Rewriting the Civil War is slap in the face to Americans
© Getty Images

I was stunned during a recent visit to Grant's Tomb to learn  that more than 1.5 million had turned out for the funeral of President Ulysses S. Grant along Riverside Drive in New York City. He was described as the most loved American.

New York City was the same place where riots took place for four days in 1863 to protest being drafted to serve under Grant.

Somehow that hasn't come across in the history that most contemporary Americans believe.  The recent furor over the removal of Confederate memorials in New Orleans highlights that there are far more monuments to Confederate generals than to Grant, who decisively won the Civil War as commander of the Union Army.

ADVERTISEMENT
Not only did the Confederate generals all lose, but most violated their oaths by leaving the U.S. Army and committed treason against this country.

 

That's all forgotten because of a movie — D.W. Griffith's “Birth of a Nation.”

Grant actually eradicated the Ku Klux Klan by sending federal troops into the South to enforce three civil rights acts called the Anti-Ku Klux Klan Acts.

The new medium of motion pictures almost completely erased Grant's legacy less than two decades after he passed.

By the 1920s, millions were participating in Ku Klux Klan rallies, lynchings were common across the country and race riots forced African-Americans to flee their homes and businesses in most major cities.

A century and half later, there hasn't been a major motion picture on Grant. His rise from working in a shoe store in 1860 to commanding the Union Army three years later would appear to be a ready-made script.

Spike Lee's “Confederate States of America” made the point that the South, after the Compromise of 1876, had won the history, although it lost the war. Not only did it lose the war, but the former slaves, which they had derided as subhuman, were the decisive edge for the Union forces with the enthusiastic support of Grant.

HBO's planned Confederate, by the creators of Game of Thrones, is out of the genre of Griffith.  It is designed to cater to the view of history which glorified the worst atrocities in human history.

As a result, American society pushes back further the atonement which Germany and Japan are grateful for after World War II.

Such a project would be unthinkable in either country. Griffith's film shows how easily racism can be used to inflame passions to turn into violence and discrimination.

Portraying a contemporary society where slavery is accepted is an irresponsible ploy to gain ratings and respond to a perceived conservative political shift.

In my new book “Come This Far By Faith: African-Americans 1980-2020,” the data suggests that the past 40 years have been a second Reconstruction.

The Clansman came at the end of the first iteration.

The real history tells us it took another 60 years to undo that regime of repression.

HBO would have the blood of thousands on its hands if it continues with this project.

John William Templeton is the former editor of the San Jose Business Journal, Richmond Business Journal and the Winston Salem Chronicle. He's a regular contributor with San Francisco Chronicle. He is author of “Road to Ratification: How 27 States Faced the Most Challenging Issue in American History” and “Come This Far By Faith: African-Americans 1980-2020.”


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.