Predictions for 2016: Has the anti-Confederate Tide Crested?

I think it is safe to say that few people could have anticipated the nation-wide debate about Confederate history and memory that followed the horrific shootings in Charleston, South Carolina earlier this summer and the decision to lower the Confederate battle flag on the State House grounds in Columbia. The recent decision in New Orleans to remove four prominent Confederate monuments suggests that other communities may follow suit in the coming year.

  • Will cities like Baltimore and St. Louis follow New Orleans?
  • Will Mississippi change its state flag?
  • Will Confederate holidays continue to be removed from state calendars?

What do you think? What should we be keeping our eye on in the coming year? Has the backlash against all things Confederate crested or should we look for much of the same in the coming year?

Finally, I am curious as to your thoughts about how the past few months figures into a broader understanding of the Civil War sesquicentennial. Happy New Year!

62 thoughts on “Predictions for 2016: Has the anti-Confederate Tide Crested?

  1. Richard

    I suspect it may slow down, but that other incidents or news stories – not necessarily to the extreme level of the Charleston shootings – will bring it back to our attention occasionally.

    Your second question is tougher, but I suspect it will be the main idea or concept remembered from this era as we go forward. The shift in how people look at symbolism and the addition of more voices to such discussions (i.e. not just historians or Caucasians) will be interesting to follow, especially if those trends do continue. Historians studying the present instead of just the past may be more common too.

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    1. MSB

      Well said, Richard. As Kevin has said in other posts, the re-examination, if not removal, of Confederate monuments looks like the culmination of sesequicentennial celebrations that included a much larger range of voices and viewpoints than before, and a significant weakening of the Lost Cause narrative.
      From a personal point of view, one of the first books I read about the Civil War, outside of college, was Catton’s centennial history. When I got to MacPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, the first thing that struck me was the inclusion of so many more groups and experiences, and current writing keeps broadening and deepening the picture. And thank God for that.

      Reply
  2. Jessica reavis

    I have got to ask why is the Confederacy still under attack we did not fire upon South Carolina why are we being accountable for Dylan roofs actions.

    No one ever speaks about the real reasons of the war the slavery part was the one reason put on top as the icing on the cake no one ever talks about the taxationsthe land grabbing and illegal elections of Lincoln anyone ever wonder how the railroad got so straight its called enimate domain which was another reason for the war also proposed taxation against southern plantations only to benefit the northern businesses also the northern businesses influenced the south to produce more cotton and turned the southern states needed more help

    lincoln did not win the election he got 40% of the vote and his name did not even show up on most of the southern states ballotalso you never hear of one Sherman from Atlanta to the coast when when he burned Atlanta to the ground using innocent people occupied Home as target practice for his soldiers and also when he fired upon women children elderly and those who did not pick up the rifle against the Union Army but no you never hear of Sherman being taken down for war crimes the Union Army killed innocent people all over the southern states just because they were Southerners

    The Confederate Army never hurt or killed any civilians Robert E Lee commanded his army not to fire upon the civilians his fight was with the military Lincoln should have been hanging for war crimes and he did not care about slaves either slavery has been in the United States since the 16 hundreds it is not just african-american slaves either it is Dutch Irish English as a vast array of indentured servants as they were called slavery was also alive and well during the Revolutionary War George Washington a slave owner signed off that All Blacks could not fight in the Revolutionary War and stopped them what hurt the war efforts because they assisted the British in attacking the Continental Army of the United States

    See back then during the Revolutionary War all Americans who fought for independence of the United Stateswere alll called rebels and traitors but I’m glad that they fought The cause for our independence of the United States of America in its infantcy

    See in the Civil War the citizens were forced to fight but had no choice the victims of the Union Army their homes plundered their livestock killed even their dogs whatever food the Union Army could not consume they killed all the livestock and burned all the fields so that the southerners would starve to death

    If you actually took the time to read the facts what do you think about the Confederate flag now it is a symbol that I hold strongly to and in the upcoming year and all the years to follow I and many others will continue to fight you and all who want to erase the history of our ancestors who fault because they had to the Confederate flags are the true meaning of freedom and independence you will never hear Barack Obama ever speak of the horrific crimes that the Union Army did against the Southerners

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it

    Reply
    1. Annette Jackson

      Yes, we all know that Robert E Lee is the Secular Saint of the South. You might want to read actual history books instead of United Daughters of the Confederacy hagiography. But to get on with the canonization of the Confederate soldiers: What happened at Ft Pillow, what happened at Petersburg when captured USCTs were paraded through the city, just to give two examples? I do suspect reasoning with you is a true “lost cause, ” so bless your little heart.

