Slavery, “Johnny Reb” and the Confederacy
by BRUCE SEAMAN AUGUST 31, 2017
This op-ed was published on Sunday, August 28 by the Ocala Star Banner. It can seen online by clicking here. The submitted text is below.
Above are pictures of the “Johnny Reb” statue to the Confederate war effort that is currently resident at Marion County’s Veterans Memorial Park. As you can see in the right photo from the statue’s unveiling, presumably 1908, the towering statue has been placed in front of the old County Courthouse, then in front of the new County Courthouse, and, upon the major renovation of the County Courthouse, moved in 2009 to its current home at Vets Park as pictured on the left. For these photos, we recognize the Florida Public Archaeology Network which has a collection of views of the statue. You can see them all and read its inscriptions by clicking here.
The text of the op-ed:
The whitewashed history of the South and the Confederacy was taught in Marion County Public Schools until 1999. It would be no surprise to find history teachers who still teach it today. In that sanitized version of history, slavery was not the primary cause of secession. That’s completely untrue.
I recently came across the speech given by the Hon. John C. McGehee of Madison County, Florida who was elected president of the Florida secession convention in January, 1861 in Tallahassee. The full text can be found by clicking here.
After his opening remarks to the secession convention, McGehee says:
… States that are now known as the slaveholding States will withdraw their political connection from the non-slaveholding States, unite themselves in a common destiny and establish another constitution.
McGehee insists that, in the US Constitution, the institution of domestic slavery is recognized and the right of property in slaves is expressly guaranteed.
McGehee recounts the growing opposition to slavery in non-slaveholding states. With the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln in late 1860, this anti-slavery sentiment has seized the political power, and now threatens annihilation to slavery throughout the Union. At the South and with our people, of course, slavery is the element of all value, and a destruction of that destroys all that is property.
He continues, referring to Lincoln and/or the Republicans as “this party.”
This party, now soon to take possession of the powers of government, is sectional, irresponsible to us, and, driven on by an infuriated, fanatical madness that defies all opposition, must inevitably destroy every vestige of right growing out of property in slaves.
Lest skeptics doubt the authenticity of this account, it’s recorded in Confederate Military History, Volume 11 which focused on Florida. The volume was written by none other than Col. J. J. Dickison, revered in Marion County for his military prowess and exploits, for whom a local United Daughters of the Confederacy had named their chapter, and who is honored on the “Johnny Reb” statue.
Dickison’s Wikipedia biography includes this notation of his pre-war life:
In 1857, Dickison moved to Ocala, Florida where he purchased a plantation which he named “Sunnyside”. His plantation was very successful and he became a wealthy businessman.
Slaves made Dickison into “a wealthy businessman,” easily explaining his eagerness to lead the local fight for the Confederacy. Wealthy Dickison owned slaves like today’s wealthy horse owners own horses – simply chattel property.We have Dickison’s
• slave-owning validation of white supremacy,
• his ardent support for a slave-owning economy and a slave-owning nation, and
• his indisputable capabilities as a military leader, plus
• his passionate defense of the Confederacy’s cause over 30 years after the war as reflected in his comments in his 1899 volume linked above.
It’s all the same package. Dickison was a racist. Our county government publicly honors him, and still proudly flies the flag of his racist Confederacy at McPherson Government Center.
First, let’s address Confederacy apologists who have contrived many arguments to negate the true centrality of slavery and its racism. McGehee’s words are unambiguous: At the South and with our people, of course, slavery is the element of all value, and a destruction of that destroys all that is property. McGehee makes no other argument – none. The Confederacy was truly all about slavery, and slavery was all about white supremacy. Period.
Second, let’s address the Star Banner Editorial Board’s statement that the Johnny Reb statue in Marion County Veterans Memorial Park “is the proper place for the statute to stand.” Do you still believe it’s appropriate for the towering Johnny Reb statue honoring the racist Confederacy, and honoring a local plantation slave owner and white supremacist, to stand amid our Veterans Memorial Park? The Veterans Park appropriately honors those who courageously served the United States in the cause of freedom. Yet with two-storey-tall Johnny Reb, it ambiguously honors those who championed the cause of slavery. Does this really work for you? In 2017?
Bruce Seaman, President
Bridges Project Ocala-Marion County