Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kenneth Stampp-A Real Loss

I read about the death of Kenneth Stampp with sadness. Like David Herbert Donald, we are losing another grand old historian.

Stampp was unique because he challenged and won against preconceived myths. In his Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Antebellum South, he debunked the notion that slaveholders were preservers of racial harmony. Rather, they kept blacks out of economic choice. He slayed other myths in "The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877" when he portrayed that period as an era of progress instead of the previously-portrayed morass of corruption and rapacity.

It takes a certain intelligence to successfully take on and debunk cherished assumptions. People's ideas of history are often a mass of myths and images. They hold to their assumptions with great force. Stampp must have had a great deal of courage to challenge those viewpoints.

Professor Stampp will be read and missed.

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