Stonewall Jackson Continues to Educate in Alabama

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How many of you have ever heard of the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Fund of Alabama?  The 3-member panel created by Alabama lawmakers in 1955 and headed by state archives officials offers $1,000 scholarships to college-bound students for essays on the Confederate general.  Apparently they have awarded 53 interest-free scholarships since 1989.  What kind of essay are we talking about here?

There is hereby created and established the Alabama Stonewall Jackson Memorial Fund, which fund is to be composed of the money hereinafter appropriated in this chapter, together with any accruals from the income from the fund or repayments thereto.  The purpose of this fund is to memorialize that great American and Confederate general, “Stonewall” Jackson, through a program of education initiated by Stonewall Jackson Memorial, Incorporated, including both essay contests and scholarships. The benefits of this fund shall accrue only to Alabamians.

Mississippi also enacted a similar program before it was “abolished” in 1990:

(1) There is hereby created the Mississippi Stonewall Jackson Memorial Board, which shall have as its purpose the memorializing of that great American and Confederate General, Stonewall Jackson, through a program of education initiated by Stonewall Jackson Memorial, Inc. The Mississippi Stonewall Jackson Memorial Board shall be governed by a board of trustees, who shall serve without compensation. The board of
trustees shall be composed of three (3) members, the Mississippi State Superintendent of Public Education, the Director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the President of Stonewall Jackson Memorial, Inc. The board of trustees shall be vested with the power to administer this section in its entirety and to establish the Mississippi Stonewall Jackson Memorial Fund.

(2) From and after March 13, 1990, the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Board shall be abolished by operation of law, and any monies appropriated or donated to or deposited in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Fund shall be received, invested and administered by the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History as it deems advisable in line with sound business procedure. The Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History may spend the interest derived from the Mississippi Stonewall Jackson Memorial Fund to support the programs and activities of the Junior Historical Society of Mississippi and thereby promote the study of Mississippi history. No part of the principal of such fund shall be disbursed for any purpose, and all grants to the Junior Historical Society shall be taken from the interest derived from investments only.

It’s pretty clear as to the types of articles that must be written to qualify for a Jackson loan.  There seems to be little room for any kind of critical analysis of some aspect of Jackson’s life.  I would love to know how many black students have chosen to submit essays on this topic.  So, why is this in the news?  Well, you guessed it, some lawmakers in Alabama want to end the program.  The arguments both for ending and continuing the program are pretty straightforward and follow the arguments related to just about every controversy related to our public memory of the Civil War.

What I find interesting, and which is not referenced at all, is the fact that Alabama’s program was started in 1955.  The landmark Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education had been decided just months earlier.  To what extent was this carried out in response to a perceived threat to a central pillar of southern life by the federal government?

There would be no issue if this were a private endowment, but this program is state funded and lawmakers have the right and responsibility to challenge appropriations.  As for my own view of this issue it seems to be much to do about nothing.  I lived and taught in Alabama for two years so I am well aware of the state of public education there.  If it takes a goofy 1,500-word essay to earn a $1,000 scholarship for college than so be it.  Black students can write about what Jackson teaches us about being a friendly slaveowner.

6 comments… add one

  • Chris Cooper Jul 16, 2008

    You are an eloquent writer. However, I must ask in response to your statement “I would love to know how many black students have chosen to submit essays on this topic” to the same extent, I would like to know how many Caucasians have been awarded a scholarship from the United Negro College Fund? Probably about the same percentage of blacks that have been awarded a scholarship from the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Fund. As far as Black Confederates, the African American community can deny all they wish that they did not exist, but history has and will always prove otherwise.

  • Kevin Levin Jul 16, 2008

    Chris, — I agree with you that the percentage is probably comparable, but the UNCF is a private organization while the Jackson Fund was started by the state. Seems to me that this is an important distinction. As for black Confederates when you come across some serious scholarship on the issue let me know. Online articles written by ill-informed writers is not history. Yes, there have been a few publications over the years but, apart from one or two, they have said little in terms of any serious analysis of how the war altered the relationship between white and black southerners and slaves and slaveowners. In other words, most writers proceed from a narrow conclusion and work their way back; they do this by utilizing any and all evidence that could somehow justify their claim such as pension records and stories handed down from one generation to another.

  • Jamey B Creel Jul 19, 2008

    Private?
    How many “Historically Black” colleges are funded with our tax money? I attended FAMU – Florida Agricultural and Mechanical Universiity. MOST students there are black. MOST are funded by government Pell Grants, government loans, government give-a-ways, etc, etc, etc.

    Name one government funded college that recruits “white only” students? Sure these black ones can’t deny other “races” however, they were granted such as “Negro” or black, only when they were started. The reason they were started I agree had purpose – 100 years ago. But today federal government money still funds these schools. Yet you’re going to complain about a STATE helping to promote a Confederate named one?

    When are you going to start complaining about all the military bases named after Confederate Generals? Or State counties named such?

    When are you going to have that Confederate Monument in Arlington National Cemetery removed – after all government monies pay for its upkeep?

    When are you going to start teaching that it was former Confederate General J Wheeler that was in command of Roosevelt’s “Rough-riders” – oh wait you’re covered that up and the government only pays for teaching about good ole Teddy.

  • Kevin Levin Jul 19, 2008

    Jamey, — As you can see I allow comments that take issue with the content of my posts. What I will not allow are comments that add nothing to the discussion, but simply allow you to engage in some irrational emotion rant. Unless your tone changes this will be your final comment.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog and comment.

  • Crystal Marshall Oct 14, 2008

    Hello Mr. Levin,

    I’m posting here to thank you for your blog. I’m currently taking a public speaking class at a local community college and my speech topic for the quarter is if and how American society should honor Civil War Confederates, specifically Stonewall Jackson. This specific post (regarding the Stonewall Jackson scholarship fund) will be very useful in giving my classmates examples of current controversies regarding the issue of honoring Confederates.

    As an aspiring high school history teacher with a strong interest in Civil War history, I will be a frequent visitor to your blog (which I first heard about through your postings on Richard Williams’ Old Virginia Blog. Mr. Williams actually helped me with a research paper on Stonewall Jackson for a class of mine last spring.) Your postings are well-researched and insightful, and I anticipate returning often to your blog for futher research for my speeches and other assignments.

    Sincerely,
    Crystal Marshall

  • Kevin Levin Oct 14, 2008

    Crystal, — Thanks for taking the time to comment and thanks for the kind words re: the blog. I am also glad to hear that this particular post will help you with your assignment. It’s also nice to know that you found both this blog as well as Richard’s site to be helpful. As you can probably tell we have very different approaches to the study of the past. Good luck and thanks again.

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