Somehow I became a topic of concern over at Michael Aubrecht’s blog because I dared to comment on the Richard Kirkland story during the same week that a new website and film preview were introduced. I find it funny that both Aubrecht and Richard Williams make a point of minimizing my influence even as they spend their time worrying about what I write. Anyway, this little gem of a comment from Williams made my day:
“Outside of his classroom and blog, he has very little influence.”
Precisely Michael. Dana Shoaf of Civil War Times said in an interview a while back that, “The problem with academic historians is they are not reaching a wide popular audience.” I’ve personally noticed that academics, particularly those like Levin, talk mostly to themselves. Shoaf further noted, “people often are reluctant to read social history because they think it is boring.” Levin is a “social historian” and a self-proclaimed “activist historian.” That limits his influence and impact. Moreover, Levin’s (and many of his followers) constant impugning and mocking of Confederate heritage and history turns a lot of people in the “popular audience” category off, which even further narrows his influence.
In reference to the Richard Kirkland documentary that is slated for release in the near future, let me just say that I wish the people involved all the success in the world. No doubt, they put a great amount of time into this project and I am sure that it will find an enthusiastic audience. As I stated in my first post in the series, I decided to write about it after reading Peter Carmichael’s recent Fredericksburg commemoration talk in which he referenced Kirkland. That led me to what I thought was an interesting essay on some of the sources for the story that I featured as a guest post. That, in turn, led to a pretty good discussion. I guess I never realized that raising questions about a popular story in our collective memory of the Civil War would be such a problem.
By the way, Richard, Dana Shoaf is featuring one of my articles in the next issue of Civil War Times.