Next month President Obama will be renominated by the Democratic Party in Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte lays claim as the last Confederate capital in April 1865. It is here that Jefferson Davis learned of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. At first glance these two events may seem unrelated but not to the folks interviewed in this article.
“Charlotte is a New South city,” said Tom Hanchett, staff historian at the Levine Museum of the New South. “It existed during the Civil War and had some importance, but this city’s character has been shaped by reinvention since the Civil War. That spirit of reinvention is one of the reasons why the DNC decided to come to Charlotte. It is a city with a history but has never been a prisoner of its history.”
James Ferguson, a Charlotte attorney who has been heavily involved in the civil rights movement, said Obama’s renomination “is a historic event that is even more historic than the Confederate cabinet’s last meeting here. “The nomination comes at a time when Charlotte is seeking to identify itself as a world class city, as a city coming into its full identity after a period of phenomenal growth,” Ferguson said. “In terms of African-Americans, there is this whole question of whether we are reaching a point where there is full equality or are we still dealing with having a first African-American this or that, and (saying) ‘that seems to be enough.'” The continuing quest for full equality is symbolized by the renomination, Ferguson said, adding: “This election is equally important if not more important than the first election of President Obama, because it takes two terms for a president to really push forward a full program.”
David Goldfield, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said the Charlotte renomination is compelling because “the Confederacy was born as a defense of slavery, and yet here in the last capital of the Confederacy we’re nominating a black man for president. “It’s something we should feel very proud of,” Goldfield said. “We have come a long way as a region and we have come a long way as a country. White supremacy was not confined to the South — it was a national ailment.”
I tend to think that the attempt at irony here is weak given the emphasis on Charlotte’s evolution since the end of the war. As the article suggests, there are so few reminders of Charlotte’s Confederate past that unless you look for it you are likely to miss what is there. Obama won Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida in 2008. If anything gave us a sense of the evolution of the history of the South after 1865 it was the results of that election. We already know this narrative.
This is the story behind the creation of the Black Brigade Monument in Smale Riverfront Park. The monument honors the 718 black men who—after being brutally rounded up by provost guards and then set free—volunteered to build fortifications that eventually thwarted a Confederate attack on Cincinnati during the Civil War.
It’s a good question and one that I’ve touched on here at Civil War Memory. Our battlefield monuments fit into a broader celebratory landscape that is pervasive throughout our memory of the Civil War. Gettysburg is a place where we can feel good about ourselves as Americans and our history. It is almost impossible for me to imagine a monument such as the one at Verdun at Gettysburg and I believe it to be a barrier to fully understanding what our civil war was about.
Unfortunately, the following image, which I took during a visit to the Gettysburg Visitor Center, more accurately reflects our attitude toward how Americans chose to make war on one another.
The 48-inch by 29-inch marker reads: “In Memory of Union County’s Confederate Pensioners of Color,” then lists their names: Wilson Ashcraft; Ned Byrd; Wary Clyburn; Wyatt Cunningham; George Cureton; Hamp Cuthbertson; Mose Fraser; Lewis McGill; Aaron Perry; and Jeff Sanders.
And it includes this wording: “In Honor Of Courage & Service By All African Americans During The War Between The States (1861-65).”
How embarrassing for the people of this community. More here and here.
When I left the classroom last year I was still wedded to the traditional history textbook. I supplemented my text with a wide range of digital tools and resources, but the text itself had not changed. My experience with e-textbooks has been very limited until now. For the next four months I will be working on an exciting e-history project providing supplemental materials for a text focused on the Civil War and Reconstruction. The text itself is being written by two very well known and talented historians. Some of the things I will be working on include:
Review chapters and suggest themes and content for digital animations (e.g., maps) and video content (e.g., bio of Lincoln).
Write copy for videos and animations (up to two 2-3 minute videos and one animation per chapter).
Create assignments or “tasks” (we are calling all digital assets tasks that students have to complete before moving on in their textbook) for each of the chapters.
Write copy for 1-2 “mini-challenges” (e.g., poll question, 4-6 reading comprehension quiz questions) for each chapter.
Write definitions for glossary terms (5-10 per chapter).
Some of what I am doing is geared to connecting the text to a history simulation that allows students to role play real historical characters. I should be able to share more details about this project in the coming months.
For now I am hoping that those of you with more experience in this area might be able to suggest examples of best practices. What should I look at to get a feel for what’s been done already in the field of e-texts? What do you want to see as supplemental resources for an e-history textbook? Thanks.