National Park Service Interprets Civilian Life in Fredericksburg

The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park will premiere a new film which examines the experiences of civilians – both free and slave.  The film, titled "Virginians Desolate, Virginians Free, will run tomorrow night at the Fredericksburg Baptist Church on Princess Anne Street and has a running time of 30 minutes.  At some point I will make my way to see it.  Park Service historian John Hennessy took the lead on writing the script and here is what he had to say about the movie:

"The default history of Fredericksburg is the experience of the white population. Literally half the population here had a very different experience and view," said the script’s writer, John Hennessy, who is chief historian for Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.While many white residents saw the arrival of Union forces as a disaster, he said, slaves saw it as a chance for freedom. Hennessy said the film isn’t aimed at taking sides. "We don’t try to assert the primacy of one experience over another."

While I agree with Hennessy here it is troubling that he has to justify a film that acknowledges divergent civilian perspectives by noting that the script does not imply any kind of hierarchy of experiences.  It clearly reflects the assumptions and interests of those who will view this movie.  Click here for the Richmond Times-Dispatch article.

2 comments… add one

  • John Maass Jun 9, 2006

    Hennessey says that (as you, Kevin, note) “We don’t try to assert the primacy of one experience over another.” While I understand he is probably just trying to be PC as a govt. employee, is he really saying that the soldiers’ stories are not a bit more important? I mean, we are talikng about a battle in a war here, so I would think that the men who fought would be and should be the primary focus of interp. at the Park.

  • Kevin Levin Jun 9, 2006

    I thought he was referring to the difference between the experiences of Fredericksburg’s white v. slave population and not in comparison with the soldier’s experience.

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