Why do people believe myths about the Confederacy? Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong.
False history marginalizes African Americans and makes us all dumber.

History is the polemics of the victor, William F. Buckley once said.  Not so in the United States, at least not regarding the Civil War.  As soon as the Confederates laid down their arms, some picked up their pens and began to distort what they had done and why.  The resulting mythology took hold of the nation a generation later and persists — which is why a presidential candidate can suggest, as Michele Bachmann did in 2011, that slavery was somehow pro-family and why the public, per the Pew Research Center, believes that the war was fought mainly over states’ rights.

The Confederates won with the pen (and the noose) what they could not win on the battlefield: the cause of white supremacy and the dominant understanding of what the war was all about.  We are still digging ourselves out from under the misinformation they spread, which has manifested in our public monuments and our history books.

“De-Confederatizing the United States won’t end white supremacy, but it will be a momentous step in that direction.”


As new details emerge about the suspect and his motives, we must also consider the historical significance attached to the scene of the crime — a broader frame that includes a city and state with deep and, in some cases, abiding ties to the most violent chapters in American history. 

6. One of the most publicized recent police shootings happened in North Charleston.

The Maya archaeological site of Muyil, located in the modern State of Quintana Roo, Mexico. It is thought to date from approximately the Middle Formative period (before 400 BC), and was continuously occupied up to the arrival of the Spanish. From this point it was abandoned, with no evidence of Maya or European occupation until the 1800s.

Photo taken by Cristopher Gonzalez.
Denmark Vesey, Forgotten Hero
Who was Denmark Vesey, and why is there a sudden surge of interest in this little-known figure of American history? An Atlantic essay from 1861 helps to clarify.

In the wake of tonight’s tragic shooting incident at the church Denmark Vesey founded via slave revolt in Charleston, South Carolina, here’s some facts to know about Vesey.

Widespread recognition for Denmark Vesey has been a long time coming. In 1822, in Charleston, South Carolina, Vesey masterminded what would have been the largest slave revolt in American history. When an informer revealed the plans at the last minute and the revolt was nipped in the bud, Charleston authorities downplayed the story, claiming that they had “allowed” the plot to progress so as to ensure the capture of its leaders. Fearing future attempts at insurrection, Charleston slaveowners had Vesey and many of his co-conspirators put to death, and hid written records of the Vesey episode from their slaves. Vesey’s legacy was, for all intents and purposes, buried and forgotten.

Now, one hundred and seventy-seven years later, we are witnessing a surge of interest in this forgotten American hero. Three books on Vesey and his plot have appeared in 1999—He Shall Go Out Free, by Douglas R. Egerton, Designs Against Charleston: The Trial Record of the Denmark Slave Conspiracy of 1822, edited by Edward A. Pearson, and Denmark Vesey, by David Robertson—and there is talk of television specials and a feature film in the works. Unknown to most people, however, is the fact that Vesey’s story has been recounted for posterity before—in the pages of The Atlantic Monthly.

In the June, 1861, issue there appeared a detailed account of Vesey’s planned revolt and its suppression, titled “Denmark Vesey.” Its author, a frequent Atlantic contributor named Thomas Wentworth Higginson, was a Cambridge, Massachusetts, minister and a committed abolitionist. (In other issues of the magazine Higginson documented the stories of revolts by Toussaint L'Overture and Nat Turner. In 1862 he served as colonel of the first black regiment in the Civil War, the First South Carolina Volunteers.)

In his Atlantic account Higginson described Vesey’s plan (which was developed in collaboration with a slave named Peter Poyas) as “the most elaborate insurrectionary project ever formed by American slaves…. In boldness of conception and thoroughness of organization there has been nothing to compare it with.” Higginson went on:

That a conspiracy on so large a scale should have existed in embryo during four years, and in an active form for several months, and yet have been so well managed … shows extraordinary ability in the leaders, and a talent for concerted action on the part of the slaves generally with which they have hardly been credited.

