skills that are relevant will be valued and accepted. Skills such as: blacksmithing, bow making, weaving, spinning, gardening, food preserving, animal husbandry, mechanical aptitudes, plumbing, construction, hunting, fishing etc will be valued. The fact that you are a CPA, lawyer, advertising, executive, insurance salesman and so on won't mean jack when the Zombie Apocolypse occurs. We won't need those skills. We will need someone who can wield a shovel, pluck a chicken, repair an axle or build a smokehouse. Back to the basics.

There are going to be a lot of really useless people around being drags on the rest of us who can do things.

Thorley Winston said...

I’m surprised that after the success of Game of Thrones that HBO is greenlighting this instead of something like S.M. Stirling’s Domination of the Draka.

exiledonmainstreet said...

Dude1394 said...
I am so damn tired of democrat media racism crap that I could barf. Whenever anything about slavery is published, I turn the page or the channel."

At the time of the Rio Olympics, some millennials were surprised by the opening ceremony because they didn't know that slavery had existed in Brazil. I forget the exact percentage, but a startling number of young people think slavery is a uniquely American sin - because it's the only instance of slavery they have been taught about.

Rick said...

I cannot help worrying that there are people, emboldened by this administration, who will watch a show like “Confederate” and see it as inspiration, rather than a cautionary tale.

I cannot help but conclude there are idiots writing for the NYT.

In truth the show will attempt to link progressives with abolition and religious conservatives to slavery.

Lewis Wetzel said...

At the time of the Rio Olympics, some millennials were surprised by the opening ceremony because they didn't know that slavery had existed in Brazil.
Less than 10% of slaves taken from West Africa ended up in North America. The rest were taken to the Caribbean and Latin America.

Mark Jones said...

Mike said, "The real question is are they going to show who the slavers, police and politicians are? Wil;l the Democrat Party and it's secret police the KKK be realistically portrayed as the defenders of slavery and white supremacy? Will the Republicans be the heroes for trying to free the slaves?"

C'mon, Mike. You know the answer to that. We all do. The Republicans will be painted as racists, employing the secret police and slave catchers to line their pockets, while the Democrats will be the overmatched, heroic protagonists (no doubt displaying full-on current leftist ideology and values no matter how anachronistic they would be in that mileiu).

Char Char Binks said...

I have a Google alert set up for "stupidity and outrageous criminal acts". I'm beginning to think Google is racist.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

This is usually referred to as "counterfactual history" today.

Now I'm just feeling old.

"I dislike the way things are now compared to how they used to be!"
--- Angry Old Man

Probably the oldest alternate history I have ever read is _Lest Darkness Fall_. DeCamp didn't waste any time on why the time travel happened, it just did. A guy was walking down the street in Rome a few short years after WWII and next thing you know he's in Rome around the onset of what used to be called "The Dark Ages."

HoodlumDoodlum said...

There are all sorts of stories where white people are enslaved. Most are science fiction, of course--aliens take us over all the time! Don't give "Planet of the Apes" as an example, though, since that'd be instantly misinterpreted and labeled "ugly."

Anyway no one's stopping alternate history stories of white people being enslaved from being written, are they? I'd wager there's a considerable chunk of change to be made writing stories where Leftist-approved groups overcome and oppress non-Leftist approved groups.

An alternate history where European settlers were initially beaten back by Native Americans (north & south) is easy to imagine. The fact that disease did almost all the heavy lifting, genocide-wise, is evident to anyone who looks at history and is only glossed over because viruses and bacteria don't have a moral dimension and thus the "true" story puts less blame for mass killing on Europeans than the Leftist historians/Cathedral will tolerate. Now, of course, eventually the Europeans would probably have "won" anyway, as you'd have a group with Stone Age tech coming up against a group with Industrial Age tech...but the natives were pretty adaptable and if disease hadn't killed most of them off then European domination would certainly have taken much, much longer and may not have been as complete. I am not positive, but I'd bet there exist alternate histories that explore that idea.

The Godfather said...

So far, there's about 100 X the intelligent discussion on this thread as in Roxanne Gay's article. So intelligent that I find I have nothing to add.

Big Mike said...

I see that Big Mike got there before me.

Thanks, Gahrie, but I believe that your phrasing was more elegant.

exiledonmainstreet said...

Lewis Wetzel said...
At the time of the Rio Olympics, some millennials were surprised by the opening ceremony because they didn't know that slavery had existed in Brazil.
Less than 10% of slaves taken from West Africa ended up in North America. The rest were taken to the Caribbean and Latin America."

