My Next Book Project

After weighing a number of things I have decided to write about the history and memory of Robert Gould Shaw for my next book project. It is a project that will look closely at two very different individuals.

Additional questions? Feel free to fire away in the comments section below.

New to the Civil War Memory Library, 12/13

Charles W. Calhoun, The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant (University Press of Kansas, 2017).

Lorien Foote, Seeking One Great Remedy: Francis George Shaw & Nineteenth-Century Reform (Ohio University Press, 2003).

Linda Gordon, The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition (Liveright, 2017).

Cynthia Nicoletti, Secession on Trial: The Treason Prosecution of Jefferson Davis (Cambridge University Press, 2017).

Alice E. Malavasic, The F Street Mess: How Southern Senators Rewrote the Kansas-Nebraska Act (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).

Joan Waugh, Unsentimenal Reformer: The Life of Josephine Shaw Lowell (Harvard University Press, 1998).

Kevin Young, Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News (Graywolf Press, 2017).

Was Robert Gould Shaw an Abolitionist?

Glory is still one of my favorite movies, but like all Hollywood productions, there are places where it falls short in explaining the history or providing the proper historical context. Few Hollywood movies have had more of an influence on how we remember the Civil War and, specifically, the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, along with its young colonel, Robert Gould Shaw. [click to continue…]

John C. Calhoun, Roy Moore and a Monument to a “Crime Against Humanity”

Reports out of Charleston today indicate that the city’s commission to add a contextual panel to the John C. Calhoun has been finalized. Not surprising, this has been a contentious process from the beginning. It ended with the decision to remove what some people believe to be the most important reference to the monument as a “relic of the crime against humanity.” [click to continue…]

John Coski Explores Richmond’s Monument Avenue

Few people are better positioned in former capital of the Confederacy to discuss its commemorative landscape than John Coski. I always enjoy listening to John talk about the history of the city that he loves and knows so well. This is a very accessible and though provoking discussion that explores the history and memory of Richmond’s Monument Avenue.

I added this video to my #CivilWarMemorySyllabus page, which includes a wide range of resources intended to assist educators and others who are interested in the ongoing debate about Confederate monuments as well as the relevant history. Those of you in the classroom, who will soon be teaching the Civil War-era and want to address this debate in some fashion, will find numerous op-eds, panel discussions, lectures, and primary sources.

Finally, I want to leave you with an interesting story out of Bolzano, Italy. In recent years the town has struggled with what to do with a frieze that includes Benito Mussolini located in one of its public buildings. Rather than remove it the city challenged the public to come up with creative ways to deal with what many people find offensive. The city chose well and offers a route that other communities may choose to implement in some fashion.

The Myth of Northern Unity

Myth might be too strong a word, but we have a tendency to minimize or overlook entirely the extent to which the loyal citizenry of the United States remained bitterly divided over key policies of the Lincoln administration, especially emancipation. Perhaps it would be more accurate to describe this tendency as a blind spot.

Our popular memory of the war assumes a high degree of Northern unity and support for Lincoln throughout the war. This can be explained, in part by the deification of Lincoln as well as the singling out of Copperheads as representing the extent of anti-Lincoln sentiment. The Copperheads are easy to dismiss owing to their “radical” and potentially “disloyal” policies and/or relatively small numbers. [click to continue…]

The Confederate General Who Fought For Black Civil Rights

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about William Mahone over the past few months in light of the ongoing debate about Confederate monuments and the overall question of how we should understand the history and memory of the Confederacy. There are a number of challenges associated with writing a biography of Mahone, including the legibility of his writing, but there is so much source material to work with and now more than ever seems like an opportune moment to jump back in and try to make sense of it. [click to continue…]

What To Do About Confederate Monuments? Ask the Kids

I recently returned from a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, where I spent time with a group of high school students contending with the ongoing debate over Confederate monuments. Over the past two years I have worked with teachers and students from all over the country, but Charleston presented its own unique challenges. This is the city where the fire of secession was first kindled. Roughly 40 percent of the enslaved Africans brought to what became the United States arrived on nearby Sullivan’s Island. The first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, overlooking Charleston. Monuments celebrating the Confederate cause define the city’s commemorative landscape. They include a monument to John C. Calhoun, who famously boasted that the institution was nothing to apologize for, that it was a “positive good.” About a block away from the Calhoun monument on June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof murdered nine people during a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

You can read the rest of my latest op-ed at Bunk History.