I think it is safe to say that few people could have anticipated the nation-wide debate about Confederate history and memory that followed the horrific shootings in Charleston, South Carolina earlier this summer and the decision to lower the Confederate battle flag on the State House grounds in Columbia. The recent decision in New Orleans to remove four prominent Confederate monuments suggests that other communities may follow suit in the coming year.
Will cities like Baltimore and St. Louis follow New Orleans?
Will Mississippi change its state flag?
Will Confederate holidays continue to be removed from state calendars?
What do you think? What should we be keeping our eye on in the coming year? Has the backlash against all things Confederate crested or should we look for much of the same in the coming year?
Finally, I am curious as to your thoughts about how the past few months figures into a broader understanding of the Civil War sesquicentennial. Happy New Year!
The controversy surrounding the removal of the Confederate battle flag on South Carolina’s State House grounds continues. A number of public officials and other concerned citizens have expressed frustration over the projected costs for displaying the flag at the South Carolina Relic Room and Museum.
In my latest essay at The Daily Beast I comment on what I see as the bigger problem of how the flag should be interpreted for the general public. I fear we are going to end up right back where we started.
Earlier today the American Historical Association announced that they will be adding a plenary session at the annual meeting on Confederate symbolism that will be free and open to the public. Panelists include David Blight, Fitz Brundage, John Coski, Daina Ramey Berry, and Jane Turner Censer. The goals of the panel involve the following:
Addressing the current public debate surrounding Confederate symbolism, the historians will reflect on the relationship between celebration, commemoration, memory, and history. Drawing on their expertise on the specifics of each situation, knowledge of similar controversies in the past, and the insights of historical thinking itself, the historians will also deliberate on what can and cannot be accomplished by the removal/relocation of Confederate symbols.
I have no doubt that the historians on this panel will engage their audience with a rich discussion about the history and memory of Confederate commemorations and celebrations. Coski knows the Richmond commemorative landscape as well as anyone and Brundage can speak to the ongoing controversy surrounding “Silent Sam” at UNC, but at this stage in the game organizations like the AHA need to move beyond such a limited format. [click to continue…]
This video is getting a good deal of attention at the Civil War Memory Facebook page so I decided to post it here as well. There is not much to this short video. Amanda Jennings, who apparently lives in New Orleans, is not happy with the recent decision to remove four Confederate monuments. Much of what she says is problematic, but it does a really good job of showing the ways in which our memory of the war overlaps with the present.
Earlier today the New Orleans city council voted 6 to 1 to remove four Confederate monuments. The vote was preceded by a lengthy and heated public forum that you can see here. I decided early this morning to write up some thoughts assuming that the vote would go the way it did. You can read my essay at the Atlantic.
Regardless of your position, a good case can be made that this decision is the final act of our Civil War sesquicentennial.