Today is the official release date for my new book, Interpreting the Civil War at Museums and Historic Sites with Rowman & Littlefield Press. This is a collection of essays authored by public historians and educators working at various sites on how their institutions approached interpreting the Civil War during the sesquicentennial. A good deal of work went into this volume and I couldn’t be more pleased to finally see it in print. Continue reading
I am getting ahead of myself, but over the past few days I’ve been thinking about writing a short book on the Civil War sesquicentennial once I finish my book on the Black Confederate myth. I covered so much of the sesquicentennial on my blog that it would be a shame for it to remain there without trying to work it up into a narrative that has a bit more analytical depth. It would be a concise book around 150 pages. This is not the first time that I have thought about such a book, but now seems like an opportune moment to take it on. Continue reading
I don’t believe I have said much of anything about it on this site, but in addition to my book project on the myth of the Black Confederate soldier I have also been working on a proposal for a collection of essays on interpreting the Civil War at museums and historic sites. The idea was bring together public historians to explore how they interpreted the Civil War for the general public during the 150th. I also wanted to offer concrete ideas on how public historians can address the ongoing debates about Confederate iconography, which I believe has been woefully lacking.
The idea grew out of last year’s meeting of the AASLH in Louisville, where I took part in a panel discussion on this ongoing debate. While perusing the exhibit hall I came across the Rowan & Littlefield table and their “Interpreting History” series, which is published in partnership with AASLH. I was surprised that there was no book on the Civil War and brought it to the attention of Bob Beatty, who gave me the green light to kickstart a proposal. Continue reading
I think it is safe to say that few people could have anticipated the nation-wide debate about Confederate history and memory that followed the horrific shootings in Charleston, South Carolina earlier this summer and the decision to lower the Confederate battle flag on the State House grounds in Columbia. The recent decision in New Orleans to remove four prominent Confederate monuments suggests that other communities may follow suit in the coming year.
- Will cities like Baltimore and St. Louis follow New Orleans?
- Will Mississippi change its state flag?
- Will Confederate holidays continue to be removed from state calendars?
What do you think? What should we be keeping our eye on in the coming year? Has the backlash against all things Confederate crested or should we look for much of the same in the coming year?
Finally, I am curious as to your thoughts about how the past few months figures into a broader understanding of the Civil War sesquicentennial. Happy New Year!
The controversy surrounding the removal of the Confederate battle flag on South Carolina’s State House grounds continues. A number of public officials and other concerned citizens have expressed frustration over the projected costs for displaying the flag at the South Carolina Relic Room and Museum.
In my latest essay at The Daily Beast I comment on what I see as the bigger problem of how the flag should be interpreted for the general public. I fear we are going to end up right back where we started.
Click here for my other essays at The Daily Beast.
Today is the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. It was the former Confederate state of Georgia that sent the amendment over the edge. Unlike other anniversaries acknowledged over the course of the Civil War sesquicentennial this one has unfortunately garnered very little attention.
I offer some thoughts about this in my latest essay at The Daily Beast. You should also take time to read the excellent op-ed by Blain Roberts and Ethan Kytle in The New York Times.
The decision yesterday to remove the state flag from the campus of the University of Mississippi followed votes by the Student and Faculty Senates. In the case of the University of Southern Mississippi all it took was a decision by President Rodney D. Bennett earlier this morning. Here is his statement:
I have chosen to raise American flags on all University of Southern Mississippi flagpoles to remind the University community of what unites us. We have all chosen to work, study and live in a country in which debates like those around the state flag of Mississippi can take place and ideas can be civilly expressed and advanced. While I love the state of Mississippi, there is passionate disagreement about the current state flag on our campuses and in our communities. I am looking forward to a time when this debate is resolved and USM raises a state flag that unites us.
I can’t help but think that this is a rather hollow statement on the part of the president. Mississippi’s current state flag is certainly controversial and divisive but the president can’t seem to bring himself to state why. It is possible that as USM’s first black president, Bennett wanted to avoid injecting race into this issue, but, of course, that is exactly what this is about. Perhaps it doesn’t need to be laid out in such explicit terms, but I believe more is required given the absence of any vote by the student senate or campus debate that preceded the president’s decision in Oxford.
If you can’t state openly what this controversy is about on a college campus, where can you?
Update: University of Southern Mississippi removed the state flag from campus earlier today.
On July 20, 2015 the Confederate battle flag was lowered from the statehouse grounds in Columbia, South Carolina following an order issued by Governor Nikki Haley. Regardless of which side you were on many believed that the move was purely political to help with her own national ambitions. Questions surrounding the governor’s motivation make it difficult to place the decision within a broader historical context that stretches back to 1962 when the Confederate flag was first raised atop the statehouse. On the other hand, the order this morning at the University of Mississippi to remove the state flag (which includes a Confederate flag in its design) from campus must be acknowledged as a crucial moment in that institution’s long and complex relationship with the flag.
According to historian John Coski the University of Mississippi adopted the flag “as an all-but-official school symbol” in the early 1950s and was embraced “with distinctly political undertones” coinciding with the rise of the Dixiecrat Party. The waving of Confederate flags, the singing of “Dixie” and the presence of the Colonel Reb mascot became staples of Ole Miss football games. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement the flag was picked up by students as their symbol of resistance against school integration. Continue reading