Lest We Forget: Bearing Witness to the Brutality of Our Past to Better Prevent It In Our Future

Today is Jefferson Davis’s birthday. Normally I wouldn’t mention this, but the state of Alabama marks this day as an official holiday. To recognize this dishonor perpetrated and perpetuated by the state of Alabama on its citizenry, The Montgomery Advertiser chose to run the testimonials of nine former Alabama slaves.

‘Where was the Lord?’: On Jefferson Davis’ birthday, 9 slave testimonies

The voices of five men and four women, once held in human bondage, interviewed in Alabama in 1937.

Updated 7 hours ago

Today the state of Alabama marks the birthday of Jefferson Davis, who served as president of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865. A state holiday, state offices are closed throughout Alabama. Davis, who at one point owned more than 100 slaves, led a government resting on the principle of white supremacy. The Confederate Constitution contained a provision explicitly prohibiting any law “impairing the right of property in negro slaves,” and his vice president, Alexander Stephens, said the “cornerstone” of the new government “rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.” 

Davis was a racist. In a speech to the U.S. Senate in 1860, the then-senator from Mississippi said slavery was “a form of civil government for those who by their nature are not fit to govern themselves,” adding “We recognize the fact of the inferiority stamped upon that race by the Creator, and from cradle to grave, our government, as a civil institution, marks that inferiority.” After his inauguration as president of the Confederacy, Davis said “We recognized the negro as God and God’s Book and God’s laws, in nature, tell us to recognize him. Our inferior, fitted expressly for servitude.”

From 1936 to 1938, the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency, sent workers throughout the South to collect oral histories from survivors of slavery, eventually conducting more than 2,000 interviews, including at least 129 in Alabama. The workers were not necessarily trained interviewers, and scholars have noted that the race of the interviewer often had a major effect on the answers the former slaves gave. But the testimonies preserve the voices of those who experienced a hell that Davis and other white southerners were willing to destroy the country to protect.

There is a video at the link with the testimonials of four slaves – Delia Garlic, William Colbert, Laura Clark, and George Young – narrated by Dr. Wendy R. Coleman of the University of Alabama. There testimonials, and those of five other former slaves are also transcribed by The Montgomery Advertiser.

Here is the abolitionist variant of My Country Tis of Thee.

When you hear some twit in 2019, like Jared Kushner did of the Palestinians last night, that they aren’t ready to govern themselves, remember that they’re the same make, model, and type as Jefferson Davis and the other traitorous Confederates that tried to destroy the United States and whose ideological and theological descendants are still trying to do so.

Open thread!

22 replies
  1. 1
    NotMax says:

    Was just the other day that came across a tidbit about Sherman. Namely that he survived two separate shipwrecks on the same day.

  2. 2
    Duane says:

    Reminds me to spit every time I see that disgraceful rag. Thanks Adam.

  3. 3
    SFAW says:

    Maybe if we tried to understand them a little better, they would vote for a Dem.

    And by “understand,” I mean deport them all to the Marianas Trench.

    ETA: On a more pleasant note, I’m listening to a barred owl somewhere outside my window.

  4. 4
    The Dangerman says:

    IIRC, displaying the Nazi Flag in Germany gets you Slammer Time; sounds like a fine idea.

  5. 5
    West of the Rockies says:


    Oh, a lovely sound!

    Regarding the fool with the tee-shirt… He is proudly displaying his own idiocy and insecurity.

  6. 6
    columbusqueen says:

    Grant, Sherman, & Sheridan, my guys. Beware the wrath of the Buckeye State, Confederate scum.

  7. 7
    MoCA Ace says:

    before Obama I don’t remember seeing the flag of southern sedition displayed around here. Now on my way to work I see at least four economically insecure asshats celebrating their “Southren Heritage”. And that doesn’t include those fucking Gadsen flags and decals plastered all over those coal-rolling four wheel drive penis extensions

    Who would have thought there were so many southern transplants in northern Wisconsin.

  8. 8
    West of the Rockies says:

    Anyone else getting really big (font-size) post titles with the new BJ setup? I’m on an Android.

