Museum of the Confederacy Discontinues Sale of Black Confederate Toy Soldiers

I never doubted for a moment that the Museum of the Confederacy would do the right thing and pull these ridiculous items from their shelves.  Thank you.  Just another reason why I fully support the mission of the Museum of the Confederacy.

In addition to this situation, Civil War Memory was instrumental in bringing about the removal of poorly-researched information sheets on black Confederates at Governors Island in New York City.

The power of blogging in action.

New Kunstler Print

Mort Kunstler’s latest print beautifully captures a crucial moment in the life of the Army of Northern Virginia.  The scene takes place in Orange County, Virginia following the army’s defeat at Gettysburg.  Kunstler vividly depicts the men in the army marching down main street, while Lee, Longstreet, and A.P. Hill discuss something.  As you can see, this is the exact moment in the war when both Lee and Hill simultaneously gestured with their right arms.  Longstreet, as usual, looks befuddled.  It’s hard to believe that this is the first print to depict this moment in the war.  If you are in the area you can meet Kunstler in person on Saturday at the Orange County Courthouse.

Pelican Press Does It Again

From the dust jacket:

Nathan Bedford Forrest remains a controversial figure in American history. Because of his days as a slave trader and his involvement with the Ku Klux Klan, the Confederate general is equated with racism. However, many may be surprised to know that he spent the latter days of his life as a pious Christian and an outspoken advocate of African Americans. This spiritual biography follows Forrest on his journey to salvation, focusing on the lesser known aspects of his life. Recalling his youth in the South, his experiences as an unyielding Civil War general, and his final years devoted to his renewed faith, eleven chapters span Forrest’s enigmatic life. Firsthand accounts from the diary entries of those who knew him and photographs reveal an obscure side of the soldier, a side that is often omitted from history books. His radical transformation provides the message that positive life changes are possible.

Who is the Author?: Shane E. Kastler is an ordained Southern Baptist minister who has devoted his life to preaching the gospel of Christ. He received his B.B.A. from Northeastern State University, where he became heavily involved in both the church and campus ministries. Afterwards, he earned his M.Div. from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of six seminaries affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Upon graduation, Kastler received the LifeWay Preaching Award, which is presented to a graduate who has excelled in the study and practice of preaching. Having served as senior pastor of the nondenominational First Christian Church of Pleasanton, Kansas, he continues to preach and write. He contributes a weekly religious column, “Seeking Higher Ground,” to the Linn County (KS) News in addition to maintaining two Internet blogs. Kastler lives with his family in Sand Springs, Oklahoma.

…and I decided to pursue an M.A. in history instead – silly rabbit.

Adventures in American Studies

Today was one of those days that I live for as a teacher.  This year I am team teaching (with two colleagues) a course in American Studies that allows students to earn credit for both English and History during their junior year.  We have 38 students and the class meets four days a week for two periods each day.  Right now we are in the middle of a series of lectures that will give students a skeletal outline of American history, which will allow us to then focus in much more detail on different time periods and subject matter.  The outline should allow students to make connections with other time periods.  I’ve enjoyed the experience thus far and I am thoroughly enjoying our two new spaces, including a large lecture hall and a discussion room.

In addition to other assignments, each trimester students will be responsible for completing a major project.  For their first project students will work with a document from the University of Virginia’s Special Collections Department.  Today was their first trip to the archives.  For this first trip students were introduced to the assignment, the rules and regulations of the archives, and to cap it off the staff brought out a few of their gems.  Next week we return to give the class the opportunity to work a bit with their individual document.  While they are allowed to bring digital cameras with them the class is required to make one additional visit to Special Collections on their own time.

The overall goal of the project is to give students a chance to interpret an actual document on their own to see what they can make of it.  They will have a number of questions to answer, but they will have to think through the significance and meaning of their object.  They will present their findings on a website that they will create.  Most of the documents are broadsides, which are rich in detail and easy to connect to larger events and movements.  The folks at Special Collections were incredibly helpful and enthusiastic and I was especially pleased with the way our students handled themselves.  In fact, this is the first group of high school students ever to come through Special Collections for a class assignment.

The best part of the morning was the showcasing of a few of the archives’ high profile artifacts.  They included an original July 4, 1776 printing of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson’s famous 1820 letter in which he describes slavery as holding “the wolf by its ears”, the vote of Virginia’s Secession Convention, William Faulkner’s original manuscript of The Sound and the Fury, and three different editions of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.  By far the most interesting artifact was a salesman’s copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  These copies were bound, but did not include the entire book.  Instead, interested parties could get a sense of what the print looked like and could choose different kinds of binding.  The most interesting feature of this particular book, however, is that someone apparently tampered with one of the original plates.  The image can be seen above and I will leave it to you to figure out what is wrong.  Needless to say, the kids got a real kick out of it.

We want our students to see history as much more than something that is simply read in a book and regurgitated in different forms.  This assignment will give students a chance to exercise their imaginations and work toward their own interpretation of the past.  Today was a special day and one that reminds me of just how lucky I am to be a teacher.