Yeah, But Why Do They Have To Wear the Sheets?

Apparently, a high school history teacher in Georgia allowed her students to film themselves in Klan robes as part of their study of the organization as well as the history of race.  At one point students paraded through the school cafeteria and confronted an African American student and asked if they could reenact a lynching:

”I don’t apologize for the project, a tearful Aremmia told CBS Atlanta.  I do apologize that someone felt threatened.  I teach about United States history.  I teach about the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I would tell the students, why don’t you film that off campus on your own time. Would I tell them not to? No, because that’s part of history and to not acknowledge it is saying, that it’s OK. I’m sorry, it isn’t. It’s unacceptable.”

Student Cody Rider told reporters the incident left him ‘outraged’.  He said he wanted to fight the students when they asked his cousin, also a student at the school, if they could ‘re-enact the lynching of him for their class project’.  “My little cousin comes up and taps me on the shoulder, and there was fear in his eyes,” he said.  “He was like, he just started pointing, like he couldn’t even talk, that’s how bad it was. There was fear in his eyes, and I looked up and they are walking through the hallway in white sheets.”

The problem is that Catherine Aremmia should apologize if the story is true.  As I see it there are two problems here.  First, asking students to dress up as Klansmen has nothing to do with “teach[ing] about United States history; all I can see is students being asked to don Klan robes.  A significant gap is likely to exist between their historical understanding of the roles they are assuming and where their imaginations take them.

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Does This Mean No More Talk of Black Confederates?

Looks like the Sons of Confederate Veterans is amending their Constitution.  You can read the proposed amendments here, but one in particular struck me as kind of funny:

Proposed Constitutional Amendment – 2010-3
Proposed by Charles Kelly Barrow
John McIntosh Kell Camp 107

2.1. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, in furtherance of the Charge of Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee, shall be strictly patriotic, historical, educational, fraternal, benevolent, non-political, non-racial and non-sectarian. The Sons of Confederate Veterans neither embraces, nor espouses acts or ideologies of racial and religious bigotry, and further, [ strongly ] condemns the misuse of its sacred symbols and flags in the conduct of same. Each member is expected to perform his full duty as a citizen according to his own conscience and understanding.

I guess this means no more talk of thousands of loyal slaves fighting as Confederate soldiers.  And while you are browsing the SCV’s online store make sure you pick up a copy of Antebellum Slavery: An Orthodox Christian View (2008) by Gary Lee Roper which claims an orthodox Christian defense of slavery:

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Moving Toward a Plugin-less Blog

You may have noticed that I’ve made a few changes to the look of Civil War Memory.  Actually, these changes go beyond simply moving back to a full-width framework and a transition to Arial as the main content font.  Over the past few weeks I’ve slowly stripped the site of just about every plugin.  While WordPress plugins add a great deal of functionality to your site the downside is quite often a slow load time, especially those associated with social networking sites.  Another problem that I’ve encountered is that plugin authors are often slow to update their code with new versions of WordPress.  Essentially, the installation of a plugin increases the number of external sites that your blog must rely on to load properly and quickly.  I noticed this with DISQUS, which added a great deal of functionality to comments and allowed readers increased access to one another.  Unfortunately, any problems on their end directly impacted the user experience, which is simply unacceptable.  It sometimes felt like my blog was being held hostage.

I am now committed to locating as much of my blog’s functionality locally.  I’ve gone from 20 to 6 plugins over the past few weeks, the remainder of which include: Akismet (spam), Get Recent Comments, Popular Posts, Post-Plugin Library, Recent Posts, and Subscribe to Comments.  Functionality related to SEO is built into Thesis Theme, which is my theme of choice and ought to be yours as well.  As you can see I’ve ditched those plugins that expand the blog’s social networking reach.  The Share This plugin is gone as is Follow Me which was hidden away on the right side of the screen.  In addition, I’ve nixed all of the code for such sites as FriendFeed and LibraryThing.  This has forced me to learn a bit of php and css language, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.  If you’ve experienced very brief downtime over the past few weeks that’s me crashing the site with some idiotic mistake with the code.  Luckily, it’s very easy to correct.  I still need to figure out a way to bring back the Facebook Community badge as well as a Twitter feed.  Again, the only way I will do it is without a plugin.

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Has the “Lost Cause” Lost?

Last month I was honored to be asked by an editor at the Wilson Quarterly to respond to an essay by Christopher Clausen.  I was given roughly a 300-400 word limit, which didn’t give me room to go into much detail so I decided to offer a few words about one particular passage that I thought was worth a response.  Regular readers of this blog probably will not see much of anything that is new in terms of my own thinking about this subject.  You can now read Clausen’s essay on the WQ website.  Here is my response, which will appear in the next issue:

Christopher Clausen’s article [America’s Changeable Civil War,” Spring 2010] offers a helpful overview of the influence that the Lost Cause and the broader trend of national reunion exercised on the nation’s collective memory through the Civil Rights Movement.  Few will deny that the tendency to ignore the role of slavery and emancipation as crucial aspects of Civil War history and public remembrance were exposed as Americans were confronted with images of bus boycotts, “Freedom Rides,” and marches.  While the nation confronted its “most ignominious legacy” through legislation it did not significantly alter the nation’s Civil War memory.  However, much has changed over the past forty years, which may give us pause in accepting Clausen’s assumption that “what was actually won and lost [in the Civil War] is less settled than you might expect after 150 years.”

The election of Barack Obama has opened up numerous opportunities to discuss the history and legacy of slavery and race and our understanding of the Civil War specifically.  In 2009 the president was petitioned to discontinue sending a wreath to the Confederate monument at Arlington National Cemetery – a monument that glorifies the Lost Cause with images of “loyal slaves” and an emphasis on states rights.  Rather than incite further controversy, President Obama chose to send an additional wreath to the African American Soldier’s Memorial, which celebrates the history of United States Colored Troops.  Those states that have organized Civil War Sesquicentennial commissions are choosing to emphasize the “Emancipationist Legacy” of the Civil War, including Virginia, which will hold a day-long symposium in September 2010 on slavery and emancipation.

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“A Christian Land Governed By Christian Principles”

It is a sad day for the teaching of American history in Texas.  Unfortunately, we have a system that allows a dentist and others without any qualifications whatsoever to rewrite American history in a way that satisfies their own agenda.  Fortunately, they’ve been honest about that agenda from the beginning.  In the end, the state Board of Education failed to understand the difference between interpreting the crucial role that religion has played in American history and using history to advocate for a Christian world view.

No amount of prayer changes the fact that the Constitution and Bill of Rights are secular documents.  No, I didn’t arrive at that conclusion through prayer. I had to read important historical studies by such reputable historians as Bernard Bailyn, Gordon Wood, Jack Rakove, Saul Cornell, and Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick.  I think when it comes to understanding the past I will continue to do so.