Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 21st, 2016

These Principles are Not for problem solving: Just how people behave on Average

Many articles and books have been published for every single one of these principles, effects and laws.

I stumbled on a term-paper that a student of mine submitted in 2002 for the course of Human Factors in Engineering and I said: Why not? It is a good topic to post

Most of these principles were formulated by psychology researchers and they are good guidelines of what to expect in pitfalls and erroneous judgement when designing for people usage.

These laws and principles cannot be classified as rules for solving problems as is commonly misunderstood in natural sciences.

Many of these principles were the results of experiments with failed hypothesis because they were not tightly controlled.

Basically, if you know how average people behave in your community, you can design for effective results

Consequently, the first critical phase in any project is to comprehend the idiosyncrasies of the particular community in order to design valid solutions

First, check the ones you have already heard of, or read about in your course works.

  1. Hawthorn Effect
  2. Placebo Effect
  3. Occam’s razor
  4. Peter principle
  5. Parkinson’s Law
  6. Murphy’s law
  7. Pareto Principle
  8. Rule of Redundant systems
  9. Zeigarnik Effect
  10. Contrast principle
  11. Cognitive Dissonance
  12. Perceptual Consistency
  13. Turnpike Effect

Actually, last year I read a book “How to think clear” and it developed on many of these biases and effects. I reviewed many of the chapters.

Hawthorn Effect

The motivated people have greater effect than the solution presented to resolve a problem.

In the mid 1930’s a vast experiment involved thousands of employees who were supposed to ignore that an experiment is taking place. It turned out that the employees got wind and overdid their best at work. An example of an experiment that was not very well controlled.

Placebo Effect

A harmless with No pharmacological effects may make sick people feeling better if they were told the medicine is part of the cure.

Apparently, placebo has positive effect even though the sick person was told that it is a harmless medicine. (Maybe the sick person doesn’t really believe what he was told?)

William of Occam’s razor

The explanation with the fewest assumptions is the correct alternative in most cases

Peter principle

Employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. When a competent employee rises to a higher level of complexities then they fall back to an incompetent job where they are not positioned to fill.

Parkinson’s law:

Work expands to fill the time allotted to it: The procrastination effect.

Any work must be subdivided to last a definite time span so that the entire project is finished according to a timetable and on schedule.

Give a student a project that can be done within a few days and he will gladly leave it to the last minutes after a few months for the scheduled time for presentation.

Murphy’s law

If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. We tend not to expect what we think is an unexpected event or behaviour.

Pareto Principle

A small fraction of people do most of the job. The wealthiest are a tiny fraction of the total population. A fraction of the items sold generate most of the profit or revenue.

Rule of Redundant systems

Every critical system requires a redundant backup system

Zeigarnik Effect

We prefer to have a closure on a task before starting another one. Handling simultaneous tasks is difficult for most people and they are upset when they are asked to interrupt a job in midstream in order to tend to another job.

Contrast principle

The last event in a stream of successive events is retained and valued more than any of the other events. If the latest person seemed nice, he is viewed as nicer than he is. A good suggestion offered after a series of bad suggestions feels better than it is.

Cognitive Dissonance

Hearing about a crime committed creates a dissonance in the belief system of morality and justice and the event that occurred.

If we believe that a certain event should not happen then we tend to find fault in the victim.

Perceptual Consistency

We tend to pigeon-hole people and circumstances into simple generalized entities.

Turnpike Effect

The availability of unforeseen utility of a resource or facility generates greater use than was predicted.

Improve the road condition of a side route and people will drive on it more frequently than expected.

The howling of the dogs are disturbing the dead

Il ne s’agit pas de ramer à contre courant . Il s’agit de regarder les confessions Libanaises de plus près .

Il ne s’agit pas de rancune contre l’histoire,  mais il s’agit de ne pas oublier que nos confessions furent actionnaires de nos 17 ans de guerre civile pas si lointaine que cela .

17 ans qui ont marqué par leur 400 000 morts et autant d’estropiés physiques , psychiques à vie .

17 ans qui encore aujourd’hui, dès qu’une Libanaise ou un Libanais ” inspiré” achève d‘ écrire un livre quel qu’il soit ( du pamphlet au roman de l’essai au pavé ) cette guerre s’y taille encore la part belle , preuve d’une non cicatrisation de tout un peuple qui s’efforce de sourire devant ses miroirs .

