I am going to take a few weeks off from this blog to finish up my Crater manuscript. It’s been a fairly productive summer thus far, but I need to take advantage of my remaining free time before the new school year starts. I still need to look at a few archival collections which involves a little traveling and I still have large sections to write. In short, I really need to get off my ass and finish. Those of you who are relatively new to this blog may want to browse the archives. You can still comment on posts and I may even respond. See you in a few weeks.
The most recent newsletter for the Society of Civil War Historians includes an overview of their dinner and special session at the upcoming meeting of Southern Historical Association in Birmingham, Alabama. Once again I will be unable to attend as their meetings take place during the worst month for a high school teacher. I am, however, looking forward to the following year, which will take place in Richmond. Please contact me if you are interested in putting together a session on Civil War memory and/or public history and the National Park Service for the 2007 meeting in Richmond. The session will look at the state of Civil War publishing and the presenters include Dan Ross, Director and Editor-in-Chief of the University of Alabama Press; David Perry, Editor-in-Chief of the University of North Carolina Press; and Sylvia Frank Rodrigue, who runs Sylverlining, an editorial consulting business.
Here is an excerpt from Dan Ross’s abstract:
[M]y discussion will be an attempt to produce indications of the level of serious Civil War book publishing in three five-year periods, 1960-64, 1980-84, and 2000-04, and the level of professional review of such works during the same periods. The first period was chosen as matching the Civil War centennial, when presumably the publishing industry foresaw a market for books on the conflict and encouraged and perhaps even provided support for the preparation of books during that period. With the centennial of the war established as the benchmark, the recent past of 2000-04 would test the evidence for a sense that we are now in the most active period ever seen by the Civil War book industry. Finally the period 1980-84 was chosen as midway between the two others and to provide an equivalent span for comparison with them.
The examination of the frequency and proportion of book reviews in the two leading professional journals that would view attention to Civil War history as a significant requirement–but not as their sole obligation–permits examination of another oft-repeated bromide, although one not usually heard from Civil War specialists. This usually appears at the rhetorical question –"How can there be anything new to say about the Civil War?"–which can be a legitimate question, or perhaps sour grapes from those who have selected such topics as the Glass-Steagall Act as their specialty. Therefore to undertake a test to attempt to determine both newness and freshness of topic and treatment, an examination is made of the rate of reviews of Civil War books in the same periods in those professional journals that would feel obliged to review a work that had pretensions to say something new about that event.
This promises to be an interesting session – definitely something Dimitri might be interested in.
As if our national love affair with Confederate imagery couldn’t get any more bizarre, a high school in Michigan is having trouble dealing with its historically inaccurate namesake. What exactly do I mean? Lee High School has adopted various aspects of Confederate symbolism over the years, including a dedication to R.E. Lee in the 1936 yearbook, and in the 1960′s the battle flag appeared as part of the marching band’s uniform, and another much larger battle flag graced the school’s hallway wall. According to the principal the school’s name has nothing to do with the Confederate general:
According to Britten’s research, the school took its name from the street on
which it stands. It was renamed Lee Street from State Street in 1914, possibly
because the first family to live there was named Leyla. The district was named
for the high school and the Godfrey School that preceded it.
Wait, the story gets better.
The board and the high school sports boosters commissioned former student Arturo
Araujo to paint the Lee High School Rebel mascot on a gym wall. The board
of education threatened to withhold payment because the artist painted the
Confederate Rebel with a dark skinned face, unlike the sketch he provided when
he was hired.
Here is the artist’s justification of his work:
I was shooting to represent the whole student body," says artist Arturo Araujo.
"75 percent colored, 25 percent caucasion. That was the whole idea of painting
the mural. So the whole school is represented by it’s mascot.
Don’t you just love the idea of a multi-cultural Confederate rebel? I hope they don’t remove this mural, though I am just a bit concerned that those who are pushing the black Confederate story will use this as just another piece of evidence. I can hear it now: "You see, even some Yankees in Michigan have acknowledged the existence of the black Confederate. What more evidence do you need?"
Compared with years past I’ve seriously cut down on writing book reviews. I base my decision, in large part, on the word count that the publication is willing to allow. Unless I can say something beyond simply summarizing the content of the book it doesn’t seem worth doing. In addition to the edited collection of essays honoring Emory Thomas, which I just finished, I am also reviewing Eric H. Walther’s new biography, William Lowndes Yancey: The Coming of the Civil War for the journal Louisiana History. I just started, but I’ve learned a great deal; he is much more complicated than I thought. Yancey lost his father early on and was raised by his mother and step-father Nathan Beeman who was a minister and abolitionist. Turns out that his father was incredibly abusive to his mother – going so far as to nail her inside a closet. Yancey lived in Massachusetts and attended Williams College.
Between living in New England and his step-father, Yancey developed into an ardent Unionist, which he continued to embrace even after settling back in Greenville, South Carolina following the infamous Tariff Debates. One of his first public speeches focused on the controversial test oath policy which would require state officials to take an oath of allegiance to disobey federal authorities in the event of another national conflict. Here is a section from his speech:
Listen, not then, my countrymen, to the voice which whispers, (for as yet, it dares not raise itself above a whisper) that Americans, who have been knit together by so many cords of affection, can no longer be mutual worshipers at the shrine of freedom–no longer can exist together, citizens of the same Republic. . . . And yet, it has become a common thing to hear the Union spoken of as a disagreeable league. Designing men have, indeed, effectually destroyed, in the minds of but too many in our State, the charm which has, until of late, invested our Federal Union. But can any one view the course taken by some of the most talented and influential men in our State and country, for the last few years, and not see the evident tendency of their proceedings to be disunion and a Southern Confederacy?
Unlike Calhoun and others who were radicalized by the Tariff Debates it would take time for Yancey to reach their conclusions. It will be interesting to read on to see exactly how that happened. As many of you know, by the early 1850′s Yancey had moved to the states’ rights position. He went on and joined the group that split the Democratic Party in their 1860 national nominating convention, introduced Jefferson Davis in Montgomery, served as the Confederacy’s first diplomatic commissioner to England and France, and finally as senator from Alabama. He died in 1863.
I will post additional Yancey nuggets along the way.