Jefferson Davis Welcomes Students Studying Civil Rights Movement

Jefferson Davis Monument

Jefferson Davis Monument

On Sunday I head out with roughly 35 students and 3 colleagues for a 5-day tour of the Civil Rights South. We’ve been meeting with students to give them a broad outline of the history and questions that will be covered as we travel from Atlanta to Memphis.

One of my main responsibilities will be to help students make connections between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement through a close examination of monuments and memorials. I want students to understand that the visual reminders of the civil rights struggle are fairly recent additions to the landscape and that they exist in some tension with reminders of the Civil War and the Lost Cause.

In Montgomery we will stop at the state house to talk about the Jefferson Davis monument and the soldiers’ monument. I am going to discuss Davis’s swearing-in ceremony as well as the Confederacy’s commitment to the institution of slavery and white supremacy. Students will hopefully come to see that the many marches and protests that took place during the 1950s and 60s occurred in the shadow of these sites. The civil rights struggle was not simply an attempt to change the trajectory of the South, but a challenge to a deeply engrained collective memory of the past that all but ignored the state’s African-American population.

I will likely not have time to do much blogging during this trip, but I do plan on doing a good deal of tweeting.

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10 comments… add one
  • CMcWhirter Mar 21, 2014

    You probably already know this, but the inscription on the Soldier’s monument at the capital uses some very interesting racially-loaded language. If I’m remembering correctly, it’s something like “To the Knightliest men of the Knightliest race.”

    • Kevin Levin Mar 21, 2014

      That is exactly why we are stopping at this particular monument.

      “The knightliest of the knightly race who since the days of old. Have kept the lamp of chivalry alight in hearts of cold.”

      • CMcWhirter Mar 21, 2014

        Amazing. You just can’t make this stuff up.
        It’s also worth noting that they placed Davis across from “The Father of Modern Gynecology.” Quite a juxtaposition.

        • Brooks D. Simpson Mar 21, 2014

          Birth of a nation.

          • Chris Shelley Mar 21, 2014

            Brooks, that caused coffee to burst out of my nose. Likely the funniest thing I’ll hear all day.

  • James F. Epperson Mar 21, 2014

    Enjoy your trip—be safe!

    • Kevin Levin Mar 21, 2014

      Thanks, James. Should be a blast.

  • Gdbrasher Mar 21, 2014

    I for one have always been struck by the fact that MLK’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church is within site of Davis’ inauguration location. I’m sure you’ll be visiting there too. Montgomery is such a perfect city for you are doing with the group. Looking forward to hearing about your experiences.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 21, 2014

      I’m sure you’ll be visiting there too.

      Absolutely. We will start the day at the state house and then make our way over to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Perfect contrast. The students are very excited about the trip and well prepared.

  • Matt McKeon Mar 22, 2014

    Maybe its the photo, but Davis statue looks quite a lot like Count Dracula. “I velcome you.” Davis was from Transylvania, as I recall.

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