Vesey was no longer a slave at the time he planned the revolt—he had purchased his own freedom several years before, so his motives were not self-serving—and Charleston’s official report of the episode, as quoted by Higginson, made note of Vesey’s pride and the strength of his convictions. “Even whilst walking through the streets in company with another,” the report stated, “he was not idle; for if his companion bowed to a white person, he would rebuke him, and observe that all men were born equal.” At the trial, the sentencing judge was plainly astonished in the face of the stoic heroism displayed by Vesey throughout his ordeal. Higginson quoted the judge addressing Vesey:

“It is difficult to imagine, what infatuation could have prompted you to attempt an enterprise so wild and visionary. You were a free man, comely, wealthy, and enjoyed every comfort compatible with your situation. You had, therefore, much to risk and little to gain.”

As though responding to the judge four decades after the fact, Higginson posed a rhetorical question: “Is slavery, then, a thing so intrinsically detestable, that a man thus favored will engage in a plan this desperate merely to rescue his children from it?”

Higginson’s goal was the preservation of Vesey’s story for future generations. “South Carolinians,” he wrote in conclusion,

[now have] a distaste for the memory of the tale; and the official reports which told what slaves had once planned and dared have now come to be among the rarest of American historical documents…. This is why, to the readers of American history, Denmark Vesey and Peter Poyas have been heretofore but the shadows of names.

h/t: The Atlantic
Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party
Tea Partiers say you don't understand them because you don't understand American history. That's probably true, but not in the way they want you to think.

Late in 2012, I came out of the Lincoln movie with two historical mysteries to solve:

  • How did the two parties switch places regarding the South, white supremacy, and civil rights?  In Lincoln’s day, a radical Republican was an abolitionist, and when blacks did get the vote, they almost unanimously voted Republican.  Today, the archetypal Republican is a Southern white, and blacks are almost all Democrats. How did American politics get from there to here?
  • One of the movie’s themes was how heavily the war’s continuing carnage weighed on Lincoln.  (It particularly came through during Grant’s guided tour of the Richmond battlefield.)  Could any cause, however lofty, justify this incredible slaughter?  And yet, I realized, Lincoln was winning.  What must the Confederate leaders have been thinking, as an even larger percentage of their citizens died, as their cities burned, and as the accumulated wealth of generations crumbled?  Where was their urge to end this on any terms, rather than wait for complete destruction?

The first question took some work, but yielded readily to patient googling.  I wrote up the answer in “A Short History of White Racism in the Two-Party System“.  The second turned out to be much deeper than I expected, and set off a reading project that has eaten an enormous amount of my time over the last two years.  (Chunks of that research have shown up in posts like “Slavery Lasted Until Pearl Harbor“, “Cliven Bundy and the Klan Komplex“, and my review of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article on reparations.)  Along the way, I came to see how I (along with just about everyone I know) have misunderstood large chunks of American history, and how that misunderstanding clouds our perception of what is happening today.

“Here’s what my teachers’ should have told me: “Reconstruction was the second phase of the Civil War.  It lasted until 1877, when the Confederates won.”  I think that would have gotten my attention.”

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley finally took a stand against the Confederate flag.

After five days of hesitation and confusion following the Charleston church massacre, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, called on Monday for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the state capitol grounds in Columbia. Her full statement was promising — but it will take more than that.


On this day in history September 7, 1822: On the banks of the Ipiranga River in São Paulo, Crown Prince Regent Pedro declared Brazil’s independence from Portugal.

The article Brazil’s Independence Day - September 7: Independência ou Morte by Bonnie Hamre from the Go SouthAmerica About webpage briefly describes some of the events that led to Brazil’s Declaration of Independence by Prince Regent Pedro:

With Napoleon and the Peninsular Wars, and the invasion and occupation of Spain and Portugal, Dom João VI, the seventeenth king of Portugal, fled Lisbon and established his court in Rio de Janeiro, where for the next 13 years, he ruled Portugal’s Asian, African, and American colonies. Although Dom João VI (1769-1826) never ruled over an independent Brazil, historians call him the “Founder of the Brazilian Nationality.” One of his major contributions to the growth of Brazil was opening the colony’s ports to free trade with friendly nations, thus signaling a marked change in trade and the resulting improved consequence of Brazil. Additionally, Dom João VI spearheaded the founding of the Academia Naval (Naval Academy), Hospital Militar (Military Hospital), Arquivo Militar (Military Archives), Jardim Botânico (Botanic Garden), Intendência Geral de Polícia (Police Commissariat), Real Biblioteca (Royal Library), the Banco do Brasil (Bank of Brazil), and the gunpowder factory. With the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, he thought it safe to make Brazil another kingdom equal to Portugal. He also decided to remain in Brazil.

