That Moment When Someone Completely Misreads Your Arguments

Earlier this month I wrote an essay discussing a controversial statue in Louisiana that is dedicated to “The Good Darkys” of the Civil War, those enslaved African Americans who stayed home–allegedly through their own free will–to protect the white women and children on their plantations while their white masters went off to fight for the Confederacy. I proceeded to explain the history of this statue’s dedication, the controversies it set off during the Civil Rights Movement, and its subsequent move to the Rural Life Museum at Louisiana State University, where it remains today in a place of honor and devoid of historical context. My goals in writing this essay were two-fold in that I hoped to provide an explanation for how and why this statue was erected in 1927 while at the same time questioning whether we should continue to keep this statue in a place of honor today. I made no firm conclusion on that last point because I don’t really know what the best answer is. That’s why we’re engaging in these sorts of discussions in the first place.

Unfortunately my post rubbed someone the wrong way, and the comments section dovetailed into a litany of personal attacks, mischaracterizations of my arguments, accusations of me being “biased,” and a host of red herring fallacies that are really just historical inaccuracies that have nothing to do with the discussion at hand. And Al Mackey of Student of the Civil War, a friend of this blog and a friend in real life, was accused of being a hateful bigot, which is completely uncalled for.

Mr. George Purvis of the Southern Heritage Advancement Preservation and Education (SHAPE) took it upon himself to continue this fractious discussion by responding to me with his own post entitled “Fighting White Supremacy — –,” [sic] and unfortunately he manages to completely misread the post, quote me out of context, and make claims without any sort of historical evidence to back them up.

Mr. Purvis screws things up within the second sentence of his post by stating that the “Uncle Jack” statue depicts a person “who was never a slave and was born after the war. His image is used to honor those slaves and freemen loyal to his loyal to the Confederacy [sic] during the War For Southern Independence.” Seeing as though this statue was intended to honor the “the Good Darkys” of Louisiana who stayed at their enslavers’ plantations during the Civil War, I’m not sure how Mr. Purvis can claim that the statue depicts someone who was born after the war and was never enslaved. Calling the Civil War “The War For Southern Independence” also tells us something about Mr. Purvis, although it is more accurate to call it a war for Confederate independence, if you must, since the Confederacy and the South are not one in the same. I also note that Mr. Purvis consistently refers to African Americans as “Negroes” as if we’re living in 1955 and not 2015.

To him the Uncle Jack figure “tips his hat and is just a nice polite guy. Where I was born , [sic] men still tip their hats and open doors for women. What is wrong with that?” I guess Mr. Purvis believes that I argued against the general practice of politeness and kindness to others (¯\_(ツ)_/¯) when in reality I was just challenging readers to think about the symbolism of a black man in the South submissively tipping his hat to white society and how a certain social code of manners and etiquette dictated the day-to-day interactions of blacks and whites in Jim Crow America, and how a violation of that code could possibly leave black people bruised, bleeding, and possibly hanging from a tree.

And then Mr. Purvis states:

Well gee Nick I remember when 18 year olds could not vote, but could carry a gun, there was a time when white women couldn’t vote and for the most part men and women’s restrooms are still separated. So what??? In ten years all of this may change.

Umm, okay?

I state in my essay that while some enslaved people may have stayed home out of a genuine sense of loyalty to their enslavers, hundreds of thousands of enslaved people ran away to Union-run contraband camps and roughly 180,000 African American men served in United States Colored Troops Regiments. Mr. Purvis seems to accept this basic and uncontroversial premise, but asks me to cite how many people died in contraband camps and how many African Americas were “forced” to join the USCT regiments, as if any of that is relevant to the discussion at hand (the point, of course, is that enslaved people ran away in the first place). He demands that I also cite an exact number of how many “loyal” slaves stayed at their enslavers’ plantations during the war, as if a precise number actually exists in the historical record and I’m just ignoring the “facts.” Such a number, of course, doesn’t exist, which is why I don’t offer one. Who at the time would have even collected this figure? I’d rather not speculate other than to say that it certainly happened from time to time because a qualified statement admitting the uncertainty of the question is what a responsible scholar would do in the absence of hard numbers.

