The Duty of the South to Negro Education

Today was one of the most productive writing days that I’ve had in quite some time.  It marks the first day of actual writing of what I’ve tentatively titled, Searching for Black Confederates in History and Memory.  The primary sources that I have collected are incredibly rich, particularly those sources related to the memory of what were commonly called camp or body servants.  Here is an example from the turn of the twentieth century.  It’s an excerpt from a speech given by Dr. Walter B. Hill, who was the Chancellor of the University of Georgia.  It’s titled, “Negro Education in the South” and was presented at a conference on education policy that took place at the University of Virginia in 1903.  The speech opens with a few words speculating as to why the state’s black population had not already taken advantage of freedom and cheap transportation costs to leave the state for the North.  This is what follows:

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Preservation of What?

Update: Check out Andy Hall’s follow up post at Dead Confederates in which he calls out one of the SHPG officers for some recent comments. It’s the officers of this group that sets the tone and acceptable language for its members.

In my five plus years of blogging I’ve had my share of disgruntled readers, who believe that my place of birth assumed political convictions, and tendency to read academic history will forever prevent me from truly understanding and appreciating the history of the South and the Civil War.  Some of these people have been incredibly mean spirited, but I’ve never taken them too seriously.  In fact, I usually just shrug with just a slight hint of pity.

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Back to the Battlefield: Field Notes from a Cultural Civil War Historian

This guest post is by Adam Arenson, assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at El Paso and author of The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War, about the Civil War Era as a battle of three competing visions — that of the North, South, and West. More at http://adamarenson.com.

This is the second in a series.

 [The Civil War] was not a fight between rapacious birds and ferocious beasts, a mere display of brute courage and endurance, but it was a war between men of thought, as well as of action, and in dead earnest for something beyond the battlefield. Frederick Douglass, “Speech in Madison Square,” Decoration Day, 1878

Unfortunately, even with all of the changes that are currently being implemented we have a long way to go…[E]ven most white Americans who claim to be interested in the Civil War for whatever reason fail to come to terms with its importance to our broader history.  I sometimes think that our colorful stories of Lee and Lincoln are more of a threat to our sense of national identity as [than] no memory or connection with the war.  We would all do well to take a step back. Kevin Levin, “History Through the Veil Again”: A Response to Ta-Nehisi Coates, August 2009

Last week, through Kevin’s generosity, I jumped into a post about the missing Robinson House at Manassas to catch the sesquicentennial, before I had a chance to provide a little context.

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The Limits of Reunion and Reconciliation in Massachusetts

One of the things that I hope my forthcoming book on the battle of the Crater and historical memory does is find a place in a growing literature that challenges the reunion and reconciliation school of Civil War Memory.  It’s beautifully expressed by David Blight in Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memoryand suggests that white northerners and southerners eventually brushed aside a memory of emancipation for one that embraced a shared history as well as a set of values that allowed for a swift and relatively painless sectional reconciliation.  There is a certain amount of truth to this story.  The story of the Crater, however, simply does not follow this broad narrative outline.  The veterans of the Virginia brigade engaged in bitter feuds relating to the battle and the role of William Mahone during the few short years of Readjuster control.  Mahone learned that there were limits to which he could utilize his military career to advance a political agenda that advanced the cause of the state’s black population.  And while numerous meetings between former enemies took place on the battlefield, white southerners never adopted a language of reconciliation when commemorating the battle.  This was a decisive Confederate victory that highlighted the fighting prowess and character of their own.  The presence of a black division was simply too much for many of the veterans to forget even at the beginning of the twentieth century.

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