The Portuguese government disagreed with both decisions and in 1820 sent troops to assist his relocation to Portugal where the army headed a revolution designed to bring about a constitutional government with Dom João as the constitutional monarch. Dom João returned to Portugal, leaving his 23-year-old son Pedro as prince regent of Brazil. Pedro actively engaged in enlisting support from both able advisors and the people of Brazil.

With revolutions and the desire for independence active in other Latin American countries, Pedro realized Brazil would soon wish for the same. With the support of the Brazilian people and the Brazilian Senate who had bestowed on him the title of Defensor e Protetor Perpétuo do Brasil, Protector and Perpetual Defender of Brazil, he defied an order to return to Portugal. When the Portuguese parliament wished to return Brazil to colonial status, Pedro seized the moment. On September 7, 1822, after receiving orders from the Portuguese parliament limiting his powers in Brazil, Pedro declared Brazil’s independence near the Ipiranga River in São Paulo. Tearing the Portuguese blue and white insignia from his uniform, Pedro drew his sword, and swore: “By my blood, by my honor, and by God: I will make Brazil free.” Their motto, he said, would be Independência ou Morte, Independence or Death! This statement is known as the Grito do Ipiranga.

Pedro de Alcântara Francisco Antônio João Carlos Xavier de Paula Miguel Rafael Joaquim José Gonzaga Pascoal Cipriano Serafim de Bragança e Bourbom, became Dom Pedro I, the first emperor of Brazil and ruled for nine years.

Brazil’s independence was officially Britain and Portugal via the Treaty of Rio de Janeiro on August 29, 1825.

For Further Reading:

Preserved by one of Earth’s driest climates, a long-buried corpse in Chile’s Atacama Desert retains centuries-old skin, hair, and clothing.

Naturally dehydrated corpses like this probably inspired the region’s ancient Chinchorro people to actively mummify their dead, scientists speculate in a new study. The practice, researchers suggest, took off during a time of natural plenty and population growth, when the Chinchorro were better able to innovate and develop culturally.

Living in fishing villages along the coasts of Chile and Peru, the Chinchorro had begun mummifying skeletons by 5050 B.C., thousands of years before the Egyptians. Archaeologists have long wondered how the practice—and a related cult of death—arose, with some speculating it had been imported from the notably wetter Amazon Basin .

“Our study is one of the few to document the emergence of social complexity due to environmental change"—in this case, climate shifts that desiccated the Atacama, study leader Pablo Marquet said.

"Until now, most of the emphasis has been on how environmental change triggers the collapse of societies,” said Marquet, an archaeologist at Catholic University in Santiago, Chile.


August 7th 1947: Kon-Tiki expedition ends

On this day in 1947, the Kon-Tiki raft smashed into reef and was beached in the Tuamotu Islands. The expedition was led by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and aimed to prove that pre-historic peoples could have travelled from South America to Polynesia and settled there. The expedition took 101 days and covered 7,000 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean from Peru to the Polynesian islands. The raft was constructed and sailed using only materials and techniques people would have had available in pre-Columbian times. However, the experiment was criticised because they used modern technology such as having the raft towed out to sea. The journey began on April 28th but ended on August 7th, with the crew all returned safely to land.

Please Join Us on /r/AskHistorians forOur Civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas AMA Panel!

We’re hosting a massive panel AMA on the Americas before Columbus. If you have a question on any topic relating to the indigenous people of the Americas, up to and including first contact with Europeans, you can post it here. We have a long list of panelists covering almost every geographic region from Patagonia to Alaska.

