On this edition of “Why Would You Say That?” Cobb County resident Mary Stevens decided to chime in with her thoughts on pre-Civil War slavery. Before you think there is any possibility this won't end in disaster, know this: she was white and was defending the naming of a local park after a Confederate general.
Yep. It’s one of those stories.
Stevens took the podium during a meeting in hopes of swaying the vote on a proposal to name a local park after Confederate General Joseph Johnston. During her tirade of factoids and underlying racism, Stevens stated that “had it been so bad for freed slaves, they would have left the south.”
If that wasn't bad enough, Stevens continued her support for naming the park after Johnston by arguing that the Civil War “wasn’t about slavery.” Historian James W. Loewen took an informal survey of over several thousand teachers over several years, and in a 2011 piece for Tolerance.org, noted that Stevens isn’t alone in her thinking. The poll found that 75% of those teachers believe states’ rights were the cause of the Civil War, and not slavery. In an interview with LiveScience, Loewen called that belief “B.S.” or “bad scholarship.”
Stevens went on to cite, as "proof" of her position, that the Confederacy had a number of black people working with it, but she fails to acknowledge that this number was a tiny minority. According to The Root, of the 800,000 black men of military age living in Confederate states, less than one percent took up arms with the Confederacy. And as they weren’t themselves free people, who’s to say that it was even their choice?
Following Stevens’ time at the microphone, Cobb County District 4 Commissioner Lisa Cupid spoke. It’s worth noting that Cupid is both black and was somehow able to not lose her cool on Stevens’ skewed views of the Civil War.
“I was deeply offended by some of the statements that were made this morning by the previous speaker,” Cupid spoke calmly. “I also want to address the point that, had it been so bad for slaves, they would have left the south. I found that statement also equally offensive.”
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