Civil War and Civil Rights Memory in Lee County, Mississippi

I came across this interesting article on the changing face of the Lee County Courthouse in Mississippi.  The Coalition for Change is scheduled to unveil a rendering of the estimated $7,000 civil rights monument to the Lee County Board of Supervisors in early September.  The author apparently did her homework and interviewed two authorities on the changing face of southern history and the courthouse in particular:

Charles Reagan Wilson, former director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and current Cook Chair of History at the University of Mississippi

The courthouse is a physical and symbolic anchoring for the sense of community in the South.  It’s a place of stability and common meeting ground.  The Confederate monuments were placed on town squares for exactly that reason.  In the old days, whites wanted those Confederate monuments there to recognize the importance of the Civil War experience to the South, so it’s the same reason you want to put a civil rights monument there.

James Hull, Coalition for Change Spokesman

The civil rights movement is also heritage.  It’s also history.  It’s the blood, sweat and tears of those who tried to bring the city together.  We are going to recognize that.

John Marszalek, Mississippi State University’s Giles distinguished professor emeritus of history

What’s happening actually – and in the South particularly – it’s no secret that it was a place of Jim Crow-ism until the 1960s, so any memorialization of history was done so from the white point of view. With the civil rights movement, blacks began to vote and elect black officials, so for the past 25
years there have been more successful attempts to present not just the white perspective on the history of the South but to include the role blacks have played.

I recently reread and highly recommend Wilson’s Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

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