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School defends slavery booklet
Critic says text is 'window dressing'
By T. KEUNG HUI, Staff Writer
Students at one of the area's largest Christian schools are reading a controversial booklet that critics say whitewashes Southern slavery with its view that slaves lived "a life of plenty, of simple pleasures."
Leaders at Cary Christian School say they are not condoning slavery by using "Southern Slavery, As It Was," a booklet that attempts to provide a biblical justification for slavery and asserts that slaves weren't treated as badly as people think.
Principal Larry Stephenson said the school is only exposing students to different ideas, such as how the South justified slavery. He said the booklet is used because it is hard to find writings that are both sympathetic to the South and explore what the Bible says about slavery.
"You can have two different sides, a Northern perspective and a Southern perspective," he said.
"As a classical Christian school, we think it's important for our students to be able to think and not be slanted to a particular position," Stephenson said. "We want them to think for themselves."
Until two years ago, Stephenson said, middle school students also had read excerpts from "Southern Slavery." He said the booklet was a counterpoint to "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which he said portrayed all Southern whites as treating their slaves badly.
Marcus Ranch, who has three daughters at Cary Christian, said he has no problem with the school using the booklet. He said it offers an accurate portrayal that is overlooked of how many slaves were treated kindly by their owners.
'SOUTHERN SLAVERY, AS IT WAS'
Here are some excerpts from the booklet:
* "To say the least, it is strange that the thing the Bible condemns (slave-trading) brings very little opprobrium upon the North, yet that which the Bible allows (slave-ownership) has brought down all manner of condemnation upon the South." (page 22)
* "As we have already mentioned, the 'peculiar institution' of slavery was not perfect or sinless, but the reality was a far cry from the horrific descriptions given to us in modern histories." (page 22)
* "Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence." (page 24)
* "There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world." (page 24)
* "Slave life was to them a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care." (page 25)
* "But many Southern blacks supported the South because of long established bonds of affection and trust that had been forged over generations with their white masters and friends." (page 27)
* "Nearly every slave in the South enjoyed a higher standard of living than the poor whites of the South -- and had a much easier existence." (page 30)