Two recent articles have suggested that push back against Confederate iconography and commemoration is waning since the lowering of the Confederate battle flag in Columbia, South Carolina last summer. A number of states and local communities still recognize April as Confederate History/Heritage Month. This also includes the recognition of Confederate Memorial Day. The media focused a good deal of attention on Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant’s proclamation and subsequent defense of his decision to carry on the practice this past month. [click to continue…]
A number of cities across the country have or are currently engaged in debates about the place of Confederate monuments on public ground. New Orleans recently voted to remove four monuments, but has yet to follow through. Only the University of Texas at Austin has removed Civil War related monuments from campus. Today, the city of Louisville and the University of Louisville announced that a major Confederate monument will be removed immediately from public land adjacent to the campus. [click to continue…]
Chapter three in my current book project, Searching For Black Confederates, focuses a good deal on the roles that former camp slaves played at veterans reunions and parades. We’ve all seen the photographs of former slaves, who took part in these well-attended events, but this is the first time that I have come across an envelope from the United Confederate Veterans that features the loyal camp slave narrative.
I am going to have to look deeper to see if there are other commemorative items from this period, sponsored by the UCV and UDC, that highlight these stories. Today, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other heritage organizations rely on the internet to propagate these stories, but this ought to be understood as an early example of that same goal.
As much of an achievement as that is, I am even more excited for Brian Matthew Jordan, who was named a finalist for his book, Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War. It is beautifully written and thought provoking. Last semester I taught it in my research seminar at the American Antiquarian Society and students thoroughly enjoyed it. I suspect that this is going to open many doors for Brian and I look forward to congratulating him in person in Gettysburg this summer.
Update: It’s worth reading Robert Moore’s post on the SPLC report. I agree that a bottom-up approach to Confederate monuments must not be overlooked, but I also believe he too easily dismisses the insights that can be gleaned from looking at this issue top-down. If that is all we do we will miss the opportunity to make broader connections that help us to make sense of things like the distribution of monument erections over time. No doubt, we will find a wide range of stories on the local level that help explain what motivated communities to erect monuments and engage in commemorative activities that celebrate and honor the Confederacy. Those stories are important. None of this, however, negates the fact that the vast majority of Confederate monuments were erected at a time when black Americans were disfranchised. We need both narratives.
Yesterday the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report that catalogs examples of Confederate iconography across the United States. The report is well worth downloading and reading and includes a state-by-state list of monuments and a wide range of public sites named in honor of the Confederacy and its leaders. It is not comprehensive, but it does provide a solid foundation. The report concludes by offering suggestions for people interested in bringing attention to these sites in their own communities. [click to continue…]