Robert E. Lee’s Property

Robert E. Lee, slavesFor more on the story behind this fascinating image, click here.

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What’s In a List? I’ll Tell You

Megan Kate Nelson’s new post at Historista is sure to keep the controversy surrounding James McPherson’s recent New York Times “best of” list alive. There are two issues discussed in her post that I think are best kept separate even though there is some overlap. First, Megan highlights the extent to which academia remains an “old boys club”. At the same time she expresses some frustration regarding the unwillingness of her fellow historian to generate a new list that highlights a wider swath of talent. [click to continue…]

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Why Can’t We Get Beyond an “Aloof” Stonewall Jackson?

Do we need another five hundered page biography of Stonewall Jackson? Sure, why not. And from what little I’ve read so far, S.C. Gwynne can certainly turn a phrase. That said, I was hoping for a more nuanced look at Jackson’s understanding of politics and specifically the politics of slavery on the eve of the war. Unfortunately, Gwynne provides a one-dimensional analysis that runs the risk of perpetuating a number of myths about the war. [click to continue…]

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What I Told the Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History

This morning I had a pleasant conversation with the executive director of the Danville (Va.) Museum of Fine Arts & History about how to respond to public concerns regarding plans to remove a Confederate flag from the grounds. As you might expect, they have already received some angry emails and phone calls. I am not sure how they came by my name, but I was happy to listen and offer some thoughts. Here is what I shared.

  • Keep the focus on the local community. The museum’s most recent strategic plan, along with its programming, is designed to appeal to as wide a range of local residents as possible.
  • Educate the local community about why there is a need to move the Confederate flag. Be as clear and as open as possible. Bring in a speaker like John Coski, who can educate those interested about why such a move might be desirable given the goals of the museum and the racial/ethnic profile of the community.
  • Emphasize on the website and through other channels that the museum remains committed to interpreting Danville’s history in the Civil War.
  • Reach out to the local chapters of the UDC and SCV to see if there is room to work together. This is their community as well.
  • Understand that protests from individuals and groups outside the community have nothing to do with what is best for the Danville community. They have their own self-serving agendas.
  • Remember that it doesn’t take much to magnify the extent of the outrage against this planned move. The vast majority of people will likely not have a problem with this decision.

This issue should be resolved one way or the other within the next week or two.

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North Carolina to Construct Civil War History Center

While Virginia has done more than any other state to commemorate the Civil War 150th, North Carolina is not far behind. In addition to conferences and various exhibits, you can now add a history center to the list. It looks like an ambitious project.

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