Sen. Tom Cotton: Slavery ‘was the necessary evil upon which the union was built’

Ratcliffe Confirmation Hearing

Tom Cotton is a senator from Arkansas. He recently got headlines for writing that fascist propaganda piece about how the military should be ordered into American cities to shut down lawful and overwhelmingly peaceful protests. But his main interest this year is attacking the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which was the 2019 Pulitzer-Prize-winning series on the real history of American slavery. The 1619 Project was thought-provoking “revisionist history,” in that the aim was to tell the narrative of slavery and the black experience in America through a different lens than what American kids learn in history books in school. Some schools – not all, but some – have decided to add the 1619 Project to their curriculum.

All of which upsets Tom Cotton, because how dare American children learn added layers of American history. How dare kids learn that slavery was f–king awful and that people who perpetuated slavery for centuries were awful, even if those people are considered “presidents” and “founding fathers.” So Sen. Cotton has introduced legislation to “prevent the use of federal tax dollars to spread the historical reinterpretation in the nation’s classrooms.” Can you even imagine being this addicted to white supremacy? Wait for it…

If the Saving American History Act of 2020 becomes law, however, school districts using the 1619 Project curriculum could face financial consequences. Cotton’s legislation labels the project “a distortion of American history.”

“The 1619 Project is left-wing propaganda. It’s revisionist history at its worst,” he said in an interview Friday. The secretaries of Education, Agriculture and Health and Human Services would create “prorated formulas” to determine the size of the reduction in federal money for schools adopting the curriculum. “It won’t be much money,” Cotton said. “But even a penny is too much to go to the 1619 Project in our public schools. The New York Times should not be teaching American history to our kids.”

“Curriculum is a matter for local decisions and if local left-wing school boards want to fill their children’s heads with anti-American rot, that’s their regrettable choice. But they ought not to benefit from federal tax dollars to teach America’s children to hate America,” he said.

“The entire premise of the New York Times’ factually, historically flawed 1619 Project … is that America is at root, a systemically racist country to the core and irredeemable. I reject that root and branch,” Cotton said Friday. “America is a great and noble country founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal. We have always struggled to live up to that promise, but no country has ever done more to achieve it.”

In the interview, Cotton said the role of slavery can’t be overlooked.

“We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country. As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction,” he said. Instead of portraying America as “an irredeemably corrupt, rotten and racist country,” the nation should be viewed “as an imperfect and flawed land, but the greatest and noblest country in the history of mankind,” Cotton said.

[From Arkansas Online]

“As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built…” A “necessary evil” huh. If only there was some way to debate these issues in a classroom so that kids could make up their own minds about how the project of America was built on chattel slavery and how the project of America is still unfinished. If only there was some way to engage children in a good-faith debate about the real American history.

Anyway, in the year 2020, Republicans have become the pro-slavery party. Congrats.

(Tom Cotton looks exactly like the kind of man who would say “slavery was a necessary evil.”)

AIPAC Conference in Washington DC

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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65 Responses to “Sen. Tom Cotton: Slavery ‘was the necessary evil upon which the union was built’”

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  1. Mumbles says:

    Then I guess Cotton wouldn’t have a problem with reparations? Oh wait, these people spout inconsistent arguments all the time and don’t care when they’re called on it.

    • Bettyrose says:

      So glad this is the first comment. That was my *exact* reaction. Tom Cotton has made a compelling argument for reparations.

    • Mac says:

      I’m fairly certain Cotton is a lizard person. Cold blooded AF.

    • Olenna says:

      He certainly would since he expected kidnapped and enslaved African peoples to build this nation for free. He disgust me.

    • SpankFD says:

      Sadly I think TC was trying to negate the reparations argument by including the word “necessary,” as in, our country thrived on the backs of slaves. Their sacrifice was necessary, unavoidable and therefore unpunishable. What a prick.

      • bettyrose says:


        I know you’re not arguing this point, but I feel compelled to point out what *crap* that mindset it. Reparations aren’t punishment. They’re back pay for services the country couldn’t afford at the time (per this mentality) and now can thanks to all that quality work. Like, a lawyer who works on contingency. Even if the lawyer is no longer alive, the pay would still go to the estate, i.e. descendants of said lawyer. It’s all perfectly orderly and within the parameters of what rich white douchebags can understand.