Nos confessions, guide imposé dans le musée de nos vies, nous suivent encore et décident de tout .

Des nominations du plus petit balayeur à l’aéroport, aux plus hautes fonction de l’état .

Ces appartenances factices , je n’ai jamais voulu leur appartenir . J’ai choisi de quitter le Liban pour ne plus être regardé, traité, approché, dealé, aimé ou haï, considéré, supposé, écouté, perçu , comme Le Musulman, le Chiite , le quoiqu’il dise ou fasse voilà ce qu’il pense.

Le personnage catalogué, étiquetté, classé, archivé même avant qu’il ne dise bonjour ! Ehhhhhh….. Vous avez vu le nom qu’il porte ? Faux et usage de faux…
Me sentir aussi liquéfié et dénaturé, et voir ce Liban empêtré dans ses confessions fières d’avoir tué juste sur un barrage de contrôle d’identité .

Je me dis qu’un pays pareil, devrait avoir la décence de faire mener profil bas à ses religions et ne pas se l’ouvrir à chaque fête religieuse d’où qu’elle jaillisse pour aboyer ” bonne fête ”
Les aboiements dérangent les morts …

Insects: Kinky sex life and more

People are more afraid of insects than they are of dying. (Laughter) At least, according to a 1973 “Book of Lists” survey which preceded all those online best, worst, funniest lists that you see today.

Only heights and public speaking exceeded the six-legged as sources of fear.

And I suspect if you had put spiders in there, the combinations of insects and spiders would have just topped the chart. Now, I am not one of those people. I really love insects. I think they’re interesting and beautiful, and sometimes even cute.And I’m not alone.

For centuries, some of the greatest minds in science, from Charles Darwin to E.O. Wilson, have drawn inspiration from studying some of the smallest minds on Earth. why is that?

What is that keeps us coming back to insects? Some of it is just the sheer magnitude of almost everything about them. They’re more numerous than any other kind of animal.

We don’t even know how many species of insects there are, because new ones are being discovered all the time. There are at least a million, maybe as many as 10 million. This means that you could have an insect-of-the-month calendar and not have to reuse a species for over 80,000 years. (Laughter) Take that, pandas and kittens! (Laughter)

1:51  insects are essential. We need them. It’s been estimated that 1 out of every 3 bites of food is made possible by a pollinator. Scientist use insects to make fundamental discoveries about everything from the structure of our nervous systems to how our genes and DNA work.

But what I love most about insects is what they can tell us about our own behavior. Insects seem like they do everything that people do.

They meet, they mate, they fight, they break up. And they do so with what looks like love or animosity. But what drives their behaviors is really different than what drives our own, and that difference can be really illuminating. (And how can you be sure of that statement?)

There’s nowhere where that’s more true than when it comes to one of our most consuming interests — sex.

I will maintain. and I think I can defend, what may seem like a surprising statement. I think sex in insects is more interesting than sex in people. (Laughter) And the wild variety that we see makes us challenge some of our own assumptions about what it means to be male and female.

Of course, to start with, a lot of insects don’t need to have sex at all to reproduce. Female aphids can make little, tiny clones of themselves without ever mating. Virgin birth, right there. On your rose bushes. (Laughter) When they do have sex, even their sperm is more interesting than human sperm.

There are some kinds of fruit flies whose sperm is longer than the male’s own body. And that’s important because the males use their sperm to compete. Now, male insects do compete with weapons, like the horns on these beetles. But they also compete after mating with their sperm. Dragonflies and damselflies have penises that look kind of like Swiss Army knives with all of the attachments pulled out. 

They use these formidable devices like scoops, to remove the sperm from previous males that the female has mated with. (Laughter) So, what can we learn from this? it is not a lesson in the sense of us imitating them or of them setting an example for us to follow. Which, given this, is probably just as well. And also, did I mention sexual cannibalism is rampant among insects?

So, no, that’s not the point. But what I think insects do, is break a lot of the rules that we humans have about the sex roles. So, people have this idea that nature dictates kind of a 1950s sitcom version of what males and females are like. So that males are always supposed to be dominant and aggressive, and females are passive and coy.

But that’s just not the case. So for example, take katydids, which are relatives of crickets and grasshoppers. The males are very picky about who they mate with, because they not only transfer sperm during mating, they also give the female something called a nuptial gift. You can see two katydids mating in these photos.

