The Transformation of Dr. Erenestine Harrison
by Gail Jarvis
by Gail Jarvis
In a recent LRC blog post, Elizabeth Wright discusses the transformation of Dr. Erenestine Harrison who, as a concerned black resident of Hampton, Virginia, began a petition to change the names of two primarily black schools that were named after Confederate heroes: Robert E. Lee Elementary School and Jefferson Davis Middle School. However, Harrison later withdrew her request. In an interview, Dr. Harrison cited two basic reasons for her change of heart. First, the flood of email and letters she received from Southern heritage supporters that provided information previously unknown to her. Second, was the less than enthusiastic support of the local black community.
In telling Dr. Harrison's story, Ms. Wright answers the question appearing on the masthead of her website, "Issues & Views"; "So you still think all blacks think alike?" Because this controversy reveals so much about what is wrong with contemporary society, I want to elaborate on Ms. Wright's analysis. And, like Ms. Wright, demonstrate that all blacks do not think alike by contrasting Dr. Harrison with civil rights leader, Julian Bond
Although all blacks don't think alike, members of the national media do think alike. And therein lies the problem. National media — television, radio and print — present only one version of history and conflicting voices are rarely allowed. Also, in recent years, versions of history have been contaminated by political correctness. Unfortunately, what many Americans know about history is a combination of what they learned in public schools and from media adaptations.
Dr. Harrison is like most Americans. She knows a lot about her field of endeavor, psychology, but, as she admitted, her knowledge of history is limited to what she was taught in public schools which she describes as being "simplified." Just how simplified is illustrated by this comment made by a 13-year-old student at Jefferson Davis Middle School who was interviewed about the school name: "I think the name should be changed to Abraham Lincoln because he freed the slaves."
Harrison began her campaign with strong public utterances. "Would Jews send their children to Adolph Hitler Elementary School?" She also gave her "simplified" view of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis: "If I were a kid, especially a teenager, I would be ashamed to tell a friend that I went to Jefferson Davis. Basically, those guys fought for slavery." Scolding the black community she stated: "Our black leaders have been muffled here and have not spoken out about this, but I know that Jewish people would not stand for it."
Some parents signed Harrison's petition but others were hesitant claiming that the drive for a symbolic renaming of schools might be counterproductive to the outstanding race relations the community enjoyed. Other parents as well as most of the students themselves didn't seem to care about the names of the schools. The school superintendent said: "It's not the name on the outside of the building that negatively affects the attitudes of the students inside. If the attitudes outside of the building are acceptable, then the name is immaterial."
Dr. Harrison was caught off-guard by the vast outpouring of historical information from Southern heritage supporters. She was informed that the Secretary of the Treasury of the Confederacy was a Jew and that approximately 4,000 Jewish troops fought for the Confederacy. Robert E. Lee's anti-slavery opinions were quoted to her. Also, she learned that Lee never owned slaves himself and voluntarily manumitted the ones his wife inherited. Of course, the "human interest" facts she learned probably had a profound effect on her, i.e., Jefferson Davis and his wife adopted an abused black child named Jim Limber and Stonewall Jackson taught classes for slave children often purchasing their books with his own funds.
So, after digging through the information furnished her and doing some research on her own, Dr. Harrison was persuaded to abandon her petition. She could do this because there was no monetary or political motivation for her actions. But such is not the case with Julian Bond whose public utterances are driven by money and politics.
Julian Bond became a media celebrity in the 1960s as the first black elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. Bond was always an outspoken advocate for civil rights but he seemed to be level-headed, more like Andrew Young than the verbally incontinent Jesse Jackson. In fact, as a resident of Atlanta during the sixties, I had a certain amount of respect for both Young and Bond. I still admire Andrew Young but my regard for Bond began to waiver in 1971 when, at the behest of Morris Dees, he agreed to be the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Of course, at that time, few people knew the truth about the SPLC and even today there are many who prefer not to know. But many of us in the South already knew that Morris Dees was simply a mercenary predator whose mail fund-raising skills financed George Wallace's campaign for Governor of Alabama. But Dees soon learned that the way to wealth was through rich and gullible Northern liberals. So Dees and his henchmen flooded these types with mail solicitations for funds to help combat the hate groups their organization had "identified." These susceptible donors accepted without question SPLC's reports of atrocities committed by hate groups.