Yep. I asked a young nimrod who seemed to think only the US had slaves how black people - Africans - ended up in Cuba and Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He said, "They emigrated there!"

Uh, not exactly, bucko.

Quaestor said...

We live in a starkly divided country with a president who is shamefully ill equipped to bridge that divide.

By that Miss Grey means the gulf between people she would have lunch with and those she would not. Trump won't school his voters into despising their own deplorableness.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Just remembered, _Lest Darkness Fall_ begins a couple of years before WWII. Or at least the US entry. Also, _A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court_ is the oldest alternate history I have read.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Darn you, Ron Winkleheimer, bringing facts and citations to this discussion. This is the internet; I call foul!

Hagar said...

What if Napoleon won at Waterloo because a time traveler provided him with Gatling Guns?

What if Napoleon had won at Waterloo because did not eat whatever caused his diarhea?
It still would have been too late for him. After 1812 he was no longer invincible and things would continnue to go wrong here and there and everywhere in his empire.

Skippy Tisdale said...

I felt exhausted, simply because I have long been exhausted by slavery narratives...

N*gger fatigue.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Lewis Wetzel beat me to it. The lady really ought to read Farnham's Freehold. A handful of people, including a black servant, crowd into a bomb shelter after "this is not a drill" reports of a massive nuclear attack, and end up a few thousand years in the future. Said future is completely controlled by blacks and other dark-skinned people, because they were left relatively unscathed by the war. White men are "studs" and white women "sluts," and they are treated not by doctors, but by veterinarians. Oh, and they get eaten by the black aristocracy. Farnham discovers this after a tour of the kitchens.

In the end, the servant stays, as do Farnham's alcoholic wife and his son, who by this point has been castrated ("tempered," as they put it), and the remaining ones -- Farnham and his daughter's college friend and her infant twins (the daughter died in childbirth) get in the shelter with the family cat and get, somehow, sent back to when they came from.

It's the goofiest alternative history I've encountered, but given the premises (time travel being the obvious one) not unreasonable. I like the way Heinlein portrays the black rulers. They're not hostile to their white slaves, just indifferent, entirely used to treating them as animals, which sometimes rise to the level of pets. This is, of course, very much like American black slavery.

Gahrie said...

Also, _A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court_ is the oldest alternate history I have read.

That was probably the first I read. Some people claim the earliest alternative history was written by a Roman writer in the B.C.s who speculated about war between Alexander and Rome.

exhelodrvr1 said...

"But hey, if your aunt had balls, she would be your uncle."

Not if she still thought she was my aunt!

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

exiledonmainstreet,

People don't know even that "slave" and "Slav" are etymologically connected, that there have been white slaves in Europe. And certainly they don't know about New World slavery apart from the US. Or the indigenous slavery in Africa that gave American slave traders their "cargo." On that point, Roots was badly mistaken; it was not generally white men making raids on black African villages, but white men purchasing people already enslaved by black men.

MountainMan said...

I went on a 2-day tour of Gettysburg in early May with a group from my local Civil War Roundtable. We hired one of the best-known and most knowledgeable of the licensed guides for the tour. He told us over lunch the first day that he has informed the other licensed guides as well as the NPS staff that as of this year he will no longer work with school groups. He related several incidents to us of recent tours where the level of ignorance of both the teachers and students was truly appalling. He said it was a waste of his time, he could not teach an entire course in American history leading to the Civil War and Gettysburg in the time allotted for the tour. Some of the anecdotes would have been really funny if they weren't such a sad commentary on the state of the teaching of American history in many high schools.

Also learned in March on visits to Monticello and Mount Vernon that the new politically correct terms for "slave" or "slaves" are "enslaved person" and "enslaved people", respectively.

buwaya said...

"Probably the oldest alternate history I have ever read is _Lest Darkness Fall_."

Unique also for being about the only popular work I ever read that was sympathetic to the Ostrogoths.

Martin said...

So this person condemns the producers for the infinite range of things they didn't make, without even seeing what they did? Why does she assume the series will glorify slavery, or even posits that Southern chattel slavery would still exist 150+ years later?? This is HBO, not some radical offshoot of the Sons of the Confederacy (most of the members of which are reconciled to Appomattox, I wager).

Did she complain about "Man in the High Castle"? If not, why not?

Anyway, the Confederacy surviving has been the subject of alternative histories for a long time, in part because it was a plausible possibility, and it's crazy to say that it is just wish-fulfillment (though, it probably is for some). Whereas, a Civil War that ended with all the whites enslaved makes no sense whatsoever, whether or not she likes the idea; there is no remotely sensible path to that outcome.