In both panels, the male’s the one on the right, and that sword-like appendage is the female’s egg-laying organ. The white blob is the sperm, the green blob is the nuptial gift, and the male manufactures this from his own body and it’s extremely costly to produce. It can weigh up to a third of his body mass. I will now pause for a moment and let you think about what it would be like if human men, every time they had sex, had to produce something that weighed 50, 60, 70 pounds.

Okay, they would not be able to do that very often. (Laughter) And indeed, neither can the katydids. And so what that means is the katydid males are very choosy about who they offer these nuptial gifts to. Now, the gift is very nutritious, and the female eats it during and after mating. So, the bigger it is, the better off the male is, because that means more time for his sperm to drain into her body and fertilize her eggs.

But it also means that the males are very passive about mating, whereas the females are extremely aggressive and competitive, in an attempt to get as many of these nutritious nuptial gifts as they can. So, it’s not exactly a stereotypical set of rules. Even more generally though, males are actually not all that important in the lives of a lot of insects. In the social insects — the bees and wasps and ants — the individuals that you see every day — the ants going back and forth to your sugar bowl, the honey bees that are flitting from flower to flower — all of those are always female.

People have had a hard time getting their head around that idea for millennia. The ancient Greeks knew that there was a class of bees, the drones, that are larger than the workers, although they disapproved of the drones’ laziness because they could see that the drones just hang around the hive until the mating flight — they’re the males.

They hang around until the mating flight, but they don’t participate in gathering nectar or pollen. The Greeks couldn’t figure out the drones’ sex, and part of the confusion was that they were aware of the stinging ability of bees but they found it difficult to believe that any animals that bore such a weapon could possibly be a female.

Aristotle tried to get involved as well. He suggested, “OK, if the stinging individuals are going to be the males …” Then he got confused, because that would have meant the males were also taking care of the young in a colony, and he seemed to think that would be completely impossible. He then concluded that maybe bees had the organs of both sexes in the same individual, which is not that far-fetched, some animals do that, but he never really did get it figured out.

And you know, even today, my students, for instance, call every animal they see, including insects, a male. And when I tell them that the ferocious army-ant soldiers with their giant jaws, used to defend the colony, are all always female, they seem to not quite believe me. 

And certainly all of the movies — Antz, Bee Movie — portray the main character in the social insects as being male. Well, what difference does this make? These are movies. They’re fiction. They have talking animals in them. What difference does it make if they talk like Jerry Seinfeld? I think it does matter, and it’s a problem that actually is part of a much deeper one that has implications for medicine and health and a lot of other aspects of our lives.

You all know that scientists use what we call model systems, which are creatures — white rats or fruit flies — that are kind of stand-ins for all other animals, including people. And the idea is that what’s true for a person will also be true for the white rat. And by and large, that turns out to be the case. But you can take the idea of a model system too far. And what I think we’ve done, is use males, in any species, as though they are the model system. The norm.

The way things are supposed to be. And females as a kind of variant — something special that you only study after you get the basics down. And so, back to the insects. I think what that means is that people just couldn’t see what was in front of them. Because they assumed that the world’s stage was largely occupied by male players and females would only have minor, walk-on roles. But when we do that, we really miss out on a lot of what nature is like. And we can also miss out on the way natural, living things, including people, can vary.

And I think that’s why we’ve used males as models in a lot of medical research, something that we know now to be a problem if we want the results to apply to both men and women. Well, the last thing I really love about insects is something that a lot of people find unnerving about them. They have little, tiny brains with very little cognitive ability, the way we normally think of it.

They have complicated behavior, but they lack complicated brains. And so, we can’t just think of them as though they’re little people because they don’t do things the way that we do. I really love that it’s difficult to anthropomorphize insects, to look at them and just think of them like they’re little people in exoskeletons, with six legs.

Instead, you really have to accept them on their own terms, because insects make us question what’s normal and what’s natural. Now, you know, people write fiction and talk about parallel universes. They speculate about the supernatural, maybe the spirits of the departed walking among us. The allure of another world is something that people say is part of why they want to dabble in the paranormal.

But as far as I’m concerned, who needs to be able to see dead people, when you can see live insects?


Slavery Myths Debunked

The Irish were slaves too.

slaves in plantations had it better than Northern factory workers

black people fought for the Confederacy; and other lies, half-truths, and irrelevancies.

