Alternate History: Iraq
Unqualified Offerings Is Shrill

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (The Washington Times Celebrates Black History Month Edition)

Black Republicans are as rare as Republican academics. Here's part of the reason why: the Washington Times celebrates Black History Month:

The Washington Times: By Peter Cliffe: It is just as well Harriet Beecher Stowe knew nothing about Mary Chesnut. The child of fervently puritanical parents and driven by her abolitionist beliefs to write "Uncle Tom's Cabin," Stowe created an incredibly successful and influential novel although she had no firsthand knowledge of her subject.... Stowe was convinced that all slaveholders were brutish oppressors (as some undoubtedly were), but what would she have made of Mary Boykin Miller, who as a young girl taught slaves on two plantations to read and write although this was strictly forbidden in South Carolina? Both she and the man she married were opposed to slavery. In every regard, Mary Chesnut, as she became, was a remarkable woman.... Hardly likely to revise her beliefs, Stowe probably would have dismissed Mary as an irrelevance, an aberration of the plantocracy....

She was just 17 when in 1840 she married James Chesnut Jr., the son of wealthy parents, and settled at Mulberry, a luxurious plantation home where all the Chesnuts resided. Taking little or no part in the running of the plantation but sometimes acting as a hostess, Mary seems to have been contented enough. James served first in the state legislature and then in 1855 became a U.S. senator.... Mary had a well-attended salon in Washington... a close friend of Varina Davis, future first lady of the Confederacy.... Then came secession. James Chestnut resigned, and back they went to Mulberry before moving to Montgomery and then to Richmond after Virginia left the Union....

Mary never lost her distaste of slavery. As a child on her paternal grandparents' plantation, she had rescued a slave there from illiteracy with her grandmother's consent. It was an establishment where slaves were treated humanely. She again broke the law at Mulberry, also with family permission, by teaching other slaves to read and write.... James may have disliked slavery, but he was an ardent secessionist, serving on Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard's staff, initially as a brigadier general and ultimately as a general. Although he saw action at First Manassas, his were primarily administrative duties.

Mary's voluminous journal was filled with opinions, not always favorable, of those who guided the destiny of the fledgling Confederacy... the privations endured by civilian.... Women could go without fashionable garments, but prices spiraled ever higher, and food became so scarce.... When the Confederacy collapsed, the Chesnuts returned to the wreck of their home.... Mary never referred to her journal as "A Diary From Dixie," which was a title used by the Saturday Evening Post when part of her work was serialized in 1905.... Nothing but tall, blackened chimneys to show that any man had ever trod this road before," Mary Boykin Chesnut wrote, summing up in a single sentence the tragedy of a cause utterly lost. Ironically, Harriet Beecher Stowe's subsequent novels never achieved anything like the success of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which President Lincoln had told her started the Civil War.