Rand Paul’s False Civil War Memory

Well, I guess you have to give the guy credit for taking the time yesterday to visit Howard University and engage students in a little politics and history.  I was particularly interested in the latter.  One of the problems that Senator Paul ran into was his insistence on giving the student body a history lesson, but even worse was that the history itself was fundamentally flawed.  Senator Paul attempted to draw a straight line from the modern Republican Party to Lincoln and the party that ended slavery and passed the Reconstruction Amendments.  The guiding question throughout was why black Americans to not identify with the Republican Party given its history.  All of the roadblocks, according to Paul, were instituted by Democrats.  No mention of Nixon’s Southern Strategy or Lee Atwater’s work on using race as a political wedge or even Ronald Reagan’s famous references to “welfare queens” and his embrace of “states’ rights” while campaigning in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

I always get a question in class when we get to the first political parties in the 1790s inquiring about modern connections. I do my best to explain that while many of the issues that Americans debated remain consistent the parties themselves have evolved over time.

Paul’s collapse of the past 150 years constitutes not only a superficial understanding of American history, but a false Civil War Memory.  Take a look for yourself.

Nathan Bedford Forrest, Race, and Memory in Memphis

Over at the Atlantic I share some thoughts about the recent controversy in Memphis surrounding the renaming of Forrest Park.  I hope the essay at least provides a bit of historical context to this issue.  Once again, thanks to Court Carney for making my job much easier.  Tennessee’s state legislature finally passed a measure making it illegal to remove monuments and/or change the names of public places in honor of military figures.  The legislation is not affect recent changes in Memphis.  Here is a short clip from the debate in Nashville between the sponsor of the bill and Representative G.A. Hardaway of Shelby County/Memphis.

The state of Georgia is now considering similar legislation.  There is something ironic about the passage of legislation by state legislatures to protect monuments to people who supposedly fought for nothing more during the Civil War that the right to make decisions through their local governments without outside interference.

[Click here for all my posts at the Atlantic.]

Beyond the Civil War and Reconstruction With Jonathan Holloway

Many of you have viewed the Open Yale Course on the Civil War and Reconstruction taught by David Blight.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to take a survey course with one of the nation’s most respected Civil War scholars.  I am currently making my way through Professor Jonathan Holloway’s course, African American History: From Emancipation to the Present.  Below is the first lecture.  [Interested in the American Revolution? Check out Joanne Freeman’s course.]

USPS Commemorates Emancipation Proclamation 150

Unfortunately, this may be the closest we get to any formal acknowledgement of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation by the federal government.  I love the broadside/poster theme and the use of one of the oldest letterpress print shops in the country to create the image.  In addition to the stamp, you can also purchase a limited number of signed copies of the poster.  Planning on picking up a sheet today.

Update: Thanks to the Virginia Civil War 150 Commission for reminding me that the White House released a Presidential Proclamation acknowledging the EP 150.

emancipation stamp

Yankee History Teachers Go South

In February 2011 a group of teachers, accompanied by Dr. John Stauffer of Harvard University, flew from Boston to Memphis, TN and from there traveled by bus through the South visiting sites of historic importance to the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, seeking a better understanding of each period and of the relationship between them.

This video was filmed at a conference held in May, 2011 at Burlington High School in Massachusetts. You’ll see what looks like a science fair, but is actually a “lesson fair” where the participants shared lessons they created and taught after the trip. Each traveler also created a digital story responding to the prompt, “How has this trip shaped my understanding of my role as an educator?” These were shown at the conference and three teachers joined Dr. Stauffer for a panel discussion.

Phil Gay of Tufts University, who is a partner and advisory board member of Making Freedom, interviewed the teachers during the conference, and created this video to document the impact of the study tour.