  2. Sierra says:

    That picture of wall of vets protecting wall of moms protecting wall of BLM is the only thing that gives me hope for United States of America.

    • Esmom says:

      I know, right? For a minute, anyway. And then I see the vile comments directed at them and I’m sick all over again. How is it that we have so many angry, hateful people among us? I honestly don’t know how people can live like that, fueled only by grievance and resentment.

      • Sierra says:

        I agree, I never thought USA could have this level of rage and hatred hidden for so long.

      • Esmom says:

        Sierra, I ahem been thinking about this alot lately — what is wrong with people? I know that Fox News was designed to plant these seeds of resentment and divisiveness so I do think they deserve a huge part of the blame. But I think it also speaks to the lack of educational opportunities for many Americans (although plenty of ostensibly well educated people seem to have fallen into this trap) but also our terrible, expensive healthcare system, especially in the area of mental health. So many people need therapy, it seems, and instead turn to substances and the internet and Trump as their outlets to make them feel better without ever getting to the root of their issues. We are a broken mess.

      • Sierra says:

        Frankly, after seeing the mess in USA, I can finally understand how Hitler got a nation to accept killing 9 million people.

        Fox gets a lot of the blame but these people had the hatred inside them from the beginning. I can forgive Trump supporters from 2016 but will never forgive 2020 supporters.

  3. Rapunzel says:

    No, slavery was not a necessary evil upon which the union was built. It was just evil. And literally tore the union in two and we had to fight a bloody war to end it because it was so unnecessary.

    I. Just. Can’t.

    • Maida says:

      When one of the 1619 Project reporters pointed out that he was calling slavery “a necessary evil,” he claimed to just be quoting the “founder’s view.” But when she asked if he was endorsing that view or thought it was dishonest, he didn’t reply.

      Cotton wants to hide behind the founders but is really endorsing a know-nothing view of American history, where looking at injustice is “un-American.”

      • goofpuff says:

        What he’s looking at is that anything that doesn’t support white supremacy is evil. He wants us all to be living the FOX news life where white supremacy can control people and keep their power. He wants to turn America into the North Korea and/or China.

        The people growing up on Fox news – it just breaks my heart how ignorant they are sometimes. Spouting dumb things like “the blacks had it good under slavery because they were taken care of” or “nobody dies or was tortured in US concentration camps” or “All muslims secretly hate and want to kill us” and I can’t even go on with the dumb shit I’ve heard come from people I once thought of were intelligent logical human beings.

  4. NoWords says:

    I have no words to fully sum up how awful this cretin and his beliefs are. This legit hurts my brain to think about. It’s so offensive and stupid. Just…how can someone think this way?? How?!?!?!?!?!??@?@?#?

  5. El says:

    And this sticks out too, “We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country…” But not we have to study the history of slavery and its impact on the people.

  6. Onemoretime says:

    With the last name of “Cotton” I would expect nothing less from this idiot. Slavery was evil period, never necessary. The founding fathers were to lazy to do the work themselves to build this country & decided it would be easier to steal some people and force them to do the work.
    Again America has never been great for me & my ancestors.

  7. Deanne says:

    As someone who isn’t American, I can assure you that other countries do not consider the USA the greatest and noblest nation in the history of mankind. Especially not now. How is this man an elected representative? Who the hell is he representing? Your country is being turned in to a fascist state and is being ravaged by Covid 19 and this racist POS thinks that an important concern is continuing to whitewash the history of slavery? It’s mind boggling. If you can find that level of cognitive dissonance about something as horrific as slavery, I guess children in cages and thousands dying during the pandemic in order to keep the economy going and the rich from losing their money is par for the course. Good god. I’m sure he calls himself a “Christian” too.

    • Bettyrose says:


      We are fed this rhetoric from our earliest days in school. Our curriculum teaches us about our scrappy young nation’s revolt against British tyranny as though it were the greatest, noblest, and most recent of uprisings.

