Thank you, Dr. Ira Berlin
Dr. Ira Berlin is a giant among historians of the Early American Republic. He died on June 5, 2018 and we are saddened by his loss. In the obituary appearing in the Washington Post on June 6, 2018 Harrison Smith speaks to the amazing life of this scholar.
He was 77 years old. He became the founding director of the Freedmen and Southern Society Project. He was a past President of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. He is one of a few historians that gave our nation an accurate understanding about the 100 years of American history that followed the Civil War and about slavery itself. It would impossible to overstate his contribution to our understanding of the history of our nation.
Before historians like Dr. Berlin and David Brion Davis and Eugene D. Genovese began to write in the 1960s, other historians wrote differently about that same past. They treated slavery as an afterthought. They said it was a sideshow. They talked about it as though slaves and slave owners were just one big happy family. They said that slavery wasn’t really all that important in the history of our country. Some even said that the labor system of slavery was a cost to the nation and not a benefit.
It was Dr. Berlin and others such as David Brion Davis and Eugene D. Genovese and their students who took the cover off of these lies. In doing so they also took the cover off of the lie of the “Lost Cause”. That is the idea that the traitors who formed the Confederate States of America were fighting for something noble and good. They were not. They were fighting to keep people in bondage for the vast wealth their Unpaid Labor produced.
It was Dr. Berlin and others like him that told the historic truth that supports the Unpaid Labor Project. That is the truth that says that the collective contribution of 12.5 million slaves (Unpaid Laborers) working for 250-years for nothing were vital to the birth, growth and survival of the United States of America.