Mr. Purvis assumes that I mention the Emancipation Proclamation in this discussion to argue that all slaves were freed by the document, when in reality I mentioned the proclamation only as it related to offering a path for free and enslaved blacks to enlist in the United States military. The Proclamation, of course, only applied to the status of slaves in the Confederate states that were still in active rebellion against the U.S. government in 1863. That doesn’t mean that all enslaved people in rebel territory, upon hearing news of the Proclamation, decided to stay home. Again, Mr. Purvis acknowledges this basic fact when agreeing with me that hundreds of thousands of enslaved people ran away for contraband camps (which occurred throughout the duration of the war) and the USCT regiments after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Mr. Purvis finally concludes by quoting me out of context and getting to his real conclusion – that the “loyal” slaves who chose to stay home did so because they actually supported the Confederacy. That claim assumes, without documentary evidence, that these enslaved people in all cases voluntarily chose to stay home because they agreed with the political goals of the new Confederate nation. Mr. Purvis, as stated earlier, demands that I document how many black men were allegedly “forced” to join the USCT regiments, but then doesn’t bother to acknowledge that many (if not most) of the enslaved people who stayed home did so because they were forced to do so by their enslavers! The idea that enslaved people faced a number of tough and unfavorable choices during the war–that the path to freedom or even the meaning of freedom itself was not self-evident, that enslaved people often stayed back not out of an ideological conviction in support of the Confederacy but because they often had no other choice (especially when the U.S. military had no presence in the area), and that the choice to run away towards a potentially dangerous and uncertain future was one that some enslaved people declined to make for a myriad of reasons–completely escapes the mind of Mr. Purvis.

It appears to me that Mr. Purvis chooses to bend the historical record to suit his own agenda. He doesn’t think the “Uncle Jack” statue is controversial and that it merely depicts a polite black man with good manners. That other people besides himself–black and white–understand the historical context of this statue and find it controversial and offensive is wholly irrelevant to him. That public historians and other scholars would question whether this statue should be in a place of honor and whether there are other ways to interpret it is an affront to his sensitivities and a threat to his preferred narrative of Civil War history. And by trying to redirect this conversation towards alleged misdeeds against freedpeople in contraband camps and “forced” enlistments in United States Colored Troops Regiments instead of dealing squarely with my arguments or acknowledging that enslaved people who stayed home often did so not out of loyalty to their enslavers or the Confederacy, Mr. Purvis almost suggests in a subtle way that maybe slavery wasn’t so bad in comparison to the evils black people faced in a post-emancipation world.

I respect the fact that folks will sometimes disagree with me and I welcome dissenting opinions on this blog, contrary to Mr. Purvis’s earlier claims that I am trying to “ban” him from this website for his opinions (I have approved all of his comments up to this point in time). But I don’t think it’s too much of me to ask that people actually read what I have to say and engage with the arguments I make rather than trying to divert the conversation towards wholly irrelevant topics that have nothing to do with what I am trying to discuss. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but not all opinions are entitled to respect, especially if they don’t have evidence to back them up.

I wish Mr. Purvis good luck with own pursuits and interests in life, but it’s time to move on to something else. Thanks for reading.

Cheers

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17 responses

  1. […] Well folks it seems that Nick Sacco doesn’t want to come here and discuss the Uccle jack Statue. he had rather stay on his own blog surround by the brilliant minds of Jimmy Dick and Al Mackey. Fine with me Nick, what ever floats your boat. So let’s take a look at Nick’s latest post shall we. he posted it here https://pastexplore.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/that-moment-when-someone-completely-misreads-your-argum… […]

  2. No Nick I didn’t misread your blog post, I simply challenged you on facts. Instead of posting fact you just repeat your self.

    I never said you were trying to ban me. Like you said find the passage and post it here. I may have misread the Uncle Jack dates, but you misread a whole paragraph. So why are you attacking me from that angle??? Just so you know I have this paragraph recorded so everyone can see the truth.

    Why move on. You do have facts that can prove me wrong???

    https://coldsouthernsteel.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/when-someone-doesnt-tell-the-truth/

    1. Okay George,

      I am going to copy what I left on your website:

      Hi George,

      While I love your passion and enthusiasm, I simply don’t have the time or inclination to continue this back and forth exchange with you, especially if you’re going to take pot shots, claim that my blog is going into the “gutter,” and argue that I’m some sort of lackey for Al and Jimmy (my views are mine and mine alone, as clearly explained on the disclaimer page on my website). You’ve stated your views pretty clearly with your comments on my website and your last few posts here. Further debate seems pointless. Thanks for reading and exchanging your thoughts with me. Best of luck with your future endeavors and take care.

      And just to add, I’m confident that readers of these exchanges acknowledge that I have been nothing but respectful to you and that I have tried to the best of my abilities to work with the historical record to the best of my abilities.

      1. Nick,

        Welcome to the club of those who have met George and laughed at his feeble use of data. As you’ve already noticed his modus operandi is to repeat his claims over and over again while ignoring any fact that conflicts with his worldview. Basically, he is a diehard lost causer living in a fantasy land of his own making. There really is no point in engaging him in conversation because he refuses to accept factual evidence.

        Multiple historians have tried to engage him in a good dialogue, but it falls apart because George insists that his view is correct when the facts clearly show him to be wrong. As you noticed he is adept at cherry picking what he wants to support his theories, but unlike trained historians he rejects the parts that negate those theories.

