Is Glenn McConnell’s Confederate Past the College of Charleston’s Future?

College of Charleston

College of Charleston

Ultimately, the question of whether Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell becomes the next president of the College of Charleston will be decided by school officials. McConnell is one among three finalists for the position. Whether or not McConnell is selected will tell us a great deal about the legacy of the Confederacy in Charleston and the state as a whole. Can a popular politician who is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and has openly supported the flying of the Confederate flag on statehouse grounds successfully serve his alma mater and steer the college toward its stated goal of increased diversity?

That Charlestonians are even debating this issue is fascinating, but I suspect that he will be appointed. If McConnell’s commitment to keeping the memory of the Confederacy alive in South Carolina does not constitute a sufficient reason to look elsewhere does that mean that we can expect these activities to continue?

27 thoughts on “Is Glenn McConnell’s Confederate Past the College of Charleston’s Future?

  1. Parker

    Glen McConnell is certainly entitled to celebrate his Southern heritage, and Charlstonians are entitled to do likewise. Indeed, McCdonnll’s proud and open recognition of his Confederate sympathies is no more to be criticized than the long list of politicians, including TedKennedy, John Kerry, and Barak Obama, who have happily given speeches to cheering crowds at Fanueil Hall, which as we all know, is an enduring symbol of Boston’s neck-deep involvement in the nefarious international slave-trade. That Bostonians don’t even bother to debate the propriety of gathering at Fanueil Hall is mesmerizing, but it is, I guess, their right.

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  2. Craig L.

    It was interesting a few months ago when Sergio Garcia finally broke a nearly two year victory drought and ended a six month spell of abysmal golf at a tournament in Asia with his new girlfriend caddying for him. Garcia made a remark early last year with a sentence containing both Tiger Woods and fried chicken, thinking apparently that because he’s European the rules of political correctness don’t necessarily apply to him, and it turned out much to his chagrin that apparently they do.

    Garcia’s new girlfriend, an Austrian from Germany, played four years of collegiate golf at the College of Charleston and learned enough, it seems, about American history to acquaint Garcia with what he’d missed by turning pro without ever even considering collegiate golf.

    I took note of this angle on the story of Garcia’s revival because I have a niece who competed in the Colonial Athletic Association in a sport other than golf. Consequently, I became aware that the College of Charleston had recently joined that conference. The interesting thing to note about the roster for the women’s golf team at College of Charleston is that they recruit so many of their players from Europe.

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  3. Bryce Hartranft

    I don’t see anything wrong with “keeping the memory of the Confederacy alive,” but it is how you go about it. Funding the recovery of the Hunley is a worthwhile enterprise as it could contribute to furthering historical knowledge. Fighting for the Confederate flag on the other hand not so much.

    It seems the proper path is to support an understanding of the Confederacy without attempting to advance its propaganda.

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  4. Emmanuel Dabney

    I agree with Bryce. As a person of African descent who has dozens of Confederate ancestors through my own family tree that includes liaisons between my slaveholding third great-grandfather and my free mixed race third great-grandmother; should I not be able to do my job?

    If he is a member of the SCV, so what? However, I don’t understand (and I truly mean this) the flag “thing.” I don’t get it at state buildings or on sidewalks and beside interstates. While modern people fight to display these flags in such places; original artifacts of the war sit in places in different states of repair/disrepair. So they want to honor their ancestors while letting their uniforms and flags rot and the battlefields both sides fought on get subdivisions built on them?

    Doesn’t make sense to me.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Hi Emmanuel,

      I guess the question for some is whether the SCV ought to be understood simply as a heritage organization. Much of what I’ve seen from the SCV over the past few years seems to me to have very little to do with honoring ancestors and everything to do with today’s political and cultural landscape.

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        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          Sure, but I’ve heard a number of people, including past members of the SCV, that they have become even more political in recent years.

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  5. Buck Buchanan

    Parker,

    As a native Bostonian I can assure you it is weel known that Faneuil Hall was built and paid for with proceeds from Peter Faneuil’s slave trading business. Standard Massachussets High School American History.

    What you have chosen to ignore, and the reason why it serves as a very apt venue for speeches, is that the history of the building changed dramatically after its construction. Its 2nd story meeting hall became the scene of many strident debates in the last half of the 18th Century, most of which centered around discussions by what became known as the Sons of Liberty. It would continue to serve as meeting place for those who opposed slavery in the coming century. It was a frequent meeting place for abolitionist meetings and where the organized resistance to the Fugutive Slave Act was planned.

    So, yes, Bostonians do know the history of Faneuil Hall quite well.

    And it is a fitting landmark from which to make speeches by our leaders.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      The National Park Service’s headquarters is now located in Faneuil Hall. They do an exceptional job of sharing the history of the structure. I’ve been through more than once and can attest to the fact that the history of the slave trade is explored in connection with the building.

      Thanks for the comment.

