Vice publication rewrites American history: badly

June 21, 2021

By John Ransom

Refinery29, a Vice publication aimed at young, female progressives, is making up for questions about its perceived anti-Black bias by embracing the radical fringe of the Black liberation movement and lying about American history.

In its latest apologia, Refinery29 offers “White Lies My Textbooks Taught Meby Shirley Williams.

Get it? White lies? Well if you don’t, hold on, you will.

Williams, a documentary filmmaker, has a problem with what she perceives as “White” versions of history. But if you scratch past the surface, you’ll see the problems with her version of history are much more than skin deep.

“The America I know is one rife with years of politicians lying to uphold white supremacy,” says Williams. “It’s the country my niece already knows at age 12. And it’s why our country is in crisis today.”

She then presents a number of alleged cases where White supremacy has twisted history, which she calls “White Lies”.

WHITE LIE: Slavery ended in January 1865 when Congress passed the 13th Amendment.

TRUTH:  Many enslaved Black Americans were not made aware of their emancipation until June 19, 1865, also known as Juneteenth or Freedom Day. It marks the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, received news that all slaves were free. However, even after Juneteenth many Black people were re-enslaved when Union troops returned to the North.

 Actually, the truth is much more interesting and, I think, more credible to both Whites and Blacks than her version.

Abraham Lincoln for all practical purposes ended Black slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. Although it left slavery intact in many places and for many people, it served notice to the Confederacy that there would be no going back to the status quo on slavery, that the war indeed was about ending slavery forever.

 WHITE LIE: Abraham Lincoln was against slavery.

TRUTH: Lincoln was more concerned about the preservation of the Union than he was about the abolishment of slavery.

 Williams then cites a letter from Lincoln to Horace Greely saying that as president he’d free all slaves or some slaves or no slaves to preserve the union.

While the letter to Greely is authentic, it doesn’t include a number of qualifications that need to be attached, including his later acts on emancipation.

Lincoln ended his letter to Greely: “I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.”

Lincoln actually abhorred slavery and felt that without slavery the nation would not have fought the civil war. In great part, Lincoln led a movement that previously thought slavery would die of its own accord but saw that instead, slavery was viciously trying to extend its reach “till it shall become alike lawful in all the States.”

Just read the House Divided speech given before he was president to understand Lincoln’s feelings against slavery.

WHITE LIE: Christopher Columbus discovered North America.

 THE TRUTH: Although he explored the Central and South American coasts, Columbus never reached North America.

 I was never taught that Columbus “discovered” North America.

In fact, my textbooks said there was some dispute that Columbus was the first European to land in America. I don’t have a copy of my old school texts, but I do have a copy of Samuel Elliott Morrison’s Great Explorers published in 1974, that acknowledges that the Irish or Vikings might have discovered North America prior to Columbus landing in the Caribbean.

I don’t know who was teaching Williams history, but no credible histories exist that say Columbus discovered North America. If Williams can produce one, I’d like to see it.

Similarly, Williams makes other claims that are dubious and even in dispute by her own admissions.

For example, Williams writes that many Blacks don’t even know the Star Spangled Banner –obviously because its racist, but yet later when trying to make the point that White people stole the idea of Memorial Day from Blacks, she cites a black children’s choir singing the Star Spangled Banner.

At the same time, she says that the inspiration for Lift Every Voice And Sing, the so-called Black national anthem, originally was a poem by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson about the same Abraham Lincoln who didn’t care about slavery.

There is more, like Christ wasn’t a White guy, etc. none of which made its way into my textbooks when I was at a tender age.

I’m guessing they didn’t make it into her textbooks either.

History of course is a process of revision, but I feel comfortable that Williams’s revisions and sloppy scholarship won’t last. At least, let’s hope not. 



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