Yesterday I gave a talk on the myth of the black Confederate solider at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It was my first visit and I highly recommend that you do as well. Thanks to Wayne Motts for the invitation to speak and for taking the time to take me and my wife on a personal tour of the collection. I got to handle some incredible objects, including William Quantrill’s revolver. We had a great crowd for the talk and they asked some excellent questions.
While walking through the exhibit I came across an image of African American men in attendance at a U.C.V. reunion in Tampa in 1927. There is nothing unusual about this image, though unfortunately, the museum labeled it, “Reunion of African-American veterans of the Confederate Army, 1927.” I took a quick pic of it and put it out of my mind until Wayne showed me the original image. At first we didn’t see it it but then someone noticed that at least one of the ribbons clearly states “Ex-Slave.” Continue reading ““Ex-Slaves” Attend Confederate Veterans Reunion”→
Schools across the United States are dealing with the question of what to do about displays of the Confederate flag on campus. Last week around two dozen students in Christiansburg, Virginia were suspended and this week a school in Michigan requested that students leave the flag at home. Unfortunately, we are hearing little to nothing about whether schools are taking the opportunity to educate their students about this controversy. This is a unique opportunity for history/social studies departments to step in and try to help their students make sense of the long and complicated history of the Confederate flag. There are likely a number of reasons why this does not appear to be taking place. With that in mind I offer one possible approach to dealing with this issue in the classroom. Please pass this on to teachers and other educators who might be in need of some guidance. I am now scheduling talks and workshops with schools and individual classes. You can find more information about how I can help here.
On July 10, 2015 the Confederate battle flag was removed from the grounds of the state capital of South Carolina in Columbia, where it had flown since 1962, following the murder of nine members of the AME Emmanuel Church in Charleston. The decision to lower the flag and the national debate that ensued concerning the display of the Confederate flag in public places was fueled by the alleged shooter’s written testimony that he hoped his actions would inspire a race war as well as the release of photographs of the individual with Confederate flags. Continue reading “Teaching the Confederate Flag Controversy”→
So far I am thoroughly enjoying teaching my research seminar at the American Antiquarian Society. I have a really nice group of students from four different colleges in the Worcester area. They come with varying backgrounds and interests, but they all seem to be motivated. Tomorrow will be our third meeting. As I’ve mentioned before, the class is divided between a reading list and work in the archives itself. The readings are of course important, but what the students are primarily interested in is learning how to use the archives. In short, they want to get their hands dirty.
Yesterday’s session on the role of public historians in the ongoing debate surrounding Confederate iconography at #aaslh2015 went extremely well. We had a full house and the comments were incredibly thoughtful. I love that the participants didn’t wait for the allotted time at the end of the session. They jumped right in, which suggests that public historians have a great deal on their minds and want to be engaged.
The question of how to proceed, however, is less than certain. I sensed a fairly sharp split among the audience and even the panelists. On the one hand there is the push for context and interpretation along the narrow lines of some form of wayside exhibit. This can take many forms, but the basic assumption at work here is that historical context has the potential to defuse the strong emotions on both sides by neutralizing the site. In providing historical context we acknowledge that what may have at one point represented a community no longer does so without removing it and offending those who still find meaning in its presence. Continue reading “Few Thoughts About Confederate Iconography at #AASLH2015”→