Arkansas history books have taken the rebel side


For much of the 20th century, schoolchildren in Arkansas were fed a steady diet of Confederate propaganda.

“Beautiful white men from the South” organized the Ku Klux Klan to prevent “ignorant negroes” from voting and to “keep them in their place,” John H. Moore wrote in “A School History of Arkansas,” which was published in 1924 and approved by the State Textbook Commission for use in Arkansas schools.

Moore, a Baptist pastor from Pine Bluff, was a “professional Klansman” when he wrote the book, said Kenneth Barnes, professor of history at the University of Central Arkansas at Conway.

“He was so busy with the work of the Klan that in October 1922 he resigned his preaching post to become a full-time national lecturer for the Klan,” Barnes wrote in a book tentatively titled “The Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Arkansas: How White Protestant Nationalism Controlled a State. ”It is expected to be published by the University of Arkansas Press in April.

Barnes said a Klan-friendly language could be found in Arkansas history textbooks used in public schools until the 1960s.

In “Our Arkansas”, originally published in 1958 and used to teach Arkansas history in at least fourth grade for the next decade or so, Walter L. Brown wrote that the Klan was formed “to try to scare people away. Black so that they are good “.

On polling day, Union sympathizers “drove blacks to the polls like cattle, giving them a few coins or whiskey and tobacco to vote for Republican,” Brown writes in the 1958 edition.

Fed up, white southerners formed the KKK, according to “Our Arkansas.”

“The Klan men went to the Negroes, telling them they were the ghosts of the Confederate soldiers killed in the war,” Brown wrote. “The men of the Klan told the negroes to be good and to stay away from the polls on election days. The negroes who refused to obey were visited a second time and taken away and whipped. run away from the state, hanged or burned alive as a warning to others. “

“What is so striking about Brown’s book is that in the 1950s and 1960s it completely accepts and promotes the lost cause by thinking of Confederation and the reconstruction that was created in the early 1900s” said Barnes.


In addition to erecting statues in the South that became lightning rods in protest, the United Daughters of the Confederacy had an influence on the history taught to schoolchildren in Arkansas.

“Perhaps the SVP’s most lasting effect on understanding the civil war in Arkansas has been its censorship of textbooks,” according to an Encyclopedia of Arkansas entry on the “Myth of the Lost Cause of Confederation ”by Carl H. Moneyhon, a history professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“In 1917 he successfully forced the publisher of Henry Bourne and Elbert Benton’s History of the United States to send page proofs of their proposed book to the SVP for approval, and the state textbook commission withheld the contract for the book until the publisher wanted corrections, ”Moneyhon wrote.

“Subsequently, the texts used in American history lessons have closely adhered to the account of the lost cause. sacrifice of the Confederate Arkansans and the very limited place of African Americans and White Unionists in history. Such texts remained in use until the 1960s.

The lost cause narrative consisted of several basic principles, Moneyhon wrote.

“The first element of this southern version of the story involved a set of ideas about the character of the pre-war South, which was described as a world populated by descendants of English horsemen and happy slaves, a virtual paradise who produced brilliant statesmen and military leaders, “according to Moneyhon. “The Southern labor system has been described as a paternalistic system that exists for the good of African Americans, not for their exploitation.”

The lost cause account did not recognize slavery as the main cause of the civil war, Moneyhon wrote.


In the decades following the Civil War, textbooks glorified the Union soldier, wrote Charles Russell Logan in “Something So Dim It Must Be Holy,” a booklet published by the Arkansas Historical Preservation Program.

“In 1892, Confederate veterans were irritated by what they saw as a northern bias in history textbooks, and at the United Confederate Veterans National Convention that year, they appointed a committee history to choose the “appropriate” books for Southern schools, “Logan wrote. “Both sides have been equally aggressive in promoting their biased stories.”

The United Daughters of Confederation continued the fight into the 20th century.

“For years, the SVP has been active in approving textbooks for schoolchildren in the state and actually had a ‘book approval’ committee,” Logan wrote. “In 1917, when the Arkansas General Assembly passed a bill to establish a Textbook Commission” to provide a uniform system of textbooks in common schools, “the SVP quickly exerted its influence over the commission. The committee accepted a petition that the SVP state historian “examines and passes on the stories of the United States before adoption.”

“The stories sponsored by the SVP would prove to be almost as enduring as the monuments of granite, stone and bronze it erected, and textbooks undoubtedly had more influence on the consciousness of the Arkansans than the soldiers. loners who stood guard on the courthouse lawn, ”Logan wrote.

Kimberly Mundell, spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Education, said the agency did not have historical information regarding the United Daughters of Confederation and the state Textbook Commission. She said the commission was dissolved before 2014.

Flossie Moore, 82, of Louann, said she attended Black Shady Grove School until sixth grade, then Segregated Lafayette School near Camden until she graduated in 1955. She does not remember any reference to the Klan in his books.

“In the classes I took, we never studied KKK,” she said. “In fact, my family never mentioned them. We knew about them.”

In an Arkansas Encyclopedia entry on the United Daughters of Confederation, Wanda Dean wrote: “The organization continues its mission of remembrance and celebration of the Confederate cause. However, in the 21st century many Americans have questioned this goal and, instead, see the SVP as promoting the myth of the lost cause at the expense of a fuller account of the past, through its censorship. from public school books in the early and mid-20th century and through its sponsorship of Confederate monuments. some have argued for the removal of Confederate monuments from public lands. “


In a 1905 textbook, “Makers of Arkansas History”, author John Hugh Reynolds wrote that “many good citizens have joined the Klan.”

“If a negro caused trouble by his impudence, idleness, or theft, he was visited by the Klan, whipped and warned of worse punishment if the offense was repeated,” Reynolds writes in the book, which according to its preface. , suitable for students in the third, fourth or fifth year.

Occasionally, according to Reynolds, obnoxious upholsterers were also whipped.

“The Klans undoubtedly did a lot of good early on, but later some of them fell under the control of reckless young men,” Reynolds wrote.

Catherine Barrier spotted the spin.

“A characterization like the one expressed in this book of the Klan as perhaps being an early force for order (regrettable as the need is) and then later falling into a pernicious scum organization was one thing I heard. quite often in my childhood, ”said Barrier. , 49, of Little Rock, who is the certified local government coordinator for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. “I felt at the time that this might be the kind of more progressive or genteel opinion of the lost cause.”


Olin E. McKnight’s United Daughters of the Confederacy-approved manual “Living in Arkansas” implied that violence against black people during Reconstruction was justified because they were “idle, penniless, lawless; robbed, looted, torched homes and sometimes committed other crimes – – often encouraged by baggage handlers and crooks in these acts of lawlessness, “wrote Fred Arthur Bailey, professor of history at Abilene Christian University in Texas .

Arkansas’ biased race history set the stage for the Little Rock Central High School crisis in 1957, Bailey wrote in a 1996 article for the Arkansas Historical Quarterly.

“As hysterical as the white parents of Little Rock seemed to take a stand for apartheid, they actually reacted predictably based on the history lessons they were taught,” Bailey wrote.

“Those daring parents who stood outside Central High School shouting insults at young African American college students had learned a type of story that both prompted and authenticated their actions. Their Arkansas textbooks had provided a foundation. education for their challenge to the federal government and for their determination to deny African American children an adequate education. “

Arkansas History Textbooks


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