It’s an unusual form of Civil War remembrance, but the idea of a sculpture in the shape of a “Sherman’s necktie” opens up a number of avenues of interpretation. It raises issues related to the physical destruction and displacement of civilians that Sherman’s men wrought. The twisted rail also functions as a metaphor for change and the coming of emancipation in the heart of Georgia. Of course, any discussion of emancipation also needs to deal with some of the hardships that freed slaves faced as they followed the army to the coast. I think it’s an incredibly simple and yet creative piece. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate any of the addresses that marked the sculpture’s unveiling.
Of course, one wonders why he was invited in the first place. He certainly is entertaining. His speeches have been fine tuned to garner a strong emotional response from those who have a strong need to see an African American man dressed in Confederate uniform, who fervently believes that large numbers of blacks fought in the army and that that the black population as a whole maintained the strongest ties to the Confederate cause and their masters through to the end of the war. In the trailer that I posted yesterday, H.K. calls for Lincoln to be disinterred so he can be placed on trial for war crimes.
In the spring of 2010 I was interviewed by Ken Wyatt for a documentary titled “Colored Confederates.” He filmed for about two hours and we talked about a number of issues related to what I have suggested is one of the most misunderstood topics in Civil War history. Well, it looks like the documentary is close to completion and today I came across the trailer. There is a short snippet of me about half way through that comes after one of H.K. Edgerton’s impassioned speeches. Wyatt also interviewed Nelson Winbush, Bruce Levine, Gerald Prokopowicz, Earl Ijames, and Ervin Jordan. There is a Facebook page for the film that also includes a few shots of me and Ken. I will keep you updated as we get closer to a release date.
I get it. The Confederate flag is offensive to many African Americans. What has become something of a mantra within the black community is arguably the clearest example of a collective voice that for far too long was kept silent in discussions about how our Civil War ought to be remembered. While I support calls to take down Confederate flags in a few select places I tend to resist the idea of tearing things down that provide windows into our nation’s past. These calls almost always reveal deep frustration and bitterness, but they rarely involve education and understanding. John Hennessy is correct in pointing out the deep chasm between white and black Americans when it comes to Civil War memory.
It’s always nice to have someone who can do a better job of expressing a thought that you are struggling to formulate. That’s how I feel about this editorial by John Hennessy, which appeared yesterday in the The Free Lance-Star. I heard John give a version of this essay a few months back as part of a keynote address at a conference on public history at North Carolina State University. I am pleased to see it in print. This particular passage jumped out at me: