The High Ground Held

This morning I read through an essay by Robert K. Sutton about the National Park Service’s Holding the High Ground initiative, which grew out of a meeting in 1998 addressing concerns about the scope of Civil War battlefield interpretation. NPS historians were already thinking carefully about what it means to interpret Civil War sites even before the controversial call to do so by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. in 2000. In 2008 the Holding the High Ground plan for the sesquicentennial outlined a broader definition of Civil War sites and included ways to integrate voices from civilians on the home front, slaves as well as broader discussions of politics, social change, economics and the legacy of the war. Continue reading “The High Ground Held”

An End to Disunion

This Sunday the New York Times’s Disunion column will come to an end. I am going to miss it. The column brought together academic and popular historians and other writers and over the course of the sesquicentennial managed to cover a wide range of Civil War topics. The essays were not just a pleasure to read, but more importantly, they introduced readers to new subjects and interpretations that tend to fall beyond the scope of popular understanding of Civil War history.

In just the last week essays have appeared that force readers to think seriously about the place of the war within a broader global context and as an extension of the Indian Wars, which raged through the end of the century.

There is simply nothing else like it. Continue reading “An End to Disunion”

Is a Public Memory of Reconstruction Possible?

The New York Times has a feature up today in which they ask a group of historians to reflect on how Reconstruction ought to be remembered. There are some interesting suggestions to consider from the importance of acknowledging “Juneteenth” to preserving historic sites on Hilton Head island to recognizing the importance of strong voting rights legislation.

What I find interesting is the way in which these individual reflections are introduced:

As Americans deal with some of the same racial issues that tore apart the nation then, how should we commemorate Reconstruction and what can be done to create a public memory of it?

What exactly does it mean to ‘create a public memory’ of Reconstruction 150 years later? More importantly, is it possible?

Because Nothing Says Memorial Day Like a Confederate Flag Burning

Update: Click here for more information on scheduled events as well as a link for LiveStreaming.

Artist John Sims and Julian Chambliss, chairman of the Department of History and Africa and African-American Studies program at Rollins College in Florida, will spend this Memorial Day burning a Confederate flag. The event, which supposedly will take place in all of the former Confederate states, is being organized by John Sims, who is known for his artistic renderings of the flag. As you might expect the event is getting a good deal of media attention, but all I see is a lack of originality and a good deal of laziness. Continue reading “Because Nothing Says Memorial Day Like a Confederate Flag Burning”

On the Absence of Black Soldiers in the Grand Review

The sesquicentennial anniversary of the Grand Review in Washington, D.C. has given new life to an old myth about the lack of United States Colored Troop presence. This past weekend the African American Civil War Memorial & Museum in D.C. hosted a reenactment of the two-day march that included black reenactors.

For Sarah Anderson the reenactment was meant “to correct a wrong made in 1865, when black soldiers were left out of the Grand Review, the Union Army’s victory parade.” The oversight, as her article suggests, is part of a long history of racial injustice that leads directly to Ferguson and Baltimore. Continue reading “On the Absence of Black Soldiers in the Grand Review”