With 51 reported hate crimes and 19 active hate groups, South Carolina, a former Confederate slave state with a long history of racially motivated crimes, has no state laws against hate crimes

There are currently nineteen hate groups actively operating in South Carolina.” ~ Southern Poverty Law Center

In 2013, the latest year for which the numbers are available, the FBI listed 51 reported hate crimes in South Carolina. There are currently nineteen hate groups actively operating in the state, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“If you look at some of our statistics when we talk about race and gender violence, even with the homeless population here… It’s all centered around race,” said Rep. Wendell Gilliard (SC - D), noting that he has tried to make crimes against the homeless a hate crime. “I want to create a penalty to send the message to treat everyone with dignity and respect.”

South Carolina, indeed, has a deep history of racial violence, dating back to the days of slavery. At the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, the scene of last night’s shooting, a planned slave revolt was foiled in 1822, resulting in the execution of 32 black men. Violence continued through the bloody Civil War, when South Carolina fought as part of the Confederacy, and right through the Reconstruction period, whenmassive race riots took place in 1870. A report from the Equal Justice Initiative, released earlier this year, tallied a total of 164 black men who were lynched in the state between 1877 and 1950.

In April of this year, North Charleston made international headlines after a white police officer was captured on video shooting a black man in the back as he tried to run away, following a routine traffic stop. That officer was indicted for murder earlier this month.

(Read the full post here, related post »here)


The Venezuelan Tortuga Tank

In 1934, an interesting tank design made its debut at a military parade at Venezuela’s Maracay Airbase.  The Tortuga Tank, so named because of its turtle shell-shape, was a makeshift armoured vehicle developed by Venezuela in an attempt to intimidate their neighbours.  In the early 1930s there were not a great many armoured vehicles or tanks in South America.  The technology was relatively new and was still predominantly the preserve of European nations.  The Tortuga was indigenously developed, to supplement imported European tanks, at the Puerto Cabello shipyard which adapted a number of flatbed truck to various uses including anti-aircraft battery trucks.  

Based on the chassis of the 6x4 Ford Model BB truck which had a reinforced frame able to take the added weight of the steel plate, armament and crew.  Powered by a four cylinder engine it’s unlikely that the Tortuga would have been the fastest of tanks.  The tank was primarily armed with a .30 calibre or 7mm machine gun mounted in a small rotating turret and would be operated from a standing position.  With the tank’s low speed and machine gun armament the Tortuga can be classified as an infantry tank.

Civilian Ford 6x4 truck (source)

From the photographs we can see that the tank retained its six wheel configuration with the two rear wheels linked by treads - essentially creating a half-track layout.  These wheels were partially protected by a skirt of the Tortuga’s sloping armour shell.  Two prominent viewing ports can be seen at the front of the tank, these were protected by armour plates hinged inside the tank.  It is believed up to 12 may have been built although only five are seen in the photographs above. 

At the time of the 1934 Maracay Airbase parade regional tensions were high with Colombia and Peru having just fought one another and Venezuela wished to dissuade any aggressive action from Colombia.  The Tortuga had a relatively short service life and probably saw no active service however, has the distinction of being Venezuela’s first indigenously designed and built tank.


Images One & Two Source

Image Three Source (a reproduction Tortuga Tank parading in 2008)

Read Edwidge Danticat’s moving meditation on Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series, currently on view at MoMA, in The New Yorker​.

“At the end of a week when nine men and women were brutally assassinated by a racist young man in Charleston, South Carolina, and the possibility of two hundred thousand Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent being expelled from the Dominican Republic suddenly became very real, I longed to be in the presence of Lawrence’s migrants and survivors. I was yearning for their witness and fellowship, to borrow language from some of the churches that ended up being lifelines for the Great Migration’s new arrivals. But what kept me glued to these dark silhouettes is how beautifully and heartbreakingly Lawrence captured black bodies in motion, in transit, in danger, and in pain.”

[Jacob Lawrence. The Migration Series. 1940-41. Panel 3: “In every town Negroes were leaving by the hundreds to go North and enter into Northern industry.” Casein tempera on hardboard, 18 x 12″ (45.7 x 30.5 cm). The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C. Acquired 1942. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph courtesy The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.]

