Millard Fillmore Did Lower the Price of the Postage Stamp

This morning CBS’s Sunday Morning aired a funny segment about Millard Fillmore. Mo Rocca does a great job of making a fairly dry story entertaining and his conversation with Paul Finkelman is hilarious. Enjoy.

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Southern Hospitality in the Hands of Transplanted Yankees

This little story from Maggie Rioux of Falmouth appeared this morning in The Boston Globe. It’s innocent enough.

Last May, my husband and I were on a bus tour of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the tour guide still seemed to be fighting the Civil War (at least for professional purposes). She kept referring to us as Yankees. After awhile, I’d had enough and piped up: “That’s a major insult. We’re not Yankees. We’re from the Boston area. We’re Red Sox people.” We didn’t hear another word about Yankees all morning.

I remember a similar experience a few years ago while on a tour in the historic section of Charleston, South Carolina. The guide continually referred to us as “Yankees” and even once as “invaders.” At the end of the tour I asked if he was native to the city/region. Turns out he was born in Pennsylvania and had been living in the city for around twenty years.

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“Each Section Preserved White Supremacy Differently”

Aaron AstorSince I don’t use a textbook in my U.S. History survey I am always on the lookout for relatively short excerpts from secondary sources that help me to pinpoint a specific historical question or problem. I’ve said before that one of the more challenging topics to teach is the distinction between race and slavery in nineteenth-century America. For most of my students (Virginia and Massachusetts) the lack of slavery in the North by the late antebellum period makes it difficult for them to appreciate the extent that racism permeated the region. They tend to see racism and slavery as two sides of the same coin, which is reinforced by their limited understanding of chattel slavery in the South.

This excerpt from Aaron Astor’s, Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri does a brilliant job of teasing out this important distinction. Wish I had come across it last week.

At the heart of Kentuckian and Missourian values was white supremacy, or more specifically, a belief that Western civilization was a product of characteristics unique to the white race and that all interracial relationships must protect the white race from subjugation or degradation by the black race. Failing to hold the line against attempts at racial equality would yield nothing less than complete reversion to barbarism, which whites believed inevitable wherever blacks lived without white authority. Most white northerners and southerners agreed with this racial order, but each section preserved white supremacy differently. Northerners simply excluded African Americans outright–states such as Indiana and Illinois legally banned black people from entering those states in 1860, and many other states placed onerous taxes on blacks who could not prove employment or property ownership–or failing that, segregated blacks and whites in all facets of social and economic life. White northerners protected white supremacy by monopolizing the property, power and labor force of the northern states. White southerners, living amid populations that often included large majorities of African Americans, embraced slavery as the natural system of racial and social control. Without slavery, white southerners feared, blacks would literally overrun and destroy white civilizations, re-creating either Haiti or Africa itself. (pp. 29-30)

I can’t help but think that this paragraph helps to frame – in so many ways -  the problem of race that our nation faced following the Civil War right down to the present day. This is a book that I’ve been wanting to read for some time and I am so glad I am finally getting around to it. Highly recommended.

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Kickstarting the Myth of the Black Confederate Soldier

I am going to assume that this is the first Kickstarter campaign related to the myth of the black Confederate soldier. The project is the work of an African American man who lives in New York state. You will find a number of different threads from the Lost Cause narrative, but the inspiration for the project itself stems “came from a statement made by Malcolm X about the field and house slave.”

The project reminds me a bit of Ann DeWitt’s children’s book, Entangled in Freedom.

I came across this project while perusing one of the Southern/Confederate heritage webpages and although there are some enthusiastic responses, as of today no one has opened up their wallets. We shall see.

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Not Everyone is Happy With 2014 Lincoln Prize Winner

GettysburgYesterday the 2014 Lincoln Prize winners were announced. This year the prize was split between Allen Guelzo for his book, Gettysburg: The Last Invasion and Writing the Gettysburg Address by Martin Johnson. I read and thoroughly enjoyed Guelzo’s book, but have not have yet had a chance to read the second. It’s worth pointing out that Guelzo’s book is the first military campaign study to be awarded the prize since George Rable’s Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!, which won in 2003.

Last May I wondered how the Licence Battlefield Guides at Gettysburg and Gettysburg enthusiasts generally would respond to Guelzo’s book. [click to continue…]

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