One would like to think she is aware that slavery is as old as humanity and did not spring forth out of nowhere in 1600s Virginia... but given what I see and hear, I cannot assume that. She certainly reads like an ignorant fool.

Larger point, and it's not as if they care, but if the coastal elites had the self-reflective quality to want insight into why they are not respected by much of the country, this article would be a good place to start.

buwaya said...

"Some of the anecdotes would have been really funny if they weren't such a sad commentary on the state of the teaching of American history in many high schools."

True. History is effectively untaught in the US, and unlike the case as recently as 20 years ago popular culture does not fill in the gaps even slightly.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ron Winkleheimer,

What's racist about Lucifer's Hammer? That Alim Nasoor is a black man who with his fellow gang members joins a cannibal cult? Meh. There are worse crazinesses in that book. As there would have to be, given that it's about the practical end of civilization on earth.

If Niven and Pournelle had left the impression that there were no black people in LA, then that would also have been racist. As it is, there's Rick Delanty, the first black astronaut.

cubanbob said...

I make no claim to be a historian or scholar. That said,the Civil War is in real history is almost a counter factual history. On balance the best military commanders were on the side of the confederacy yet the South couldn't win. Suppose the commanders of the South were like those of the North at the outset of the war. It's hard to imagine the war would have lasted as long as it did before the defeat of the South. One would have expected a more level field of competence amongst both sides. Yet the South had the better commanders.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

What's racist about Lucifer's Hammer? That Alim Nasoor is a black man who with his fellow gang members joins a cannibal cult?

Yep, that is exactly the accusation.

Gahrie said...

True. History is effectively untaught in the US

I teach U.S. History at the high school level. I concentrate on four ideas:

1) All of my students have won the lottery by living in the U.S. in the 21st century. The poorest among them has a higher standard of living than 99% of all humans who have ever lived. Appreciate what you have.

2) History is complicated and interesting. I blow their minds every year when I teach about Lincoln for instance.

3) "Othering" is a condition endemic to humanity. It can be as benign as the rivalry between Dodgers and Giants fans, or as malign as slavery and the Rwanda massacre.

4) Media has a point of view and vested interests. Google and Wikipedia are not your friends. Verify everyone and everything, including me.

And yes the kids believe that slavery was a uniquely American sin, and are shocked when I provide examples from other cultures and times.

Big Mike said...

@Michael K, you're right about how close the election of 1864 looked to be, and how critical it was to Lincoln's victory that Sherman took Atlanta. Still, what would the South have looked like had McClellan won and negotiated an armistice with Davis? At that point Kentucky and West Virginia were Union states, the North held Missouri, Tennessee, all of Louisiana, eastern Arkansas, all of the Mississippi River, all of the state of Mississippi, everything west of Texas, and large parts of Virginia: north of the Rappahannock, the entire Shenandoah Valley, Norfolk, everything south and east of the James, both sides of the Potomac River, and Grant probably would have taken Richmond. Whould cautious McClellan have risked the political firestorm of giving any of that back? How would the Confederacy have replaced the seaports of Norfolk and New Orleans?

Stoutcat said...

Heck, you want alternate history with sci-fi, fantasy, and magic, read Larry Corriea's Grimnoir Chronicles, starting with _Hard Magic_. Think 1930s noir, dirigibles, people with unexplained magical abilities, the Japanese Empire, Black Jack Pershing and John Moses Browning. What's not to love?

Unknown said...

Alternate Civil War histories are perhaps one of the most common forms of Alternate History. I wrote one myself, though it was soundly rejected. For Turtledove, I think _Guns of the South_ though one of his earlier works is perhaps the best. It's a done-in-one book before he had latched on to the concept of huge multi-volume series with strictly rotating casts of characters (whether that set of characters really had anything to say on this rotation..) re-introduced painfully over and over by their tics.

I enjoyed the *concept* of his victorious-Confederacy-goes-on-to-become-Nazi-Germany, but it was about four books too many.

The "1632" series mentioned upthread started off well in the initial book, but then started going sideways instead of forward.

Two "French Revolution with magic" flintlock-punk series I am following now are quite good if not true AH: Brian McClleans's "powder mage" books, and Django Wexler's "Shadow Campaigns".

Ron Winkleheimer said...

The "1632" series mentioned upthread started off well in the initial book, but then started going sideways instead of forward.

I quit reading the series after about 4 books. It started to get tedious. But the first couple of books were really good.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Heck, you want alternate history with sci-fi, fantasy, and magic, read Larry Corriea's Grimnoir Chronicles

He's planning sequels, set in the 1950s.

