The late Shelby Foote: rape is 'a celebration'

Ken Burns’ new documentary on the Vietnam War brought renewed attention to flaws in his documentary The Civil War, especially its over-reliance on the late writer Shelby Foote as the principal narrator.

Here are comments Foote made in a 1985 interview, as quoted by the U.S. Intellectual History blog:

He was chatting with William C. Carter (who later wrote what remains the definitive English-language biography of Proust) at his Memphis home in 1985, and the interview was published two years later in the Georgia Review. Carter asked Foote whether “many of the worst fears about blacks being integrated into the society have been realized,” and Foote said yes:

“You can’t hold people down for two hundred years, and then all of a sudden let them up and not expect them to celebrate being let up. And they celebrated it in some pretty strange ways. Memphis is the rape capital of the United States today. There’s more rape per thousand people in Memphis than any place in the United States. And that’s a celebration. It’s not a sex act; it’s an act of violence, a protest and a celebration. The muggings that occur are mostly done–around here anyhow–by blacks, and that’s a form of celebration. You do what you can, and when you can’t do anything else you go to crime. It’s a perfectly natural thing to do. … I’m glad that they’ve been let up, but certainly there’s a price to be paid.”

Foote also idolized the Confederate Army general and KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, who he described as “one of the most attractive men who ever walked through the pages of history.”