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    2. Jimmy Dick

      I love the comment about taxation. Care to elaborate upon that and use facts? Good luck since there are none.

      Oh and by the way, you might want to brush up on your history (and English). George Washington’s army at Yorktown had somewhere between 20 to 25 percent of its strength made up of armed black soldiers. Not laborers or servants, but armed soldiers enlisted in the Continental Army. One of my ancestors was there commanding a regiment from Virginia. The French officers wrote it down in their diaries.

      For Lincoln’s election, please look up the US Constitution. It will probably surprise you.

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      1. Sherree

        “….Not laborers or servants, but actual soldiers……..One of my ancestors was there commanding a regiment from Virginia….

        That is a fascinating personal history.

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  3. Jonathan Dresner

    I predict it will continue to be discussed, become an election-year issue, and the quality of debate will plummet dramatically. I expect there to be at least one more flag-related shooting incident.

    Also, I think Ms. Reavis already smoked it, assuming “It” is some form of punctuation.

    Reply
    1. Jessica reavis

      Punctuation. …really. …it is about content, you probably didn’t read it anyway i was talking to text and didn’t care about it. ..it was all about about CONTENT

      Reply
      1. Jonathan Dresner

        Ms. Reavis,

        I didn’t say I failed to understand your comment, or didn’t read it. How would I know it was truly punctuation-free, otherwise.

        I do understand the value of adaptive technologies, I will just point out that punctuation is an adaptive technology as welll, making text more easily legible without verbal or visual cues. Making readers slog through hundreds of unpunctuated text is unkind.

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  4. H. S. Anderson

    I think the attacks on all things Confederate will continue, though I sincerely hope they’ll slow down and more thought and deliberation will rule the day rather than knee-jerk reactions. The reconsideration of all things Confederate was going on before the shooting in Charleston, but the murders gave a lot of politicians and activist groups an incident to use, and other politicians and activists played follow the leader.

    I hope it’s crested. I don’t see any ground up demand for a Confederate purge. I see a lot of top down demand, and a lot of activism from various special interest groups. As for the second question, I think for the people pushing a purge, they could care less about how it ties into the Civil War 150th. It’s a political or social justice agenda for them. For academics, I suspect there will be an attempt to place this year in the broader context of the Civil War and the aftermath. It will be interesting to see how they approach it.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Thanks for the comment. Keep in mind that many of these decisions involve individuals in elected positions. If this is simply a top-down response that does not reflect the general public than we should expect that some of them will be voted out of office.

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      1. H. S. Anderson

        It depends how engaged the public is, and whether or not they care about the issue. This really isn’t on a lot of voters’ radar. I suspect the fate of most monuments will come down to which interest group prevails in court.

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        1. Jimmy Dick

          It almost certainly will come down to the courts which shows a failure to accept community choices by a dwindling group of people. That group had no problem erecting them when they were the majority over the protests of others. They sure have a problem now that they’re the minority and their views are being rejected by the majority.

          The most ironic part is that group whines about the courts, yet there they go to the courts when the American people reject the erroneous beliefs. The tide has changed. It has been in motion for a while now and in 2015 it accelerated. The sesquicentennial has been a disaster for the lost cause supporters.

          I don’t see 2016 getting any better for them either. The reality is that the lost cause was built on lies. More and more people can see this for themselves just by looking at the facts. The ones that reject the facts do primarily because of their modern political ideology than anything else.

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          1. H. S. Anderson

            So far it hasn’t been community decisions. As I mentioned in my comments to Mr. Levin, so far it’s been activists and politicians going after these monuments, largely because there is political gain to be had from doing so. There is no broad-based community demand for memorials to the Confederacy to be removed from the landscape. I suspect most people don’t care one way or the other, or don’t care strongly.

