Here is some more video from the new documentary, Southern Belle. In this segment historians respond to the attempt on the part of the organizers to remove any discussion of slavery from their program. They address the following question: Why would the “yeoman” farmer go to war with no dog in the Civil War fight? The list of historians interviewed includes, R. Blakeslee Gilpin, Assistant Professor of History, University of South Carolina; Carroll Van West, Director, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area; Tara McPherson, Professor of Critical Studies, University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and Stan Deaton, Director, Georgia Historical Society. Additional films can be viewed on the documentary’s website.
This looks to be a fairly interesting documentary. Here is a brief description:
The Civil War may be long over, but the spirit of rebellion is hard to extinguish even in something as innocent as a girls’ summer camp. Southern Belle is an insider’s look at the 1861 Athenaeum Girls’ School in Columbia, Tennessee, where the antebellum South rises again. Every summer, young women from around the world eagerly sign up to become that iconic and romantic image of southern identity: the southern belle, replete with hoop skirt, hat and gloves, singing the region’s anthem, “Dixie.” However, the camp can only achieve this version of Southern femininity by whitewashing the past. The teachers, all of whom work for no compensation, hope to instill genteel manners and build pride in southern heritage. To accomplish this, they have carefully selected the time period so they can share the “truth” with the next generation about why the South seceded from the Union. For them, the Civil War had little to do with slavery and everything to do with states’ rights and unfair taxation.
Looks like the Associated Press has picked up another story about the myth of black Confederates out of North Carolina. It includes what has become the standard fair:
- Black man struggles to come to terms with what he believes is the military service of one of his ancestors: “Gregory Perry of Monroe, N.C., who learned recently that an ancestor was awarded pension for Confederate service, says it’s hard to reconcile that fact with what he knows firsthand about being a black man in the South. ‘I grew up in the era of Malcolm X and militancy, and would never have considered something like this possible,’ said Perry, 46, reflecting on the life of his great-great-grandfather, Aaron Perry. ‘I wonder: If Aaron Perry knew the Union Army was coming to free him, why did he join the other side?’”
Why settle for one fictional account of a black Confederate soldier when you can have two? The latest offering comes from Robert Broome, Jr. who recently self-published his book, My Confederate Cousin. Here is the jacket description:
My cousin, Basil Dawson, was a black Confederate soldier born in Poolesville, Maryland. As a soldier in the Confederate States Army, Basil killed Federal soldiers alongside his white father and half brother, who also fought for the CSA. Following the war, Basil returned home to relatives who were unhappy with him because he had fought for the South. Even today, the family remains divided because Basil served with the Confederacy.
Perhaps the author will be kind enough to send me a review copy.
There are two Civil War Sesquicentennial memes that get bandied about without any reflection at all. The first suggests that white Southerners are still fighting the Civil War or that they are holding onto a traditional narrative that is being threatened by various external forces. Even a cursory glance at recent commemorative events in South Carolina suggests that the story is much more complex. The second also plays up supposed strict regional differences that assumes a closer, more emotional need to remember the Civil War in the South than the North.