Julian Bond's name on the SPLC letterhead gave the organization a respectable fašade and soon Morris Dees was a millionaire. Bond has remained an SPLC board member and has never raised any questions about the tactics of the SPLC; tactics that even some media outlets have criticized. After serving in the Georgia Assembly for twenty years, Bond, in the mid 1980s, ran for a national office. His election bid failed and, soon after, his marriage collapsed. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that allegations surfaced during the chaotic divorce proceedings accusing Bond of drug usage. Bond characterized the stories as being "racially motivated."
At this point, out of office, Julian Bond was like a film actor past his prime; no offers for movie roles but still a celebrity. To earn a living, many former actors make commercial endorsements of products. Similarly, the NAACP made Bond their spokesman, hoping his celebrity status could reverse the organization's slide into insignificance. Bond eagerly adapted to his new role adhering to the ancient proverb: "I sing the song of him whose bread I eat." Knowing he had to compete with the overblown rhetoric of the Jesse Jackson's and Al Sharpton's, Julian Bond ignored logic and propriety and blasted away like a loose cannon.
Lumping Conservatives and Republicans together, Bond claimed: "In coded racial appeals, they embrace Confederate leaders as patriots and wallow in a victim mentality. They preach racial neutrality and practice racial division. Their devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection. Their idea of reparations is to give war criminal Jefferson Davis a pardon. Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and Confederate swastika flying side by side."
Addressing the hullabaloo over the names of the Virginia schools, Bond stated: "If it had been up to Robert E. Lee, these kids wouldn't be going to school as they are today. They can't help but wonder about honoring a man who wanted to keep them in servitude." This is quite a different Julian Bond than the one I remember from the 1960s. To paraphrase Dr. Johnson: "Race-hustling is the last refuge of a failed black politician."
It is difficult to believe that Julian Bond is a history professor at the University of Virginia. Can you imagine what he is telling his students? And can you imagine the reaction of the University's founder, Thomas Jefferson? He is not just rolling over in his grave but probably rapidly revolving. But today men like Bond are revered by academia. He is also a Distinguished Professor at American University in Washington, D.C. and is the holder of twenty-one "honorary" degrees. This tells us more about the gospel of academia than the qualifications of Julian Bond.
And this controversy over school names pinpoints some of the shortcomings of contemporary society, especially the willingness to rely on dubious sources for information. National and local media outlets early on anointed Jesse Jackson as the spokesman for all blacks and stubbornly cling to that designation. SPLC reports on "hate groups" are regarded by media as unimpeachable. National Public Radio frequently grants air time to SPLC "experts" but has never attempted to investigate the reliability of their reports. And many in the general public, including media personalities, swallow the Public Broadcasting System's versions of history.
As a final example, let's look at Chicago Sun Times' movie critic Roger Ebert's review of the film "Gods and Generals." Mr. Ebert begins with this comment: "Here is a Civil War movie that Trent Lott might enjoy." Next, Ebert blasts the film because "it waits 70 minutes before introducing the first of its two speaking roles for African Americans." But Ebert gives himself away with this criticism: " What we know about the war (Civil War) from the photographs of Matthew Brady, the poems of Walt Whitman and the documentaries of Ken Burns is not duplicated here."
Roger Ebert is correct when he states that "Gods and Generals" does not duplicate the Civil War documentaries of Ken Burns. But Ken Burns is not a historian. He is a filmmaker. His time-constrained TV adaptations produced for mass consumption are selectively edited to support his own liberal views. However, some of us old-fashioned types lend more credence to researched works by serious historians. But, like Julian Bond, Ken Burns has become a celebrity and, in our goofy world, opinions of mere celebrities carry more weight than those of scholars.
February 20, 2004
Gail Jarvis [send him mail], a CPA living in Beaufort, SC, is an advocate of the voluntary union of states established by the founders.
Copyright © 2004 LewRockwell.com