The debate over Confederate statues will continue, but for educators and other fair-minded Americans there should be no debate over one critical point. The portrayal of history should be accurate, and in Texas the governor should set the example, not be a political coward.
You may have read the recent story in The Dallas Morning News about state Rep. Eric Johnson’s discovery that a plaque on the wall outside his state Capitol office denies that Texas and other southern states seceded from the Union on the eve of the Civil War over the issue of slavery.
That claim is an out-and-out lie and one of many belated attempts by Confederate sympathziers to rewrite history. This particular plaque was mounted in 1959, during the civil rights era, by a group of revisionists called Children of the Confederacy Creed. The plaque claims the Civil War “was not a rebellion nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery.”
In truth, the Texas Ordinance of Secession adopted in 1861 is full of language about protecting slavery or “the servitude of the African to the white race” and complains repeatedly about steps taken or encouraged by the federal government to destroy “the institutions of Texas and her sister slave-holding states.”
The Texas secession leaders even went so far as to proclaim that “the servitude of the African race, as existing in these (southern) States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations.”
They added: “By the (earlier) secession of six of the slave-holding States, and the certainty that others will speedily do likewise, Texas has no alternative but to remain in an isolated connection with the North, or unite her destinies with the South.”
A few years ago, the State Board of Education also tried to downplay the role of slavery in the Civil War by adopting curriculum standards that listed slavery as a cause of secession after sectionalism and states’ rights.
Johnson, an African American, has asked the State Preservation Board, chaired by Abbott, to remove the offending plaque.
Abbott responded by issuing a statement condemning “racist and hate-filled violence.” But he added, “Instead of trying to bury our past, we must learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Tearing down monuments won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future.”
The governor missed the point. No one was asking him to erase or deny our history. Rep. Johnson was asking him to remove from prominent, public display in the seat of state government a plaque that deliberately lies about that history.
Is the governor afraid of the same thing as the dangerous president he helped elect? Is he afraid of losing the votes of some white supremacists?