Using Statuary Hall in D.C. to Teach Historical Memory

History teachers that work in communities that include Confederate monuments enjoy a big advantage in their ability to introduce this ongoing debate about history and memory to their students. But even if you don’t have a Confederate monument close by there are other ways that you can bring the debate home to engage your students about the moral significance of how we remember our collective past and how those choices speak to our understanding of who we are as a community and a nation. [click to continue…]

The Plantation Myth is Alive and Well in Savannah

Last summer I delivered a talk as part of an NEH program at the Georgia Historical Society on the Civil War and historical memory. One of the highlights of the visit was the tour we took of Savannah’s historically black communities. The most memorable stop for me was the federal housing project in Yamacraw Village, which includes an administration building that is a replica of a famous plantation home. [click to continue…]

It Comes Down to What We Believe

I don’t think that any black person can speak of Malcolm and Martin without wishing that they were here. It is not possible for me to speak of them without a sense of loss and grief and rage; and with the sense, furthermore, of having been forced to undergo an unforgivable indignity, both personal and vast. Our children need them, which is, indeed, the reason that they are not here: and now we, the blacks, must make certain that our children never forget them. For the American republic has always done everything in its power to destroy our children’s heroes, with the clear (and sometimes clearly stated) intention of destroying our children’s hope. This endeavor has doomed the American nation: mark my words…
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Some Thoughts about Public History, Monuments, and Teaching

Last summer I took part in an NEH summer workshop at the Georgia Historical Society called “Recognizing an Imperfect Past: History, Memory, and the General Public.” In addition to delivering a lecture on monuments and Civil War memory I sat down for a brief interview with the GHS staff. We covered a lot of ground related to the subject of my talk and other themes addressed during the workshop. [click to continue…]

“The Soldiers All Love McClellan”: Even Robert Gould Shaw

I am beginning to see the outlines of an argument. Our tendency to focus on the last six months of Col. Robert Gould Shaw’s military career in command of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry has left us with an incomplete and even distorted view of his place in Civil War memory. We tend to see his parents, specifically his mother, as pushing him to see the necessity of recruiting African Americans into the army thus transforming the very purpose of the Union war effort. [click to continue…]

What’s In a Confederate Name

While much of the media has focused on the debate about Confederate monuments, communities across the country have quietly taken steps to change the names of buildings, streets, and other structures named after Confederate leaders. The city of Petersburg is currently debating whether to change the names of two schools named after Generals Robert E. Lee and A.P. Hill. It is my hope they find the collective will to make this change. [click to continue…]