[“History Made to Order”: Public Letter by Carter G. Woodson, “The Father of Black History,” Correcting a White Historian of Slavery and Abolition].
Separately issued public letter, “History Made to Order,” by Carter G. Woodson, “The Father of Black History” and prolific author, making a sustained critique of a controversial white historian of slavery and abolition.
Woodson’s letter was originally published in The Journal of Negro History, an academic publication founded by Woodson. That it was issued separately as a pamphlet shows Woodson’s zeal as an historian to correct and refute historical error and bias by drawing attention to controversy and reaching a wider audience beyond his usual subscribers.
Woodson offers blunt and devastating criticism of an article on slavery and abolition entitled “Horrors Made to Order,” written by G.D. Eaton and published in the February 1927 issue of McNaught’s Monthly. The opening lines of several paragraphs within Woodson’s 12-page letter give a sense of his fury and indignation:
The most flagrant errors which you made in your paper are an exaggeration of the number of slaves who had to return from persecution in the North to yield to slavery in the South… You are unfortunate in failing to understand that slavery differed from period to period in this country… Your misuse of facts becomes decidedly astounding when one reads that 40,000 free Negroes owned nearly 100,000 slaves… You are wrong on your estimate of Southern sentiment in behalf of abolition after the rise of the cotton kingdom… Your contention that the South would have probably granted civic rights to the Negroes and would have liberated the slaves, if it had not been for the insurrections like that of Nat Turner, cannot be proved… The statement as to the benevolent aspect of slavery is a self-refutable contention… You make yourself facetious in referring to such a work as Uncle Tom’s Cabin as being untrue…
Woodson’s correspondent, G.D. Eaton—Geoffrey Dell Eaton (1894–1930)—was a controversial figure, even from his days as a student at the University of Michigan when his writings and pot-stirring attracted the attention of journalist and critic H.L. Mencken and poet Robert Frost. “[Eaton] had called ‘most history professors’ ‘senile, simple, and misguided asses’ in the pages of the university’s The Michigan Daily. President Marion LeRoy Burton ordered that Eaton be barred from contributing to all student publications. Eaton’s punishment caused a national stir. The St. Louis Star...commented on Eaton’s offending words: “Such a falsehood deserves rebuke…’”¹
The passion of Woodson’s open letter for all to read is clear as he adds his voice to correcting the historical record and creating an accurate narrative of slavery in the United States.
Woodson declares that his letter “...points out the danger resulting from the bias which permeates the so-called histories of our time.” His critique demonstrates his stature as both a respected historian of Black America and a publisher of record for those whose history remained untold or, perhaps worse, distorted.
Description: [“History Made to Order”: Public Letter by Carter G. Woodson, “The Father of Black History,” Correcting a White Historian of Slavery and Abolition].
[Washington, D.C., 1927]. pp330–341 [i.e., 12 pages]. “Reprinted from The Journal of Negro History, Vol. XII, No. 2, April, 1927.” 8vo. Self-wrappers; stapled; untrimmed. Near Fine.