            No, it’s going to come down to a fight between small activist groups on both sides and the political class, with the vast majority of the population sitting it out.

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              1. H. S. Anderson

                Some of them are that, to be sure. On both sides of the debate. There are also outside activists who are always looking for the next opportunity to advance their cause.

                I fall on the preservation of art and history side of the debate myself.

              2. Kevin Levin Post author

                Some of them are that, to be sure. On both sides of the debate.

                Who cares what you call them. They are people who care enough to speak out on an issue that they believe is important.

            1. Jimmy Dick

              That is not what I’ve seen. It has been the citizens of the local communities requesting the removal of monuments to white supremacy. There is a fairly broad community request for the removal of the monument in St. Louis. There was the same in New Orleans.

              If you want a small activist group, look to the ones waving CBFs around. They’re outnumbered by citizens who want the monuments removed.

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            2. MSB

              So the congregation of St Paul’s church comprises activists and not concerned citizens? If this is your view, I disagree.

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              1. Kevin Levin Post author

                It seems of late that describing someone as an activist is a way of dismissing their concerns. It tells us more about the H.S. than the individuals in question.

              2. H.S. Anderson

                I’m not seeing any broad based call by any community for Confederate symbols to be removed. I see individuals or small groups (activists, as I call them) demanding they come down. And there’s no denying that people from outside a community often come in and either provoke the effort or join it. The directors of the Citadel may want to remove the Confederate flag from their campus, and that’s their choice, but Al Sharpton has no business sticking his nose into it. There was a flag rally in Columbia SC a few weeks ago, and the one anti-flag protestor that was arrested was from New York state. Bree Newsome, who was arrested for removing the Confederate flag from the flagpole before the Legislature actually voted to take it down, is not from Columbia, but Charlotte, NC. And I’m sure I could find more examples of people from outside the community if I looked.

                I think there’s a real attempt to paint this as some kind of major mass change of public opinion, but it’s not. The genuine cultural shift is simply that as the older generations pass away over time, there’s less and less concern for these works of art among the general population of the South. That’s entirely natural as memory turns into history. But the individuals and groups of individuals who are actively working to have them removed are all relatively small.

              3. Kevin Levin Post author

                I have never claimed that protests are confined to members of a specific community. The fact that people come in from the outside is nothing new or even interesting for that matter. Such is always the case when it comes to controversial topics.

                The genuine cultural shift is simply that as the older generations pass away over time, there’s less and less concern for these works of art among the general population of the South.

                These works were never meant simply to be “works of art.” To insist on this narrow position is to miss their political and racial significance that many at the time of their dedication attached to it.

              4. Sherree

                HS,

                An excellent illustration of Kevin’s point is the monument in New Orleans to the Battle of Liberty Place. Just Google it. The bare facts lay the case out convincingly.

                The battle was actually an insurrection by ex Confederates to oust the Reconstruction government. Roughly one hundred men were killed in this uprising, most of them African Americans. Ex Confederate James Longstreet led the New Orleans Metropolitan police in the initial counter attack against the insurgents. It was not until Grant sent US troops in that the insurrection was put down. In 1891 a monument went up to commemorate the insurrection as a battle and to praise the ascendancy of white supremacy.

                No matter what conservatives say now, just do not listen to them, or to liberals, either, if you are interested in getting to the facts. Some conservatives use buzzwords and phrases like “social justice warrior” and “purge” to obfuscate and some liberals call everyone who disagrees with them, racist, to do the same. None of this has anything to do with history and with solving the problem of correcting unbalanced public commemoration of the past.

              5. Jimmy Dick

                They’re not works of art. They’re symbols of white supremacy. They may be artistic symbols of white supremacy, but they were created to support racism. In St. Louis the mayor called for a committee to explore the situation. That committee did so. http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/committee-supports-removing-confederate-monument-from-forest-park/article_ebdc99a2-b37c-55aa-b3a9-a461fb6b6d6f.html

                The committee was made up of people from the community. They delivered their findings which were the opinions of the people of the community. That’s pretty decisive.

