For much of my teaching career I have worked to achieve some level of gender equity in the books and articles that I assign my students to read. This has been especially the case in the many elective classes that I have taught on the Civil War era. My overall goal has been to challenge both the tendency to see the Civil War as a masculine subject and the historians and enthusiasts that it attracts as overwhelmingly male. This goes far in tearing down some of the barriers that prevent female students from fully embracing the subject as their own and one that is worthy of serious study.
It should come as no surprise that this outlook helped to shape the reading list for my research seminar at the AAS, which begins next week. Of the six books that I ordered three are authored by women. This past spring Joseph Adelman reflected on similar concerns regarding his reading list for a course on the American Revolution, only he took it a step further. He wondered whether the reading list for an entire undergraduate course on the Revolution could be filled with books by female authors. I didn’t find the results particularly shocking, but it was certainly worth the effort if only to visualize it for the sake of discussion. Continue reading →
On September 7 PBS will broadcast Ken Burns’s The Civil War on what will be the 25th anniversary of its release. Burns hopes that the re-packaging of the series in ultra high-definition will attract a new crowd. We shall see.
Recently, Burns was interviewed about the anniversary of the series on CBS’s Face the Nation. He was asked about recent polls that continue to point to the percentage of Americans who do not identify slavery as the central cause of the war or its role in shaping the war’s outcome. Burns points to movies such as Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind as continuing to shape our memory of the war and the antebellum period. Certainly these movies influenced the viewing public at some point, but it’s difficult to believe that they remain relevant.
Burns would do well to look more closely at his own documentary for a better sense of why Americans continue to struggle to fully grasp the centrality of slavery to the Civil War. Continue reading →
Although it was organized last minute, I thought some of you would like to know that I will be co-moderating a discussion on the ongoing controversy surrounding Confederate iconography at the annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History in Louisville, Kentucky next month. The other moderator for this discussion will be Bob Beatty, who is the chief operating officer for the AASLH. A few years ago I took part in an AASLH roundtable discussion on the Civil War sesquicentennial and had a wonderful time. Continue reading →
Thought I would end the work week with a little crowd-sourcing related to my Silas Chandler biography. Right now I am analyzing the journey from Virginia to northeast Mississippi that was made by Gilderoy “Roy” Chandler and Louisa Garner, along with fourteen slaves in 1839. One of those slaves was Silas. I am relying a great deal on secondary sources such as Joan Cashin’s A Family Venture: Men and Women on the Southern Frontier and Charles Sydnor’s helpful, but dated book, Slavery in Mississippi to fill in some of the unknowns. Continue reading →