Today’s entry of “A Real Southern Man is…” reveals the disparate sides of the double-edged sword that is Southern history. It’s a sad, sobering fact that, depending on the color of our skin, our view of certain aspects of our collective past can vary widely.
One thing is certain: we all embrace and own up to that history, knowing full well that mortal man comes with a boatload of imperfections of body and soul. That’s why we say …
“A Real Southern Man can name at least one ancestor who fought in the Civil War … or who was freed by it.”
Okay, this RSM can’t actually name the name, but does know of at least one ancestor who was a Confederate P.O.W. at Rock Island Prison. Knowing the family history, it’s doubtful that soldier ever owned a slave. In fact, that part of the family was so poor they likely came to the continent as indentured servants themselves. It’s not known whether he fought for state pride, states’ rights or out of a pseudo-religious belief in the “benevolence” of slavery. Maybe he was coerced. Maybe he simply wanted adventure.
But the fact remains that he fought for a government trying to protect a dying and “peculiar institution” – as did many more in the author’s heritage, I’m sure. The upside is that slavery ended. Though it can be debated endlessly how well the U.S. government prepared freed slaves for their new existence – or how well it protected them from abusive, discriminatory laws – freedom is freedom. And we at RSM who are pale of complexion hope that our brothers of African descent proudly claim their own heritage: the heritage of survivors, the heritage of the free.