Here is a thoughtful op-ed by by Timothy Tyson in response to North Carolina’s Mandatory Confederate Monuments Act, which appeared today in The News & Observer.
Our statehouse displays no statues to celebrate the interracial Fusion movement of the 1890s, which could have led the way into a different kind of South. We have no monuments on our courthouse lawns to the interracial civil rights movement that helped to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which made black Southerners full citizens for the first time. There are no monuments at the Capitol to Abraham Galloway, Charlotte Hawkins Brown, Ella Baker or Julius Chambers.
Only one side of our racial history – the Confederates and the white supremacy movement – gets public monuments in North Carolina. And yet the history that we leave out of our public square speaks lessons far more profound than the message of the Confederacy.
The recent legislation that gives the North Carolina legislature the ultimate say over public “objects of remembrance,” including Confederate memorials, is not about preserving the legacy of the Confederacy. Instead, it will be marked as a monument to racial gerrymandering, racially driven voting laws, a war on the public schools and the authors’ quaking fear of a different kind of North Carolina, one where everyone has an equal and generous chance to blossom with their God-given rights and abilities.
The horrific shooting of nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina back in June did not spark this public debate about the place of Confederate iconography in public places. Rather, it intensified it to a degree that few could have anticipated. Over the past ten years the Confederate flag has quietly (and on occasion not so quietly) been lowered from public places and removed from other institutions throughout the South and beyond. Southerners from all ethnic and racial backgrounds have had to wrestle with the question of whether the flag’s public display reflects their community’s collective values and view of the past.
For anyone who has followed this trend and the events of this summer, it is clear that Confederate flag advocates have been thoroughly defeated. [click to continue…]
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…]
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…]
All 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).