By John Gruber
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Colin Woodard, writing at TPM Cafe:
“Division and Reunion” was met with mixed reviews, but was a commercial success, as it embraced an account that let white Americans put the Civil War and civil rights behind them. And it inspired Wilson to write “A History of the American People,” a poorly written and shoddily researched five-volume, illustrated tome published in 1902. (“A disappointment after the pleasure of examining the pictures is past,” a leading journal wrote of it.) It furthered the white supremacist arguments in “Division and Reunion,” calling freed slaves “dupes” and the KKK a group formed “for the mere pleasure of association [and] private amusement” whose members accidentally discovered they could create “comic fear” in the Blacks they descended on. Immigrants were a problem because they were no longer “of the sturdy stocks of the North of Europe” but contained “multitudes of men of the lowest classes from the South of Italy and men of the meaner sort out of Hungary and Poland” and Chinese people, “with their yellow skin and strange, debasing habits of life,” who seemed “hardly fellow men at all, but evil spirits” and who provoked understandable mass killings by white mobs.
Wilson was a thoroughgoing racist even by the standards of his own day. His attitude toward African-Americans and their political rights don’t just look bad from the perspective of the day. They were widely considered retrograde even in his own day.
It’s absolutely flabbergasting to compare these basic facts to what I learned about Woodrow Wilson in high school, which was more or less just the facts of World War I and that Wilson’s spearheading of the League of Nations was noble.
★ Tuesday, 30 June 2020