The University of North Carolina’s Confederate soldier monument, “Silent Sam,” continues to be a point of contention on campus. Over the past few years students have debated whether the monument ought to be removed or utilized in some other capacity that acknowledges its divisive past.
The video below offers a very concise and thoughtful overview of the monument’s history and interviews with teachers and students. I think Fitzhugh Brundage nails it at the end as to how to move forward. The video is ideal for introducing students to monument interpretation.
I did not know that the sculptor was Canadian, the model used for the soldier was from Massachusetts and the monument itself was forged in Rhode Island.
Last week in Union Springs, Alabama former State Senator and County Commissioner Myron Penn brought his family to a local Confederate cemetery and removed small Confederate flags that decorated individual graves. The African-American politician and lawyer explained his actions this way:
The reason why we picked them up is because the image of the flags in our community, a lot of people feel that they’re a symbol of divisiveness and oppression… I would think that no one in our community would have a problem with… my actions at all.
I’ve always enjoyed visiting the blog from which this screenshot was taken. On occasion a post thoughtfully addresses some aspect of Southern/Civil War history or memory, but most of the time it’s more of what you find below – a response to writers such as myself who dares to research or comment on a specific region of the country in which they were not born or raised.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but having lived in Alabama and Virginia, I find the history of this region to be absolutely fascinating. There are important historical questions to address and it goes without saying that I find the many challenges of how the history is remembered to be worthy of serious attention. Ultimately, it’s part of American history. The title of the post is an attempt to challenge the legitimacy of what someone like myself, who currently lives in a Northern state, writes about another part of the country. It ought not to be a concern. One could make the same argument about a Northerner who chooses to focus on the history of the West or an American who writes about another part of the world entirely.
I was a bit surprised when a couple of students on my recent Civil War trip attempted to purchase Confederate flags at one of the gift shops. Without giving it much thought I intercepted the students at the checkout counter and gently reminded them to think about the history that we had already examined as well as the talk on the history of the Confederate flag that I presented to the entire school. These students were not mean-spirited and perhaps it was just a case of boys being boys, but I did want them to do a little reflection before making the purchase.
Neither student made the purchase, but if it had been made I would have insisted that the flags be kept out of sight. I stand by this decision. I’ve said before that I wish gift shops were a bit more selective about the kinds of souvenirs they sell. It trivializes the history and the very ground, where so many Americans gave their lives. Continue reading ““Already Bought My First Slave” at Gettysburg”→