      Our public school system is designed to prepare laborers for an unskilled workforce, not critical thinkers. We do not have a caste system but social mobility continues to be the exception, not the rule, while we’re fed a healthy diet of “American Dreams.” All things are possible so we’re told, and multitudes of working poor live off those morsels of American promise..and vote for the party whose lies are the most grandiose.

      • Juniper says:

        It’s amusing when you find out as an American that our “Revolutionary War” is taught as barely a blip in the whole French Revolution which impacted all of Europe.

    • Ashley says:

      Americans seem to think they’re the best at everything because they’ve amassed the most financial wealth and the most billionaires, and they forget that other countries put checks and balances (and taxes) in place to prevent that kind of unchecked hoarding and financial polarization from taking place.

      Other countries take that money and spend it on populations.

      It’s gobsmacking how twisted US logic is.

    • crogirl says:

      “As someone who isn’t American, I can assure you that other countries do not consider the USA the greatest and noblest nation in the history of mankind.”
      LOL Exactly. Could this guy be more delusional?

    • emu says:

      that is why americans are such an embarrassment everywhere else in the world generally. such a ridiculous attitude.

  8. Allie says:

    “America is a great and noble country founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal.”

    Too bad that Native Americans and Blacks did not count as “mankind”.

  9. Rapunzel says:

    So…The US Civil war was the dumbest war ever. The Confederacy was a bunch idiots who decided to kill their own brothers rather than give up owning black people, because they idiotically built their wealth on slavery and were too stupid to keep their economy afloat without that free labor.

    We should loathe all of them. They belong in the trash heap of history. But instead, morons like Tom Cotton celebrate that history and can’t call those Confederate aholes out as the traitors they are. And are incapable of saying “slavery was wrong, and so were our ancestors and we need to do better”

    They cling to this “Antebellum glory” shit and they are covered in it’s stench. They need to be washed out of Congress because they are stinking the place up.

    • Bettyrose says:

      Slavery also left plenty of European economic refugees impoverished without employment opportunities. Modern day white poverty in Appalachia and the Ozarks persists as another ugly legacy left by that “necessary evil”. But guess who they predominantly vote for?

      • jwoolman says:

        Slavery was never good for poor whites in the South either. Helped keep them quiet thinking they were better than slaves at least. A local white woman back in the 1980s was absolutely convinced that blacks were handed everything on a silver platter – turns out that as a child her family, which was quite poor, lived next door to a black family that was doing better financially. I suppose she heard that theory so often as a child from her parents that she never questioned it.

        President Lyndon Johnson, a man with no illusions, said once: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

  10. Sarah says:

    “The greatest country in the world” attitude is poison. You cannot change what you will not face, to paraphrase James Baldwin.

    • El says:

      Seriously. I think we need to start there first. Everything, everything wrong with us flows from there.

    • Betsy says:

      God that man was a genius.

      And he’s right – America has always had lofty rhetoric and then did things like codify slavery in our foundational documents, commit genocide for several hundred years and not grant women any actual liberty in this so called land of freedom. But the promise is there; the GOP just wants to make sure nothing comes of the promise and that we go as far back in time as we can.

  11. Ennie says:

    Why are people like him voted as representatives?

    • Sarah says:

      Because a significant portion of the country feels the same way.

      • Ennie says:

        I don’t know the percentage of people who abstains from voting, but in my country is very high. Maybe in some districts in the US it happens, too.

  12. Slowdown says:

    On Saturday, the beloved actor Bruno Mandé Marques, a black Portuguese (whose family was from Angola) was shot several times in the streets of Lisbon by a raging racist who had been bullying him and his family for a while saying nasty things like “your mum came from the jungle”.
    My point is: colonialism, slavery, imperialism, segregation, and exploitation of resources was never a necessary evil for (white) history to happen. Bruno did not die so that we can solve systemic racism in Portugal. This is such a twisted argument. Not today.
    Say their names. All over the world. RIP Bruno Candé Marques.

  13. grabbyhands says:

    “America is a great and noble country founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal. We have always struggled to live up to that promise, but no country has ever done more to achieve it.”

    We literally fought a war over this and the losing side still behaves like we’re in the thick of it. We have monuments to the losers. People still fly flags for it.

