Interpreting the Civil War on the Eve of the Centennial

Here is a wonderful little time capsule from the eve of the Civil War centennial in 1960. Those of you who teach courses on Civil War memory will find it particularly interesting. There are very few surprises in how the documentary frames the causes and consequences of the war along with slavery and emancipation. The need to maintain a national consensus at the height of the Cold War is clearly discernible. My favorite line is the claim that white northerners had difficulty on the battlefield early on owing to their unfamiliarity with guns. It turns out that before the war they were all working in shops and factories.

2 comments… add one

  • James Harrigan Nov 23, 2013

    Quite an artifact indeed, Kevin. Along with some hilarious blunders (the 1862 Battle of Chickamauga???), the untruths about slavery and race are less amusing. The comments about how “men of good will in both North and South” struggled to integrate the freedmen into postwar society were particularly stomach turning.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 23, 2013

      What is so striking is the extent to which the documentary is removed from anything hinting at an ongoing civil rights struggle in 1960.

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