I had no idea that there is now a chapter of Flaggers in North Carolina. It would be a stretch to draw any type of formal connection with the Flaggers in Virginia. It’s the same inane rhetoric about a subject they apparently know very little about. In this case, it’s a new exhibit about Lincoln on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Asheville. These people have nothing to say about the actual exhibit beyond vague accusations of Lincoln as a war criminal. Kirk Lyons (misspelled by the media as Lion) and H.K. Edgerton were in attendance, but all they can manage is the same old dog and pony show that has become their trademark.
It looks like some of the students had a good laugh at their expense.
Much of my research and commentary on the evolution of battlefield interpretation within the National Park Service has referenced the 2000 Rally on the High Ground Conference as a watershed moment. Without being too overly simplistic the working assumption has been that the most significant changes to NPS interpretation has been in reaction to Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr’s. legislation and accompanying symposium which brought together NPS staff and academic historians in Washington D.C. The conference examined ways in which the NPS could implement Jackson’s legislation which called for the broadening of battlefield interpretation to include the cause of the war, the role of slavery during the war, as well as other topics. This push for a broader interpretive context as well as Jackson’s involvement has been met with suspicion by segments of the general public who tend to view his involvement as political which in turn has colored the NPS’s subsequent actions as overtly political.
In February 2011 a group of teachers, accompanied by Dr. John Stauffer of Harvard University, flew from Boston to Memphis, TN and from there traveled by bus through the South visiting sites of historic importance to the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, seeking a better understanding of each period and of the relationship between them.
This video was filmed at a conference held in May, 2011 at Burlington High School in Massachusetts. You’ll see what looks like a science fair, but is actually a “lesson fair” where the participants shared lessons they created and taught after the trip. Each traveler also created a digital story responding to the prompt, “How has this trip shaped my understanding of my role as an educator?” These were shown at the conference and three teachers joined Dr. Stauffer for a panel discussion.
Phil Gay of Tufts University, who is a partner and advisory board member of Making Freedom, interviewed the teachers during the conference, and created this video to document the impact of the study tour.
For those of you who live in the greater Boston area and are looking to get out for a few hours tomorrow evening I would love to see you in Newburyport. More specifically, in nearby Salisbury [East Parish United Methodist Church, 8 Lafayette Rd. (Rt. 1)]. I will be giving a talk to the Merrimac Civil War Round Table on the battle of the Crater. My talk will focus specifically on how Confederates responded to the presence of United States Colored Troops on the battlefield and in the letters and diaries written in the immediate aftermath. The meeting begins at 7:30pm.
Let’s get straight to the point here. Kevin Levin’s new book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder, is an exceptionally solid work.
In all seriousness, I appreciate Keith taking the time to read my book. He makes a couple of really important points about where my book fits into the broader field of Civil War memory studies, which I am going to respond to very soon.
I didn’t realize that yesterday I stumbled on a relatively unknown map. Hope it comes in handy for those of you in the classroom. Brooks Simpson also posted the image on his site along with a very colorful explanation of the recent decline in Boston sports. Thank you, Brooks. One of the commenters on his site suggested that slavery in the North was insignificant. I find it to be a widely-held view, especially with my students, who are likely offered a skewed view of slavery’s origin and growth at an earlier age. My job is to correct it.
I find this map to be particularly helpful. The first thing that students notice is that slavery was present in all of the thirteen original colonies. Not only was slavery present in the North, it was expanding along with the South. In 1680 New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania all contain a roughly equal number of slaves as North and South Carolina. Of course, slavery expands in the South for a number of reasons having to do with the decline in indentured servants and demand for tobacco and other staple crops, but what is just as important is the rate of expansion in the North. Twenty-Five years before the American Revolution there was no sign of decline in slavery in the North. Speaking loosely, slavery was clearly a national institution.
There were, of course, important differences between the lives of slaves between these two regions as well as their place in society that must be noted. I usually have my students read a short selection from Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom, in which he distinguishes between “a society with slaves” as opposed to a “slave society.” It’s an incredibly helpful analytical distinction and one that students easily grasp.
I’ve framed this year’s class around the essential question: What is American Freedom? We are just getting started exploring the origins and evolution of slavery during the colonial period, but overall I’ve been asking them to reflect, based on their understanding of the concept, just how free people were during this time. This map surely helps in that discussion.
Not quite sure where we should draw “God’s Curse” and “God’s Blessing” on this map.
I am spending the day putting together maps for an animated video that will cover westward expansion and slavery from the passage of the Northwest Ordinance through to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Along the way I came across this wonderful map that was produced for Congress in 1888. This is a wonderful example of selective memory in the post-Civil War period and a reminder that emancipation and the end of slavery constituted an important outcome of the war for many. According to this map the eventual divide between North and South over slavery had its roots int he formation of both Massachusetts and Virginia. The tree of slavery was planted at Jamestown in 1619; while the Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1620 planted a tree of liberty that would eventually stretch across the nation. The text at the bottom of the map explains the allegory and associates the Republican Party with the liberty tree. Here is a little taste.
In time a dispute arose between the two colonies as to whose tree should grow so large that it would occupy all the land. Slavery with its attendant evils would overshadow the land with darkness, while Liberty with its manifold blessings would send a flood of light over the whole country.
At one time it appeared that the tree of Slavery would gain the supremacy, but God cursed that tree and it soon began to lean southward. Its friends then tried to prop it up, but it still continued to lean and showed signs that it would fall. This made the Southern man jealous and he decided to murder his Northern brother, as Cain of old had done his brother Abel. For this sin God send a black mark upon Cain and sent Father Abraham with his big emancipation axe to cut the tree of Slavery down.
This would be an incredible classroom resource to introduce kids to issues of historical memory. You can discuss the extent to which the map simplifies the history of slavery during the 250 year period leading up to the war. Why was this map produced for the federal government and what did Republicans hope to do with it? Why does the map not include any references to the existence of slavery in the north during the colonial era and right down through the early part of the nineteenth century? How has this shaped and reinforced our own view of what the war was about and who we believe was right and wrong?