                The people that want the statue kept in Forest Park are a small group that is dedicated to the preservation of a lie. The SCV insists the Civil War was not about slavery, but instead freedom and liberty. I have no use for a group that rejects facts in favor of fiction.

    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      You may be right, but I was surprised that so many municipalities had already taken steps to remove the state flag when the Ole Miss story broke. Something is happening in Mississippi.

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  5. terry

    I do hope the hate and associated rhetoric for all things Confederate continues. We’ve had a 300 per cent increase in our membership. Gained one member from Michigan, two from Florida, one from Kentucky, to name a few, but most new members from the south. Before the exponential increase in hate attacks, we were lucky to gain one member a year.

    I haven’t had so much fun since Gettysburg College lynched of a Confederate flag.

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  6. Sherree

    Since it is an election year, the issue most likely will not subside. Both political parties and commentators will use debates over the Confederate flag and Confederate iconography as a way to talk about race and “political correctness”. That is already well underway. At one time, politicians talked in “code” when it came to issues of race. (the Willie Horton ad, for instance)Donald Trump has made that practice obsolete. “The Donald” says what is on his mind, and his poll numbers go up. That says something, and something quite significant, since what is on Trump’s “mind” leaves little to the imagination when it comes to issues of race– and of gender.

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  7. Annette Jackson

    Terry, I would bet that most of the new members of the SCV are motivated by the politics of fear than by any real interest in the Civil War.Fortunately, where I live the Flaggers are pretty much staying out, since oddly enough they found no one was impressed with them parading the battle flag in a predominately African-American community.

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    1. terry

      They joined for the same reason on April 12, 1861, General P.G.T. Beauregard, in command of the Confederate forces around Charleston Harbor, opened fire on the Union garrison holding Fort Sumter. They are/were being attacked. And please don’t bore me by saying the Confederates were not being attacked.

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      1. Kevin Levin Post author

        And please don’t bore me by saying the Confederates were not being attacked.

        No, in this case they were clearly the ones doing the attacking just as you describe. 🙂

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      2. Jimmy Dick

        Bore you by saying the Confederates were not being attacked? You mean refute the lie you just made. You made a pretty solid statement. Now show the proof. Where is the primary source or sources to back up your lie?

        I have never seen any source that says the US military attacked first at Fort Sumter. I have seen a lot of modern neo-confederates try to claim that Anderson’s removal of the garrison from Moultrie to Sumter was an act of war, but that’s pure garbage. The sources show exactly what took place and clearly show that Jefferson Davis gave the order to attack Fort Sumter. Beauregard followed that order and commenced the bombardment as instructed.

        So let’s see what you come up with.

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        1. Andy Hall

          Having recently visited Fort Moultrie, I can more easily understand (and agree) with Major Anderson’s decision to evacuate that site in favor of Sumter, a mile across the entrance to the harbor. From the land side, Moultrie is almost indefensible particularly with the small number of men Anderson had. A few dozen drunk frat boys with extension ladders from Home Depot could’ve taken Moultrie. It was an untenable position for Anderson, and stole a march (or rather, a boat ride) on the secessionist militia. It showed smarts and initiative, and avoided both bloodshed — if he’d tried to defend Moultrie against the assault he believed was coming — and maintained a United States presence at Charleston.

          Anderson’s move made the secessionist fire-eaters look like a bunch of fools. The real Confederates were angry and embarrassed about it in 1860, and the make-believe Confederates still are in 2015.

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          1. H. S. Anderson

            The sad thing about Fort Sumter is that the whole incident need not have happened, if either side had been a little more level-headed about it. Either the Confederates could have allowed the reinforcement and resupply expedition to do just that, and let them sit in Charleston harbor. If they then made a military move against Charleston, then the US would look like the aggressor. Or Lincoln could have been more patient and perceptive himself, and realized that the “rebellion” was a lot more serious than he seemed to think, given that American society had fractured and half the country that had broken away. Diplomacy rather than force may well have kept Virginia and the other border states form leaving, and it may have been possible to restore the Union without a war, given time.

