[Marxism] When the Nation Magazine grew weary of Reconstruction

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Sep 28 11:55:09 MDT 2014

A few days ago I had been consulting Douglas Blackmon’s “Slavery by 
Another Name”, a very fine history of post-Civil War forced labor, as 
part of a long-term research project to rebut Charles Post’s thesis on 
slavery as “precapitalist” when I came across a revealing reference to 
the Nation Magazine. As I have pointed out in the past, the magazine was 
a primary source of arguments on behalf of winding down Reconstruction. 
I had completely forgotten about the passage but was reminded of it 
today when a Facebook thread on Eric Alterman’s opposition to BDS 
prompted the query why the magazine puts up with him. In my view, the 
Nation has been problematic from its inception, lurching from 
abolitionism to articles attacking moves to make the KKK illegal. For a 
fuller discussion, I’d refer you to a piece I wrote in 2003: 

Douglas Blackmon:
A new national white consensus began to coalesce against African 
Americans with shocking force and speed. The general white public, the 
national leadership of the Republican Party, and the federal government 
on every level were arriving at the conclusion that African-Americans 
did not merit citizenship and that their freedom was not able enough to 
justify the conflicts they engendered among whites. A growing body of 
whites across the nation concluded that blacks were not worth the cost 
of imposing a racial morality that few in any region genuinely shared. 
As early as 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union 
army of liberation, conceded to members of his cabinet that the 
Fifteenth Amendment, giving freed slaves the right to vote, had been a 
mistake: "It had done the Negro no good, and had been a hindrance to the 
South, and by no means a political advantage to the North.” "The long 
controversy over the black man seems to have reached a finality," wrote 
the Chicago Tribune, approvingly. Added The Nation: "The Negro will 
disappear from the field of national politics. Henceforth, the nation, 
as a nation, will have nothing more to do with him." That the parent had 
once sacrificed enormously to rescue the less favored child only made 
its abandonment deeply more bitter.

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