A slave named Peter sits for his photo: “Overseer Artayou Carr
A slave named Peter, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, April 2, 1863.

Photo courtesy the National Archives/Getty Images

A certain resistance to discussion about the toll of American slavery isn’t confined to the least savory corners of the Internet.

Last year, in an unsigned (and now withdrawn) review of historian Ed Baptist’s book The Half Has Never Been Told, the Economist took issue with Baptist’s “overstated” treatment of the topic, arguing that the increase in the country’s economic output in the 19th century shouldn’t be chalked up to black workers’ innovations in the cotton field but rather to masters treating their slaves well out of economic self-interest—a bit of seemingly rational counterargument that ignores the moral force of Baptist’s narrative, while making space for the fantasy of kindly slavery.

In a June column on the legacy of Robert E. Lee that was otherwise largely critical of the Confederate general, New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks wrote that, though Lee owned slaves, he didn’t like owning slaves—a biographical detail whose inclusion seemed to imply that Lee’s ambivalence somehow made his slaveholding less objectionable. (So did most of the earlier US Presidents)

And in an August obituary of civil rights leader Julian Bond, the Times called his great-grandmother Jane Bond “the slave mistress of a Kentucky farmer”—a term that accords far too much agency to Bond’s ancestor and too little blame to the “farmer” who enslaved her.

While working on our Slate Academy podcast, The History of American Slavery, we encountered many types of slavery denial—frequently disguised as historical correctives and advanced by those who want to change (or end) conversation about the deep impact of slavery on American history. We’d like to offer counterarguments—some historical, some ethical—to the most common misdirections that surface in conversations about slavery.

“The Irish Were Slaves Too”

Is it true?: If we’re talking about slavery as it was practiced on Africans in the United States—that is, hereditary chattel slavery—then the answer is a clear no.

As historian and public librarian Liam Hogan writes in a paper titled “The Myth of ‘Irish Slaves’ in the Colonies,” “Persons from Ireland have been held in various forms of human bondage throughout history, but they have never been chattel slaves in the West Indies.”

Nor is there any evidence of Irish chattel slavery in the North American colonies. There were a large number of Irish indentured servants, and there were cases in which Irish men and women were sentenced to indentured servitude in the “new world” and forcibly shipped across the Atlantic.

But even involuntary laborers had more autonomy than enslaved Africans, and the large majority of Irish indentured servants came here voluntarily.

Which raises a question: Where did the myth of Irish slavery come from? A few places.

The term “white slaves” emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries, first as a derogatory term for Irish laborers—equating their social position to that of slaves—later as political rhetoric in Ireland itself, and later still as Southern pro-slavery propaganda against an industrialized North.

More recently, Hogan notes, several sources have conflated indentured servitude with chattel slavery in order to argue for a particular Irish disadvantage in the Americas, when compared to other white immigrant groups.

Hogan cites several writers—Sean O’Callaghan in To Hell or Barbados and Don Jordan and Michael Walsh in White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America—who exaggerate poor treatment of Irish indentured servants and intentionally conflate their status with African slaves.

Neither of the authors “bother to inform the reader, in a coherent manner, what the differences are between chattel slavery and indentured servitude or forced labor,” writes Hogan.

This is an important point.

Indentured servitude was difficult, deadly work, and many indentured servants died before their terms were over. (Who cares then to differentiate if death is more likely during the term?)

But indentured servitude was temporary, with a beginning and an end. Those who survived their terms received their freedom. Servants could even petition for early release due to mistreatment, and colonial lawmakers established different, often lesser, punishments for disobedient servants compared to disobedient slaves.

Above all, indentured servitude wasn’t hereditary. The children of servants were free; the children of slaves were property. To elide this is to diminish the realities of chattel slavery, which—perhaps—is one reason the most vocal purveyors of the myth are neo-Confederate and white supremacist groups.

Bottom line: Even if many Irish immigrants faced discrimination and hard lives on these shores, it doesn’t change the fact that American slavery—hereditary and race-based—was a massive institution that shaped and defined the political economy of colonial America, and later, the United States.

Nor does it change the fact that this institution left a profound legacy for the descendants of enslaved Africans, who even after emancipation were subject to almost a century of violence, disenfranchisement, and pervasive oppression, with social, economic, and cultural effects that persist to the present.


