Thirteen years ago, an evangelical minister in Idaho who was about to headline a “history” conference at the University of Idaho at Moscow ran head-on into a massive political firestorm. The cause was a book pastor Douglas Wilson had co-authored that offered up an unusual take on antebellum American slavery.
“Slavery as it existed in the South … was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence,” according to Southern Slavery, As It Was. “There has never been a multiracial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.” And there was this: “Slavery was to them [slaves] a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes and good medical care.”
An uproar ensued, with the presidents of two local universities, numerous editorials, scores of letters to the editor, participants in several rallies and any number of other sources condemning Wilson’s sorry scholarship. Historians pilloried Wilson for a rose-colored version of slavery as it never was.
Earlier this year, Wilson, in a form, was back.
In February, the Tennessee state Senate considered a Republican bill that would have allowed church schools to be accredited by the Association of Classical and Christian Schools — started by Wilson years before to accredit such schools as his own Logos school in Moscow. The association’s site still carries Wilson essays like “Nurturing Masculinity,” and includes in its recommended readings an essay by R.L. Dabney, a Confederate chaplain who once described black people as a “morally inferior race,” a “sordid, alien taint” marked by “lying, theft, drunkenness.”
Wilson has also called for the execution of adulterers, said LGBT people should be exiled, argued that a rapist should be able to pay his victim’s father in order to make her his bride, and said women are made to depend on men. He no longer has an official position with the association, but Raw Story reported that he was to give the group’s annual conference plenary speech earlier this year.
In the end, Wilson’s comments came to public attention, and the bill offered by state Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) went down to defeat. Apparently, Wilson’s views were too much even for conservative lawmakers.