            I’ve been out to Sumter myself, many years ago. What struck me is just how tiny it is. I’d hate to be trapped there enduring that bombardment, with literally nowhere to retreat to.

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            1. Jimmy Dick

              Lincoln was being patient. Time was on his side. It was Davis who had the problem. Once the initial rush of secession faded, the reality began to set in. People began to ask questions that Davis and the slave owners could not answer. If Davis could not get the US to back down and vacate military installations without using force, then that would not have looked good for the fledgling CSA. He had to make a decision on whether or not to use force to remove the US troops. He chose force.

              Lincoln did exactly what he needed to do. He had decisions of his own to make. Had he ordered the removal of the garrisons in the seceding states, he would have been signaling the end of the United States. James Buchanan failed to act and for that he has been condemned to being the worst president in US history. He might have been (very subjective there) able to head off some of the looming crisis, but he did nothing. Lincoln took office with a very bad situation thanks to Buchanan.

              He made what he could of it. Diplomacy was under way. The slave owners rejected it. But when Davis committed treason and ordered the attack on US property (no question of that ownership either) the die was cast. The issue was settled on the field of battle and the United States of America defeated the rebels.

              My opinion which is open to discussion on the matter of peaceful reunion is that it almost certainly would have occurred. However, Davis and the slave owners could not let that happen. They had invested too much into secession and they decided to fight a war. Bad, bad choice.

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              1. H. S. Anderson

                There was Confederate diplomacy as well, but Lincoln rejected that. He refused to even meet with them. There was a chance for dialogue, and I think more patience was called for. If the Confederacy would have fallen apart on its own in the absence of a war, it would have benefitted us all for Lincoln to have simply waited the crisis out.

              2. H. S. Anderson

                Early on, if it would have saved the Union, Lincoln would have done just that.

                I wish there had been a way to both free all the slaves and avoid the war entirely. I don’t see any way that could have happened though, circumstances being what they were.

              3. Jimmy Dick

                To treat with rebel diplomats would have been sanctioning their acts of secession. He could not meet with them. Government officials were trying to make compromises over slavery throughout secession winter, but the slave owners rejected them. They wanted things their way or else. While the Crittendon Compromise failed for multiple reasons, one thing it did was take away the right of the people of a state to make their own choices regarding slavery. How ironic is it that so many people today want to say state’s rights was the reason for secession when the very men who chose secession did so while rejecting state’s rights?

                The Corwin Amendment was advanced with the support of President Lincoln, but that did not satisfy slave owners who wanted a nation where slavery could never be abolished. So now who was refusing diplomacy? The US bent over backwards to try to meet the demands of the slave owners, but in the end, it was the slave owners who rejected diplomacy. Where Lincoln preferred to let things run their course, Davis ordered the attack on Ft. Sumter.

                Lincoln was perfectly within his rights to call up state militias to put down a rebellion as specified in the US Constitution. He acted in accordance with the US Constitution in using military force to put down that rebellion. He could have acted sooner on the illegal seizure of federal property, the illegal theft of the gold and silver bullion at the New Orleans Mint, and the treason committed by any individual in the seceding states who was advocating the use of military force against the lawful government of the United States of America.

                The slave owners had absolutely no justification for their treason whatsoever. Davis had no justification for his order to attack Ft. Sumter. They committed treason

              4. H.S. Anderson

                The result of not continuing to talk was 620,000 dead. I don’t believe any leader of the day escapes the blame for that, Lincoln included.

              5. Jimmy Dick

                You can begin the blaming process by starting with those who advocated secession, voted to secede, and led the Confederacy to war. Historical fact shows that the Confederates mobilized for war and started it before Lincoln called for one soldier to put the rebellion down. Lincoln had a choice AFTER the attack on Fort Sumter: Let the United States be destroyed by traitors or fight to preserve it and the principles brought forth in the American Revolution.

                He made the right choice in my opinion. The US stood for things of value such as in Lincoln’s immortal words at Gettysburg: “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

                The Confederacy stood for none of these things. Its government was built to sustain the rule of an elite class for their interests, not that of its people. Its foundation was built on slavery and it waged a war to protect that foundation and its way of life which was chattel slavery and white supremacy.

