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Kelly Was 'Stupid' About the Civil War. You Don't Have to Be

Ta-Nehisi Coates recommends 5 books to make you 'unstupid'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2017 4:04 PM CDT

(Newser) – John Kelly, President Trump's chief of staff, said Monday that "the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War." It was, as Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in the Atlantic, "an incredibly stupid thing to say" and "built on a long tradition of endorsing stupidity in hopes of making Americans stupid about their own history." That's why Coates has compiled a list of five books on the Civil War to "get you to unstupid." Reading these books, the gist of which is that the Civil War was about the horrific institution of slavery, can immediately make you "less stupid than some of the most powerful people in the West Wing." Here's Coates' reading list:

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  • Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson: "Arguably among the greatest single-volume histories in all of American historiography" and "a big-ass book that reads like a much slimmer one."
  • Grant by Ron Chernow: "Grant hits like a Mack truck of knowledge. Stupid doesn’t stand a chance."
  • Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee by Elizabeth Pryor: "It dispenses with the boatload of stupid out there which hails the military genius of Lee while ignoring the world that all of that genius was actually trying to build."

  • Out of the House of Bondage by Thavolia Glymph: "Slavery was the monster that made monsters of its masters. Compromising with it was morally bankrupt—and stupid."
  • The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass: "The chapter depicting the bounty of food on which the enslavers feasted while the enslaved nearly starved is just devastating."
Read the full piece here. (Read more Civil War stories.)

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