Michael K said...

"How would the Confederacy have replaced the seaports of Norfolk and New Orleans?"

Charleston and Mobile ?

It's not something I've done a big study on, like I have done with WWII. I have read about Davis thinking of expansion to Mexico.

There is also some revisionist literature on slavery and whether it was as inefficient as described. Of course it is not PC to say it was a viable economic model given the cotton monoculture. The boll weevil might have freed the slaves, though.

Bob said...

"shamefully ill equipped to bridge that divide"

Um, was Obama equipped to bridge the divide? The divide grew wider under Obama's watch.

Gahrie said...

The "1632" series mentioned upthread started off well in the initial book, but then started going sideways instead of forward.

I quit reading the series after about 4 books. It started to get tedious. But the first couple of books were really good.


I've read all of the mainline books (although it is sometimes hard to tell which those are) and most of the companion books.

The 1632 universe is unique in that the creator encourages others to play in it, including fan fiction....some of which is incorporated into the mainline stories and much of it published. In fact he created a digital magazine to collect and publish fan fiction and culls the best to be physically published in anthologies. They have very strict rules about what and who can be included. The real life town in West Virginia that the fictional Grantville is based on rules. If it wasn't there when the event took place..it can't be used. So you can't "discover" that a battalion of Marines with all of their gear was on maneuvers just outside of town and were brought back in time.

Gahrie said...

There is also some revisionist literature on slavery and whether it was as inefficient as described.

I find that the economic features of slavery often overshadow the social features. Slavery was about prejudice against the other, both in Africa and the U.S. as well as economics. In Africa it was largely about tribalism and in the U.S., racism. I think it is very fair to say that the South would have continued with slavery even if it was economically inefficient as a means of social control over those they considered inferior. Slavery would have been easier to administer than Jim Crow was.

southcentralpa said...

Only had time to skim all the comments, but it may or may not be inspired by a mockumentary called "CSA: The Confederate States of America", which was actually quite good (IIRC it was made by a Professor of Film, and it really nails the style of films of earlier times. Oddly enough, and most worrisome for this new HBO series, the "present day" part of it was the weakest part (I thought, YMMV).

Gahrie said...

By the way it should be noted that the Ring of Fire universe currently has four separate timelines:

1) "Our" timeline which has seen three "vanishings" to date.

2) A time line n which the town of Grantville was transported back to Germany in 1632.

3) a timeline in which a prison in Illinois goes back in time (Timespike)

4) A timeline in which a cruise ship in the Med goes back to shortly after Alexander's death.

There was also talk of a plot having to do with George Washington at one time.

Michael K said...

Slavery was about prejudice against the other, both in Africa and the U.S. as well as economics.

I think it was economic through most of its existence. The era of human and animal power only ended after the Civil War so it made good sense for several thousand years to enslave defeated enemies rather than kill them all.

The African slaves were originally imported largely for their resistance to tropical diseases. The Indians in he Caribbean largely died off by the 1700s. African slaves were imported there and in Brazil to do the work.

In the 1600s, the British sent white convicts to Jamaica and in the 1700s to Australia as convict laborers. Not many survived in the Caribbean but they did in Australia.

Gahrie said...

Some of you may be interested in a separate alternative history created by Eric Flint who created the Ring of Fire universe, given discussions about dueling and alternate histories involving Indians.

He wrote two books about an alternate timeline dealing with Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston and various members of the Cherokee. IIRC it ended with a new nation to the west of the USA comprised of free Blacks and the Cherokee.

campy said...

Um, was Obama equipped to bridge the divide? The divide grew wider under Obama's watch.

He was equipped to bridge it, but inclined to widen it.

cubanbob said...

Suppose the South bit its tongue and let Lincoln's provocations slide? Not fire on Ft. Sumter. Just let time pass until the fervor in the North died down. A few years of nothing but trade would have made it very difficult to get the support from the people in the North to go to war to free slaves in what would no longer have been The United States. How much longer the South could have remained a slave state is unknowable but judging from Brazil a case could be made not much longer than Brazil. Under this alternative history had the South not fired first would the North have made an offer to the South to "come home" and if so, what would it have offered?

Quaestor said...

For Turtledove, I think The Guns of the South though one of his earlier works is perhaps the best.

I've never warmed to kind of alternative history made popular by Harry Turtledove, mainly because it relies on fantasy or science fiction tropes like time travel or "dimensional portals" to mix elements of the modern world with the past to create fantasy scenarios. In the case of The Guns of the South Turtledove posits an Army of Northern Virginia equipped with AK-47s going up against a Union Army armed almost exclusively with muzzleloaders.

