The Atlantic: ‘Compassion,’ Ta-Nehisi Coates on Drew Gilpin Faust

I was excited to see that Ta-Nehisi Coates took some room in his column to discuss Drew Gilpin Faust’s Mothers of Invention. Our cohort read this text around this time last year in Lyde Sizer’s Visions and Re/Visions in U.S. Women’s History class, resulting in valuable dialogue. Coates’ full article is available at his column in The Atlantic.

For an African-American like me, the upshot of all this gorgeous writing is bracing–one is forced to behold beauty in those who saw no such beauty in us. Worse, the partisans of Confederate history are quite often necromancers who would defile that beauty with denialism, and Lost Cause hokum. The impulse is toward rage, toward justified fury. The impulse is to view any deft use of the English language, as hypocrisy, as devil-worship concealed beneath garland prose.

It’s an impulse I’ve felt, myself. I love this picture (it’s from the cover of Mothers) because, all at once, I find it beautiful and rage-inducing. The problem with rage is that it’s a conversation-stopper, it forecloses all other questions. I am resolved on the nature of the Confederate cause. I would no sooner now debate the primary cause of the Civil War, then I would debate roundness of the Earth. And still in all, I am filled with questions. Chief among them, how does any human being in the 19th century come to endorse mass slaughter for the cause of raising a republic built on slavery?

Read the full article here.

— Kate Wadkins

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