Tag Archives: sectionalism

American Civil War Web-Course

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 8.04.38 PMGreetings all! I have been posting updates on Twitter of late chronicling the progress of my next web-course: The American Civil War. I am very pleased to announce that the launch date is May 14, 2016. The course includes nearly forty video lectures and other projects covering military, social, political, and economic aspects of the conflict.

I am most excited to offer this course to my founding web-students for a 50% discount off the already reasonable price. You won’t find this deal anywhere but through this site – and the offer goes away on launch day. So you had better get on the stick. Here’s what you need to do:

ONE – be a current student or enroll now in either my Gettysburg or Reconstruction Era web-course for the regular discounted price available only from Keith Harris History.

TWO – sign up to be part of the Keith Harris History CREW so I can be sure to get you the info you need.

Get that all squared away and on launch day you will receive your discount code via email. And that’s it. Easy right?

With compliments,



Southern Accents

al67This week The Economist features a short piece concerning southern accents: “Mind that drawl, y’all.” The August  9th-15th issue suggests quite clearly that southern speech continues to draw unwanted attention. In fact, since southern accents tend to elicit such harsh reactions from so many Americans, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee planned a weekly “Southern Accent Reduction” class. Their tag line was “be remembered for what you say, not how you say it.” The class was cancelled. I guess things did not work out so well even though it is readily apparent that quite a few Americans think southerners sound like dipshits. Case in point: the article sites Jennifer Cramer of the University of Kentucky as stating that people often associate the accent with stupidity and lack of education. And this is not limited to northerners. One study noted children from Illinois and Tennessee saying people with northern accents sounded “smarter” and more “in charge.” Well now. How about that.

If you will, please allow me to speak of this from experience. Though I think of myself as a Californian (Angeleno), I was born in Birmingham, Alabama. My family relocated to the Golden State in 1976. I was nine. When I got to the West Coast, I had the most syrupy sweet southern accent you can imagine – think Gomer Pyle not Ashley Wilkes. Now, nine-year-olds being what they are (vicious, horrible creatures) I was ridiculed and tormented for sounding like a hick (I also wore jean cut-offs, which didn’t help). But the torment didn’t end there. Things got much, much worse. Back in those days California public schools were among the best in the nation (they aren’t any more) and I had to go to summer school to catch up to my peers. In summer school I discovered the performing arts and was cast to play the Wizard in a staged version of The Wizard of Oz. So far so good, right?

Wrong. The casting was clearly the despicable work of some grade school teacher bent on exposing me as a rube. Those of you who are familiar with the Wizard’s last lines as he floats aloft in his hot air balloon will  remember the bellowing: “Bye folks! Bye folks!!” Well in a southern accent this sounds more like: “Bi fokes, Bi fokes!!!” Everyone laughed. Everyone. The kids. The parents. The teachers. Even I thought I sounded like a moron. It was awful.

So awful in fact that little nine-year-old Keith went home and vowed to never sound like a hick again. I would watch TV news personalities and mimic their words as they spoke, especially Hal Fishman on KTLA, realizing even then that news anchors are among the most homogenized when it comes to speech inflection. In short order, and with a LOT of practice, I completely eradicated all traces of my southern accent. I ditched the cut-offs, bought some OP shorts and Vans slip-ons, a skateboard, and I fit right in. Local boy. California.

And you know what? When I went back to the Heart of Dixie to visit they made fun of me there. Even my grandparents said I looked and sounded like a Yankee. Sheesh. A kid can’t win.

Would I follow the same course today if I were not nine and susceptible to seemingly insurmountable ridicule? I doubt it. Generally speaking, I don’t care what people think these days. But I will note that it is really interesting to learn that some things will change very little over the course of nearly four decades. So the next time you overhear someone at the airport say, “Y’all want somthin’ cold, some cold drank?” they might just be on their way to a Mensa meeting.

With compliments,


The Day of Battle Has Arrived – The Daily Richmond Enquirer, November 6, 1860

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 8.44.02 AMAnd good morning to you all. It’s newspaper time at the Harristorian archives!

This article from the November 6, 1860 Daily Richmond Enquirer should delight all of you…first year college undergrads taking a US survey, Civil War buffs, and the countless thousands who are thirsting for a greater understanding of the election of 1860 (wishful thinking on my part…?). Well, it probably won’t be good news for those who insist that sectional strife did NOT hinge on the prospect of a probable attack on the institution of slavery – but too bad.

Yes…election day 1860 stirred the hearts of people all over the Union – North and South. The perception: the fate of the country was hanging in the balance. Turns out…people were right.

I find this particular article illuminated for two reasons. One: the ideal of Union is paramount – suggesting that Virginians had clear nationalistic leanings. The important thing…they were Unionists on decidedly sectional terms…as the author indicates that the “whole South” should ban together to shape the vision of Union. This idea goes against the notion that Virginians (or at the very least, the author of this piece) saw themselves as Virginians alone – not nationalists. They were southern Americans to be sure and wanted to run the show, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they did not embrace a national identity as well. Two: highlighting the threat of losing slavery is clearly the author’s intention. Indicating that Lincoln was a “Black Republican” lumps the man and the party in with the radical abolitionists, which was neither Lincoln’s bent nor his party’s.

Below is the transcript in its entirety. Have a look and come to your own conclusions. As always at Cosmic America – I encourage you to argue away. I know one newspaper article comes no where close to proving an argument – but it is a good jumping off point!

The Day of Battle has Arrived.

Before another issue of the Richmond “Enquirer” can reach any of our readers, the most important and exciting election in which American citizens have ever participated will have taken place. Never were our principles more imperilled than in the present warfare waged upon our constitutional rights by Black Republican enemies, headed by their standard-bearer, Abe Lincoln. Nothing can defeat the aggressor but a concentration of the entire Southern vote on those well-tried and faithful patriots—BRECKINRIDGE and LANE. The destiny of this great American Union is now in the hands of the people. The importance of the contest now upon us cannot be over estimated. It involves all that patriots and friends of the Union hold dear, and upon the result hangs the hopes of the nation for all time to come.

The time for argument and discussion has passed. It only remains now for us, friends of the Constitution and the Union, to act—to act as freemen worthy of the noble heritage of liberty—to act as it becomes men to act who properly estimate the glorious privileges they enjoy, and who wish to transmit them to a free and happy posterity.

Democrats of Virginia! friends of Breckinridge and Lane! at this time shall there by any recreancy in our ranks? Will not every man, who desires the success of our gallant candidates, who desires the defeat of Lincoln and Hamlin, be at his post? Will there be one found to desert his colors in this trying emergency? Rather, let there be a grand rally of all our forces—let each man battle with might and main for the truth and right!

To work, then, friends of our glorious cause! To work with all your power, with your whole soul, and mind, and strength for liberty, and honor, and peace, and safety! We appeal to you to stand by your flag, by your candidates, by your principles, by your country—to devote THE WHOLE OF THIS DAY to the great cause you have espoused—to give your undivided, unselfish devotion to the Constitution, the Union, and the Equality of the States!

With compliments,