Selling Slaves in “Grant’s Petersburg Progress”?

Four weeks into my undergraduate research seminar at the American Antiquarian Society and things could not be going better. I am lucky to have an incredibly thoughtful group of students. Today we discussed the first half of James McPherson’s For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War with two students leading the seminar. We took apart McPherson’s argument, the organization of the individual chapters and also compared it with the argument made in Gary Gallagher’s The Union War, which we discussed last week.

For the second hour we worked with curator Vincent Golden on Civil War newspapers, specifically Union regimental/camp newspapers. The AAS has an impressive collection from throughout the war and includes substantial runs of individual titles. I remember seeing them referenced in Chandra Manning’s What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War, but I believe she is the exception among Civil War historians. My hope is that at least one student will make use of these newspapers for the final research paper. [click to continue…]

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Another Civil War Crowdfunding Debacle

fort pillow

Crowdfunding campaigns have not been kind to Civil War movie productions. The producers for the Civil War mini-series “To Appomattox” attempted a Kickstarter campaign, but was met with little interest and even Ron Maxwell failed in his attempt to fund a project that would bring famous works of historical fiction to life. Smaller productions have met with a similar fate.

The latest is an attempt to turn one of Lochlainn Seabrook’s books about Nathan Bedford Forrest into a feature film. Seabrook runs Sea Raven Press, which publishes Civil War books from a “Southern point of view.” [click to continue…]

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“Ex-Slaves” Attend Confederate Veterans Reunion

ex-slave, veterans reunion

Yesterday I gave a talk on the myth of the black Confederate solider at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It was my first visit and I highly recommend that you do as well. Thanks to Wayne Motts for the invitation to speak and for taking the time to take me and my wife on a personal tour of the collection. I got to handle some incredible objects, including William Quantrill’s revolver. We had a great crowd for the talk and they asked some excellent questions.

While walking through the exhibit I came across an image of African American men in attendance at a U.C.V. reunion in Tampa in 1927. There is nothing unusual about this image, though unfortunately, the museum labeled it, “Reunion of African-American veterans of the Confederate Army, 1927.” I took a quick pic of it and put it out of my mind until Wayne showed me the original image. At first we didn’t see it it but then someone noticed that at least one of the ribbons clearly states “Ex-Slave.” [click to continue…]

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Teaching the Confederate Flag Controversy

US-CRIME-SHOOTING-FLAG

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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