Reader responses to our November issue

From the Editors Readers reacted intensely to Edward Ball’s “Slavery’s Trail of Tears” in the November issue. Many criticized the way the history of slavery is currently taught in America’s classrooms and argued that Ball’s piece should be required reading. “Mr. Ball’s writing is powerful and factual. Unfortunately, that cannot be said for history textbooks of late,” Donna Streetenberger wrote on Facebook. Others found unsettling personal connections in Ball’s narrative. “If you dig back far enough in your family history, you might find that your ancestors participated in this,” Laurie Walker Severs noted. “Mine did.” Readers also debated the fate of looted Native American artifacts recovered in a massive sting operation [“The Rescue Mission”]. Many expressed hope the items could be publicly displayed in a museum owned by Native Americans. “These artifacts belong to the people, not in private collections,” Kevin R. McIntosh wrote.

Custer’s Legacy

I can see I’m in the minority here, but I recognize a one-sided article [“The Horse Thief”] when I read one. As a teacher and student of the Civil War and Custer, I find this article is completely devoid of context. Custer was a complex man who lived in difficult times. Genuinely heroic at times while tyrannical and brutal at others. He was a mix of good and bad qualities like any historical figure. It’s lame scholarship to try to make the theft of a horse any kind of turning point in Custer’s life (which the author disclaims but surely intends), especially so soon after Lee’s surrender.

Stratton Shartel, Facebook

Custer was a horse thief, murderer, cheat and a liar. There was nothing heroic about him, and he was also no gentleman. I’ve studied this character extensively, and his so-called “deeds” were nothing more than self-aggrandizing waste. Custer met his just end, however later than it should have been.

Will Thornton, Facebook

Witch Hunt

The Salem witch trials [“The Devil’s Tongue”] were a land and power grab. The girls were either suffering from ergot poisoning or mass hysteria or both (the attention must have been thrilling in such a repressive society) and Tituba was either saving her skin or getting righteous payback. When a powerful man’s wife was accused, funny how the witch hunts suddenly ended.

Carole Papy, Facebook

Invaluable Artifacts

The problem here [“The Rescue Mission”] is that there was no one protecting these objects and enforcing the laws that were in place. Much of what has been salvaged has no provenance or context. While some of it may be traceable to current nations, a large amount of it cannot. A consortium of tribes and scientists should determine how to proceed and hopefully salvage some knowledge and cultural value from this thievery and greed. It is every bit as tragic as what ISIS and others are doing to artifacts and sites in Iraq and Syria, perhaps worse since there was no study or documentation prior to this destruction.

Erin Harris, Facebook

Saving Rhinos

If strict laws are not imposed and enforced, the rhino will see its way, as the dinosaurs have, to complete extinction [“Rhinoplasticity”]. Technology, no matter how great, cannot save these animals. It is mankind’s responsibility to do so.

Helen Maria Earls Harrison, Facebook


Our article on the forced migration of slaves in the 19th century [“Slavery’s Trail of Tears”] incorrectly reported that Erin Greenwald and colleagues at the Historic New Orleans Collection had compiled the names of 70,000 slaves who had been sold in New Orleans. They have compiled data on 70,000 individuals, but not names.

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