The saga continues as we work our way through decades-old Alabama history books. It's an illuminating journey that explains some of the deep-seated attitudes among many people in Alabama. The idea that "slavery was an early form of Social Security," and that slavery was not a main cause of the Civil War seems, well, odd today.
Yet many, many people were learning this in Alabama public schools as recently as the early 1970's.
The 1961 textbook, Alabama History for Schools depicts slavery in Alabama as a system that really wasn't so bad - at least for the most part because cruel laws regarding education, property ownership, etc. were on the books, but not always enforced.
For instance, we learn on page 233 (PDF copy here) that "one of the least favorable sides of slavery is seen when we study the formal education of the Negro. It was against the law in slavery time to teach slaves to read and write." But then, we find out that many slaves received an education from their white playmates, religious training, or through the generosity of their masters:
Certain masters helped their slaves in other ways to receive schooling. Samuel Townsend of Huntsville emancipated a number of Negro slave children in his will and left an estate to provide for the education. Townsend knew that they could not enter any schools in Alabama, so he provided that they be sent to school in the North.
And how bad - really - could slavery have been if free Negroes themselves owned slaves?