                The people of this nation have not always been right. They’ve made plenty of errors to this point and will make plenty more. That is the way of life. But, unlike other nations, this one was built on something other than race, religion, tribe, or creeds. It was constructed of ideas which have often been hard for its people to reach. Yet, the people keep trying to reach those ideas and cherish those values. That is why it is the American Journey. We have something to strive for and it was worth fighting for in 1861 to the people of the United States.

  8. Rob Wick

    Kevin,

    Given that our society refuses to even consider any meaningful reform of gun laws, I think much of the reason for what happened this year was an attempt to do something concrete if ancillary to the issue. That said, I doubt much more will be done on a national level but more so on a regional level, which is probably where it belongs.

    Best
    Rob

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  9. Sherree

    Jimmy,

    I agree with you when it comes to the Confederacy. I do not agree, however, that the South is a nation apart, separate from other Americans and from the American ideals of freedom and liberty. I don’t think you are saying this, but I am not certain. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison were all white Southerners. It won’t do to say that they were our Founders, and, therefore, somehow separate from the South. The South produced these Founding Fathers, for good and for ill. Just interested in how historians conceptualize this. It is important, particularly for race relations.

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    1. Jimmy Dick

      I really try not to use the words “The South” when discussing the Civil War because the majority of people in “the South” opposed secession. To use the words is to imply there was a united South when there was nothing of the kind. There is one nation, the US. The South is a region of that nation.

      I am not so sure I would say the South produced those founders. Was there a distinction already present by the time of the Revolution? Yes, but let’s look at the principles of the Revolution. Those principles were evident from Maine to South Carolina. George Washington and John Adams were in agreement more than they were with Thomas Jefferson later, but they were in agreement during the Revolution. I don’t see the distinction as being a major concern other than geographically during the Revolution.

      It would be later that a major difference would arise and that had to do with slavery and everything that came with it. Slavery produced an elite class of rulers. The elimination of slavery stopped the elite class in northern states from consolidating power whereas the opposite occurred in the southern or slave holding states.

      Interesting how James Madison while being from Virginia opposed the idea of secession and said it was unconstitutional. He also disagreed with the nullifiers of South Carolina. Apparently he was ignored by slave owners in the South who wanted something else.

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      1. Kevin Levin Post author

        I think we should be cautious about assuming a solid South as well, but there are plenty of reasons to refer to a Confederate nation as does Emory Thomas, Gary Gallagher and others.

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      2. Sherree

        Thank you for your reply. I am thinking of a South–and of a Virginia–of long ago. There was as much interest in the Revolution, Sir Walter Raleigh, and in being “part Indian”, as there was in the Civil War, although the Civil War played a prominent role, without a strong insistence on Confederate loyalty. I am talking about stories told to me by my grandmother, who was the granddaughter of a Confederate veteran. (Sir Walter Raleigh was my addition, due to history books in those days) There was a palpable sense of history that is difficult to describe. It was still there. The last fragments of moments were still there. As children, we used to play near the grounds of the ruins of an old inn where Revolutionary soldiers mustered, our ancestors included. “George Washington slept there,” we were told, thought. Not the same as history. I understand that. But the imaginative fuel that helps to keep history alive. The “part Indian” segment of the narrative became very important in my own life in later years. My family’s connection to the African American community goes back generations. This is my South. I can’t seem to find it anywhere. It existed. I know that. Because I experienced it in my time. Happy New Year to you!

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        1. Jimmy Dick

          Sherree,

          I actually prefer the Revolution over the Civil War, but get drawn to the conflict because of the incredible amount of change that took place as the result of the war which I then have to explain to my students. They see the past through a lens that is obscured and distorted by poor teaching in high school. They feel no connection to it because they don’t understand their own family history. That’s where I bring in the stories of the past through my own experiences as well as through what I’ve learned of my family’s.

          It opens up the past to them in a way they’ve never known. I begin with the migration of peoples into North America around 15K or so ago. To the students those people are abstract figures until I ask who has Native American ancestry. Then I point out that my family has at least two Native Americans in it which means those people who moved into North America are my ancestors as well as theirs. All of a sudden the students feel a connection to those people as well as the various ones we talk about up to 1500.