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  6. Parker

    Buck,
    In my post regarding Fanueil Hall, what I explicitly stated, and what you chose to ignore, is that “we all know” Fanueil Hall is an enduring symbol of slavery and the slave-trade. I never said that that truth wasn’t taught in Boston, and I assumed quite the opposite. Interestingly however, you observe that the Hall should be viewed, despite its deep connection to slavery, in another capacity altogether, and one that is quite independent of slavery. I suppose that is reasonable enough, provided, of course, that you extend the same courtesy to the SVC when discussing the Confederate Flag. So yes, I am aware that slavery was legal in the Confederacy, just as it was in the Union. And it is perfectly fitting for the SCV to support flying the Flag of their Fathers.

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  7. Buck Buchanan

    Never said the SCV should or should not fly any flag that they chose to fly. I would ask that they make sure they fly the proper flag for the correct occasion and spend more time on the education aspects of CBF.

    At the same time I wish the SCV would be more vigorous in policing its ranks, as well as the general public, in the misuse of the very flag(s) they say are symbols of heritage.

    Lastly the SCV also needs to recognize that there are many in this country who are affronted by what the flag stands for…a group which took up arms in an insurrection against the Union for the purpose of maintaining a right to own other people.

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  8. Brad

    Not only wouldn’t I be surprised if they chose McConnell but considering the nefarious role South Carolina has played in our history, it would be entirely fitting and appropriate.

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  9. Parker

    Just as Bostonians need to recognize that there are a great many people who are deeply offended by what Fanueil Hall stands for…a group of people who imposed on others the most severe, cruel, degrading, and horrific human rights abuses in all recorded history…a group of people who trafficked in human misery and who maintained ownership in other human beings for the mere purpose of lining their own pockets. A gathering place where people approved the idea of violently and treasonously taking up arms against their King and Country.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Who are these people who are “deeply offended” by Fanueil Hall? It has already been pointed out that the NPS discusses the connection between Fanueil Hall and the slave trade. It also highlights its use by various groups throughout its long history. What exactly is your point?

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  10. Parker

    Well, anyone who is offended by the Confederate flag because they view it as a symbol of slavery, would clearly be offended by Fanueil Hall, because it is a symbol of the international slave-trade. And really, that seems too obvious for discussion. And how is it, exactly, that you didn’t ask Buck who are “these people that are offended by the Confederate Flag”? Again, if you are offended by slavery, then surely you are offended by the slave-trade. Right?

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      As you know Massachusetts abolished slavery in 1780. Faneuil Hall became an important site in the debate over the future of slavery in the country in the nineteenth century. I don’t see a comparison with the Confederate flag, which was utilized by the army of a nation pledged to the protection and spread of slavery.

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  11. Parker

    And you know that Boston continued to traffic slaves until 1808 right? And you know that Bostonians, as huge consumers of slave produce and slave products, firmly and fully supported slavery right through 1865 right? And you know that the CSA outlawed the slave-trade from its inception, right? So I agree, there is no comparison between Boston and Charleston insofar as slavery in concerned. Boston is far more guilty.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I am well aware of the North’s continued involvement in the spread of slavery in this country. In fact, my students recently completed a unit on the Lowell Mills just up the road from my school and its connection to the South. The framers of the Confederate Constitution clearly understood the economic impact of banning the importation of slaves on the value of their own chattel.

      Boston is far more guilty.

      Is that really what this is all about? Who is more guilty? Silly.

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      1. Al Mackey

        Looks like the Austin troll has yet another identity. The troll imagines he has a devastating point of hypocrisy, but his own ignorance catches him. He gets superficial information from a Wikipedia article and thinks he’s an expert.

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        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          Thanks, Al. I am aware of his use of various names and I am on the verge of banning his IP Address.

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          1. RE Watson

            It would be most helpful to a lot of readers if the aliases were listed when they are first known or even better if the known trolls were just” moderated out” at the beginning so they don’t clutter up the conversation.

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  12. Bryce Hartranft

    Seems to me that the main difference between Faneuil Hall and the bars and stars is how they have been used since their creation.

    They both obviously had sordid origins, but while Faneuil Hall had a renaissance of sorts, the bars and stars continued to be used by those that advocated inequality.

    The Confederacy had multiple flags after all, but none create such a distinct resentment as the bars and stars and i think that is because how it was used after the war.

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  13. Ben

    I’m a student at the CofC (college of Charleston) who supports Glenn’s reenacting, since I reenact with him. He is NOT a racist, period, and this should not be an issue.

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  14. Jimmy Dick

    Well, the announcement has been made and this is the reaction. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/03/26/college-charlestons-next-president-politician-confederate-sympathies-faculty-and
    It is worth noting that the main opposition comes from the way he was selected. He was not a finalist of the search committee nor was he recommended by them. He has no experience in higher education whatsoever either. Far, far better qualified candidates were ignored in favor of someone who is to be honest, not qualified for the job. The faculty is in an uproar over this as is much of the community.
    It looks pretty much like a political fix in a state where the state legislature wants to turn back the clock in pretty much everything including higher education.

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    1. Andy Hall

      Thanks for that update. I had not followed that story closely, and did not realize he did not go through the search committee. That stinks to high heaven.

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  15. Ken Noe

    I think that this is actually the real story. Like Mitch Daniels at Purdue, to point to another example, here’s an otherwise unqualified politician getting a golden parachute from trustees he helped appoint in the first place.

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