University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier on the Confederate flag.
Karen Cox, William Blair and others recently spoke at the “The Legacy of Stones River: Remembering the Civil War" which was held in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Cox is the author of the excellent book, Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation
of Confederate Culture (University of Florida Press, 2003). The book offers the most comprehensive analysis of the social make-up of the organization over time and its agenda. This article provides an overview of her talk and a preview of the book:
The United Daughters of the Confederacy was an outgrowth of the various
benevolent aid societies and ladies memorial groups that developed during and
after the war, Cox said. Initially these groups had worked to aid the war
effort and to help the widows and children of Confederate soldiers who died in
The ladies memorial groups were centered on bereavement and to
returning the bodies of the war dead from far-flung battlefields. It wasn’t
until the South had been returned to home rule that the real vindication efforts
began. Vindication was an important goal of the UDC, which was founded
just up the road in Nashville, Cox said. The National Association of the
Daughters of the Confederacy was organized in Nashville on Sept.10, 1894, by
founders Caroline Meriwether Goodlett of Nashville and Anna Davenport Raines of
Georgia. At its second meeting in Atlanta, in 1895, the organization changed its
name to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. “The two founders …
their career was the Lost Cause,” Cox said. “From the beginning this would be a
very elite organization.”
The general goals of the group were:
To memorialize those who fought for and fell in battle for the Confederate
• To preserve the history of the “War Between States.”
educate future generations about the Confederacy from a pro-Southern
• Social in nature. The group even had blackball provisions to
keep out women who weren’t from the top social strata.
We’ve only recently begun to look at the role that elite white Southern women took in shaping the contours of the Lost Cause and in turn shaping the way we think about the Civil War. A closer look at these organizations also provides insight into the extent and limits of political action among Southern white women. I am looking forward to the publication of Caroline Janney’s study of the Ladies Memorial Associations which were active in the years following the end of the war.
I had a pretty good time in Williamsburg this weekend at the annual meeting of the National Council For History Education. Eight history teachers from the various divisions at my school made the trip. Originally we decided to use the weekend as an opportunity for the department to bond a bit, but with our department chair and another teacher leaving at the end of the year I was skeptical. Surprisingly, this was the best part of the trip. One of the teachers organized a private tour with Ed Chappell who is Director of Architectural Research for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. We spent about 2 hours walking up Duke of Gloucester Street and Ed did a fabulous job of giving us a quick overview of how to interpret the various buildings. That night we had a great dinner and made sure to spend as much of the school’s money as possible (LOL).
As for the conference itself I was disappointed. I listened to Gordon Wood deliver a talk at one of the general sessions, but unfortunately it sounded like something pulled directly out of one of his survey lectures at Brown. I did get a chance to talk with Wood in a small group of about 5 people for about 30 minutes and I enjoyed that immensely. The general session also revealed some interesting demographics, including very few blacks and a large number of older women. As for individual sessions I attended two that involved the use and role of primary sources in the classroom. While I wasn’t expecting to be blown away, at this point in my career I find it difficult to sit through a session where the first fifteen minutes involve the presenter asking the audience why we use documents in the classroom and what we hope to teach our students through their inclusion in the curriculum. I’m sorry, but at this point in my career I find it difficult to sit through that. There were plenty of sessions on pedagogy, but I was also looking for people who were passionate about history. I did meet James Percoco who teaches up in Northern Virginia and is in my mind one of the most innovative teachers around.
My experience this past weekend definitely places the steps the OAH and AHA have taken to address the teaching of history in our schools within a broader perspective. I guess the problem for me is that I tend to approach the teaching of history more from the perspective of someone who practices the historian’s craft rather than from a purely educational perspective – don’t know if that makes any sense.
Check out James Cobb’s post, which appeared in the New Republic Online on slavery apologies. He makes a compelling case. Ed Ayers reviews Heather Cox Richardson’s new book West From Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America After the Civil War (Yale University Press, 2007). I’ve read the first chapter and will have some things to say later. University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier believes that the Confederate flag should not fly atop the statehouse. All is lost when you can’t count on your football coach to support the "Old South."
I am writing from Williamsburg, Virginia where I am attending the annual meeting of the National Council for History Education. As I type this post I am listening to the Colonial Williamsburg channel which seems to have only 1 show in its line-up. It is a movie that depicts the Virginia revolutionaries during the growing conflict with England over taxes. It is obviously a product of its time (late 1950s early 60s). The debate with England is purely political and takes place in the taverns of Williamsburg and House of Burgesses. Much of the movie highlights the rebuilt homes and stores of the downtown area which is perfect for the families who are setting out on their historical adventures. [To be perfectly honest, when I see these families walk around I immediately think of a kamikaze pilot going straight into a ship.] The slaves are all perfectly content and the main characters themselves are shown in all their glory and virtue.
Watching this movie reminded me of a post that I’ve wanted to write for some time. My classes are moving into the Civil Rights Movement. One of the things I try to explain through lecture and documents is the distinction between the philosophy of Martin L. King and the approach of the Black Panthers and Malcolm X. Among other things we read King’s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and we watch video of Malcolm discuss black nationalism. [From the television I hear a narrator's voice calling for the confiscation of the gunpowder in the town's magazine. Gun shots can be heard along with angry voices.] We read about the steps taken by the Black Panthers to ensure that the police follow the law in their communities. Students also get an opportunity to think about the "uniform" and other images of the Black Panthers which included berets, leather jackets, and guns. My students – and I suspect white Americans in general – are much more comfortable with King as opposed to Malcolm or the ideas of "Black Power." I am not suggesting that they are mistaken, but I do find it curious that my students have such little patience for "revolutionary" language as black Americans sought to bring about the most basic of civil rights in the late 1950s and 1960s. [From the television I hear patriotic music as the colonists have declared their independence from England. The narrator: "If one wants to be free, one must choose."]
In all my years of teaching I fail to remember one moment where my students questioned the violence that preceded the American Revolution. When I teach the Revolution I make sure that we look at it on a number of levels, from the actions of the Sons of Liberty to the philosophical arguments being offered by the likes of John Adams, John Dickinson, Thomas Jefferson, etc. My students read and discuss the very violent actions of the Sons of Liberty in Boston along with the burning of Thomas Hutchison’s home. We read accounts of tarring and feathering and countless other examples of the destruction of private property. Never has a student questioned whether any of this was justified. I try to play devil’s advocate and suggest that the colonists were over reacting. My students find it easy to counter my argument as if the Revolution must happen.
Let me be clear that I am not suggesting that the Revolution was or was not justified or that young black Americans would have been justified in violent revolution in the 1960s. It is important to remember that very few black leaders were actually advocating violence against whites; that’s more about our perceptions of so-called black militancy in the 1960s. [Check out Curtis Austin's Up Against the Wall: The Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party.] What I am curious about is the apparent rub between our responses to these two cases that involve injustice. On the one hand we fail to question at all the justification of the colonists as they engaged in violent revolution against the British government, while on the other hand we seem to have difficulty with even the hint of aggressive language within the Civil Rights Movement.
More on this apparent double-standard later.