Confederate Heritage is Alive and Well in Brazil

The gradual erosion of open celebrations of Confederate heritage throughout the United States stands in sharp contrast with a vibrant memory for the residents of Santa Bárbara d’Oeste and neighboring Americana, in Brazil’s south-eastern São Paulo state. Following Confederate defeat somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 white Southerners left for the promise of land and even the possibility of one again attaining slave-owning status in a foreign country. For close to thirty years the residents of this community have organized a celebration of their Confederate roots.

The images are right out of the Civil War centennial era, including the uniforms, dresses, dance, and large Confederate flags. All of it has a campy feel at best. Their memory of the Confederacy and the South is framed by a love for buttermilk biscuits and the “Dukes of Hazzard.” Very little attention appears to be focused on their ancestors themselves, many of whom were absorbed into Brazilian culture shortly after arrival. In fact, it’s not even clear what percentage of male immigrants actually served in the Confederate army. It also makes me wonder just how many of their ancestors wanted to put the whole Confederate experiment behind them and move on with their lives. Continue reading “Confederate Heritage is Alive and Well in Brazil”

Sons of Confederate Veterans Lose Lee Chapel Lease

Update: So many flags have been removed from various Confederate heritage sites that I apparently mixed them up today. The site in question in Richmond is the Confederate Memorial Chapel and not the Lee Chapel, which is located on the campus of Washington & Lee University in Lexington. Confederate flags have also been removed from inside the chapel. You can read an update to that story here.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the situation at the Lee Chapel on the grounds of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. The Lee-Jackson Camp No. 1, Sons of Confederate Veterans will no longer operate the chapel through a lease with the VMFA, but will instead have access through a use agreement.

The VMFA will now be able to devote its energies to site interpretation which is sorely lacking. The two times I visited the chapel an elderly gentleman lectured me more about modern politics than anything having to do with the history of the site. The site is much too important to be left to the SCV.

As for the Virginia Flaggers…well, they will not be affected by this change since they haven’t done much of anything to promote the Lee Chapel beyond complaining about the display of a Confederate flag out front. The decision, however, does highlight just how little impact they have made over the past four years. Perhaps they will raise another Confederate flag along a highway as compensation.

Where Should the National Park Service Interpret Reconstruction?

It’s been noted on this blog more than once that we currently do not have a historic site devoted to Reconstruction. Today in the Atlantic Greg Downs and Kate Masur announced that the National Park Service has undertaken a study to rectify this oversight. As the authors note, this project is fraught with challenges associated with the complexity of the history itself and the many myths that still influence how we remember this period in our history. The larger problem is that Reconstruction has largely disappeared from our collective memory.

So, where should such a site be located? Given the time period that needs to be covered (roughly 1863 to 1877) the site needs to be flexible in its potential to cover more than just an event. It needs to be able to convey change over time and multiple narratives. The site will also need to convey both the successes and setbacks of Reconstruction.  Continue reading “Where Should the National Park Service Interpret Reconstruction?”

Confederate Memorial Day Under Assault in the Heart of the Confederacy

The other day I solicited your thoughts about the winners and losers of the Civil War sesquicentennial. The post generated a very helpful discussion, which I very much appreciate. One thing is clear: the Lost Cause narrative of our war is on the defensive and will likely continue to be the case as we move forward. There are any number of places that you can look for evidence of this development from city councils distancing themselves from publicly acknowledging certain holidays to refusing to display the Confederate flag in public places.

This pressure is not emanating from outside Southern communities, but from within. It’s a community that includes new transplants from other parts of the country and beyond, but it also includes individuals who can claim direct ancestors from the war. It’s an organic process that has nothing to do with erasing the past and everything to do with clarifying how a community draws meaning from the past. Continue reading “Confederate Memorial Day Under Assault in the Heart of the Confederacy”

What a Black Confederate Can Tell Us About the Streets of Baltimore

I’ve spent most of the day in a sort of funk having gone from watching the unfolding protests and violence in the streets of Baltimore on the mainstream news to reading thoughtful commentaries from Ta-Nehisi Coates and others. All the while I’ve been doing my best to try to understand the situation and its larger context rather than allow myself to get drawn into premature judgments that do little more than push the tough questions aside. There is way too much of this on my own social media feeds from people who express more fear and ignorance than anything approaching thoughtfulness.

Along the way I managed to do a little reading about camp servants and came across one of the more fascinating obituaries re-published in The New York Times in 1886. That year Levy Carnine died at the age of 76. He lived most of his life as a slave to the Hogan family of Alabama. The obituary stresses the loyal service that Hogan extended to the family, having served both father and son in two separate wars as a camp servant. In both cases Levy cared for the bodies of both masters – the elder Hogan having fallen in battle in the Seminole Indian War in 1837 and the son in the battle of the Wilderness in 1864. Even after the death of latter, Levy remained with the Second Louisiana Infantry until the end of the war. Continue reading “What a Black Confederate Can Tell Us About the Streets of Baltimore”