“The Knighliest of the Knightly Race”

Grounds of the Alabama State House in Montgomery

Grounds of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery

In addition to the Jefferson Davis monument I am also going to talk briefly about the Alabama Confederate Memorial Monument (1898), which commemorates the 122,000 men from the state who fought for the Confederacy. Students will be asked to reflect on the ways in which these monuments reinforced the politics of Jim Crow through a selective memory of the past.

THE KNIGHTLIEST OF THE KNIGHTLY RACE/WHO SINCE THE DAYS OF OLD,/HAVE KEPT THE LAMP OF CHIVALRY/ALIGHT IN HEARTS OF GOLD.”

What do inscriptions such as the one above tell us about who these monuments were meant to include or welcome to the grounds of the Alabama state capitol and who they were meant to exclude? To what extent do these monuments reflect the nature of the legislation that took place inside the capitol throughout the period leading up to the civil rights movement? What does justice mean in such an environment?

I am also going to ask students to reflect on the fact that the four granite figures, representing the four branches of the Confederate military, were completed just south of Boston in Quincy.

So looking forward to heading out tomorrow morning with some incredibly thoughtful students.

CraterThanks for reading this post. Scroll down, leave a comment and join the conversation if you are so inclined. Follow me on Twitter and join the Civil War Memory Facebook group for continuous updates and additional links to newsworthy items from around the interwebs. Stay up to date by subscribing to this blog’s feed. You can also check out my recently published book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder.

1 comment… add one

  • Brendan Bossard Mar 26, 2014

    I’ve been thinking about this.

    The reference to the “knightly race” reveals the true cause of the American Civil War. If slavery was the root, racism was the taproot.

    American slavery could not have existed if the notion that the superiority of one race over the other were not accepted as a God-ordained law of nature. The Constitution prohibits the assignment of titles of nobility, so there is no officially sanctioned class order in America as there is (or was) in European nations. The lord/serf relationship between equals is incompatible with the American ideal. So the only way for slavery to exist in America was to continue the European notion that the superior White race was justified in enslaving the inferior Black race.

    It was not only justified, but also commanded. The Texas Declaration of Causes of 1861 calls the “debasing doctrine” of racial equality “a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of the Divine Law.” In the pro-slavery Christian’s view, it was not a matter merely of legal justification, but of divine imperative: Whites must obey God by enslaving Blacks; Blacks must obey God by accepting their enslavement by Whites. Any other arrangement was immoral; any prohibition of slavery was a blight. Thus an irreconcilable difference was created that resulted in a Civil War that can also be said to have been a holy war between competing Christian views.

    Sadly, although slavery is no longer officially sanctioned, racism still exists. I have a White friend whose parents prohibited her from dating a Black man. I have listened to a couple of relatively recent sermons in which the antebellum Southern Christian view of slavery was espoused. Anti-immigrant sentiment is tinged with fear of other races and the fear of the “genocide” of the White race by intermarriage. The reverse exists, too: there are Black people who frown upon interracial dating and marriage, and interracial adoption is condemned as “genocidal” by some, including the National Association of Black Social Workers. There is also an unhealthy obsession with the race of the Jews and of Jesus in some circles.

    So it seems to me that we have a lot more digging to do, having pulled the top off of this dandelion.

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