February is Black History Month. It is also the birthday month of
George Washington, our first president and father of our
country. And it is the birthday month of John Brown Gordon of Georgia.
And who is he?
John B. Gordon,
born February 6, 1832, was an orator, lawyer, statesman,
soldier, publisher and governor of the state of Georgia.
He is best known as one of General Robert E. Lee's generals.
At Appomattox, his corps encounter with the soldier's under
Joshua Chamberlain is a classic story that began the healing
of the country after four years of terrible bloodshed.
father of Black History Week, has much in common with Gordon.
Both believed that accurate American history should be taught
in our schools. Woodson believed the study of Black
history should include those African-Americans who fought on
both sides of the War Between the States.
Black History Week became Black
History Month in the 1960s.
Woodson, eleven years after the
first Black History Week, founded the
Negro History Bulletin for teachers, students and the public.
Gordon also stressed the need to
tell the true story of those who
fought for the Confederacy. After the war, only the Northern
of the war was taught to the children of the occupied South.
John B. Gordon believed in the
South's constitutional right to
secession, but after it was crushed, he worked to unite the
and helped white and black Southerners the war made poor.
In Gordon's day there were no
skyscrapers, telephones, cars,
bright lights or polluted air to obscure the view of heaven's
American Revolution was in the past only as far back as the
Depression is today. American history was taught in the
schools. Ironically, today there are those who hide both heaven and
and we accept their censorship of our birthright.
The 1st Annual General John B. Gordon birthday celebration in
Atlanta, Georgia was held on Saturday, February 6, 1993, in
the state capitol. An estimated one thousand people came to
Gordon. Rain and cold were forecast, but it was sunny and
warm. Someone said the weather proved that God was a Southerner. A
laughter came in response.
When the band played "Dixie",
the people stood straight and proud. The
band gave the melody, but the crowd gave the words.
Many speakers praised Gordon. One man turned to the statue of Gordon
and asked "General Gordon what do you say about those who
change American History?" Gordon, the Confederate, the
would have answered firmly, "Take your history and teach it or
masters will teach their history!" He set up a publishing
company after the
war to help teach Southern children Southern history. Oh! that
In 1995, the weather was cold
and snowy but hundreds still came out. This year a young African-American man joined the list of
Page was a true friend and defender of the heritage of
America. He was
also proud of the Confederate Battle flag that was part of the
state flag of
Georgia. Eddie knew his history, Southern style, and did not
John B. Gordon was born in Upson
County, Georgia. He was the fourth
of twelve children of Zachariah and Malinda Cox Gordon. Young
an excellent student at the University of Georgia.
He left the university before
graduating and came to Atlanta to study law. Here he met and married Rebecca Haralson and their union was
September 17, 1862, is known was
the bloodiest day in American history. Confederate General Gordon was there, defending a position
sunken road. Wave upon wave of Union troops attacked Gordon's
men. The casualties were beyond today's understanding, even in
was struck by Yankee bullets four times, but continued to lead
his men. Then, a fifth bullet tore through his right jaw and out of his
left cheek. He
fell with his face in his hat and would have drowned in his
except for a hole in his hat. Though Gordon survived these
last one left him permanently scarred. That is why you see in
photographs of him only from the right side.
For years the John B. Gordon
celebration, in Atlanta, Georgia, was
concluded by a mile long march to historic Oakland Cemetery
general is buried. Not since past Confederate Memorial days
been a scene on this street of soldiers in Confederate gray
and children of black mourning dress.
The parade route was on Martin
Luther King, Jr. Drive. Many black folks
watched the parade. Someone in front of the parade let them
it was a parade for John B. Gordon and then the young people
family and friends know about John B. Gordon. All the
respectful and polite.
The spirits of Carter Woodson
and John Gordon were there with us on
those February days when Confederate gray marched through the
neighborhood. Though 130 years separated today from yesterday
was a spirit that transcended time and color.
It was a Southern thing. It was
a American thing.
When John B. Gordon died in
1904, President Theodore Roosevelt said
of him, "A more gallant, generous, and fearless gentlemen and
has not been seen in this country."
Woodson and Gordon are still
with us---in spirit and, if you listen, they are
saying: "Teach your children the whole story of America."
Happy Birthday John B. Gordon!
of the Civil War", by John B.
Gordon. Charles Scribner's Sons, Atlanta, Martin & Hoyt Co.,
Southerners in Gray---essays of Afro-Americans in Confederate
Armies", edited by Richard
Rollins and John McClone, Series Editor. Rank & File Pub; 2nd
edition (June 1997).
Horses of the War for Southern Independence" by David L.
Wright, published 1996.