Image via

“Black people enslaved each other in Africa, and black people worked with slave traders, so …”

In a piece published in Vice magazine in 2005 (and still available on the Vice website), comedian Jim Goad offers a series of “feel better about your history, white kids” arguments. One of his salvos: “Slavery was common throughout Africa, with entire tribes becoming enslaved after losing battles. Tribal chieftains often sold their defeated foes to white slave-traders.”

Is it true?: This is certainly true. But, as historian Marcus Rediker writes, the “ancient and widely accepted institution” of enslavement in Africa was exacerbated by the European presence. Yes, European slave traders entered “preexisting circuits of exchange” when they arrived in the 16th century. But European demand changed the shape of this market, strengthening enslavers and ensuring that more and more people would be carried away. “[European] slave-ship captains wanted to deal with ruling groups and strong leaders, people who could command labor resources and deliver the ‘goods,’ ” Rediker writes, and European money and technology further empowered those who were already dominant, encouraging them to enslave greater numbers. Both the social structures and infrastructure that enabled African systems of enslavement were strengthened by the transatlantic slave trade.

Bottom line: Why should this matter? This is a classic “two wrongs make a right” ethical proposition. Even if Africans (or Arabs, or Jews) colluded in the slave trade, should white Americans be entitled to do whatever they pleased with the people who were unlucky enough to fall victim?

“The first slave owner in America was black.”

Is it true?: It depends on how you parse the timeline. Anthony Johnson, the black ex–indentured servant whose bio opened the first episode of our podcast, did sue to hold John Casor for life in 1653, and the resulting civil court decision remanding Casor to Johnson’s ownership was (as historian R. Halliburton Jr. writes) “one of the first known legal sanctions of slavery” in the colonies. That phrase—“one of”—is crucial. The ship Desire brought a cargo of Africans from Barbados to Boston in 1634; these people were sold as slaves. In 1640 John Punch, a runaway servant of African descent, was sentenced to lifelong slavery in Virginia, while the two European-born companions who fled with him had their indentures extended. In 1641, the passage of the Body of Liberties provided legal sanction for the slave trade in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. (N.B.: The image in the meme above isn’t of Anthony Johnson. There were no photographers in 17th-century Virginia.)

Whether or not Anthony Johnson was the first American slaveholder, he was certainly not the last black person to own slaves. “It is a very sad aspect of African-American history that slavery sometimes could be a colorblind affair,” writes Henry Louis Gates Jr. on the Root, in a fascinating piece about the history of black slaveholders in the United States. Some black slaveholders bought family members, though this humanitarian arrangement doesn’t account for all of the history of black slaveholding, as Gates points out.

Bottom line: Even if Anthony Johnson was the first person in the North American colonies to hold a slave—even if many black people across the years held slaves—that doesn’t erase the fact that it was the racially based system of hereditary slavery that harmed the vast majority of black people living within it. The fact that some members of an oppressed class participate in oppression doesn’t excuse that oppression.

“Slaves were better off than some poor people working in Northern or English factories. At least they were given food and a place to stay.”

Is it true?: It was undeniably hard to be a factory worker in the 19th century. White adults (and children) labored in dangerous environments and were often hungry. But slaves were hardly in a better position.

While it makes some intuitive sense that a person would be rationally motivated to take care of his or her “property,” as the Economist’s reviewer suggested, historians have found that American slaveholders were apt to provide minimum levels of food and shelter for enslaved people. They considered black people’s palates to be less refined than white people’s, and this justified serving a monotonous diet of pork and cornmeal. Enslaved workers were expected to supplement their diets when they could, by tending their own vegetable gardens and hunting or trapping—more work to be added to their already heavy loads. Evidence shows that many enslaved people suffered from diseases associated with malnutrition, including pellagra, rickets, scurvy, and anemia.

Even if an enslaved person in the United States landed in a relatively “good” position—owned by a slaveholder who was inclined to feed workers well and be lenient in punishment—he was always subject to sale, which could happen because of death, debt, arguments in the family, or whim. Since very few laws regulated slaveholders’ treatment of enslaved people, there would be no guarantee that the next place the enslaved person landed would be equally comfortable—and the enslaved had limited opportunity, short of running away or resisting, to control the situation.

