Civil War Sesquicentennial = Economic Opportunity?
Representatives from Georgia’s CW Sesquicentennial Commission are already thinking about how to remember and educate the public about the Civil War. The only problem is that they seem to be motivated primarily by financial concerns and less on how to commemorate. From the Catoosa County News:
Chairman John Culpepper of the Georgia Civil War Commission lead a forum about maximizing Civil War history assets from 2011 to 2015 when the country commemorates the anniversary of the Civil War. Culpepper sees the upcoming event as a boon for the economies of Northwest Georgia and other areas laden with history.
“(The anniversary) is going to be a monumental five years for the country and the South,” he said. “The Chickamauga Battlefield is the biggest economic engine in Northwest Georgia,” Culpepper added. “Nobody is going to move it to Mexico.” State Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) said the region is just around the corner from greatness in preservation and presentation of historical resources.
Culpepper praised Mullis for being instrumental in his efforts in gaining the Civil War Commission funding from the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Before the move the group fell under the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
I suspect that concerns about economic development will be a factor for most states who hope to attract tourists and their dollars. On the face of it there is nothing wrong with this. Many of the events that took place during the Civil War Centennial celebrations were also organized with this in mind. The problem in the case of the Centennial was that the Civil Rights Movement and the attention to racial inequality dampened enthusiasm for for it by 1963 owing to the emphasis on a white-only national narrative. My point is that economic opportunity and a historically honest Sesquicentennial may not bring people to events in the way that a more traditional commemoration would. On the other hand, an emphasis on more traditionally-styled events may lead to economic boycotts and other forms of protest that have become all too common in recent years. Either way I look forward to seeing how we as a nation decide to remember our Civil War.