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By Robert S. McElvaine | August 31, 1997
IT IS GENERALLY accepted that the Civil War was the most important event in American history. Yet, as two recent controversies remind us, we disagree on what that war was about.The question of whether the nation should make a formal apology for slavery has brought forth from such authorities as former history professor Newt Gingrich and columnist George F. Will the declaration that we fought the war to end slavery.Meanwhile, across the South, where battles continue over the display of Confederate flags and related symbols, white defenders of their "heritage" argue that the Civil War was not about slavery but about states' rights and "Southern independence."
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NEWS
March 29, 2014
The calls to remove Charles Stanley's name from the Laurel public library are narrow-minded and reflect the shallow, simplistic understanding the vast majority of Americans have about the Civil War. If asked to identify the cause of the Civil War, most Americans would reflexively respond, "slavery. " This is simply not true. Like all major events in history, the Civil War was complex and defies any simple explanation. Attributing the Civil War solely to slavery is intellectually lazy.
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NEWS
April 13, 2011
I don't completely disagree with C. Lyon's letter "Civil war wasn't all about slavery" (April 11), but I do take issue with his take on "free" blacks in America at that time. What Lyons fails to mention is that "free" blacks were nowhere near as free as their white counterparts, and that they faced constant hostility even from white Northerners, who viewed them as competition for jobs. Moreover, the hostility they faced was often violent. Even after emancipation, blacks were nowhere near to being "free" if we consider their marginalization and lack of access to the same benefits of civilization as white people; the rise of lynching by terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan; and the Jim Crow laws passed under the legal doctrine of "separate but equal" that further marginalized them Add to that the unfair sentencing of blacks in criminal courts and the inordinate incarceration rate of blacks in prisons.
NEWS
Erin Cox and The Baltimore Sun | February 19, 2014
Maryland's Senate unanimously voted Wednesday to rescind support for a constitutional amendment it approved in 1862 to protect the institution of slavery. Amid the Civil War, Maryland was one of the few states to ratify the Corwin Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which historians considered a last-ditch effort to save the Union after the election of Abraham Lincoln.  The amendment never collected enough support to pass, and has long since become a footnote in history. Maryland lawmakers did vote in 1864 to abolish slavery in the state, and approved what eventually became the 13th Amendment that outlawed slavery in the country.
NEWS
July 6, 2013
Arthur Hirsch 's recent article about the Battle of Gettysburg reveals a disturbing ignorance of the political dynamics that brought this nation to a war that 150 years later remains the most cataclysmic event in our history ("A defining day relived," July 2). It accepts the shallow but unchallenged premise that the Civil War occurred because slavery was practiced in the South, and that righteous resolve to abolish the institution left the U.S. with no option other than a resort to arms.
NEWS
By Jonathan Pitts | February 7, 2010
T he newspaper ad, were it to run today, might appear in a lost-and-found column, wedged between yard sales and apartments for rent. Yet it could hardly say more about the spirit of an age. "Ran away from the Subscriber living in Annapolis, a young Country-born Negro Man named Harry," it said. "He is of a yellowish Complexion, near 6 Feet high, brisk and active. Had on and took with him a Wig, a new Felt Hat, a grey Pea Jacket, red Waistcoat and Breeches ... "Whoever takes up the said Negro, and delivers him to me, at Annapolis, shall have THREE POUNDS Reward.
NEWS
April 11, 2011
I disagree with Mr. Pitts that the cause of the Civil War was all about slavery. I challenge Mr. Pitts to answer the following questions: 1. If the war was about slavery, why was West Virginia admitted to the Union in 1863 (during the War) as a slave state? 2. Why didn't slavery end when the war was over? At the conclusion of the war, slavery only ended in the 11 states that had rebelled. The other slave states, such as Maryland and Delaware, did not become free until the passing of the 13th Amendment, eight months later.
NEWS
November 9, 2012
The "Making presidential elections fairer" commentary (Nov. 17) omits that the Electoral College is another legacy of slavery. The compromise of 1787, the counting of slaves as three-fifths of a person in determining the number of representatives in Congress to which a state was entitled (plus two senators), was the same formula used to construct the number of electors each state had in the Electoral College. Joseph R. Cowen, Baltimore
NEWS
Erin Cox and The Baltimore Sun | February 19, 2014
Maryland's Senate unanimously voted Wednesday to rescind support for a constitutional amendment it approved in 1862 to protect the institution of slavery. Amid the Civil War, Maryland was one of the few states to ratify the Corwin Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which historians considered a last-ditch effort to save the Union after the election of Abraham Lincoln.  The amendment never collected enough support to pass, and has long since become a footnote in history. Maryland lawmakers did vote in 1864 to abolish slavery in the state, and approved what eventually became the 13th Amendment that outlawed slavery in the country.