Bottom line: This is another case of the “two wrongs” fallacy. We could compare levels of mistreatment of Northern factory workers and Southern enslaved laborers and find that each group lived with hunger and injury; both findings are dismaying. But this is a distraction from the real issue: Slavery, as a system, legalized and codified the slaveholder’s control over the enslaved person’s body.

“Only a small percentage of Southerners owned slaves.”

“The vast majority of soldiers in the Confederate Army were simple men of meager income,” rather than wealthy slaveholders, writes the anonymous author of a widely-circulated Confederate History “fact sheet.”

Is it true?: According to the 1860 census, taken just before the Civil War, more than 32 percent of white families in the soon-to-be Confederate states owned slaves. Of course, this is an average, and different states had different levels of slaveholding. In Arkansas, just 20 percent of families owned slaves; in South Carolina, it was 46 percent; in Mississippi, it was 49 percent.

By most measures, this isn’t “small”—it’s roughly the same percentage of Americans who, today, hold a college degree. The large majority of slaveholding families were small farmers and not the major planters who dominate our image of “slavery.”

Typically, this fact is used to suggest that the Civil War was not about slavery. If so few Southerners owned slaves, goes the argument, then the war had to be about something else (namely, the sanctity of states’ rights). But, as historian Ira Berlin writes, the slave South was a slave society, not just a society with slaves. Slavery was at the foundation of economic and social relations, and slave-ownership was aspirational—a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Whites who couldn’t afford slaves wanted them in the same way that, today, most Americans want to own a home.

Bottom line: Slavery was the basis of white supremacy, which united all whites in a racist hierarchy. “[T]he existing relation between the two races in the South,” argued South Carolina Sen. John C. Calhoun in 1837, “forms the most solid and durable foundation on which to rear free and stable political institutions.” Many whites couldn’t imagine Southern society without slavery. And when it was threatened, those whites—whether they owned slaves or not—took up arms to defend their “way of life.”

“The North benefited from slavery, too.”

Is it true?: There’s no question that this is true. As historians Ed Baptist and Sven Beckert show in their respective books, American slavery was an economic engine for the global economy. The South’s production of cotton drove industrialization and fueled a massive commodities market that transformed the world. Naturally, this meant that slavery was vital to Northern financial and industrial interests. It’s no coincidence, for instance, that New York City was among the most pro-Southern cities in the North during the Civil War; slavery was key to its economic success. In any honest conversation about American slavery, we have to look at the tight economic links between North and South and the degree to which the entire country was complicit in the enterprise.

Bottom line: Often, this line comes from Southern defenders, who want to emphasize Northern complicity. But the two types of historical guilt aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s true that the North played a major role in sustaining the slave economy. It’s also true that slavery was based in the American South; that it formed the basis of Southern society; that white Southerners were its most fervent defenders; and that those Southerners would eventually fight a war to preserve and expand the institution.

“Black people fought for the Confederacy.”

 “Historical fact shows there were Black Confederate soldiers. These brave men fought in the trenches beside their White brothers, all under the Confederate Battle Flag,” reads a statement from the South Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Is it true?: Here is a case where rhetorical precision is key. Did blacks serve in the Confederacy? Absolutely: As enslaved people, countless black Americans cooked, cleaned, and worked for Confederate regiments and their officers. But they didn’t fight; there’s no evidence that black Americans—enslaved or free—fought Union soldiers under Confederate banners.

Toward the end of the war, a desperate Confederate Congress allowed its army to enlist enslaved Africans who had been freed by their masters. A small number of black soldiers were trained, but there’s no evidence they saw action. And even this measure was divisive: Opponents attacked it as a betrayal of the Confederacy’s aim and purpose. “You cannot make soldiers of slaves, or slaves of soldiers,” declared Howell Cobb, president of the Provisional Confederate State Congress that drafted the Confederate States of America constitution. “The day you make a soldier of them is the beginning of the end of the Revolution. And if slaves seem good soldiers, then our whole theory of slavery is wrong.”

The myth is a product of the post-war period, when former Confederate leaders worked to retroactively redefine secession from a movement to preserve slavery to a fight for abstract “state’s rights” and a hazy “Southern way of life.”

Bottom line: Even if there were black soldiers in the Confederate army, it doesn’t change the truth of the Confederacy: Its goal was the protection and expansion of slavery. The institution was protected in the Confederate constitution. “Our new government is founded 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,” said Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens in his “Cornerstone Speech.” “This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”




November 2016

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