Introducing #NOLASyllabus

I have been blown away by the amount of thoughtful commentary that has come out over the past few weeks in response to the removal of monuments in New Orleans. It has been impossible to read them all. For a historian of Civil War memory I am hard pressed to find another period that has witnessed such an intense interest in Confederate monuments and their future in communities across the country.

With that in mind I have decided to undertake a little crowdsourcing project inspired by the success of #CharlestonSyllabus, which was organized by Kidada E. Williams, Keisha Blain, and Chad Williams. Their goal was to collect a wide range of resources to help the public better understand the the murder of nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. That project ultimately resulted in a book by the same name.

I am calling this little project #NOLASyllabus and the goal is to collect as wide a range of resources to help teachers, students, and the general public better understand the history and memory of Confederate monuments in New Orleans and beyond as well as the broader debate.

I have yet to finalize the categories, but that will come with your participation. Feel free to offer any suggestions, especially sources that you believe should be included. Please think out of the box. You can leave your suggestions in the comments section below. On twitter you should (not surprisingly) use the hashtag #NOLASyllabus if you want to share suggestions there and please help me get the word out. The more people, the better.

You will find a link to the #NOLASyllabus list at the top of the page.

27 comments… add one
  • Forester May 24, 2017

    I was just looking at Facebook picture albums of the protests around the monuments in NOLA, and I don’t even know what to make of them. The presentism is off the charts, on both sides. Supporters were waving the thin blue line (police memorial) flag, and opponents had the gay rainbow …. oh, it was just an absolute circus.

    It’s gonna take me a few days to mentally unpack this.

    The polarization is just making everyone act dumber. So while I have nothing to add to your syllabus, I hope you can help make some sense out of this NOLA mess. People are oversimplifying and modernizing the past, while neglecting basic chronological facts. I saw a conservative Facebook post about “social Marxism” and tax-based secession …. followed by a liberal response about how the Confederates were traitors who should’ve been hung like Benedict Arnold was. My brain hurts.

    Historical memory and understanding is no longer the focus of the conflict — it’s a casualty. SAVE US. Save this planet before it’s too late. >_<

    • Andy Hall May 25, 2017

      The protests around the monuments in New Orleans were an absolute clown show. The only good thing is that no one (AFAIK) was seriously hurt, which in that atmosphere was not a given.

      Antifa, Communists, Klansmen, Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, Arlene Army, League of the Southers — all those folks need to stay the hell home and let the people of New Orleans handle their own affairs.

      • Forester May 25, 2017

        I’m surprised no one was hurt, given how much open-carrying there was.

        • Andy Hall May 25, 2017

          IIRC one of the monuments was within a certain distance of a school, and the NOPD firmly reminded the open carry folks that they were in violation and subject to arrest of they persisted. That reduced the presence of firearms a good bit.

  • Pogo May 25, 2017

    As a descendant of slave owners and any number of Confederate army privates, I’ve been conflicted about the removal question. The things I’d add to the syllabus are a couple of classics– W.J. Cash’s The Mind of the South and C. Vann Woodward’s The Strange Career of Jim Crow.or The Origins of the New South and The Daughters of Dixie, which is a history of the United Daughters of the Confederacy..

    • Kevin Levin May 25, 2017

      Thank you for the suggestions.

  • Kelley May 25, 2017

    A conversation between me and Chioke I’Anson about monuments, racism, and growing up in the south. http://withgoodreasonradio.org/episode/encounters-at-the-heart-of-the-world/ (Start listening at 27:30.)

    • Kevin Levin May 25, 2017

      Thank you.

  • cagraham May 25, 2017

    For the Jim Crow category:

    Glenda Gilmore, Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920

    J. Douglas Smith, Managing White Supremacy: Race, Politics, and Citizenship in Jim Crow Virginia.

    Both offer deep insights into the political-racial regimes that Lost Cause views of the past maintained.

    • Kevin Levin May 25, 2017

      Definitely. Thanks again, Chris.

  • cagraham May 25, 2017

    If this is slipping over into flags, then try battleflag.us

  • Karen L. Cox May 25, 2017

    Well. . . I’m going to have to suggest Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture by some gal named Karen L. Cox.

    • Kevin Levin May 25, 2017

      Never heard of her. 🙂 Of course that one is going up. Thanks Karen.

  • cagraham May 25, 2017

    Catherine W. Bishir, “‘A Strong Force of Ladies’: Women, Politics, and Confederate Memorial Associations in Nineteenth Century Raleigh,” North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. 77, No. 4 (October 2000), 455-491.

    Thomas Brown’s Civil War Canon

    And also, duh, Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina, http://docsouth.unc.edu/commland/

  • archaeoad May 25, 2017

    It doesn’t appear to be on the syllabus yet, so I’ll suggest Dell Upton’s (2015) “What Can and Can’t Be Said: Race, Uplift, and Monument Building in the Contemporary South.”
    http://yalebooks.com/book/9780300211757/what-can-and-cant-be-said

  • megankatenelson May 26, 2017

    From my actual syllabus for History and Literature 97 (sophomore tutorial) on “American Cities,” co-taught with Eoin Cannon and including a unit on New Orleans:

    For your Katrina List:
    *Journal of American History* published a special issue of essays on Hurricane Katrina in January 2007. Here’s the JSTOR link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/i25095126
    Spike Lee’s “When the Levees Broke” (2006) (documentary).

    Are you including a unit on slavery? If so, Walter Johnson’s *Soul By Soul* should be included, and for primary docs:
    The Black Code of Louisiana (1724)
    “A Slave Pen at New Orleans” [illustration], Harper’s Weekly (January 24, 1863): 61.

    • Kevin Levin May 26, 2017

      Great. Thanks, Megan. Yes, I definitely need to set aside a section on slavery.

    • Msb May 27, 2017

      I second Soul by Soul. Tremendous book.

      • Kevin Levin May 27, 2017

        It has been added.

  • Patrick Saylor May 26, 2017

    The AmericanCivil War Museum devoted its 2017 Symposium to Confederate monuments. It can be seen online on C-SPAN’s American History TV.

    • Kevin Levin May 26, 2017

      Thanks, Patrick. Those videos have already been listed.

  • Rob Baker May 26, 2017

    This has been trending lately.

    http://www.theroot.com/farmingwhileblack-black-va-farmer-says-nervous-white-1795498504

    #FarmingWhileBlack: Black Va. Farmer Says ‘Nervous White Women in Yoga Pants’ More Dangerous Than Blatant White Supremacists

    • Kevin Levin May 26, 2017

      Read it the other day. Thanks for reminding me.

  • cagraham May 28, 2017

    Tremendous reading list. What do you think about distilling it into a reader like the Charleston Syllabus, or one of the Bedford Series in History and Culture readers? The Bedford series is extremely popular in the college classroom (I used them all the time), and if it’s under $20, it would sell is museum gift shops.

    • Kevin Levin May 28, 2017

      The thought has definitely crossed my mind, but to be honest, I am still trying to figure out where this is going. Is the central focus New Orleans and the cultural, political, economic, and racial conditions that led to removal or is the city ultimately a window into broader issues of Civil War memory and the current debate about Confederate iconography. Of course, these are not mutually exclusive options, but it does give you a sense of my own confusion at this stage.

      I tend to see this as NOLA centered so if I do proceed I will want to work with someone local to really nail down the local perspective. I can certainly fill in the larger historical themes related to slavery, Civil War, Reconstruction and historical memory. Hope that makes sense.

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