The idea that the Confederacy's weakness was a matter of numbers that could be redressed by superior weaponry is simple-minded at best. But if that's the premise one chooses for a novel, there are other ways to arm the South which do not require time warps. For example, in Europe there two breech-loading rifles which did not require expensive metallic cartridges which could conceivably have found their way onto American battlefields. The South began the war with the notion that one or more European powers would eventual intervene in favor of the nascent Confederacy because their own social stability would hinge on the flow of cotton to the textile mills of England and France. In point of fact, Napoleon III toyed with the idea of intervention but settled on the easier target of Mexico. Had it not been for the influence of Eugénie, his Spanish consort, Napoleon might well have opted for an American Empire based on New Orleans prised from the South in return for military aid. In real history, the Chassepot rifle was not adopted until 1866. However, Antoine Alphonse Chassepot had been working sporadically on his rifle since 1853. Isn't it much more believable that Chassepot's timetable could be advanced a few years, sufficient for Lee's Army to receive a decisive number of his breechloaders than to entertain the idea of Gettysburg being fought with assault rifles?

n.n said...

Perhaps a universal documentation of slavery would trigger people's interests. It would certainly break a lot of political myths that have become popular in secular folklore.

William Chadwick said...

Suppose the South had announced that slavery was for the Common Good, and then given the slaves health care. (Which one would need to prevent whip wounds from festering.) "Liberals" could become big supporters. I mean, it's not like they actually care about liberty.

Quaestor said...

Dean McLaughlin's novella Hawk Among the Sparrows neatly skewers many fantasy-based "alt hist" tropes by pointing out that few technologies exist in a self-contained vacuum. The story posits a ultra-sophisticated Mach 3 fighter plane, something like an evolved A-12, propelled by a time warp onto a French aerodrome of the Western Front in 1917. Since America is at war with Germany in 1917 the pilot reasons that it his duty to use his massively powerful warplane to clear the skies of every German aircraft he can find, but his plans go awry almost immediately when requests ten thousand kilos of paraffin — the nearest equivalent of JP-4 available in 1917 — only to discover that enough fuel to keep his fighter aloft for an hour is more than what is allocated to an entire field army for a year. Nevertheless, the time-travelling pilot finagles sufficient fuel for a short 15-minute sortie, which he must laboriously filter by hand before introducing it to his plane's tanks. His attack proves futile, however. It turns out the jet fighter's array of heat-seeking and radar guided missile are useless against the enemy. His heat-seekers zoom away from the merely warm German planes toward the only real heat in the skies of 1917 — the Sun! And his radar guided missiles can't tell a Albatross from an albatross.

William Chadwick said...

Anyone know anything about Roxanne Gay's politics? I'll go way out on a limb and guess you're not going to find Bastiat, Hayek or Van Mises in her library.

Jon said...

Written in the early 1950s on this subject: "Bring the Jubilee" by Ward Moore. Was a Ballantine paperback. Pretty interesting, as I recall.

The Godfather said...

The upthread references to "Farnham's Freehold" reminded me of this. Back in the '60's I learned that some of my flower children friends had discovered "Stranger In A Strange Land" -- you could tell because they kept saying "grock" -- and they thought this guy Heinlein was groovy (or whatever word they used back then). So I told them they ought to read "Farnham's Freehold" next. I don't think they grocked that book.

Michael K said...

had the South not fired first would the North have made an offer to the South to "come home" and if so, what would it have offered?

Good speculation but Sherman warned them and they were all for war.

cubanbob said...

Quaestor excellent point. Technology needs infrastructure and maintenance and repair and supply. I doubt that a 1944 P47 sent back from France of 1944 to the France of 1917 could have operated for much time. To be sure the pilot could have shot down quite a few 1917 German planes but once out of ammunition and fuel the plane would have become useless.

Richard said...