        I always find it hilarious how people like George, KKKonnie, Jesse, Jerry, and etc. refuse to accept historical fact. On one hand we see people who have no training in historical interpretation, many of which do not have a college degree or training in analytical thinking rejecting the work of trained historians using primary sources; historians who have extensive training in historical analysis with multiple graduate level degrees and analytical thinking development.

        I think that speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

      2. Hi Jimmy,

        I have tried to engage with George in a good dialogue and be as fair as possible to both him and the historical record. I feel like nothing I do will satisfy Mr. Purvis unless I’m willing to agree with his agenda 100%, which is why I think it’s pointless to continue this conversation any further. And to repeat, I feel that readers who take the time to read these exchanges will see that my interpretation of the historical record is fair and that my conduct towards Mr. Purvis has been cordial.

      3. Nick,

        neither you nor Jimmy Dick has tried to post any facts on Cold Southern Steel. To say that you have done so is an outright fabrication of the truth. Two Jimmy has no facts to post. You are more than welcome to try, the door is open.

        1. George,

          I have engaged in a prolong discussion with you on a number topics after you posted your thoughts here, on this website. I have tried, within those conversations, to address your claims squarely and fairly. Your last post about me on your website was unfair and derogatory, and I felt like it was pointless to continue the discussion under those circumstances. I will write some final thoughts right here in regards to your claims about “loyal” blacks fighting for and supporting the Confederacy.

          Your SHAPE website does not prove that 10,000 blacks supported and fought for the Confederacy. The vast majority of your evidence involves pension records for former slaves who were impressed into the service of the Confederacy, mostly as cooks and servants for their masters. They were not soldiers but enslaved camp servants who were forced into this particular position. Various Southern states offered pensions to former camp servants in the 1910s and 1920s, and these are what you cite. They do not tell us, however, that these black camp servants were in the position that they were because they chose to do so under their own free will and out of a genuine sense of loyalty to their enslavers and the Confederacy. Where is the documentary evidence from the voices of 10,000 “black Confederates” individually confirming that they fought loyally in support of the Confederate war effort?

          No reputable historian has ever claimed that 10,000 blacks “fought for” or even voluntarily “supported” the Confederacy. Mississippi Now has a good article on these topics here: http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/289/black-confederate-pensioners-after-the-civil-war and there is a multitude of other thoughtful discussions that have popped up online about the idea of “Black Confederates” in recent years. The pension records don’t tell us the story you want us to believe. I am not going to do any other research for you in finding these other resources. That’s on you.

          Once again, I do not doubt that there are some isolated incidents in which blacks did some sort of service or offered support to the Confederacy out of a genuine sense of loyalty, but your numbers, interpretations, and conclusions are completely off and in fact irresponsible. How you can claim that 10,000 blacks were “loyal” to the Confederacy is completely beyond me. There is no definitive “number” that we can responsibly give to this question, although we can reasonably say that it’s nowhere near 10,000. I am not going to bend my interpretations and the historical record to suit some sort of agenda. Now please, *please* stop making false claims and attacks towards me and about me.

  3. The sad thing is that Mr. Purvis could have engaged you in a conversation, but chose alenating invective instead.

  4. George,
    You have made multiple claims on multiple sites and they were all shot down with hard facts. At that point you keep repeating yourself with the same claims and show no proof to back those claims up while rejecting every fact that proves you wrong. I will not bother to waste time with you on your blog because that is just what it will be, a colossal waste of time.

    You have no training in historical analysis. You have been proven wrong by historians on more occasions than I can count, that is to say people who have been trained in historical analysis. You are like the guy who tries to wire his own house and burns it to the ground and refuses to admit he didn’t know what he was doing or that it was his own fault. So you build a new home and try to wire it the same way and the new home burns down. Once again, you reject the idea that it is due to your ignorance and set out to try again.

    The definition of insanity (some say stupidity or ignorance) is to do the same thing over and over again expecting different results. You have been asked on multiple blogs to show new evidence to support your claims. You have not done so. When everyone else says you are wrong, you keep making the same claim. So no, I am not going to your blog for any discussion. There will not be one. It will just be the same uttering of garbage.

    Have a nice day.

    1. and you cannot prove me wrong!!!!!!!!

      1. George,

        You come off as a very mean and spiteful person, most likely because deep down inside you are probably a very sad individual. And for that I pity you.

  5. Oh, I see you met George.

      1. Have fun with that – he’s banned from commenting on my site.

        1. Thanks! If the ridiculous claims and attacks continue we’ll keep moving in that same direction here as well. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt but I’ve been turned into a sucker with regards to this particular situation. My patience is waning.

          1. I tried to keep mine sort of wide open – but he is one that helped bring about a comment moderation change. He’ll steer a lot of conversations off topic in order to gripe about something – then he’ll challenge to you “prove” him wrong on random opinions about the past. Andy Hall had a pretty good story about him.

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