The Case of the Missing Adjective: Writing and Choosing Whiteness

Consider the following sentences:

“…learning absorbed the lives of southern youth prior to the Civil War in substantial ways.”

“A belief in Manifest Destiny cut across partisan and sectional lines…Southerners as well as Northerners expressed it.”

“The states rights reaction came after several decades of loose construction on the part of southerners concerning slavery in the territories.”

“Most Southerners saw the election [of 1860] as a catastrophe.”

Overheard at the SHA?

Each of them is drawn from an essay or textbook, a batch of sources united only by the fact that I have personally been reading them in the last twenty-four hours. Know what else they have in common? They represent something historians of this period do ALL THE TIME, an implicit and unthinking elision that I argue does more damage than we ever realize.

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