What It Comes Down To For Waite Rawls

Back in November Waite Rawls and Christy Coleman announced a planned merger between Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy and American Civil War Center. In an interview with Civil War News Rawls discussed what it means for the MOC and alluded to some of the controversy surrounding the decision:

“Will all our members support what we do in the future? No,” Rawls said. “Will some object? Yes.”  “Will many more think it is great? Yes.” Rawls continued, “We have 5,000 members. My purpose as an entity is not to satisfy the least common denominator, but to do what is the best long-term good for the entirety. That’s what the CWH board will do.” “For the folks who say, ‘We wish you were only Confederate,’ we have bigger sights in mind,” he said. “We think we can do a better job educating people about the Confederacy if we tell the whole story of the Civil War.”

Using the analogy of preserving a Civil War battlefield, Rawls asked rhetorically, “How good a job would we do if we only preserved the Confederate half of it?” Noting that heritage groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy have a different purpose than a museum, Rawls said, “Their mission is to honor their ancestors. Our mission is to use this collection to educate the public.” He acknowledged, “The heritage groups would like us to be a heritage group, but we’re not.”  “People who walk in the front door may not know which century [the Civil War] happened in,” according to Rawls. “Their ancestor may have fought in a civil war in Ireland or Thailand.” He mentioned a Japanese-American man interviewed on PBS who said he didn’t understand America until he watched the Ken Burns Civil War series. “That’s a powerful thing. I want to influence people like that. That’s what this institution is for.”

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3 thoughts on “What It Comes Down To For Waite Rawls

  1. BorderRuffian

    Article-
    “For the folks who say, ‘We wish you were only Confederate,’ we have bigger sights in mind,” he said. “We think we can do a better job educating people about the Confederacy if we tell the whole story of the Civil War.”

    *Only* Confederate is definitely what their charter indicates.

    But don’t let pesky little things like charters, constitutions, contracts, laws, &c, get in the way of anyone’s agenda.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      It doesn’t sound like the Confederacy (narrowly understood) will suffer. In fact, it looks like the merger will allow for a deeper and expansive interpretation of the Confederacy.

      Reply
  2. Forester

    A while back, a friend of mine was talking about the Confederate monument here in Norfolk (built in 1907) and how he wished it were demolished. I said that I don’t want to see it torn down, but perhaps altered from memorializing “Our Confederate Dead” to Civil War soldiers in general. His whole mood and demeanor changed, and he agreed that a simple re-branding would change the whole meaning of the statue. Even just a new site marker to explain the history and context of the statue would make it seem less racist and divisive.

    I think the same applies to the MOC. The idea of a Confederate Museum evokes the Lost Cause, and people are instantly going to dislike it. If one truly wants the story of the Confederacy told, it has to be told honestly — warts and all — as part of a fair and inclusive historical narrative. As a descendant of Confederates, I support the changes.

    Reply

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