Moving the Civil War Sesquicentennial Beyond Facebook and Twitter

Over the past few days I’ve been putting together some thoughts for a panel on the Civil War sesquicentennial that I am taking part in this coming April at the annual meeting of the OAH in Milwaukee.  I shared my proposal a few months ago and am now trying to fill in some of the detail.  I am very interested in the implications of social media on how public historians in museums and other institutions have utilized these tools during the sesquicentennial.

As I suggested in my proposal, social media has fundamentally changed the commemorative landscape.  Whereas 50 years ago only a few institutions were positioned to shape a national Civil War remembrance the democratization of the web means that all of our voices can now be heard.  Most institutions have done a pretty good job of utilizing social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to disseminate information to the public, but what are they doing to engage their audience?  Social media is a 2-way street and I am not simply thinking of a Facebook page that allows for readers’ comments.

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Lee-Jackson Day Parade 2012

[H/T to W.D. Carlson, who emailed this video with the subject line: "God Bless Lee and Jackson and God Bless Dixie"]

I am ashamed to admit that in my ten years as a resident of Charlottesville, Virginia I never made the time to attend a Lee-Jackson Day parade.  Lexington is a beautiful city with an incredibly rich history and it certainly looks like everyone had a good time this past Saturday.  If you didn’t have a chance to travel to take part this is is the next best thing.  One question: Where is everyone?  The place looks deserted.  It also looks like there was no shortage of Confederate flags.  I say, it looks like there was no shortage of Confederate flags.  Which leads one to wonder why there was a need to file a lawsuit.

Silas Chandler on Voice of Russia Radio

Yesterday Myra Chandler Sampson and I spent about 45 minutes with Voice of America radio host, Ric Young, to discuss our recent Civil War Times article about Silas Chandler and related topics.  I thought the interview went well.  It was nice to have the opportunity to talk for an extended period of time and I was particularly interested in Myra’s reflections on a number of topics related to Civil War memory.  Have a listen.

I know I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating that I absolutely love the fact that Silas is pictured alone on the cover of the magazine.  That was a great move by the design staff.

What Would Robert E. Lee Do?

Whether or not Washington and Lee’s Law School closes in recognition of the national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King’s contributions to the advancement of social, political, and legal justice is entirely in the hands of the school community.  The university already does quite a bit to honor the slain civil rights leader, but hopefully the administration will listen carefully to their students, who believe the closing of the school next year will send a clear message that brings home the significance of this national holiday.

And given the importance attached to their former president’s moral character, perhaps it would be helpful to ask what Robert E. Lee would do.