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Texas commission removes books on slavery from former plantations’ gift shops over fear of reprisals from GOP politicians

Pressured by a fragile pro-slavery “amateur historian” incensed a video depicting slavery was shown during a tour at a former plantation, a board member of the Texas Historical Commission pushed to have books relating the harsh realities of slavery from the gift shops of at least two sites where African slaves were exploited, Texas Monthly reports.

History re-writer Michelle Haas – that’s not a made-up title:  she’s written about how slavery was an accepted practice around the world at the time of the nation’s founding (which is a lie), and she started a publishing company to promote her alternate “true” history of Texas–complained to board member David Gravelle.  Haas had repeatedly pestered Gravelle with her personal corrections over months on what she claimed were unflattering depictions of slavery in Texas, which she described as “a socially acceptable and economically worthwhile practice worldwide at the time our thirteen colonies arose.” (“Economically worthwhile” not applicable to the peoples enslaved, of course.)

Haas objected to the gift shop at Varner-Hogg plantation outside Houston selling titles in the gift shop including Alex Haley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Roots: The Saga of an American Family, Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning non-fiction study of race in the United States Stamped From the Beginning and the National Book Award–winning novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.  She also objected to two dozen other titles, including the autobiography of a slave girl from Texas and a collection of narratives from Texas slaves. … because even an “amateur historian” knows you don’t rely on contemporaneous accounts of daily life from former slaves to, y’know, research the daily lives of slaves. 

How anti-historical is Haas?  Remember the movie “12 Years a Slave” that was a depiction of the life of Solomon Northrup based on his autobiography?  Haas wrote a book called 200 Years a Fraud, in which she attempted to debunk the man’s memoir.  Northrup’s depiction of slavery, she claimed, was too harsh and unfair.

Gravelle may have gotten tired of Haas’s harassment, but in an email to other board members and senior staff at the Commission, he expressed an urgent need to act before the Republican-controlled state directorate demanded the history books be removed from the historical site, characterizing the presence of books that describe the slaves’ living conditions and ensuing social strife as “problems” that need to be solved:  “I believe we need to take immediate steps to learn the extent of this problem and articulate a remedy, including the source of how this material was approved,” Gravelle wrote in the February email. “There is a good chance it will end up in the open forum of the Lege,” he wrote, adding that he was concerned about “the inevitable press that would be generated due [to] the emotional nature of this national argument if we do not address it quickly. And I mean quickly.”

About half of the books available at two former plantation sites were removed, including all the books Haas listed.  Combined, the two shops now include around 40 titles, including a birdwatching guide and a southern cookbook.  Haas took credit:  “Hey…. remember those politically charged books being sold to the public at state-run history sites?” Haas wrote in an email to the supporters of an alt-history group the Texas History Trust. “Those are gone now. We worked hard to make that happen.”

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