    Not to mention, we literally have a national holiday named after a man who landed and proceeded to wipe out the indigenous peoples of the area. Any when you question it, you’re verbally abused and accused of being a traitor.

    Those aren’t the hallmarks of a country that has gotten anywhere near equality for ALL of its citizens.

  14. Andrew’s Nemesis says:

    I’m so full of disbelief and wrath I can’t breathe.
    There’s so much wrong in every line of this creature’s statement that it’s not worth engaging with it. Instead – cancelled. I don’t care if he rescues 18 kids and four puppies from a burning house. He can go to hell.

  15. Jerusha says:

    Weeks ago I commented that Cotton is positioning himself for 2024. My comments did not get printed. I hope this does. He needs to be stopped now. Expose him. Support anyone who ever runs against him.

    • phaedra7 says:

      He and Tucker Carlson. Plenty of rumors has it that the latter is being groomed to run for POTASS in 2024 as well. Dem/Blue has to reign supreme for the true life and liberty of our country.

      • H says:

        Do not forget Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in FL. Both are positioning themselves for a WH run in 2024. Although, if DeSantis keeps killing Floridians and doing nothing about Covid, he can kiss his chances good-bye.

    • Veronica says:

      YEP YEP YEP. I just made the same comment below.

      Red alarms should be going off in all of us. Trump is an idiot puppet controlled by smarter masters. This dude is competently evil. He knows exactly how to play on people’s lack of critical ideological response. He knows exactly what he’s doing. People keep thinking the fascist right is dying with Trump. It’s not. They’re just lying in wait.

  16. Lizzie says:

    As a democrat – thank you Tom. That was pure gold for us.

  17. Melissai says:

    The 1619 project is important for everyone to listen to and read. There is an episode on the podcast that breaks down how the US economy was built on slavery. How other countries also profited on the US slave trade. Tom Cotton can is the unnecessary evil we don’t need in this country.

    • Bibliomommy96 says:

      Wow, I’ve never heard of the 1619 project, but I listened to it The first episode today. My goodness, if we were taught this side of America in school, not the white washed version of slavery, I would hope the minds of Americans would be a lot different. My kids will now be listening to the podcast this summer.

  18. Lucy says:

    “The entire premise of the New York Times’ factually, historically flawed 1619 Project … is that America is at root, a systemically racist country to the core” honestly, if that’s the premise of the project, then it should ABSOLUTELY be compulsory in every single school in the USA.

  19. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Keep it up Republicans. You’re dying. But please, continue to make it a slow and painful death.

  20. Edna says:

    And this fool plans to run for President in 2024? Another Ivy League conservative racist. As much as they rail against the elites, I notice an awful lot of them have Ivy League degrees.

    He wouldn’t say slavery was a necessary evil if it had been white people who’d been enslaved. And this country still still pays to support confederate traitors

    The Costs of the Confederacy | History | Smithsonian Magazine
    Confederate organizations still receive annual payments from several states for maintenance of Confederate veterans’ graves and monuments

  21. Teebee says:

    This little light of mine
    I’m gonna let it shine

    And shine on all the racists so bright that they cannot hide. Then people become more aware of who these people are, what they stand for and decide if they truly represent their beliefs and values.

    As much as I have ranted about the US, and despaired, I do believe change is possible. And you’ve got to know your enemy, you cannot let them hide in plain sight anymore. So even if it takes time, even if we have to be disgusted as vile person (Looking at all you Republicans, and you know who you are) after vile person is revealed by their own words and actions, they Be shut out and voted out…

  22. Dragonlady sakura says:

    Necessary evil…tell that to all the black women raped daily and forced to bred children to make more slaves. Or all the black men beaten and lynched for any transgressions “master” determined. Families separated, language and identity stolen. I will preach this racist ahole a sermon and more!

  23. Veronica says:

    True fax, guys, this dude f*cking terrifies me. He’s a Hitler wet dream for the white nationalist movement, especially because he can string sentences together in a way that SOUND rational even if their ideology is utterly irrational underneath. Exactly the kind of propaganda that snatches up those not media trained to think critically. Mark my words, if Biden gets in come November, this will be their fascist golden boy they’ll push for Take Two in 2024. They’re already setting up Biden for failure by letting the economy crash so they can cash in on the resulting poverty frustration and snatch back congress in 2022. Then they’ll ride that wave of discontent to push a nationalist front again 2024.