To the people who say that the confederate flag does not represent racist attitudes, but rather Southern history:

These are protesters at Ole Miss in 1962 attempting to fight integration and prevent James Meredith, an African-American Air Force veteran, from enrolling at the university. Many waved confederate flags as a symbol of resistance to racial integration and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. The day that Meredith registered at Ole Miss, protesters carrying confederate flags broke out into a violent riot, killing 2 people and injuring hundreds.

You’re absolutely right about the flag being a part of Southern history. However, it has historically often been used to represent racism and white supremacy, this obviously being one of a plethora of examples.

So while you may not wave the flag in the same manner that these people did, that does not change the fact that millions of people throughout history have defaced it with racist connotations.

An Inca quipu, from the Larco Museum in Lima
Quipus (or khipus), sometimes called talking knots, were recording devices historically used in the region of Andean South America. A quipu usually consisted of colored, spun, and plied thread or strings from llama or alpaca hair. It could also be made of cotton cords. The cords contained numeric and other values encoded by knots in a base ten positional system. Quipus might have just a few or up to 2,000 cords.

On The Plantation-

Photograph shows a large group of African American women laborers and a male overseer processing cotton on an unidentified plantation.

  • Digital ID: (digital file from original item, front) stereo 1s03989
  • Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-stereo-1s03989 (digital file from original item, front) LC-DIG-stereo-2s03989 (digital file from original item, back)
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Eva Peron: Historical and Political Background and Context

Argentina declared independence from Spain in 1825. Almost immediately thereafter, the country became embroiled in a Civil War which lasted until 1853. A constitution was installed in that year, and the country remained relatively stable until 1930.

The early twentieth century was a fairly prosperous time for Argentina; by 1929 Argentina had the world’s fourth highest per capita GDP. However, the stock market crash destroyed that stability, and gave rise to the political instability and unrest which would characterize the 1930’s for Argentina.

The first of many military coups was staged in 1930 when President Hipólito Yrigoyen was forced out of office, and replaced with Félix Uriburu. The next thirteen years—a period deemed by historians as the “Infamous Decade”—was characterized by continued economic instability and collapse, and increased violent conflict between the political left and the political right.

At the same time, the beginnings of what would become Word War II were stirring in Europe. As the Second World War began in earnest, Argentina came very close to fighting on the side of the Allied Forces; however, popular fear that that would lead to the spread of Communism forced Argentina to remain neutral.

On June 4, 1943, the GOU (Grupo de Oficiales Unidos)—a military junta, of which Juan Peron was a member—staged a coup and demanded the resignation of President Castillo; this is considered by historians to mark the end of the “Infamous Decade.” One of the leaders of the coup, Pedro Ramirez, assumed Supreme Executive power, and in that capacity broke all remaining Argentinian ties to the Axis powers. In 1944, another leader by the name of Edelmiro Farrell replaced Ramirez, and in 1945 he declared war on Germany. However, by that point, the war had already ended.

In the meantime Juan Peron had been named as Head of the Department of Labor. This work caused him to form an alliance of sorts between the Department, labor unions, and the socialist movements growing within those unions. This made him very popular with the people, but earned him some enemies within his former inner circle.

On January 15, 1944 the devastating San Juan earthquake hit the city of San Juan, and Peron became highly involved in the relief and fundraising efforts. These efforts increased his popularity amongst the people. It was also through these efforts that he met a young radio actress named Eva Duarte.

By 1945, Peron had been so committed—or perhaps, tied through questionable alliances—to labor unions and the social reform movement that conservatives forces within the government began to see him as an enemy, and began to fear his popularity amongst the people. This sentiment continued to grow until September 1945, when he was forced to resign. He was arrested shortly thereafter.

While the government may not have liked him, the public love for him only grew, and they greeted his arrest with such massive demonstrations that the government was forced to release him after only four days.

It is here, against a history of military coups and a backdrop of public devotion strong enough to sway a military government, that we can begin to discuss the woman who would soon be known to the world as Eva Peron.

ask historicity-was-already-taken a question


The Cenepa War was a month long conflict between Ecuador and Peru that occurred in early 1995.  The war was over control of an area that had been disputed since 1960, and proved inconclusive.  Several neighboring states came in to mediate and a peace treaty was signed and in 1999 the border dispute was ended.