New to the Civil War Memory Library, 02/09

Brian R. Dirck, Lincoln in Indiana (Southern Illinois University Press, 2017).

Erica A. Dunbar, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge (Atria, 2017).

Pamela Haag, The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture (Basic Books, 2016).

Elizabeth Brown Pryor, Six Encounters With Lincoln: A President Confronts Democracy and its Demons (Viking, 2017).

Brent Tarter, Daydreams & Nightmares: A Virginia Family Faces Secession and War (University Press of Virginia, 2017).

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Tracking Lincoln on Race and Slavery

This weekend I will be leading a teacher workshop at the Massachusetts Historical Society, which focuses on Abraham Lincoln’s evolving views on race and slavery. As part of my presentation I am going to utilize excerpts from seven primary sources that I believe highlight Lincoln’s thinking on these topics and that also point to important shifts in his thinking over the course of his public career. [click to continue…]

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Alternative History in Donald Trump’s America

This past week I published two essays at The Daily Beast. The first focused on President Trump’s confusing and self-serving address marking the beginning of Black History Month.

Donald Trump Flunks Black History” (February 2, 2017) [click to continue…]

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Frederick Douglass Really Did Do An “Amazing Job”

Update #2: Check out my latest at The Daily Beast. Update: David Graham shares his thoughts about Trump’s confusing and disappointing observations about Black History Month.

President Donald Trump kicked off Black History Month this morning with the following remarks:

Well, the election, it came out really well. Next time we’ll triple the number or quadruple it. We want to get it over 51, right? At least 51.

Well this is Black History Month, so this is our little breakfast, our little get-together. Hi Lynn, how are you? Just a few notes. During this month, we honor the tremendous history of African-Americans throughout our country. Throughout the world, if you really think about it, right? And their story is one of unimaginable sacrifice, hard work, and faith in America. I’ve gotten a real glimpse—during the campaign, I’d go around with Ben to a lot of different places I wasn’t so familiar with. They’re incredible people. And I want to thank Ben Carson, who’s gonna be heading up HUD. That’s a big job. That’s a job that’s not only housing, but it’s mind and spirit. Right, Ben? And you understand, nobody’s gonna be better than Ben.

Last month, we celebrated the life of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. It turned out that that was fake news. Fake news. The statue is cherished, it’s one of the favorite things in the—and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln, and we have Jefferson, and we have Dr. Martin Luther King. But they said the statue, the bust of Martin Luther King, was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is. Very unfortunate.

I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact.

I’m proud to honor this heritage and will be honoring it more and more. The folks at the table in almost all cases have been great friends and supporters. Darrell—I met Darrell when he was defending me on television. And the people that were on the other side of the argument didn’t have a chance, right? And Paris has done an amazing job in a very hostile CNN community. He’s all by himself. You’ll have seven people, and Paris. And I’ll take Paris over the seven. But I don’t watch CNN, so I don’t get to see you as much as I used to. I don’t like watching fake news. But Fox has treated me very nice. Wherever Fox is, thank you.

We’re gonna need better schools and we need them soon. We need more jobs, we need better wages, a lot better wages. We’re gonna work very hard on the inner city. Ben is gonna be doing that, big league. That’s one of the big things that you’re gonna be looking at. We need safer communities and we’re going to do that with law enforcement. We’re gonna make it safe. We’re gonna make it much better than it is right now. Right now it’s terrible, and I saw you talking about it the other night, Paris, on something else that was really—you did a fantastic job the other night on a very unrelated show.

I’m ready to do my part, and I will say this: We’re gonna work together. This is a great group, this is a group that’s been so special to me. You really helped me a lot. If you remember I wasn’t going to do well with the African-American community, and after they heard me speaking and talking about the inner city and lots of other things, we ended up getting—and I won’t go into details—but we ended up getting substantially more than other candidates who had run in the past years. And now we’re gonna take that to new levels. I want to thank my television star over here—Omarosa’s actually a very nice person, nobody knows that. I don’t want to destroy her reputation but she’s a very good person, and she’s been helpful right from the beginning of the campaign, and I appreciate it. I really do. Very special.

