Like many of you I have gone through the full range of emotions over the past few days in response to the shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, St. Paul, Minnesota and Dallas, Texas. The violence and multiple narratives that we have now grown use to hearing in response to these incidents fits easily into a long history of racial violence and misunderstanding. It’s easy to slide into the feeling of disillusionment, but at the risk of sounding cliche, I still believe that when it comes to this thorny issue, the moral arc bends in the direction of justice and increased understanding. I have to believe it. [click to continue…]
For those of you who need a translation of the newspaper headline, it reads “Gone With the Wind.” Very appropriate, indeed.
Frankfurt, Germany (July 2015)
This coming Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the removal of the Confederate battle flag on the state house grounds of Columbia, South Carolina. At the time I was in Frankfurt, Germany, but as you can see their newspapers gave it front page coverage. To mark the anniversary a group calling itself The South Carolina Secessionist Party will hold a rally calling for the flag to be returned.
Today is the 153rd anniversary of “Pickett’s Charge” – the final drama of a campaign that began with Confederates hunting down free blacks and fugitive slaves once they crossed into Pennsylvania. It’s a moment in the Civil War that has inspired some of the most outlandish counterfactuals and even great works of literature such as this famous passage from William Faulkner’s, Intruder in the Dust.
For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago….
Well, it did happen and we should all be thankful that the assault failed.
There is nothing worse than having to listen to people wax poetic about glorious assaults without any context. On days like today we should remember that the future of this nation and the lives of millions of people hung in the balance.
I don’t think the Brits could have asked for a more appropriate and moving tribute to those soldiers who were lost on this 100th anniversary of the battle of the Somme. On July 1, thousands of “ghost soldiers” descended on public spaces throughout the country. Reenactors handed out small cards with information about the soldiers they represented. Apart from the occasional singing of “We Are Here” the men remained silent.
Over the past ten years I have written about a wide range of very thoughtful and moving commemorative events that honor the Civil War soldier, but other than a small handful, I can’t say that they rise to this level of emotional engagement. I can only imagine what it was like to witness it in person.
It also leaves me wondering what lessons might be learned moving forward about how Americans honor and remember Civil War soldiers.
This visual meme that I found on Facebook yesterday beautifully captures the broader story that I tell in the final chapter of my book on the myth of the black Confederate soldier. While the first signs of this narrative in the late 1970s was in response to the emergence of stories of black Union soldiers and emancipation in popular culture, the black Confederate soldier is now one piece of a much broader narrative that has attempted to make the history of the Confederacy palatable to a new audience. [click to continue…]
Just a few days ago President Obama announced the creation of the Stonewall National Monument as the newest addition to America’s National Park System. The police raid and community response that took place at the Stonewall Inn on this day, June 28, 1969, is often credited as sparking the modern LGBT civil rights movement in the United States.
Apparently, someone decided to mark this event with a fitting re-design of the iconic Dukes of Hazzard car, known as “The General Lee.”