Upcoming Talks (March 2014)

Just a quick reminder that I will be speaking in the following places this month. On March 15 I will be speaking, along with Stephen Engel, Gordon Rhea, Eric Wittenberg, Brian S. Wills, at Longwood University’s annual Civil War seminar. Looking forward to seeing friends in Virginia. [click to continue…]

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Counting at Andersonville

Andersonville National Historic Site

Andersonville National Historic Site

It’s easy to be seduced by the latest use of technology in our museums and other historic sites to get across the Civil War experience and the human cost. They are powerful tools and can be incredibly effective, but once in a while, we are reminded that the simplest approach works best. Such is the case at Andersonville National Historic Site, where they are keeping track on a daily basis the number of new prisoners admitted as well as the latest deaths and burials. It’s incredibly powerful.

I am not sure where this is situated in the visitor center, but I hope it is one of the first things that people see when they enter. It is often difficult for people to wrap their heads around large numbers, but this little display makes it easy to identify recent losses in the context of the life of the prison. If I was visiting I would immediately inquire into the names of the men who died on this day 150 years ago. How did they arrive at the prison? Where were they from? Those men would serve as my guides through the site.

I’ve never been to Andersonville, but I hope to visit one day. I applaud the NPS staff. This is a challenging commemoration, but from what I can tell they’ve got the right people on board.

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Travoltifying the Civil War

John Travolta’s butchering of Idina Menzel’s name last night at the Oscars is now a handy little widget that you can use to “Travoltify” your own name. My name becomes Kelvin Lezwis. I decided to plug in a few names from the Civil War for fun:

  • Stonewall Jackson becomes “Sebastian Jerkson”
  • Abraham Lincoln becomes “Archibald Wailson”
  • James Longstreet becomes “Joss Lopeez”
  • Robert E. Lee becomes “Robbie Edbrards”
  • Alexander Stephens becomes “Aleksander Sorphens”
  • Ulysses S. Grant becomes “Ellis Stonz”
  • Bonus: Alexander Schimmelfennig becomes “Aleksander Sancheez”

You get the picture.

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12 Years A Slave Wins Best Picture

Check out Mary Niall Mitchell’s Common-place essay on the backstory of 12 Years.

As many of you now know, last night 12 Years A Slave won Oscars for Best Picture, Actress in a Supporting Role, and Adapted Screenplay. Congratulations to Steve McQueen, John Ridley, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, and the rest of the cast and crew for making this important movie.

“Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup,” – Steve McQueen

“Cruel, unjust, exploitative, oppressive, slavery bound two peoples together in bitter antagonism…” – Eugene Genovese

There are plans to bring this movie to classrooms across the country. Stay tuned.

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“We Won That War and Never Let Them Forget It”

In 2011 I took part in a panel on the myth of the black Confederate soldier with Emmanuel Dabney, Ervin Jordan, and Jaime Martinez at the annual meeting of the ASALH in Richmond. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but I did not attend the Carter G. Woodson luncheon featuring Daryl Michael Scott. The topic of his address – or should I say sermon – was the importance of remembering the service of black soldiers as “The Greatest Black Generation.” [click to continue…]

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