So I want to thank everybody for being here.

Does Trump even realize that Frederick Douglass is no longer alive? It sounds as if Trump is talking about someone he just appointed to a cabinet position.

I guess we should be relieved that the president didn’t have H.K. Edgerton sitting next to him to invoke the thousands of black Confederates that fought loyally for the Confederacy. I hope I never have to hear again that this generation of students doesn’t care or know anything about American history.

Perhaps this year it would have been better for the president to just ignore Black History Month entirely. Correction, make that the next four years.

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My Brief Encounter With Elizabeth Brown Pryor

Today my review copy of Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s book, Six Encounters With Lincoln: A President Confronts Democracy and its Demons, arrived. The book will be officially released next week. I’ve been anticipating the release of this book for some time, but its publication is accompanied by a good deal of sadness. As many of you know, the author was tragically killed in a car accident close to two years ago.

I knew Elizabeth fairly well. I was first introduced to her while conducting research at the Virginia Historical Society for my Crater book. By that point I had already read her book on Robert E. Lee, which I still consider to be the single best study of the man. We always managed to find time to talk whenever our paths crossed at the VHS. On occasion, we grabbed lunch together, which gave me the opportunity to pick her brain about how she approached research and writing. [click to continue…]

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Robert E. Lee Just Lost a Decisive Vote in Charlottesville

In a stunning reversal Charlottesville City Councilor Bob Fenwick announced earlier today that at the next meeting council meeting he will vote to remove and relocate the Robert E. Lee monument at Lee Park. Just last week the councilman voted more than once to abstain, which left the vote tied. His anticipated vote will likely secure the monuments relocation, which raises a host of other issues that will have to be addressed.

One of the question that I still have is how relocation to another park deals with the underlying argument in favor of the monument’s removal. If it is problematic in one location, why is this not the case at another public park?

There will certainly be additional updates, which I will post as they become available.

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Camp Slaves, Pensions and the Lost Cause

I am currently researching and outlining chapter 4 of my book on Confederate camp slaves and the myth of the black Confederate soldier. The focus is on pensions that were issued to former camp slaves. This was originally to be included in another chapter, but for a number of reasons I decided to give it a separate chapter. [click to continue…]

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Public Speaking in 2017

Just a quick reminder that I am available as a public speaker for a wide range of events, including teacher workshops and guided tours. My calendar is quickly filling up for 2017, but my schedule is still flexible enough that I should be able to accommodate most requests.

      • February 4: “Radical Public History” (panel discussion), Newport Historical Society, Newport, RI.
      • February 8: “Taking a Stand on the Confederate Flag,” The Newman School, Boston, MA.
      • February 11: Teacher Workshop on Lincoln and Race, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA.
      • February 12: “The History and Memory of the Confederate Battle Flag,” Department of Massachusetts, Sons of Union Veterans, Wakefield, MA.
      • March 7: “What Does the Confederate Flag Mean to You,” panel discussion sponsored by Fostering Racial Justice Group, Sargent Memorial Library, Boxborough, MA.
      • April 22: Thinking About Confederate Iconography in the Wake of Charleston,” National Civil War Museum, Harrisburg, PA.
      • May 2: Webinar on Fake News and Fake History, National Humanities Center.
      • May 23: “The History and Memory of the Confederate Battle Flag,” New Bedford Civil War Round Table, New Bedford, MA.
      • June 14: Civil War Memory and Monuments, Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, GA.
      • July 9-18: Traveling in Vietnam with National Humanities Center/TransPacific Teacher Scholars Project.
      • September 27: Searching For Black Confederate Soldiers,” Civil War Round Table of Central Massachusetts, Holden, MA.
      • October 18: Topic, TBD, Rhode Island Civil War Round Table, Cranston, RI.

Let me know how I can help. Contact information.

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