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It’s been a real thrill having the opportunity over the past few months to speak with audience from around the country about the current controversy surrounding Confederate monuments and other iconography. My audiences have been very receptive and I always walk away having learned something.

Last night I spoke at The Royall House & Slave Quarters in Medford, just north of Boston. I thought the weather might keep some people away, but it turned out to be standing-room-only. I could not have asked for a more attentive audience. This morning I received a very kind email from a member of the organization’s board of directors.

Dear Kevin — Thank you so much for last night’s terrific program: for thinking to offer it to us, for a really good talk, and for the fund- and friend-raising it generated.

I’m being entirely truthful when I say that yours was the most enthralled audience I’ve ever witnessed here.  I was sitting way in back, so I could literally see everyone, and no one squirmed, no watches were checked, not a single yawn!  Instead, heads were nodding, people turned to each other to corroborate your remarks, they chuckled at your humor.  You’re a good teacher!

I’ve been following this topic pretty closely, at least lately, but I learned a lot last night, and you raised some new angles on the issues that hadn’t occurred to me before.  Plus the social justice theme that ran through all you said was so important.

Thanks for being such a good friend of our organization!

It’s nice to know that my passion for this subject and commitment to sharing my understanding with audiences resonates. My interest in history has always had a strong social component, whether it’s through blogging, writing op-eds, teaching or public presentations. It makes little sense to devote one’s life to a subject like the history and memory of the Civil War without finding a way to share it with others.

I am still scheduling talks and would be happy to work with you to arrange something that is suitable for your organization/community. Over the past few months I have presented at schools, museums and other historic sites and even one investment firm.

Interested? Let’s start the conversation.

3 comments… add one
  • I was in the audience in Medford and I second the Board member’s kudos for your presentation. I’m glad my niece and I arrived early and was able to snag a good seat. You offered a terrific overview of the history of monuments and their UDC/Lost Cause and Reconciliation Movement backstories. Loved the slides. I thought you did a great job of offering meat to chew on for people with a knowledge of the monument debate, while presenting information that educated newbies to the topic (like my niece) about the debate’s complexities. My niece, who has little knowledge of the Civil War and the monument controversies, was completely engaged.

    I hope you’ll turn your attention sometime to the memorial plaque “in honor of the Confederate soldiers” on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., that was affixed in 1925 to an 1891 monument to Union soldiers. The plaque went up with the support of the small band of the island’s surviving GAR members. Its history is fascinating. The original 1891 tribute to Union men was financed by a Confederate veteran who had moved to the Vineyard after the war. The story of the building of the original monument, its chief patron, and the plaque honoring Confederate soldiers and “in memory of a restored Union” is nuanced and, in my opinion, a challenge to fit into the debate about removing Confederate monuments.

    Reply
    • Hi Rob,

      Thanks for coming out Wednesday night as well as for the kind words. Pleased to hear that your niece enjoyed my presentation as well. I agree that I need to take a closer look at the monument on Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve read a few online articles, but perhaps there are some interesting local archival sources available as well.

      Reply
      • Hi Kevin. My understanding of the story of Confederate veteran Charles Strahan and his financing of the 1891 Soldiers Memorial Fountain and the GAR’s honorific 1925 plaque is based largely on two secondary sources, magazine articles without footnotes, that I Googled. Links to those sources are: http://www.mvmagazine.com/news/2013/08/01/uniting-divided and http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2005/jul/22/20050722-085343-9433r/. The Times article is more comprehensive.

        As far as primary sources, I don’t know about archives that would cover the 1891 and 1925 monument dedications. Maybe there are issues of Strahan’s Herald and the GAR chapter meetings and newsletter records on the Vineyard or somewhere else, like the LOC. The Martha’s Vineyard Museum doesn’t have anything, I was told.

        Links to articles written post-Charlottesville and letters-to-the-editor that reflect the monument debate on the Vineyard are: https://vineyardgazette.com/news/2017/08/17/monument-healing, and https://vineyardgazette.com/news/2017/08/20/unity-rally-joins-charlotesville-counterprotest. There are other articles in the island newspapers, but as I recall the responses to the articles reflect the same pro and con monument sentiments pretty much.

        I think it’s a complex and fascinating story, and I can see why this island landmark appears venerable to many and objectionable to some. If you’ve got time I hope you take a look.

        Reply

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