History Under Wraps

You never know when you will learn something! I was completely unaware of Germans in the United States being sent to internment camps and then back to Germany during World War II until I read “Trade-Off” in the February 2015 issue.

My dad was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1912. My grandfather was in the German army in World War I. They came to the United States in 1927. I was born in 1938. My grandfather’s brother and his family were still living in Berlin, in the Russian sector, after World War II. The letters my grandparents received from the family had so much material blacked out that they eventually quit exchanging letters.

Mein Gott! That damn J. Edgar Hoover could have sent us to the internment camp in Crystal City, Texas, or to Germany. I find it very interesting that I never knew any of this until I read American History.

 Bill Zimmer

 Varna, Ill.

 The Whole Truth

I read and enjoyed your articles on the antebellum period (Interview, Last Call, February 2015). You mention the effects this period had on America, but you exclude its effects on black people. I know you must agree that this period deeply affected African Americans at the time and their descendants, like myself, and that those effects are still evident today. Were slaves not affected or did you forget to mention them?

 Curtis Williams

 Atlanta, Ga.

 Limited space precludes us from covering every detail of every story, especially when it comes to big issues like slavery and its impact—which span centuries of our history. Both stories focused largely on antebellum America and did provide some insight into black history of that period. As for the era’s long-term effects—including Jim Crow segregation, lynching and civil rights—American History has featured those topics in the past and will continue to do so.

The Whole Truth, Part II

I am shocked that two readers of American History would call General Robert E. Lee a traitor (Letters, February 2015). The general was not a proponent of the War for Southern Independence, but could not raise the sword against his native Virginia. It is also apparent that Edward E. Baptist is attempting to rewrite history (Interview, February 2015). Few if any plantations used the “pushing system.” It would have been counterproductive. You don’t get maximum production out of people if you mistreat them. There was a bond between many plantation families and their slaves. My great-grandfather had a family slave who accompanied him throughout his time as a soldier in the Confederate Army.

 Robert J. Tiller

 Mayesville, S.C.

 Edward Baptist responds: Sadly, Mr. Tiller is the one who is attempting to rewrite history. Hundreds of interviews with, and memoirs written by, the survivors of the pushing system testify that enslavers used torture to force people to work harder, faster and longer. In the face of this testimony, modern-day apologists for the South’s enslavers have no response other than the mere assertion that it just wasn’t that way, or that their abstract economic speculations argue against it. I should also add that white enslavers left ample testimony of their own brutality in the records of their slave labor–camp enterprises. Tis is detailed and sourced not only in my recent book, but in many other historians’ works as well.

Secretary, Not Senator

I enjoy reading the magazine, but a caption in the article on Andrew Carnegie (February 2015) identifies William Howard Taft as a senator in 1906 when the photo was taken. Taft was Theodore Roosevelt’s secretary of war at that time; he was never a U.S. senator.

 Mark Leopold

 Tequesta, Fla.


Originally published in the April 2015 issue of American History. To subscribe, click here.