History Today? “The White Race and the Negroes”

White supremacy isn't just for anti-government loonies

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt


Political polling suggests the worst could come to pass in the November presidential election; another gunman goes on a mall rampage; refugees and rapes, police shootings and racism; horror dominates the news.

[caption id="attachment_17791" align="alignleft" width="238"]white race and negroes Lt. Gen. John Brown Gordon[/caption]

Weenie that I am, I escape to my womb of an office to read old newspapers, mostly local weeklies. They’re filled with mid-nineteenth century sarcasm and benign gossip—who planted crops too soon or too late, who paid whom a visit the weekend last, whose chickens got loose, who had one too many pints at the tavern. Like much of today’s so-called newscasts, these papers offered more opinion than fact, but the distance of time renders them quaintly entertaining.

Until I find an article that is not quaint or entertaining.

It’s a transcription of a speech given by John Brown Gordon to a political gathering in front of the Charleston Hotel, South Carolina, on September 11, 1868.

Gordon was a businessman and investor, a Confederate Army war hero, an avid opponent of Reconstruction, and a presumed leader of the Georgia Ku Klux Klan. Full of bluster and bravado, he was "tall and slender ... his face marked with a deep scar, and he carrie[d] himself erect." So honored for his military service—it was said he inspired the troops to believe they could “storm hell”—and so beloved by his followers, he was eventually elected a U.S. senator, then governor of Georgia, and then again to the Senate.

In 1868, however, Gordon, like many Southern leaders after the Civil War, was struggling to maintain some identity and blaming the struggle on the Radical party* in Congress. The Radicals, according to many Southerners, intended to subjugate the “White Race under the heel of the Negro.” They would accomplish said subjugation by granting freedmen civil rights, including full suffrage, jury duty and public education.

Not enough civil rights to go around, I suppose.

After exhorting his white audience to join the political fight against the Radicals and thus preserve the Union he had recently rejoined, Gordon addressed the African Americans with the following:

white race and negroes

So ignorant, so privileged and self-absorbed, so patronizing, so racist, and so unaware of his racism, Gordon and his speech remind me of Donald Trump.

Thus ends my escape.

Love, K-B

* The Radical Party was a Republican faction in Congress; how dramatic and sad it is, the party's shift toward racism today.

.................................................. About Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Spawned by a Southern Baptist creationist and a liberal social worker, K-B inherited the requisite sense of humor to survive family dinner-table debates and the imagination to avoid them. She has an MFA in Creative Writing, with an emphasis on narrative nonfiction, and has taught Women’s Studies in the Cal State University system. Her political fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry have been published by The Missing SlateTrivia: Feminist Voices, Ms. Magazine blog, San Diego Poetry AnnualNew Moon Girl Media, San Diego Uptown NewsSan Diego Gay and Lesbian News, American University’s iVory TowerzSan Diego Free Press, and others, including on her website www.ExcuseMeImWriting.com.

Sources: "The White Race and the Negroes." The Staunton Spectator. Staunton, Virginia. September 29, 1868. “The City Democracy: Brilliant Speech by General John B. Gordon of Georgia.” The Charleston Daily. Charleston, South Carolina. September 12, 1868 “The White Race and the Negroes.” The Hickman Courier. Hickman, Kentucky. September 26, 1868. Lee and His Lieutenants by Edward Alfred Pollard. E. B. Treat and Company 1868.|