If I could do it all over again I would earn a degree in public history and work for the National Park Service at a historic site. Over the past ten years I’ve had a number of opportunities to help out with various NPS projects and the work is always rewarding. It has given me the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented historians and passionate educators. On moving to Boston I decided to explore opportunities beyond the classroom and the NPS was high on that list. Over the past few weeks I’ve made some wonderful new friends in the NPS here in Boston and it looks like I will be involved in organizing events over the course of the next year for the Civil War sesquicentennial.
As for more permanent work, the response has been less than enthusiastic. It’s not that my new contacts don’t believe that I am qualified for most of their positions as an interpreter/educator; in fact, I’ve been told numerous times that I am over-qualified. The problem is with the hiring process and what comes up more than anything else is the veteran’s preference. If I understand it correctly the federal government gives preference to candidates who have served in the military. If a veteran meets the minimum qualifications for a position he/she is given preference. I recently came up against this wall when I decided to apply for an entry-level position as an interpreter (GS-05).
I wonder if the Confederate Heritage folks will rally around Thomas Buhls, who earlier today tried to celebrate Confederate heritage in Indiana with a sign that read, “CELEBRATE YOUR WHITE HERITAGE.” I have no idea whether Mr. Buhls is a native southerner, but of course that shouldn’t matter much. Confederate heritage transcends race, gender, and region. Like Hunter Wallace, Buhls seems to embrace a narrative of the Confederacy that actually conforms to its history. That’s right, the Confederacy was organized as a slaveholding republic built on white supremacy that was forced to fight for its independence and failed. Buhls and Wallace are much closer to the views of Alexander Stephens and other pro-Confederate nationalists than most heritage types today who water down and distort this history and fantasize that the Confederacy was some kind of experiment in civil rights. While I find their embrace of white supremacy to be utterly appalling, at least it is grounded in something that reflects Confederate history.
I was hoping that yesterday’s post would not turn into another round of the same old back and forth over the cause of the war, but that is exactly what happened. Unfortunately, most of what is usually offered in such discussions lacks any serious analysis and/or context. I was hoping to encourage readers to share those books that have informed their understanding of the coming of secession and war. For what it’s worth, here are a few of my favorites, though I could just as easily have chosen five others.
- James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States)
- William Freehling, The Road to Disunion, Vol. 1: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854
- William Freehling, The Road to Disunion: Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861
- Charles Dew, Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War
- David Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861
Feel free to add to this list.