Somehow I am going to find a way next year to use Ta-Nehisi Coates’s brilliant essay on reparations in both my U.S. History survey and Civil War courses. My classes covers a good chunk of the history discussed in the essay. It’s not that I expect or even want my students to agree with Coates’s conclusions; in fact, part of the goal of any lesson would be for students to critically analyze the connections made between claim and evidence. Even more important than the argument itself, I want my students to experience what I believe to be one of the best examples of what it means to struggle with the past and why history ultimately matters. Continue reading “Why the Civil War Matters (according to Ta-Nehisi Coates)”→
The consequences of 250 years of enslavement, of war upon black families and black people, were profound. Like homeownership today, slave ownership was aspirational, attracting not just those who owned slaves but those who wished to. Much as homeowners today might discuss the addition of a patio or the painting of a living room, slaveholders traded tips on the best methods for breeding workers, exacting labor, and doling out punishment. Just as a homeowner today might subscribe to a magazine like This Old House, slaveholders had journals such as De Bow’s Review, which recommended the best practices for wringing profits from slaves. By the dawn of the Civil War, the enslavement of black America was thought to be so foundational to the country that those who sought to end it were branded heretics worthy of death. Imagine what would happen if a president today came out in favor of taking all American homes from their owners: the reaction might well be violent.
Just when you think the Sons of Confederate Veterans have reached the limits of offensiveness with some of their antics they go ahead and completely re-write the rule book. The local chapter in Fernandina Beach, Florida thought that an entry in the annual Shrimp Festival would help with building and reinforcing connections to the community. The float they entered wasn’t much of a problem, but the inclusion of a man dressed in black and brandishing a bull whip caused a number of heads to turn.
Of course, it was all a huge misunderstanding. According to the article linked to above the SCV assumed that the crowd would understand that the individual in question represented a “cattle driver, rounding up Florida beef for Confederate troops” and not a slaveowner.
I just shared this story with a friend, who doesn’t know anything about the SCV. Her response: “I want to meet these people.” [insert sarcasm] That about sums it up. Well played, SCV…. well played.
Update: This post has sparked a discussion over at The Battle of Gettysburg Discussion Group. J. D. Petruzzi, who is an adviser for the film project, is apparently not happy with my comments. I admit that there is much I don’t know and I accept that the script has met the high standards set by the advisers, but in the end what stands out to me is that after four-plus years this film is no closer to being made. This failed Kickstarter campaign speaks volumes regardless of J.D.’s whining.
It’s unclear whether Ron Maxwell intends to employ a crowdfunding campaign for his next project. The producers of “To Appomattox” recently attempted to raise money from the general public through Kickstarter and failed to make even a small dent in their goal of 2.5 million dollars. [The contributions of four totaled $30,000.] I am not surprised.