    Strap in guys, this ride isn’t coming to a stop anytime soon. Number one priority of the Biden administration should be fixing voting rights. Unless you improve access and reduce suppression, they’ll keep playing these games until they succeed.

    • ChillyWilly says:

      100% agree. If Biden wins he had better do something about voting rights. Our country should be mail in voting only. Other countries do this, why can’t we?

  24. Liz version 700 says:

    Tom Cotton is a serious evil who needs to be run out of office and never respected again.

  25. Kim says:

    So Hitler was a necessary evil which created current day Germany that has done well with their Coronavirus response and is a strong part of the EU?

    How many evils can you use as an excuse for the good of society – this the new Trumpists parlor game?

    And these people pretend they’re the face of Christianity??

  26. dreamchild says:

    What about when slavery ended? Was it still a necessary evil for whites to do everything in their power to ensure that black people didn’t achieve the American dream? Why the insistence on subservience of black to white. The laws of Jim Crow because blacks were achieving in spite of the utter disregard and hatred America showed towards blacks. Why allow immigrants to receive land for little to nothing and not bequeath lands to those who actually worked it for free? Imagine if the promise of 40 acres and a mule actually came to pass. Imagine the opportunity to provide for oneself and community. Instead blacks were throughout the history of this country constantly and consistently blocked from achieving the American dream. Those of us who have achieved it are still vilified and marginalized. It is so frustrating to listen to these subhumans prattle on endlessly about how we should just get over it and be honored that we were chosen to have our lives ripped apart and worked to death for a country that hates you. May all bad things happen to him and his worthless family.

  27. sassafras says:

    Insert GIF from Hamilton: “He’s never gonna be president now.”

  28. Just a thought says:

    Hate like this have always exist. Some feel more comfortable now with expressing how they truly feel. Pray and vote.

  29. Caty Page says:

    Well, this is f*cking terrifying. If it was financially “necessary” before, could it be financially “necessary” tomorrow?

    The U.S. already jails people of color, and especially Black citizens, to acquire the free labor they can no longer get by legally trading in humans. “Penal labor” has become a prominent part of the farming industry in the South, especially during Covid. Modern slavery.

    This man who needs fat transfers to his caved-in face is a short walk from openly supporting the ownership of Black and Brown bodies.

  30. Joanna says:

    You guys, I was actually thinking about leaving the US yesterday. It’s gotten so horrible or I guess I should say I’m just now realizing how bad it is. Non-whites have probably known this for a long time. Idk how you guys do it. Now all the racist people have come forward with racism so blatant, even white people realize how bad it is. I’m so ashamed of much of my race right now. Between that and living in Florida now, I’m about to call it a day. I’m probably just talking but you know what, we are not this great country, maybe I was drinking the U S A koolaid.

  31. PixiePaperdroll says:

    If it’s “necessary” than it should be taught. I think Manifest Destiny is evil and we certainly covered that in school.

  32. Juxtapoze says:

    UNnecessary. There fixed it for you, Senator Dumb*ss. Horrific would have been a much more apt word. Humans are capable of awful things when we dehumanize each other. Our “leaders” are still locking immigrants & their children in cages for seeking a better life, FFS! How is this not slavery? We’ve got to seriously rethink the practice of locking fellow humans away. In many cases, it’s the lazy man’s way of dealing with issues much better addressed with mental health therapy and education. I’m so ashamed of the “leadership” in our country right now. Millions of Americans are crying out & pushing for changes and those in power (headed by the GOP) are responding with violence, fear mongering, propaganda and hatred. Why don’t we hear from more military & civilian police officers standing WITH us?
    “I know it’s heavy, I know it ain’t light, but how we going to lift it with our arms folded tight?”.

  33. jferber says:

    Tom Cotton in the unnecessary evil befouling the people’s house. Get out, Ken. You are unworthy and disgraceful.

  34. emu says:

    LOL at him saying that America is founded on the idea that all men are created equal and that slavery was a necessary evil in the same breath.

    And “the greatest and noblest country in the history of mankind”??? eyeroll barf eyeroll