The Challenge of Contextualizing Confederate Monuments

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Calls for the removal of Confederate monuments from public spaces continues at a steady clip. Yesterday, the president of the University of Texas at Austin decided to remove a monument to Jefferson Davis, while leaving two monuments to Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston in place. Last night, after a public forum, two committees for the New Orleans city council voted to remove monuments to Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard and one commemorating the Battle of Liberty Place. Confederate monuments continue to be vandalized as well.

Public historians and other commentators in this ongoing debate have called for the contextualization of monuments regardless of whether they are moved or remain in place. The president of the University of Texas stated that all of the Confederate monuments on campus will be properly interpreted for the benefit of the community and future visitors to campus. On more than one occasion I have suggested that contextualization is a viable way forward. I still believe this, but how to move forward is not so clear. [click to continue…]

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Jefferson Davis Goes, While Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston Stay

Albert Sydney Johnston

The debate at the University of Texas at Austin over the presence on campus of monuments to Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston is not a new one. In 1969 a group calling itself Afro-Americans for Black Liberation made a list of demands on the campus administration that included removing these statues. Jump to August 2015 and in the wake of the mass shootings in Charleston and the very public and emotional debate about the place of Confederate iconography, including monuments, in public places it should come as no surprise that action would be taken. [click to continue…]

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New to the Civil War Memory Library, 08/13

Richard Henry DanaAll of these books – except the new biography of Dana, which is quite good – are connected to my ongoing research project on Silas Chandler.

Jeffrey Amestoy, Slavish Shore: The Odyssey of Richard Henry Dana Jr. (Harvard University Press, 2015).

Joan Cashin, A Family Venture: Men and Women on the Southern Frontier (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994).

Herbert C. Covey and Dwight Eisnach eds, How the Slaves Saw the Civil War: Recollections of the War through the WPA Slave Narratives (Praeger, 2014).

Adam Rothman, Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South (Harvard University Press, 2005).

Timothy Smith, Mississippi in the Civil War: The Home Front (University of Mississippi Press, 2010).

Kimberly Wallace Sanders, Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern Memory (University of Michigan Press, 2009).

Charles Sydnor, Slavery in Mississippi (1933, re-published by University of South Carolina Press, 2013).

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Walter Johnson Offers ‘A Better Way to Think About Slavery’

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For the past few days I’ve been reading about the expansion of slavery into the southwestern states during the 1830s and 40s. Silas Chandler was two years old when his master, Roy Chandler, moved from Virginia to Mississippi in 1839. This was right in the middle of a severe economic downturn owing to runaway speculation as well as dangerous banking policies (or lack thereof) on the state and federal levels. It all came temporarily crashing down and the Chandler family found itself right in the middle of it. Right now all I have are a lot of questions about the family’s history in Virginia, why they moved to Mississippi, and the challenges of getting settled at such an uncertain moment.

I am relying on a number of books to help fill in the big picture, including Ira Berlin’s, Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves, Joshua Rothman’s Flush Times and Fever Dreams: A Story of Capitalism and Slavery in the Age of Jackson, Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism and Walther Johnson’s River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom. From here I will look more closely at Palo Alto and the local region in which they lived.  [click to continue…]

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The Passing of a Pioneer in History Blogging

with Ralph Luker, Mark Grimsley, and Rebecca Goetz at the 2007 SHA in Richmond

with Ralph Luker, Mark Grimsley, and Rebecca Goetz at the 2007 SHA in Richmond

I was very sad to hear this morning of the passing of Ralph Luker. Ralph taught American history at a number of schools and was the author of numerous studies. He also edited two volumes of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers. Many of you, however, know Ralph from his days at History News Network’s Cliopatria blog. Our paths crossed almost immediately after I started blogging back in 2005. Even at that early stage Ralph was already promoting history blogging and bloggers. In 2007 Civil War Memory was awarded Cliopatria’s Best Individual Blog.

Ralph was a huge supporter of my blogging early on and understood how I was trying to leverage it to promote my research beyond the site itself. He introduced me to various historians and on more than one occasion recommended me for inclusion on conference panels. Ralph was incredibly generous and I remain very grateful. [click to continue…]

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