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Calling All Public Historians

Yesterday’s post about my good friend John Hennessy left me wondering what, if anything, has taken place or is being planned in museums, historical societies and other institutions to help their communities make sense of the relevant history behind our ongoing and very emotional discussion about Civil War memory.

It’s an opportune moment for public historians, who focus on the Civil War Era and the history of race relations. Folks who have never thought about the American Civil War are giving it a good deal of thought. No doubt, some of that reflection is based on bad history. Continue reading “Calling All Public Historians”

John Hennessy Leads the Way (Who Will Follow?)

There is no public historian that I respect more than John Hennessy, who is currently the National Park Service’s chief historian at the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. John has led the way in pushing the boundaries of battlefield interpretation and our broader national discussion over the course of the Civil War sesquicentennial. As Brooks Simpson put it in a recent post, John “is one of the jewels of the National Park Service.”

It would be easy to lay low over the last few weeks given the strong emotions exhibited by so many over the public display of the Confederate battle flag and the place of Civil War monuments on our many commemorative landscapes, but if ever we needed the NPS to educate and challenge the general public and foster constructive debate it is now. Continue reading “John Hennessy Leads the Way (Who Will Follow?)”

Leave It To Southerners To Decide If It’s Dixie’s Fault

It’s a lost cause to try to keep up with all of the thought provoking essays and editorials published over the past few weeks surrounding the national discussion about the history and legacy of the Confederacy. Last week The Washington Post published the thoughts of Thomas Sugrue, who is one of the most respected historians on the history of race, urban America and the civil rights movement in the North. I highly recommend Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North. Continue reading “Leave It To Southerners To Decide If It’s Dixie’s Fault”

Farewell to Paul Reber

Paul ReberI am incredibly sad to report the news of the death of Paul Reber. Paul was fatally injured yesterday in a cycling accident in Westmoreland County, Virginia. As many of you know, since 2006 he served as the executive director of Stratford Hall – the boyhood home of Robert E. Lee.

I didn’t know Paul all that well. On more than one occasion, however, we found ourselves at the same dinner table or throwing back a few drinks at a conference. Paul was always very easy to talk to as our scholarly interests overlapped in a number of places. He was an avid reader of this blog. You can find his comments scattered on posts stretching back to 2009. I received just as many private emails in response to posts, which always left me with something to think about.

Paul’s last comment posted just three days ago.

My thoughts go out to everyone in the Stratford Hall community and, especially, to Paul’s family. To all my fellow runners and cyclists, please be safe out there.

Reading List for ‘The North’s Civil War’

I am getting close to finalizing the reading list for my research seminar at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, which I will teach this coming fall semester. The seminar will focus specifically on how Northerners understood Union and emancipation over the course of the war. We meet once a week and our time will be divided between discussion of readings and learning how to interpret the AAS’s rich collection of primary sources in preparation for a major research paper, which each student will complete. Check out the course description, though I will likely tweak it in the coming weeks.

As for assigned books, I have managed to narrow it down to six. Of course, they will be supplemented by articles and book chapters, which I will make available to students throughout the semester. I tried to find well written books that will keep my students’ attention, allow us to talk a little historiography and that will cover a good deal of topical ground. Finally, I tried to choose books that are right around 200 pages. Continue reading “Reading List for ‘The North’s Civil War’”