Much of my writing about the Civil War 150th is framed around a sharp contrast with how Americans commemorated the war in the early 1960s, during the Centennial. There can be no doubt that we have witnessed significant shifts in how Americans remember and commemorate the war. The most significant shift has got to be in our willingness to deal directly with the tough questions of slavery and race from the Civil War era. But in going back 50 years I wonder if I have given short thrift to a more recent milestone.
I recently came across this brief documentary that was produced by WCVB-TV here in Boston to mark the 125th. There are a number of gems in these videos. For example, in the first segment below a black employee of the NPS at Fort Sumter resists sharing his own understanding of the war with the reporter.
I was struck by just how much Lost Cause imagery and references could still be found both in the subject matter and in the reporting itself. In the segment on the legacy of the war the narrator alludes to the “gross mistakes of Reconstruction that prolonged the epilogue of the war a full century.”
The videos left me thinking that we are not so far removed from the Lost Cause.