For various reasons, industrialized production of cotton is compatible with forced labor due to certain simple metrics.
The first mechanical cotton picker was designed in 1941. So cotton was still hand-picked by somebody and because it was blacks doing the work, it was, in effect, tainted and whites should not do it.
Mackinley Cantor in Life Magazine decades ago did a piece on if the South had won the Civil War.
The Civil War killed or crippled as many as a million young men. If they had lived and not been ruined by the war, a place would have had to be found for them. Suppose ten percent of them went west. Another hundred thousand guys crossing the wide Missouri and heading for...wherever would have made a huge difference in the settlement of the west post 1860. Good? Bad?
Industrialization would have not had an effect on slavery because you don't have to front the money for a guy working on wages, and he's not inclined to sabotage the output. For all their engineering competence, my father says (Infantry officer in WW II) their munitions had more duds than one might have expected, presumed to be sabotage by slave labor.
See "I'll Take My Stand, the South and The Agrarian Tradition" It may have reflected a general feeling, or perhaps reinforced it. One writer said that while some manufactures would be necessarily to provide people with, say, household implements, "the majority of workers would be in the fields"> My guess is the writer wasn't planning to join them.

cubanbob said...

Micheal K it's true Sherman issued the warning but when he did he wasn't General Sherman with the reputation. The fallacy of alternative history is it ignores the decision makers were already decided on their course of action and based their decisions on bad assumptions. Admiral Yamamoto who had the status and credibility warned his superiors who went ahead anyway based on their bad assumptions and attacked the US. Suppose Japan just bit its tongue with FDR's sanctions and continued its war in China and in the Pacific everywhere the US wasn't. Could FDR have gotten the country to go to war against Japan? I''m not sure prior to Pearl Harbor there was such a sentiment. Japan just might have won its wars in the Pacific. Or suppose Hitler ignored his treaty with Japan and not declared war on the US? Could FDR maintain support for England while only fighting Japan? Without the US involvement in Europe could Brittain and Russia have defeated the Axis?

Big Mike said...

@cubanbob, OTOH, there was plenty of kerosene around back then, and jet fuel is pretty much just kerosene. An F-15 or F-16 couldn't take off from the bumpy grass landing strips of WWI, but a Harrier or an F-35B ... of course there's still the problem of what to do when your last Sparrow and last round of 20mm is expended.

If I knew I was going back in time I'd want two Colt model 1860 Army revolvers, a thousand percussion caps, two spare cylinders, a powder measure calibrated for 24 grains, a few pounds of black powder, a few hundred .452 bullets from .45 long Colt cartridges, and a .452 bullet mold. Plus the formulas for making more gun powder and fulminate of mercury. Oh, and cleaning supplies. Even in the Paleolithic I could acquire lead and the ingredients for gun powder.

Gahrie said...

"grock" -

It's "grok".

Jim Daniels said...

She was probably SO psyched to use the term "whiteness."

richardsson said...

Carl Carmer wrote a bestselling book back in the 1930's titled Stars Fell On Alabama , which I read earlier this year. It reaffirmed what one of my college professors in Poli Sci told us about his ancestors in Eastern Tennessee. Carmer interviewed the Alabama "hill people" of Scots-Irish descent who were trying to scrounge a living on the poor land in the Appalachians. They wanted "no part of no Confederacy." Some went north to fight on the Union side. Others would hide in the woods and kill Confederate Army draft agents who went from farm to farm. They were not racially tolerant but one woman told Carmer the feelings of "her people." She said her people weren't going to fight to let the rich men with the good land keep their [slaves]. Without the slaves, maybe they'd have to sell the land at lower prices. Sherman must have known.

GRW3 said...

After 150 years, it is unlikely the Confederacy would have any significant amount, if any, of slaves. The current costs would just be too high compared to mechanized farming. Slavery was doomed in an industrial society. The curious question would be how would the Confederacy get out of the slavery business: Murder? Forced sterilization and die out? Set free (perhaps at the Union DMZ)? A combination thereof? I'm guessing the latter.

SukieTawdry said...

See it as an inspiration? An inspiration for what? Re-establishing slavery as an institution??

bgates said...

interested in imagining a world where, say....slavery never happened at all.

Not imagining it existing at all would be even more difficult than imagining it never existed outside of the trans-Atlantic slave trade (which admittedly progs seem to manage pretty easily). But sure, I'll give it a shot.

Without the trans-Atlantic slave trade, there would not have been hundreds of thousands of Africans shipped across the ocean by slave traders. Maybe the plantation owners would have recruited Africans as manual laborers for a wage, but since they could have done that and didn't, I'm guessing that wouldn't have happened much. Let's suppose somehow some Africans did make it to the colonies somehow though.

Once this much smaller population of non-slave Africans made it to North America, they would not have been subjected to the social stigma of slavery nor the restrictions that kept slaves from forming legally recognized marriages with anyone else. Some of them may have been unable to marry because others preferred to marry non-blacks, or because they themselves preferred blacks (who I'm assuming would not have been present in such great numbers as slavery produced), and some number of them would probably have preferred (and been able to afford) to move back to Africa after a while. I'd bet after a few generations, the number of unambiguously African-Americans would have been about the same as the number of unambiguously French Hugenot-Americans.

