On a number of occasions I’ve addressed the question of whether the sesquicentennial has been a success. No doubt, as we move through the first part of 2015 these discussions will increase in frequency. For the most the framing of the question has tended to take both a long and broad view in terms of time and place. One of the things we must not lose sight of, however, is the view from the ground in our local communities.
I was reminded of this last night as I listened to the Q&A from my Crater talk on C-SPAN. The final comment by Reverend Powell of Gilchrist Church in Petersburg left me speechless. You can listen to it for yourself at the 1:07:45 mark. In the end these commemorative events should provide opportunities for local residents to connect with one another through their local stories and facilitate honest discussion about how that past continues to impact and shape our individual and collective identity no matter how painful. Rev. Powell’s thoughtful observations should serve as a reminder that we have much to learn from one another and that often the past and present are difficult, if not impossible, to discern.
At their best these commemorative events should leave us not only with some new history to think about, but why it matters. Thanks to Reverend Powell for reminding me of this.