Category Archives: Civil Rights History

A Hate Crime Against Confederate Descendants

Rally at Ole Miss in 1962

Rally against integration at Ole Miss in 1962

A couple of days ago an unfortunate incident occurred at the University of Mississippi. Apparently, two men placed a noose and a 2003 Georgia State flag on the James Meredith statue. Most of you know that the design of this particular version of the Georgia flag includes the popular Confederate battle emblem. While it’s too early to draw any firm conclusions about the perpetrators, most people see this as a hate crime directed specifically against the black student body and the broader African-American community.

At least one individual, however, has taken a more inclusive view as to who should rightfully be offended. No need to provide names or links this time.

It was a hate crime. A planned one perhaps, maybe almost certainly so, but a hate crime none-the-less. The crime was against those who saw it and were offended, and equally a hate crime against all Confederate descendants who honor that symbol and their ancestry. This act denigrated us all.

Here are students at Ole Miss protesting the presence of the Confederate flag on campus so as to allow James Meredith to register for classes. Yes, sometimes memory trumps history.

Welcome to 1864

This morning I was reminded that today is the first day of the sesquicentennial of the War in 1864. As I alluded to this past spring, it is going to be very interesting to see how the final sixteen months of the war will be commemorated and remembered. There are practical issues of funding, but there is also the turn that the war itself took in 1864. Those of us on the education/public history side of things will have to think long and hard about how we engage the public about some of the more important and challenging issues of the war. Continue reading

Do I Owe the Virginia Flaggers an Apology?

Last week I pointed out what I interpreted as a racist comment from a prominent member of the Virginia Flaggers. A few days ago they offered the following response, which included a photograph of an African-American man carrying a Confederate flag in front of the Museum of the Confederacy.

I certainly don’t want to be known for casually accusing people of being racist, but I fail to see how this photograph assuages concerns. The Richmond community – who the Flaggers claim to be improving through their efforts – deserve a response to these types of statements. What exactly did the statement mean? How would this specific Flagger explain it to the individual in front of the MOC and the rest of Richmond’s black community?

Who are the Virginia Flaggers?

“Southern History is a Custody Battle Still in Litigation”

In March I will co-lead a group of students on a 7-day trip through the South to explore the history and memory of the Civil Rights Movement. It should come as no surprise that Montgomery, Alabama is on our itinerary. In preparation for the trip we are putting together a collection of documents that offer different perspectives on how these communities are coming to terms with their pasts. This New York Times piece about the placement of new historical markers throughout the city will be included in that list.

But Southern history is a custody battle still in litigation. The Alabama Historical Association, which has its name on many of the historical markers around the state, confirmed the accuracy of the research but declined to sponsor the markers, citing “the potential for controversy.” (The markers were eventually sponsored by the state-run Black Heritage Council.) Todd Strange, the mayor of Montgomery, while acknowledging in a newspaper article several years ago that the sign referring to slave markets made him uneasy, gave the project his backing after a meeting with Mr. Stevenson.

I love the fact that the mayor admitted to feeling “uneasy” but still provided the necessary support for the project to move forward. These projects should make us feel uncomfortable. If they didn’t there would be little reason to carry through with it at all.

Sounds like there is a pretty intense backstory to all of this.

Confederacy Theory

The following documentary about the history and controversy surrounding the Confederate flag in South Carolina was released in 2001. Glad to find this as I am putting my Civil War Memory course together for the spring semester. The documentary does a great job exploring the raising of the flag atop the state capital and the influence of both the Civil Rights Movement and Civil War Centennial. John Coski gets a good deal of air time to discuss the popularity and evolution of the Confederate flag as well as the fact that ordinary Americans utilized it as a symbol of “massive resistance” during the 1950s and 60s. He also does a first-rate job of dismantling the black Confederate narrative at the 27:00 min. mark.