Roxane Gay is asking us to imagine an America with essentially no black people. Imagine what politics would look like in that America. Imagine what crime would be like.

Do you think Roxane Gay would approve of a show that imagined there had never been slavery in North America?

SukieTawdry said...

If I remember correctly, wasn't the UK, a major market for the Confederacy, contemplating tariffs on slave-cultivated cotton? It's quite possible in the civilized world, it would have become the blood diamonds of its time.

ganderson said...

I don't want to read articles by fat angry black lesbians, who are seemingly ignorant of History.

BTW- Re: Harry Turtledove: I thought Guns of the South was stupid. His other alternate history, spread over 4? books where the Confederacy becomes Nazi Germany is more interesting, although most of the stuff you can see coming a mile away, and Turtledove's prose makes WEB Griffin look like Dickens!

I think I teach my classes a lot like Gahrie

Michael K said...

"Sherman issued the warning but when he did he wasn't General Sherman with the reputation."

Yes but he was highly respected as the Superintendent of the college that later became LSU. The Louisiana officials were trying to talk him into staying and running the college.

That was setting of his letter,

"You, you the people of the South, believe there can be such a thing as peaceable secession. You don't know what you are doing. I know there can be no such thing. ... If you will have it, the North must fight you for its own preservation. Yes, South Carolina has by this act precipitated war. ... This country will be drenched in blood. God only knows how it will end. Perhaps the liberties of the whole country, of every section and every man will be destroyed, and yet you know that within the Union no man's liberty or property in all the South is endangered. ... Oh, it is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization. ... You people speak so lightly of war. You don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing. I know you are a brave, fighting people, but for every day of actual fighting, there are months of marching, exposure and suffering. More men die in war from sickness than are killed in battle. At best war is a frightful loss of life and property, and worse still is the demoralization of the people. ...

"You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people, but an earnest people and will fight too, and they are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it.

"Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The Northern people not only greatly outnumber the whites at the South, but they are a mechanical people with manufactures of every kind, while you are only agriculturists--a sparse population covering a large extent of territory, and in all history no nation of mere agriculturists ever made successful war against a nation of mechanics. ...

"The North can make a steam-engine, locomotive or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or shoes can you make.
You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical and determined people on earth--right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with.

MountainMan said...

@richardsson - I have heard of that book. I live most of the time in East TN now and the people here mostly were loyal to the Union. There was lots of bitter warfare between them and the Confederate sympathizers that were here. Across the mountains of north AL, north GA, East TN, and western NC, most people would have preferred to stay in the Union.

Kennesaw State University outside Atlanta offers 4-8 week Civil War courses in their adult evening programs every semester. This is in the catalog for Oct-Dec:

The Guerrilla War in Georgia - From the Appalachians to the Wiregrass, it's the little known conflict that nearly brought Georgia to the brink of anarchy. A rare look into the irregular war that began with local opposition to secession in 1861 and the passage of conscription in 1862 which led to open rebellion by 1863. This course will include an overview of the operations of state troops and home guard militia to counter draft evasion, desertion and "Tory" activity in the state. The various guerrilla bands that existed during this period are covered in detail.

Few people ever learn about this. My gg-grandfather died from disease after only 8 weeks in the 41st GA Infantry in spring 1862 but his first cousin in Marietta hightailed it out of town as soon as GA seceded and rode out the war in Columbus, OH, fighting for neither side. Came back in 1865 and got back into business just like nothing had happened.

I don't have much interest in the proposed HBO series or high hopes for its success. As much as I have liked some of HBO's series they have produced some real duds as well. Alternate histories to me have to be plausible, and this one just doesn't fit the bill. My wife and I enjoyed the first two seasons of "The Man in the High Castle" on Amazon but it was still pretty much of a stretch. Benioff and Weiss should be careful, GoT has been such a big hit, they are starting to think like Lee at Gettysburg, assured of their invincibility.

FullMoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paco Wové said...

"The Handmaid's Tale": theocratic fan fiction?

buwaya said...

"I doubt that a 1944 P47 sent back from France of 1944 to the France of 1917 could have operated for much time. To be sure the pilot could have shot down quite a few 1917 German planes but once out of ammunition and fuel the plane would have become useless. "

The biggest effect of such a windfall would not be a few dozen fallen enemy aircraft, but the technological boost from reverse-engineering the aircraft. It would have been too risky to fly the thing at all. It would be foolhardy to risk the loss of the aircraft in an accident.

