Today Should Be a National Holiday: Emancipation 150

For a nation that prides itself as the leader of the free world, I’ve always found it curious as to why this day is not set aside as a national holiday.  On this day 150 years ago President Abraham Lincoln did what he promised he would do 100 days earlier by issuing his final Emancipation Proclamation.  We can quibble about whether the proclamation ought to be understood narrowly as a military or moral document, but what we are always left with is the fact that it paved the way for the eventual freeing of 4 million slaves.  That it did so can and should be celebrated by all Americans.

Click here for Eric Foner’s excellent Op-ed column on Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation in the New York Times.


Happy New Year!


Just arrived home from a wonderful 10-day trip to Germany.  My wife and I spent time with family in Bremen before moving on to Bonn/Koenigswinter and Frankfurt.  This was my first trip to Germany during Christmas and I have to say that this Jewish kid from New Jersey was impressed.  There really is something special about the way Germans celebrate the season, from decorating their trees with real candles to meeting friends and family at the local Christmas market.  It’s much less commercial and much more family oriented.

The food was simply amazing.  I could easily hibernate for the rest of the winter on the amount of Bratkartoffeln and German meats that I ate during the week.  And let’s not even go into the pastries, chocolates and cookies.  Every morning started with a relaxing trip to the local cafe.  No one bothers you with a check or with having to vacate your table.  You can sit as long as you like.  My kind of place.  As always I am sad at having to return.  I find Germany to be completely absorbing and I can even envision spending a year abroad if the opportunity ever presents itself.

On this 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation I want to wish all of you a Happy New Year.  Let’s make it a good one.

For now it’s off to bed.


Giving New Meaning to a Civil War Monument

My local Civil War monument in Jamaica Plain has been turned into a memorial site for the 27 students and teachers, and administrators killed last week at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.  The memorial was organized by Carlos and Melida Arredondo, who lost a son in Iraq a few years ago.   They have been involved in anti-war and peace campaigns ever since.



Thanks to the CWFMNY

Just wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone at the Civil War Forum of Metropolitan New York who came out for my talk last night.  One of my first public Civil War presentations was at a Shoney’s near Petersburg back in 2002.  Last night I spoke at Le Sans Culottes on 57th Street.  As I said to my audience last night: “progress.”  Special thanks to Jackie Eberstein for the invitation to speak and for being such a gracious host.  Around 40 people attended.  They asked excellent questions and took a number of books off my hands, which I greatly appreciate.  The highlight of the night was having the chance to talk with three blog readers.  Everyone knows the prolific commenter, but you may also recognize the names of Brad Lewin and Dan Weinfield. They too have also left comments over the years.  We were the last three to leave the restaurant and I want to thank them for making the trip.  It’s always nice to be able to put a face to the comments.

All in all I had a great day in New York City.  Took a nice long walk through Central Park, did a little shopping, and wandered through the New York Historical Society.


Gary Gallagher on Confederate Loyalty

Gary Gallagher’s forthcoming book explores Confederate loyalty through the lives of Robert E. Lee, Steven D. Ramseur, Jubal Early. Gallagher has analyzed the lives of all three, including an early biography of Ramseur, but this might be his most extensive treatment of Early to date.  Many of us anticipated a full-length biography of Lee’s “Bad Old Man”, but that is not going to happen.

Last week the Lovett School in Atlanta hosted Gallagher as part of its speaker series, which you can watch below.  I am very much looking forward to this book.


First African American Senator From the South Since Reconstruction

Congratulations to Republican Congressman Tim Scott, who was tapped by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to fill the seat vacated by outgoing Senator Jim DeMint.  Scott is the first black Senator to serve from a Southern state since the era of Reconstruction:

Scott hails from the Palmetto State’s staunchly conservative 1st District, which stretches along along the southeastern coastline and includes both Charleston and Myrtle Beach. In 2010, he defeated councilman Paul Thurmond, son of segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond, to win the GOP’s congressional nomination. In November he won re-election with 65% of the vote. His ascension to the Senate may help the Republican Party rebrand itself after an election in which just 7% of African Americans backed Mitt Romney. The son of a single mother who worked as a nurse’s assistant, Scott clawed his way through high school and earned a partial football scholarship before becoming the wealthy part-owner of a real estate agency — the kind of bootstrapping personal narrative that conservatives believe can resonate with more middle and lower-class voters. In his remarks today, Scott praised his mom for his success. “I am thankful for a strong mom that understood that love sometimes comes at the end of a switch,” he said, according to the Washington Post.

In related news, a school board in Texas has banned the Confederate flag from Hays High School following a racial incident.