Bill O’Reilly’s Benevolent Slaveowners

Slave House in Washington, D.C.

Slave House in Washington, D.C.

Update: Bill O’Reilly offers additional comments confirming that Michelle Obama’s statements about slavery are accurate, which leaves me wondering why he needed to point it out to begin with.

Last night Bill O’Reilly used his “Tip of the Day” segment to respond directly to First Lady Michelle Obama’s address to the Democratic Party Convention in which she referenced the use of slaves to build the White House. The First Lady used the opportunity to remind her listeners of how far we’ve come as a nation and to try to impart some understanding of what it has meant for one African-American family to occupy the White House for the past eight years. Many listeners were likely surprised to hear this little tidbit of history, while others, no doubt, refused to believe it. O’Reilly’s “spin” reflects the continued difficulty of coming to terms with this aspect of our nation’s past. [click to continue…]


Three Views of Reconstruction

In this brief video, Anne Sarah Rubin, Matthew Pinsker, and Gregory Downs offer their own approach to understanding the challenges and legacy of Reconstruction. This is perfect for classroom use. What I like about it is that it offers students the opportunity to explore how three very talented historians arrive at different conclusions based on the available evidence.

[Uploaded to YouTube on July 26, 2016]


From Camp Slave to Janitor

MaconTelegraphFeb21895Here is a wonderful example of how the role of the loyal camp slave during the Civil War served to define and reinforce race relations decades later. In February 1895, Governor William Y. Atkinson appointed Robert Atkinson to the position of janitor at the state capitol in Atlanta, Georgia.

The appointment was an acknowledgment of Robert’s role as the camp slave or “body servant” to the governor’s younger brother. Robert accompanied John P. Atkinson and following his wounding, “carried him off the battlefield, and later brought him home to his father’s hearthstone to die.” Accounts of slaves escorting their dead or wounded masters home litter postwar accounts and provide for white southerners the clearest evidence of faithful service.

The appointment also provided an opportunity for Governor Atkinson to outline the kind of behavior he expected from Georgia’s black population, especially those who expected any kind of support from the state government. It is very likely that Robert’s request was accompanied by a clear demonstration of his continued loyalty to the family and an acknowledgment of his place in the racial hierarchy.


Should This Civil War Museum Change Its Logo?

Museum of Medicine

Even the Museum of the Confederacy/American Civil War Museum gets it. The Confederate battle flag is a toxic symbol that ought to be displayed exclusively in a setting where it can be properly interpreted. You will not find battle flags welcoming visitors at its branches in Richmond or at Appomattox. And as far as I have seen, you will not find the battle flag on its logo and other advertisements. [click to continue…]


New to the Civil War Memory Library, 07/19

Announcement: Earlier today I learned that the University Press of Kentucky will bring Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder out in paperback next spring. I’ve been hoping for some time that they would do this and I couldn’t be more excited. I will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Chandra ManningDouglas R. Egerton, Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments that Redeemed America (Basic Books, 2016). [I just finished reading my advanced copy and can’t recommend it enough.]

Earl J. Hess, Civil War Infantry Tactics: Training, Combat, and Small-Unit Effectiveness (Louisiana State University Press, 2015).

Jill Lepore, Joe Gould’s Teeth (Knopf, 2016).

James Lee McDonough, William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life (W.W. Norton, 2016).

Chandra Manning, Troubled Refuge: Struggling for Freedom in the Civil War (Knopf, 2016).

Brent Tarter, A Saga of the New South: Race, Law, and Public Debt in Virginia (University Press of Virginia, 2016).