Kansas City said...

Interesting to think about what would have happened without Civil War. Lincoln supported Constitutional Amendment that would have protected in perpetuity slavery in the slave states. Jefferson's nephew proposed in VA legislature back in about 1832 an abolition of slavery based on age with all slavery done by the 1880's Failed about 60/40% in legislature. Don't know if came back up. VA was anti-secession apparently until Fort Sumter.

Overall, colossal failure by politicians of era, producing 750,000 deaths and over a century of racial strife. Don't know if things would have been necessarily worse overall with no war or if south won/negotiated a deal. Impossible to know for sure. Brazil ended slavery peacefully in 1880's but don't know much about consequences.

Ralph L said...

if it was economically inefficient as a means of social control over those they considered inferior.
The whites were also afraid of the blacks. After centuries of mistreatment, they had a reason to be.

When a girl, my mother visited her ancestor's 1790 plantation (then derelict, now a wedding venue) north of Charlotte. They showed her where wayward slaves were chained to a cellar wall, which made an impression. Her father remained a segregationist (he said JFK got what he deserved for interfering in Southern society and laws).

Richard said...

You can't just "not have" a significant historical event. The forces which led to it must be accounted for somehow. Or you have to go much further back in time and redirect various issues.
Bismarck said the next war would begin because of "some damned thing in the Balkans". He was right, but if it hadn't been the assassination, it would very likely have been something else, since the kettle was simmering and people were bringing more fuel for the fire.
Simply have Prinzip on another street doesn't do it.

Michael K said...

""I doubt that a 1944 P47 sent back from France of 1944 to the France of 1917 could have operated for much time."

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a Tarzan book that I read when a kid that had a modern man with a Colt 1911 who encountered crusaders who were marooned in Africa on their way home from the Crusades and had a whole society there in "uncharted Africa."

He (I forget how) got there and was involved in the culture but finally had to use his Colt 1911 in battle.

Probably written before 1920.

Big Mike said...

@Michael K, the problem with a modern center-fire handgun, both semi-auto or revolver, in more primitive settings is that the ammunition simply couldn't be made reliably until circa 1870. There were cartridge rifles and revolvers before then -- the Spencer, the Henry rifle, the Maynard carbine, the Smith and Wesson model #1 -- but they used rimfire ammo, which is even harder to manufacture and not reloadable. That's why I'd pick a black powder percussion handgun if I was going back in time.

Richard said...

Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series presumes that history is going to go a certain way unless various significant happenings are detoured. If, for example, Farmer Jones is killed by some time traveler more or less by accident....the farm exists, somebody's going to farm it. The somebody will have the same soil, weather, crops, blights, taxes, butthead overlord, and similar circumstances as the late Jones. Hence, he will eventually do as Jones would have done.
Except if, for example, Scipio is killed early on and the Carthaginians defeat Rome for good.
So one line of history is resilient and doesn't go haring off at the rumor of a butterfly's temper tantrum.


WRT the Civil War, see De Voto, "1846, The Year of Decision" No help for it after that.

richardsson said...

@MountainMan

The bookStars Fell on Alabama made such an impact on New York society in the 1930's that Frank Perkins and Mitchell Parrish wrote a song by the same name that became a huge hit. There have been at least 100 records by different artists since the 1930's.

Getting back to the original topic of alternative history about the Civil War. I think I remember an alternative history book where the South won the Civil War was published in the 1950's when I was in elementary school. I think I got halfway through it and then said "Bah!" and took it back to the library.

ganderson said...

@Michael K:

Great quote. Sam Houston said much the same thing.

PresbyPoet said...

So many alternatives. History is only one branch in a bundle of possibilities. The many worlds interpretation of quantum reality suggests that each particle choice creates universes from all the possibilities. All you need do is figure out how to travel between.

I enjoy Eric Flint's world. He seems to have invited the world to join him in writing it. A history that is a joy to read. His latest is "Mission to the Mughals". The Taj Mahal is being built by the Emperor. You have"real" characters who created our future dealing with a future reality.

Having read thousands of science fiction books, they help stretch your mind.

One author of alternative worlds was H. Beam Piper. "Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen", an early influence of mine. Read his books if you can find them.

Almost any hard science fiction creates an alternative universe by now. It is interesting to read Heinlein's time travel childrens book written in the 50's "The Door into Summer",about a world of today that is now an alternative history. Heinlein had a "future history" written in 1940 that missed world war 2. Yet his future history foretells the crazy times we live in today.