In a few weeks I will be heading to Gettysburg College for the annual Civil War Institute. Some of the most memorable experiences are spent on the battlefield walking with guides that have thought deeply about how to interpret historic landscapes. There is a short list of historians and guides who have mastered the ability to leave visitors with a meaningful and even transformative experience. Continue reading
The consequences of 250 years of enslavement, of war upon black families and black people, were profound. Like homeownership today, slave ownership was aspirational, attracting not just those who owned slaves but those who wished to. Much as homeowners today might discuss the addition of a patio or the painting of a living room, slaveholders traded tips on the best methods for breeding workers, exacting labor, and doling out punishment. Just as a homeowner today might subscribe to a magazine like This Old House, slaveholders had journals such as De Bow’s Review, which recommended the best practices for wringing profits from slaves. By the dawn of the Civil War, the enslavement of black America was thought to be so foundational to the country that those who sought to end it were branded heretics worthy of death. Imagine what would happen if a president today came out in favor of taking all American homes from their owners: the reaction might well be violent.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations” in the Atlantic
I am not surprised to read that family members, residents of New York City and others are upset with the contents being sold at the 9-11 Memorial and Museum’s gift shop. As someone who lost a close family member in the South Tower of the World Trade Center I get it. Reports on this controversy are quick to point out that “Ground Zero” is not the only site of death and violence whose museums include gift shops, but they overlook one key factor. Continue reading
Just when you think the Sons of Confederate Veterans have reached the limits of offensiveness with some of their antics they go ahead and completely re-write the rule book. The local chapter in Fernandina Beach, Florida thought that an entry in the annual Shrimp Festival would help with building and reinforcing connections to the community. The float they entered wasn’t much of a problem, but the inclusion of a man dressed in black and brandishing a bull whip caused a number of heads to turn.
Of course, it was all a huge misunderstanding. According to the article linked to above the SCV assumed that the crowd would understand that the individual in question represented a “cattle driver, rounding up Florida beef for Confederate troops” and not a slaveowner.
I just shared this story with a friend, who doesn’t know anything about the SCV. Her response: “I want to meet these people.” [insert sarcasm] That about sums it up. Well played, SCV…. well played.