When Kate Medley and I visited Larry McCluney Jr. in his Greenwood home for our Guardian story on people who like or fly the Confederate flag, the Sons of Confederate Veterans officer mentioned his favorite Mississippi history textbook several times. After the interview, he showed us his worn copy of the 1900 textbook, “A History of Mississippi: For Use in Schools” by Robert Lowry and William H. McCardle published by University Publishing Company of New York and New Orleans. McCluney now teaches history to mostly black students in Greenwood High School and at a Delta community college, both of them public.
I was immediately skeptical that a 1900 textbook about Mississippi would give an accurate depiction of the South’s reasons for secession, fighting the Civil War and what really happened during Reconstruction, knowing full well that my textbooks in the 1970s in Mississippi didn’t. I confirmed that suspicion when I poked into the book later and read up on its writers and critiques of it.
First, the authors. Charles W. Eagles reports in “Civil Rights, Culture Wars: The Fight over a Mississippi Textbook” that Lowry—who then lived in Brandon, Miss., and later Jackson—was wounded in the Battle of Shiloh during the Civil War and rose to the rank of general. Later, he served in the Legislature and two terms as governor. McCardle was the editor of the Vicksburg Times newspaper who was jailed for sedition for criticizing Congress and the way a local Union military commander was conducting Reconstruction in Mississippi. He was denied the benefit of habeas corpus in the Ex Parte McCardle case.