Teaching the Confederate Flag Controversy

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Schools across the United States are dealing with the question of what to do about displays of the Confederate flag on campus. Last week around two dozen students in Christiansburg, Virginia were suspended and this week a school in Michigan requested that students leave the flag at home. Unfortunately, we are hearing little to nothing about whether schools are taking the opportunity to educate their students about this controversy. This is a unique opportunity for history/social studies departments to step in and try to help their students make sense of the long and complicated history of the Confederate flag. There are likely a number of reasons why this does not appear to be taking place. With that in mind I offer one possible approach to dealing with this issue in the classroom. Please pass this on to teachers and other educators who might be in need of some guidance. I am now scheduling talks and workshops with schools and individual classes. You can find more information about how I can help here

On July 10, 2015 the Confederate battle flag was removed from the grounds of the state capital of South Carolina in Columbia, where it had flown since 1962, following the murder of nine members of the AME Emmanuel Church in Charleston. The decision to lower the flag and the national debate that ensued concerning the display of the Confederate flag in public places was fueled by the alleged shooter’s written testimony that he hoped his actions would inspire a race war as well as the release of photographs of the individual with Confederate flags. [click to continue…]

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Teaching the Historian’s Craft at the American Antiquarian Society

So far I am thoroughly enjoying teaching my research seminar at the American Antiquarian Society. I have a really nice group of students from four different colleges in the Worcester area. They come with varying backgrounds and interests, but they all seem to be motivated. Tomorrow will be our third meeting. As I’ve mentioned before, the class is divided between a reading list and work in the archives itself. The readings are of course important, but what the students are primarily interested in is learning how to use the archives. In short, they want to get their hands dirty.

AAS Students Working With Archival Sources

AAS Students Working With Archival Sources

It’s been an interesting challenge in thinking through the steps it takes to familiarize students with the research process. Last week we discussed Louis Masur’s brief history of the Civil War before giving students their first exposure to actual documents. I had an AAS curator pull together six documents from their graphic arts collection and talk briefly with the group about how to think about these sources. I then divided the group into pairs to work with a single source. Students used the document analysis worksheets provided by the National Archives to explore their assigned source. We discussed the purpose of each source and tried to identify as many motifs and themes as possible. It’s a start. [click to continue…]

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New to the Civil War Memory Library, 09/21

Tales From the Haunted SouthAs I mentioned last week, Cold Harbor to the Crater: The End of the Overland Campaign edited by Gary Gallagher and Caroline Janney is now available online.

Ira Berlin, The Long Emancipation: The Demise of Slavery in the United States (University of Georgia Press, 2015).

Greg Downs and Kate Masur eds., The World the Civil War Made (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

Kristin L. Gallas and James DeWolf Perry eds., Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites (Rowan & Littlefield, 2015).

Tiya Miles, Tales from the Haunted South: Dark Tourism and Memories of Slavery from the Civil War Era (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

K. Stephen Prince, Radical Reconstruction: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2015).

Christian G. Samito, Lincoln and the Thirteenth Amendment (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015).

Ben Wright and Zachary Dresser eds., Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era (Louisiana State University Press, 2013).

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Few Thoughts About Confederate Iconography at #AASLH2015

Confederate Monument, Charlotte

Yesterday’s session on the role of public historians in the ongoing debate surrounding Confederate iconography at #aaslh2015 went extremely well. We had a full house and the comments were incredibly thoughtful. I love that the participants didn’t wait for the allotted time at the end of the session. They jumped right in, which suggests that public historians have a great deal on their minds and want to be engaged.

The question of how to proceed, however, is less than certain. I sensed a fairly sharp split among the audience and even the panelists. On the one hand there is the push for context and interpretation along the narrow lines of some form of wayside exhibit. This can take many forms, but the basic assumption at work here is that historical context has the potential to defuse the strong emotions on both sides by neutralizing the site. In providing historical context we acknowledge that what may have at one point represented a community no longer does so without removing it and offending those who still find meaning in its presence. [click to continue…]

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Cold Harbor to the Crater: Hot Off the Presses

forthcoming, September 2015The official release date is a little over a week away, but Amazon is currently showing Cold Harbor to the Crater: The End of the Overland Campaign as in-stock. This is the latest release in UNC Press’s Military Campaigns of the Civil War series following an eight year lull. This latest volume is edited by Gary Gallagher and Caroline Janney. The volume includes an essay of mine, which focuses on how white Union soldiers responded to fighting alongside USCTs at the Crater. This is research that should have made it into my book on the Crater.

Here is a list of contributors and the titles of their essays: [click to continue…]

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The Washington Post “Airbrushes” Debate About Confederate Iconography

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The editorial team at The Washington Post has decided to jump into the debate surrounding Confederate iconography. Unfortunately, they provide little more than the standard platitudes and offer nothing for communities that are in the midst of what is a highly emotional and divisive discussion.

At the center of the argument is the assumption that the changing of a name or removal of a monument represents the “airbrushing” of history. The term is never defined, but the author appears to believe that any alteration to a community’s commemorative landscape involves a conscious effort to look away or ignore history.  [click to continue…]

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