As many of you know I am a big fan of the Museum of the Confederacy. In recent years the leadership of the museum as well as their staff have done an admirable job of steering the institution from one of advocacy for a traditional view of the Confederate past to one that promotes and awards the latest scholarship about the history of the Confederacy. So, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that, if chosen, Edward Sebesta would refuse to accept the MOC’s Jefferson Davis Award for Civil War scholarship. You can read Sebesta’s post for yourself, but here is the letter:
I am writing you to tell you that I do not want any book of mine to be considered for any award by the Museum of the Confederacy. More specifically I don’t want “The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader,” co-edited by Edward H. Sebesta and James Loewen, University Press of Mississippi considered for an award by the Museum of the Confederacy either for 2010, or in the future.
Not to be presumptuous that the “Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader,” would win any award from the Museum of the Confederacy, but if the book did win some type of award, I would reject the award publically and use the occasion to criticize the Museum of the Confederacy. Finally, I should let you know that in debate with James McPherson, noted Civil War historian, I have spoken out against the Museum of the Confederacy on Pacifica Radio Network.
The link that Sebesta provides laying out his theory of “banal white nationalism” fails to yield much of anything that addresses the Museum of the Confederacy specifically.
I have to say that I am at a loss as to why Sebesta has taken such a strong stance against the MOC. Over the past ten years I’ve visited the museum on multiple occasions. I’ve conducted research in the library and have even brought my classes to explore its impressive collection of artifacts. One of my former students is currently working as an intern in the research library. I am good friends with a number of its staff and I have nothing but the highest respect for the difficult work that they do. A few weeks ago I shared a stage with CEO, Waite Rawls, whose Confederate lineage is deep, but who understands that his role is to further historical understanding and not mythology. I would recommend any of their professional programs, including their annual Teachers Institute. It is impossible for me to imagine a more impressive line-up of scholars who have shared their knowledge in various public symposia. Finally, it is impossible for me to imagine a serious scholar, who would not be honored to join the prestigious list of previous Jefferson Davis book award winners.
It would be interesting to know what James Loewen, who is the co-editor of the The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The “Great Truth” about the “Lost Cause, thinks of this stance. To be honest, it looks like this book has much more of Loewen’s imprint on it than Sebesta’s.
Thanks to Ed Sebesta for reminding me that I need to renew my membership with the Museum of the Confederacy.