Crater Page Proofs

I had no idea that reviewing my own page proofs would be this nerve-wracking.  Knowing that this is my final chance to make minor changes before it goes to print has me second guessing myself on every page.  That said, it is nice to see the manuscript in its final form.  Everything came out looking awesome.  The narrative itself comes to 150 pages, which makes it a very manageable read.  I have until April 20 to finish both the final proofreading as well as the index.  We are still shooting for a mid-June release.

 

A Progressive Attempts to Understand Robert E. Lee

I am about half-way through and thoroughly enjoying Keith D. Dickson’s new book, Sustaining Southern Identity: Douglas Southall Freeman and Memory in the Modern South (Louisiana State University Press, 2012).  It’s not a conventional biography of Freeman; rather, the book explores the influence of the Lost Cause and his father’s military service in Confederate ranks on Freeman’s view of history as well as how his own scholarship (“Memory Framework”) worked to bridge the divide between the antebellum world of his father and the New South.

What I am finding most interesting about Freeman is his close identification and involvement with the southern progressive movement in Richmond.  My only complaint about Dickson’s analysis of progressivism and its emphasis on taxation reform, public education, and public health is that he traces it back to Reconstruction rather than the Readjuster Movement of the 1880s.  In the wake of the Readjuster Movement, Democrats learned to co-opt as much of their political platform that would bring about the necessary reforms without upsetting the region’s delicate racial hierarchy.

Freeman’s writings helped to unite white Virginians around shared stories and values rooted in the past even as they embraced new political and social policies that deviated from those of their predecessors.  While I’ve read Freeman’s biography of Lee and Lee’s Lieutenants, I never connected him with anything having to do with the progressive movement, which I suspect has to do with my observation that those who most closely identify with him today lean to the conservative side.  The book has definitely helped me to better understand how Freeman applied his professional training in history at Johns Hopkins University to the broader goal of anchoring his community’s modern tendencies in a shared past.

So, how is it that a progressive like Freeman was able to write what many conservatives today believe to be the most accurate and unbiased interpretation of Lee?  :-)

 

Trayvon Martin and Civil War Memory

Outrage over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin last month in Sanford, Florida can now be seen in the form of graffiti on Civil War monuments in New Orleans.  It should come as no surprise.  Monuments to both Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were spray painted with the names of Martin and two other local African American men, who recently died as a result of violent clashes with city police.  The spray painted names are themselves a form of memory, but the use of the Davis and Lee monuments add meaning that go far beyond confronting random graffiti on the side of a building.

Irregardless of whether the graffiti can be traced to the black community, the act itself serves to remind the surrounding community that this violence is perceived to be racial in nature.  The use of these particular monuments not only points to the history of racial tension in the community, but to the institutions themselves that were responsible for creating these public spaces and largely responsible for legally enforcing inequities within the public sector.  The damage to these structures reflects a sense of alienation from the community and a rejection of the community’s values as represented in these monuments.

Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, the decision to deface these particular monuments reflects the extent to which memory of the Civil War has been eclipsed or shaped by our collective memory of the civil rights movement.  It is likely that the perpetrators of this act know very little about Davis and Lee, but they know enough to connect them to the history of race in the United States during the past 150 years.  That is clearly a recent development.  The appropriation of the meaning of these sites as stamped with a history of racial injustice is itself an attack on the values and preferred Civil War memory of previous generations.

It is unlikely that the monuments will be cleaned in time for the “Final Four” showdown this weekend.  That’s OK for at least one person:

Pastor Shawn Anglim of First Grace United Methodist Church has a different take on the graffiti that has focused on the controversy surrounding the meanings.“Right now, it’s a need for conversation. And whether done in proper way or not, maybe it’s OK it’s up for a week or so. And it gets some people talking a little bit,” Anglim said.

If only we knew how to talk about such things.
 

Lucky Penny

For some reason this just made my day.

Paige’s life was dull until the day she planted a penny that magically sprouted her very own Abraham Lincoln. The two quickly become inseparable and it seems Paige’s days of being a lonely girl have finally come to an end. However, her newfound friendship is threatened when Connor, the neighborhood bully, discovers Paige’s secret and decides to harvest a president of his own.

Producers of this project are looking for financial assistance to complete the movie.

 

Portsmouth, Virginia Embraces Its Southern Unionist Heritage

Last week the Portsmouth Historical Commission passed the following resolution honoring Southern Unionists:

Whereas the history of the Civil War has at times, understandably but mistakenly, been seen as a battle between regions . . .

Whereas in reality the dedication to Union and Emancipation was shared by millions of Americans north and south . . .

Whereas there were many in the states that formed the Confederacy “who in the darkest hour of slavery kept alive in their souls a love of manhood rights, justice, and the unity of the United States of America”

Whereas these men and women who risked everything to preserve the Union are rarely remembered as much as they should . . .

Whereas in Virginia especially, support for Union was so pronounced that the state split itself in two . . .

Whereas many of the people of present day Virginia can also look to the family histories of Unionism of which they can be proud . . .

And whereas the city of Portsmouth was, for much of the war, a haven for Virginia’s Unionists, both black and white . . .

Be it resolved that the City of Portsmouth through its History Commission. . .

Declare May of this year to be Southern Unionist History Month,

Encourage other localities in Virginia and the Commonwealth itself to join in this declaration, and

Provide for various events and information during May to make Virginians more aware of Civil War Unionism in and around Portsmouth, Virginia.

This week the organization asked the city council to adopt the resolution and set aside May as Southern Unionist Heritage Month.  The council was unable to vote on the resolution since it had not been placed on the agenda in time for the meeting.