          From there we move to when Europeans first moved to North America. I ask if anyone knows when their ancestors arrived. Very few do. They can say German, English, or Spanish, but few know when or why they came. I point out that my earliest ancestors besides Native Americans (that I know of so far) arrived in 1700 and settled at Germantown in Virginia. From there they moved westward until most arrived in Northwest Missouri in the 1840s to 1870s. I am able to place an ancestor with Daniel Boone in 1773 as they moved into Kentucky and triggered events that helped contribute to Lord Dunmore’s War.

          The same ancestor was the last man to be commissioned as a brigadier general in the Continental Army. His first wife died in 1776 and he remarried, this time to the sister of Patrick Henry. She is not part of the ancestry, but I love to point out to the kids how my family is related to Henry via marriage. These kids are enthralled when I talk about the past through family experiences. The details capture their attention such as when I talk about one relative who kept marrying younger women every time one died.

          I can place a few who were in the Civil War and really did not play a role in it although one branch of the family (at least) were major supporters of the Confederacy and served in the army. I’m pretty sure one relative was a minor guerrilla leader here in Missouri although I have not confirmed it. Not directly related, but a side branch. I talk about family experiences in WWI, my grandfather’s in WWII, my stepfather’s in Vietnam and others. The kids often will go home and pepper their parents with questions. All semester long I have students relating some tidbits of family history they’ve discovered as the result of becoming curious about their own past.

          It all comes from knowing the past, learning the history of the family, and making the connections between the two. Some of my ancestors owned slaves. I have the proof. I point this out to my students. I use this information to establish a connection to things that we may not like and sometimes find uncomfortable. It’s a great lesson in explaining slavery and how people saw it then compared to now.

          The bottom line is my students are constantly commenting both personally and officially via written student evaluations how this opens up history for them. I don’t sugar coat the past for them and they appreciate it. They keep commenting about how I’m connecting the past to the present and with current events to make them think. Some of them have gone so far as to start researching their family histories and that makes them look at history a bit differently. It is not abstract any more. It is personal.

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          1. Sherree

            “It is not abstract anymore. It is personal. ”

            That is the key–to make history live, and to show its relevance. Your students are very fortunate to have you as an instructor.

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  10. Bruce Vail

    I predict Baltimore will begin the process of removing some, but not all, of its Confederate monuments, and that the debate will remain active throughout other parts of Maryland.

    Baltimore’s Lee-Jackson statue will likely be relocated, but the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Memorial will remain (after all, we have a Union Soldiers and Sailors monument too).

    Talk has resurfaced about the Maryland state song (the pro-Confederate ‘Maryland, My Maryland’) and there have been new protests raised about some of the Confederate monuments in several of the state’s smaller cities and towns.

    A decision by Baltimore to remove monuments will certainly inspire agitation on the issue.

    Reply
  11. Patrick

    I believe in moderation in all things. I consider myself left-of-center. However, the staunch Southerners took me by surprise. I couldn’t believe the lack of balls they had just letting their flag and statues come down so easily. Next they want to remove traces of Woodrow Wilson from Princeton. Whats next? George Washington and Thomas Jefferson assailed because they owned slaves. Slavery was wrong – we know this. But to eradicate our country’s tangible history is the wimpification of America. Meanwhile teachers are being assaulted and knocked out cold in urban settings and nothing is said about it. It’s a disgrace.

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    1. Andy Hall

      However, the staunch Southerners took me by surprise. I couldn’t believe the lack of balls they had just letting their flag and statues come down so easily.

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      Part of the problem is that the heritage crowd has spent so many years talking to themselves — repeating the same hoary tropes, commiserating with each other over the oppression they’re suffering, and trying to out-do one another in unreconstructed rhetoric — that they have no idea how to make their case to the larger general public. Shouting about “cultural genocide” and insisting that Robert E. Lee really was an abolitionist may get them lots of “likes” from the Facebook friends, but it just leaves most people shaking their heads and wanting to cross over to the other side of the street.

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