NEWS
October 18, 2013
In his commentary ("Beneath contempt," Oct. 17), columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. of The Miami Herald is very critical of Dr. Ben Carson's recent comparison of Obamacare to slavery. It is only natural that Mr. Pitts, being of African American ancestry, would jump to the conclusion that Dr. Carson had in mind slavery only as the keeping of slaves as practiced here in early America. I would suggest slavery has many other connotations such as "estate of subjection like that of a slave" and "compulsory service often such as required by law" (Webster's Dictionary)
NEWS
By Jonah Goldberg | February 17, 2014
Hannah Arendt coined the term "the banality of evil" to describe the galling normalcy of Nazi mass murderer Adolf Eichmann. Covering his trial in Jerusalem, she described Eichmann as less a cartoonish villain than a dull, remorseless, paper-pushing functionary just "doing his job. " The phrase "banality of evil" was instantly controversial, largely because it was misunderstood. Ms. Arendt was not trying to minimize Nazism's evil, but to capture its enormity. The staggering moral horror of the Holocaust was that it made complicity "normal.
NEWS
February 17, 2014
In regard to the General Assembly's consideration of rescinding the 1862 ratification of the so-called "shadow" 13th Amendment which upheld slavery ( "Lawmakers asked to revisit vote for slavery," Jan. 30), Sen. Brian E. Frosh stated, "We need to change our history. " There was a time in the not too distant past when a statement such as this by an elected public official would have been met with astonishment and disbelief. In this age of political correctness, however, it hardly raises an eyebrow.
NEWS
February 3, 2014
Your recent article on the legislature's revisiting of an 1861 vote supporting slavery requires clarification regarding several points ( "Maryland lawmakers asked to revisit vote for slavery Jan. 30). The reference to Maryland as being a "loyal" border state in particular is debatable Thousands of Marylanders flocked to the South to serve, fight, and often die for the Confederacy. Had members of the Maryland legislature not been forcibly imprisoned at Fort McHenry in April 1861, the state in all likelihood would have seceded.
NEWS
By Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun | January 30, 2014
The Civil War casts a long shadow. In the first year of that wrenching conflict, Maryland's lawmakers voted unanimously for a constitutional amendment to bar the federal government from abolishing slavery. Now, more than 150 years later, some legislators in Annapolis are looking to put the state on the right side of history. A Senate committee is scheduled Thursday to consider rescinding the state's 1862 ratification of the so-called "shadow" 13th Amendment, which would have locked slavery into the U.S. Constitution.
NEWS
By John McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | December 27, 2013
A minor anniversary passed without notice a week ago. It was on December 20, 2005, that the first You Don't Say  post was published.  Some of you have been on hand for the full eight years, showing a remarkable tolerance for the number of times I repeat myself, and many of you have arrived lately. All of the posts at the original site , from December 2005 to February 2012, can still be read there. There is the exception of the April 2009-May2010 [cough] hiatus [cough]
NEWS
October 23, 2013
Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson's equating of the Affordable Care Act with slavery shows that expertise in one area does not necessarily carry over to other fields ("Sorry, Dr. Carson, but Obamacare is not like slavery," Oct. 15). Jonathan Jacobson, Towson
NEWS
April 14, 2011
The adjective "all" in C. Lyon's letter "Civil War wasn't all about slavery" (April 12) raises the question of degree: How much was slavery the cause of the Civil War? But while no one can claim that slavery was the only factor in the war, slavery's role as the primary cause cannot be denied. To do so distorts and corrupts history and deemphasizes the seminal influence of black slavery on American society and politics at the time, and its legacy. That Robert E. Lee had qualms about slavery; that blacks owned black slaves; that a class-based draft led to riots in Northern cities doesn't mitigate the "peculiar institution's" central role in the violent division of the nation, they merely demonstrate the complexity of race and slavery in America at the time.
NEWS
October 18, 2013
In his commentary ("Beneath contempt," Oct. 17), columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. of The Miami Herald is very critical of Dr. Ben Carson's recent comparison of Obamacare to slavery. It is only natural that Mr. Pitts, being of African American ancestry, would jump to the conclusion that Dr. Carson had in mind slavery only as the keeping of slaves as practiced here in early America. I would suggest slavery has many other connotations such as "estate of subjection like that of a slave" and "compulsory service often such as required by law" (Webster's Dictionary)
NEWS
By Leonard Pitts Jr | October 16, 2013
In 1865, American slavery ended with the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Since that time, these things have happened: •In 1871, fire destroyed the city of Chicago. •In 1896, the Supreme Court legalized segregation. •In 1906, an earthquake leveled the city of San Francisco. •In 1929, the stock market crashed, plunging the nation into the Great Depression. •In 1941, more than 2,400 Americans died in a sneak attack upon Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
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