A few weeks ago South Carolina Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell was named as the next president of the College of Charleston. It’s difficult to gauge the media’s coverage of the school community’s response since the nature of the story has tended to pit the media against McConnell and any story about the memory of the Civil War in Charleston is bound to push certain people over the edge. That said, there does seem to be a relatively large group, including students, faculty, donors and even board members that is set against McConnell taking the reins of this school. It will be interesting to see whether McConnell can survive the pressure.
To me the fact that a college in the heart of the rebellion is even debating the question of whether an individual who has wrapped himself in Confederate heritage is an appropriate choice for president is fascinating. While stories of McConnell dressing in Confederate officer uniforms and his support of the public display of Confederate flags are tantalizing, I want to know what he believes about the American Civil War and Reconstruction. What does his Civil War library at home look like? What kinds of books (if any) did he sell in his store, which specialized in Confederate memorabilia? Is his understanding of the period informed by recent scholarship or Confederate apologists such as the Kennedy brothers? What kind of intellectual is Glenn McConnell?
More importantly, I want to know what he thinks about the Civil War, including its cause and consequences, because I believe it tells us something about how he understands some of the central questions that the people of South Carolina and the rest of the nation continue to struggle to address.