I have a confession to make. I am a huge fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s books. Yes, I say this despite the plagiarism scandal and her recent performance at the Gettysburg 150 commemoration this past July. I do not subscribe to the “three strikes” rule.
Goodwin tells exciting stories about our most important political leaders and the times in which they lived. Occasionally, you can sense a whiggish streak running through the narrative, but it’s rarely overbearing and rarely evolves into full-blown sentimentality. [That happens more often than not during interviews.] She is one of the few popular writers who has the ability to remind the country that its collective memory extends beyond the past few weeks. [click to continue…]
Selma Police Department’s Sgt. Tori Neely dusts for prints in March 2012 after the bronze bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest was stolen from the monument that is placed in Old Live Oak Cemetery.
Earlier this week a settlement was reached in Selma, Alabama surrounding a monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest. You can read the story here.
Whether the photographer intended to or not, the accompanying image serves as a reminder that regardless of the battles that Forrest may have won during the Civil War, ultimately, he lost. And that is something that all of us can be thankful for today.
Most people here know that I am a big fan of American Civil War Center Director Christy Coleman. She is a passionate advocate for Civil War history and the city of Richmond. More importantly, Christy is an advocate for the healing power of history and its potential to bring communities closer together. The recent news that Christy and Waite Rawls of the Museum of the Confederacy are joining forces to open a new Civil War museum in the city means that we will be hearing much more from her in the coming months.
This is a talk that Christy gave back in September as part of a local TED talk in Richmond. The video was made available on YouTube yesterday. Enjoy.
Last year Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln led to an outpouring of reviews by professional historians, who pointed out what they perceived to be a wide range of interpretive problems and omissions in the film. In sharp contrast, Steve McQueen’s powerful adaptation of Solomon Northrup’s 12 Years A Slave has garnered a very different and even muted response from the academic community. I sense a collective sigh of relief that finally we have a Hollywood film that directly challenges Lost Cause nostalgia surrounding slavery in Gone With the Wind. It could also be an acknowledgment of just how closely the movie conforms to Northrup’s autobiography.
The violence (both physical and psychological) is emotionally draining and will leave you feeling numb by the end. I never thought I would be saying this, but the final whipping scene makes Denzel Washington’s Academy Award-winning moment in Glory seem mild in comparison. In that case Tripp’s whipping eventually leads to a demonstration of his manhood and defiance in the battle scenes that take place later in the movie. There is redemption in Glory where there is none in 12 Years. We follow Solomon home to Saratoga, New York for a very brief reunion with his family, but our hearts are still with the remaining slaves on the Epps plantation in Louisiana. And then the theater lights come on. [click to continue…]
Note: This video came across my feed yesterday, but the date of the event is unknown.
How we respond to a video like this no doubt tells us a great deal about how we identify with our Civil War past as well as how we understand the war’s legacy and continued significance to our own lives and communities. Jacksonville City Councilwoman, Glorious Johnson, is clearly sincere in wanting to build connections and encourage understanding between the races in her own community. At the same time she chose to do it at an an event that is fraught with multiple and even conflicting meaning depending on the viewer. [click to continue…]