  9. 9
    meander says:

    On the birthday of traitor-in-defense-of-slavery Jefferson Davis, check out the investigation in the Smithsonian Magazine of how tax dollars fund Confederate lies about slavery & the Civil War (at least $40 million in last 10 years). One of the sites the authors visit is Davis’s home, Beauvoir, where school kids are told lies like these:

    After a discussion of the window treatments and oil paintings, the other visitors left, and we asked the guide what she could tell us about slavery.

    Sometimes children ask about it, she said. “I want to tell them the honest truth, that slavery was good and bad.” While there were some “hateful slave owners,” she said, “it was good for the people that didn’t know how to take care of themselves, and they needed a job, and you had good slave owners like Jefferson Davis, who took care of his slaves and treated them like family. He loved them.”

    The subject resurfaced the next day, before a mock battle, when Jefferson Davis—a re-enactor named J.W. Binion—addressed the crowd. “We were all Americans and we fought a war that could have been prevented,” Binion declared. “And it wasn’t fought over slavery, by the way!”

    One of the authors (Brian Palmer) was on NPR’s Fresh Air to talk about the article about 6 months ago (seems like it was 6 years ago, not just 6 months).

  10. 10
    James E Powell says:


    But here we are in 2019 and, south of the Turnpike, Ohio’s pretty much gone confederate, city of Columbus notwithstanding.

  11. 11
    Brachiator says:

    @West of the Rockies:

    Anyone else getting really big (font-size) post titles with the new BJ setup? I’m on an Android

    No problem so far. Android and Brave Browser.

  12. 12
    Brachiator says:

    It just seems like a bad dream to think that Young Jared has any government position, official or unofficial.

  13. 13
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @West of the Rockies: Yes. Android and Duckduckgo here. Same with the fox on fire browser.

  14. 14
    mrmoshpotato says:


    And by “understand,” I mean deport them all to the Marianas Trench.

    I hear it’s nice this time of year. They can even call it The Confederate Marianas Trench of Trump Trash. It won’t be officially renamed of course.

  15. 15
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @Brachiator: It’s only Jared that gives you that bad dream feeling? I envy you.

  16. 16
    Dan B says:

    Watching Ava DuVernay on her Netflix series it’s clear that wealthy white culture reinforces the view that there are people who are to some degree savage, unable to be civilized, or diseased vermin. These rich whites are not all full on horrible but there are enough tidbits of their regularly giving in to their inner rot that it is as disturbing as the confederates view of “their” slaves.

    I still have my mother’s Daughters of the Confederacy certificate. It’s too close. Especially now that I would be marginalized or worse for making them uncomfortable because I have called them out on their prejudice. They live to believe they are noble. We should always question if our actions are truly noble.

  17. 17
    columbusqueen says:

    @James E Powell: yeah well, the WV & Kentucky immigrant population doesn’t help in that regard.😛

  18. 18
    PlaneCrazy says:

    One of m favorite tour t-shirts.
    General Sherman’s “Heat a Peach”, Georgia Tour 1864.

  19. 19
    Ruff the Dog says:

    [Confederate battle flag]: “These colors don’t run. They surrender at Appomatox.”

  20. 20
    Richard Guhl says:

    @James E Powell: Historic settlement patterns have shaped Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, with New Englanders in the northern parts of Ohio and Illinois, Pennsylvanians in the mid sections and much of Indiana, and Virginians (Butternuts) in the southern parts. Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan were later colonized by a wave of Appalachian whites seeking employment in the auto industry.

  21. 21
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    I recommend clicking through the link to the Montgomery Advertiser’s story. I think the editors at the Advertiser deserve congratulations for a courageous story published on a shameful day.

  22. 22
    artem1s says:


    Was just the other day that came across a tidbit about Sherman. Namely that he survived two separate shipwrecks on the same day.

    He also received two minor wounds and had three horses shot out from under him in the same battle – Shiloh.
    His autobiography is something else – unbelievable almost that one person could have experienced so much – BEFORE he became a General in the nation’s bloodiest war. And he has a wonderful dry wit.

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