What Monument Avenue Does

There was nothing inevitable about the end of slavery in the United States. Enslaved people fueled this country’s economy, generated great amounts of wealth for their owners, and helped to define American Exceptionalism for many, who envisioned a greater role on the world stage for this slave holding nation. [click to continue…]

Richmond Creates “Monument Avenue Commission”

Update: Mayor Stoney’s full remarks can be found here.

This is an interesting development. Today the mayor of Richmond announced the creation of the Monument Avenue Commission, which will examine ways to add historical context to its Confederate monuments. A few weeks ago I suggested that Richmond will likely not follow other cities like New Orleans and this announcement today suggests that I may have been right. [click to continue…]

Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws on Confederate Monuments

One thing that was clear after walking through the historic district of Savannah and that is the city does not ooze Lost Cause symbolism. Perhaps this should come as no surprise given that the city surrendered to the Union army without much of a fight in December 1864.

The city boasts one significant Confederate monument in beautiful Forsyth Park. The monument has an interesting backstory. Organizers insisted that the stone must not originate or pass through a northern state on its way to the city. There were also two dedications after the first design completed in 1876 came under scrutiny. [click to continue…]

Thank You, Georgia Historical Society

Earlier this week I traveled to Savannah to take part in the Georgia Historical Society’s NEH Summer Institute, Recognizing an Imperfect Past: History, Memory, and the American Public. This was my first time in Savannah and I had a wonderful experience. On Wednesday I led a 3-hour discussion about Civil War memory and the current debate about Confederate monuments. My audience was 26 undergraduate professors from around the country and from a wide range of disciplines.

It was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had as a public speaker.

I want to thank Todd Groce and Stan Deaton for the invitation to participate as well as the rest of the staff at the GHS for all their work in putting this Institute together. It was an incredible honor to be asked to speak alongside the other visiting faculty.

In addition to speaking I had a chance to explore a bit of historic Savannah alone on foot and with the larger group for two organized tours. The most interesting tour explored the history of the city’s African-American neighborhoods, including Yamacraw Village. By the 1940s this neighborhood was re-shaped into a federal housing project that included a replica of the Hermitage Plantation home, which was purchased and demolished by Henry Ford in the 1930s.

Essentially, what you have is a re-created plantation home at the center of federal housing project populated overwhelmingly by African Americans. As you might imagine this site stands in sharp contrast, on a number of levels, with the more popular tourists area in the historic district. I am going to do a little research and hopefully write a short essay about this jaw-dropping building.

Three days was certainly not enough time to explore Savannah, but with an invitation to participate in next year’s Institute already extended and confidence that the NEH’s budget will not be slashed, I look forward to returning next June.

I am incredibly lucky and grateful to be able to do what I love.